Saturday, September 04, 2004

Sept. 1 is a holiday.

All kids bring flowers for the teachers - usually it's what we call the astras, I don't know what they're called in english - I used to be sort of allergic to them because I was so sick of school, but then, maybe five years ago, I started getting really nostalgic on seeing these flowers, and now I do buy them... They are fall flowers... (Edited in: they are called asters.)

Every school holds a celebration before classes begin: everyone - kids, their families, teachers - gather in front of the school, usually on a basketball court, and there are speeches, which the kids rarely listen to - because they are really excited to see each other after the long summer break, they are full of stories and impressions. And then there is something called The First Bell - when one of the boys for whom it's the last year of school, carries a girl on his shoulder, a first-grader, cute, giggling, proud, and she holds this large bell with a ribbon on it - and she rings the bell as he carries her around the court - and that means the school year has officially started. It was like this well before I started school, and it was so while I was in school, from 1981 to 1991, and it's still like this.

There's another school holiday, The Last Bell, the last day of classes. It takes place around May 25 and the procedure is very similar to Sept. 1, only the kids who are about to graduate are in the center of everyone's attention: two or three more weeks, and they'll be done with their exams, and they'll be adults. It's funny how now, when the school uniform is different from what we had to wear, there are still many girls who dress like we did on this day: brown dress and white apron - and those crazy white bows on their hair, and the white golfs (is that the word for the long socks?), which I never wore. Their older sisters or perhaps even their mamas have kept those old uniforms from their school days - because you wouldn't find any of it in the stores now (for every day, you had a black apron; the white one was only for the holidays). And after this celebration, all the last-graders walk around the city, drinking beer and having fun, and they're so happy, it's contagious. I took some pictures of these kids in Kyiv this past May - I'll try to find one to post it here.

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