End of week one – have I only been in Ukraine for 5 days? It feels like yesterday and ages ago at the same time. As I write, my host parents are downstairs watching some Ukrainian TV. I recently heard Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” in Ukrainian/Russian float up the stairs. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto! It’s been a wild week, from Staging in D.C. to my – and 13 others’ – delayed arrival in Ukraine on Tuesday. But here I am, situated in a small village (~1,350 people!) – no bank or police or cafes – outside of Chernihiv, the Chernihiv Oblast center, north of Kyiv.
I have a host mother, Anya, and a host father, Serhiy, and a host long-haired Dachshund-type dog, Dina, who gets to eat left-over people-food for dinner (Dundee would never be allowed to do that! But like Dundee, my host parents intimate that Dina would sit at the table if he could). I have my own room with space for my yoga mat on the floor (yay!). I don’t know much about my host parents yet because I can barely speak or understand any Ukrainian. I do know that Serhiy is an auto-mechanic right now. After dinner on Friday, I followed my host mom across the driveway to what I thought was a second kitchen. Lo and behold, it was! Natalia, my cluster’s language and cross-cultural facilitator, told us that households often have a second kitchen for the summer, where most of the food is stored and prepared. After I saw the other kitchen, Anya showed me around their property. When I say property I really mean dacha (дача), for we are in the country and this is a country house – we have a large and fertile garden; pigs; cats; adorable chickens; and two large rabbits! My host parents are very welcoming and feed me lots of soup (potatoes, carrots, onions, broth, meat/beans/grain, dill) and other tasty things – блінічики (blini), салат (salad), tasty brown bread, and potatoes prepared many different ways – of which I must try not to eat too much.
Language training is fast and intense, but we’re all equally lost so it’s okay. I’ve been placed to learn Ukrainian, and all five of us in my cluster are just out of university. Lots of language-studying – it’s like being back in German 101, but this time it’s Ukrainian-for-survival! There is so much I want to say and so little I can say.
Some interesting Ukraininan-language tidbits:
-There are no articles in Ukrainian – whereas the articles change with case in German, in Ukrainian the word endings change with case.
-There is no “to be” in the present tense – e.g., “I – teacher” – it’s pretty awesome.
-There are SEVEN cases in Ukrainian – and four were tough to keep straight in German!
Here are some of the terms we use in Peace Corps that I will refer to often in my emails and blog posts:
-For PST, I am part of a cluster, which is 5 Trainees (PCTs) grouped according to living preferences, teaching assignment, and language ability. We do all our language training and a good deal of our technical (secondary TEFL) and cross-cultural training with our cluster every day but Sunday. Our cluster is led by an LCF (Language & Cross-Cultural Facilitator).
-Every Saturday we join with another cluster to form a link – our link cluster is in Chernihiv, also learning Ukrainian, but teaching higher education TEFL. We do a bit of technical (TEFL) and cross-cultural training with our link cluster. Link sessions are led largely by our TCF (Technical & X-Cultural Facilitator).
This first week in Ukraine has been overwhelming, but good. Probably won’t have much internet during PST since there’s none in my town, but below are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.
|Gorgeous Ukrainian sunset on Day 1.|