Sunday, October 25, 2009

Complications with Photos

For whatever reason uploading to facebook and blogspot has been difficult. I have uploaded some photos to facebook. So check out my photos there. Hopefully in two weeks, I'll figure out a better way to upload photos.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Week 1: uKATEnglish

Oh the roller coaster ride that my life is. The title of this blog suggests the language I have been speaking this past week. It is a tiny bit of Ukrainian with a lot of English and some Kate mixed in. I am a natural roller coaster of emotions but this past week has been an extreme low followed by a extreme high then low then high then low. You get the picture. Many days I have left English class so frustrated in a bad mood but then I think to myself. Week 1, I just got to put my head down and keep working.

The task of learning a language in catch up style will be the greatest mental challenge of my young life. It is one thing to learn a language but Ukrainian. It is a tough bird. With the complex alphabet, I feel like I have to deprogram the English I know and quickly upload Ukrainian. Through all my struggles this week my fellow PCTs have been wonderful. I could tell when I got here that I was coming into a tight group but they immediately welcomed me as part of the group. I have no idea what I would do without such a great group.

The new crew is Jon from Colorado, Laura from Washington D.C., Cindy from Texas, and Allison from Evanston, IL. Today after class, we walked to the local store bought some junk food and a few beers to distress after the long week. Hanging out at Laura’s host family’s house with no one else there made me almost feel like I was somewhere in the states just hanging out with friends.

Tonight has been the first time all week that I could come home and not immediately get to homework. I’m enjoying rocking out to my favorite playlist and typing up this blog. I thought graduating college my homework days would be behind me, but only now do I find them to be ten times more important. Because if I ever want to communicate more than “how are you?” and “good afternoon,” I need to get on the ball with learning.

So yeah life here in Ukraine is not drastically different than home, but just a lot of small differences. Here are a few examples: going into their small store you have to ask the cashier to pull the items that you want from behind the counter, when passing people even if you make eye contact it is still strange to smile at them, there are a lot of others that I’m sure I’ll pass along in my time here.

It seems like I have already been here awhile now and it has only been a week. I’m sure that the time will fly and soon enough I’ll be sad about leaving my small village, host family and fellow PCTs. Well I’m going to keep trudging on, counting it all joy and embracing the small daily victories. Please send letters; I haven’t received anything yet. PC personally drives them out to the different sites so I’m not quite sure if it’s cause they haven’t delivered or you people called my friends haven’t written any. I’m hoping the first. And keep the prayers coming for a servant’s heart and persistence for learning this difficult language.

"False Friends, True Friends, and New Friends"

Today was my first day of school. I got up at 7:30am. Showered in what looks like a space capsule. I managed to get clean without falling out so I consider it my first success of the day. Around 8am, I had fried potatoes, cucumbers, bread and butter with my little host sister. I got on dress clothes which is the proper attire for school and language training; which for me meant nice slacks and button down with my very warm vest.

I didn’t have to leave school until 9:20am because it is only a short walk to my English teacher’s house where the five of us PCTs are taught every day. Good thing I had some time because I have come to the realization that around 20mins after I eat it is time for me to use the bathroom.

My host grandmother, Vala, escorted me to the teacher’s house which is pretty much down the other side of the road that Y’s from the main road that goes through my little village. I arrived and soon got to work on my Ukrainian alphabet. There are 33 letters and as the title of the lesson suggests there are “false friends, true friends, and new friends.” Which means letters that now have different meanings, some have the same meaning and then there are new letters all together. So pretty much to learn Ukrainian I need to unlearn English to some extent.

I had an hour private lesson with my teacher before the others arrived from teaching morning lessons at the school that has kids from 2nd to 10th grade, I believe there is around 150 students all together. When my other mates joined me, I stayed at the kitchen table to keep working on my alphabet while they did week #4 lessons. Eventually we walked to the school where I will have lunch every day. I was a bit hesitant from my morning fiasco. It was a type of potato soup and pretty good. I ate a lot of bread attempting to be nice to my stomach.

After a quick lunch, I went to grade 7 and 10 to watch my four fellow PVCs teach some lessons. They taught in pairs for 40mins. I was amazed at all they were able to accomplish without using a lot of Ukrainian to direct the students. Overall, I would say they did a very good job.

After school let out around 2pm, we headed back to our English teacher’s house to get back to lessons. I was able to observe the other students and attempt to pick up whatever I could while studying my alphabet. Around 4pm, we took a tea/coffee break for a half hour. Then got cracking on lessons until 6pm. We all headed back to our separate homes because our host mothers will worry if it really starts to get dark and we aren’t home yet. I pretty much learned two things besides being able to sound out the alphabet. First was Ya Kate means I am Kate and dobryi’ den means good day.
I have a lot of head of me and feel extremely behind when compared to my classmates but I’m just trying to take one day at a time.

Toto We Aren't in Kansas Anymore

I have made it to Ukraine. Looked out the window while landing Kyiv, didn’t look too much of a foreign land. But once getting to their customs station in the airport and trying to make sense of all the letters that do not appear in our alphabet I soon realized I was far from home.

Dealing with customs wasn’t that much of a hassle. I was the last one threw and also the one with a missing bag. Dealing with the lost & found people probably took a whole hour but they were polite and helpful. Leaving the airport, I was one piece of luggage short but excited to be heading to the Ukraine Peace Corps Head Quarters office with the rest of the Turkmen rejects.

We got a lot of paper works, and shots out of the way. Signed my John Hancock as if someone thought I was famous and then took two shots in the left arm and one in the right. I had a few minutes to send out a few emails. Then we all headed back to the conference room for more info and dinner. Nothing like getting a chicken Hawaiian pizza in Ukraine, pretty good I must say.

Around 8pm, we headed to our hotel for the night. Let’s just say the lobby tricked us all by looking pretty sheek and then we got to our floor it seemed like an aged building from the movie “the shining.” (I’ll show you the photos some other time.) My roomie Kathleen and I settled in and got some much needed rest. In the morning, I want to say I conquered my first feat as a PCT, I managed to shower in a very interesting set up of a bathroom. Let’s just say there was a faucet that was used for both the shower and the sink. I almost fell from the elevated shower base buck-naked taking the shower curtain with me but somehow I managed to regain my balance.

After meeting up with the group in the lobby, we all headed back to the PC office to meet with a PCMO (Peace Corps medical officer) and TEFL director. In the four hours of information given to us I took away three main pieces of information: 1 visiting Ukrainian doctor for poops, it might end up as an unfortunate and unnecessary rectal exam so always call PC docs first, 2 using the hand gesture that suggests you are going to “pound” someone means sexual intercourse in Ukraine, and 3 serving as a Peace Corps Trainee/Volunteer means you are pretty much a “rock star without the benefits.”

We headed out at noon to get dropped at our PST (pre-service training) sites. I am in a small village of 2,000 people that is Northeast of Kyiv. I and three other PCTs headed out this way. The bus pulled alongside the road and next thing I was greeted by my host dad, grandmother and sister. They were friendly but very quiet. I could tell that the 10 year old little girl was pretty excited to have her family host me for the next two and half months. The parents, Kate and Valik are in their late 20s-early 30s, Deanna, the little girl is 10, Vala, the grandmother is 49, and young uncle Artom is 23. This is my new family.

We loaded up my stuff and drove what would have been only a 5 minute walk. Along the way, I could spot four Americans walking down the road. Not really having met them I gave them a little wave from the car. We actually only stopped a few houses pass them so they walked back to my house to introduce themselves. Tomorrow I will meet up with them in the afternoon and get the skinny on my new home and training.
Oh, did I mention that they speak not one word of English. Looks like I will give them hello but beyond that this experience is going to be a learning process for all of us. In the five hours of being here, I haven’t used a dictionary more in my life. It was sort of like playing charades with taboo because some words I wanted to use weren’t in my English to Ukrainian dictionary. All is good though. I had a lovely first dinner with the ladies of the house; chicken, potato-like salad, veggie salad, potatoes, and cookies for dessert. In some of our dinner conversation, I learned that they kill their own chickens. Vala showed me the chickens from my bedroom and looks like I might get to help pluck tomorrows dinner.

I shared my gifts I brought from the states. Deanna especially enjoyed the play-doh and yoyo I gave to her. Sat around played a few games of Uno and had some more conversations via the dictionary. Now I’m ready to head to bed to catch some much needed zzz’s.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Howdy from Ukraine

Well got here a few hours ago. I'm currently at the PC headquarter office in Kyiv. I have done alot of paper work, received three shots, gotten assigned to a small town for my cluster (small training group). I will leave Kyiv tomorrow at noon. All has been well minus one of my bags not showing up at the airport. Hopefully get that tomorow morning. Keeping it short so other people can use the net. Hope to post more in a week or so. Later all.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A 'Chilli' October

Me & Lou picking pumpkins at Grandpa's house.

Nothing like a homemade costume.

So I was suppose to say hello to October in Turkmenistan, but with that all falling through I am able to get one last week in Chilli in before headed out to Ukraine. I wonder if they do pumpkins & Halloween there.

It is funny to think of what we thought was such a big deal when we were little. It was all about birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and other random occasion for gifts and candy. I bet Lucy and other children in Africa don't get the extras of random holidays. Also pretty sure right here in the good ole USA kids of Appalachia probably don't know the extensive spoils involved with these holidays that I experienced as a kid.

It is not that kids shouldn't be able to enjoy their birthdays with candy, cupcakes and parties. Getting ready for Peace Corps while processing that college is over and what it has all meant to me has made me look closer at my life.I am just overwhelmed with the blessings I have received in my life.

I'm thankful for the ability to worship the Lord I want. I'm thankful for my crazy, loud, overwhelming at times, but always present family. I'm thankful for a healthy body. I'm thankful for clean drinking water. I'm thankful for a huge network of amazing people who I am lucky to call my friends. I'm thankful for all the opportunities of traveling the U.S. and the world. I'm thankful that Peace Corps has quickly replaced me. I'm thankful for the fall weather that makes eating my dad's stew even better. I'm thankful for one more week in Chilli.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Next Stop Ukraine

This morning I officially accepted a position for teaching English as a foreign language in Ukraine. The group already arrived in Ukraine on 29th of September. A group of Turkmen rejects and myself will be playing catch up. Hopefully our visas will be processed quickly and we will be joying them in roughly 10 days. Post more when I know more.