Saying goodbye to Kirovograd
There comes a time in each PCV’s service when she says goodbye to her community, colleagues, and friends. For me, that time came last week, during my final week in Kirovograd.
I have to admit, I was disappointed at how the goodbyes started. I had told my primary organization more than three weeks in advance when my final day would be, and I did not expect anyone to throw me a party, but I did expect SOMETHING. This, it turns out, was a mistake on my part. My second to last day I asked one of the women whether my counterpart would be in the following day. No, I was told, she is sick. Apparently no one thought it was important for me to have that information before I asked. My final day, no one said goodbye – the director, deputy director, people with whom I had worked on projects – no one. When I got up to leave, two of the women in the department wished me well, and that was that.
Like I said, I was disappointed. I had worked at this place for a year and a half, been there at least three days out of each week, done projects, trainings, virtual presentations, etc. and really had no goodbye. I left that day in not the greatest of moods – my feelings were a bit hurt, truth be told. I felt completely unappreciated.
After a nice dinner with a couple other Volunteers, my evening was looking better. The next day, I decided to get ambitious and pack one of my suitcases. That’s when reality really started hitting home – I was actually packing, throwing things away, cleaning up my place, NOT buying food because I did not want it to not be eaten by the time I leave.
On Thursday the university held a little goodbye celebration for me – a happy 180 from my non-goodbye two days previous. They had champagne, chocolate, and cake, sang a few songs for me, said some really nice things about me and my guest lectures, and then they
brought out my present. What – present? Turns out, they had listened to me and remembered when I talked about going to western Ukraine (Lutsk in the summer of 2010 and the Carpathians in early summer 2011) and how I had not purchased a traditional Ukrainian blouse, or vyshyvanka, either time. So they purchased one for me! It was really nice to sit there with some of the students who had come to my lectures and to realize that I actually did have an impact on them, even though I did not realize it at the time I was giving the guest lectures.
My goodbyes continued on Friday, when I went to the Technical College and had cake and quizzes, and got my photo taken with the director and the students; later that afternoon I had a nice three hours with a woman from the Pedagogical University and one of the students I had gotten to know. We had a fabulous three-hour talk, and I wish we had had more opportunities for such talks during my time in Kirovograd.
My final day in Kirovograd – Saturday at Sasha and Alyona’s school. I had my last two sessions of assisting them with their English classes, then went to the banya for one last visit before my departure. I was happy to do so, after not having had a shower all week (I did the proverbial bucket bath because my water heater broke nine days previous to my moving out, so of course it was not repaired before I left). It was a happy and relaxing way to spend my final evening in Kirovograd.
Sunday dawned and I packed up the rest of my things. Luckily for me, my friend had come in on Saturday to help me. Unfortunately, a few things happened in the previous few days that seemed to set in motion a chain reaction of events that meant a challenge for me to get to Kiev. I wanted to make sure that I had seats on the bus to Kiev that I wanted to be on, so I had purchased the tickets three weeks in advance, and put the tickets in a place where I would be sure to remember them.
Unfortunately, I also had a habit of keeping old train and bus tickets to use as bookmarks. During my paper cleanup last week, I found what I thought was an old bus ticket envelope and threw it away. On Wednesday (which happened to be a holiday in Ukraine), I read something that made me think to look for my tickets. I could not find them. I started to panic, searched everywhere, and then, with a sinking feeling, I realized what I had done a week prior. I asked someone (native Ukrainian) whether she thought I would be able to get the tickets reissued, and she agreed to help me try the next day.
The following day, we went to the ticket office and unfortunately, I could not “prove” that I had bought the tickets (because in Ukraine the tickets ARE the proof of sale), so I got to repurchase the tickets (thus spending more money than I had anticipated, because I had budgeted pretty close for my final days in Ukraine). I was not a happy person but as there was nothing I could do to change the situation, all I could do was accept it, suck it up, and buy two new tickets.
I put THOSE tickets into my wallet, and was ready to use them the morning of our departure. Getting to the bus, however, turned out to be more of a challenge than we anticipated.
The morning of my departure, I asked the “concierge” at the dorm to order a taxi to pick us up at 10:15 (the bus left from the center of the city at 10:50) and was very specific in telling her, and making sure she told the dispatcher, that I had two LARGE suitcases, two people, and other bags. I repeated, and made her repeat, LARGE suitcases – two of them.
The car arrived, and was nowhere near large enough to accommodate the suitcases. So the concierge started yelling at the driver, the driver yelled back, the concierge went inside to call and yell at the dispatcher. She came back out and I told her we did not have time to wait for another taxi, so we headed to the bus stop to get a marshrutka to the center. The driver waited for me to lift the suitcases and other bags in, and for my friend to do the same, and charged us double because of the bags we were carrying. That was the easy part. Getting off the marshrutka was the hard part – we got to the center and I got off with one suitcase, telling people to wait because there were more bags. The people, instead of listening to me and waiting, or assisting me in any way, pressed in closed to the door of the marshrutka.
By the time I got the second suitcase off, and my friend was coming off as well, I was swearing at the people in English because they were being so rude. Not a great way to start the trip. Then we walked two blocks, arriving at the bus stop as the bus was arriving. I showed the driver my luggage tickets, put the suitcases under the bus, got on the bus, and realized that I could not find the tickets. I felt that sinking feeling in my stomach again – asked the bus driver whether I had given him the tickets (he said no), went looking for them, did not find them.
At this point, I started breaking down – I couldn’t help it. Between purchasing the tickets twice, LOSING them twice (which was not like me at all – I am usually the person who does not lose these types of things), the taxi and marshrutka stress – I had had enough, and started to cry. I felt bad for my friend, having to deal with my mini meltdown.
Then the driver got back on and handed me my tickets – he said he had found them. I didn’t care where he found them – all I cared about was not having to buy tickets a third time. Luckily for us, the drive up to Kiev was uneventful – uncomfortable, with all of our bags, but uneventful. We found a taxi to my friend’s house quickly, and a driver who did not try to extort us for more money than he should have, arrived at my friend’s apartment, and found that not only did he help us bring the suitcases up, but he had already ordered pizza for dinner, which had arrived minutes before we did.
So here I am, my final week in Ukraine, having said goodbye to Kirovograd.