Cliff Gardner

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Burrrr, it's cold in here! There must be some PCV's in the atmosphere!

My landlady's husband, a really kind man named Anatoli, came by a few days ago to check the gas and electric meters...and turn off my heat. Apparently in Ukraine people are only allowed to use the heat in their apartments until mid-April. Entire towns often turn off the heat to save, I don't know, money, presumably--this happened to Jessica and she's freezing her butt off as I type this. I thought I had found a loophole in this system because my apartment has a gas heater that's not connected to the rest of the building. I turned it on when I moved in and haven't turned it off since. So, when Anatoli came by, we had the following conversation:

A: He nada gaza, ya budu sakrite. (You don't need gas, I will close it) *turns off heater and wraps a bag around the exhaust pipe on my balcony*

Me: Chas, adna minuta. Esle Ya holadna, moshna Ya otkrit gaza? (Wait, one minute. If I'm cold, may I open the gas?)

A: Eta Besna, ochen teplo! (It's Spring, very warm!)

Me: Da, no...ya malinki, y inagda ya holadna. Pajalusta?! (Yes, but...I'm little, and sometimes I'm cold. Please?!)

A: *laughs kindly* Izvinite, neit. Nichivo, Tomac. Smotrete--seychas, 20! (Sorry, no. It's nothing, Thomas. Look--now, it's 70 degrees!)

Me: Ladna...spaseeba. (Ok...thanks.)

It's really not that bad, to be honest--my site is really warm and it's actually getting more and more hot every day. I even rolled up the sleeves of my dress shirt while I was teaching for the first time yesterday. :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Adapters were something I expected to need when I came to Ukraine. After all, it was unreasonable for me to expect that two (or even three) pronged, rectangular American electrical appliance plugs would fit into two pronged, circular outlets. When I got here, I purchased several cheap adapters for about three Griven (so, 60 cents American) and all was right with the world. However, what I didn't expect and what continues to frustrate me is that sometimes even Ukrainian appliances/plugs don't fit into Ukrainian outlets. They're both circular, but usually the appliance plug is too big. This has happened to me on three separate occasions, the first of which involving my iron, which left me looking like I had spent a 14 hour train ride sleeping in my shirt, pant and tie combo that I ended up teaching in all day. I mean, it's no biggie, especially given how cheap adapters are here, but sheesh!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Since my dog bite incident, I've become more aware of the street dogs in my town. That, naturally, makes for a more exciting morning run. Today, though, something really fun happened while I was jogging that I wanted to share. See, since I've been here, I haven't seen anyone else run on the street. Ever. Ukrainians, at least at my site, don't jog. Not that they need to--most people I've seen here, about 95% or so, are in really good shape. It's remarkable, really, considering that I come from a country where about half the population is overweight to an unhealthy degree. Anyway, the result is that when people see me running here, I often get starred at. People seem genuinely entertained by me running. This morning, though, a group of 4 little kids, probably between 6-8 years old, followed me for a couple of blocks like I was Rocky, training for a rematch with Apollo Creed. It was really great!

Something else I wanted to mention--random graffiti. See, every day I notice something new sprayed on the sides of buildings and on brick walls, and much of it is in English. My girlfriend Jessica, for example, has several "BARS!" tags near her apartment building at her site, and remembers seeing several "Freddy Krueger" sprayings at our training site a few months ago. My favorite at my site is "Chocolate CHICKEN," on the way to my school. Rock on!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rabies-free since '83!

I'm back home after the first three of five rounds of rabies shots and I'm fine...I'm going to have by babushka give me the last two! Just remind me to chain myself up before the next full moon. :-) Not much to say on my end--less than two more months left in the school year. I'm going to show some episodes of "The Office" to my English Club kids tomorrow so now Ukrainians will know the genius of Michael Scott and Dwight Shrut. Also, I've signed up to do a couple of camps this summer--one called "Big Bang" (insert joke here) and one called "TOBE" (teaching our boys to excel). I'll be co-teaching a gender and race class at BB and TOBE is the camp I'm doing through the Gender and Development (GAD) working group. Speaking of which, my buddy and GAD co-member KATIE SHEETS tells me that her mom reads my blog and is now concerned for her daughter over the possibility of dog attacks, and I just want to say that my attack really was an anomaly--despite the high number of street dogs, it is very rare for someone to be growled at, let alone bitten, so I'm sure Katie will be fine, but thanks for reading!
I got some great packages and letters from folks lately--my parents are amazing and I love them tons--so yea. Life is good!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Who let the dogs out?! No, seriously.

First let me say that it's not as bad as it sounds. Really. Try to keep that in mind. OK, here it goes: Yesterday morning on my way to school I was attacked by a pack of wild dogs, bitten and scratched, and exposed to rabies. At the insistence of Peace Corps Medical Officers, I got on a train last night to come to Kyiv to get vaccination injections, only blocks away from some of the largest protests in the history of the Ukraine. Normally the policy of PCMO's is to watch the offending dog for ten days to see if it, you know, has rabies, but since there were six of them and between the barking and snapping, I couldn't really tell which one actually bit the back of my leg, that wasn't really an option. I should say that it's really just one small scratch and I'm not really in any pain at all, but still, it's certainly better to be safe than sorry about this stuff. To be honest, it was more scary than anything since I've never really been much of a dog person. I might just have to start carrying my numchucks with me from now on!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Watching Sports Night makes you a good teacher

Remember all of those debate cases that my friends and I stole from West Wing episodes? You know, like abolish the penny, stop live fire bombing in Viques (ROB!), stop mandatory minimum sentences and laws that ban needle exchange programs, among others? Well, it turns out that Aaron Sorkin-written television programs are good for more than a competitive edge at debate tournaments, because I've started stealing lesson plans from episodes of "Sports Night," or at least one idea so far. There's this game called "celebrities" where everyone writes that names of, you guessed it, celebrities on pieces of paper and puts them in a hat. Then they try to get their team to guess as many of the names in the hat as they can in one minute without saying the person's name, or, as it was played in my English club last week, speaking anything but English. Most of my students have never had to speak English in a high pressure, timed environment of a game like this before so it works really well and just happens to be really fun for them and hilarious for me. Watching my seventh graders trying to explain who Bono is might just be the cutest thing I've ever seen. So yea, things are great on my end!