Happy International Women’s Day to all the wonderful women in my life. I am grateful for each and every one of you and for the ways you enrich my life. Here’s wishing you (Ukrianian style) health, love, success, positive emotions and spring in your soul all year round! And may all your dreams come true!
On Wednesday, I had finished my classes and everything I needed to do at school and was putting my coat on to go home when suddenly it hit me. Crap! Tomorrow is the Women’s Day celebration. Women’s Day is a huge celebration in Ukraine – so big, in fact, that it’s a federal holiday and schools, businesses, etc are closed. Since Friday would be a day off, Thursday was the big day at school.
I turned to my counterpart and friend Lena: “I have to dress up tomorrow, don’t I?” “Yeah,” she nodded and smiled the smug kind of smile that makes one understand “yeah” as “d’uuhh.”
“Uggggh,” I shook my head. I hate the sartorial stress that Ukrainian holidays bring with them. “Don’t worry,” she continued. “I’m not going to buy a new dress.”
Well, great, that makes me feel a lot better. So there will be two of us without new dresses, I thought. She had though, (traitorously) already fulfilled the other two components of the Ukrainian women’s pre-holiday trifecta: manicure and haircut. (Seriously, manicurists and hairstylists are booked straight with no openings for a whole week before the 8th of March.) I was headed for a perfect 0 for 3 strikeout.
Luckily (and thanks to my dear friend Fraz), I had a suitable dress in my closet – well, at least as close as I’m going to get to suitable without showing more leg than my 9th grade boys need to see and without touching satin or mesh. [Tangent: Yes, really mesh is a thing here. The mesh mock turtle neck simply boggles my mind. WHAT in the world is a the point of such a conservative cut if it’s absolutely see through and what you’re wearing over screams CLEAVAGE?!?!? After nearly two years hear I recently had the revelation that if you think of it sort of like tights (it’s rather small-holed mesh) for the top half of the body, you can sort of (sort of!) come to terms with it.)… sorry, end of rant.]
So I showed up to school on Thursday, dutifully wearing my dress and 3-in heels (hey, they’re high for me). In a surprising twist of fate, I dress up more often, wear heels more often, and am more formal in my day-to-day work outfits in the Peace Corps than ever in the U.S.
Friday was filled with moments of me standing awkwardly as groups kids and colleagues recited minutes-long speeches about their wishes for me, before handing me chocolate, cards and flowers.
Then of course it was concert time. No Ukrainian holiday is complete without a concert. This involved multiple dance routines, multiple poems recited by memory by kids of all ages, speechifying by our miniscule contingent of male colleagues, and songs – including one by a 10th grader during which all I could do was stare at her 6-inch heels, grip the edge of my seat with white-knuckled, sweaty hands, and pray that her shaky legs and tiny ankles didn’t give out (p.s. she made it). Throughout all of this, a handful of older boys scurried around like ballboys at Wimbledon, ensuring that all of the performers, speechmakers and poetry-reciters had microphones at precisely the right moment. Occasionally the well-choreographed show was punctuated by an exasperated almost shout of “Vannya, get her a microphone!” when one of the microphone ballboys missed a cue. In Ukraine, appearance is of the utmost importance, and God forbid, that the audience at a school concert would have to wait for a moment for the microphone situation to get sorted out.
And a little video (if you’re reading this in email, you may have to actually go to the blog to view)
Also, since they seem to be a hit, here’s a special holiday edition “In others’ words” — (apparently my school is the only one in Ukraine where alcohol is not consumed on holidays)
- In hopes to create a lesson plan based around influential and awesome women from Ukraine for Women’s Day I typed “amazing women from Ukraine” and the first website to pop up is a mail-order bride website.
- My hostmom says “You are dressed like an proper Englishman today! This is for the women, yes? [pic of male PCV in shirt, sweater vest, lavender tie, and corduroy jacket.] I call this one “English Spring.” “English Rain” is the same, but with a green tie.
— [female volunteer comment] my outfit for women’s day is called “shortest miniskirt i own that i could never wear in america”
- Oh. My. God. My teachers can drink 5th year senior frat boys under the table. It was so much fun but, I can’t imagine going to this concert today and performing 2 songs. UUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH
- How have I lived this long without the knowledge that school concerts are infinitely more enjoyable with a heavy buzz? Integration: better late than never. Happy Women’s Day!
- Women’s Day celebration at school= every teacher asking me how hungover I was, flowers, chocolates, cards, broken English congratulations on being a lady, singing 2 songs, giving a speech in Ukrainian and making plans to go walking and hang out with a teacher’s daughter.
- Champagne was drunk, toasts were made to happiness and sunshine, happy birthday was sung to me in English, I was forced to dress another teacher blindfolded, and I was asked for the 10th time to take everyone back to America with me. Women’s Day is the best holiday.
- Got called up on stage to be the ‘pretty lady’ in a magic show, received a record 14 boxes of chocolates, took 7 shots of cognac in the library between the bookshelves with my co-workers, was force fed cake by my director, and had two teachers almost cry and ask how they are going to live without me at school… Oh Women’s Day, I love you so.