Friday, 7 September 2012

Fetching Tartan Paint

Today has been an emotional washing machine. It all started at breakfast, when I was starving hungry - when I'm too hungry I easily burst into tears over nothing.

The guest mugs had disappeared, so I grabbed a random one for tea. Lena, one of the older grown-ups, pointed out it was her mug, and my eyes just decided to leak. Thanks eyes. Then I was crying from just being so utterly confused, feeling like I couldn't do anything right and like I don't have a hope of fitting in when I can't even understand the mug system. Lena was so sweet, she just said "It's your mug" and that just made me cry more because she was being so nice to me. She even hugged me and said "Я люблю тебя" (tr. I love you), which coming from a Russian, famed for their general lack of smiley-ness, was so ridiculously cute I giggled. After eating breakfast I felt so much better I near-danced around the kitchen tidying up, while attempting to explain to the cook that I wasn't really sad, just hungry.

We washed up after brekky, which seems less of a slog each day now we've developed our "Who Wants to be a Restauranteur?" gameshow idea. The pitch is that people who want to start a cafe or restaurant are dealt out what seems like an insurmountable amount of dishes and cultery to clean. They must scrape, move to the sinks, wash up, rinse, and put away all of it (no drying dishes here). Each day we've been further optimising the task, despite only having one plug between three sinks. Potential winners of the game show must show the required amount of initative to plug all of their sinks (they get to choose their sink set-up to try and get the best time, but there will always be fewer plugs than sinks).

Katya alloted us an arbitrary hour to do the washing up and peel potatoes, but in reality it takes about 40 minutes to clear the first task, and in fact we peeled potatoes for a further 50. So already we were behind schedule. Then our next job was to clean the first floor of the school, which was a mega job because the porch was filthy from everyone's muddy shoes, and the main hall is really rather large - in an hour we managed to sweep and mop the porch, and sweep the main hall. By that point we'd missed our chance to sit in on an English lesson, and had to apologise to Sasha the teacher! Thankfully, Masha had invited us for tea, so we took a break at 1...

So here's the turn around. That which has put everything in perspective. It was 1pm, Masha had had 3 hours without her little girl Sasha, but she still hadn't showered, because she was so busy. Masha looks after 5 kids. Masha, along with Tamara, built the first house in Kitezh with her bare hands, because hiring workers was too expensive. Together they dug a 1.8m deep and 30m long trench for the gas pipe. Masha is only 27!

This woman is hardcore.

Katya wanted to check whether 4 hours of housework a day is alright, and having just discovered all this about Masha, both Vicky and I said yes. Because we're volunteers, and we said on our applications that we're willing to help in any way we can. Right now, what they need is help keeping the place ship-shape while they focus all of their minds and might on getting the education system here right. These people have created this whole village, this whole lifestyle, for the benefit of these children, and they put that ahead of everything else, even just simple stuff like having a shower.

So I cried for the second time today, cried because I am so in awe of the amazing dedication of these people to the cause of creating a new and happy life for orphaned children.

After that I felt much happier, like I can take any amount of work they assign me. Being a 'помощник' means being a helper, and I want to help these people any way I can, because they need help far more than I need a sit down.

Also for lunch we had heaven on earth - mushroom pastries with chive soft-cheese. I rescued a trapped butterly and set it free into the blue sky and that was delightful too.

I attacked the task of mopping the floor after lunch with vigour - I put my ipod on and danced with my mop until the entire hall was spotless. When Katya came to sweep the stairs with only a little dustpan and brush, that further reminded me that we're all helpers here. Maybe we don't get thanked every time we complete a task, but then who's around to thank us? They're all busy doing their own jobs!

The kindergarten girls were utter sweeties today - proper excited to continue watching The Little Mermaid! The girls all ran inside; Vicky went with to get them started on colouring. But by god, the next emotional washing machine cycle made me go white!  I ran after the little boy Danya to corrall him in. When I found him, he was collecting twigs. He said something about a knife but I didn't understand. He went over to a tree-stump, sat down, and to my horror pulled a knife out of it and began scraping the bark off these twigs! The blood drained from my face as I saw he was holding the twig between his legs, and I desperately grasped for the words for "Stop! Don't! That's sharp and dangerous!". Thank heavens he handed me the knife for a second, I think just to hold it, and I refused to give it back and hid it high up in the wood pile. He took to attacking nettles with a very heavy log after that, but he shortly got tired and luckily Tamara crossed our path and told him to run inside. So we raced inside, and soon he was joining the girls quietly colouring in.

So a happy ending to the story of today: the story of redefining my idea of 'difficult'.

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