So, it looks like a double-header, but of course the timing is all off. I actually wrote that post about a week ago - but couldn't figure out how to upload it through a program on my tablet. So please forgive me for the odd timing - but I hope you enjoy!
I arrived in Moo-town (because, why not?) at about 8:40 am. Far from the seething-hot train ride I'd been promised, the heating was broken and it was a rather frigid 14 hours on the train. Luckily, I got a little sleep. It was just as nerve wracking as going to meet my counterpart, or meeting my host family for the first time. Both times with a good lack of sleep happening, so there's a trend I hope to reverse in the future. At any rate, we were rushed off the train and staggered off to the waiting car. I didn't have time for a proper goodbye, as we were mobbed at the trainstation by everyone's escorts. I was able to say a brief goodbye to Hugo, but lost Zim completely. It's the first time we've really been separated for the last three months...which seems weird, even though I had not met them for the 26 years before that!
I had also been informed that we were going straight to school. This induced a slight amount of panic (we'd been drilled and drilled over the importance of making a good first impression), as I was decked out in yesterday's outfit of jeans and a sweater. Lila (counterpart) laughed off my concern, saying that she was wearing jeans too! Of course, she was a known entity, and I was hoping to be able to hide in some more formal attire. However, the course was set and off we went! We arrived at the school a few mere minutes later - not enough time for me to either relax or build up into a full panic. I was whisked (after gingerly making my way across the ice-cobblestone path) up to the second story of the high school building (all these terms are relative, but that's a story for another day), and presented to the acting Director (who is really the Vice Director...). She's a lovely woman, who despite having limited English did her best to put me at ease. She took us down to the cafeteria and gave us a quick breakfast - and then announced we would go watch a demo lesson.
So I found myself staring at the back of the heads of approximately 20 4th graders, as part of a line of 6 teachers and a methodologist (more on them later...), watching a teacher run them through an incredibly elaborate and student-centered lesson plan on adjectives - at least, I'm 95% sure it was adjectives, but it was a Ukrainian language class, so I may have that wrong in part. I was slightly stunned to see a projector and screen, and the lesson had animated elements (along with a memorized dialogue between students, and a whole lot of question/answer routines that were incredibly - too incredibly - polished...).
Why am I here again?
That's a horrible little voice to have in your head, but I was made uncomfortable - this was a stellar lesson. Admittedly, it had a distinctly rehearsed feeling to it, but her methods were wonderful. What could I hope to bring that they did not already have, except for my native speaker-ness.
Anyhow, on that cheerful note I was told we would now go to my apt. I had also been told about 5 times by Lila that I needed to smile more, because my face looked too sad. I should have told her it was my overwhelmed face! At any rate, we were shown to the apt by the Landlord's employee. That sounds better than bodyguard, right?
The apt was huge and modern, everything I'd been told to expect became reality. Sure, it has some quirks - one wardrobe is outside the bedroom it serves, there's a sparsity of furniture or decorations that make it slightly cavernous, some of the kitchen set are a little broken, etc - but I have nothing I can actually complain about. I was bustled about, while Lila took charge of collecting details and straightening concepts out. I was told he'd be back to turn on the heat (it was pretty frosty) and that the cleaning lady would be coming in about 20 minutes.
Yes, back THAT train up.
I was also informed I could keep her services (this was the initial clean out - the fridge and a closet had some belongings left by the previous inhabitant), presumably paying out of pocket, or not. What even. My brain was spinning, but I managed to retort that that was not a possibility, and I was perfectly capable and willing to clean my own apartment. Luckily, Lila was totally on my side with this - although I should probably double-check to make sure she passed that message on.
Lila left to let me unpack, and have time to nap and take a shower. The lady who cleans showed up, and soon left me to my room - which I had unpacked the previous 30 minutes and had been waiting. My nerves were strung pretty tightly at this point - I had not had any time to process school, let alone the apartment. I felt like I was holding on to myself, while on the edge of incredulity. Then I got a text from Hugo (the eternal optimist), stating how perfect his house and school were.
So I lost it, just a little bit.
Lack of sleep, pushed into so many new environments, worried about the impression I was making, desperately wanting to convey my happiness through my worry, thinking I was going to not be able to understand anything that was being said to me in Ukrainian and just the newness of everything hit.
Needless to say, a phonecall, shower and a (far too brief) nap made an incredible impact on my mood.
When I met up with Lila again, I was somewhat rejuvenated as she briskly set to familiarizing me with the neighborhood. It was also quite a bit - and I soon discovered she was under the impression that my emergency form was to be completed on the first day. Once I made it clear I had a week (and wasn't pressured, as my apt came with wifi - already), she relaxed a bit and we called it a day. She's absolutely a gem.
I was too tired to do anything except eat, a try to process by way of an audio blog. I checked in with the rest of the group, except one person, and we all survived our first day with varying degrees of success.
The Director of Peace Corps reiterated his 7 days speech - that we shouldn't consider leaving until we'd had 7 terrible days in a row.
My arrival day was not the first. It was hard, but most of it was me making myself worried - and I was taken in so warmly. I had some major philosophical reservations (to be detailed in another post...), but I made an uneasy peace for the day.
It's been several day since then, and I'll talk more about them hopefully tomorrow...
Hope all is well,