Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Ukrainian Independence Day =)

I’ve never celebrated this holiday before, but because I have a very strong desire to make a pilgrimage this winter starting in Kyiv – as I just learned from my new Ukrainian friends, not Kiev, which is the politically incorrect Russian transliteration of the capital city – I thought it well to start boning up on some language and cultural fundamentals.

The Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholic Church here in Denver had a wonderful celebration yesterday and I was invited by a Ukrainian-American I met. From the warm and generous reception, I’m more motivated than ever to get myself to Eastern Europe this winter… by November, I’ve been advised by Kyivians, after the worse of the autumn muds yet before the deepest of snow. The kind priest offered to write a letter of introduction for me in Ukrainian as an aid in finding accommodation from priests and monasteries I might encounter. Wow, how cool is that?

Reviewing the pages of ‘Teach Yourself Ukrainian’, I’ve concluded that this will be a little more challenging for me than learning Italian on the pilgrim trail. I’ve been on the Introduction pages for a week – and that’s just the alphabet. The 33 symbols contain enough oddities to make it seem illogical – the boxy symbol that represents the ‘D’ sound, for example, has a printed version considerably different from the handwritten version. Handwritten, the capital letter looks suspiciously like a cursive capital D, which I content with, but the lower case is decidedly like a g. Tricky. But not insurmountable. How hard can it be? I’ve got months to learn enough Ukrainian, Turkish, and Greek – each with its own alphabet – to get me by. (I figure I’ll fake my way through the language requirements of Romanian and Bulgarian… if I stick to the touristic coastline of the Black Sea, I hope that my German, French, and English will be enough.)

I have enough experience now to have a clear idea of the vocabulary I truly need to find a bed, some food, and directions to the next town, plus be able to explain who I am, where I’m going, and why. I’ve found that learning my half of these conversations and repeating them over and over again to anyone who might listen is a good way to progress, indulging on the pain threshold of the conversation partner. By the six or eight weeks it will take to pass through Ukraine, I should have some of that mastered to a satisfactory level. Pride, dignity, eloquence must be easily released to get through this. In the car on the way to the Ukrainian Independence Day picnic, I repeated countless times aloud ‘men-e-zvar-ta Anna’ as a way to introduce myself. No one laughed at me. My first Ukrainian sentence committed to memory, tried and tested – happy day!

1 comment:

Rita said...

How exciting your upcoming journey sounds. How challenging to learn languages with different alphabets. I would have a big headache every day!!
Good luck. Keep learning!!