Cliff Gardner

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chocolate butter

Breakfast is always a big thing for me. This morning, though, things got a little out of hand. I should probably mention that the best thing ever invented is something called "chocolate butter" and honestly I don't know how I lived without it. Chocolate butter, spread of baton, (bread) has become a staple of my diet. However, last night I decided to put it back in the refrigerator because I figured that since stores tend to keep this stuff cold, they must have a good reason, and because my policy on dairy products is to not take any chances, I thought I should toss it in overnight. The problem, though, came this morning when it was all cold and hard, and consequently, very difficult to spread on bread. So, being the clever guy I am, I set the butter, in the wrapper of course, on my heater and went about cooking my eggs, eating my banana and drinking my coke. Can you guess what happened next? Yes, I forgot about the butter until I heard a crackling sound and smelled smoke. I noticed that the butter had mostly melted all over the heater and was smoking a lot, so I acted quickly and grabbed it, taking it off the heater, which then spilled liquid chocolate butter on the floor, carpet, and me, in my underwear and undershirt. It's worth mentioning that my room now smells delicious!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Splish splash, I was takin' a bath

I bet many of you are concerned with how I'm keeping clean over in Ukraine--and by many of you I mean my mom--so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you all about how I shower here. I mentioned in my last post that the shower temperature-changer-thing is in the kitchen and how it is very annoying to go dripping into another room half a dozen times during my daily showers, so I decided earlier this week to just switch entirely to bucket-baths. Here's how that process goes:

Step One: Fill up two big pans and one tea-kettle with water the night before and set them on the stove. This step is crucial because I only have water in my apartment during certain hours of the day so if I don't fill up the pans the night before, I'll spend the next day looking like Michael Jackson. Well, more than usual at least.

Step Two: In the morning, light all three burners on the stove with matches and try not to burn myself. Again.

Step Three: Go eat a banana and/or a piece of bread while the water heats up. Marvel at how great my diet is.

Step Four: Drink a liter of coke while the water continues to heat up.

Step Five: Realize that the water is boiling and I have no cold water to cool it down with.

Step Six: Read Breakfast at Tiffany's, study Russian and look over my lesson plans. Wonder aloud if the tenant who left the pair of numchucks when they moved out of the apartment was in fact a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Step Seven: Realize the water has gotten cold while I've been killing time.

Step Eight: Realize that I only have ten minutes to shower, get dressed and catch a marshutka (mini-bus) to get to school on time.

Step Nine: Take a really cold bath, get dressed, go to school and teach adorable Ukrainian kids about America, weather and baseball. Love life!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Home remedies

I've noticed that home remedies are very common for various illnesses in Ukraine. For example, my host father wrapped chicken wire around his head when he had a headache. The conversation we had went something like this:

Me: Shto eta?! (What's this?!)
Host dad: Moy golova bolete. (My head hurts)
Me: Isvinite. Tak...ya ne panimayu. Pachimu eta? (I'm, I don't understand. Why this?)
Him: MOY GOLOVA BOLETE. (My head hurts)
Me: Ya panimayu...ti hochish tabletka? (I understand. Do you want a pill?)
Him: Niet spaciba. Mhe nada spat. (No thanks, I need sleep.)
Me: Horasho. Spakoyna noche. (Good, good night!)

My host mom also wrapped a towel around her throat when she had a sore throat, but I was able to convince her to A) take the medicine I offered her and B) go to the doctor because she clearly needed it, all in Russian. So, it's safe to say that my language skills are coming along. In related news, I've been able to explain things to my sixth graders (who are really really adorably cute) in Russian when they don't get what I'm saying in English, which is about right--I speak Russian like a sixth grader. You know, one who shaves and reads the Constitution of the United States for fun. Woohooo takings clause!

Oh, and I moved into my new apartment last weekend and it's great! It even has a shower, although there is a catch--to make the water hotter or colder, I need to mess with a little dial on the gas heater IN THE KITCHEN, meaning that I have to, you know, get out of the shower and go do that. My first shower involved about half a dozen trips into the kitchen, but I eventually got the hang of it. This is probably a good time to mention that my kitchen window doesn't have any curtains. I guess that's one way to get to know my neighbors. :-)

I love and miss you all!

Monday, January 15, 2007

First day!

The last few weeks have been very relaxing. I've read three books since I've been here (The Bell Jar, The Catcher in the Rye and The Life of Pi, all very good) and now I'm down to reading an American Studies textbook because I'm out of other books to read. I think a trip to my Oblast center and their huge library, complete with a "Windows on America" English fiction section, is in order! I've also been doing quite a few push ups and sit ups in my room since it's too cold to run (and it's going to get worse in the department before it gets better I think). Classes started today and I'm super excited about how well they all went! Also, I'll be moving into an apartment of my very own soon and although I really like my host family, it should be a nice change. My language skills are getting a little better every day too. I miss my cluster mates a lot, but all in all, my life is pretty awesome! I love and miss you all! :-)