Wake up a bit different

Posted by: Jeremy Borovitz, Group 38, YD PCV in Boyarka, Cherkaska Oblast

This blog entry is written by an American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) currently living and working in Ukraine. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, the U.S. Embassy hosted a competition among all Ukraine-based PCVs and will be posting the top three over the next week. This essay won second place. You can read the first place winning essay here.

To learn more about 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps please read E-journal.

To learn more about Peace Corps in Ukraine please visit official website.


Some days I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’ve finally got it. That one magic idea that will transform my small village, the magic pill that, if I just get them to swallow it, will cure all of our problems. I am too excited to reenter my sleeping state.

And other days I hear my alarm beep and fail to move. It’s cold and dark outside of the covers. My self-described brilliant idea has been shrugged off once again, a pill not just too hard to swallow but one that they won’t even send to trial. Outside my covers await another day of little progress.

But most days I wake up even before my 6am alarm, because the roosters next door are crowing and then the dogs start barking and then the tractors start moving. The sounds of a country morning are an obstacle that I have yet to overcome. I sometimes find myself yearning for that urban clatter of my beloved New York, taxis raging and pedestrians bustling and the subway rattling beneath many stories that aren’t my own.

Every day I wake up, though, every day I head to school and I teach some English and show a few students a new chord on the guitar. And I’ll be in the middle of a breakthrough, explaining the difference between “the” and “an/a” to a twelve year old, when my director will barge in to my office, telling me to take a break so we can sip on some chai.

As we sit there drinking our very Ukrainian tea, I tell him of my new plan, to build a recycling factory or sell our produce over the internet or run a feminism camp or produce our own music album or start a school newspaper. He always supports me, but I’ve begun to think he finds my idealism, this American “can-do” attitude, a bit amusing.

And I’ll stop in one of the two local stores on my way home, and the local prodavetz will ask me about my day. I always produce a huge smile and force out a “fantastichno,” and she’ll laugh heartily in return.

The walk back home is long, only one long street crowded with the same faces. There is Slavik, 13 years old, whose parents don’t much care for his whereabouts, and he, in turn, doesn’t care much either. There is Nazar, just barely four, who always seems to find himself eating something he picked off the ground, which have ranged from a piece of an old tire to a small pick axe. No one is around to tell him how hard it all is to digest.

I walk farther to find Sergei, a 22-year old who lost his two front teeth in a battle with the street, collapsing after a day-long drinking session. He has no job, save the bottle. Just past him is Baba Natasha, lamenting the village’s downfall. I go a little farther to see Sashko, in the eleventh grade, smoking his fifth cigarette of the day.

And just when the road seems endless, I come to Yanna, beautiful, precocious, seven year old Yanna. She’s just beginning to string letters together into words. “Dog,” she says, as a local canine attacks my leg. “Snow,” she said in the winter, “Sun” now that it has begun to get warm. “How are you,” I ask her, “I am good, thank you” is her reply. “Koly mi yidem do New Yorka,” she asks, when are we going to New York. “Zavtra,” I tell her, tomorrow, always tomorrow, always the day after.

Tomorrow will surely arrive, and I’ll wake up in the very same country in the very same village in the very same bed with the very same thoughts and ideas I had the day before. Hopes of miracles begin to vanish, dreams of grandeur dissipate with the morning fog. Slavik will still kick the stones and Sergei will fail to kick the bottle, and my director will still smile at my newly concocted plan.

So we all wake up just the same, except maybe, just maybe, Yanna wakes up a bit different. Another word learned, another letter’s sound mastered. And in 20 thousand tomorrows, maybe she will come to New York, and she’ll point to the dogs and the snow and the sun, and she’ll grab my hand and look in my eyes and say, in perfect English, “We are good, Jeremy. Thank you.”


2 thoughts on “Wake up a bit different

  1. We are good, Jeremy. Look at this picture: here are my sons and a daughter, and all my grandchildren. The oldest is seven, exactly the same age I was when you taught me English.

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