I’m in Kiev this week for my Peace Corps mid-service medical examination, and also to help my girlfriend move into her new apartment in the city. Both have gone swimmingly thus far. I’m TB free, 15 pounds lighter than when I arrived in Ukraine 18 months ago and the apartment is very cozy.
The weather as warm and sunny as it is, this morning I opted to walk from my girlfriend’s apartment in the Perchesk region, near the monastery, to the city center, past Independence Square, along Khreschatik, up Shevchenko, down through the botanical gardens, to the Peace Corps office.
During this time I observed children dressed in their best – girls in black and white jumpers and blouses, their hair in tight braids with large white bows atop their heads, and the boys in black suits and ties – hand-in-hand with parents and each other on their way to their first day of school. The first of September is the inaugural first day of school in Ukraine each year. It’s commonly known here as First Bell.
Last year on the first of September I was at the small Krasne village school near my home in Artemovsk, being welcomed as a new teacher and giving a speech in Russian to curious students, parents and faculty. This year I’m in Kiev taking a break from the festivities. But while watching these students in Kiev file into their schools this morning, a thought came to mind. It was 10 years ago today that I began my first day of my senior year at Gresham High School. Time, indeed, does seem to fly by.
Another observation. While walking along Khreschatik Street, I noticed voices coming from a loudspeaker and flags and banners being waved. I went to get a closer look and accidentally found myself in the middle of a large group of Yulia Tymoshenko supporters rallying and protesting for her release. Things in the rally seemed calm; I didn’t observe anyone acting hostile. Even if the rally would have turned violent, there were plenty of police around to take control of the situation. For those of you that aren’t aware, Tymoshenko is the former Ukrainian prime minister who was recently jailed for contempt of court during the first days of her corruption trial. You can read more about what’s going on in this New York Times article.