On August 24th, Ukraine celebrated 20 years of independence. Knowing how much I love July 4th, I expected Ukrainians to celebrate in a similar way and generally feel as positively about their holiday as I do about ours. I went to the park on Independence Day with a Ukrainian friend expecting to see a celebration similar to Victory Day back in May (see earlier blog post). Nope. There was barely anyone there, and it appeared that no one was really even acknowledging the holiday. Stores were still open, buses were running, giving the appearance that it was just another day in Rovenky. I asked my Ukrainian friend why no one was celebrating, and she explained that for many people in our town (and our region), this is not a holiday to celebrate. They are not glad to be independent from Russia and Independence Day is only a reminder that they were separated from their mother country and from many of their family members. I guess I should have seen that coming, but it still surprised me.
Moreover, here’s what’s even more shocking – we celebrated the Day of the Coal Miner for three days straight! The Day of the Coal Miner was supposed to be on August 29th, but starting on the Friday before, Rovenky was celebrating. I have never seen Rovenky like I did last weekend! Concerts in the park, parades, fireworks, you name it. My Ukrainian friends explained that it was because most men in our town are coal miners, and this is the one time that they are honored and celebrated. I’m not sure I ever could have predicted that I would celebrate the Day of the Coal Miner at all, much less for three days. But when in Ukraine, right?
School officially began on September 1st. We had a ceremony celebrating the first day, which welcomed the new first graders and then an official ringing of the first bell. Afterwards, the students had a brief homeroom session and then went home by 10am. Not a bad first day! The teachers had a few meetings, which I was thankfully excused from because they were in Ukrainian. I’m not sure why, but any official meeting (usually only happens a few times a year) must be in the country’s official language.
I still don’t have a schedule yet, and I get the impression I won’t have a final schedule for at least a week or so. The schedule is still not set yet, which means it’s a little chaotic for both the students and the teachers right now. On the first day, I tried to ask about my schedule and my counterpart just told me to come back on Monday at 8am. This means that I will show up on Monday with no idea of which students I’ll be teaching, which books I need, and without lesson plans. Fortunately, being here for almost a year has taught me to let go of some of my Type-A tendencies and try to just go with the flow (cue hand motion).
Also, today marks day four of no running water in my apartment, which means my toilet no longer flushes, no water for dishes, and no water for bathing. The water is always shut off at 10pm every night, and it’s fairly common to not have water at all during the day. However, to go multiple days without water is a little rare. It usually means they are doing some kind of repairs to the town water system. Anyways, I spent my day yesterday scooping water out of a jug to gradually do all my dishes and clean up a little. It’s amazing how long that takes without running water!
Finally, here are some other pictures leftover from the summer. While visiting friends in other parts of Eastern Ukraine, I got to see countless sunflower fields. And for those of you who know me well, you can understand how I excited I was!
I also had a chance to see my host family from training! My host mom has family in Lugansk and they came to visit last week. I was able to go to Lugansk for the day and catch up with them for a bit. It was really nice to see them, especially since my Russian is significantly better than it was 8 months ago! It was great to actually have a real conversation with my host mom completely without hand gestures and acting things out.