With the beginning of the school year, fall has officially arrived in Ukraine. In theory, my work schedule should not depend on the school year but because I do guest lectures at a university (soon to be two) and a local college, I find that my work schedule was much lighter during the summer (hence the reason I did some traveling). Of course, after taking time off, most people experience a sort of slump, but then are usually, because they are rejuvenated, able to jump right back into things.
I am finding this to be more of a challenge lately, and am trying to figure out why. Is it because I know that soon I will be putting a lot of focus on what will happen after my Peace Corps service has ended? Is it because, after 17 months in this country, I still get frustrated because I often do not know what is going on around me, due to my frustratingly low language ability? Or because I still cannot express myself the way that I want to?
On Saturday, I had the good fortune to be included in a picnic – a shashlik trip outside of Kiev. I met some nice people and did a great deal of listening, until one of them asked why I was “ignoring” them. After that, the conversation turned more to questions – asking me about things, most of which I cannot be entirely honest about. Not that I lie or want to lie, but in my role as a PCV, I cannot always tell people everything that I think, or what frustrates me, because it is just not a great idea when I cannot provide the proper context, and certainly I do not want to be seen as criticizing this country. One of the people was asking me questions in Ukrainian (a bit of an added challenge, as my Ukrainian is a bit rusty from non-use) and was not happy with the answers I was providing, so she kept asking more questions.
Now, the communication challenge was not entirely one-sided. R was with me and told me that he was also having a hard time understanding what she was trying to get at. Still, I felt as if once again I was severely lacking in ability to have an adult conversation. Then another person asked me the dreaded question regarding race relations in the U.S. How can I explain, in Russian, the history we have, especially surrounding a specific word? Sadly, I still cannot. So even though I met some nice people, I left feeling a bit as if I had been interrogated and that my answers were not satisfactory.
My language slump seems to have extended to work as well. I feel a bit as if I do not know what to do next – not a comfortable feeling, that is for sure. So I am trying to think of more ways to be effective and to enhance what I do.
I do not know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but since I am here, I am here and while I am looking for ways to expand what I do and to enhance what I do, I am not looking for ways to change what I do. Sometimes that is all I can hold on to – that I am still trying, even when I have bad days, or even when it feels like I am not making a difference. I wait for the next sign, so to speak – the next indicator that what I am doing does matter after all. Or the next thing that will tell me that I am actually making progress with the language. Sometimes hope is all I have…but at least I still have that.