Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peripheral Learning: Sixth grade party at my house

Sometimes I feel as though I'm learning valuable life lessons that are not part of the "core curriculum" of my Mission Corps role here in Ukraine.

How I had primarily imagined my time in Ukraine:
~Learning the Russian language and how to communicate cross-culturally
~Becoming friends with Ukrainians and other foreigners
~Gaining classroom experience by teaching at KCA
~Ministering alongside Ukrainians in children's ministry
~Learning more about what it is like to be a missionary for more than 2 months at a time

What I had NOT imagined, was the following (among other things):
~Ministering alongside Ukrainians in YOUTH ministry
~Learning that I quite enjoy having people over to my house
~Getting a taste of what it is like to be a mother of 5....or 6....or 10.... 

Last night I invited the 6th grade class to my house for a party then sleepover.  If, at this point, you think I am nuts, you are probably right.

Because my roommate and I live in an amazing 3-bedroom house, I decided early on that I wanted to invite groups of friends and students throughout the year, in order to take full advantage of this resource. In September, Michael had his 17th birthday party here, and we had 22 people total (Kiev missionaries, W&W team, and his friends).  In October, the senior girls (and then some) invited themselves over for a Friday night sleepover after youth group.

Yesterday after school, I boarded the marshrutka with 10 sixth graders.  The bus actually started rolling forward before we were all on, so I had to yell, "Нет! Нет!" (Nyet! Nyet! No! No!)  When I paid for 9 of us with a 50 грн bill, he couldn't understand me telling him how many--"Девять."* "Один?" "Нет, ДЕВЯТЬ!"  (Dyevat.  Odin? Nyet, dyevat!)  Riding the marshrutka with 10 children (ages 11-13), who did not know where to get off, scattered throughout the bus, was quite possibly the worst part.

*When I typed "nine" into the English part of my translator widget (so I could check my spelling), the Russian translation was "9."  Thank you.  Not helpful.

While at my house, the boys played basketball outside (joined occasionally by the girls who would also push each other around in a wheelbarrow), while the girls tried to coax our cat Kosmostar out of his hiding places.  Other hits of the night included:
~Using the stairmaster/elliptical machine (sometimes with 2 kids on the machine at once--they looked like they were rowing a boat), counting the calories they burned
~Playing the terribly out of tune piano
~Cuddling with the cat
~Basking in our huge bathtub--three girls were in there with their clothes on!
~Rapping in the dark kitchen (the girls...with the music on their phones...)
~Playing "Polish poker" (which is neither poker nor Polish) and other card games
~Watching movies
~Hide and go seek inside the house
~Feeding the hungry girls a snack of olives (with pits) straight out of the can

We had pizza for dinner, delivered from the pizza place just around the corner.  I did not want to do more dishes than required, so I had each student pick a mug and that was their mug for the entire time they were at the house.  They could wash and reuse it as many times as they wanted, for tea, or soda, or juice.

Around 7:30 pm, Luke's dad came to pick him up, and offered to take the other boys and I to the metro.  Fortunately, by this time, my friend Zee had arrived and could be the adult presence at the house.  After handing off the 3 boys to David's mom, I rode the bus home, enjoying the temporarily-quiet respite and alone time.  When you're temporarily--or permanently--a parent to many children, any alone time needs to be savored!

While the kids watched movies, Zee and I used this time to clean up the kitchen, washing dishes, shaking crumbs out of the tablecloth, and otherwise tidying the place.  With this many kids around, the place was a mess!  I'm so glad I restricted food to the kitchen and forbade them from taking food elsewhere into the house!  (With older kids, or fewer kids, or a less crazy evening, I am more flexible about this rule.)

A simple breakfast was planned for the girls who stayed overnight -- pancakes with peanut butter or syrup, along with some fruit.  These sixth grade girls (also the boys) had a much larger appetite than I'd imagined or planned!  Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise with all the energy they were using--even if they didn't count the calories!

Little by little, the six girls left, but not without me recruiting them to help clean the disaster zones.  I recruited two to dry and put away dishes, since I was running out of room on my drying rack.  When all the girls were still here, I had them fold and put away the blankets they used.  Some of the girls enjoyed our huge bathtub, so I made sure they put all my towels/washcloths in the hamper.

Yet, in all this insanity, I found that I enjoyed myself.  If you are AGAIN thinking that I'm nuts, you might be right.  I had planned other games (Christmas-themed charades), but these kids came up with ways to entertain themselves.  I tried to show equal amounts of positive attention to the kids, and to just have fun with them.  At times, yes, I reverted into "teacher mode," like when I needed to give instructions for dinner.  But, more importantly, this time for my students was so that they could enjoy each other's company, and I theirs.  All the energy and time that went into these festivities--asking Zee to order pizza for me, buying groceries, cleaning before and after they arrived, riding the marshrutka, and so forth--was worth it, even though I'm tired now.

Side story:  The landlady called me, saying that Jake the dog was crying and that he wanted to be out of his kennel.  I finally told her in broken Russian, "I know he doesn't want to be there, but I have children here and he NEEDS to be there."  She called around 8:30pm to say she doesn't like the children to be on the street, but they were in the fenced-in YARD.  Sorry, landlady, you'll just have to deal. As I passed the phone to Zee to translate this time, I told the landlady "я буду дарить телефону на Зина" -- which means "I'm going to give the phone to Zena as a gift."  Oops.


  1. Hi,
    Do you know difference between Russian and Ukrainian languages? Sounds like you're learning 50% Russian and 50% Ukranian.

    For example...
    You wrote:

    "полувино -- half "(Ukrainian)
    "мукрий -- wet" (ukrainian)
    "наверино -- probably" (ukrainian)
    "теперь -- now (not sure of the difference between this and сейчас)" (Russian)
    "целый -- whole, entire" (russian)

  2. At times I really am not sure what language I'm learning, because I live in a country where one language is commonly spoken among the people in the cities but another is the official language on signs, but the languages have similarities to each other.

    I take Russian language lessons and go to a Russian-language church, but have to buy groceries and ride buses that are labeled in Ukrainian. There are a few letters that I recognize as only being in one language or the other, but I still have trouble sounding out Ukrainian words.

    Also, I think that these "Ukrainian" words were what happened when I spelled what I often heard while on the train with Ukrainians (see post from 12 Sept). I simply sounded out the words in order to look them up later.

    Learning this mixture is something that's just going to happen while I am here in Ukraine, in order for me to stay afloat.

  3. Thanks Jessica,
    I enjoy reading your blog.
    I spent 14 years in Ukraine, as child I couldn't understand why I needed to learn Ukrainian language since nobody was using it, oh well.
    To a native Russian speaker, Ukrainian language sounds kind of funny. Its like heavy southern US accent to New-Yorker.
    полувино -- Ukrainian, полавина -- Russian.
    мукрий -- Ukrainian, мокрый -- Russian.

    God bless your soul,

    take care.

  4. Hehehe... this is fun to read considering that I was there :D (and actually got a video of the "stairmaster/elliptical machine (sometimes with 2 kids on the machine at once--they looked like they were rowing a boat")...

    LOL re: your translator widget - sounds like me :D

    But regarding P's comment re: ukrainian and russian - actually P got it wrong. All those words you used were russian. they were simply misspelled.

    half: половина (spelled the same way in both Ukrainian and Russian - pronounced differently) and the words полувино and полавина don't exist in either language.
    wet: мокрий (UA) / мокрый (RU)
    probably: мабуть (UA) / наверное (RU)