Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Barnes & Ignoble

Здравствуйте! My apologies for the long delay in between school is undergoing a slew of summer repairs and included among them is the repainting of the computer lab. At the moment I am braving the fumes just to give you all an update...the things I do for you people. Anyway, I have had a pretty solid last 10 days or so. I've made a friend or two, explored more thoroughly my new village and the adjacent город (city) and have taken a couple excursions within Crimea. I am also in the midst of a frustrating apatment/house search but I will get to that in a bit...

First, one of the more humorous stories of my past week. I took a bus ride down to Simferopol, the capitol of Crimea, to check out the city and get some good pizza among other things, but mostly to buy some books written in English. I have torn through the handful of books that I brought with me from home and have a long, slow summer in front of me so getting some new reading material was a high priority. (Quick aside-Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is fun and easy read...I recommend it highly. Thanks Nai) My counterpart/friend Svitlana knew of an outdoor book market where she thought we might have some luck so we headed that direction not really knowing what to expect. There were 60+ small book stands filled with all sorts of Russian literature, but unfortunately no one had or knew of where I could buy some English books. I was definitely bumming but we decided to stop at one last stand where I asked in broken Russian if they had any books written in English. The old man working the stand lifts up his head and beckons to a shoddily dressed, cigarette smoking, greasy looking character who is perched on some crumbling Soviet era fountain nearby…I know it sounds like some cheesy movie but that’s what makes it so great. Anyhow, the old man motions for us to follow this guy, so we do. We follow him into some giant building, up a staircase, through a series of corridors and out a door into overgrown field/parking lot and finally over to one of those giant, rust encased shipping containers. Our friend pries open the squeaky doors, climbs inside and emerges with a small box of books, completely covered in grime and dust, but nonetheless all written in English. It would have been far more apropos had he handed me a nondescript package wrapped in butchers paper and tied off with some string but I digress…I probably had only heard of two books in the entire box (which I bought…The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Jackdaws by Ken Follet) but I grabbed two more that looked like they might hold my interest, haggled the price down by 15 гривна which is the equivalent to about $3 and we were on our way. Definitely one of the more unique book purchasing experiences I have had…

Simferopol otherwise is a very cool city. Kind of has a bit of a Mediterranean vibe to it and had the most delicious pizza I have had since coming to Ukraine. It is only a 2 hour busride away from my village and being that I have a good friend that lives nearby, I will most definitely be making frequent returns. Sevastopol and Yalta are next on my list...hopefully I will make it down to both sometime in August.

I am beginning to feel a lot more comfortable living my new village life. A great deal of that has to do with me realizing that I need to readjust my expectation of happiness and more specifically just what happiness here means to me. Will many days here register a 10 by the standard I had lived by back, at least not conventionally; but if I realize that the beauty of this whole experience is held in fetching water from the well, in learning to adjust to differing standards of cleanliness, in being alright with losing my privacy, then I believe I will be able to find happiness just about everywhere I look. Even on this new scale I know there will be days that fall somewhere south of 5 but there will be far more 8's, 9's and 10's of a nature that I would have never known back in the bubble. This certainly doesn't mean that the taste of a Ruth's Chris filet with béarnaise sauce isn't everpresent in my mind or that I don't look forward to buying a beautiful new suit when I move back home...but for the moment this is my life and I am learning to love it for the very reason that it's just so different from the one i left back home.

Ok...that took a little longer than I anticipated so I will keep you waiting with bated breath for the tales of my housing search. Hopefully I will have some good news to report by then as to date it has been a bit of a stuggle to find something adequate--even by my new standards. Hope this finds everyone well. Happy 4th!


Anonymous said...

Jordan, with tears in my eyes, i read your beautiful words and was reminded of a story about the national yiddish book center.
A young student had an idea... to collect all the books people no longer were interested in reading and went from town to town with a large pick up truck, meeting old Jews, having a cup of tea and hearing stories from the old country as he loaded their prized yiddish books into his truck.. each book came with a story, a spirit of those that read the words in the language that no longer is relevant.. but what do you know? he established a center for yiddish learning and literature and now has a non profit foundation. I heard him speak a couple of years ago and was reminded of him as you shared your tale of following people to their places for the love of books.. I'm so proud of you..
send me your address and i'll send you some good literature.

Anonymous said...

I just checked your blog posting after writing you a very long email. I just had to comment though.......your writing is a joy to behold. You have a gift. You must get it from me!

Love you!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is wonderfully writtten and very interesting. It is so nice to hear about what you are up to. We are so proud of you and miss you SOOO much! We will keep in touch and hopefully call soon. Good luck with everything!
Love, Lauren & Justin