Friday, October 2, 2009


Drawing by a school girl, Creative Arts Center, Nishon, Ukraine, outside of Chernigov.

Hope springs eternal. We were told during our 3-months training in Chernigov that good results come in small steps. Nothing earth shattering. It takes time to learn a new language. It takes time to gain trust, to build connections. Relationships are more important than schedules. Seasoned PCVs say it is the one-year mark that makes the difference. My group 36 has 9 more months to go to get to that milestone.

Meanwhile we plug away, hoping something good will come of it. It feels great when things go well. like having a lively English club meeting, or participating in an interesting workshop, or seeing the young girls I tutor, Helen and recently Viola, make progress in English.

I'm not as good in Russian as Helen or Viola are in English, but I am able to recognize more words and read more signs. I practice the language, check my dictionary, and make notes before doing anything like going to a restaurant, a store, getting a haircut, greeting friends. I have my sentences at the ready. But if anyone goes "off script," as PCV friend Jud puts it, I am at a loss for (Russian) words.

Still, it's nice to walk into a beauty shop, as I did last week, and hear people's excitement at having an American in their midst. Heck, I can risk a bad haircut for the pleasure of that. I pull out my piece of paper with the words, haircut, color, trim, and not too short (!) written in Russian. Knowing smiles fill the salon. As it turns out, I get the best hair cut ever. A beautiful cut. No risk, no gain! I'll go back to Nastia at On y Ona (Him and Hers) again, for sure.

On another day I was strolling through the bazaar on my way to NGO Victoria when I heard someone call my name. Wow, that's a first. Did I hear that right? I looked around and there was Tonya, arms outstretched, one of the women with whom I went to Berdyansk on the sea of Azov.

Little things mean a lot. Disappointment and hope. They are all part of the Peace Corps experience.

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