Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 64 - Eight Day Vacation!

Tomorrow we're heading out for the eight day vacation! We're going to Budapest, Vienna, Prague and possibly Dresden (it would cost me an extra 50 or so dollars, and I'm not sure if it's worth it yet). I really don't feel completely prepared for it, but at least in this trip, I have some idea of what's going on and what I should prepare for. We'll be spending a day in Budapest, a day in Vienna, and two to three and a half days in Prague (the other day would be had in Dresden) :) We'll have tours in each of the places, but there's also going to be free time, so I've looked up some things I'd like to do in each of the places, if you've got other recommendations, let me know!

Budapest: A tour of the Palgovy Caves, shopping at Nagycsarnok, shopping at the Chinese Market (with super cheap stuff to buy), seeing the House of Terror (that has a pretty crazy history), or going to the Basillica of St. Stephen.

Vienna: Definitely going to the "Cafe Central" (which has some awesome history to it), and maybe the oldest zoo in the world, Leopold Museum, other sights, or Schloss Schonbrunn Gardens.

Prague: Definitely walking across Charles Bridge and shopping on Golden Lane, and possibly the Mucha Museum, sights around the city (including the Astronomical clock!), or this antique musical instruments shop. 

That's all I've got so far for ideas, I'll be in Prague for three full days, so I'm trying to focus my energies towards finding fun stuff to do there. Anyways, I'll have to let you know how it all goes later! Still debating on whether or not I should take my laptop on the trip, but worste case, I'll at least post some of the pictures afterwards of the trip :) (I STILL need to post pics from the four day trip! :P )

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 61 - FULL Day

I love days like this, I was seriously walking and working and walking and going and being and thinking and walking and riding and talking and pondering and standing and always doing SOMEthing all day yesterday! Maddy was still sick, so I decided to sub for her myself by combining both of the classes and working the full three hour shift that way. I talked with Nelya, my coordinator for a while, then Marie, my head teacher, then food came, then we had Russian lessons, then I had to leave for the temple. I forgot all about food and eating something for dinner until I passed hot-dog stands and babushka's selling fruits and bread and other tasty things like that. I bought a 9 grivna little pizza at a stand near my bus stop, and enjoyed that. I eventually made it to the temple, and there, I met some super awesome people. There were people that had come all the way from Moscow, Russia or further to come to the temple here in Kyiv. They all had amazing stories, and it was fun getting to know those people. I loved being there, but all too soon I realized I had to head out to get to Julia and Anetta's house. The ride there ended up being WAY longer than I had expected (I think there was a car-crash on the road which backed things up quite a bit), but eventually I made it there too and enjoyed every minute of talking with them and their babushka and the sisters and some random others that came by :) I was suuper exhausted at that point though and had to work to keep myself upright and not slouching or yawning as we talked. We had some awesome discussions, funny, serious, confusing (mostly when everyone started talking and laughing in Russian :) ) and thought provoking, but again, I was cut off on time to spend there. We headed out at about 9:30, then I made my way home on the marshutka (little buses) and Metro systems.

Sorry for not a whole lot of detail, but I've only got SO much time in my day to write about it all! Maybe one of these days I'll come back and edit and write more specifically about all the events in my day :)

Day 62 - Romeo and Juliet

We went to the opera house again last night, this time we went to see a ballet of Romeo and Juliet. The music and dancing was again, amazing. I thouroughly enjoyed all the time that I was watching the ballet. Even with our seats up in the highest balcony, it was totally an experience worth having. I got home kind of late, but it was totally worth it :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 60 - Work!

I'm sorry I seem to be getting SO lax with keeping up with this blog lately. The truth is, I am! There's so much going on in my each day, and I've gotten in this routine of constantly having other things to do, that I don't give myself the ten minutes to a half hour that it really does take for me to keep you (whoever you readers are) updated on my life! I'm sorry about that..

Anyways last Monday was actually quite great! It's amazing how much your day can change when you simply choose your attitude! I knew I'd have to teach ALL day, so I got up early and headed out around 7 in the morning. I went to the grocery store for some goodies for the afternoon classes (which I promised Denay I would sub for), and then got to school and prepped for my usual morning classes. I realize I haven't written a WHOLE lot about my teaching experience here, maybe I'll write a bit about that when I share about yesterday (Day 61, and Tuesday)'s post. The day was long, but I enjoyed working with the new group of kids and seeing what things that I've learned about teaching apply to their groups too. Like counting down! Who would have thought that counting from 5 to 1, getting quieter with each number would make a class full of kids bouncing off the walls sit down in their chairs, fold their arms, and look directly at me, waiting for the next instruction? I really have learned a TON about working with people and children and groups and parents and myself in all of my experience in teaching here, and I'm feeling more and more grateful for the opportunity to teach here and all the things that I've gained from it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 59 - Awkward Moments

We were riding the bus to the Metro today when the bus driver yelled back, "Divichka! (Girl!) Blah blah blah blah blah" All these people looked back at me and the other three I was with. None of us understood a word, but I figured the bus-driver was in fact talking to us. It turns out one of us hadn't paid (passed up 10 grivna for three people, but got 4 grivna back instead of just one... it was just confusing), so Malory passed up three more grivna for the bus-driver.

When I made it down to the metro, it was packed. I did find a seat though which was nice. I was reading a magazine from church (the Liahona), so I was totally in my own zone on the way home. But then this lady started speaking Russian to me about something. Once again came the faces; people probably wondering why the heck I was in such a stupor about what this lady was saying to me. I said, "Do you want to sit here? Ya ni ponimayu Boruski. (I don't understand Russian.)". I finally figured it out though when she rubbed her hand over her belly (like a pregnant lady) then pointed at my seat. I'm pregnant, let me sit there. I felt bad for the confusion, "Oh! Izvinitye! (Sorry!)" I got up and let her have the seat.

I got off the metro, a little frustrated now at getting pushed around and talked to. At that point, I was feeling pretty down, I couldn't understand anyone. There were a TON of people there at my metro stop, and all of the running escalators were going up, just filing tons and tons of people out of there up to the tunnel that led to the sidewalks and streets above. I finally made it to the escalator and when I looked down behind me, it was just this sea of people all trying to get on the escalator I was now standing on. I turned back around to face the right direction going up the escalator, and lo and behold, there was this guy this probably drunk or just extremely friendly Ukrainian guy that wanted to talk to me. He kept talking to me talking something about futbol (soccer) and gymnastica (gymnastics?) and Ukraine. He pointed to himself and said his name (which I can't remember), then pointed to me. I made up a name, "Ya Madeline", that was the first other name I could think of at the moment. He put out his hand and probably said something like "Pleased to meet you!" I didn't want to be blatantly rude, so I nervously shook his hand back. The next thing I knew he had kissed me right on the back of my hand. Bleh! I pulled it away fast and wiped it on the back of my coat. He laughed, "Izvinitye, Izvine (I'm sorry, sorry)! Blah blah blah blah funny, funny!" which is the only thing I heard him say in English. He asked something else that I couldn't understand, I think he was wondering if I was going to the big event, whatever that was. All I did was shrug my shoulders and say, "Ya ni ponimayu". He kept talking until we got off of the escalator and said, "izvinitye" and "funny" a couple more times. I nodded and smiled, but I was relieved when he finally said, "Paka!" (Bye!) I went my own way trying to smile like I totally knew what was going on. But I didn't.

I walked home cautiously noticing ALL of the people walking the opposite direction as me to the sports stadium (there were SO many!). In reflection to my day, I realized that I had a choice, I could either be totally frustrated with all of Ukraine and everyone's failed efforts at trying to communicate with me OR I could laugh at it all and just call it an... experience.

When I got home, I related the whole event to my host-mom and we just laughed and laughed about it all. She said it was a compliment; she says I have a very European face (IS that a compliment? :P :D ) So maybe I totally made a fool of myself today in all of my mis-understandings, but I did have some good laughs in the end because of it :)

Days 53-58 - Quick Week Sum-Up

First of all, I want to apologize for not writing a single post about my life this week. I'm sure there was a ton that happened, but at least at this current time, it's all sort of this void of space in my mind. It was just sort of a normal week in Kyiv for me, but here's some of what I did:

Day 53, Monday: 
Watched "Once Upon a Time" online (my first in-english show I've watched all the way through in a reeally long time!)

Day 54, Tuesday: 
Russian lessons, Institute (in Russian)

Day 55, Wednesday: 
Museum trip cancelled, cleaned and organized room and closet, worked on a puzzle, and played with Yulia and her Babushka. 

Day 56, Thursday: 
Modern Art Museum and meeting with the Sisters cancelled, played with Yulia, had some nice conversations with my host-mom. 

Day 57, Friday: 
"Family Home Evening", piano :)

Day 58, Saturday: 
Temple Trip, Suku's baptism (one of the kids in the Primary I conduct music in), Dreamtown Mall, and Movie Theatre - saw "John Carter" in Ukrainian (SUCH an interesting experience, had no idea what was going on sometimes, but it was AWESOME). 

There are a ton of adventures I'm sure I had all throughout the week, but sense I cannot recall hardly even that which I did earlier today, I'll just call all that good and start fresh from here :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 51 - Roaming Romania

We got to spend the day perusing around the town we were staying at. Awesome houses, cute little dog packs, amazing cathedrals, graveyards, buildings, shops... I'll share all about it eventually :)

Day 50 - Romania!

Whoot! So much more than just writing the word out happened this day, but I can't really remember it all any more.. I'll see if I can recall later :P

Day 49 - National Women's Day - Lviv, Ukraine

Coming out of the train station in Lviv, you could already tell it would be a fabulous day. The sun was shining, and the temperature was above freezing, and I could only see small patches of old melting snow on some of the grass. It was the perfect sort of day for the Ukranian Celebration of National "Women's Day". Our tour guide for Lviv met us right outside of the train, and we were led to the trolley which took us down to the Center of Lviv.

Wow that place was absolutely gorgeous; there were these ladies in big old-fashioned poofy dresses walking around selling lolly pops, the buildings stood tall and bright and old and unique all around us, we found these statue guys who would sit there without moving until you came and sat by them (the painter guy would paint your nose if you did!), there were tourists everywhere, and the whole thing reminded me much of the feeling you get as your walking through Disneyland on a nice summer's day. I think my favorite part of the tour was going up this really tall tower in the middle of Lviv and looking out at the grand city below. He told us about the different buildings and some history; like how there used to be this law that no body could have any bigger than a certain size flat in which they could live in so most of the buildings are only three windows wide BUT there was this one king who got a double flat because, well it had something to do with him being a king. I took a ton of pictures up there too. There were a couple girls there who had bought some bubbles and were blowing them, which only added to the awesome effect of the beautiful spring day. We toured around some more, but then we were set free to spend our time as we liked within the city. I went with some girls to do some souvenir shopping, we spent time looking at some old buildings and churches (which were all so different yet amazing!) and found our way to this outside market, where we spent most the rest of our time. I was in the middle of bartering down a Ukranian hand-painted nesting doll when we had to go, but it was okay because I'm pretty sure they have very much the same thing in just about any souvenir market you find back in Kyiv :)

Oh and then came our ever "too long" bus adventure to Romania. Somehow the rumor got around that the bus ride would only be about 4 to 6 hours long so we'd definitely be there in time to be at our hotel and sleeping in real beds by midnight. Everyone was gung-ho until midnight rolled around and we hadn't even crossed the boarder to Romania yet; it would be a MUCH longer bus-ride than we expected. My food rations were skimming down to a few pieces of bread and an apple or two, and I had only maybe a gulp left of water in my water bottle. So with the next step of our journey not coming as soon as I thought it would, I knew it would be a while before I got any real food in my stomach. The seats were uncomfortable for sleeping, and I felt more squished than the train-ride with the 2 by 3 foot of space I had to keep me and all of the stuff I would need for the ride. The people around me seemed very complaisant too, and it took quite the amount prayer and effort to get myself back from my pessimistic attitude. It helped to have a sense of humor about it all and to look at everything from everyone else's perspective too. We were told such a short time, but I figured if I'd been told it would be a 20 hour bus ride, I probably would have been glad to have made it there in only 14! Anyways the trip wasn't really all that awful; it was fun talking and getting to know some of the other ILP's and it was nice being in the bus while looking outside at the trees and hills and houses and churches going by. It was definitely a good learning experience for me about how to turn my attitude around :)

Days 48 - Riding the Sleeper Train

I have SO much to write about, but I won't be able to all right now. I've got pictures and thoughts and events and food and so much to share with you! I guess I'll start with Day 48, but this'll probably take a while, so read back for more if this blog seems to be unfinished just yet :)

Day 48 - Sleeper Train!

My host family had to leave for Odessa last Wednesday. They would lock up the house and set the security system up on it, so if I tried going home after they had left, I would have triggered an alert that would send the police right to their front door to see what was up. To avoid such drama, I decided to pack up all my stuff and take it to school, where I would stay until I had to leave for the head-teacher's apartment. 

Staying after school was kind of nice. I got to delve into a book ("Time Cat" ha, one of the only real chapter books we have on the school's bookshelf), it was interesting but all of the problems in the story seemed to be solved way too simply and didn't end up being my favorite book I'd ever read. I finished that book and started another, "The Tale of Despereaux", which is a very cute story and I do in fact recommend if you've got an extra few hours on your hands. I didn't finish that one though, because the night teachers had come and I got to talking with them. 

At about 7pm we all had to head out, and eventually (after a whole series of adventures) I made it to the head-teacher's apartment (at around 9pm). I realized our train and bus to Romania would not be providing any food for me for at least two or three days, so I decided to go to the "magazine" (the store) to buy some necessities for the next few days. Okay, one thing you have to know is that in Ukraine, food is VERY cheap, but you also have to know that sometimes I can also be quite the penny-pincher. I wanted food that would be filling and somewhat nutritional for me, so I invested in a 4 grivna (about 50 cent) loaf of wheat bread and four of the cheapest (and biggest) apples I could find (about 1 grivna each). My host mom had also packed me with 3 small potatoes, 2 hard boiled eggs, a salad, a sandwich, some water, an apple, some cheese, candies, and some lemon-fudgy treats. I was pretty sure that with all that, I would be set. 

I felt like a pack mule with my gigantor overstuffed backpack and purse, but we eventually made it to the train station. We made a ton of jokes about Harry Potter and Anastasia and the Polar Express and just about any other movie that we were reminded of by being there in the train station. Hardly any of us had ever been on a real train before, so it was neat to be there and find the reality of those foreign things we'd always seen in the movies. 

I'm glad I'm not too claustrophobic, because getting on that train, there was no way you could get out once the people started pushing you in. Well, not for a while anyways. We found our room, and squeezed in just to find that we had no space to settle in until people cleared the hallways. We eventually took turns putting our stuff away and making our beds inside the room, and once we had all gotten settled, the sardines-in-a-can feeling sort of disappeared. We were able to talk for a while but we soon all decided to hit the hey and get some shut-eye. I actually slept pretty well, but found myself waking at times to consciously turn myself so as not to fall off that tiny piece of board they give you to sleep on. At about 4am we all collaboratively woke up and talked about how cold we were. We hadn't wanted to use those itchy heavier blankets they gave us because they smelt funny and we didn't trust that they'd ever really been cleaned, but I gave in at that point and used it to keep warm(ish) for the rest of the night (making sure to place it over the clean sheet I had already been using and keeping it well away from my face!)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 47 - School Cleaning

Okay, tell me if this is a crazy idea, or if I just need to calm down :P The area that we work has been and is becoming even more beyond disorganized. I start work in the morning at 9am, but I usually get to school about an hour early so I can clean the classrooms and put my lessons together. Kind of out of frustration, I'm thinking I will take on the challenge of getting this place fixed up. I don't know if I'd have much help from the others (they seem to be more content than me about messes), and it is a huge project.. Am I biting off more than I can chew? Do you think it's worth a shot? Or should I really just not worry about it? Anyways, those are my current thoughts, any advice would be much appreciated! Thank you :)

Day 45 - Pew-Cushions then Haystacks

Friday night I came back home really late, so I was looking forward to being able to sleep in the next morning (I love Saturdays for that), but before going to sleep I checked my e-mail. The first new one I saw read, "Thank you all for signing up to clean the church tomorrow. Elder Ose will be there tomorrow morning from 8-9:30am, so please come and help with what you can. It's a pretty quick job with lots of people helping. Thanks again!" It takes a minimum of just over an hour to make it to church, so in order to leave the next day by 6:45am, I would have to wake up at about 6:15. Oi, but as luck would have it, I ended up waking up on time and not being ALL that exhausted. I met up with Maddy and Adrienne at the church, who signed up as well, and we vacuumed (well really tried hard to) all the pews and floors in the chapel area. Who would have thought that little specks and long strands of hair would be so stinking hard to get out of a pew-cushions? Those pews didn't look like they'd been cleaned for at least months! But after working so hard to get it to even look cleaner than it was before, I understand how hard it is for whoever usually cleans the pews every week. Anyways that was our morning adventure. 

After that, we made our way over to the Powell's house, it took a lot of traveling on the Metro, but we actually ended up making it to the last Metro station at right about 11pm. From there, President Powell came and picked us up in his mini-van. We drove a ways and when we got to his house, a big thick gate opened to let us through, then a big garage door let us into the garage. I haven't seen or been in a house in all the time that I've been here in Kyiv, and this one was HUGE. President Powell, like Brother Page, is part of the embassy, so that's a big reason why he's got that big gate around his house and the nice house and everything :) I think most everyone from my group was able to make it, so there were a lot of people there (Madeline, Kenzie, Clint, Adrienne, Maddy, Marie, Denae, Kaitlyn, Alyssa, and the Powell family). We got to talk and help prepare the food and then help to eat the food (the best part!). We got chips and salsa and this amazing home-made dip (we even got to mash the beans!). And THEN we ate something like "Hawaiin - Haystacks", which is rice with chicken and some other random goodies to go on top. Most everyone got SO full, and after dinner the environment was perfect for a nice nap on the couch. At one point, there four or so people on one couch napping while the rest of us talked and played games. Someone commented that it felt like Sunday that day, and it really did! None of us had any obligations, and we just did whatever for the time we were there. It was fun to catch up with some of the others, but eventually we all needed to head home. I stayed afterward with some of the others, and hung out with their family. It was fun getting to know all of them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 44 - FHE!

Friday night, FHE ("Family" Home Evening) was AWESOME! I met some extremely sweet people, and we had a lot of fun playing fooz-ball, Mafia, and Phase 10. The foozball table somehow got broken a little bit; one of the bars that hold two players for the blue team got pulled out of socket, but we adapted, and it turned out to be twice as fun to play that way. Then I decided to go play some card games with this group of people. They were going to play Skip-O, but we couldn't figure out the rules. Actually, they didn't even HAVE any rules for the game written in Russian, so someone had to look them up online. We ended up switching over to phase 10, which most everyone seemed to know how to play already (I think it has simpler rules too!). We had about 10 people playing, and they ALL spoke Russian, but I actually got most of their joking's around. .It's not too hard with a game of numbers :) And half of them speak English too, so I was able to talk and laugh with them too. I remember Julia and Sasha and Alla and Igor and about four others (I can't remember there names). We just had a blast playing that game. Actually, the highest "phase" we got to in the game was 5, but it was 9:30 and most everyone had at least an hour commute or so home. So we all put the cards away, reset up all the tables and chairs in the room, headed out and said our goodbye's.

Day 43 - Snapshots (The Lavra!)

 Holy cow, I don't know what took me so long to come around to visiting this place. It's AMAZING! We went on a really nice day too. Yesterday the sun was out, and it was almost warm! Well, not freezing anyways :) The Lavra is way bigger than I'd ever imagined; and we only got to a portion of it. I could seriously spend a few entire days just going to the museums and stores and everything that they have there. When we went, most everything was closed (even the very famous underground catacombs that we were reeally hoping to see). I was talking to someone later and they said it was because they're preparing for an Easter Fast or something like that, so that's why it all is closing earlier. Anyways, even just walking around outside was amazing. We weren't sure if we were allowed to take pictures though, so we tried to limit the pictures we took to just quick snapshots, so sorry if all of the pictures are terrible quality! We're definitely going to go again :)