After graduation – and by after graduation I mean only about 2 hours later – my dear friend Kathleen crossed the border into Ukraine to come visit me. A few days later, we were off to visit more southern places. A couple hostels, couch-surfing stays, dips in the Adriatic, all-day bus rides, and a quick and unintentional jaunt into Bosnia later, I was back in Ukraine for a final two weeks of English camp at the Péterfalva school. While I was once again in charge of skits and theatre, I decided to shake things up this year. For the first few days, students read and re-wrote folk tales, preparing them for performance; next came the polishing and the rehearsals. It was an untried and imperfect method, but it helped the students to own the material and really understand the stories they were telling.
A few of my favorites:
The Empress’s New Clothes
The Princess and the Frog:
And The Golden Goose:
Besides our theatrical pursuits, there were the normal, more traditional classes, sports, river trips, and mountain hikes.
I also taught Self-Defense classes for the girls. From my journal:
After the rape of [a woman in our community], I was talking with Szabina about the incident, and I mentioned that in college I had taken a women’s self defense course. A little later, at dinner, she asked me if I would be willing to share these skills with the girls at the school. I said of course, and immediately got very excited and very nervous. I emailed my old self defense teacher after finding her address online. I explained to her the situation and asked if she had material I could use. All my class material was in a box somewhere in Michigan or Indiana […] She gladly sent me a host of material and suggestions for what format to use to present it. Because of scheduling difficulties, I wasn’t able to lead the session until now. I say lead because I was never trained to teach self defense, and I don’t feel qualified. [I was] just one woman sharing what I had learned with other women. I asked the students to think the same.
It was an hour and fifteen minute session. We talked about how to prevent situations of sexual assault, some of the psychology of an assault, clarified some misconceptions. Then we practiced physical techniques – releases and strikes. The girls were surprisingly candid during the discussion/lecture part. It was the physical part that was more difficult to get them fully involved in. We did “huya!” noises with our strikes, or rather, I did, and they were startled by the sounds they could make. It think trying to be strong was embarrassing for them.
Overall, though, I think the class went well.
After the final performances on the last Friday morning, there was a flurry of goodbyes. My stomach gets flippity just thinking about it. There wasn’t enough time to tell each student how much I appreciated them and hoped for them. We were so accustomed to being a part of each other’s lives that, as I piled my things into Szabina’s family car and waited for her and her father to finish buying cucumbers, I couldn’t imagine that I had really watched everyone drive away and leave me sitting on the steps with my suitcase. And that my time remaining in Ukraine could be counted in hours. I could not imagine dropping this life I had so carefully and painfully built up and trying to rebuild the leftovers from my former life. Airplanes usually cover spaces much faster than we ourselves can.