I've mentioned my buddies from the Ukrainian Army in previous blog posts. One of those guys, MSG S, speaks English quite well, while most of his comrades speak no English at all. MSG S and a couple of the Officers in his unit (plus one other Sergeant) came twice a week to the on-Post English classes which were coordinated by the Aviation Battalion, and which I took over once I arrived on scene with them (after my Battalion left).
Quite a number of times I wound up meeting with MSG S outside of class, because he was so intent upon learning as much English as he could, as well as he could.
Not long before I left for home, MSG S brought his Company Commander to my room, and we sat around and chatted for a couple of hours. (Actually, MSG S did most of the talking, as his Commander felt insecure about his command of English. I encouraged him to take the risk of making mistakes, since that's the best way to master a foreign language, at least in my experience.)
Several times MSG S came over at night to watch a movie with me. I gave him the "com" (the remote) so he could stop the movie whenever he felt the need to ask for clarification. I'd often tell him to stop it so I could explain some idiomatic phrase or other. Those evenings were quite enjoyable.
Several times he'd show up and have one of his young Soldiers with him, who'd watch the movie with us, but without understanding the language. So MSG S would hit "pause" every so often, just to make sure his friend knew the subtleties of what was going on.
This of course presumes that a movie such as "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" *has* subtleties....
The night I was *supposed* to begin the journey home at 0200, MSG S and his friend knocked at my door. I'd already given away the TV and DVD player (to him! along with a sleeping bag, some DVDs, a teapot, and some other stuff), so I was surprised to see them. They said they weren't going to stay, but that they had the young Sergeant had something for me.
They're all part of the Ukrainian Army Airborne Corps, and SGT B had sewn me a flag that their Airborne troops all fly. On top of their having given me a complete Ukrainian Army Paratrooper's uniform (replete with my name sewn on it, as well as Captain's rank), this was a very generous and thoughtful gesture on their part.
I can't wait to display it in my new office when I start work at the end of my terminal leave!
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ