Is that a brag or what? One of my tenth form students recently remarked that to me while following me through the hall as I was hit with a barrage of high-fives, hugs and “HELLO WHITNEY”’s. Those moments fill my heart with joy.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this job sucks. There’s a reason any PCV or RPCV will tell you “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I’ve recently hit this slump of frustration. It can be difficult and isolating to be misunderstood or to misunderstand things all the time. Everyone knows me and everything about me and I am constantly feeling at a loss as I learn more about my community. I absolutely love my community and have the perfect site for me, but I had a few weeks where no one came to English club, my lessons weren’t going so well, I lost my debit card, there’s a mouse in my house, I hurt my knee, I couldn’t even do the things I do to destress (like run).
Nevertheless, I persisted. I have these tiny moments of joy that completely overwhelm my times of negativity. Here are a few examples:
When I leave school at the right time, I walk part of the way home with Maxim in my 5th form class. He speaks a little English, but also is patient and listens and seeks to understand my halting, sputtering Ukrainian. We walk past cows, goats and geese and the beautiful golden leaves a long the train tracks.
I’ve met a few of my neighbors as I walk to and from school, even when I’m running late for school (which is often if you know me, I take after my dad in that way), I still try to keep up the conversation as they speak in a mixture of Ukrainian, Russian and Romanian, but mostly Ukrainian once they ask what I can understand. They, like most people in this country, have the darndest time pronouncing my name. Leave it to me to choose a country that doesn’t have a W in its alphabet. Luckily, most people in my village speak Romanian and there is a W in that alphabet, so my students get it. One of my neighbors calls me “Willy” and he’s so sweet and hollers it whenever he’s outside and I walk past.
My students speak Romanian or Moldovan and some of them (mostly the younger ones) don’t speak Ukrainian at all. One of the second formers, I don’t teach the second form, but I see them in the halls and they still holler “HELLO!” ran up to me while I had my arms full of tests and textbooks and rambled something in Moldovan, which I didn’t understand. (I can say 4 words in Romanian, Hello, Goodbye, bon appetite and thank you). He then pointed to his lips and cheek and I leaned down, and he gave me a sweet smooch on my cheek. It was adorable. Watch out boys 😉
I was walking home after school with my headphones in on a glorious fall day. Macklemore and Kesha’s Good Old Days was playing when I walked to the side of the school towards the path that takes me home. I walked in the middle of a leaf fight between some of my students. They asked if I wanted to join and I just observed for a little bit. My walk home was very introspective.
I’ve spent a little more than a year in this country and nearly a year in this village. That leaves me with a finite amount of time left in my service. It’s a countdown. I’ve started to spend a lot of time thinking about my impact here and what I can leave here at this school in this country and I’ve started to put a lot of work into a project that my counterparts and I are very excited about! Something you’ll have the chance to collaborate with us on and I cannot way to share more about soon.
I’ve also started to spend a lot of time thinking about what is next for me. This was something that I have generally avoided so far during my service, I’ve been trying to be intentional in my time here and focus on each moment, because I know it will be gone before I know it. That being said, I have started to make some preparations for my post-Peace Corps life. On my 24th birthday, I took the LSAT. I’ve felt a tugging that law school will be the next step for me. I’m happy with my score, but I do plan to take the test again before I leave Ukraine next fall.
Someone special to me recently asked me why I want to be a lawyer. It’s not something I had to think very hard about, but this quote from a book he recommended to me says it best:
“Justice is not only the way we punish those who do wrong. It is also the way we try to save them.”
-Gregory David Roberts
Justice has been a pattern in my life, it’s something that I want to be involved in and I think that pursuing a degree and career in law will give me a place for my gifts and talents to meet a need, a vocation if you went to Whitworth and know what I mean.
If you’ve stayed with me for this long, thanks. I’m going to update this a bit more often and I should have more pictures soon! Keep checking back for info on our upcoming project and a cool way to collaborate with my teachers and students here in Mamalyga!