Matthew H. Eppley, Peace Corps Volunteer, Svalyava

(December 13, 2011)



Today started off as typically as any other Tuesday does.  My teaching began first period with my 5th graders.  There was nothing special to report from today’s lesson other than the fact that Misha brought me two pieces of chocolate coconut cake.  I think he’s trying to suck up to me so that I’m more lenient for the multiple occasions when he forgets his homework.  My only other class today was my 10th graders fourth period.  In the downtime, I went across the street to my host grandmother’s house and worked on my mailings.  I had three pieces of mail to get out today, Marichka’s St. Nicholas Day present, mini chocolate bars for my campers in Drohobych and a Christmas card for Sveta.  Now that I actually had the chocolate bar to send (yesterday I had forgotten it at home and so didn’t send out any mail), my work went quickly.  After my two hour window, I headed back to school for my 10th graders.  We took a quiz on the present perfect simple versus continuous and reviewed material for the final unit test, which will be next Tuesday.  At the next two lessons, we’ll be taking tests in the four skills.  I moved the desks again, out of the double L shape and into a linear shape.  This was most effective and really curbed the cheating!  Remove the temptation (of having direct sight at the other kids’ tests) and honesty ensues.


Back at Babka’s I finished up my letters and hurried to the post office.  I sent both Marichka’s and Roksa’s care packages priority class.  These letters take so long to get to Drohobych that priority is the only choice for these items reaching my friends in time for Monday’s holiday.  Interesting observation: Marichka’s orange peel dark chocolate bar cost 12 hryven and the shipping was 13.  It just interests me how shipping can be more than the value of the actual item.  The same was with Beto’s (my young nephew’s nickname) Thomas the Tank Engine book that I sent him for Christmas.  It cost 12 or 13 hryven and shipping was around 24.  I remember back in the States used to have deals with .99 cent shipping on books, CDs and movies.  Those were the golden days of shipping.  Well, it was an unpleasant hike to the post office today in the incessant rain.  It was simply awful!  Some of the sidewalk plates store water under them and when you walk over them, it splashes you vertically!  I hate wet feet, both literally and figuratively!!!  Well, wet socks are the worst.  Feet can be dried in a matter of seconds, but socks either have to be rewashed or take an hour or more to crisp up.  Back from the post office, I ate a hurried lunch with the ladies from my host family.  We had mushroom soup and traditional halushky (in this case, egg noodles served with homemade cheese (tvoroh), smetana and shkvarky (pieces of fried salo).  Oh, how it hit the spot!  I hated eating and running, but I had an important meeting to keep.


At 1:50 I was meeting Erin and Tim to carry out yet another observation session at the Roma School (Roma is the politically correct name for an important minority group, which people commonly call gypsies, although this latter appellation is disprefered for its often pejorative nature).  Walking to the other side of town in the rain was an adventure.  After crossing the river, I was splashed by a high-speed car.  Drivers, avoid those damn puddles and slow the hell down!  It was nice to arrive and be in a dry place again.  Walking into the teacher’s lounge, I found Erin, Tim and the custodian (keyman).  None of the teachers were there!!  How could this be so?! The kids had come to school and were waiting for instruction!  I asked the keyman to call up the principal and find out what the deal was. He did so and the situation started working itself out.  He said that those negligent teachers would be punished.  It only figured that the one day there are three PCVs, including the one-time visit of Tim, the chair of the working group on Roma rights, this would happen.  Ukraine always has such impeccable timing.


Well, in the meantime, we three Americans went into the classroom and continued building our rapport with the kids.  The three siblings were there as well as a certain Dennis, who entertained us with his amazing dancing skills! Then Nadiya Vasylivna arrived and we observed a math class.  This Dennis was so cute!  He couldn’t write, so I took notes for him.  Then he showed said notes to her and asked for a mark for them.  She said that she’d give him an 8 (12 being an A+).  He wanted a higher mark than that and was really insistent.  Nadiya Vasylivna said that she would give me a 12, since I wrote it.  Then Dennis heartily advised me to step up and get a 12 in my notebook.  She justified this mark by saying that I was an American who was writing in Ukrainian – a worthy deed.  He was a Ukrainian who couldn’t even write in Ukrainian.  Touché, point well conceded.  Tim was glad that she referred to him as Ukrainian, including him and not excluding him. The math lesson was interesting and I practiced along with them the cardinal rules of multiplication.  It’s all coming back.  Then Eva Gustavivna arrived.


Between this lesson and the next, the kids had their lunch break.  We teachers hung out in the lounge and visited.  Tim and I sat on either side of Olha Ivanivna and she commented how nice it was to sit between such young and handsome boys.  Compliment accepted!  During this visit,

I also received some most somber news – while praising Erika’s mother’s homemade pumpkin halushky, Nadiya Vasylivna informed us that Erika’s grandfather had passed away yesterday.  They’re not going to tell Erika about it until she comes home from Poland.  I can relate to that situation as I didn’t find out about my aunt’s passing until I came home from France.  I need to support her and keep her in my prayers even more than usual!  Well, having eaten up, the kids were ready for their next lesson.  It was French and it would be I who would be conducting the lesson today!  I chose the thirty best, most representative pictures of France and presented them to them.  I made it as interactive as possible, constantly asking them how to say the items present in the photos and asking them what they saw.  I only had to ask for their attention twice, which is really good.  I held their attention!  That’s the key and that’s it – interactive lessons equal awesomeness, whereas lecture style lessons equal boredom and trouble. I was expecting some detailed feedback from my two PCV colleagues, but only received a yeah, it was good.  Hmmm, maybe it wasn’t?!  But I should be confident in my teaching abilities.  Then it was time to pack up and head out.


Once back in town, Erin and I waited for Tim to hit up the ATM.  Then he bought his train tickets for his next week’s trip to Kyiv. Finally, we had time to sit down, relax and have a drink at Zolota Nyva.  It had been a long and busy day already and it was far from being over.  Tim and I had a cognac and Coke, while Erin enjoyed a fresh lattè (café au lait).  We had time for the three traditional toasts and they were whoppers!  Tim is getting engaged over Christmas,

Erin has now been in Svalyava for a year and then we toasted to love. Then I secretly picked up the bill and excused myself.  At 5 o’clock I had parent-teacher conferences with my 11th graders.  It has been so good to see Tim and we made him promise that the next time he would come not for business but for pleasure.


My next stop was the conferences.  I immediately had mixed feelings about that cognac.  I thought it would help to relax me, but it ended up hitting more strongly than I had expected.  And now I had to speak in Ukrainian in front of parents, teachers, and administrators.  Well,

Hanna Ivanivna (their homeroom teacher) opened up the agenda.  Then Antonin Ivanovych (our principal) stepped up.  During the next thirty minutes, a heated shouting match ensued between the parents of the honor roll students and him.  He wants to cut half of them and alleges that the quantity of honors students is far too high to be authentic.  Pani Kovach and Pani Spiridoniva were most vocal.  I guess that’s where Erika and Vika get it from.  Anyway, after this, Antonin Ivanovych said that unless the teachers had anything to say, we could go.  Yeah, I sure as hell had som thing to say!  But he dismissed us before anyone could take action.  I objected, though, and asked for the floor, for permission to give my little speech. Standing and making my way to the middle of the room, I said what I had to say: that it’s a privilege working with these highly gifted kids but that there were some issues, such as cell phone use, shameless cheating on tests and backstabbing for the girls. I furthermore praised Katya, Jura and Edikta Ks. for their pristine behavior and work ethic.  I was so glad that I had gotten to say my piece.  There were no questions or comments and so we were dismissed. Erika Antonivna was annoyed from the bickering and from being convocated to these conferences and then not being asked to speak.

Well, a big weight had been lifted from my chest and I hope that my words will help to improve the situation.


Then I went to Lociko’s.  I forgot my computer’s power cord and harddrive at Babka’s!  That meant that I wouldn’t be doing any downloading and any computer use in general would have to limited, lest I not write in my journal (haha, as if!) and watch my evening episode of the X-files.  I am so dumb.  I also left my teaching bag there… tomorrow morning’s tests.  I’ll have to improvise and give them a writing test instead of listening.  We had a great dinner of plov,vinigrette and the Hungarian cheese.  Then I hit up my messages and got ready to go home – finally!  I wanted to mention that sometimes I meet people who are suspicious of me in Kontakt.  I chatted this evening with a girl from Russia, Женя, who took a few minutes to break the ice.  At least the ice would be broken.  That Angelina girl was pure ice.  And I was glad to have gotten to practice my Russian!  Back at home, I watched the X-files, a cool episode on vampires, graded tests and read about acts of service as the third love language.  I need to take the test, do some deep reflection and identify my own love language.  How could a linguist and a hopeless romantic not know that?  It’s time to unveil the secret and start enjoying better emotional connections with people who are dear to me!  And that was a quite typical Tuesday.



One comment

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