Saturday, November 9, 2013

Potty Mouth

Hello all,
Well, I have returned from PST University - revitalized and reassured that I will survive the next month (eeek, and that's singular!). Met a several awesome current volunteers - with some very wicked senses of humor, I was in good company! They were very inspiring and down to earth. Also had my interview...which I'll expound on at the end of the post. However, announced: Potty Mouth...

In Toilet
So, everyone loves prepositions, yes? (That is my new Ukrainian speech pattern...questions are only indicated by upward inflection, and throwing a "tak" on the end has become a probably less-than-endearing habit now...). And while we were trying to understand that there are two prepositions for being "in" (at?) a place, we were told that "Na" (transliteralized) was used for open places: park, bazaar, etc. And also for formations that you could not literally be in - such as the fountain at the park.

All well and good...until we get to toilet. It seems obvious, one cannot (should not!) be in a toilet...right? However, the word toilet in Ukraine is actually a false friend. When Ukrainians say toilet, they actually mean the room that a toilet is in - which is usually separate from the shower/sink room. The actual noun toilet has it's very own word (which I have yet to learn/memorize...). So it actually turns out that we say that I am in the toilet. Which may cause some confusion to host nationals as to why that sentence is being said with a smile, as it is a pretty uninteresting concept...and may cause them to wonder exactly what you are doing in there...

Another Interesting Tidbit
So,I am not sure if I mentioned this previously or not, but I was a bit surprised at how items get randomly scented here. I am still slightly traumatized by the nectarine-scented Kleenex, for example. The avocado-scented wetwipes are still a personal favorite, but I have to admit that the scented toilet paper threw me. In a culture wary of artificial flavors and convinced (rightly so...) of the superiority of natural products - naturally including vodka that has yet to make me go blind... - it seemed strange that scented products would be promoted for such a...sensitive area. However, I soon figured out (maybe?) the driving idea.

Sewer systems are a bit dodgy in the rural areas. And by dodgy, I mean they range from non-existent by way of "bio toilet" to the more modern toilet room, which cannot handle any paper products. This is slightly amusing as my town is known for producing toilet paper, but I digress. At any rate, this results in the paper basket, usually tucked in a corner of the toilet room. They are usually small, and thankfully emptied frequently. Suddenly, the appeal for scented toilet paper is extremely's not for your direct benefit.

Anyhow, any further details of toilet culture will probably fall into the TMI category, so I'll move on.

Thank Your Parents for Raising the Ideal Volunteer!
That's a direct quote from the Ukrainian Language Lead Specialist that I met with for my Site Placement Interview. Us lucky Obuhkiv people got to have ours during PST University, and so it was a little nerve-wracking. However, in the end it doesn't really matter what you say - as long as you are honest about your abilities. You can ask for anything, but the simple fact of the matter is that they have so many sites, so many volunteers and no wiggle room. For me, I've found that most things are easier in life when you do not have any expectations - it is harder for me to be disappointed. Likewise, this flexibility is prized and sets a strong precedent. If I have a problem down the line, they will be able to say "Wow, she really went with whatever we needed. She said she would learn whatever language - and then committed herself to studying it. At the interview she said she would go rural and that it was what you make of the situation that will count. And now she may need something, but we know she wouldn't ask if it wasn't important". I over-simplify, of course, but this is a simple recipe.

And it's true. At my interview they asked what sorts of requests or things I thought would be necessary for me to succeed. I had a very hard time answering. I have lived in small communities for most of my life. I learned how to integrate into a close-knit community, and the benefits and challenges of trying to find your place. You need something? You are then motivated to connect with people to find out what they have and need, and then try to work out something that will benefit everyone. You work hard, and people will see that - even if you do not always succeed. They will eventually come to trust you, and you will have a support network.

However, I know that this process takes time - especially with a language barrier and the culture. So I did say that I would like another volunteer to be relatively close-by. This of course can backfire, if we clash personally or if they have a different idea of what service entails - but most likely they will be committed and interested in sharing resources and support. This may not be possible, but I think that it is likely already a strategy...

Anyhow, I should probably get back to developing some resources and we are also planning on playing soccer again in a bit.

Hope all is well!


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