March 29th, 2006

long beard

at last, my update for the group

Hi, guys! I'm sorry I haven't been up to updating things for you; I would like to be able to say that I've been living under a rock for the past three months, but the real reason I haven't been in touch is because I'm too embarrassed to be. Still, this is only a temporary setback, and if I take appropriate action I should be back to my old self again in no time. I believe that writing this is a step along that path. I'll try not to focus on the negative – you probably know I have a tendency to do that, and for the past few months I've been spinning in a rut, a snake trying to survive by eating its own tail.

First of all, I'd like to thank Sophie for getting the updates thing started – where would we be without her unquestioning, all-accepting, best-assuming, beautiful spirit?

(You know, as good as this feels to write, and as important it is that it be done, this is just one teensy little item on the "1,000,001 Things William's Been Neglecting" list, but I guess that's focussing on the negative again, so I'll put that thought away for now. On the positive side, I'm getting ideas for new things to do just from doing this. Imagine how happy we'd all be if we could just do the things we need to do when they need to be done!)

I suppose by now you guys want some news. Actually, I'll give you whatever you want – do you want weather instead? For tonight, a few clouds. Winds northwest 20 km/h, gusting to 40, becoming light this evening. Low zero. Currently we're at plus six.

In the news this hour, one former CWY exchange participant is still unemployed and facing adversity after three months off his second program. Is he lacking confidence, is he undereducated, or is he just lazy? Film at 11.

* * *

Ukraine had a lot of fabulous moments. There were a few isolated times when I felt happy to just be alive, when I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. I'd say, overall, I had a pretty good time of it. Sure, there were a few major, major problems, such as:

- My host family was very glum, sour, and taciturn, but this was still a learning experience. Still, I should have given up on a bad situation and allowed Eduard to find me another place to live. I mostly stayed just to be stubborn and to prove to everyone watching (but who really cared?) that I could survive a less-than-ideal situation. There was one participant who would have given me grief behind my back for doing this as he did for others, but in the end (which comes eventually, despite feelings to the contrary) the opinions of such people don't matter nearly as much as we've come to think they do.

- Generally speaking, Ostroh Academy is more of an image partner than a development partner. You might think that after six years of running two programs a year in the same small town, that there might be a dearth of new and innovative things to do. You would be right. Ostroh Academy is a fine institution, but they really weren't all that interested in us, especially since we didn't come attached to Ukrainians who got to go to Canada, boosting their image as an internationally hip institution.

I guess I don't have to go any further, because just about every one of the other problems I could name is a side effect of those two conditions. So I'll spare you that, unless you want to read my boo- I mean, my blog. ( or, to narrow down the entries, try:

The most fun I had on the program was when I took a week near the end to go to Poland. I was able to do this because the program had semi-officially come to an end, so there wouldn't be a big problem with me leaving the country, as long as I didn't shout about it too much. Ah, those were a good few days – meeting Czarek's family, Czarek's dog eating my shoelaces, getting picked up in Wambrzezno by Pan Andrzej, and going back to Pluznica and having New Year's at TRGP… also having lunch with Marcin and Monika and Wojtek… it was awesome! I'm smiling about it all right now! Hands down, the week in Poland was the best part of my six-month experience.

So after all that was done (and I had an exciting little episode with Lufthansa in Kyiv where they kicked me off the plane because I barfed just as they were sealing the cabin for take-off – I should have taken Roch's advice and gone to the bathroom and stuck my finger down my throat! … anyway, I ended up going back the next day on AeroSvit – thanks, Eduard! (I would have been really screwed if he hadn't come to help me.)), I went to visit my aunt and uncle in Kitchener, and after a few days I went to stay with my cousin in Toronto.

Among other things, I got to meet up with Michelle, and we went out for some bubble tea and a long conversation. I got laryngitis. =) No, seriously, we had a pretty good time, and it was great to catch up. Michelle seems to be doing okay; she's got this (indeterminate adjective) job at this place where she does this thing, and it's kind of confidential, but she has a very definite feeling about this thing, and the place, and the people(*), and I'm sure she would share it all if she could.

* - Or possibly Rigellians.

I took a bus trip down to NYC a few days later for my Grant Aunt's 100th birthday – I'd never been there before, and it was a great chance to see all sorts of relatives. Then I went back to Toronto, got my stuff, and flew back down here on my last paid-for-by-CWY flight. <sniff!>

And that pretty much brings us up to today, except for one thing. Miranda was down here for a conference, so we got to meet up on Sunday for Turkish food and a few beers. It was a lot of fun. I'd really missed all her stories and insights and observations, and I hope I can get my act together over the next few months and head out West to meet the rest of you in September. (I can't promise anything, though – it's FAR and expensive, and it might be more fun if we waited since Ashley may be ever-so-slightly busy! But I'll try if I can!)

I haven't been as good at keeping in touch lately as I should be, though Miranda says it is hard to stay in touch just for the sake of staying in touch when there isn't some huge, overriding thing you have in common in addition to the pleasant memories of shared experience. For instance, the people in Pluznica were just happy to see me; they weren't concerned that I wasn't sending them enough cards or e-mails or whatever. They weren't even really that annoyed that my Polish hadn't gotten any better! =) If only my Ukrainian host family were so nice!

Anyway, I guess that's all I have to say for now. Thanks for reading, and when I get some happy non-social news (or, I suppose, some very happy social news, although that would count on the non-social [employment] news), you'll be the first to hear it! Take care, everyone! I miss you all!

~ William