Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bomb Shelters, Bracelets and Basket Weaving - Winter Russian Language Refresher

Last week, I went to the winter Russian Language Refresher camp. Peace Corps traditionally has 2 language camps each year (for both Russian and Ukrainian) and this winter, the camp was held in Chernigov - a city/oblast center in central Ukraine. There were approximately 50 PCVs there, and we spent several days studying Russian grammar and practicing our Russian speaking/listening/reading/writing skills. I also took another Language Proficiency test (affectionately known as the LPI) and scored at the Advanced Low level! I'm glad that my Russian has finally moved up from the Intermediate High level, although the teacher who did my evaluation told me that I would have scored a higher except I tend to only speak in the nominative case and use only the masculine form of adjectives... aka my grammar needs some serious work. But oh well, at least I've made some progress - I'll keep trudging away at the grammar!

Cases... the bane of my existence. 
The different elective "clubs of interest" that were offered each day. 
We also had the chance to participate in some cultural activities such as touring the bomb shelter (бомбоубежище) located in basement of the building that we were staying in. During Soviet times, many cities prepared bomb shelters in main buildings and actually trained their citizens on what to do in case of bombing.
Following everyone into the bomb shelter!
This door is curved, which was designed to withstand the impact of a bomb hit. 
Look how solid this door is!
The bunk beds. 
So for example, in that building they had prepared to withstand bombings by installing things like a filtration system and a small water tank. The filtration system consisted of a simple input/output system that would clean incoming air and then eject the outgoing air. Or maybe it was vice versa, I could have misunderstood the explanation in Russian. These cranks were designed to run normally on electricity but could also be manually worked if necessary.
Theo cranking the output valve. 
Pushing the input valve. 
The water tank. 
They also had bathrooms and showers down in the basement - they rerouted the sewage pipes for that basement bathroom to go 200m below the ground (when the city's sewage system was normally only 10m below ground) just in case everything collapsed under the weight of bombs. They also had beds down there of course, although I didn't see much in terms of entertainment... I wonder if they ever had to actually use that bomb shelter during bombings. 

Power switches for the bomb shelter. 
Another interesting club that I attended was the hand-made club.... where I made some bracelets! Other people learned how to knit scarves, cross stitch, and embroider in the traditional Ukrainian style.

Linda and I with our bracelets. 
The figurines from the salty dough club!
Along with the theme of Ukrainian cultural lessons, Volodiya tried to teach the boys how to do the male part of the traditional Ukrainan dance. The male part is very physical and difficult to master, which made it amusing for the girls to watch. Katya had already taught the female part of the dance during dance club :)
Chest out, shoulders back, and open your arms up wide to the women!
And kick...  while your friends got your back. 
Next, you can try to do it by yourself (the trick is to do it without falling).
And my favorite lesson that I attended at Russian language camp.... basket weaving! Volodiya gathered a bunch of willow branches and taught us a basic weaving technique that he learned from his mother. He told us that she used to weave baskets to carry things like food back from the market in their village. Of course, none of our baskets look as smooth and professional as Volodiyas but it was still awesome to actually produce a basket from sticks!

So many sticks... 
Starting the base from 2 long and 2 short sticks. 
See... our bases are starting to look circular.
(The next day) evolving into baskets!
Still working on the baskets (I'm weaving around a waterbottle for structural support). 
Almost done.. most of us are finishing up the handles. 
Ta-da! The finished baskets!

I also tried to organize a Talent Show at the end of our Russian language camp, but unfortunately not very many people were interested in showing off their talents. I wish I could have sang (like the summer, when I adapted Lady Gaga's Bad Romance into Russian) but I had a sore throat all week and almost lost my voice... so I was barely able to speak, let alone sing. But we still had some really fun talents!

Mysterious as a Sphinx....
Sphinx, sphinx, sphinxxxxxx.....
Music club with Sergei and Helen. 
Counting to 1000 in Russian with Nathan and Richard. 
The Sphinx team plus Andrew!
I had a fantastic time at Russian Language Refresher camp, and I really hope that I'll be able to go to the next one in the summer... though it will be much harder to get selected as a participant because I'll be one of the oldest groups of PCVs in Ukraine by then. It's so weird to think that I'm considered one of the older (and therefore more knowledgeable and experienced) PCVS now! One of the most interesting things that happened to me at this camp was that several group 41 PCVs came up to me and introduced themselves and told me that they read my blog before they came to Ukraine - its amazing to feel like people actually take the time to check out whats going on in my life and follow my blog! Thank you to all my readers out there :)


Arnab Maity said...

You are having a wonderful time as a Peace Corp, enjoy your experiences and keep sharing your stories.I am hooked here:)


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