Today was one of those days that was unusual, interesting, a little bit exhausting…which means it is one of those days that I felt was a good one.
It started with tea at Sasha and Alyona’s, before we headed out to the opening of two more Bibliomist centers; one in a Rayon center called Oleksandriya and the other in a village near Oleksandriya – I believe it was called Priyoolivka. I thought we were going to stop on the way and pick up someone from the train station in another town, but found out that she had already arrived in Kirovograd, so we all set out to Oleksandriya.
Boring so far? Well, I had to lay the foundation for the story.
We were going along just fine, they were doing most of the talking but I occasionally chimed in, when suddenly we saw a bunch of cars pulled over and a truck that was stopped, which was putting forth a whole lot of smoke. Hmm – what was going on? All of a sudden I saw the flames – under the bed of the truck. This was not a pickup but not a semi – one of those freight trucks that is around the size of a one-bedroom apartment moving van. So not tiny, not huge. But why were the flames coming from UNDER the bed of the truck? How did the tire catch on fire?
I later found out that the truck had likely been overloaded, which likely caused the bed to rest on the tire, etc.
So we stopped and waited for a minute, then Sasha tried to move through because we were going to be late for the first opening. We were stopped and they asked for water. I had a 500 ml bottle, which they took.
Really? Because 500 ml is going to put out those flames?
They had also been using blankets to try to put it out (which only served to burn the blankets), as well as other water that they collected from people in the cars that had stopped (mostly because they could/would not pass a burning truck). Then someone realized that the fire extinguisher that he (and everyone else – why??) carries in the back of his car would come in handy about then…and suddenly, out came about four of them.
After contributing his fire extinguisher, Sasha decided we could wait no longer, and we moved forward – on to Oleksandriya!
After a start like that, one would think the day could be no more eventful. But I found out today that the smaller the community, the bigger the deal they make of winning computers from the Bibliomist program. At Oleksandriya, we were met by a cat – okay, a person in a mascot-type cat costume, and a lot of people. We were given the VIP treatment – brought to a separate room, where they took our coats, given front-row seats, and asked to speak. I decided to brave it and speak in Russian.
Generally, I do not have a problem with public speaking, even impromptu – when I can speak in English. I actually have gotten rather good at it over the years. However, public speaking in a language with which I struggle…well, that is another matter. But I figured I had to face my fear and did…and I thought it was a disaster but Sasha gave me a thumbs up. The thing is…today was Ukrainian day. We were in a small city and then in a village, so they all spoke Ukrainian. Except me. Oh well…
There was more though! After we all spoke, the cat came back out, as did its friend the bear (what I deduced to be a bear, based on its costume). They performed a skit, then a clown came out and performed a skit, there was the ribbon-cutting, and then a couple more people spoke. Then they brought out the cake – yum! Time to eat!
Alas, I was not to have cake this time…but some of us got something better – we were brought to a separate room and had champagne, fruit, cheese, and chocolate. Not bad, right?
Oh, but it gets better.
Our next destination was the village. I will simply call it that because I am not sure I have the name right anyway. It is not too far outside Oleksandriya, so we got there quickly, and were invited in to the “house of culture”, where the library is located (not uncommon for a village). I thought we would be brought to the library, so I was a bit confused when we were brought into the performance hall instead…
Which was FREEZING, by the way. The small space heaters they had hanging, though there were many, did little good to keep it warm in there.
But anyway, I digress…
They put on a CONCERT to celebrate getting two computers from Bibliomist! As in a concert with singing and dancing. It was really nice. Then the requisite inviting the guests up to talk – I deferred to the PCV who is currently living (for one more day) in the village – I did not want to speak in English and was a little uneasy about my Russian after experience number one, and really, it made more sense for her to speak than it did for me.
After all that, it was upstairs to see the library and then – lunch! YUM! Homemade varenyky with cabbage. Now, I usually avoid varenyky with cabbage because the ones I find in the store are not too tasty. But these were fabulous and I am at the moment sorry that I do NOT live somewhere that has either a kitchen or a baba or both. And of course, because it was a celebration, we drank wine with lunch, and had a few toasts.
After lunch, it was back to Oleksandriya, where we had a business meeting, then tea and cognac (so that makes champagne, wine, and cognac in one day, over the span of about five hours), then it was back home to Kirovograd.
I like days like today. Did I get a lot “done” today? That depends on how you define it. I did not sit at the computer and produce a lot (and I am woefully behind in my work right now, oh well…) but I did what I think is more important – community building.