**Warning: long post ahead. But if you read it to the end I promise it’ll be worth your time**
My two years in Ukraine have come to an end. You’ve read the final letters my 11th-form pupils wrote to me. My last week in Sniatyn was filled with notes, gifts, and wonderful sendings-off from friends, colleagues, and pupils.
Last Friday, Iryna (my Ukrainian “mom-friend”; she’s in her mid-50s) told me she’d be going on vacation the next day and so she wanted to meet me to say goodbye. She picked me up in the evening and took me to a cafe, where we enjoyed a light meal of cheese, coffee, and apple tart along with nice conversation. It was really lovely and thoughtful of Iryna to do this for me, and she gave me with some leeks and apples from her garden along with this note (original grammar/syntax preserved):
Dear Tammela! Probably I’m not very good your student but I would say some important words in English. I hope our meeting in this big world was interesting and pleasure for both of us. It seems we are too different conserning our age, origin, place of living and I really wonder we are very close about our sight on moral and soul points of life. // And it’s very cool!!! // You became a piece of happy in my life. Thanks for these moments. Thanks you and U.S. for all good deals! // Sometime I’ll be glad receive little note from you. I’ll be waiting… Iryna
My 8A pupils have not come to English club all semester — it has been hard to find a time when the majority of them could come, so I’d resigned myself to just seeing them during lessons. But on Wednesday at school, some of the girls asked if we could have English club that afternoon. “What time?” I asked. They proposed 4pm, which was perfect, an hour before my adult/older pupils’ club. So I showed up and seven of my girls were there, armed with OJ, cookies, and M&Ms, which they professionally portioned out after they pushed two desks together with chairs around them so we could sit in a circle. “Let’s talk about Halloween!” Olha said. So we started with that and progressed into topics such as the practicality of UkrEnglish, pets, siblings, and more. It was a joyful, relaxing hour. Nastia, Nastia, Marta, Marta, Olha, Inna, and Roxolana are some of the pupils who have most brightened my work at school. Smart, intelligent, funny, creative young ladies with excellent English.
After my 8th formers left, the adults and older kids came in for the last English club. This English club group has been one of the highlights of my time in Sniatyn. It has been wonderful to get to know some of my pupils better and in a different context than English lessons. Some of them have become more like friends than pupils — at least we have a slightly more relaxed relationship than I do with most of my other pupils. And it’s been great to have met such an interesting cross-section of the Sniatyn community in the adults who have attended my club: they said on Wednesday that they wouldn’t have met each other if it hadn’t been for English club. They are all different ages and professions: dentist, epidemiologist, history teacher, piano teacher, gas company worker…It’s so cool that English club brought us all together.
Anyway, we talked about Halloween for a bit and then as we wound down I asked them what some of their favorite memories were from English clubs and got a slew of answers: writing dialogues and stories, playing fun speaking games, competitions, music, films… Andriy astutely pointed out that the second year of English club was more interesting than the first; I agreed. At the beginning I didn’t have any idea of what to do, plus the group had a lot of people come and go. Once a consistent core group formed and I started to get my bearing as a teacher and get to know the attendees, things went more smoothly as I could tailor activities to the group members’ interests and abilities. At the end of English club, I thanked everyone and was then bombarded with gifts:
The gifts included two nice notes from my 10th form pupil, Christina, and my 11th form pupil, Oleh. Here’s what they wrote:
Dear Ms. Tammela! Thank you for your being in Snyatyn. Thank’s for English clubs, Sport clubs, for lessons, for preparation for FLEX. Thank you for all! // It was so interesting to communicate with you. You studied me many different and important things. You gave me many beautiful lessons which I will never forget! // This book is about plants and animals in Snyatyn’s region. They all are belong to Red Book of World. // I wish you great health, happiness, many pleasant emotions and positive feelings! You are so beautiful person! Don’t forget me! Christina K. // P.S. I hope we will see in the future!
Dear Tammela // Thank you for your dedication, kindnes and skils // I enjoyed all time wich we spended together // Oleh S.
On the way out of school after English club, I spotted this “information bulletin” made by my 11A class:
The goodbyes continued on Thursday when I had my last lesson with my 4b class — they have also been a favorite class of mine and it has been fun to co-teach them with my colleague, Natalia. I said “good morning” to the class and then Roman came up and opened the sides of the chalkboard, revealing an adorable message (in English!) saying goodbye to me and telling me to return. Then multiple kids came up to me with flowers and gifts and gave little speeches, wishing me well and telling me not to leave (or at least to come back and visit). I received a big doll in Ukrainian national dress and Alina told me (in Ukrainian), “when you come back to visit you must be wearing a costume like this!” A few of them gave me cards, two of which I quote here: 1) “We will Miss you at Miss Temella. Come more” — short and sweet! 2) “Miss Tem!!! Thank you for evereting you do for us. With you was very interesting. I wish you a good travel at home. Taras Beltsyk Form 4-B — I’m pretty sure Taras has a parent who knows at least a little English. If not, I’m even more impressed. Love them.
I was prepared for something from the teachers during Friday’s morning faculty meeting. Our school director, Viktoria Liubomyrivna, presented me with flowers and a podyaka (thank-you certificate…Ukrainians love these) and I gave a little thank-you speech as well. Nadia Mykhailivna, widow of our late/former director, gave me a beautiful, real pysanka (painted egg) and rushnyk (embroidered towel) that she and Viktor Mykolaiovych had bought at last spring’s school yarmarok (market) — “na pam’yat’,” she said. “For the memory”).
My last lesson on Friday was with Nadia Mykhailivna’s class, the 10th form, a hilarious and energetic group of kids. They also presented me with well-wishes and some nice gifts. Poor Katya almost broke down and had to restart her heartfelt word a few times, causing me to tear up as well!
After school, the English teachers (minus two) and I went to the restaurant where we always celebrate after the First and Last Bell ceremonies: Vechirnyy Sniatyn. We shared a few hours of tasty food and conversation; as Diana Dmetrivna said, we have been not only colleagues but have also become friends. These are the people who have made my time in Sniatyn so worthwhile.
We had short lessons on Saturday to make up for Monday’s day off after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections. My 11th form invited me to a concert they organized as a farewell for me! It deserved its own blog post so click here to see photos and videos of my talented pupils.
With school farewells finished, that left Sunday and Monday to say goodbye to Halya and her family as well as Natalia and co. at her shop. I spent a relaxed couple of hours at Halya’s place on Sunday evening, sharing a light meal and champagne with lemon (have you ever had that? It’s actually pretty tasty) with Halya, Oksana (her mom), Yuliana (her aunt/my landlady), Pavlo (Halya’s cousin), Sasha (Halya’s husband), and Mark (their 14-month-old son). Conversation is always interesting with them, and the food is always good. I’ll miss chatting with them in the back yard and celebrating holidays with them.
Also, there was a nice article written about me in the newspaper Sniatyns’ka Vezha (“Sniatyn tower”) this weekend. Tanya, the Sniatyn journalist who wrote an article about me about a week after I arrived in Sniatyn, interviewed me again last week to compose a final piece; I tried to use it to say thank you and goodbye to all the people in Sniatyn who have touched my life. (There are a few wrong facts but overall it’s a nice article.)
Monday morning I got up early in order to have one last run on my favorite road. My early wake-up was rewarded by a gorgeous sunrise as I started my run — I took my camera along to get some final shots of Sniatyn:
After running (and showering), I headed to Natalia’s shop one last time to have coffee and conversation with Natalia, Ilona, Petro, and Nina. I gave them a bunch of extra things I didn’t need, and they liked the photo albums I’d made for them.
So that’s it. Someone from Halya’s family will drive me to the train station in a few hours and tonight I’ll be on my way to Kyiv for three more days in Ukraine. If all goes as planned, on Friday I’ll become a Returned PCV (RPCV). Hard to believe and quite bittersweet — I couldn’t have asked for a better service.
N.B.: Click HERE to see more photos of the classes and teachers and English clubbers I’ve worked with for two years. And click HERE to see my “scenic Ukraine” album — the best photos I’ve taken of Ukrainian landscapes and more.