About a month ago, my friend T, who went on the photo excursion with me, asked me to come and assist her with a mini-camp in Smila for two days this week. When I agreed to the proposition, little did I know what was in store for me…
She had been to Kirovograd, and told me she had never had a problem getting a ticket to Kirovograd, so when we went to the bus station, we expected to wait maybe 45 minutes to an hour for a marshrutka. Perhaps because this is a holiday weekend, or people are generally moving between cities, when we arrived to the station, we were told that the next bus that went through Smila and had tickets available left at 11:00 p.m.
Now, one of the first things you learn in Peace Corps, during the application process, is patience and flexibility. So we practiced these two traits while visiting a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who was staying in my city for about a month, in an apartment in the center of the city. Rather convenient – instead of having to schlep all the way across the city and wait for a few hours, only to return to the station for our bus, we decided to socialize with her instead.
So it was that we ended up on an 11:00 p.m. bus, with my phone ringing every half hour from our host, who was socializing with her Ukrainian friends while waiting for us to arrive. Luckily, we were able to get off at a “stop” that was close to where she lives (around 1:15 a.m.) got back to her apartment, crashed, and got up to conduct the sessions for today.
The organizer of the mini-camp was a PCV who lives in Smila (which, by the way, means “strong woman”) and told her school we would be coming. True to Ukrainian form, the school arranged for a wonderful welcome from the students, which was filmed by the local television channel (television appearance number 5). Our sessions were about human trafficking, photojournalism, and photography. It was a good day, and the students really liked us.
And then came the best part. At the end of the day, we decided to do the “Cha-Cha Slide” in the American way, and showed them how we did it (they had performed it for us early in the day). We got a bit of exercise, a lot of laughs, and had some photos taken.
I forgot just how hospitable Ukrainians are! After working at my site, where people are used to seeing me, and used to seeing Americans, we did not expect the reception we got. We were not only welcomed by the school and the television station, but were fed a “snack”
at 11:15 and then lunch (or as they call it, dinner) by noon. At the end of the day we were presented with chocolate.
I told Theo we could get used to this treatment!
For those who are wondering, yes, I did get involved in the “Cha Cha Slide”, even though I had never done it before. I can still bust a move, and surprise people with that fact!
We ended our day with socialization, seeing E off at the station, and coming back to relax before conducting day two tomorrow. It’s a nice respite from my site – to see what other people do, see their site, get to know their “people” here. But we are still working 🙂
So tomorrow is another day. It is a good start to my summer activities. Let’s hope they all go so well!