On the Number Five

Why the number 5? 21 Feb 2010 marks exactly five months since I arrived in Ukraine with group 39B and headed briefly to a sanatorium before being dropped off — with very little knowledge of Ukrainian — with our host families in our training communities for 2.5 months of Pre-Service Training.  Like I wrote in the post at the end of my first week of training, “it feels like yesterday and ages ago at the same time.” Only then I was talking about 5 days and now it’s been 5 months. Hard to believe. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing my parents. I feel so grateful for so many things that have helped me survive the first five months in a new country. If you wonder whether you are one of them, you probably are.

Five months ago, I knew about five words in Ukrainian. Now I could probably write an elementary five-paragraph essay. Still a long way to go with my language skills (especially speaking), but hopefully in another five months things will be progressing nicely. Five months ago, I had never taught a classroom of children. Five months ago, I had never taught English as a Foreign Language, either. Five months ago, I didn’t know how much I would value the other PC Volunteers with whom I can “share experiences” (to put it generally). Five months ago, I never imagined I’d be buying (full-fat!) fresh milk twice a week from women at the bazaar, boiling it at home, and loving it in my oatmeal and coffee.

Speaking of Ukrainian cuisine, one of my new favorite Ukrainian dishes — which I didn’t discover until coming to western Ukraine — is банош (“banosh”). This dish is basically polenta, but it’s cooked with sour cream instead of water and topped with fresh salty cheese, so the result is a rich, creamy, delicious bowl of comfort food. On my Top 5 Favorite Ukrainian Dishes list are also бопщ (borshch — classic and delicious) and голобці (stuffed & baked cabbage rolls — yum). Another wonderful Ukrainian comfort food is the latke/potato pancake of Ukraine, here called деруни (“deruny”). Once in a while, they really hit the spot. And have I mentioned that there is tons of delicious chocolate here? Dangerous…

In travel news, I went to Kolomyya, Ukraine (just 35km north of my town) this weekend for the “Meet Your Neighbor Meeting” that every region has once a year. This is an opportunity for our Regional Manager (I’m part of Region 4, made up of 42 PCVs in 3 oblasts and guided by Roman, our awesome RM) to give us Peace Corps updates and for PCVs to advertise events and generally get to know each other. The highlight of what ended up being a long Friday night was heading to a restaurant/bar with Shaun (one of the PCVs who lives in Kolomyya and my host for the night — he also happens to be transferring to PC/Romania in April to do two more years of service!), Janira, Michelle, Andrew G (my cluster-mate who I hadn’t seen since Swearing-In), Holden, and Lily (two others from our group) to Salsa-dance. Shaun’s been taking salsa lessons a few times a week in Kolomyya, and every Friday night the teacher and a bunch of his friends/students go to a restaurant and dance for a few hours. Janira is Guatemalan/Argentinian so salsa is in her blood. She and Shaun taught us some moves, and it was a blast! Who would’ve thought we’d find Latin dancing in Ukriane?

And in news news, I forgot to mention that last week an article about me was published in Sniatyn’s local newspaper, Голос Покуття (“Holos Pokuttia”) — page 5, almost the entire page! The other week a reporter interviewed me (with the help of my counterpart to translate when necessary), and lo and behold the article appeared. Many of my students would come into class saying, “Міс Таміла, Я вас бачила/в у газеті!” (“Ms. Tammela, I saw you in the newspaper!”). Pretty cute. The article isn’t bad — a few questionable things that she quoted me on, but I tried to stay positive in the interview and refused to say bad things beyond agreeing that Ukrainians drink and smoke a lot (but, as I pointed out, so do many Americans).

Page 5 spread about me in Sniatyn’s local newspaper! Lower picture is of me with my 11th Form pupils (click picture to make it larger)

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