Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 10 - Host-Family Time!

After the borsht party, I headed home. I was amazed not to have a single issue the entire time I was traveling. My host family and I went to the Cinema. We got there about a half an hour early, so we talked and joked around while waiting. I showed Yulia and Lena the "Crab Walk" which is the one where you shuffle your feet so they point in then out and in again while moving sideways. And some other fun things I learned from back home (Like how to make a dragon/ alligator face out of your hands.) They had a big Christmas tree still set up there (Ukrainian Christmas is in the first or second week of January) and me and Julia got our pictures taken in front of it. The movie was pretty good; they started it in English, so I thought it might be that everyone there just wanted to go see an English film, or that it was just the beginning portion or something. But then a speaker came on and explained something in Russian. Everyone in the old theater yelled and laughed while the now Russian voice-over's started playing over the video for them. The title of the movie was "Melancholy", well the Russian variation of the word, so maybe that gives you an idea of the feel of the movie; pretty much sad and depressing with the occasional touch of humor :) But we actually didn't finish the film, we headed out about halfway through, but that was okay with me. I really hadn't understood most of what was going on except that this lady that was getting married was having a ton of issues with her life. I'm sure it would make more sense if I understood the language, but I could only understand the real simple words like "Harasho" or "Da" (those mean "Okay" and "Yes").

Later that day, I had the opportunity to make some bread with Lena and Julia. We put all the ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and some other stuff) into the bread maker  then set the bread maker to the right setting so it would mix and cook. I got to see the finished product the next day; it turned out a little off and kind of looked like a car if you turned your head the right way, but it was bread, and I had made it, so I thought it was pretty good :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 10 - Taxi's and Borsht

 Whoops! Haven't written in quite the while! I've started getting to the point that I wake up with just enough time to get ready for school. It's Sunday now, so I finally have some free time to catch you up a bit on the goings on in Ukraine. These last few days have been extremely cold, but I have found some relief in the transportation systems as of late. On Saturday, I had to go clean the church, so me and the others that signed up (Kasen, Clint, and Cierra) decided to take a taxi instead of walking, taking the metro, taking a bus, then walking some more. It saved SO much time, and so much effort too! It ended up costing us about 71 grivnas, which turns out to be less than 7 dollars total; less than 2 dollars per person. The ride was totally worth the 20 grivna though, I think I wrote some last week about the long trek to church; this time, it was much much easier. Cleaning the church was easy, it's a small building and there were four of us plus a family there cleaning just one hallway. We finished in about half an hour, then stood in the hallway and talked for a while. One of the couple missionaries there invited us over to their place where they would give us some good numbers that we can use for getting taxis from the church (right next to the temple too!) and our homes. We stayed their for about an hour or so talking about this and that.
We got a taxi ride back home, then me and one of the others decided to go over to Marie's apartment where we were going to learn how to make Borsht (the traditional Ukrainian way). I really feel like I'm learning a LOT about public transportation here. We took the bus to Marie's, and didn't get lost even ONCE. It was so fun to visit with everyone there. Anyways, about the Borsht; I'll post the recipe eventually, but it was SO tasty! Tania, our coordinator (the one to the right of the wall-rug in the picture above), told us all about it. We also got to talk about vacations there too, but I'll talk about that another time.
Borcsh Recipe!! (*Directly from Tania's e-mail to us)

Cook broth from any kind of meat: one hour simmering.
Put beet root (peeled) and let it simmer for another half an hour.
Take this beet root out of broth and let it cool.
Put shredded carrot in the broth,
Peel and cut into small cubicles potato – in the broth,
Slice cabbage, press with salt  - in the broth,
Take one chopped onion+ a little bit of garlic+ salt --- press until juicy and put in the broth,
Shred the beet root – in the broth,
One tomato (shredded) or one table spoon of tomato catch-up – in the broth,
Now salt and pepper to your taste, put one bay leave and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes.

You may also add sweet paprika – it makes the taste richer.

Vareniky Recipe (Another Ukrainian Classic)

  3 c. Flour
  ½ tsp. Salt
  1 egg
  1 c. water or sour milk (if you use water, add a spoon full of sour cream)
            Mix the ingredients all together until dough forms a ball. Turn out onto a generously floured table. Kneed the dough for about five minutes, or until dough is firm.

Filling-1 - Mashed potato without milk
Filling-2 - Cottage cheese – a little bit of salt, sugar + 1 egg (if not too watery)
Filling-3 - Wild cherries – add some sugar to each varenik, eat cool
Filling-4 - Meat – boil meat till cooked and then grind it, add chopped and fried onion, salt, pepper.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 7 - Candy Cane Tape = Danger

There's this red and white striped tape everywhere throughout Kiev blocking off sidewalks, sometimes even forcing me to have to find another route to my destinations. I didn't really know why it was there for the longest time (okay for maybe two or three days), but I definitely found out yesterday. We were walking down central Kiev when we saw these icicles randomly falling from this building on the sidewalk ahead of us. If you look really close you can see someone with an ax hanging from the roof-top knocking them down. Heh, they're not in the picture, but there's a couple guys smoking to the left that're watching this and laughing every time an icicle shatters to the ground. What an awesome pass-time :)

Day 7 - Don't take Pictures with the Birds!

I was walking out of the Metro yesterday, going to just tour around Central Kiev for a little while. This girl with two white pigeons on her arm came up to me and asked if I wanted to take pictures with the birds. I remembered Maddy telling me a story about the other day when she had someone dressed up in a big costume came up to take a photo with her and then asked her to pay up something like 20 grivna. With that in mind, I asked the girl if it was free. She nodded her head, and just to clarify I said, "no Grivna?" She then shook her head and sheepishly said, "10 grivna for picture with bird". I smiled and said, "Nyet spaciba, baka!" which is about the extent of my knowledge of any Russian at them moment. Later I was talking with my host-dad and he said that that sort of thing is a big trick. They really mean 10 grivna per bird taken in the picture, and a lot of times when you have one bird on your arm, a swarm of birds will come. You take the picture, then you end up having to pay 10 grivna for every bird that comes and lands on your arms, and that really could add up quick.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 6 - Going to the "Magazin"

Yesterday I went to school (I was SO tired!), then went to the mall by the Metro on the way home. There's a grocery store (store is "magazin" in Russian) on the lower floor, and that's where I got my shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo has the almost the same name here (sounds like "shampoon"), except the word looks something like "wamnyhb"  in Russian, so it was helpful to be able to sound it out and know that I was buying at least one shampoo. I have no idea what "conditioner" is in Russian, but I figure it's whatever the opposite of the shampoo is. I think my favorite part about the grocery store was that all the cash register people were sitting in chairs, and the belts where you put your food and stuff was down at their sitting level. Maybe it's no good for health, but I know that working the register, you could work a LOT longer if you don't have to stand the whole time. I remember when I worked at Kiwi Loco, it killed me to have to pull a double shift just standing there. Why do cashiers have to stand there? Is it just more professional? Or have we Americans just not figured out yet that sitting at the cashier could be so much easier on these workers feet and overall stamina? Anyways, sorry this post has such little structure to it, I just got home about a half an hour ago from walking around Central Kiev for two hours, and that was right after teaching at school for four hours. Anyways, my host family's all home now, so I should probably get going.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 5 - "Concert" Party

Last night, Lena (my host mom) invited me and Julia to a concert that started at 7. We got picked up by a cab and driven down the street called Kreschatik. There were SO many sights on the way there! We drove past all these big buildings with lights. We drove past the Square with a huge column with an angel (or something of the sort) on top. All of the buildings were so old, and the one we went to was also pretty neat. We went in through this side gate and then through some double doors. Walking in felt like walking into an old movie with people all dressed up and chatting to each other, servers replacing food and picking up old plates and glasses. There was a table full of wine glasses, water, and juice. At first, I really felt out of place, like I had been placed in the wrong setting. But it felt like a truly classic night, we checked in our coats at the corner where we got this plastic oval looking thing with our coat-rack-number on it. We then sort of stood around and talked among ourselves while snacking on the appetizers. There were drinks there too, mostly wine, but me and Julia took Orange Juice and water instead. It was quite the experience, but "Fancy" is the best word I can think of to describe it. There was even this amazing pianist playing on a grand piano. And you have to know that here, real good quality piano's come very sparingly. Even at church last Sunday, all the piano's were electric; even the chapel organ! Anyways, the party was fun; I mostly talked with Lena and Julia, but it was fun getting to know them a little better. Julia was so goofy the whole time, she made up a song about my name, "Gracie not Crazy", except in her slight Russian accent, both words rhyme almost perfectly. Eventually, we went up these grand stairs to the concert hall to listen to this singer. He had an amazing voice, and he even sang some songs that I recognized. I started falling asleep part way through though (it was about 22:00, or 10:00pm, then) so we called a taxi and went home.

Day 5 - First Day of School and Waffles!

 I'm actually on my sixth day now, sitting in the office just after my second day of school has finished. Anyways, on that first day of school (yesterday), I woke up early (I mean reeally early, like 3:30 in the morning) and worked on stuff until about 7:30, when I left for the Metro. I felt like I had everything completely set for the day. I had my little go-phone completely charged, my laptop and charger safely in my backpack, some grivna (money) in my wallet, my water-bottle filled with filtered non-sparkling water, keys in my pocket, my lesson plans prepared, and a smile on my face. Nothing in the world could have gone wrong yesterday, or so I was thinking that morning. We didn't even get lost or turned around once on our whole way here to school (it's about a 45 minute commute to here from home). When I got here to school, I printed out sheets for my lesson plans, and talked my jitters out with Maddy (my co-teacher), Marie (the head teacher), and Nelya (my coordinator who works in the office here).

Turns out only two of the six students we teach could make it that day (we had three today!) because of sickness and the snow, so we ended up winging most all of the day. We had our head teacher there though, so we did have a little guidance in what we should do. Even with her help, I felt like it was basically chaos for the entire four hours. One second we were playing "Simon Says" and the next, the two kids were braiding our hair.  It wasn't absolutely awful, but I've decided it should only be able to get better from here. Who would have thought teaching two kids would be so hard! I don't know exactly how this post thing works, but if anyone has any ideas of how I could better take control of and teach the class, that would be much appreciated! :) Thanks! 

I hung out with the other teachers after school for a while, but eventually me and Maddy headed out to the Metro again. On the way, we decided to get these amazingly tasty waffles! I don't know what they do to make them, but they are probably just about my favorite thing right now :) 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 4 - Trekking to Church

 It took us about 2 hours to get to church, but it was an awesome trek! We felt like Pioneers :)
 Not the church we were going to, but still, it was pretty :)
 Waiting outside a Metro entrance. 

 Riding the bus; it got SUPER packed in there, but with some help, we finally made it to about the right spot :) Spaciba to all you helpful Ukrainian-travelers!

 Got off the bus at the wrong stop, so we had to backtrack via the highway for a while. 

 I love trekking to Church!

Here's the Kyiv Temple! 

The church is there on the right of the temple, we made it!

Day 3 - (Not) Sleeping in the Tub

Wow, there is SO much to fill you in on from these last couple days! I've only got about 15 minutes to write this morning because I STILL have some lesson plans to write for class today (which starts at 9:00am!). It's only 5:18 now though, so hopefully I'm good. Anyways, on Saturday we woke up and went to the other school. I felt like a pro going in and using the Metro, I knew what to expect that time, and it made things way easier. We worked at the school all day, basically learning what we were supposed to do for making lessons and stuff, we hung out for a while, then left around 3:30 or 4:00pm for home again.

We decided it would be awesome to have a sleep-over at our head teacher's house, so we planned on meeting at the Metro to go over there. There was once again a ton of chaos in just trying to get everyone to Marie and Cami's apartment, but after maybe an hour or two, we finally made it. They had invited all the other groups to come too, so there were about 30 people total in that little 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment. Around 10 or 11, I was exhausted, so I curled up on a chair and tried to sleep. Everyone was still so laughy and giggly though! I got pretty frustrated that it was so late and people were still talking (my bedtime here is 9pm, I usually wake around 5am). After asking the girls to quiet down within the hour, I decided it best to try and find another spot further from the giggling and loud chatter. There was literally no room on the ground any more though. The room I was in was packed with maybe 10 or so girls (more than half of them already at the "Okay-I'm-ready-to-sleep-now" stage), the kitchen and hallway were packed too, and the last room was reserved for the guys, so I decided to go sleep in the bathroom. The bathtub actually made for a pretty comfortable spot, I could actually stretch out rather than have to be curled up now. A couple of girls in the kitchen were still talking too, but I plugged my ears tight and tried to sleep there. I got maybe an hour or two of solid sleep there when one girl came in to wash her hands (the toilet was in another small closet-sized room, and I was in the sink/shower room). It scared me a bit, but I sort of rested there for another good while. I realized how cold the bathtub was at that point though, so I never really got back to sleep. I got up and went back to my spot on the chair, but by that time, girls were starting to talk and my opportunity for sleeping was over (it was about 7am at that point). All in all, I learned something; I know now that I should probably think twice before going and doing anything "awesome" again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 2 - People Roller Coaster

So I got picked up for my meeting, and got dropped off at this spot where everyone else in my group was. It was good to see other familiar faces again. And it was nice to be able to talk with people who I can talk much more freely and easily in my native language. We walked to this stairway with a big green "M" above it. They told me that the "M" stood for "Metro" which is Kyiv's underground traveling system. We went through these swinging doors that swung really fast and were super heavy if you caught them while they were swinging back at you. There were these... Man I don't really know what they're called; they're like those bars you have to get passed in order to get into a theme park or the fair... actually more like those things you have to pass at skiing. We eventually figured out that to get through you had to put your metro card on the little pad next to the way that you're supposed to walk through. We went from there to these really steep escalators. They were the biggest fastest steepest escalator I'd ever seen! It was like a people roller coaster going strait down, but when we got on, it turned out to be pretty fun. The metro train was way below the ground, so it made sense to have such fast and steep escalators. We got on the Metro, and then we were off! The Metro reminded me a lot of the max train back home, it was so fast and made a loud "whoosh" sound under the ground. We got out at our stop, went back up the huge escalators, walked quite a ways in the snow, then finally we were there.

Day 2 - Host Family

Again, my "Day 2" has already come and passed, but I'd still like to write about how my yesterday went. First of all, I want to tell you a little bit about my host family! There's Lena, my host mom, and Sasha, my host dad, and little Julia (pronounced "Yulia"), my host sister. They all speak English pretty well, and the whole time I've been here, I can tell they've worked extra hard to speak English around me. I think they find it fun to be speaking English to each other sometimes rather than Russian, which is what they would usually speak at home. Julia is always singing rhymes and songs that she's learned in English, I can tell Lena loves it when I talk with the family, because it helps them to really be able to explain and understand my language. I've decided that Sasha is probably the best at English of the family. Whenever I can't quite explain something to the others, Sasha will try to figure it out, and then explain it to them. Like yesterday when I was trying to explain what a "schedule" is, it took a few minutes, and some repeating the same idea in a few different ways, but they figured it out after a little while.

Lena is works as a cosmetologist, and Sasha's Dad is currently in the hospital, so yesterday I got a ride with their friend, Tania, who's another teacher's host mom. Oh, but first breakfast! For breakfast, we had this thick "cheesecake" which didn't taste very much like cheesecake at all, it had the same texture sort of though. It surprised me that putting the cheesecake with plain sour yogurt would taste good, but Lena had me try it, and I actually liked it pretty well. Lena and Julia only took one or two pieces of it, so I thought it best to only take one or two, but I was still kind of hungry afterward.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 1 - I'm Finally Here!

I'm here! Actually, I'm just beginning "Day 2" now, but since my host family is still in the waking hours, I thought this was a good time to update you on how my day went yesterday. Basically, it was flight after flight after flight. The first one was from Portland to Washington DC. In Portland, I found two other girls that'll be teaching in the program in the same city as me. It was nice having some people that I could count on around. In the next airport, Washington DC, I was able to meet with even more people that'll be teaching there. It was fun getting to know them, on the long flight over seas I got to sit by one girl in my group, and I spent a majority of the flight talking and getting to know her. At that point, it was turning to night-time where we were at, but according to my own clock, it was still only about 5pm or so. We landed in Frankfurt, Germany, and it was amazing! All the signs were so different, and a good majority of the people were all speaking German or some other language.

 It seemed that a good portion of them could understand English though, which was nice, but kind of made me sad that I couldn't be that foreign-speaker that no one really understands. In Frankfurt, we met up with the rest of the group, we played cards and talked and a good time there. On the flight over, everything was spoken in German first, then translated to English. Sometimes there would be a recording played in Russian. But it was amazing to me that the airline accommodated more for English-speakers than Russian-speakers. Anyways after a good nap and some air-plane food later, I was finally in Kiev. But now I think my host families starting up breakfast, so I think I'll finish up writing later. Baka! (That's goodbye in Russian)