Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hasty Goodbyes

On February 18, Kyiv erupted in violence- protesters marched on the Parliament building, Molotov cocktails and bullets (rubber and live) flew- at least 26 dead, over a thousand injured. People were bandying around words like "martial law" and "civil war", and the future was unclear and scary.

Peace Corps told us to pack a go-bag and be at our "consolidation points" within 24 hours. When we left our towns, we realized there was a possibility we might not come back, but we didn't exactly believe it. I hand-packed my bag in a state of mental disarray, littering my small apartment with little piles of books and trinkets topped with scrawled Post-It Notes: "For Katia", "For Roman", "For the English Teachers of School Number 2". I washed my dishes and I collected my garbage- though I was too agitated to remember to actually take out the garbage- it was left abandoned by the closet.

I got to visit my school a last time before I had to get to the bus station. I wished students, teachers, and friends an awkward mixture of goodbyes and assurances that this was probably not goodbye for good (but i don't know anything, i said). Reactions varied from mumbled half-recogntion, attentions directed to the glowing screens of i-phones, to heartfelt tears and embraces. But most adults dismissed the possibility of evacuation. "Yanukovych will be impeached! The protesters got what they want! The fighting will end."

Sure enough, we got the order to be at Odessa airport on the afternoon of Saturday the 21 and we were in a plush Maryland Convention Center shortly thereafter. We are still on "administrative hold" in the USA, receiving thirty-two dollars a day from the U.S. government, with the option still open that Peace Corps sends us back. We all have our fingers crossed, but that possibility is looking slimmer in the face of ongoing threats from Russia. We miss our Ukrainian friends a lot.

I managed to take a few photos on that last short visit to school. Pictured are my students, cooks, custodians, and a little dog that a clever tenth former calls "Napoleon". The custodians (his primary caretakers) affectionately call him "hoo-ey", a swear word for penis. By any name, he is very cute.

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