Off The Court: Nichole Stilwell's Semester in the Ukraine
April 16, 2010
Wow! Again, I can't believe another month has already gone by. In the last several weeks, I have definitely done a LOT!
Our trip to Lvov was a lot of fun, and we got to see a lot of different things. We started with a huge Catholic Cathedral, and then stopped into one of the museums on the way to breakfast. We ate at Puzata Hata, which is a traditional Ukrainian cafe. Throughout the day, we saw many different museums, including a medicine museum that took us through the history of medication and how the making of medication has developed. In addition, we climbed over 400 stairs to the top of a tower that overlooks a big square, as well as the whole city of Lvov. After the tower, we climbed to the highest point in Lvov, which is at the top of a very big hill/small mountain. It was really icy and slick, but we made it up safely. After dinner at a Sushi bar, we walked around the center for a while, and then hopped back on a train to Kiev.
That following week, I started a break dancing class!! Ha, it was a lot of fun, and I went to two classes, but I don't think it's for me. I need bigger arms and smaller legs :) BUT, I did try something new, and the whole class was in Russian! I also started doing some peer coaching in English! My teacher here has a daughter that is studying English, and she asked me if I would help her daughter by doing conversational practice with her a couple times a week. That has been very interesting, because I have been the one comfortable speaking my first language, and trying to help someone else learn a new language. In addition, I also tried bowling here too!! It is basically the same as American bowling, but it was a fun night :)
For Spring Break at the Academy, Hal came to Ukraine!! There was a little weather in Chicago, so he got here a few hours late, and his bag about a day late :) BUT, we were able to get his bag, and make the train to Yalta. We spent about 3 1/2 days in Yalta, and we were able to see a lot of things there! We saw Livadia (where the Yalta conference took place), Chekov's house, took the tour through Massandra (a winery), Swallow's Nest (a castle on a cliff), Sevastopol and Balaclava, which are two other cities in Crimea. Balaclava is a Nuclear Submarine base in Crimea, and we were able to walk through the museum. The weather the whole week was absolutely beautiful. I also made Hal try practically every different kind of Ukrainian food. SO, overall, it was a wonderful spring break!
The week after spring break, the week of the 29th, turned out to be very busy. We started an English 411 class here at Nova Mova. Our teacher is a man named Zach, and he is from California. He is also a student here learning Russian right now, but offered to teach because he has a degree in English. I'm excited, because we are getting credit for the course, but it has already been a lot of work, because we are trying to squeeze a whole semester into about six weeks. In addition, my peer coach Anya took me to a Mexican food restaurant here in Kiev. The name was written in English: "Potato House." Haha, the difference between a burrito and a fajita there is that the burrito is made with beef and the fajita has chicken! It was also a very sweet fajita. Haha, it makes me appreciate our Mexican food at home a lot more :) We also went to the Apocalyptica concert that was in Kiev. It was an interesting experience, because Ukrainians don't really believe in the "personal bubble" that we do, but all the same it was a good time, and they are an interesting band. They play metallic music on cellos! I was invited by a friend here, and decided I could pass up an opportunity.
About a week and a half ago I came down with the 24-hour flu. Well, at least I think that's what it was. I was sick all day Friday, and went to bed at about 5 p.m., and didn't wake up until about 10 a.m., on Saturday. Haha, it wouldn't be a trip to Ukraine without some sort of illness! That Saturday, I was feeling a lot better, and was able to still go to the Circus, like we had planned. The circus was really neat! They had goats, dogs, cats, horses, and birds that are all trained. They also had a couple of acrobatic acts that were really good.
I also spent my first Easter in Ukraine. My host family ate breakfast together, and then I went to church with Jordan, one of the Naval Academy guys. For breakfast, we had died, hardboiled eggs, and a sweet loaf of bread called "Easter." There was also regular bread with some sort of spread on it, and I was afraid to ask what it was, because I almost couldn't eat it! I think it was some kind of fishy spread. Ha! Another food experience for the books!
This last weekend was also AMAZING!! We went to a little island on the Dnieper river. There is a club here in Ukraine that puts on these camps about 3 times a year. We got there Saturday morning on the train, and left Sunday evening. It was one big camping trip with a bunch of different activities! On Saturday, we did some team building activities, shot bows and arrows, rock climbed, rode bikes around the island, and played paintball! The rock climbing was awesome, and the bikes were quite an experience. I ended up in a group that got separated from our main group, and so we ended up getting our own tour of the island! I also ended up on a bike that had broken gears, and the front breaks also stopped working about half way through the ride. BUT, we made it back safe and sound. That night we sat around a big campfire and each team put on little skits. Then, on Sunday, I JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE!!! They had a program there where we could bungee jump, and so my first time ever jumping off a bridge was in Ukraine! It was an amazing experience, and I'm very happy that all the equipment held up :) Overall, I had an amazing weekend, and got to do a lot of things for the first time! I came back with a couple bruises from paintball, climbed quite the rock wall, hit a target with an arrow, and jumped off of a 40-meter bridge.
This week has been fairly normal so far, but this weekend I have a volleyball game or two on Saturday. We are also planning a trip for the first week in May, because it's a holiday here. We will be heading to the western part of Ukraine to see some castles, and then down to Odessa to check out that part of the country.
As always, I hope everyone is still doing well! I miss everyone there, and have started counting down the days!