After attending a very interesting literary event in Konstantinovka with two other PCVs last Friday, in which the family and friends of a woman who survived the holocaust spoke about her trials, tribulations and eventual escape to America, all of which are discussed in a posthumous collection of diary entries, we got word that the summer camp we were to work at this week had been cancelled. Something about the director of the university breaking plans that had been made for months in advance, and attempting to extort some $4,000 from Peace Corps and the PCVs in charge of organizing the 8-day camp. And so, a plan was hatched. The two other PCVs and myself would visit two other PCV friends in the seashore town of Novoazovsk, about four to five hours bus ride south from my home in Artemovsk. After enduring multiple sweat-soaked bus rides and transfers in the sweltering 100-plus-degree heat, we arrived at Novoazovk, where we waded knee-deep in mud for 200 meters in order to find a spot in the sea deep enough to swim. That first night we cooked sausages and vegetables over an open flame, and drank beer and vodka with some Ukrainian friends well into the morning. When we finally crawled into bed, the sun began to rise, as did the heat. Each of us spent the early morning hours tossing, turning and kicking the bed sheets off of us in a futile attempt to stay cool.
After a large breakfast of banana pancakes and eggs, we made for the sea, this time taking a short marshrutka (route bus) ride to the tiny resort town of Siedove. Waiting for us there was a sandy beach of crushed shells, scantily-clad Ukrainians, shawarma (tasty Middle Eastern sandwich-type wraps) and a mud-free Sea of Azov. We filled the afternoon swimming, tossing the Frisbee and playing Durak, a Russian card game whose name literally means “fool.” Back at the apartment that evening in Novoazovsk, we cooked spaghetti, drank casually, some of us played cards while others read and relaxed.
In all, the weekend was a success. Despite the stifling heat and sad news of the summer camp cancelation, we all managed to enjoy ourselves. I may have even got a slight suntan.