08 July 2009

looking back - another odd accomplishment

i had the privilege of visiting an old student of mine a couple of weeks ago. and memories of my time teaching english in Ukraine came back to me. that time was challenging and even hard at times, but it was always good. after all, i was surrounded by a community that cared for me and i for them (i think my love for the community and life here was nurtured in that boarding school in Ukraine). and besides that, it was another place where life was rarely ever dull!

a friend of mine recently came back from Zambia and had some wonderful stories to tell about her experience there. when she started to talking about travelling - and the craziness of arranging rides, either by official taxis or more a sort of hitchhiking, i had to laugh about how much it reminded me of some of my travelling adventures in Ukraine. sometimes it was simple to travel - but a lot of times it had its challenges.

i still remember one time when i had stayed alone on a friday night with some of the students because there was a math and english competition in Beregszasz on the saturday. while we were waiting for a ride, i ran back to the dormitory to get something i had forgotten (an umbrella, i think!) and while i was rushing, the bus/taxi thing came. the girls made it to Beregszasz early enough - but the boys chose to give up their seats to wait for me. so we were stuck in Bereg waiting for a bus/van that wasn't coming. and we'd already waited long enough - and who knows who long it would be before anything else came?

so i decided that we should hitchhike (i'd then lived there long enough to consider hitchhiking a normal mode of transportation - and i even, perhaps naively, considered myself good at it). the three teenage boys all kind of looked at me like i was crazy: who would ever give a ride to us? but i figured it was my fault that we had missed the bus - and i knew that something had to happen or we'd be late - and what else could i do? besides, it wouldn't hurt, would it?

so the boys let me stand there - and i went closer to the road so people could see me - and they kind of stood away from me. i'm not sure if they stood so far away because they wanted to pretend they didn't know me or because they just wanted to be in a more comfortable place while waiting for the next taxi/bus. after a few minutes (maybe 10 at the most), some middle-aged man stopped to pick me up. i told him that i was going to Beregszasz - and was it okay if he took me and my students? i'm not sure who was more surprised at that point: the man, who instead of only having the pretty young teacher in his car he now had 3 teenage boys as well? or the three teenage guys, surprised that i actually could get us a ride? ah, well, the man did have a good talk with one of the boys on the way to Beregszasz i remember. and i still remember being pretty proud of myself - for surprising everybody and making sure we got there on time :)

and the story reminds me again of all the surprises that happen when one lives in a different country. i have to smile at all of the strange challenges and odd accomplishments that i couldn't help but manage to collect.

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