Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oh Babe I Hate to Go

I worked at a teacher training summer camp with some (of the best) Peace Corps Volunteers and on the "last" night there, we had a bonfire with all of the teachers and three guitars. We sang pop songs, old Ukrainian folk songs, and we forgot the words to a lot of half sung American folk songs. At the end of the night, after all of the teachers headed back to their rooms, a few Peace Corps Volunteers stayed behind to sing a couple more songs. We ended up singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane." This song used to bring me back to the moments after Thanksgiving dinner when my family would gather around the table after cleaning up to sing songs with Uncle Tom. Now, this song has another meaning for me. It didn't hit me until the next day, when a friend mentioned that he got teary-eyed when we were singing. "We're literally going to be leaving on a jet plane soon," he said. I almost cried.

With a little under four months left in Ukraine, I look at the roll of garbage bags and eight boxes of matches left in my kitchen and wonder if I'll even need to buy more.  Everything we do feels like our potential last time doing it--it might be the last time we see this person, walk that street, or sing that song together. I don't like "lasts" these days, and I hope that they aren't as real as they seem. I'm leaving on a jet plane, but who's to say I won't come back? And who's to say that all of the people that have had such an impact on me won't come and visit me in America?

Speaking of America, I'll be back there in December. I am so excited to see everyone, but at the same time, oh babe I hate to go.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Resurrection of the Written Word

Maybe, my dear readers, you remember my post from April (don't feel guilty if you don't; I hardly remember myself) about how I was writing poetry non-stop. At one point it was oozing out of my ears and I wondered if I should call a doctor until I found a homemade remedy instead--in the form of about 15 rejection letters from online and print poetry journals. However, one little fish managed to break free from the rejection net!

It's a flash fiction story called Native Phantom, and it was published in The Literary Bohemian in June. You can find it here, in the postcard prose section of this pretty Web site. It's my first story published since The Fonthill Dial, Mount Saint Vincent's literary journal that seems to have fizzled out of existence.

I've taken a break from poetry, sort of by accident, and will attempt to re-read and re-edit some of my work and try try try to submit again soon. Most of the rejections I received were boilerplate, but some were really helpful and offered some encouraging words or advice. Let the resurrection begin.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wet Hot Ukrainian Summer

"Well guys, we've made it to the end of the summer in one piece, except for a few campers who are lepers." 

It was definitely a wet, hot, and American summer in Ukraine this year. Logan and I worked at two summer camps through the month of June teaching English. I can't say for sure if all the children made it through unscathed, but I can assure you that they are all alive. 

Put all the good things about Ukraine (and the former Soviet Union) into a summer camp and you get Severyanin summer camp, run by Vladimir Nikolaivich who sometimes wears a jester hat with a serious face. Order, organization, performances, beautiful (beautiful) camp counselors, efficiency achieved! It's so magical that it's almost alarming. Sometimes, at the nightly disco, I'd watch all of the children follow their elders' dance moves perfectly until everyone was moving in the same way. A little bell would go off in my mind, like a bell ringing from the past. Except it wasn't just a regular bell, but the bell on top of a shop door opening and closing as people standing in line enter and exit with a loaf of bread. The flashing lights and music drum-and-base kicked me out of my trance until I was back in 2013--after the fall and just before bedtime.

Put all the not so great things about Ukraine (and the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union) into a summer camp and you get the second camp we worked at this summer. Disorganization, no counselors, no clear authority figures, no efficiency, no тихий час (quiet time), and wild children running around screaming and trying to one-up each other. We were a symbol of collapse, of havoc, of being left alone to fend for ourselves. Whatever we built got destroyed, literally. Even the giant spiders that built their webs on the gazebos at dusk were victims to the destruction. (Side note: a girl captured one of the spiders that captivated Logan for thirty minutes each night so she could hide it in another girl's bed). Whenever we made any progress, we watched it disappear in the form of rocks being hurled from one screaming child to another. BUT, we had each other--Logan and Cynden were there and I'm grateful for that! Even if it meant bonding over the fact that we all had food poisoning together.

I should say that I wrote these thoughts in the middle of my days at this camp when I was feeling a little low and disappointed. It wasn't all terrible. We met some good people, I taught some kids how to play poker, and we learned a lot about each other. Sometimes, the worst experiences end of being the best (and the funniest). All the other experiences stand in comparison and give us the perspective we need to take them with us forever.

Below are some photos of our Wet Hot Ukrainian Summer.

After summer camps, we adventured to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna so stay with me if you want to read about palaces, bubblebutts, cathedrals, sunsets, and the best self-created two-bar pub crawl.

From  the Number One Summer Camp

Logan teaching the campers how to play American Football!

Drawing the play on his belly
I love banquets!

Aftermath of the salt/clay/garbage pit

The mountain man guide that "led" us into the mountains and left us to forage
Carpathian Cyndle
Christmas in July Santa Drawing Game

We survived!
Day trippin' in Romania

Walking across the border