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Here's and There's

There are a few things about life in Ukraine this summer that do not fit well into any other post. As such, I'm putting together some here's and there's about learning to live in this amazing culture, learning to speak this beautiful language, and loving the people of Ukraine. So in no particular order...

1. I've found that it is far more interesting and entertaining watching Ashley learn the Russian language than learning it myself. This is not to say that I'm not also learning... I'm just enjoying being a spectator of her learning experience - as I think anyone would for reasons I'll soon reveal. Ashley's encounter with the Russian language is met with her trademark playfulness and curiosity. Among my favorites of her discoveries are "Atlitchna! (Awesome!)" with both hand fully extended as if she's calling a touchdown, "Choo-choo (a little more)" with playful beckoning hands, "Fso? (Is that all?)" with questioning eyebrows, and "Hadasho (It's ok)" with a slight hand flip to emphasize the relaxed nature of the phrase. Ashley is a playful combination of adventurousness, curiosity, and determination. She is much more than simply the blessing of a friend and roommate - she is in many ways a source of entertainment as well.

2. So it turns out that there is no Russian translation for the shortened version of my name - Jaqui (I gave up on trying to communicate Jaquilyn shortly after I arrived). And in fact, pronouncing Jaqui is truly a challenge for those whose first language is Russian. Russian tends to be heavy with consonants, so a name composed primarily of vowels is fairly out of place here. As such, I've become Jgzicki... which has its own playful sound.

3. Terms of endearment for good friend here are... well, endearing. For those you hold dear, you tend to shorten their name and add "lishka" to the end. So, I'm often referred to as Jgzicklishka. I'm not going to lie... I kind of like it, and it gets nearer to Jaquilyn.

4. The Russian language is a beautiful one - more beautiful as you begin to learn and understand it. But it's a complicated one. No joke... it tends to take about five times as long to say something in Russian than it does in English. And about as long to write it, too. So it should not be a surprise to learn that Russian is the second most difficult language on this earth to learn... next only to Chinese.

5. While Russian is beautiful, it was no exaggeration when I first wrote that the written language often seems to be screaming out at you in caps. Updated observation: most computers in our office are designed to type in both Russian and English. Every time I log onto a computer that has most recently been used to communicate in Russian, I have to switch off the caps lock. I don't think it's a coincidence...

6. The longer I am here, the more I realize I am also becoming obsessed with cucumbers and cherries. Honestly, I did not particularly like either of these when I first arrived, but I'm finding that they are now staples. And buckwheat - don't trash it 'till you try it. Same for barley. So I've nearly transitioned to a Ukrainian menu. I doubt, however, I'll get over my American obsession with coffee.

7. I LOVE walking the city. And I'm sorry to say this to fans of marshutkas, but I cannot stand marshutkas. They are a necessary evil to getting around in a large city, but I avoid them at all costs. Chris Horst (our fearless coordinator) was NOT joking when he said that personal space and fresh air do not exist on marshutkas. While I'm a fan of public transit in the Twin Cities, I'll take walking any day over a marshutka. The city is beautiful, and each morning as I walk to work I feel like I discover something new. The walk (which I think is somewhere between one and two miles) is the perfect way to start the day.

So... there is so much more to share - little nuances of the culture, the language, and the people - but it's impossible to communicate all at once. I'll likely throw in here's and there's, well, here and there in my blogging. I hope that it will help to give you a more full picture of this wonderful place...