"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ending school with a bang...and a few concerts!

If I can say one thing is for sure, Ukrainians know how to celebrate Graduation. It definitely lived up to all of the hype that everyone gave it the past couple of weeks.

Friday was Last Bell, a sort of closing ceremony for all of school. The band plays, teachers get lots of flowers, the students sing, and some of the 11th Formers asked teachers to do a Last Bell dance. I gladly participated, enjoyed all of the festivites. I even have 6 bouquets of flowers to show for it!

School Administration (Minus our Director), Mr. Mayor,
and some people from the Regional Offices telling us Kolky has one of the
best schools in Ukraine! Go Kolky Lyceum!

The best students in all of Ukraine!
 To close the Last Bell ceremony, it's tradition for a leaving 11th Former to put a soon-to-be 1st Former on his shoulders and carry her around as they ring the Last Bell together, symbolizing the beginning and end of school.

The Last Bell of the Year!

 Saturday is when the real fun begins...Graduation! The best way to describe it would be a mix between American Graduation and Prom. It had the ceremony, awards, and short speeches of a Graduation mixed in with elaborate (and expensive) dresses and hair styles, as well as a big dance party like you would find a Prom.

At 3 in the afternoon, all of the students, their parents and families, and some teachers gather at school to take photos and show off their new wardrobe additions.

Most of the 11th Formers before Graduation

Then, as a group, we parade through town arm-in-arm, while most of the village is out on the street cheering and checking out what everyone is wearing. We parade to the church, where all of the students are blessed, and give thanks for the accomplishments. In Orthodox churches, women must cover their heads to go inside. Probably one of the funniest things was seeing all of the girls, in the short and some revealing dresses, having to cover their heads to go into the church.

After that we parade to the local "House of Culture" to have the Graduation ceremony.

Joining-in on the parade

The 3-hour ceremony is much more like a concert (...when in Ukraine) with a few short speeches. Students are awarded their diplomas and other Academic and Athletic awards. One tradition in Kolky is for the 10th Formers to "roast" the outgoing 11th Form class. They do small skits, sing songs they wrote, and even put up a slide show. I got a laugh out of it, and only understood about half! 

Some 4th Formers doing what they do best!

Two of my favorite 5th Formers - Ulyana and Volva

The 11th Formers close the ceremony with a Waltz that they practiced for weeks, and then a closing good-bye poem and song for the teachers. I even got an English shout-out from one of my favorite students, Tonya!

The 11th Formers final song!
(One of my favorite photos of the night!)

After the graduation ceremony ended (around 8 p.m.), the parade of new graduates moved to celebrate at the after party! We walked for a good 25 minutes to another village to a restaurant where the parents had decorated the whole room! There were tables for all the students to sit, and also for the teachers and parents. Food and drink was, of course, in abundance and I had a great time with my colleagues and students.

With Natalia Vasylivna -A Vice Principal, English Teacher, and one of my Counterparts!

The entire night consists of shots, eating, shots, dancing, shots...rinse, lather, and repeat. The students don't get vodka, but rather unlimited champagne. The dancing was a lot of fun, too and I think my students were surprised to see me bust some moves on the dance floor. What was also really cool was that the parents were just as into it! They had their own circle and really never stopped dancing either! By the end of the night, I had won a dancing competition and two awards: Best Teacher Dancer and Honorable Guest! I was pretty proud of myself.

Around 5 a.m., the whole parade moves back to Kolky and we walk to the bridge, about 20 minutes away. The entire class watches the sunrise and celebrate with more champagne and some sleepy cheering. I was exhausted but joined in on the fun until I b-lined straight to bed around 6:30 a.m.

Watching the sunrise at 5:30 from the bridge

Summer Camp at school has started, but I'm still unsure what that means. The first two days I sat at my desk for two hours and really did nothing, and today I'm going to an Awards Ceremony (Concert) with some students and teachers. We'll see what role I play in the whole Summer Camp scheme, but right now I'm content sipping coffee, listening to the birds, and enjoying life in Kolky. Hope all is well for you, too.

And this is where I'll be spending the my summer!

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