First day of school, prohulyanka and Kriyivka

I’ve been super impressed with the school that I’m attending.  It was one of only two such courses for the Ukrainian language that I found on the internet.  They respond promptly to emails, they sent me all of the information I needed to know about my classes and my contact number for my teacher and so on.  It was not this way in my school inMoscow, so I was very pleasantly surprised. The building looks and smells just like my school inMoscow…musty (is that a word, for some reason I’m having doubts that that’s a word.)

Does it look like it smells musty in this picture?

My teacher is so nice!!! The other girl in the advanced level is a girl from Slovenia whose mother is Ukrainian, so she already speaks but she’s kind of illiterate.  Moreover, she speaks with a very strong Galician (the area that we are in now that was part of Poland or Austria for so many years) accent.  It was so interesting to hear her correcting this girl’s speech.  I love hearing dialects. Russia has dialects but they are not as distinct as they are here.

So we practiced reading tongue twisters out loud.  The teacher corrected the Slovenian girl on all of her ‘ee’ and ‘uy’ sounds, which in the Galician dialect all become like ‘ih’.  She corrected me on my ‘o’ sounds which I’m saying as ‘ah’ like a Moskal (Russian).  In Ukrainian you can have Ы (И in Ukrainian) after К, Г, Х which is a big no no in Russian.  So when I say those sounds, like the word Київ (Kiev), it just feels like fingernails on chalkboard to my Russian trained ear.

As I’ve said in previous posts there are all sorts of Ukrainian, which makes learning it a bit of a challenge.  There is Ukrainian with lots of Russisms mixed in and then there’s the Galician dialect-isms.  During class our teacher speaks very correctly and if we say something that is a Galicianism she corrects us.  But then during our coffee break when we just go to another room and eat little snacks, the Russisms and Galicianism sneak in.  It is so fascinating.  I love this kind of thing, I’m seriously in heaven.  It fascinates me that the Ukrainian language is almost a frame of mind.

So I highly recommend this language program to any of you who are interested in learning Ukrainian.  Although the whole thing takes place in Ukrainian and there’s not a whole lot of grammatical explanation going on.  On the one hand we’re learning basic greetings like hello, good morning, and so on and on the other hand we’re talking(all in Ukrainian, btw)  about how a famous Ukrainian author who uses colors in his novel to portray culture and emotions.  So. I don’t know how it would be to come to the class having no knowledge of Ukrainian.  Someone should try and let me know how it goes.

The one downside to this school is the bathrooms.  Later on that day I asked Ulyana how in the world girls do this.  She looked at me like I was crazy, spread her legs about a foot apart and said, ‘like this’.  Wow, maybe she has different anatomy than I do because I would have trickle and furthermore, that doesn’t address what you do with your pants.

The logistics of this were really baffling me and so the next day I asked my teacher.  She said that you kind of have to be an acrobat.  Although her stance was more of a squat, she said that, unfortunately peeing on yourself a little is just a fact of life with those toilets.  She relayed the story about one time when she got pee all over her skirt.

I guess the key is to not drink any water and to not eat anything.  Maybe that’s why all the girls here are so thin, because either they’re doing a lot of squats to go to the bathroom or they are not eating anything so as to avoid having to do them.

PART II: Kriyvka and Progulyanka

So first you have to understand my relationship with this guy Roma who has pretty much made this whole trip possible.  He found me through a language website and asked if I could help him with his English and he would help me with Ukrainian.  I have many such friends.  But he is by far my favorite.  He is so funny and easy going.  It feels like we have been friends since Kindergarten.  I mean, what are the chances of that happening?  He currently lives in New York because he won a green card.  He arranged this apartment for me and introduced me to some of his friends here in Lviv.  We’ve never met in person and yet I feel like we are best buds.

At the Church of Saint Yuri

So on Monday I met with his brother.  It was weird because he looks exactly like Roma and even has his mannerisms.  So I feel like I can say that I’ve met Roma in person now.  Anyway, so his brother works at the University of Ivan Franko here as a professor of economics.  Igor was very informed about the city, which I really enjoyed.  We walked all around.

It was funny, I originally took my fancy 4-inch high heels to wear to make a good first impression(all the girls here dress so nice all the time, however impractical it may be, so I don’t want to look frumpy).  But I’m not a total idiot, so I took my sandals as a back up plan.  Half-way up the hill, walking on uneven cobblestone streets, I huffed a sigh, and pulled my sandals out of my bag.  It’s the thought that counts, right?

At the University where Ihor teaches, Ivan Franko


Anyway, so we met up and started our stroll.  He told me he wants to learn English and when we came across something that he knew the word for in English he was say it, feeling very proud of himself.  We went inside several different churches.  I find it very fascinating that, although there are several prominent religions here, the locals are not super specific about which religion they consider themselves.  The two main religions are Roman Catholic (which came from the Poles) and Greek Catholic or the Uniate church which came to be when the Polish government made the Orthodox swear allegiance to the Pope.

Cathedral of the Boym family

The Unitate churches are a very interesting mix of baroque(don’t quote me on this, get a travel guide if you want the actual facts), Catholic style with Orthodox icons everywhere that are adorned with traditional-Ukrainian style cloths.  It’s very beautiful.

We also went to the Arsenal.  Which is a ‘must-see’ on any travel guide, but I didn’t really see what all the hype was about.  It was fun to teach Igor the words for everything: helmet, sword, pistol, spear, etc.

The coolest place that we went to is a place called Kriyvka.  It’s hidden down an alley way.  You knock on the door and a man opens a little window in the door and sticks a gun out of it.  You have to say Slava Ukraini!  ‘Glory to Ukraine’, and then he proceeds to ask you if there are any Moskaly with you (derrogatory term for Russians).  I almost answered nyet, which would have been funny, because that’s a Russian word.

Then the man with the gun warmly welcomes you and gives you a little cup of medovukha to drink.  I didn’t know what it was, but I realized as it burned it’s way down my throat that it was alcohol.  So to all my Mormon friends: I’m sorry I let you down.  To those of you who are not Mormon: It’s actually pretty good, made from honey and pleasantly sweet.

Guy at Kriyivka who meets you at the door. And who, despite the gun, was very lovable

Then you go down the stairs into a dark cavern that is decorated with partisan themed decorations.  The food was delicious.  We ate deruny which are potato pancakes, more pancakey than latke-like with a cream mushroom sauce over the top and I had pomegranate juice.  Pomegranate juice has always been popular here, so it’s nice and cheap, not like in the states. We talked about America. About wages. About what it takes to work in America.  The typical things that Ukrainians are interested in.

Then we did more walking, which is so pleasant because all of the buildings are so different.  You get a really good feeling for just how many people have called this place home because the buildings are so historic and diverse.

Lastly, we went to a jeweler to buy a present for Igor’s girlfriend, because it was her birthday.  I asked him if he was buying her the ring because he felt guilty because he had just spent 4 hours with me on her birthday.  He claimed that was not the case.  Well as for me, I thoroughly enjoyed her birthday.

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