Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Is School?

Yeah, I guess I need to update the blog more often.  My two beautiful ducks were killed by a raccoon, just a couple days after I made the last post.  But I bought them with the hopes that they would protect my chickens and they did.  The cinder block has since been replaced with a more secure locking, hinged door and we've had no more deaths.  I plan to get more ducks in the spring.

We're well into winter now and the holidays passed without incident.  The break between semesters seemed pretty short, but the time our friends and house-mates were away seemed to last forever.  I guess that's how those things go.  I can't believe I'm already in the second semester of my second year of college!  Turns out I'm a pretty good student when the situation is right.

At the moment, that situation is a small classroom in Kiev, Ukraine, with all my lessons held in Russian.  Looking back, I'm not really sure how I got here.  Of course I drove to the airport, got on a plane and flew, but how the heck did I end up in Ukraine, of all places?  I never in my life imagined wanting to travel here.  And here I am.  The truth of it is, I am going to school to learn.  There is no other reason.  I want to learn Russian?  I'd better do it right and go some place that speaks Russian.

Still... I'm baffled that I am actually here and am actually getting school credit for this.

So, what is Ukraine like?
In January, it is cold (9c/15f today).  It is icy.  It is grey.  The people are also cold.  If you want to fit in, don't smile in public. Don't smile at people you don't know.  And you should always try to get in front of them.  People seem to always be in a hurry here (maybe because it's so cold?), and will walk faster to pass you on the sidewalk, or try to squeeze in front of you to get what they want at the grocery store... Even if you're the only two people in the store!  It's a bit strange and it makes trying to speak the language in every day situations rather difficult.

On the flip side, my host is fabulous!  She is so sweet and I feel like I'm at my grandma's house.  Valentina is always concerned that my shoes won't be warm enough or that I haven't had enough to eat...  The food she cooks is wonderful, but it is hearty.  I have had to ask my instructor how to tell Vale that I would like to not eat so much.  I wrote it down, but I haven't tried to tell her yet.  She is so nice and so genuine that I don't want to be rude.  My current plan is to walk home from school everyday, instead of taking the metro, to burn off all the extra calories.
The apartment I live in is located in 'Old Kiev', now called Podil, on the banks of the Dnieper River.  It is a wonderful neighborhood, close to the metro station, and without too much traffic.  It is a great place to walk in the evenings and there's even an ice-skating rink set up in the square.

I have two more weeks of lessons before returning to the states, so hopefully my speaking skills will improve by then and I'll be able to hold an actual conversation with my original mentor at Prescott College.

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