Mission to Kyiv: Update 2 – First Impressions & Three Weeks

Mission to Kyiv: Update 2 – First Impressions & Three Weeks

Hello everyone!

I am sorry it has been four weeks since my last update (wait, that means I’ve been here a whole month?), but my weekends have been consumed with class preparations and grading. A lot has happened about which I would like to tell you and I haven’t much time (I have more class prep and grading to do), so I will be as brief as verbose I can be. (“Verbose” is an adjective modifying the pronoun “I” to illustrate contrast with the adverbial claim that I will be brief.)

Class are going well. It has been an overwhelming process learning how to plan for classes, prepare content, discussion questions, and homework, grade said homework, and run a classroom. (E.g. How do I keep a class from exploding into a dozen little conversations?) Nonetheless, I believe that by God’s grace I am getting the hang of it and my fellow teachers continually encourage me through the learning curve.

As for my classes, I am teaching 8th, 9th, and 10th grade English as well as the Newspaper Elective, which meets three times a week and has three middle school girls (two in seventh grade and one in sixth) and two high school seniors. I did not know that I would (or even could) teach Newspaper and there is next to no material left over from previous years that the school did a newspaper, so I am starting from scratch. Additionally, I have to meet with my senior students in between classes and over email, because I teach 8th grade English during their elective period. Alas. I could go into great detail about the other classes as well, but I will simply say that I love teaching each one for a variety of different reasons.

In addition to teaching four classes, I study Russian under one of my fellow teachers alongside one of my 10th grade students – in fact, once we finish class at the end of third period we both go to my English class. He usually arrives ahead of me, because I pause to ask questions about Russian. As challenging as it is to have that addition to my schedule, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to study the language under someone who speaks it and can correct my pronunciation.

Furthermore, I will tomorrow be helping David Pervis, a missionary with MTW, at the first meeting of English Club, which may be called something else. English Club is an outreach ministry to native Ukrainians, offering them an opportunity to learn English for free and to hear the Truth of the Gospel. It meets Sunday and Monday evenings, but I will be teaching at only the Sunday session.

Recently people have been asking me how I am handling culture shock and I have to pause each time to think about what they are even asking. It sometimes does not feel like I am living in a foreign country; often what comes to mind more readily for me is how strange it is to be living independently, buying groceries when we need them and doing the dishes every night for an hour so that my hands smell like dish water all the time. (It reminds me of the days when I was on a swim team and during the season my ears would forever have water in them, despite all efforts to dry them.) Or I think about all the challenges of learning to be a teacher; certainly the environment is familiar, but deep in my heart I am still a student and making the inversion is tricky. Moreover, I am not accustomed to living in a city, which I already understand to have a different culture from suburbs or country no matter where you are, so I have trouble distinguishing the culture shift of suburb to city from American to Ukrainian, which, of course, is broad too since there are distinct cultures within those countries!

I do not know. I had a strange moment the other day, coming out of school after being lost in thoughts about class material: I was walking to the bus stop, where I would take the 437, the mashutka (bus) that I take every day, and I realized, “I am in a different country. It has a seven hours’ time difference from my home. They speak a language I barely recognize. This should utterly foreign and strange to me, but this feels like the most ordinary and mundane routine I have had in a long time. I get on a mashutka at almost the same time every morning to go to work and every evening to go home and I do so with a dozen or two Ukrainians who are doing exactly the same thing.” I have a daily grind and it is deliciously normal.

I could go on to talk about the peculiarities of now being a cat caretaker, such as having it sit on my arm as I wrote the first third of this blog, but I will have to save that for another time. I will just say that having and caring for a cat, which was left by the former owner of the apartment, is the single most difficult and unexpected ongoing challenge I have had since coming to Kyiv. No amount of stories, comics, or memes could have properly prepared me for this bizarre reflection on the human ego made manifest in a finicky ball of fur. I will leave it at that for now.

On a more serious note, I am financially on the edge. There is no immediate cause for alarm, as I am now sharing the cost of living with my roommate, but, come January and his departure, I currently have insufficient funds to continue living on my own. Please, prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you do.

Please, keep me in your prayers too, particularly that God would continue to fill me with energy and passion to serve my students every day. On top of the learning process, it is simply exhausting, physically, mentally, and emotionally, to be a teacher. Pray that the Lord would give me strength and endurance. Pray for the students also that their minds and hearts would be open and eager to learn every subject and to seek Christ in all things. All we teachers and staff at KCA are dedicated to revealing the Truth and power of the Gospel no matter what we are teaching or doing, so please pray that the Spirt would guide our words and deeds to be upright representatives of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you for reading, supporting, and praying! May the Lord be with all,

Matthew C. Fox

 

(Yes, this is my attempt to be brief and I do feel I have left out much!)

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