Saturday, January 1, 2011

Traveling Ukraine by Train and Starting Off the New Year

Happy New Year! I wish you health, happiness, luck, love and success! С Новым Годом! Желаю вам здоровья, счастья, удачи, любви и успехов! 

I went over to my friend Alison's apartment this week, and baked some chocolate-chip cookies with her and her PCV sitemate, Tiago. Alison and Tiago are both also TEFL volunteers who live in the neighboring town, about 30 minutes away from me by bus. They do not sell chocolate chips in Ukraine so Tiago smashed up 3 large chocolate bars inside a gallon-size ziploc bag with a meat hammer. Another interesting thing about baking in Ukraine was that they do not label degrees whatsoever on their ovens, so we just turned it onto high and let the cookies bake until golden brown (completely disregarding the recipe's suggested 7-9 minutes). I love baking, I used to bake like every week while going to school in Atlanta - you can ask my roommates about the seemingly never-ending cookie jar :)
Yum... American cookies were a delicious reminder of home.
 For a Christmas/New Years present to myself, I bought a new cell phone that has Dual Sim Card Standby capabilities... I had never heard of this before I moved to Ukraine. This means that it has 2 sim card slots and that both sim cards are active at the same time (as opposed to Dual Sim Switch, where the phone holds 2 sim cards but only 1 can be active at a time). If you are wondering why the heck I would need 2 sim cards, it is very common in Ukraine for people to carry 2 cell phones with different operators because the service coverage varies by geographic region and it is cheaper or free to call to someone with the same operator. So now I have my Life sim card in this phone, as well as a KyivStar sim card - my town uses mostly KyivStar, even though most cities in our oblast use MTC.
This is a "Fly" brand phone and it cost $375 UAH (about $47 USD). No, I had never heard of it either but it looks just like the Samsung Dual Sim Switch phone and was cheaper (and works well with the Dual Sim Standby). The third slot is actually for a MicroSD memory card, which makes me wish that I had brought mine from my blackberry at home.

My new phone has two dial keys (a phone symbol underlined once and twice), one for dialing with the 1st sim card and one for the 2nd sim card. It also has a dedicated flashlight button, which is convenient at night. And of course one nice thing is that I can text in Russian and read texts in Russian now!
 Even though I waited until it was too late to buy a train ticket to Kyiv to be back in time for New Years Eve, I successfully traveled back to the Kyiv Oblast to visit my old host family and it is wonderful to be back home. Buying the train tickets at the train station (Вокзал -Vokzal) wasn't too bad, I told the cashier that I had only studied Russian for 3 months and asked her to please excuse my Russian. She was really kind and helped me book roundtrip tickets succesfully, then walked me through all the information printed in Ukrainian on the actual ticket. Even though almost everyone in Ukraine speaks Russian and Ukrainian, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian so things like documents are printed in Ukrainian (including street signs, train tickets, and classes are taught in Ukrainian in schools).
Here is a picture of my train ticket. My apologies, I have no idea why it decided to rotate itself - I tried to reformat it unsuccessfully :(
 For my first time traveling within Ukraine by myself, I didn't do too bad! I traveled in a third class car on the train, called the "platzcart wagon". First class is the luxury car (which I've never been in), and second class is called "coupe".  The only difference between second and third class is that the second class compartments consist of 4 beds in 1 room that has a sliding door with a lock. I traveled by "coupe" when I moved from Kyiv to my permanent site with my Ukrainian counterpart, and Peace Corps was nice enough to purchase all 4 tickets inside 1 compartment. Peace Corps recommends that volunteers travel by third class "platzcart" if they are traveling by themselves, and I can definitely understand - it could be a little awkward to be inside a compartment with 3 strangers for 11 hours (or more on an overnight train).

To start off the new year, my landlady came over to my apartment earlier this week and showed me two bags of books that were hidden away in a corner of my room, behind an armchair. These two bags of books turned out to hold some hidden treasures: English grammar books,including some with Russian translations! 
Yes, I laid out all of these books on top of my map of Ukraine.
 Apparently the previous tenant had been a young man studying something like construction/gas engineering (according to Mama Lyda, my landlady) at a university in nearby Kharkiv and he left behind these two bags of books when he moved out. The landlady told me that she didn't know what to do with the books, and I was welcome to use them if I wanted. The first few books were about AutoCAD and engineering physics in Russian (which of course I thought was interesting because I'm a nerd) but I was pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of English books - apparently he was studying English as well as engineering! This was very exciting, because finding a bunch of books that will be useful while teaching English was like Christmas!

Here is a list of the books that I found in my room:
  • Право и Бизнес (Law and Business English)
  • 2000 Русских 2000 Английский идиом (2000 English Idioms with Russian Variants)
  • Английскиий язык с Мюриэль Спарк (Short stories in English)
  • Русско-Английский Разговорник (A Russian/English Phrasebook)
  • Англо-Русски Тематический иллюстрированный Словарь (An English-Russian Thematic Pictorial Encyclopedic Dictionary)
  • Реалный АнглийскийЖ Диалогом в Актуальных Ситуациях (Living English in Real Situations: with Exercises, Keys and a Glossary)
  • 100 Англсйский Существительн(100 English Nouns and 1000 Idioms) 
  • English Grammar in Use (blue cover) and Essential Grammar in Use (red cover) by Raymond Murphy (I know my Technical Faciliator (TCF) would be very excited to know that I have the infamous blue AND red grammar books from our PST resource center)
  • Безопасность и Качество в Строитульстве: Основные Термины и Оределния (Safety and Quality in Construction: Basic Terms and Definitions)

Nerd Alert: The last book is one of the ones that I am extremely impressed and excited about using - it has a lot of technical terms that are relevant to what I studied at Georgia Tech as an Industrial Engineering major. Some of the topics covered in this book include how to construct flowcharts, database maintenance, basic indexed sequential access method, resource allocation, what a delimiter is, break-even analysis, fixed-rate loan, production cycle, explanations of venture capital and investments, and statistic analysis of process accuracy and stability. All of these topics are explained in Russian, to define key words and phrases in English... but this book will definitely be useful in improving my technical Russian vocabulary :)

I'm also pleased to be able to announce that I have been matched with a gifted third grade class from an elementary school in Florida for the World Wise Schools Correspondence Program through Peace Corps! If you want to find out more information about this program (and learn how to get involved), check out the World Wise page on the Peace Corps website. 

So my students in Ukraine will be writing and receiving letters from actual American students! I will be teaching 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 10th forms (grades) at my school. Since my school is on vacation from classes until January 10th, I haven't had the chance to tell the students about this yet, but I'm sure that they will be absolutely thrilled about this program and the opportunity to become pen pals with someone halfway across the world. 


Ryann said...

My favorite paragraph in this post: Nerd Alert! I'm so glad that you are finding enjoyment in an engineering book in Russian :) Will you teach me some of the IE terms in Russian?

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