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Kieving it

November 18, 2011

I arrived in Kiev on Tuesday evening, with a two-fold purpose – to conduct training on Westlaw at the Rada, and to visit Peace Corps for a flu shot. Though to be honest, the flu shot was a by-the-way – my real purpose was to conduct the training and, I thought, touch base with some people I had previously met.

I have been able to do that with only a few people so far, because, it seems, November is a popular month to travel here in Ukraine. My friend Yulia is in Lviv. A man I know is visiting the U.S. (he’s an American who works here). Another woman I know is somewhere else in Ukraine for some kind of work conference. Another man I was supposed to meet with has bronchitis. And so on.

However, I was to meet a new person last night, and was invited to a “young diplomats happy hour” to do so. I told him that I am neither young nor a diplomat, and he replied that he was not either, but he was invited by a mutual acquaintance at the Embassy. As it turns out, he was unable to make it, but luck was with me last night because not only was I able to catch up with our mutual acquaintance, but I was able to meet some new people as well, and to eat some American-style bar food. Bar food as in tortilla chips and salsa, onion rings, chicken “fingers” and mozzarella sticks.

Where was I able to find such food in Ukraine? A restaurant in the Podol neighborhood called Arizona. Apparently it is owned by an American and serves American food. At a premium, I might add – if it were not for the happy hour, I would not have been able to eat anything there because everything is waaaaaaaaay out of my budget as a Peace Corps Volunteer. As in a hamburger costs 140 uah (at 8 uah per dollar, you do the math) and even worse, fajitas for 233 uah. Oy, what torture it was to see the menu and know there was NOTHING I could buy. But then out came the appetizers the organizers of the happy hour had ordered…

It seems that every time I come to Kiev and write about it, my posts are largely centered on the theme of food…

As to my purpose in being here, yesterday I had a happy surprise with my training. Another woman and I decided that as important as it is to know how to use Westlaw, it is more important to be able to accurately translate legal concepts and issues from Ukrainian to English, to be able to conduct a more effective search. It is also important to “talk” to Westlaw in a way that it understands. This was the focus of my training yesterday, and in my afternoon session I was happily surprised that not only did my students understand this, but they were asking questions that led me to teach them more “advanced” ways to search. It was a nice feeling. Although these sessions do not usually have a huge amount of people, when people seem to really get it and ask more questions, I feel as if I have reached them.

I have to admit, I like coming to Kiev every couple of months to do this. I like being in Kiev (well, it is no secret that I like cities) and feel like I am more “in my element” here. Sometimes in my city I still do not feel as if I really fit. It is not that there is anything wrong with the people I know there. It is just a feeling…one of those things that I really cannot describe. But when I am here, I feel as if I pack a lot of things into five or seven days. Part of the reason is out of necessity – I am not here very often – but things move faster here, which, after all of this time, is still more comfortable for me.

I am at the point in my service where people are asking me what is next for me – some also ask if I am going to extend. The answer at this moment is “I don’t know”. I don’t know what’s next – I can tell you what I would like to happen, but I don’t know what WILL happen. This does not seem to be good enough for some people, but it is the truth. Uncertainty is part of life and a part of my life that I have accepted – as a person who embraces change, it is kind of ridiculous if I then do not embrace uncertainty. I cannot say that I have embraced it, but I have accepted it.

In the meantime, I have about six and a half months to go in my service. Who would have known two years ago what would have happened, and where I would be now?


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