December 1st, 2005

long beard

evening & morning rasps

(written Wednesday, November 30th)

Just to throw you off, here’s a bite-sized update.

Today I am beginning a new era in Ostroh. It will be called, henceforth, the “No Bitching Era.” I have thirty-eight days left in which to focus on the positive. Therefore, incidents such as the gaggle of teenagers mocking me tonight when I stopped to buy a chocolate bar (“Anhiliskyy! Anhiliskyy!”) and any observations related to domestic matters (like getting a no-reply when I’m double checking that I (am) understand / understood) will go unelaborated. It’s all the same acidic blah blah blah. Since I am certainly suffering from depression (all my Ukrainian friends are asking me why I’m unhappy without any prompting from myself – they’re keen body-language readers, I’ll give them that), my attention needs to be taken away from these soon-to-become pointless gripes.

I’ve always gotten along really well with my host brother Roman. I wish I knew more people like him. He’s very calm, easy-going, and has a great sense of humour. Often he’s the only person in the house who finds me funny. I’m also getting along much, much better with Vadim. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t care if he’s here or not, and I’m genuinely happy to see him when he gets back from his home village. He tries out some English phrases on me now, and I see him for him, not just a source of inconvenience and discomfort. I sound ridiculous, and it probably boils down to my poor communication skills. I’ll think about that later tonight.

Roman noticed my copy of The Beatles – “Forever Gold,” the pirated double-CD collection I purchased in Odesa that was “Made Near EU.” He wanted to copy the songs, including such hits as:

I Should Have Know Better
Runn For Your Life
With A Little Help Of My Friends
and, my personal favourite,
We Can’t Work It Out

Seriously, I enjoyed listening to “Michelle” as I waited for my supper – pink rice and beef, salo and fried egg, and some delicious homemade cake served with Kras, Ukraine’s answer to Cape Breton Bru. I’m well fed, I have my health and my friends; really, what could be wrong?

I suspect that even if I were magically transported to Canada this very second, my state of depression and aversion to people would persist for weeks, permeating into every moment that I’m not entertained or otherwise distracted. This is because Ostroh is merely a catalyst, not an ongoing cause, of said depression. I am the cause of my own troubles, and I can’t very well leave myself behind in Ukraine, can I? Changes take time, and it will take time for me to make myself better. I can already see that readjusting to Canada is going to be extremely difficult.

But, as Nic says, the experience is worth it.

For the curious, the NetCorps team (my successors!) will be arriving in Ostroh tomorrow (Friday). They missed their connection in Winnipeg (and therefore their outbound flight from Toronto) several days ago and were forced to split up due to their number. (I assume 16... =) It worked out well for everyone except the CWY bean-counters, as they’ll have to foot the bill for the Canadians to spend two nights in Kyiv, who are waiting for the Ukrainians who are spending two nights in Toronto. Both parties are probably having the time of their lives right now. I kind of wish I was with them in spirit – discovering Edmonton and Warsaw and Kyiv were such thrills for me.

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(composed today, December 1st)

Everyone here seems to like “Yesterday,” and I think it’s because it’s in the Oxford English textbooks that they employ at Ostroh Academy. It’s now on repeat on Roman’s computer and it’s been played more than fifteen times in a row. I’m holding my tongue because anything that comes out now will be loaded with sarcasm, such as, “You know, they do have other songs,” or, “Yesterday, such a frequent song today, it makes me want to go away...”

Roma found me interrupting the screen saver and I asked in my morning rasp, “Mind if I change the song?” to which we both laughed.

There’s something nasty happening in Singapore today – an Australian is being hanged for trafficking heroin. The problem is, he was doing it to get his addict brother out of a loan shark debt. The Singapore authorities, under appeal from the Australian government (including the prime minister) have bent the no-physical-contact rule for death row inmates and allowed Nguyen, 25 to hold hands with his mother on her last visit. The family and the Australian government had asked for a hug, but were denied. You can check this out on Google News, but you might miss this revealing bit of an article in The Austrailian:

"We hear of many cases where requests have been made for physical contact and they've been denied." [Alexander Downer, Australian Foreign Minister]
Mr Downer rejected a statement from Singapore that full contact encounters could be traumatic and have a destabilising impact on prisoners.
"My view is that a prisoner who is to be executed confronts the greatest of all destabilisation to have his life taken away from him, so I don't really identify with that statement," he said.
"I am, nevertheless, glad that some physical contact will be possible and they have made a special exemption in this case because of the efforts that the prime minister and I have made and we appreciate that."
Mr Downer also made it clear that any last-minute attempt to save Nguyen's life would fail.

See also: Hangman promises good job