Sunday, September 30, 2012

Update!

Wow has it been a long time since I last updated my blog! Sorry everyone! I'll try to give a quick run-down of everything I've been up to the past two weeks and add some pictures within the next couple of days as well.
The week after we got back from Kiev was filled with classes and choir and life in general and went by pretty quickly.  Nothing too terribly out of the ordinary happened during that week, but several nights we went walking and enjoyed the nice weather.  On Friday the girls from my program and I went with our program director to a private school near our apartment and talked with the director and teachers about helping out with English classes there.  The teachers were all really excited and the students were both eager to talk to us and incredibly shy.
     The weekend was not without adventure.  On Saturday I had choir practice at noon and then Mario and I set off for a festival of traditional Ukrainian music, art, food, and culture a little bit outside of Kharkov called Печенізьке поле (Pecheniz'ke field).  We didn't stay at the festival a super long time, but spent a couple of hours taking in the atmosphere of the festival.  It was really quite crowded, so we had to wind our way through the crowds to get anywhere. There was delicious Ukrainian festival food everywhere and I bought some fresh bread from one of the vendors.
When we got back to Kharkov we went a soccer game. We live less than a ten minute walk from the stadium and for 15 UAH (less than $2) for a professional football game ticket who can pass that up? Mario and I arrived only for the last 20 minutes, but it turned out to be the most exciting 20 minutes of the game! When we arrived, Metalist (Kharkov's team) was tied 0-0 with Poltava (a city a couple of hours west of Kharkov).  By the time the game ended the score was 4-0 with a Metalist victory! We were sitting in the fan section, so the atmosphere was incredible! There was one thing during the game that upset me though, and since this blog is supposed to tell about everything from my time here, I might as well share it. We were in the stands enjoying the game when out of nowhere come a couple guys wearing masks that looked like this:

And holding a flag that looked like this:


The next thing I know one of them pulls out a lighter.  "It won't catch," Mario reassures me, seeing the worried look on my face. It probably wouldn't have caught, if not for the fact that the flag was doused in lighter fluid.  So with my jaw touching the ground I watched as a flag-fire burned right behind me.  Mario pulled me out into the aisle so we wouldn't be in danger of getting burned.  After they had made sure the whole thing had burned they sneaked out the back and were on their way. Not a single security guard seemed to notice and no one in the crowd seemed as stunned and disgusted by it as I was.  It really shook me up and made me feel upset the rest of the game. Definitely something I will never forget, for better or for worse.
But on to more cheerful things! On Sunday Mario and I rode on the gondola again (well, again for me and first time for him) and then walked around a while.  On Monday we road in the ferris wheel at Gorky Park and on Thursday took a spontaneous trip to the thriving metropolis  itty bitty town of 24,000 people - Ljubotin! It was nice to just get out of Kharkiv for a little bit though and see something new. On Friday I went with the kids and teachers from the private school for a day in nature.  The kids and teachers were so welcoming and the little girls, when they found out that I could speak Russian, picked my brain with rapid fire questions. I think one of the girls thought I was an alien from another planet as she just stared and stared an stared some more haha Late Friday night I said a sad, teary goodbye to my Mario and then spent Friday night and Saturday feeling a bit sad and lonely :*(
By Monday I was back to my crazy busy life and another week flew by.  Friday night I hung out with my American friends and some Ukrainians we met at English-speaking group and enjoyed a nice evening hanging out and walking around in the center of Kharkiv (remember - walking and talking is the favorite hobby of Slavs!).  By the time we got home Friday night I was one tired girl and slept long and hard into Saturday morning.  Not long after I woke up Saturday I headed over to Kayla and Masha's apartment for some hair dying fun! Kayla made her hair a bit darker and I, being the rebel I am (hehe), added a purple streak to my hair! I really like how it turned out.  It's not super noticeable in most light, but when the light hits it I think it looks pretty cool! Saturday afternoon I met up with some people via an invitation from a girl Liza who leads a German-speaking group.  We sat around for a bit talking and then went walking, stopped in a cafe, and walked some more.  I spoke a little German, heard  A LOT of German, and had a fun time.  It feels good meeting people and making friends, "fitting in" more and more in this new city.
Today I went to church (side note - I have starting playing piano for church because they didn't have anyone to play for them) and then spent the afternoon mostly relaxing, doing homework, and preparing for teaching tomorrow.
I'm doing well here in Kharkov, still having the time of my life, and eating lots of delicious Ukrainian food! :) I hope that you're also doing well, wherever in the world you are reading this post.  I'll post some pictures soon!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pictures from Kiev!

Two glasses of Kvas (wheat soda) overlooking the Dnieper River 

Kiev and the Dneiper! Beautiful!

A heart in the sand

Kvas, sunshine, and my favorite boy in Kiev, Ukraine

Where it all began....


NovaMova (new language) International Language School

View from Andreski cathedral

On top of the hill at  Andreski cathedral

And now me at  Andreski cathedral))

andreski descent - always one of my favorite walks in Kiev

Learning how to eat sunflower seeds the Ukrainian way.  It really is an art form ;)

On Xreshatik with the Lady of Freedom monument behind us

Showing off the sunflower seeds

Note the Ukrainian flag in the background!


Happy!

Fishies!

Being silly in the park

ONE YEAR! nothing changed!

The fast train back to Kharkiv


Lunch at the "Usual Restaurant" in Kiev.  Russian potato salad, Ukrainian dumplings, and apple juice

Self photo attempt


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back to Kiev!

Last Thursday Mario and I headed back to Kiev for a weekend in the city with our favorite Ukrainians! We took a train out of Kharkov at 18:45 and were in Kiev by 23:15.  Gotta love those fast trains! When we finally made it Nastia and Ksenya's apartment we all went to bed right away.  I felt a little bad that we arrived so late because Nastia had to get up for school in the morning, but in true Ukrainian fashion they were so welcoming and happy to see us - they're great! Friday morning we slept in a bit and waited for Nastia to get home from the dentist before heading into the city. First we went to a modern art center that Nastia had visited when I was in Kiev a couple of weeks ago. We met up with Nastia's friends in the evening and went to a cute cafe near Zoloti Vorota. At the cafe you pay a price based on the number of hours you are there and then can have as much coffee, tea, cookies, and candy as your little heart desires during that time.  There is also a piano, board games, free wifi, and comfy couch seats.  We had so much fun just chatting, laughing, and taking pictures - for me, some much needed girl time.  Hopefully Mario wasn't too bored ;) Towards the end of our time there some guy started giving a presentation about his collection of airplane safety manuals (strange, right?) and we were kind of glad to be leaving soon.  We stopped by a birthday party where Ksenya was at a yoga studio not far from the cafe, but didn't stay too long.  There was a big group of people playing drums and it kind of hurt Nastia's head.  Back at the apartment Mario and I watched "Friends with Benefits" half in English and half in Russian, but both fell asleep before the end of the movie.  Saturday we explored Kiev from morning until night and even went to visit good old NovaMova language school where this crazy story began over a year ago.  Nastia stayed home to do her homework so that she could go out with us Sunday.  Sunday we met up with her childhood friend Zoya and after visiting Nastia's babushka in the hospital went into the center of the city again. We stopped by the yoga studio to say goodbye to Ksenya before heading to the train station for our quick trip back to Kharkov.  Goodbyes are never fun, but there is something about those moments sitting in the train waving and smiling at your friend on the platform that makes my heart happy.  The joy of a weekend well-spent with someone dear to me and the promise of another visit soon!  Once we were back in Kharkov it still felt like we were in Kiev somehow.  The train trip isn't so long and it somehow felt even faster Sunday night, so it is easy to imagine that you haven't even left Kiev.
This week has gone by quickly again and the weekend is already almost here. I have decided to go to both my Russian class and the other students' Russian class because there is time in my schedule.  I already basically everything being taught in that class, but it is always good to review grammar grammar grammar and the more exposure to the language as I can get the better. Choir this week has been fun (we had rehearsal Monday and Wednesday and will have it again tomorrow). I love being part of a group here and having a chance to sing in choir again just like the good old days.  We're even singing a piece that I sang in Varsity Singers in high school)))
Well, that's all for now.  I'm looking forward to a fun weekend here in Kharkov.  There is a festival on Saturday a little bit outside of the city and a football game Saturday night!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Student life

Classes started this Monday and I already feel like I'm living the student life and rapidly filling up my schedule!
My schedule looks like this right now:
     Monday - Soviet and Post Soviet Politics 13:25 - 15:00
                     Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective 15:15 - 16:50
   
     Tuesday - Russian 13:25 - 16:50

     Wednesday - Russian 9:55 - 11:40
                          Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective 13:25 - 15:00
                          Soviet and Post Soviet Politics 15:15 - 16:50
                          Choir 17:00 - 19:00
   
     Thursday - Ukrainian 11:40 - 13:25

     Friday - Choir 15:15 - 17:00

It may not seem like a lot of hours at the university, but believe me, when you add in homework and studying and excursions and random other things that have to get done, my schedule already feels pretty full! Plus, I know I'm not done adding things to my life schedule for the year. But I like being busy, of course!

Today was especially busy day.  After Russian class I had to meet up with someone and go to the clinic to get my HIV test for the university.  After the HIV test I stopped by the bank before going back to the university main building to buy a book for class.  The book cost 80 UAH (about 10 dollars), but the smallest thing I had was a 200 and they (of course) didn't have change.  So I had to go down to the cafeteria (in the basement) and buy something (where they also had to go searching for change) before I was able to go back up to the third floor to buy my book.  After buying my book I headed to the third floor of the other university building for my next class.  All of that in a nutshell - so many stairs! good workout - right?)) After my first class Vera and I went with Tatiyana to find where the choir meets.  Tatiyana decided that we can speak the language well enough to take care of things ourselves, so she left while we waited for the director to arrive.  The other students also waiting seemed a bit surprised that some Americans were coming to join their choir and were glad to hear that we know Russian and Ukrainian.  After the director arrived we introduced ourselves and asked a few things about the choir.  She tested our ranges in front of a room full of students, but we survived)) She seemed really pleased with us and had us sign our names and phonenumbers into the list of choir members.  She assignment me to Soprano I and Vera to Soprano II, so we'll be able to practice singing with another part when we practice our music at home.  I'm already so excited to start rehearsals! After meeting with the choir we returned for another hour and a half of class, by the end of which I was feeling a little sleepy.  This weekend Mario and I are headed to Kiev, so I will have many adventures to write about again soon.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pictures from my week in Kiev


Giant pysanky on Kreschatik

Kreschatik is one of the main streets in Kiev

Ukrainian flags!

The new stadium in Kiev build for the Euro Cup

Independence day celebration in Kiev

Independence Day celebration in Kiev

With Nastia
Add caption

With another Nastia
Dnieper! 
On the beach with Nastia
Up up up we go!











Pictures!

A park in Kharkov

Constitution Square, newly remodeled 

Assumption Cathedral 

Eternal Flame

Annunciation Cathedral


With Vera and Annunciation Cathedral in the background


EESA groupie group!

Hanging out at the "Day of Knowledge" Concert



With Vera and the concert



concert again

First day of school celebrations I watched from my balcony!