Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One day when I was walking from my teacher's apartment to the internet cafe, I was quite sure everyone I passed was staring at my green shoes and navy knee socks. In a couple places where the sidewalk goes up a hill, it turns into stairs - the steeper the hill, the narrower the steps. Coming out of the cafe, I looked for a bus named belyakova that I can flag down. It's not long before one comes along. I walked home from the bus stop with the sun in my eyes. So I looked instead at my feet, and was careful to avoid the potholes, animal droppings and litter that plague the sandy road. At the corner house there is a yard full of chickens always scratching in the dirt. I passed a small boy swinging in a tree and think about how there is always at least one boy hanging in that tree. There is a man with white hair wearing a brown suit, and riding a squeaky bicycle, sitting straightly on its seat. The little dog named Yulia no longer barks at me when I lean against the gate and reach around to unlatch it. The big dog, Jessica runs to greet me.
On another day, I found myself sitting in the back of a taxi in the morning, because there was no bus for us to take. I was wedged between two other people with a small child from the Internat on my lap. The man beside me was wearing stripey jeans, and I was wondering how the driver could see anything out the dirty windshield with the sun glaring on it the way that it was. The road from Melitopol to Priazovye is flat and straight, with the exception of one bend at a certain place. It is not free of the potholes that infest all Ukrainian roads though.
Another morning. It's early and not quite all light yet. I sit on a bus waiting for it to leave the station and take us to Priazovye. I watch women busily unloading a van and setting up their kiosk of shoes - mostly pointy-toed stilletos - in the semi-darkness. The bus drivers hover around the front of the busses sipping coffee from little plastic cups. Everyone is wearing either a leather jacket, or a short denim one.
I am amazed at how many people can cram into the aisle of one bus. And how they can move past and around each other when one needs to get off the bus.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Last Saturday I went to the store by myself and bought a loaf of bread for Larisa. She knows that I am not very confident with my Russian, what little I know of it, and that I am afraid to do things on my own, like take the bus (although I have a few times now, and it's not so bad) or make a purchase, where I have to talk to stangers. It is a scary thing when someone is talking to you and you don't know what they are saying and there is no one there to come to your rescue. So she wrote out for me all I had to say - only one sentence - and sent me on my way. My heart was pounding as I entered the little shop, and I was glad there was no one else around as I said to the clerk, "Daytye mnye, pozhalusta, ahdin khleb." (Give me, please, one loaf of bread). She handed me the bread, and I handed her the money. Needless to say, I was rather proud of myself as I left, and I felt like skipping home, but I restrained myself. I don't think any loaf of bread has ever made me so happy.

I drink a lot of tea here. Usually at least 3 or 4 cups a day. It is the staple beverage. Good thing I enjoy tea. I think my enjoyment of it goes back to the days when I was about 12, and I would visit Rachel, who was newly married and would always serve me tea. I thought it was the coolest thing and it made me feel rather grown up. Although drinking tea here is not quite the same for me as it was at home. There it was a soothing ritual. I would sip my tea slowly, wrapping my hands around the hot cup, breathing in the fragrant steam. It could take me a good half hour to drink a cup of tea, and by the time I reached the bottom, it would usually be mostly cold. Here they have taken to serving my tea with a saucer to drink it from when they noticed how slowly I was sipping it. Mostly that was just because I've never quite figured out how to quickly down a drink that is steaming hot. And I like to take my time with a hot drink. Not here though. They also thought it was rather funny that I don't take sugar in my tea and soon gave up offering it to me. That's at home where I have the option. Often, sugar is just added and you aren't asked. At the internat, the tea is always lukewarm and loaded with sugar.

The other morning I woke up, and everything seemed so normal and narural. So familiar. And for a moment, that familiarity scared me. I think it scared me more than all the unfamiliarity ever did.