Hello everyone! Apparently Peace Corps Ukraine has a policy whereby all volunteer blogs must be password protected, thus the abundance of protected posts. If you want to know the password, just ask me – email@example.com.
*Please note that some of the posts will have a different password; these ones are for my close friends and family only. Sorry!
Well, this adventure at least.
Since I adore a good list of dates, here are all the milestones left between now and when I actually get back to America (many of which are probably meaningless to you, but – lets be honest – this blog is for me, not you):
- Saturday Nov 16 – Reference class on govt information sources and reference evaluation
- Monday Nov 18 – Go to Kiev, LPI, pick up bank card
- Tuesday Nov 19 – Interview at the embassy!! FINALLY find out about Seroga’s visa!
- Thursday Nov 21 – International Librarianship class on professional engagement
- Saturday Nov 23 – Reference Interview Analysis Presentations Due
- Thursday Dec 5 – Last International Librarianship class, semester wrap up
- Saturday Dec 7 – Last Reference Class on the evolution and future of reference
- Thursday Dec 12 – Blog on human rights in librarianship due
- Dec 23-27 – Say goodbye to my kids, special classes on American Christmas
- Dec 27 – Last day of teaching
- Monday Jan 13 or Tuesday Jan 14 – goodbye tea with the teachers at the gymnasium
- Wednesday Jan 15 – I take my VERY LAST TRIP TO KIEV. Last night in a hostel. Good god.
- Thursday Jan 16 – I officially close my PC service, ring the bell. Woot!.. then I go back to Mala Vyska to pack
- Tuesday Jan 21 – Train to Odessa. LAST GODAWFUL TRAIN JOURNEY. I might even bust out the big bucks and buy out a whole kupe like a baller.
- Wednesday Jan 22 – Flight from Odessa to Moscow to New York to Los Angeles. Finally, for real, I will be back in America… this time with my non-English-speaking fiance in tow.
And thus begins the new adventure.
I am, excitingly, ALMOST done with my Masters Degree in Library and Information Science. My last classes, Community Informatics and Introduction to Databases, will be this Spring semester and I will graduate in May! Since I started this damn thing in 2009, I might be a record breaker for “longest time to finish a 40 unit degree” but I also did Peace Corps in that time so, you know, whatever.
Of course, most of the people who get the MSLIS move on to a (or continue in their) career in libraries. I like libraries and all, but that’s not why I got the degree. As you can see from my choice of classes, I am not particularly interested in focusing on collection development or cataloging or metadata or any of the traditional library topics. Instead, I have spent my time in grad school learning about how information is organized for access, barriers to that access, how to remove the barriers, and how to use the information effectively. For me, it always had more to do with education, research, and instruction in a variety of settings. It had almost nothing to do with traditional library things. I always thought I was one of the only ones, then I read this article, which I love. It introduces the concept of the MSLIS as..
An amplifying degree. As in, a degree with the sole purpose of exponentially increasing the knowledge and skills of the person who earns it. This was not, we were told, a program of study that would ask us to “forget” everything else we knew. Rather, this “signal-boosting” degree strives to lay a new foundation informed by the unique mix of skills and experiences we already have, a foundation on which we can continue to build for the rest of our lives.
So when I come back to America, will I apply for library jobs? Maybe. If they seem interesting. But mostly I will apply for jobs that make use of the skills of organizing, finding, and utilizing information effectively.
I am pretty bad at blogging these days, mostly because blogging requires reflection and introspection and I don’t really like to do those things as I say goodbye. You might say I’m terrible at goodbyes. For example, when I was studying abroad in London I had a whole group of friends that I really enjoyed and knew it would be awful to say goodbye to… so I just didn’t. They all got together at the pub we always went to on our last night in London and I just never showed up. The next morning some of them came to say goodbye but most of them were already gone, so that cut down on the tearful awkwardness for me considerably. I really enjoy the idea of the Irish exit.
Unfortunately, I cant exactly do that in Peace Corps. Having been the most interesting person in Mala Vyska for the past 3+ years, people are now acutely aware that I am leaving and ask me about it all the time. Am I ready? Am I excited to leave? Is it better in America or Ukraine? How will I find work in America? How will Seroga get along without speaking English? When will I come back to visit? Umm… great questions, guys. I’ll answer you with this blank stare and shrug. Am I ready? I guess. I’m more ready now than I was a year ago. I feel like its time. But that doesnt make it easy or anything. I have a whole network of people here, an entire life that I built, and Im just leaving the whole thing. I don’t know how I’ll find work, or buy a car, or help Seroga integrate into America. I don’t know how he will do there. Hell, I don’t even know how I will do there, considering that I’m so used to a Ukrainian lifestyle. I can’t say when I’ll come back to visit, or even IF I’ll come back to visit (depending on how things go with Seroga). Answering these questions is impossible, so I usually just say something about missing my family and wrap it up with “все буде добре” (everything will be alright). It’s not a satisfactory answer for me or anyone else, but it’s the best I’ve got.
Furthermore, I can’t even imagine the actual day I say goodbye. Everything is going to be a hot mess, especially because it’s not just me – Seroga will be saying goodbye to his family as well. How will I explain to my adorable students that I am leaving forever? What will I do to thank Ludmila for her help? (I’m obligated to do this, no matter how helpful her help actually was.) The whole thing is just bizarre so I try not to worry about it too much and just trust that everything will be fine. Bсе буде добре.
I really can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. Well, and also how slowly it has crawled. Time sucks like that – it feels impossibly slow when its slipping through your fingers and then one day you open your eyes and realize there isn’t any left. That’s what is happening to me these days.
On September 26 we celebrated my three year anniversary of the first time I arrived in Ukraine. We had 4 friends over, and their 2 small children, and enjoyed bbq’d meat. I splurged on feta and we had greek salad. All in all, it was a great celebration but I can’t believe it has already been three years since I showed up in this crazy country with no idea what to expect.
I sure have changed since then, not only in the sense that I speak the language and know the ins and outs of the specific kind of crazy Ukrainian people exhibit, but just as a person. I am a lot more patient now. I know myself much better. I am 100% confident that I can do literally anything (as if I wasn’t confident enough before). And if something doesn’t work out the way I hope it will, I know how to fail with grace and keep trying. I like to cook now, and am pretty good at it. As it turns out, I love (most) kids. I think I have an inner groundedness that I didn’t have before, which is hard to explain. I feel more of an inner calm. I’m still the same person, but I think I’ve grown up a lot too, and I like that. It’s just hard to believe that I was that other person only three years ago.
Also, I bought my tickets home. I found a ridiculously insanely excellent price that, for some reason, flies out of Odessa instead of Kiev so thats where I’m headed on January 20, with an ETA of January 22 @ 8:30pm at LAX. I will be arriving with a disoriented non-English speaker in tow and promptly marrying him :-) I feel ready. I can’t wait to start the next part of my adventure.
This is something that has made the rounds of Ukr-PCV blogs, but I still love it and think it gives a semi-accurate account of all the small things I don’t even take note of anymore that are actually ridiculous.
- you realize time is relative, schedules are null, and nothing happens on time.
- 6 hour bus rides and 24 hour train rides don’t seem that bad.
- you’ve begun to think rhinestones, synthetic fabrics, and denim on denim is stylish.
- you have a collection of ‘nice’ plastic bags.
- the only cool thing about your black and white cellphone is the game ‘snake’.
- you start to spell everything the british way by adding extra ‘u’s.
- openly cheating in school doesn’t phase you anymore.
- you always carry toilet paper with you. always.
- you feel personally offended when people say ‘THE Ukraine’.
- you welcome the upper side bunk in platzkart (3rd class on the train), just to avoid having the fat, bald, naked man that will sit down on your bed.
- your counterpart tells you she’s leaving school early to plant potatoes. and it’s considered a legitimate reason.
- there’s a lesson in your students’ english book completely about potatoes.
- your students or what you now call ‘pupils’ greet you with ‘good morning’ at all times of the day.
- you’ve been dying to find one of those ‘say me yes’ shirts at the bazaar.
- when anything bad/down right weird happens you say you’ve been “ukraine’d”.
- you’ve eaten (or at least been forced to try) meat jello and pig fat.
- you hesitate before sitting on concrete and cold surfaces because you fear being yelled at for freezing your ovaries.
- sitting at the corner of a table is taboo and will leave you marriage-less.
- applying vodka to any ailment starts to seem logical.
- you start to think toyotas and fords are really really fancy cars.
- you also start to think anyone driving an actually fancy car must work for the mafia.
- you stare at foreign tourists as much as the local people do.
- the second question strangers often ask is about your relationship status.
- you’ve lost track of how many marriage proposals you’ve received.
- you can’t heat up your soup while you shower because your saucepan is your shower.
- you have to sit in a specific way at a specific place in your house if you want to get internet or cell phone service.
- you can’t help but wonder who taught your students to say ‘my happy birthday is in june’
- you’re constantly asked to sing national songs on the spot and often can only think of scout songs or ‘my heart will go on’.
- you distinguish between your peace corps family, your american family, and your ukrainian home-stay family.
- it’s become natural to throw your toilet paper away in the trash bin.
- you no longer realize you’re using foreign words when speaking english and say things like ‘davai!’ ‘bez’ ‘dingy’ ‘buterbrod’ ‘seriouzno?’ ‘vokzal’ ‘mahazine’ to your friends back home.
- you start using the phrase “the states” and “when i attended university…”
- you are no longer shocked at how crowded the local transportation is.
- you know that if someone at site says ‘yes’ it means definitely not, ‘maybe’ means no, and ‘no’ means no.
- you get stuck in an overcrowded bus for 8 hours in 98 degree heat and no one is willing to open the windows for fear of catching a cold.
- buying clothes you think “how hard would this be to wash in a bucket?”
- the locals offer you a shot of samahone, vodka, brandy, cognac or horilka for friendship.
- the women ask you if you are married and have kids, the men ask you if you like ukrainian girls, and both ask you how you enjoyed the winter.
- you regularly feel ashamed for your lack of exact change and have forgotten what customer service is.
- you visit other volunteers with no extra clothing except a hoodie (which will be your pillow).
- you must constantly remind your students that china and japan are different countries and that africa is, in fact, not a country.
- you ask your pcv friends (when visiting for the first time) if there’s anything special you need to know about their toilet/bathtub/sink or any other plumbing appliance.
- someone has to have at least 6 or 7 visible gold teeth before you notice them.
- you wish your walls had carpeting so that your room wouldn’t be so cold.
- you feel old because you’re 25 and lack a spouse and 3 children.
- straight men wear fluorescent mesh and tiny speedos.
- you live on hretchka and potatoes for a week because you were supposed to be paid five days earlier.
- you have “train” clothes, “train” slippers and a “train” mug.
- you’ve come think showering daily is luxurious.
- you have become a cultural ambassador for races, religions, and other groups that you do not belong to.
- you find your self trying to convince ukrainians that you can’t call it a sandwich if there’s only one piece of bread.
- the water, electricity, and internet outages every week for uncertain amounts of time are now just expected and your house is stocked with jugs of back-up water.
- carrying a water bottle around classifies you as a weirdo and drinking cold anything will of course make you sick.
- the amount of wind outside seems to affect your internet service.
- you know all of the vegetables harvest seasons and monitor the prices of tomatoes, daily.
- you have more recipes that involve mayonnaise than any other ingredient.
- if you see someone with dirty shoes you immediately start to judge their personality.
- you pack a picnic when riding a train.
- you have two phones with two different sim cards. or if you are really cool and have a duel sim card phone.
- you have a system for classifying all of the natashas, sahsas, dimas, and jenyas in your contact list.
- you answer your phone with, “allo?”
- you feel safer when there is an 85-year-old woman around.
- you think foreigners are either missionaries or sex tourists.
- trash piles on fire don’t phase you.
- you never leave the house without polishing your shoes.
- you’ve learned that the word ‘preservative’ is not meant to be used when talking about food.
I was wandering around the internet and came across these interesting maps. I, of course, compared Ukraine and America. The results, sadly, did not surprise me.
1. Best Places to be Born: America is in the second place bracket… Ukraine is dead last.
2. Attitude toward foreign visitors (i.e. ME) is downright dismal. Ukraine is in the second least welcoming bracket.
3. Smoking… Ukrainians, apparently smoke between 2500 and 2749 cigarettes a year each. Americans smoke 1000-1249. And I would actually argue that Ukrainians smoke more because Im sure that survey doesnt include adolescents, who DEFINITELY smoke in this country.
4. Finally, and most tellingly, here is some info about which countries are the most and least emotional. Ukraine is in the least emotional bracket. America is in the most.
So there’s that. Enjoy your factoids for the day.