Tag Archives: New Year

Year in Review: 2017

Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr! З Новим Роком!

I haven’t written a “year in review” since the end of 2014, but this year I felt the desire to do so as 2017 becomes 2018. While there are plenty of awful things that happened globally in 2017 – politically, environmentally, etc. – I would like to focus on the more personal positives in this post.

Running and fitness in 2017:

On the way to a 5-mile PB at the Perivale 5, Dec 2017. Photo credit: Bespoke Photos.

  • Distance run: Strava tells me that in 2017 I ran 973.1km =  604.66mi. This is about 39 more miles than in 2016, so I’ll take that as a slight improvement.
  • The first half of the running year wasn’t great, as I had a really nasty virus over the Christmas holidays so had a slow return to fitness in early 2017. I had a brief return to the track in the summer before developing some plantar fasciitis. Since then, I’ve focused on building up my fitness base with tempo work and longer runs. That has seemed to work, as in fall/winter I ran my fastest 10k since 2015 and a 5-mile PR/PB!
  • In 2017 I discovered how much I love trail running/racing. Now that I have invested in trail shoes, I hope to do more trail running in 2018. I ran in Trent Park for the first time and loved it.
  • Racing (running):
  • Distance cycled: 2,760.3km = 1,715.17mi of commuting to/from work in London. About 200km/124mi more than in 2016.

Favorite books read in 2017:

  • In 2017 I read about 21 books. I didn’t love everything I read but here are some books that have stuck with me after finishing them:
  • Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard. I’ve loved Chevalier’s writing ever since reading Girl with a Pearl Earring as a teenager. Chevalier also happens to be an Oberlin graduate and I was fortunate to see her speak when I was in college. At the Edge of the Orchard is a historical novel of migration to the American West during the Gold Rush in the 1840s and ’50s. The human characters are interesting but much of the novel is actually about trees: apple orchards and then California’s redwoods and giant sequoias. It has really stuck with me and I’ve recommended it to a number of people.
    • I also read Chevalier’s newest novel, New Boy, this year. It’s a chilling retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello set on a school playground and I’d recommend it to any English teachers for their students to read alongside the original play.
  • Somehow in all my study of English literature, I had never read Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. My parents recommended it to me after reading it for their book club a couple of years ago, and I was impressed with this early detective novel. It has all the good stuff – missed messages, mistaken identities, charming villains – while remaining accessible even for those who aren’t used to reading 19th-century novels.
  • I absolutely love Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series (the first one is called The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) and this year I read the seventh and eighth books back to back. Every time I open a Russell-Holmes novel, it feels like coming home. Something about King’s writing style just sits well with me. The novels are at once historically dense, character-driven, and detailed but not slow-moving. My dad first got hooked on the series years ago, and I would recommend it to anyone who, to use Netflix-speak, enjoys “historical novels with a strong female lead”. There’s also plenty of mystery and detective work involved!
  • I loved Robin Hobb’s 4-book series, The Rain Wild Chronicles, recommended by a fellow choir singer. Hobb creates a fascinating and robust fantasy world – realist but with touches of the magic and mythical – and tells a good story.
  • Rachel Sieffert, A Boy in Winter. A poignant WWII novel set in a small Ukrainian town. Sad but beautifully written and worth reading for a slightly different perspective.
  • Darragh McKeon, All that is Solid Melts into Air. Wow was this good. A close family friend – my Belgian “aunt” – recommended it and I loved it. It’s set in Soviet Ukraine/Russia/Belarus in the late 1980s around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The shifting perspectives never felt jarring and it’s quite timely, despite being a historical novel. Highly recommended.
  • F and I finished reading Walter Moers’ Die 13 1/2 Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär, an epic fantasy-type novel that we took turns reading aloud. It helped my German a lot and was good fun! I also finished a book of short stories in German – Karen Köhler’s Wir Haben Raketen Geangelt – that were almost all depressing but I loved the writing style and it was accessible enough for me to understand most of what was going on.

Other highlights & achievements, in no particular order:

  • Singing Bach’s St John Passion in English with the Crouch End Festival Chorus and Bach Camerata at St John Smith’s Square in central London.
  • Visiting my close friend Hannah in Bulgaria, where she’s working as a Fulbright ETA.
  • Spending a lovely long weekend with F in Bath.
  • Family and friends descending on London for our post-wedding celebration in July. It was lovely to have a casual party in a local pub and that so many people made the effort to come from near and far.
  • Spending a week walking in the Cotswolds with F. We stayed in a little AirBnB in the village of Longborough and spent each day walking a different loop, stopping for pub lunches and enjoying our escape from big city life.
  • After three years teaching ESOL to migrant women at a charity in Tower Hamlets, I got a new job at a charity in Hackney. I’m still teaching ESOL mainly in Tower Hamlets but also learning about and sharpening my skills in project management and partnerships. It was hard to leave my old team – a close-knit group of amazing women – but it was the right move to make and I’m enjoying my new role. It’s also interesting to see how two charities in the same sector operate quite differently.

Cotswolds walking

I’m not big on resolutions but my main intention for 2018 is, as usual, to find a healthy balance between work, exercise, time with F, and other things. We hope to travel a bit more this year and I’d like to build up my running mileage to 10-mile or even half marathon fitness.

In some blog-related reflecting, here is a listicle of of my top posts via views in 2017:

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2018

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Year in Review: 2014

Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr! З Новим Роком!

I can hardly believe it’s already 2015, can you? 2014 was quite a year, I hardly know how to sum it up. For brevity’s sake, let’s go with some good ol’ bullet points.

2014 by the numbers:

  • blog posts published: 92 or so
  • books read: too many to count — some for fun and lots for my MA course
  • miles run: 549 (quite a lot less than last year, due to hip/knee issues)
  • miles cycled: 2,028.65 (mostly commuting in London, but a decent amount of road cycling in the first half of the year)
  • courses completed: 2 (1 MA in English & 1 DELTA course)
  • countries been in: England, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA
  • weddings attended: 2

Looking back on my intentions for 2014, I more or less achieved most of them, although things like improving my German and staying in better touch with friends and family could always be worked on. My main intention for 2015 is to find a healthy balance between work, exercise, time with F, and my other hobbies like cooking. That comes with some sub-intentions, like building up my running mileage and speed without getting injured.

In some blog-related reflecting, here are two listicles of my top posts — via views and via my opinion — from 2014:

The 10 most popular posts in 2014 (your favorites?):

My 10 favorite posts/moments in 2014 (in no particular order):

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2015

Weihnachten und Silvester in Deutschland / Christmas and New Year’s in Germany

It’s always fun and interesting to experience holiday traditions in different countries/cultures. I became familiar with most of the major Ukrainian holiday celebrations during my two years there, and my family is often invited to celebrate Norwegian Christmas Eve with friends. This year I had the chance to celebrate my first Christmas and New Year’s in Germany, with F’s family and friends. Here are a short list and a few pictures of my experiences:

  • Weihnachtsmarkt in Bonn: Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, where many people go in the evenings to meet friends, drink a warm mug of Glühwein (mulled wine), and shop for handcrafts, candied almonds (Mandeln), and Lebkuchen hearts.
  • Like many other Europeans, Germans celebrate Christmas on 24 December, what we call Christmas Eve and what they call heilige Abend. Highlights of heilige Abend include:
    • Decorating the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) with lights, red and gold ornaments, and red candles (which may or may not get lit).
    • Enjoying a big supper with some kind of roast meat (F’s family makes Sauerbraten, a beef roast pickled/marinated for seven days beforehand), bread dumplings (Semmelknödel), and lots of gravy-like sauce.
    • Present-opening after dinner.
  • What we call Christmas Day is called “the first Christmas (holi)day,” and 26 December (Boxing Day in the UK) is called “the second Christmas (holi)day.” Both days are free days in Germany, when families can relax and enjoy each other. We had delicious kohlrouladen (cabbage rolls) for lunch one day. They’re not unlike Ukrainian holubtsi, but the German version is only ground meat wrapped in cabbage, rather than rice + meat that Ukrainians use. We also went to watch the Bonn professional basketball team play.

F and I celebrated New Year’s (Silvester) in Münster, where F studied and where most of his friends still live. Activities included:

  • (Another!) Christmas dinner with nine friends. Everyone contributed something, potluck-style. I made my mom’s sweet potato casserole and F made a delicious pot roast as the meal’s centerpiece.
  • One evening, we enjoyed grünkohl (kale cooked for ages with sausages and pork, a typical dish in Westphalia) at F’s friend’s parents’.
  • New Year’s Eve is traditionally celebrated with friends, like in many places all over the world. We gathered at F&M’s place for raclette and then fireworks (Feuerwerke). Interestingly, Germans are only allowed to buy fireworks for the couple of days leading up to New Year’s Eve. That means Silvester has tons of people setting off their own fireworks at midnight. We walked down to the Aasee and had a great view of ours and others’ fireworks around the lake.

How does your family celebrate Christmas and/or New Year’s?

Year in Review: 2013

Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr / Guten Rutsch! З Новим Роком!

2013 was a year full of changes and new experiences for me, like moving to a new country/city, getting an English teaching certificate, and starting an MA program (back to university after three years out). My German improved — and my Ukrainian waned. I also joined an amazing running club in my area of London and was able to spend much of the summer at home in the States with my family and F. Overall, 2013 was a really good year. Here are some more fun statistics summing up the year:

2013 by the numbers:

  • blog posts published: 155
  • books read: 19 for fun, plus >30 for my MA (including some short stories/poetry/essays)
  • visitors hosted in London: ~19
  • miles run: 931.89 (76.71 miles less than in 2012, but I cycled and swam more in 2013 so overall probably racked up more mileage)
  • qualifications received: 1 Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
  • countries been in: England, Belgium, Germany, USA
  • memories made: too many to count

Are you satisfied with your 2013?

Looking back, I am satisfied to have achieved most of my intentions for 2013: learning my way around London, living frugally, cycle-commuting, “me” time, exercise time, healthy eating, starting an MA program, and staying in touch with people . I didn’t take advantage of as many free/inexpensive opportunities as I could have, but we did visit quite a few of London’s free museums and markets with visitors.

Here is my non-exhaustive list of intentions for 2014, in no particular order:

  • Successfully complete my MA degree
  • Expand my skill set in teaching/tutoring, writing, and editing work
  • Keep improving my German
  • Stay healthy and fit:
    • Run a half marathon or two and take part in as many running club events as I can
    • Get more comfortable with road cycling by riding or spinning consistently
  • Keep exploring London via free/inexpensive activities
  • Get a job and work visa after my MA so I can stay in London
  • Stay in better touch with friends/family in all parts of the world (make better use of Skype, WhatsApp, etc.)

What are your intentions for 2014?

Recipe: Baked Scallops in White Wine Cream Sauce

My parents and I decided to stay home for New Year’s Eve this year (boring, I know; actually it was really nice to sit and read in front of the fire and not have to go anywhere). We wanted to cook something out-of-the-ordinary for dinner, so my dad suggested scallops and said that he had a good recipe for them. The original recipe — pasted into one of my parents’ binders of assorted recipes — had unknown origins and was hilarious in that it listed some ingredients but then never said what to do with them or when to add them together. My dad and I smoothed out the bumps in the recipe and lightened it quite a lot — the original calls for an entire stick of butter; we opted to use mostly olive oil. We also didn’t have quite enough scallops so we added in some shrimp. The result was a creamy, rich-despite-the-lack-of-butter dish that we served over baguette rounds and alongside roasted butternut squash. It was easy and filling; I’d make it again (and hope that you do the same!).

IMG_4087

Baked Scallops in White Wine Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb scallops (we used about half scallops and half pre-cooked shrimp)
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 oz dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 sm-med onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz cooking sherry
  • 1 cup cream or other milk product (we used 3/4 half & half and 1/4 1% milk)
  • to taste: salt, pepper, minced parsley, paprika

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a casserole.
  • Saute the scallops (and shrimp, if using) in 3 tbsp olive oil until they are golden brown. Add the white wine and stir, then add the mixture to the casserole.
  • Now sauté the mushrooms and onions in the rest of the olive oil until they are softened to your liking. Add them to the casserole.
  • In a separate, small saucepan, melt the butter then add the flour and blend well. Add the sherry and cook for a few minutes. Slowly add the cream, stirring until blended. Season with salt and pepper.
  • When the white sauce is thick, pour it over the mixture in the casserole and sprinkle the top with parsley and paprika. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven.

Enjoy!

IMG_4086

Year in Review: 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, I have been planning to write a “year in review” post. A fellow Ukraine PCV posted a great one  yesterday and I was inspired to snag an idea or two from her (thanks, Kristen!).

2012 by the numbers:

  • blog posts published: 69 (70 including this one)
  • books read: 30-35
  • countries visited: Ukraine (well I was living there), England, Czech Republic, Poland (very briefly), Germany, Belgium, USA
  • boyfriends gained: 1 (and no need for another!)
  • miles run: 1,008.6 (that is just .2 miles more than 2011…what are the chances?!)
  • races run: 3 (2 half marathons and a 5K)
  • time in the USA: 53 days
  • time in Ukraine: 365 – 53 days – travel time = ±290 days
  • memories made: too many to count

What else can I say about 2012? I just looked back at my intentions for 2012 (written at the end of 2011) and was pleasantly surprised to see that I accomplished/achieved pretty much all of them! It was an exciting year: new experiences, visitors to Ukraine, meeting friends abroad, some tragedy, big transitions, and more. I learned a lot about myself and feel like I grew as a person — if only in that amorphous, hard-to-pin down way.

And now my intentions for 2013, non-exhaustively and in no particular order:

  • Learn my way around a new city (London).
  • Live frugally in an expensive city / take advantage of free and inexpensive opportunities there.
  • Get a bike and start cycling more, for commuting and exercise.
  • Remain balanced by continuing to eat healthily, exercise (run/yoga/swim/bike), and make time for myself.
  • Start an MA program in English literature (this should happen, as long as I get accepted somewhere).
  • Stay in touch with friends and family near and far. (Write me letters — I’ll write you back!)

What are your intentions for 2013?

1 Jan 2012: New Year celebrations in Sniatyn, Ukraine

1 Jan 2012: New Year celebrations in Sniatyn, Ukraine

“Don’t Get Trammed!” — Emma & Michael Visit Ukraine

On 7 January – Ukrainian Christmas – instead of sitting at my counterpart’s dining table for the Holy Supper (Святий Вечір), I found myself at the airport in Kyiv to meet two friends from Oberlin, Emma and Michael. They’d been planning to visit me in Ukraine ever since I arrived here. Still, it was hard to believe the plans were about to be realized. But there they were, walking out of the customs area at Kyiv Boryspil International Airport, Michael in his fluffy ear-flap hat and Emma in her big green coat and fuzzy white hat.

Their visit started without delay — after a Chinese dinner in Kyiv, we hopped on the overnight train to L’viv (sorry about those train bathrooms, Emma!), where we arrived bright and early on Sunday morning. In L’viv we climbed vysokyy zamok (високий замок – high castle), wandered into and out of churches, walked a lot, saw The Nutcracker (лускунчик) at the opera house, and met up with my Ukrainian language teacher (LCF) from Training, Natalia. She took us to one of the various themed cafes in L’viv, Dim Lehend (Дім легенд – house of legends), where we enjoyed banosh (банош) and conversation in the library-themed room. As it was Ukrainian Christmas weekend, we heard lots of caroling (колядуванняkolyaduvannya) and strolled through the Christmas market while munching on poppyseed-filled pampushky (пампушки – donuts).

We arrived in my beautiful town of Sniatyn early on Tuesday morning, after a cold but mercifully short train ride. In Sniatyn I introduced Emma and Michael to many of my favorite people, places, and things: Natalia and her shop; Natalia my colleague; Diana Dmetrivna; the Olympiad girls; my English club attendees; the clock tower; the river; horishky cookies… Emma and Michael were a great help and hit in English Clubs, as they taught some traditional rounds: “Row Row Row Your Boat”; “Are You Sleeping?” (in English and French); “Black Socks.” Everyone loved it and loved Emma’s beautiful singing voice. (Michael has a nice voice, too, and they, like me, enjoy turning regular statements into sung ones. We definitely sang our way through the week.)

After lunch in Chernivtsi on Friday with many of my favorite Americans-in-Ukraine — Kristin, Kate, Janira, Brandon, Andy — we were off to Kyiv for Emma and Michael’s last couple days in Ukraine. Lots more walking — this time in light snow and later slush, as winter seems to have finally arrived in Ukraine. Falafel from one of my favorite places in Kyiv. Dried fruit from another favorite place, the besarabs’kyy rynok. A great production of Bizet’s opera, Carmen, at the Kyiv National Opera Theatre — we were singing statements to Carmen tunes for the rest of the weekend. Churches, Andriy’s Descent, and souvenir-gazing. Pretty soon it was Sunday night and time for my wonderful guests to head to the airport for their 5:30am flight home.

It was a blast to play tourist and tour-guide for a week — thank you, Emma and Michael, for making the journey to see me! I gained a new perspective on my adopted country and now I know that my Ukrainian is good enough to get around with two non-speakers for a week.

(Speaking of Ukrainian, read the next post for more…)

Some pictures from the week (click to make them bigger):

 

See even more pictures from the week HERE and HERE.

Reflections and Resolutions

Reflections

Ah, 2011, you’ve been a good year. I’ve done and learned many new things. Here’s a non-exhaustive summary, in no particular order:

  • I learned to embroider (cross-stitch) and am working on my first piece: poppies.
  • I traveled quite a bit around Ukraine.
  • Also traveled to Venice and Berlin, in the latter of which I met up with my family and extended European family (Fabian & Colette).
  • I am now able to get around by myself in Ukraine and rarely have problems navigating transport and buying train tickets.
  • The above is because my Ukrainian has improved quite a lot in the past year. I still understand more than I can speak (passive vs. active vocabulary!), but I can speak pretty freely with my limited vocabulary and grammar skills.
  • I’ve sung in a Ukrainian choir and thus learned some Ukrainian national folk/religious songs. I even had a shared solo in said choir.
  • I began my career as a teacher. The first semester was a crap-shoot but now I feel comfortable in the classroom and continue to enjoy teaching.
  • I’ve gathered a small-but-consistent following of English Club attendees, pupils and adults.
  • I trained for and finished a marathon — very slowly.
  • Before I decided to run a marathon, I ran a half marathon PR!
  • I made some Ukrainian friends.
  • I finally embraced Ukrainian circle dancing — as I call it — and began to enjoy it.
  • Maybe I began to make a difference in my Ukrainian school and community.
  • I wrote a grant for my school to get multimedia equipment for the English classroom. We still need a little more money before it’s fully funded!
  • I cooked many tasty dishes.
  • I fell in love with Ukraine, and my town of Sniatyn, a little bit.

Resolutions

Or, as my brother puts it, intentions. I like that better. I’m not usually one to make New Year’s Resolutions — they seem sort of stilted — but this year I will put forth a non-exhaustive list of things I’d like to accomplish in 2012. In no particular order:

  • Read more books. I spend a lot of time reading on the computer — news, blogs — but would like to spend at least an hour a day reading something on paper.
  • Improve my Ukrainian. I am lazy when it comes to studying Ukrainian. But with less than a year left here, I’d like to improve my language skills by continuing to communicate in Ukrainian whenever possible (and maybe sit down once in a while to study some vocabulary).
  • Continue to take advantage of opportunities. When someone invites me to do something, say “YES” whether or not I know exactly what the invitation entails.
  • Apply to graduate school. This also involves taking the Literature and general GREs and revising my Oberlin honors thesis. But it must and will be done, step by step!
  • Run the Prague Half Marathon, hopefully with another PR.
  • [this one may or may not be serious] As some Ukrainians in my English club wrote in their resolutions, “meet my future husband” — or maybe I’ve already met him…?
  • Get my counterpart and English teacher colleagues more involved in learning new teaching methodologies.
  • Continue to travel, within and outside of Ukraine, while I live in such a great location for going to new places.
  • Remain happy and healthy by making time to do the things I enjoy most.
  • Successfully complete my Peace Corps service.

…and so many more things.

What are your New Year’s Intentions?

———

колядки

What are колядки (kolyadky), you may ask? Why, carols! Christmas/New Year carols, to be exact. Ukrainians have many traditional New Year and Christmas carols, some really beautiful. Many sound similar, but maybe that’s because Ukrainians songs use similar harmonies. The school choir sang a few carols to us teachers this morning. I took some video clips to introduce you to Ukrainian holiday greetings and carols:

 

This next one, “добрий вечір тобі,” (dobryy vechir tobi = “good evening to you”), is a classic. As in I’ve heard it so many times already that I almost know all the words. But I like it.

 

And this one’s called “Нова радість стала” (nova radeest’ stala = “discover the joy”). Also a popular one.

 

Happy singing!

Things Ukrainians Write: Letters from my 10th form pupils, holiday edition

A few memorable lines from the third set of letters written to me by my 10th form pupils. They all wrote to me about winter holidays. (See their first letters here.)

  • Oxy-moronic? But in Ukraine it’s true. “The symbol of the New Year is a Christmas tree. -Christina
  • Holidays like people? “I think that this holiday like all people, because we meet a new year.” -Vika
  • An interesting story and wise words from Roman T.: “I think, that…we must study [English]. I see this in one fact; this happened with my brother Dima. Two years ago, he studied at Chernivtsy and he met one American. He asked my brother: ‘How [can I] go to the railway station?” Dima [gave his] answer and [the] American [smiled], after it [gave him] 10 hrivnias. [At] this time it was not small money. We need English in all situations in life.”
  • Tanya, on New Year’s in Ukraine: “People believe that all their troubles are left in the previous year and the New Year will bring them hopes and happiness.”
  • Olha tells me the 12 Lenten dishes that Ukrainians make for Christmas Eve dinner: “The main dish is kutia. [Everybody] should try [it]. Also, we cook compote fried fish, meatless borshch, braised cabbage with mushrooms, stuffed cabbage with rice, millet porridge, beet salad, salad with pickled cucumbers, cabbage, and onions, bean cakes, hot spices with crushed garlic, black pepper, dill, tomato paste, and oil, and finish [with] boiled potatoes, lubricants crushed garlic with oil.”
  • Solomia seems conflicted about religion: “I would like to celebrate [Christmas] on December 25. Because Christmas Lent ends after [the] New Year holiday and I don’t want [to] have a big noisy party during Lent. However I don’t really keep Lent, but I think [it’s] very bad [to noisily] celebrate New Year during Lent.”

L’VIV/L’VOV/LWOW/LEMBERG/LEOPOLIS

After Venice, my friends and I spent two days exploring L’viv, the unofficial capital of western Ukraine. L’viv has a rich history; the city was tossed between Poland, Austro-Hungary/Germany, and Russia before Ukrainian independence. One place this is apparent is in the city’s many names from all these different languages: L’viv (Ukrainian), L’vov (Russian), Lwow (Poland), Lemberg (German), and even Leopolis (Latin). Before World War II there was a large Jewish population; unfortunately, you can probably guess what happened during the War.

One of the main highlights of two days in L’viv was having a cluster reunion – all five of us who trained together last fall met up for a morning of clock tower-climbing and lunching. It was great, after traveling in Venice with Kate and Andy, to add Janira and Andrew back to the group. The clock tower – and Високий Замок (“vysokyy zamok,” literally “tall castle”), a hill with castle remains which Andy and I climbed – offered great views of the city. Not surprisingly, we also saw many more churches and just enjoyed walking around the city center.

Cluster Reunion! (L-R: Kate, me, Andy, Andrew, Janira)

Inside St. George’s Cathedral

The culinary highlight of the city came at a Jewish-themed restaurant called “Pid Zolotoju Rozoju” (“under the golden rose”), where another PCV had told me you bargain for your meal price. Bargain, indeed – after an incredible lunch of spreads for matzo, fresh salads, tender chicken with cranberry sauce and gnocchi, and delicious spiced wine – the waiter started at 1,000 UAH for the four of us (aii! Not on our PC budget). We were able to get him down to a reasonable-but-still-expensive 400 UAH. It was the most expensive meal I’ve had in Ukraine, but also one of the best.

Delicious chicken, gnocchi, and cranberry sauce

Kate and me with our spiced wine

When I go back to L’viv I want to take advantage of the 25 UAH opera tickets — the opera house is beautiful from the outside, and they have lots of shows every day of the week.

L’viv opera house at night

Holidays (Свята)

Factoid of the month: Ukrainians love to celebrate. I’ve learned that if I’m invited to a Ukrainian party, I must expect it to be no shorter than four hours long. Takes endurance! That said, I will lead you on a short narrative tour of how Ukrainians spend the end of December.

New Year’s is a big holiday here. It’s like a cross between our (I guess Christian) Christmas and Halloween. During the last week of December at school, all the classes have New Year’s parties, and some perform little plays/fairy tales.

My school’s 5th Form presents a fairy tale for New Year’s

New Year’s is when Ukrainians erect a tree (the “New Year’s Tree,” see the picture of my town’s central tree in a recent post), decorate it, and sometimes put presents under it. New Year’s is also when the Santa equivalent, Дідь Мороз (“didt moroz” = “Father Frost”), and his granddaughter Снігурочка (“snihurochka” = “Snow Maiden”) appear in their festive costumes. I saw three Дідь Мороз and Снігурочка during the week before New Year’s: at the Methodological Cabinet party, at the 5th Form’s fairy tale performance, and at the teachers’ New Year’s party at my school.

Дідь Мороз (Father Frost) played by one of the (female) Ukrainian teachers

Снігурочка (Snow Maiden) played by one of the male teachers

I celebrated New Year’s Eve itself with my counterpart, her husband, and some of their cousins and friends — it’s fun because we’re all in our 20s. It was a low-key celebration, though I was up until 4:40am because we didn’t start celebrating until 11pm!

Ringing in the New Year in style at my counterpart’s house. From L: Vita, friend of Max (neighbor), Sahsa (counterpart’s husband), Pasha (cousin), Yuriy (cousin), Nazar (counterpart’s brother), Misha (cousin), Galyna (counterpart)

January 7th is Ukrainian (Orthodox) Christmas (Різдво). On Jan 6th there is a big feast — traditionally, a “holy supper” of 12 lenten dishes. I was lucky enough to be invited to my counterpart’s house for the Christmas Eve feast, where I joined her family, husband, a few grandparents, and aunts/uncles/cousins who appeared later. My counterpart’s family isn’t so strict with the food, but she says in villages the people stick to the customs more. You can read about the traditional Ukrainian Christmas here. We did have a few of the traditional dishes: вареники (“varenyky,” stuffed dumplings I’ve talked about before), голубці (“holubtsi,” stuffed cabbage rolls which I really love), and кутя (a sort of porridge of wheat, honey, poppy seeds, and nuts, which we had to eat before anything else).

Christmas Eve feast!

The evening was great fun, and I got to practice my Ukrainian, which has gotten a bit rusty since stopping 4-hour language lessons after training. At one point one of my counterpart’s uncles tried to give me a patronymic name. Here, everyone has a patronymic name, which is formed with the father’s first name and a gender-specific ending. It’s respectful to call anyone not a close friend or family member by their first name and patronymic. For example, all teachers go by their name and patronymic to their pupils (and colleagues, when in the presence of pupils). My counterpart is Галина Андріївна (Halyna Andriyivna), because her father’s name is Andriy. So this uncle asked me what my father’s name is: Terry, which in Ukrainian is Тарас (Taras). My first name is close to the Ukrainian name Таміла (Tameela), so he christened me Таміла Тарасівна (“Tameela Tarasivna”), and proceeded to just call me Тарасівна for the rest of the evening. Pretty hilarious.

I start teaching next week, so more posts are coming your way! Thank you to everyone who sent me holiday cards — I’ve set them up by my little Christmas tree and smile every time I walk by.

Thanks for the holiday cards!

Peace,

T.