Quarantine-Induced Musings…

A frosty wind isn’t the only thing in the air in Western Ukraine right now. Flu season is in full-force, causing many schools to be “quarantined” indefinitely. 

My school closed on Thursday, February 19, to the delight of all well-bodied students. I still don’t understand why the announcement was made in the middle of the day, rather than at the end, as students could hardly be expected to pay attention in the remaining three classes after learning an unexpected vacation was imminent. 

It was like a scene out of a Disney Movie. The principal called an assembly for students and announced the closure to cheers, high-fives, and papers tossed in the air. Students then paraded about the school, skipping up and down the halls. And then the bell rang. Time to learn about National US Holidays, kids. Yeah, right. I tried to maintain some semblance of a lesson, but we ended up playing hangman–with new vocabulary, mind you–for about half an hour. 

I learned just moments ago that we will go to school tomorrow for a groundhog-day-like trial-run. If more than half the students are absent, we will have another week of quarantine. If not, classes will resume as usual. 

Now if I were a student and I knew the weight of my absence–or presence–in class, I would take all necessary measures to ensure I was anywhere but in my desk at 8:30 a.m. Only time will tell if Ukrainian students are as cunning as my imagination. 

In lieu of classes today, I participated in a “Living Library” event in Ivano-Frankivsk. It sounded self-explanatory. I figured I would read aloud a book about the U.S. and thus make it “come alive.” Well, as I shuffled in the door five minutes before go-time, I was asked what the title of “my book” was. 

“Oh was I supposed to bring one?” I asked. “I thought I could just grab one of the shelves.” 

Then I was told that I WAS the book and as such I would be giving a 10-minute presentation to four different groups of students. I needed a title and summary of my life in book format. 

That’s a tall order in itself, but in under 5 minutes it’s even more absurd. I quickly jotted down some lines on a borrowed sheet of notebook paper. I sped up the editing process and crossed out my first attempt just moments after writing it. I always need at least two drafts, and preferably seven, before I feel confident sharing my writing. 

I headed over to my first group with the working title “American Traveler” intact, but not much else in my arsenal. Then I remembered I had my laptop in my bag. Suddenly it appeared that I had prepared an extensive presentation. I flipped through pictures of my travels as I discussed different countries and cultures. And the kids were none the wiser about my lack of instructions. In the Peace Corps, that’s all in a day’s work.