"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

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An afternoon I'll remember forever.

Sometimes the most unexpected situations turn into some of the best memories. Yesterday was one of those days.

One of my favorite photos from Ukraine so far

This happens quite a lot in Ukraine, mainly because nothing turns out the way it was supposed to. I have learned to live with and love this fact of Ukrainian life because never know what each day will bring. My lessons at school have been scattered and random because there isn't a finalized schedule yet, so much of my day is spent researching projects, chatting with teachers on their breaks, and starting/finishing a few books. Yesterday, I went home to do laundry and about 5 minutes later heard a knock at the door.

"Benjameen!" It was Anastasia Serhivna, a fellow English teacher and one of my Counterparts and mentors in Kolky. "You're coming with me to pick potatoes" (Obviously she knew I have no plans). I hurriedly changed into what I thought would be appropriate potato picking clothes and we walked to the other side of Kolky.

We arrived at a house I'd been to before, but only briefly for tea right before school ended. It was the home of a former English Teacher (in fact she was the English Teacher for all of the current English Teachers) and she was delighted to see us. She is now retired and uses crutches to get around, but her spirit is contagious and she British accent when she speaks English is endearing.

We walked around the side of her house and I heard lively and quite familiar chatter coming from the small field. There were 5 other teachers from my school who had already started digging. "Benjameeeeen," they squealed! Next thing I knew, I was getting a 10 second tutorial in digging potatoes, and then it was off to the races.

Natalia Vasylivna (Vice Principal/English Teacher) with some of my colleagues

After about 15 minutes of digging, it became clear that I should be the bucket runner and take the buckets full of potatoes into the potato shed (behind the corn stalks in the photo above). It seemed like every time I'd get back, two more buckets had filled up! I quickly realized these ladies were professionals and had obviously done this before!

This is about 1/3 of the potatoes harvested yesterday!
Still kicking myself for not getting the final HUGE mound

It only took about 2 hours to finish the back lot and the side, but time absolutely flew by. I had such a great time listening to the stories these ladies were telling, laughing at the gossip they had to share, and taking to heart all the advice they had for me. A little translation was needed at times, but for the most part I was in my Ukrainian mode and not only building my vocabulary but also my confidence in communicating. They were really surprised when I told them I understood their plotting to get me married to a nice Ukrainian girl. Ukrainian women LOVE playing matchmaker, especially when you're "such a handsome, intelligent, and funny young man"! (And you wonder why I love it here so much!)

Making progress!

Backyard is all finished! Enjoy the worms, Ms. Hen!

Carrying in the final two buckets!

Finished with the side yard, too!

Gladly accepting a few peaches!
(...Actually, A LOT of peaches being forced on me!)

Of course no potato harvest would be compete without a celebration, so we took advantage of one of the fast disappearing warm evenings and had a meal outside. Of course there was vodka and wine, toasts and tears, food and more food, and then more food and dessert. The perfect reward for an afternoon of hard work. 

Enjoying a nice after harvest meal
(Anastasia Serhivna on my left in blue)

Can you find the vodka? It hiding...
(Natalia Vasylivna on my left)

I don't know what made this particular afternoon so special, but it certainly will be a highlight in my Ukrainian experience.

1 comment:

  1. You're writing is really great. The more I read, the more I enjoy reading. Yes, there are many Ukrainian women who love to play matchmaker with good, honest, young western boys like you. I live in Odessa Ukraine if you'd ever like to see another side of Ukraine.