Readjusting to Ostroh has been a challenge. When I got off the marshutke in downtown Ostroh, people were staring at me, and rightly so - what with my Western beige winter coat and Western suitcase (as opposed to a plaid plastic bag with handles that look ready to tear off at any moment). Not for the first time in Ukraine (but for the first time in a while), I felt like a Martian. In any case, my thoughts of saving a few hryvnyy and walking home with my things quickly evaporated - the whole town would have been talking about me. So I acquiesced and hopped in a Daewoo and was home in no time.
My host family was happy to see me back, and I was very happy to see them. I had breakfast and, tired from travelling, slept until the evening. Then I got up from supper, made a few phone calls (including one to Vadim, who wondered if I'd gone back to Canada without saying goodbye), and then unpacked, and slept again. Volodim was working on a paper rather late (for him) - he didn't go to bed until nearly 10:30, so I didn't have to rush myself at all.
Now, Monday… Monday has been a new adventure. The woman at the café in the academy was pleasantly shocked to see me ("Why you stay away so long?!" she beamed) - more evidence that I ought to have made the occurrence and duration of my vacation more widely known. Vadim found me in the Language Centre and we made plans to hang out and whatnot in the evening.
On my way home I stopped in to chat with Lee, who'd just come back from a trip to the northern cities, so when I got home I only had time to grab two bananas and a little bread before going out again to meet Vadim. As it turned out, I needn't have eaten anything, for Vadim's mother served us supper, and I sipped on some tea while I burned a CD full of mp3s - mp3 trading is extremely popular here; in Canada, most people get their songs from the internet, but here most people copy them directly, and most computer-enabled teenagers have cityscape-like groupings of spindles in their rooms, etched with all manner of music, movies and games (the latter two, unfortunately for me, are almost always in Russian).
One of Vadim's buddies joined us, and we walked downtown together. We stopped in at the store to buy bananas, and so I ended up having three in one day, which is definitely a record for the past four months of my life. I bought some chocolate to share, and while I was getting all this arranged, Vadim asked the store clerk if she'd mind if he played a song, since he had his guitar with him. Sure, she'd love it. So Vadim played, and the two guys sung, and the rest of us looked on in awe.
To top it off, just as I was about to joke that we were playing for our food, the clerk gave us a bar of chocolate. We parted in mutual bliss, and Vadim was ecstatic - saying that he'd never done such a thing before, and wondering why he did it then.
We happened to be standing across from the cybercafé (read: gaming place that happens to have internet access; you’ll be the only one reading the news of the day while kids routinely shout over every frag – the ones who are playing, that is; the ones who aren’t run amok like caffeinated banshee-elephants), and we saw a few kids run outside, screaming enough to wake the dead, being jestfully chased by some other kids. I shouted to them, “The terrorists win!” You had to be there.
(This has nothing to do with the story of this evening, but when I was uploading the first episiode of this saga at the cybercafé, the kids were really rude. I shook hands with one of my former students, and they laughed at me, then quietly said “f**k you” as I was saying goodbye to the girl behind the counter. For them, I am a source of entertainment derived from ridicule, and I don’t appreciate it. It’s all I can do to keep my composure at times.)
We went to the dorms, and sat down in Natalia's room, where she made us fried egg sandwiches and tea. Vadim played some more, and I promised Natalia I'd teach some English classes for her, to free up time for her 100-page thesis, a draft of which is technically due today (the 25th), although she has only completed 37 pages. Ouch. On the lighter side, the topic is teenagers in North America and their attitudes and angst, so I suppose if I want to help her in her research, I should just give her the link to LiveJournal. =)
We left the dorm, the guys went home, and I went to join Anya and her friends at the café next to Oasis, from which she had buzzed me earlier. We ended up having a lot of fun playing games that even I could play, like word and gesture memorizations, and (by then we were outdoors) even "Mafia," which thoroughly confused me, but at least I gave it a go.
I had a funny feeling as I walked home at 2am by the light of the moon. Somehow, I knew something was wrong, and that there'd be a repeat of the Volodim Incident. This time I took the care to SMS Olya that I'd need a key left out for me to get in, and on top of that, they all saw me leave. Nevertheless, the door was locked. It would be nice to think that my head was filled with images of bright, sunny fields and happy red hearts, and if your emotional stability depends on believing that, then by all means go ahead.
After what happened last time, I didn't dare wake Volodim - for me, it wasn't even an option. I bitterly determined myself to give up and return to my friends, who would probably still be in the park. (They're all off school this week; it's the Ukrainian equivalent of Reading Week, but it's not quite as wild as a "Spring Break" - nevertheless, it's party time for many.) And after finishing with my friends, it would only be a short while before my host father comes out to milk the cows at 6am. Or maybe I could just stay in town and go to work the next day - I had everything I needed in my backpack. So I walked all the way back out to the end of the village, and I was just about to step onto pavement when I realized that the bathroom window was open earlier today, and would probably still be open (because, as far as I know, I'm the only one who uses that bathroom - I've been there for four months and have never had to wait to get in it, or seen anyone else come out of it). Worth a shot for some sleep, I figured.
So I walked all the way back to the house and investigated the situation. Yes, the bathroom window was open. But boy, it'd be tight, and high - I quickly realized I'd need something to stand on. Ah! A bucket! No, not this one, the bottom is out of it. I found one with a working bottom, set it up (and by now I was quite literally pissed off, which I won't elaborate upon except to say that you should be careful about long coats in the dark, so my language isn't very churchish as I'm orchestrating these machinations), and started tossing my things into the bathroom window (thank heaven the toilet lid was down!), and then, somehow, I twisted around sideways and came in surprisingly gently on my hands.
(It's a good thing I wasn't discovered during all this, as I was frustrated, on the defensive, and ready for a battle.)
Now inside, I enjoyed a bitter triumph and proceeded to remove all traces of my illegitimate entry. I put the buckets back, wiped my shoe prints off the floor and toilet seat, and left the doors and keys exactly as I had found them. My motives weren't very pure here; I wanted them to wonder and sweat about how I got into the house. And if they dared ask me, my answer was going to be "Osmosis."
I made it all the way back to my room (thought: "I'm definitely getting a warning for this! Ha-ha-ha!"), and I even got undressed and into bed without waking Sleeping Beauty. I slept in a bit, past eight o'clock, and I had breakfast shortly thereafter. Not a word was spoken to me except "Yidy Yisty" (literally, "walk eat," as there are two different verbs for "to go"). I sat down just as Olya was finishing, and I asked her, with a smile, "So, is your cell phone working?"
Her response was arcane. She mumbled something about it not really working or that she didn't know where it was, and she dumped her dishes in the sink and escaped from the room. I then realized that it wasn't very nice of me to bait her. Why would making her feel stupid be of any benefit to anyone? But at the time my "wit" was getting the better of me, and it's just as well that she walked away, because I had dozens of sharp-tongued answers prepared for almost any conceivable question. Maybe I can bring this up more civilly tonight when I ask her in person for a key to be left out, since I'll be meeting Anya and the gang again at 9pm.
Well, it's nice to know that nothing's changed at my host family. It's hard when Volodim's around. I don't know why, maybe it's because we don't try hard enough to communicate. We got along swimmingly Sunday, and he even asked me a few questions about my trip and if he could borrow some batteries ("Sure!"). (Tip: I found some Life-brand rechargeable batteries (2000mAh NiMH - not the most powerful or capacious out there, but great value for CD players and backups for your primary camera batteries) at a Shopper's Drug Mart in Ottawa at 4 for $10. You can probably get even better deals now. And don't worry too much if your charger is a different brand - just make sure it'll charge the type of battery in question (NiCad, rechargeable alkaline, NiMH, Li-ion, etc..). My Panasonic Quick Charger works just fine on Energizers and Lifes and probably anything else. ... Anyway, I can’t help but sense his grouchiness day in and out, and I don't know what I can do about it. Communicate more? But I don’t even want to see him sometimes! My heart often sinks at the sight of him, and few people have that effect on me.
Still, it's not yet time to throw in the towel. And what's a CWY exchange without a little breaking-and-entering?