Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mukachevo Bound

Hello all,

I have to say, I probably owe you all an apology. I was back-reading some of my blogs, and I definitely used to be funny. I'm not sure what happened, but I think we can safely blame life. At any rate, it was a big day today!

I got to wake up before the sun did, which always helps to start a morning well. I put my few items in my purse and trudged out the door. I crammed into the exceedingly crowded mashrutka, scanning frequently to make sure Hugo managed to squash in as well. Zim had texted to say she was at a different stop than we'd decided on previously, but it shouldn't be a big deal. Both stops had lines of transportation to Kyiv. After an interminable ride of feeling cozy and claustrophobic (but not cold!), Hugo and I realized that the early mashrutka did not, indeed, go to the stop we were looking for. We hopped off before we got too off-base, and hiked the 5 blocks to where Zim was waiting. We, and 2 of the Russian-speaking link group got on the minibus to Kyiv.

We arrived before I anticipated, and had my first unfortunate incident of the day (oh yes, there were multiple...). I quickly had jumped up to follow everyone else, and in the kerfuffle, managed to drop my very nice gloves and leave them behind. Some very lucky woman now has a very nice pair of gloves. True, they weren't the warmest, but I gave myself a harsh chiding. Gloves do not grow on trees, even in Ukraine.

Then we had a 20 minute wait, but were glad to see the PC van pull up for us. Inside, we discovered our Region Manager (who also shares the same first name as Sparta, but more on that later...) cozily tucked inside. From first words, I could have sworn he was American. He has amazing diction and accent, and had studied in the US. He's very modest, but we were all incredibly impressed. We discussed the political situation at length, as he said he didn't want to tell us about our postings until we met up with the rest of the group. He did say that the 4 of us in the car were all going to the same region: Zakarpattia (Carpathian). Apparently the region has a strong tourist economy, built around the mineral and hot springs, and is renown for its good wine and cheese. I know, torture me a bit more, right?

So that was relieving to hear. He went on to say that so many of us were going due to the fact that so many current volunteers were leaving. We would outnumber the ones staying, and apparently the region was known for always having tightly knit groups. I took a good look at Neville, and then assured him that evening though he was weird, we'd take him in. When he heard the full story later, he thought it was entertaining. He shares our brand of humor and said that we were either going to be a really good group, or potentially catastrophically crazy. Given the maniacal glint in his eye, I'm pretty sure we'll be fine either way. We've already thought of the possibility of a book group...

When we finally arrived at the institute we'd have the formal debriefing at, it was good to see a few more faces. They, with the exception of one person who will also be in my oblast working as a teacher training, were going to the other 2 oblasts in the PC region. We got fancy packets with some basic information on our towns and school (very, very basic!) and then a rundown on our living arrangement(s - in some cases!). I was shocked to see a rather large amount of zeros in my packet...I had gone on at length about my comfort level of living in a small town - and certainly didn't expect to wind up in one of approximately 100,000 people! Mukachevo, the second (?) largest town in the oblast, will be my home for the next two years. I will work in a local gymnasium (a higher grade of school, so hopefully with good English-comprehension!) and will work with grades 5-10, with two groups of 5th graders, 3 of 8th, two of 9th, and one each of the remaining. So that's kind of a daunting prospect, but I'm sure I will adapt! Additionally, most of the class sizes will be around 15 students, so that is pretty cool.

Now for the hard news. You probably got sick of my going on about how "Yes, even though Ukraine is not is the same socio-economic sphere as some other PC countries, I will probably have quite a bit of hardship. And yes, I have a flush toilet right now and a washing machine, but that will all change when I go to site." Now, I have learned, it probably won't. I apparently will have an extremely nice apartment (due to some interesting political machinations, that only make me slightly...intrigued?). This threw out daydreams of a small yard (maybe a puppy!), and a garden. I had tried very hard not to have expectations, but I admit I was taken by surprise.

I have faith that there are good reasons for why PC seems to think I will be a good fit, and I will do my best to rise to the challenges I will face with integrating in a bigger community. Honestly, I see it as a harder challenge for me. I've done the small community-living, I kind of know how it works. So this will be completely brand new. Also, I will make sure that my open-door policy is known, and hopefully can host a lot of PCVs that need to pass through or want to visit. Hugo is only 30 minutes away, and is getting to live much more rurally. He has a house, outdoor plumbing, garden and 20 minute walk to school that I was expecting. So I expect I can work out a good trade deal, and he said if his garden spot is as expected, I may have a corner.

Zim is 1.5 hours away, but also looks as if she has a rather lovely living situation and a community that is super excited to have her. She has a slight case of castle-envy (oh yes, I have a castle, and the town history is quite thrilling - it used to be part of Transylvania, and later belonged to the Habsburg empire), but I hope she visits a lot! Plus, there's a lot of heartbreaking WW2 history as well. I can't wait to explore.

Anyhow, after our long debriefing we had a few minutes to grab a bite before continuing back home. On the last leg of the trip, Hugo reminded me to text the Region Manager so he'd have my cell. I did so, and then texted Sparta to ask if we could all come to watch a film tomorrow at his house. I received a text back. From my regional manager. Asking if I'd meant to ask about a film...whoops. Already made the mistake of texting the wrong name, and must make a change in my phone book! So that was embarrassing.

However, once we got back to Obukhiv, I found the most adorable puppy roaming near the bus stop. He couldn't have been much more than 6 weeks, if that. His plump little belly gave suspicions of worms, but he adorably let me pick him up. I know, I know, but he was so. darn. cute. Hugo also melted, and I was told not to get attached. It was hard to put a puppy down so close to a major road and with packs of semi-feral dogs running around. Did I mention I had hardwood floors? Sigh. I probably wouldn't have time to be a responsible puppy owner...but the appeal of having a cuddle buddy as I sipped good wine and wrote out my lesson plans does hold incredible appeal...

Anyhow, off for the night...

Hope all is well,


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