My seventh form students congratulated me on Women's Day on the 8th of March. They hovered over my desk and asked me, "What presents did you get?" I pulled about six chocolate bars out of a bag along with a dragonfly magnet, a dish towel, a princess eraser, a small bottle of perfume, a card shaped like the number 8, and a Valentine's Day mug (An afterthought, perhaps? The graphics on the cup included little lips and the quote: "I want you I love you I want you!"). I gave all the teachers that I work with a chocolate bar and a personalized haiku and after school, we went to the cafe and got some snacks, drank some conyak, and talked in good Russian, bad Russian, and English. You can guess who spoke what. Later that evening, Cynden, Logan, and I went to a club in Melitopol. It was our first club experience in Ukraine. It was also one of the first times I have been invited to something that started after 10pm since college, maybe. The woman at the door asked us why we were talking so much and collected our left hands to give us bracelets. I felt like I was at a NYC venue with a bitchy ticket lady and I loved it. When we opened the door to the main dance hall, I was transported to the eighties where they somehow figured out a way to play music from the future. Fog filled the dance floor, surrounding only itself since no one was dancing. We screamed over the music and watched people come into the low lit red and blue neon room with silver accents. We drank some conyak and cherry juice to get the true 1980s Robitussinesque buzz. At some point after midnight, the club host wished all the women a "Happy Women's Day" and proceeded to play a really long rock ballad on his electric guitar. Dancing was really fun. I am embarrassed to admit that I definitely tried to shuffle on the dance floor, which was surrounded by mirrors, so no one could hide from whatever nonsense was going on. The strangest thing of all was not the stripper poles or even the empty lady cage floating above the bar, but the fact that when I looked around at everyone dancing, I saw women just staring at themselves in the mirror, wiggling not for others or with men, but for themselves. It was definitely an unforgettable experience!
It's kind of awesome to be able to say that so many unforgettable things have happened and will continue to happen to us here in Ukraine. We are lucky to live in new place, to meet new people, to experience life in a foreign country, to witness and understand the similarities and (sometimes strange) differences in our cultures. A friend of mine put into words what I have been thinking a lot about recently--because we live here in Ukraine as Peace Corps volunteers, we will forever be invested in what happens to this country. It's true. By being here, we care so much more now about this part of the world. Maybe we don't always agree with or understand everything that goes on--like the mirror dancers or the Russian that's being spoken to us--but we will carry it with ourselves forever.