Today, I woke up in Ukraine.
I’m honestly still comprehending how I got here and the fact that I am finally here. These last couple of days have been a whirlwind, but I’ve got some down time before I pass out from exhaustion tonight, so I’ve got a few stories to share.
Today included a mixture of meetings, lessons and answers to questions that just created more questions. It was incredible.
It was also cloudy, rainy and overcast all day, so this Seattle-native felt right at home. I still refuse to buy an umbrella, but my little rain boots from target came in clutch.
Lunch meant borsch, which I learned is pronounced with the letter щ in my first Ukrainian lesson. I can ask what your name is, tell you mine and sound out some words. Borsht has beets in it, hence the title of this blog. We’ve met some volunteers who are on their sixth month of service and their language is so impressive, it’s crazy to think that my stumbling along the alphabet could lead to that someday. We started PST* with more information about TEFL* and what things are going to look like for the next two years.
I walked with some other PCV’s* in training as well as two of the current volunteers to the mall. I was looking for a hair dryer and a flat iron. Walking around with wet hair is a big no-no here and my hair takes forever to dry, so hair dryer it is.
Let me tell you, it was an experience. If you weren’t aware, I speak NO Ukrainian at this point. I know the alphabet alright, I can sound out some words, understand some letters, but my understanding is essentially non-existent.
Here’s how this worked, we trudged over to the mall and passed this gorgeous church, probably the first of many that I’ll see over the next two years. A few volunteers and myself wandered around the mall in search of a hair dryer. We finally found what I think was probably a Ukrainian Wal-Mart and found the hair dryers.
I picked out what was basically the cheapest one and then moved on to the flat-irons. I was stopped by one of the workers who was gesturing to the items I was holding and speaking in a flurry of Ukrainian. Obviously, I was confused.
Luckily, I had Katie with me. Katie speaks Russian and was able to help my struggle and explained that I needed to have Tatiana (the worker’s name, because I was able to read her nametag, go me!), write down my items and then I’d pay for the items at the front, then find her and pick them up.
Cool. I can handle that. I took my piece of paper up to the front after we were done browsing, we headed to the front. I paid for my items, then headed back to the sections to find Tatiana (Татіана). I looked helpless in the aisle for a bit, then she came over and grabbed my stuff for me. She filled out a couple of forms, stamped them like 4 times, then handed me my items.
I assumed that, at that point, I was free to go.
Obviously, as I’m sure will happen many times over the next few months, I was wrong.
I started to walk out, then Emily (a fellow trainee*) and I were stopped by a security guy. He said a bunch of stuff in Ukrainian and Katie told us that they were looking for a certificate. I didn’t have one, neither did Emily, not in our boxes or in our arms. The security guy talked to the cashier, then talked to Katie some more and I was able to gather that they needed a certificate that I obviously didn’t have.
Security guy ran back to Татіана, who I’m sure hastily filled out said certificate, then he ran it up to the front where the cashier filled out another form and then handed me the certificates and then I could leave.
Now I have these super fancy certificates that I can’t read that presumably says I’m allowed to have a hair dryer and a flat iron. We then headed out of the mall, met the rest of the group and walked back to the hotel for dinner. Dinner included a beet salad and a chicken dish. Then we heard from the current volunteers about some stuff about their current sites and other random helpful and generally conflicting information.
I actually socialized afterwards, I’m sure my mom thinks I’ve spend the whole time reading in my room, but I’ve met some of the coolest people. They’re all pretty impressive.
Looking ahead, I’ve got more training stuff tomorrow then I meet my first host family. I’m super stoked and also crazy nervous.
*PST: pre-service training, what I’m doing for the next ten weeks before I get assigned to my actual site
*PCV’s: peace corps volunteers
*trainees: right now, I’m not an actual peace corps volunteer, I’m a trainee until the end of pre-service training and my swearing in ceremony in December