Monday, November 26, 2012

Today I found out, that due to the lesson schedule changes, I will no longer be teaching my darling tenth formers :'( They were always such a super start to my Monday mornings, but I'm sure Monday mornings with my eighth formers will also be fun. When I'm back in Kharkov before the start of the second semester, I'll try to squeeze in a few lessons with them for sure! Wednesday evening I'm headed to Lvov for a few days with some of the younger students and I'm looking forward to lots of fun times with them! It will be interesting to see Lvov in a different season than the first time I was there.
Teaching has been on my mind an awful lot lately.  I don't just mean the lesson plans and sheer amount of hours I spend at the school each week.  Right now my brain is still in that stage of processing where it's mostly just pumping out the positives, so for what it's worth these are some of the things my little head has been churning up...
For me -  I obviously have a strong passion for teaching, or I wouldn't be pouring my heart into my classes here.  The relocation flexibility is fairly good.  English teaching is in demand all over the world, and I would find myself especially comfortable if this happened to be in a Russian-speaking country.  Back in the English-speaking world, I would, of course, have to hold relevant qualifications, be that general grade-specific certification or a certain subject area. With completely non-arrogant intentions, I can say that I seem to have a knack for this teaching thing.  Not everyone loves kids, and among those who do, not all can get them to sit still and learn something from you for the better part of an hour.
For my future family - again, the job location flexibility, knowing that even if we moved around, I could most likely find work.  School breaks for holidays and summer would give me more time for any future children. We all know that teachers' salaries don't tend to be very high, but while I'm still single, it would be enough, and later it would be a decent contribution to the household income.  Of course, these considerations seem relevant only to a time far faarrr from now, but as a compulsive planner, that's just how my brain works and it doesn't hurt to ponder.
It doesn't have to be forever - In fact, I hold to the school of thought that when I teacher starts to lose steam, he or she is better off to move to a second career (but yes, there are also teachers that keep up their awesomeness to the end and I hold extreme respect for them). And considering my ambitions of Foreign Service work, I have talked to several a foreign service officer who made State Department work a second career after teaching.  And I would never have changed the major I chose.  Even if I don't go straight into IR work, I also hold to the idea that some of the best teachers have first, second, even third degrees in something besides the methodological study of teaching. Any and all educational endeavors can never be regretted.
I was having a conversation with some Ukrainian friends a while back about teaching and how much I loved it, but felt that there was this attitude of "oh, you're just gonna be a teacher...?" That completely mind-boggling cultural phenomenon that says that the best and brightest should be off working in labs and offices and not shaping the minds and spirits of the next generation.  WHY IS THAT? It's actually one of the most ridiculous ridiculousnesses of our society.
"You shouldn't think that way," they reassured me.  "Consider it that you GET to teach, not that you're JUST going to teach.  Those friends we just ran, they hate kids and they hate their jobs.  Those aren't the kind of people who should be teaching."
I have no idea where this crazy, wonderful life will lead me, but sometimes I just have to clear my head with a good long rambling rant. Any and all input and advice from you, my dear blog readers, is welcome)))
I love Thanksgiving so much that I just had to do it again! Saturday night my apartment was filled with 12 of my dear friends from the Window on America speaking club for a Thanksgiving celebration.  Everyone showed up around 19:30 with tons of food and the usual everyone settling into the group atmosphere commenced. We played a few ice breaker games and munched on snacks while we shared what we are thankful for.  Next game a word unscramble, which everyone was super excited and competitive about.  Next came pin the hat on the turkey, which left us all folded over in laughter.  Singing was next on the agenda and with the help of lyrics sheets, Bogdan's amazing guitar playing, and a couple of sound files from the internet, we had one awesome sing-along going on! The evening continued in a series of more party games, snacking, and more laughing than I have done in a good long while.  Around 22:30, surprise! The power went out! We took advantage of the flash and timer on my camera to take some group shots and then sang a few more songs, using our cell phones to see the lyrics.  By 23:15 everyone was heading out to catch the metro home. I gave hugs all around and then did some cleaning up in the dark.  The power eventually came back around 00:30.  Saturday night was one of the most fun nights I have had since arriving in Kharkov.  Nothing beats being surrounded by incredible friends - for them I am indescribably thankful!


Love it!

Some of my favorite people!



And more silly

The boys!

With Olya!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Ukrainian Thanksgiving

We may not have had a turkey, but it was one heck of a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Kharkov, Ukraine! My Thanksgiving started from Wednesday, teaching my 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students about the Thanksgiving holiday, about which many of them had never heard.  We read a short text about the history, made thankful hand turkeys, played thanksgiving bingo, and sang a little song.  It grabbed their interest and was a nice break from the usual grammar and vocab lessons. While making the thankful hands, one of my little munchkins didn't hesitate to write down that he is thankful for the toilet! What a goofball! Too bad he didn't leave his turkey for me, I would have liked to keep that one for funny memories.

 Wednesday evening the baking started after a big grocery shopping trip.  The house smelled like sweet deliciousness all evening.
Thursday we woke up to the most beautiful sunshine and it definitely felt like a holiday!  I spent the morning cleaning the apartment a bit, rearranging my room, and adding the extension to the table.  After class and a few errands it was home to finish up the cooking.  Between the cooking and guests showing up I made a call to the good old US of A and had a little Thanksgiving chat with my family.
Our guests showed up around 19:30 and we could all hardly wait to start in on the eating.  None of us had eaten much of anything all day in anticipation of the feast.  And feast we did! Chicken, stuffing, deviled eggs, stuffed tomatoes, cutlets, russian potato salad, crab salad, vareniki (dumplings), and mashed potatoes. We had apple pie, pumpkin pie (made out of squash because there is no real pumpkin in the store here), and cinnamon rolls for dessert. Everything was amazing!!! We talked and laughed and joked and all went around the table and said what we are thankful for.  Many props go to Vera for being the best cook in the whole wide world!
After the others had gone home to slip into their post-Thanksgiving comas, Vera, Megan, and I cleaned up the kitchen to the tune of Christmas music on Megan's computer.  Dishes aren't so bad when you're dancing and singing to "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Let it Snow".  Thanksgiving dinner was barely off the table and we were already bringing on the Christmas!
So what can I say? Today was absolutely splendid! Great weather, dear friends, delicious food, fun times, and SO much to be thankful for. We may be in a country where no one else understands Thanksgiving and cooking in our tiny kitchen with strange ingredients, but my heart couldn't be happier! 

Kvas! A little Ukrainian touch to our Thanksgiving

Getting the first things on the table

Our feast!

Everyone taking pictures of the table

A better view of the table



Friday, November 16, 2012

Traveling has become my way of life.  It has crossed the line from hobby to way of life.  I am constantly packing up a bag and heading somewhere new.  My life is a compilation of airplanes, trains, ticket offices, hostels, passport stamps, and reservations. And this certainly isn't luxury travel we're talking about, my friends!  I'm becoming pro at inexpensive travel plans and my map reading skills aren't too shabby.  A 15 hour train ride no longer phases me and staying up all night to catch an early morning flight doesn't leave me dreading the journey.  30 hours to get to Kazan and almost two days on the way home? No problem! 18 hours one way to the other side of Ukraine? Sign me up!
And with this lifestyle of traveling has come the ability to feel comfortable in a new city in a very short amount of time.  I recently spent four days in Moscow and sometime during day two or three I found myself feeling comfortable in that crazy city.  I hope my spirit of adventure never dies out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Three years later I finally found myself back in Moscow! Three years ago I was a jet-lagged, overwhelmed little kid being rushed around the city in a giant pack of classmates.  In short, I didn't have a very good time.  But three years later a lot has changed.  Moscow is about the same, but I am a much different person.  My spirit of adventure is stronger than ever and I am much more confident as both a traveler and a speaker of Russian.  This time around I spent four full days exploring the city with my small bunch of groupmates.  I was just as impressed and overwhelmed as three years ago, but in only the best of ways.  I took photo after photo, remembering also to put the camera down and just take it all in.  I gazed upon the artistic masterpieces, impressive jewels, and uniquely beautiful buildings which reflect the history of Moscow.  It was mighty cold in Moscow, but we bundled up and took on the city, filling ourselves with hot tea at the end of the day.  Once you start loving Moscow, you can't stop.  I am already looking forward to the trip there in the spring and already have a list of what I want to do and where I want to go!

Just a few of my many pictures

My first views of Red Square, three years later


All bundled up, enjoying some nightime Red Square

Changing of the guards

Changing of the guards

Church of Jesus Christ the Savior 

Front entrance of Church of Jesus Christ the Savior



One more shot of the church


Starbucks! There is so much in Moscow that we don't have in Ukraine.


Church inside of the Kremlin

More Red Square - at night!!


Old Arbat > New Arbat!

Old Arbat

At Moscow State University


Tunnel at Moscow State University.  Don't worry Moscow, I'll be back in a few months!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A visitor from Kiev!

After a full Saturday with friends running on little sleep, I was up again early Sunday morning to get my Nastia from the train station! She was on holiday from school and decided to come visit me in Kharkov. I was sooo happy to have her here and to show her "my" city! She also has relatives here who she was able to visit and we had three super days of adventures, catching up, and making memories.  
I hope she comes back soon! 
We took an adventure to the zoo outside of the city!

Belochka! Squirrel! 

Our favorite llama!

Too cute!


Finally a photo with all three of us))

Cable Car take three!

With the Nastias!

At least my smile got in the picture ;)