Saturday, November 28, 2009

Last Chance

Hey All. If you are reading this please send me your email to me (kateschmidt_@hotmail.com). So I can register your email because next weekend I'm going to pass word project my blog. Hope all is well.

Week 6 : A Lot to Be Thankful For!

Monday was my first day of teaching. I co-taught 5th form (grade) with Allison. We did a review session themed the Olympics. The students responded really well to our lesson plan and I mean who wouldn’t we gave candy to the winning and losing team. Overall, it was wonderful to get to do my thing in the classroom.

Tuesday was our cluster field trip into Kiev. We left our zoopinka (stop) at 7:15am headed into the nearby city to catch a marsuka to Kiev. It was around hour and 45min, two hour ride. I slept pretty much the whole way. We went to the train station to get familiar because most likely we will be using it to get to our site or visit the PC office in the future. After, we did around a 15 minute walk to the Peace Corps office. I had been there my very first hours in Ukraine but for the rest of the cluster it was their first time. We talked to one of the coordinators about our community project, used the computer s real quick but most importantly we got to chit chat with current volunteers as well as PCVs who just ended their service. They gave us some insides and told us that it only continues to get better after training. After the office, we did a little walking tour of sights and monuments of Kiev (check out facebook for photos).

Wednesday would have just been another day of class and tutoring besides the fact my stomach did not want to be nice to me. I’m sad to say that I probably spent way more time than one person should in our LCF’s outhouse. Let’s just say even if you try not to breathe, one can taste the horridness. I eventually just went to home where I hangout in the bathroom for a good while before just laying on my bed asking God why? By early afternoon, I felt much better.

Thursday Den Podyakey (day of thanks aka thanksgiving)!! PC gave us the day off of lesson but we still were scheduled to teach and observe classes at our school. Again Allison and I co-taught the 5th form. They enjoyed learning about Turkey Day and making hand turkeys (check out fb to see a couple great photos). After, Allison and I ran home to change real quick before heading into the city. We also picked up couple of pevo-s (beer) to have a celebratory toast on our way in. We met up with a group of PCTs at a pizza restaurant and enjoyed just kicking it with fellow Americans. Then headed back into our village before it got dark. Overall, a pretty enjoyable thanksgiving.

Friday is funday only because the weekend is here after I finished technical tutoring at 3:30pm. I came home to an empty house, read a good 70 pages to finish “Running the Amazon.” Typed up lesson plans for the resource book we are making for school’s English teacher to use. Chilled with the family in the kitchen for a good hour and half, eating searnick (fried little dough patties) with homemade jam while watching “The Poseidon Adventure” dubbed in Russian.

This is the end of my 6th week in country but really the end of the 9th week of training which means we only have two more weeks before heading out to our sites. I’m excited (probably more excited about finally being able to shave my legs than being sworn in) but at the same time I worried about adjusting all over again and without the help of my amazing cluster. Please pray that I’ll not be too stressed in the next coming weeks and that I’ll be able to transition smoothly into my new home. Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and is gearing up for Christmas!!

Kate

Saturday, November 21, 2009

SEND ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS

Hey Everyone,

I have to password protect my blog to follow Peace Corps protocol. I'm going to do it in a week. So please email me your email so I can register you for my blog. My address is kateschmidt_@hotmail.com. I'm going to set up the password. So please do it by next weekend.

Love you all,

Kate

The Facts and Numbers

Remember when reading not to judge. I am sharing (probably too much) because I want you to have as realistic picture of me here in Ukraine.

45: roughly the number of cows I walk to and from school with
38: pieces of mail I have sent either solo or group mailed
15: lbs I have probably gained from eating ungodly amounts of potatoes
12: kool-aid singles my cluster went through in a Saturday night of drinking
10: times I eat ice cream weekly (at least)
6: letters I have received
5: the weeks I have survived of training
3: cats that live in my house (Kanopa, Lana, Sonia)
2: times I almost pooped myself
1: book I read in the very first week of being here (“Zeitoun” great read)
0: times I have shaved my legs since arriving in country

If I could have over 2 people tonight for dinner: my Grandma Nita (bc she is the bestest) and KS (to compare PC notes)
Favorite food here in Ukraine: borscht
Food I miss the most from home: salad & anything that doesn’t make me feel like I’m 500lbs
Biggest thing I underestimated: how difficult learning a language is
What I’m most thankful for: ending up in cluster with amazing people
Biggest frustration: slow rate that mail gets to me
Biggest challenge: navigating the streets and not ruining my Nikes
If I could have anything three things from home: SD card with every episode of “Friends” on it, another good book to read, Whitey (my beloved Saturn)
What would I have not brought: so many socks & button up shirts
What I am glad I brought: laptop, warm slippers, & bible (God if your reading it isn’t in order of importance)
Overall low: the realization that I can’t be two places at once & I’m going to miss big events in my family and friends lives
Overall high: God giving me the strength to do Peace Corps & also realizing I am blessed with having amazing family and friends who are supportive of me.

Week 5: I Almost Drown

November 20, 2009

From the title of this you are probably wondering how that is possible considering my village isn’t close to a lake or river, nor do I have a bathtub in my house. My cluster buddy, Allison, and I had enjoyed Thursday evening in the city using the internet. Also before leaving, we totally indulged on probably the most delicious McDonald’s Cheese Burger I have ever eaten. Funny because I can’t really remember the last time I ate Mickey Dee’s in the states, I was always more of a Wendy’s frosty kind of person.

Any who, Allison and I got back to town around 7pm-ish. Now understand that it had been pitch black since 4:30pm. So with flash lights in hand and just chatting about the ways Americans and Ukrainians act toward foreigners, our lives almost came to an end. We had almost fallen into one of the largest mud puddles I have ever seen in my life. We both dramatic reacted with a “whoa” followed by a lot of laughter. Man, the dangers of living in a small village without any real paved roads.

Yeah, week 5 has flown by. Of course, we still have one more technical session tomorrow with our link but for the most part the stress of language is over. Actually this week I wasn’t too bad. I really enjoyed our first LCF returning for our last weeks of language. Regardless of my small knowledge of Ukrainian, I am starting to understand things in the class room a little better. I still don’t know much but I’m relaxed and not stressing about it. Also the end of training is rapidly approaching so I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But as I’m calming down about learning the language, I’m starting to get anxious about having not taught any classes yet. Hopefully, we will find out tomorrow morning at technical training if the quarantine has been extended one or two more weeks. This is the wrap up of my 5th week of training but in reality it is the end of the 8th for the rest of the group. So we have week 9, 10 and 11 left. Monday morning of the 12th week is when we head to Kiev for swearing in and all that other good stuff. So everyone think happy thoughts. Otherwise, I’ll be freaking when it gets close to the time to move to our sight and start our jobs if I haven’t ever taught in training.

This week started to prepare my cluster for the changes that are coming. On Monday, we had our second mock language proficiency interview. I was pretty nervous before it. I sort of had the same feeling as I did in French class in high school when I was praying not to get called on. Over all it went pretty well. I don’t have an ungodly amount of topics I can hit but the ones I do know I feel like I can say correctly. I’m telling myself if I have the basics down in the language I can survive. Right now I’m capable of going to the store to buy food, using public transportation, sending mail from the post office and random greetings & small talk vocab. We have our real LPI in week 11 where PC rates our level of language.

This past Tuesday, we also had a visit from the office for our Site Placement Interview. Pretty much it boils down to expressing yourself in a way that you think you are going to get the placement you want. I didn’t really go into it with that big of an agenda. I just talked about my back ground from being a small town, and having worked as a Resident Assistant as well as coaching different levels of basketball for summer camps. I’m hoping for a small community similar to what I’m leaving in now but I’m really not reading into anything too much. I have faith in the system that has gotten me into this community, host family and cluster I have fallen in love with. As much as the days I’m walking in the rain and stepping in cow poop/mud and dreaming of the warmer and dryer Turkmen climate, I can’t really imagine not being in Ukraine. I have definitely found a home with the 37th training group.

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving this coming Thursday. I might be celebrating at Mickey Dee’s with my fellow cluster mates. Also good luck to all my NCC buddies with finals coming up this week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Week 4: So much for my Peace Corps diet…

Hello all from Ukraine. Life is just marvelous (as my pops would say) here. I’m writing to you at 7:30am when I could have slept in because you know I wake when the sun rises or more importantly when the chickens decide it’s time for me to get up. So it’s officially 4 weeks since I arrived to Ukraine, tomorrow it will be exactly a month. Some parts have gone so slow while overall it has gone almost too fast. I have 4 more weeks of training before the swearing in week. Dec. 14th is when I leave my familiar little village and head back to Kiev for a few days of ceremonies and counterpart training.

The 14th is the magical yet possible tragic day that all trainees find out there site placement. It can be magical for the fact you could end up in your dream oblast (state like region) with your cluster mates or you could possibly be headed to a more remote area by yourself. The training coordinator told us the day is usually filled with tears regardless the scenario. I’m sure I’ll be all motion anyways.

The 15th is when we meet our counterpart this is the person that we will work with for the next two years during our service. They often are our co-teacher or co-facilitator. In the end , this person will probably more greatly improve my life than I will theirs but hopefully we can achieve a lot of positive at their home school/ community while having a relationship to the community where they are seen as the one who was in charge and brought the positive impact. From hearing stories, people often become incredible close with this friend and sometimes so close they end up getting married. Just heard of PCV who is getting married sometime in the next week or maybe he is one of the recent RPVCs. Anywho, I am really looking forward to meeting my new Ukrainian best friend/boyfriend, haha (just kidding mom don’t worry).

The 16th there is different training for our counterpart. We also will participate in some grant writing sessions if we are interested. It is not one of our assignments but HIV/AIDS prevention is encouraged secondary project that I already am interested in getting involved with.

The 17th is the magical day when I will be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and will no longer be referred to as a trainee. I’m really excited for this day but it will also be bitter sweet because these 4 days will be the last real time my cluster mates and I will be together. But I still have a month with them so I’m going to live it up.

Week 4 brought presents for me. I received three letters: Kimberly Sluis (former boss/gracious non-landlord landlord, Robin Gadient (former resident but friend, haha), and Father Schmidt. These put my total count at 6 letters for 4 weeks and that number puts me in the lead of my cluster mates (Cindy 5, Laura, Allison, & Jon 0). So keep those letters coming. I sent a lot but they were sent from my small post office which I don’t believe were air mail so you guys could possibly receive the 2nd letters/postcards before the first ones. Anywho, keep sending them if you send me a letter I promise to send a return one. If you haven’t received mail yet it’s on it its way.

One question: why is it that everyone tells me to be safe at the end of their letters, you think I’m crazy enough to do something dumb. Ok, yesterday I did walk where Allison said I shouldn’t attempt and almost fell in a huge puddle and cow poop. When I got home, my host family thought it was hilarious the amount of mud/poop that was on my shoe but still come on you guys you gotta trust me. Heck, I was selected to be a crossing guard in 5th grade. Long story short, I behave myself here and you all have nothing to worry about.

This morning I’m going to take about an hour walk around my village hopefully taking some good photos. Our technical training with the other cluster doesn’t start until 10am and they have to travel here this week so I’m going to take advantage of the later start. Week 5 is going to be a big week our first LCF comes back for our remaining 4 weeks which means a Mock Language Proficiency Interview. This involves sitting in the kitchen and having as in depth conversation you can have in Ukrainian. Let’s hope for good weather because that is my newest topic I can sort of cover. On Tuesday, we also have our Sight Placement Interview which is a huge deal. This is what partially determines where you will get placed. You express your interests and contributions not your preferences so they are able to get an idea of you and place you at sight that you would be able to contribute the best. I’m not really sure what I want to shoot for, but I can say I have really enjoyed the village life here in my community.

Anywho, keep your fingers crossed that the interview goes well regardless what I’m shooting for. I miss you all. This time last year I would have been anxiously finishing up the fall term looking forward to going to Ghana, five years ago I would have been playing in the Olympia Thanksgiving bball tourney front toothless but they can judge me all I want because my team won. Hope you all area well. Much love, friends.

Fireside in Ukraine

November 12th, 2009

Well life is all well on the home front. I’m just sitting hear the fireplace enjoying the warmth before getting ready to do my lesson planning for technical tutoring tomorrow. Today after getting back to my dodoma (home) and lesson planning with Allison, I enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen with my host grandmother, Vala. She is 49 wears the pants of this family and has the best sense of humor ever.

I got to help prepare the ingredients for the borscht as well as mix “zap pee kon ka” which is a dish that contains apples diced up, cheese, and rice, then is topped off by being covered with a scrambled egg then cooked in the oven for around 45mins. It actually looks like it is pretty good but I can’t say yet. I also peeled 13 (thre nad set) potatoes (car toe pla) which probably took me a good 20 minutes when I pretty sure my host mother could have done them all in under 5 minutes. But she loves me and lets me learn/ feel like I’m contributing to the family.

Also chilling with Kanopa (which means button) a nice calico cat that is my favorite out of the three of the house. We met with our teacher that we are interning for and heard that it is rumored that it might be another 2 weeks of quarantine added on to the end of next week. If that happens we could only have the chance to teach the last week before teaching which would be a really bummer since I haven’t had the chance to get into the class room myself.

My host mother brought home mandarins tonight. My house grandmother and I in our PJs took this opportunity to have a juggling contest. I must actually admit that she was a little better than me. Haha, o good times in Ukraine (there is a photo on face book to prove it). Well I’m getting tired and still have things to do. I’m headed to bed. Hopefully write more tomorrow summing up week number 4 here in the motherland.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Week 3: “Yeah, Isn’t Amazing All the People I meet” inspired by “Volunteers” Jefferson Airplane

November 7th, 2009

Hey all. Coming to you live from Ukraine. It’s currently 75 degrees in my room which is hot compared to earlier in the week when my host family hadn’t turned on the heat. I went to bed one night with it right around 60 degrees. I felt like that entire day I didn’t get warm.

Last night (11/6) was my host mom and dad’s 10th wedding anniversary. We had a large dinner with a handful of family and friends. It was definitely the most delicious meal since I’ve been in Ukraine. I also got to participated in shooting shots of Russian vodka throughout the dinner. Let’s just say that no, no matter how many times I said it didn’t really worked. The best I could hope for was saying chew chew which means a little and pray for a small amount in my glass.

My family is absolutely wonderful. For the most part, the other volunteers enjoy their families but I really think I got some help from the big man upstairs when it came to getting paired with this family. They all have a great sense of humor. It’s been amazing how far a positive attitude and good sense of humor can take you. Tonight at dinner my ba-boo-sya (host grandmother)quizzed me over dinning utensils and food while my host sister tried to whisper the answers to me that I couldn’t remember.

This week was filled with tons of language and technical training. On Saturdays, we head over to the next small town for more technical training with our cluster. Today, we covered the dynamics of co-teaching and team teaching with our Ukrainian teacher counterparts. Two other topics were adjusting with culture shocks and methods to adapt to our new environment as well as how to start up English clubs once we get to our site.

First when arriving and seeing my other cluster mates teaching in the school, I thought “holy crap what have I gotten myself into.” Now after some training and getting to know & really like my host sister, I’m really excited at the opportunity to work with Ukrainian children. I think it will be an amazing experience getting the privilege to be the for the most part the first American they have ever interacted with. My TCF was telling us today there are some strong misconceptions and stereotypes about Americans, that we are like Brittney Spears rolling up to school in a fancy car with diamonds in our ears. Boy are they going to be in for a surprise when this giant with nappy curly hair hops of the local transportation the first day of school.

So week three there have been some ups and many downs but right now I find myself in a really good place. This afternoon after technical training, my cluster mates and I were able to get in a 2 hour hoo-lya-tae (a stroll without a purpose) before it started to get dark around 4:30pm. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some photos up here or on Facebook. We often try to get some walks in when the weather is nicer which means it isn’t freezing or rainy. Most days the weather is cold, dark and grey. Tomorrow, Sunday I’ll be headed into Chernigiv to post all of my recent blogs. Hope this finds everyone doing well.

Oh also thought I would add the breakdown of Peace Corps Lingo
PC- Peace Corps
PCV- Peace Corps Volunteer
PCT- Peace Corps Trainee
RPCV- Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
ET- Early Termination
MT – Medically Termination
PCMO- Peace Corps Medical Office
Cluster- the 4 other PCTs in my town (that I have daily everything with)
Link- the other cluster (from the closest small town to me) plus my cluster
LCF- Language Facilitator (the person who teaches us Ukrainian everyday)
TCF- Technical Facilitator (the person in charge of supervising us in our internship with the local school as well as some other random PC training)

They Weren’t Lying: Snail Mail is The Best

November 5th, 2009

It has been another long week. Every morning I get up and think today is the day where I’m going to feel like I’ve made some progress with the Ukrainian language. Well it’s Thursday night of week 3 and I feel like it should be day one and I’m still jet lagged on top of it.

I guess I told myself that language would be hard but I definitely underestimated how much I would miss being able to communicate whenever I wanted. My host family is absolutely great and I want to have a deeper relationship than charades and looking up words in the dictionary can provide. So I find myself stuck wishing I didn’t care to learn the language meaning I would be a lot less frustrated instead of being completely frustrated because I so badly just want to be able to speak Ukrainian.
But tonight I did find the ability to relax. First of all I got my tutoring done at 8am instead of 3pm which meant when class finished at 1:30pm the rest of the day was Kate time. This makes doing homework not so bad because I don’t feel like I have to rush home to eat potatoes and then start on work. I came home had some lunch then played around 7 games of UNO with my host sister (the H1N1 scare is worth having my host sister to chill with; also just want to put it out there I took the series 4-3).

I got my language homework done the best I could. Eventually started lesson planning because I need to have 15 lessons planned instead of 15 taught. If all goes well hopefully I will be able to teach week 9, 10, and 11. If not I’m going to be entering my two years of service on the fly. I’m hoping to at least get in the classroom a few times to feel comfortable and not be totally freaked to start teaching. Allison and I were suppose to team teach so we are picking up where our last lesson plan ended with a new one.

PC has also put certain requirements on the 15. One of them has to be an introduction of ourselves and developing an idea of where our student’s abilities stand. For mine, I worked out a circle chart of my interests. It is geared toward older students but could be watered down for younger or students with lower abilities. Just thinking of ideas, I’m started to get excited and remember the reason I’m here.

Tonight while coordinating over the phone with Allison (you have to love the free life to life (aka Ukrainian Verizon to Verizon deal) she told me that when she was finishing up her lesson this afternoon that a PC car came to drop off our biweekly allowance with some mail. I was one of two volunteers who received mail in my group. Cindy and I both received three letters. I couldn’t have been happier; seriously I cannot remember the last time I felt like this. Maybe when I was five and got a playschool camera for my birthday. So today my favorite three people are my mom (go figure), Ruthann and Bre. I must say Bre Parra you impressed me with your ability to plan a week and half advance to send me a Halloween card. I love you friend and I laughed out loud when reading my card (I think you know why). Mom I loved the card but please get a little more descriptive than “I miss you, Mom.”

Right now my letter count is 18-3; also sending 5 postcards tomorrow. So as of tomorrow the 6th of Nov., I’ll have sent 23 piece of mail (either individual mailed or grouped) while I have received only 3. Please keep sending letters, you have no idea how they make my day. By the postmark dates to when they were driven out to my little village it took right around two and half weeks. Also from looking at my mom’s card it cost only .98 cents and come on friends that’s less than a Wendy’s frosty (believe me I know). Mmmm a frosty… anywho keep those letters coming at a steady pace.

If you really hate snail mail, I get to check my facebook every once in awhile so you could drop me a line on there as well. As far as what I write on my blog, I write random thoughts from the day (also don’t judge spelling or errors its 9pm and I’m ready to crash from the long day) but if anyone has any particular questions about life here in Ukraine just add a comment right here on my blog.

Hope you are all doing well. Overall, I’m enjoying my time here in Ukraine but I do miss you all. Later YOs!!

Week #2: Cold = Breaking Out My Sweat Pants

November 1st, 2009

Good bye October, Hello November. Well it is current sunny and 47 degrees here in my small town. Last night, I busted out my fat pants (sweat pants) as Sarah Perrone would call them. I’m listening to my awesome worship music on my computer while doing my morning chores. After I’m done, I’m hoping to take a walk around town to lessen the effect of my consumption of potatoes.

The way time passes here is a little strange. Days seem to go by so slow maybe because I’m staring at my watch the entire four hours of language but the weeks seem to fly by. I have been in country over two weeks now and it seems like I have just gotten here. I’ve seemed to establish a routine with my host babushka (grandmother). I take my breakfast at 7:30am before she leaves for work then I have an hour and half before I need to be at language class which means a small not even five minute walk over to my LCF’s house. Each day consists of 4 hours of language and I also have 1 hour of individual tutor time as well. Build in an hour for lunch and I often don’t return home until after dark which means 6ish here.

This past week our school that we are interning at was closed for a week holiday break. Monday classes were supposed to resume and I was scheduled to teach 5th form English on Thursday as well as observe other cluster mates and Ukrainian teachers throughout the week. This Friday while hanging out with my cluster after lang. we were called and notified that our teaching would be suspended for the next three weeks because of a flu outbreak. As a precaution, we are not allowed to travel outside our community which means no urban life but more unfortunately no internet. Peace Corps doesn’t play around with safety and well being of us volunteers. I guess I understand their logic but at the same time there isn’t much to do around in my small town on the weekends. Looks like I’ll have the ability to get some more studying Ukrainian in this weekend.

I’m a little tiny bit more confident with the small fraction of Ukrainian that I know. Things like please, thank you, how are you, good morning, good night and such come quickly to my mind but I really need to expand beyond that. With great difficulty, I can read Ukraine. Normally, I butcher it but doing more than I could last week so I count that as a plus. Attempting to conjugate verbs and what not, seems impossible right now. I often speak out of tense but can get my idea of what I mean out there. My new LCF is great. She is a very patience and positive woman. I’ll be sad to see her leave in two weeks. PC does a rotation with our LCFs (3 weeks switch 3 weeks switch then the final 4 weeks with our original LCF). I’m staying positive and trying to take in as much as I can.

Yesterday, was Halloween which is not a celebrated nor really recognized holiday here in Ukraine, but us Americans refused to let it pass without our own mini celebration. With our technical training canceled yesterday since we can’t travel we had a first free Saturday. Allison and I took the free morning as a time to walk around town. We crossed the main road in town and walked a road until the edge of town then walked back on a different road that had abandoned buildings. I took some photos and we pretty much just enjoyed walking in the sunshine. After our late morning stroll, we headed back to Allison’s house. Her family is farmers. They sell milk, butter, and cheese. They also seem to have a sweet tooth which means there is always a bowl of cookies and candy. The mother fed us a delicious vegetable soup for lunch.

We then got the chance to help cook. I forgot the name of what we cooked but to me they were hot pocket like with mashed corn, carrots filling. After frying them, you lather them in oil and garlic and then toss them all around in a pot. They were amazing and Allison’s HM (host mom) made us eat way too many of them. Pretty much the afternoon consisted of all the women of the family cooking while the men were working outside for a little but them came in and watched TV while enjoying the product of our labor. I hopefully will get to put up a video clip or at less pictures of the whole experience.

Allison and I were also entertained by Vadim, the cutest but most rambunctious 18 month little boy. At one point, he would tap me with an empty bottle and then run into the other room. While he was in the other room, I hid behind the wall so he couldn’t see me when he entered the kitchen. I then jumped out to scare him a little but nothing serious. I success scared him to the point of some alligator tears and he immediately retreated to the living room for his grandpa. We all laughed but I felt bad for the little guy. But hey it was Halloween!

Eventually, Allison and I headed out to meet up with the other volunteers. We enjoyed too much candy and some wine at Laura’s house while watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” We all headed back to our respected houses. I got home at 8pm which seemed so late because it gets so dark here. I ate dinner with my family and read a little before going to bed.

Well my laundry is probably almost done. I am blessed with a family with a washing machine but there is no dryer which means I have to hang my close around my room to dry so if I want clean, dry pants for tomorrow I need to get on that. Hope everyone at home had a lovely Halloween. Miss you all.

Cross cultural learning moment: While at Allison’s I used the restroom. Then told her that my toilet paper didn’t flush for some reason. She gave me a look like I was insane followed by “Are you crazy you aren’t suppose to flush the TP.” For the past two weeks, I have been flushing instead of throwing away. ScHmIdT happens.