Today I walked to school. The earth was frozen in some places, slushy in others, and a constant frigid wind pummeled me as I walked. It felt like being in the Palouse all over again. My time spent at Washington State was time that I should have spent in reconnaissance, you know, to build up for the future world of adulthood. Instead I drank too much but I call it a win because I often drank with my writing professors – successful people that are always willing to write a letter on my behalf. I just need a valid reason to call that in.
I like being out in the weather extremes because it reminds me of the whiplash nature of the Columbia River Gorge. I am from the Pacific Northwest, I don’t know if I have said this before, and I lived downtown Portland, OR. I know that I am a snob because when I say I lived in Portland I always have to clarify that I lived downtown, within the actual city walls, only a few blocks from the famed Powell’s Books. I’ve made peace with my inner snob.
Today I walked across the city like a hobo. I had a duffel bag strapped across my back and inside it are all the boiled clothes that I am prepared to take with me. As the temperature drops and as the days roll into weeks I hope that the frigid cold is doing the right kind of damage on the clothes tied in plastic bags on my balcony. I harbor a small fear that when spring rolls around I will open the bags and find a ruined mess. It’s ok, I have visions of walking out of Ukraine with little more than the clothes on my back, a true showmanship of converting to a minimalistic lifestyle. Assuming I make it that long. Yes, even all the way out here I feel the cold hand of the American Government Shutdown. If it continues for longer than thirty days then there is a chance that my Peace Corps service will be cut short. I am in the process of changing my institutions so I would hate to go home before I move to a school that I can do some actual work in.
When I arrived at my school everyone was curious about my duffel bag. I explained it had all my boiled clothes and that the bag itself was recently boiled as well for safety. The Ukrainians all scoffed. In this country bed bugs are not a serious concern even though they are a serious problem. Some people do not get eaten alive and the Ukrainians seem to put off some kind of evolutionary scent that deters the little bastards. I wish I was that lucky.
I went to my school so that I could watch a concert in rapid fire Russian. They also love to dance and sing but it is awkward because the girls usually dance provocatively in their underwear, young teenage girls, and the staff applauds them as if its completely ok. I always feel like a pervert at concerts in Ukraine.
I can limp my way through basic conversations but as a teacher of English most of my correspondence is in English (crazy, right?) so I don’t have much of a Russian proficiency. But if I need something I can express that need. After the school concert, a concert that was frigid from the lack of heat in the building, the teachers wanted me to come to a cafe to get coffee. A lot of money and cheap instant coffee consumed I finally departed the awkward conversations and headed to the bus depot. As behind the times as Ukraine is its public transportation system is reliable. The busses are old, sure, but they are more punctual than any bus I’ve ridden in America.
Here is to a weekend away.