Friday, August 8, 2008

Project Blog It: Strawberries

To contribute to Project Blog It today, I decided to post an excerpt from a book I've been writing over the past few years based on the journal I kept during the time I lived in Ukraine:

Saturday, June 10, 2000, L-

We had been waiting for the ordination service to begin since 10:00 AM. Finally, around 11:30, we left the choir loft of the cathedral and sneaked back downstairs to leave. The organist began playing the benediction as soon as we were too far down the road to consider turning back and abandoning our walk to the city for drinks.

We changed Polish złoty for a handful of Ukrainian bills and found a café where Przymek could have his coffee and I could get a Coca Cola.

Kostya saw something he wanted: ice cream smothered in whipped cream with strawberries and some kind of smaller version of a strawberry whose name in Russian and Polish is different from “strawberry” but whose name in English I didn’t know. Years later I was to find out that poziomki are simply wild strawberries.

My Ukrainian friends—who are actually Ukrainian transplants to Poland—spend a lot of time singing songs, performing for me, asking me to fill in the gaps to missed lyrics of American pop songs: “Bye bye, Miss American Pie, drove my what?” “’Chevy’—it’s short for Chevrolet: a kind of car.” “To the what?” “’Levee.’” “What is this ‘levee’?”

Using universal sign language, I describe a river—my frame of reference: the Trinity in Dallas—and the mounds of earth keeping the river from overflowing its bounds. Here, too, I mentally reference something close to home: the Wycliff Street bridge, over which I pass daily to work, except those days when the Trinity is flooded.

I want to show these friends the pictures I have in my head and yet I regretfully acknowledge that anything short of a Vulcan mind meld would be inadequate. I wonder what pictures they have in their heads and wonder what it is of their world they wish I could see.

“Fuck off.” “Acquaintance.” “Take a piss. Take a shit.” These are some of the things I later teach Przymek over a bottle of Ukrainian beer. I scold him for being lazy with his tongue when speaking English: he too often has relied on “z” instead of a better “th” sound.

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