Cliff Gardner

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


So, my school is under quarantine. Don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds, though I did act like Howard Hughes at the beginning of "The Aviator" when they first told me. See, Ukrainian school districts (usually towns) have a policy of cancelling classes if more than a certain percentage (I think it's around 25%) of students are absent because of illness. It actually happens quite often during cold and flu season--every other volunteer from my training cluster has already had one week off because of this policy--so I sort of figured it was going to happen sooner or later. Yesterday it was announced that classes would be cancelled until MARCH 5TH, so everyone has plenty of time to get better. When my class was told about the almost two week break, it was like Mardi Gras/Christmas/A Soccer Riot in my room for a good five minutes. I tried to explain to them that in America, you pretty much go to school unless you're just too sick to get out of bed, and even if half the school is gone, classes still happen and it's their loss for being all sick and stuff. This sort of horrified everyone so I just told them to "get better, my little buddies" and that made them happy. Oh, and if you're worried about my health, don't--I feel fine thanks to the two dozen immunizations and various flu shots I got from the fine folks at the Peace Corps Medical Office before moving to my site. Unfortunately, I might just be the only one in Ochakiv who can say that. Oh well. Vacation! :-)

Monday, February 19, 2007

A long way to go

This might just be one of those stories that ends with "you just had to be there," but whatever, here it goes. My coordinator, a wonderfully talented and nice woman named Tatiana, is in Nikolaev (a city near Ochakiv), going through her "re-certification" process that all teachers must do/attend every five years here. Last week I sent her a text message that read "ya tibya skushat," which I thought meant "I miss you." However, as I learned yesterday, that's not exactly what it means. See, ya tibya skuCHat means "I miss you" and ya tibya skuSHat means "I will eat you up." Don't worry, she wasn't offended at all and actually thought it was really, really funny, in addition to getting what I was actually trying to say. She also got that text right when she was going into the dentist's office to have two teeth pulled and she was really nervous about it, so my accidentally entertaining text helped her relax and get through it. So, I've clearly got a long way to go in terms of learning Russian, but at least I'm having fun while I'm making progress!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

On the road again

I should say before I go any further that I am a very bad driver. During the "behind the wheel" portion of my driving test that I took when I was 18, I made at least two mistakes that should have been automatic failures under Oregon law, but the guy administering the test thought that once I actually got my license, my driving would improve dramatically with practice. Those who have ever driven with me since then can testify to the fact that it hasn't. At all. Getting behind the wheel with me is like drinking too much and deciding to decorate your roof with more Christmas lights. You may get away with it and it'll probably be a little fun but it's still not a good idea.

THAT SAID, over the course of the past four months, it's become clear to me that I'm not a bad driver, just that I was driving in the wrong country. I would fit right in over here. The wacky driving, combined with roads that usually make you feel like you're riding in a paint shaker and very little enforcement of the few traffic laws that exist make for just being NEAR a road that cars could potentially be on an adventure. For example, many enterprising motorists have found a loop-hole to the crater-sized potholes that dominate the roads by simply driving on sidewalks for miles at a time. Others double-park on sidewalks, too, and make U-turns at four-way stops. I will say this--it's very, very entertaining to me, but no one else here seems even a little taken-aback by these developments.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sammy Sosa syndrome

Remember when Sammy Sosa testified before that Congressional Committee that was investigating steroids in baseball and whenever he didn't want to answer a question, he just pretended he didn't understand because he didn't speak English when he clearly understood waaaaaay more than he was letting on? Yea, that's where I'm at with Russian. What? You want this computer? Sorry, I don't understand. What? I'm not allowed to use this blanket on the night train unless I pay you ten griven? Huh? Slower. Please repeat. I'm sorry, I don't understand. Huh? You want to sell me some sort of catalogue/milk/fur coat/waiter heater? Sorry, I understand. I'm sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I don't understand. :-)

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Another food post! Since I've moved into my apartment and started cooking for myself, eggs have become a staple of my diet, and by staple I mean I eat, conservatively, 25 eggs a week. Each day begins with a three egg breakfast (there is also a chocolate-buttered piece of bread, a banana and a coke involved, but the lightly salted egg yolks on my over-easy babies is really the focus) and at least once a week a dinner features a four-egg course. Basically, I'm well on my way to a heart attack.

OH--and I'm 24 now. Seriously, wow. I'm now solidly in my mid-twenties, which weirds me out less than the idea that in only six short years, I'll be 30! Anyway, I love and miss you all and I hope you enjoyed the superbowl!