Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Thoughts in My Head

Best way to start the day: Mr.LW and Titka Katya time.

2:25am. I should go to bed, but have lots to say. Glad to be home yet at the same time overwhelmed. Sometimes in a good way. Sometimes in a bad way.

Cottage cheese is better than I remember. Underwear out of the dryer are so soft. I love DA BEARS more than I thought. It is nice to 'realize to read' again. Love being small town and bumping into people around town and they welcome me back.

There are a shit ton of kinds of toothpaste. Seems like overkill. Walmart: minor freak out. Babies don't stay babies for long. People still laugh the same. The Schmidt kids do the best photo shoots: quick look Ukrainian. M&M and theater gift card is an awesome white elephant gift.

Beating someone off the line at a stoplight is priceless. Rubber chocolate doughnuts are and will always be my favorite. American beds were made for me. I should be beat for my hot water consumption, but I finally feel clean.

I love having alot of tennis shoe options. Beer tastes so good. And I have no desire to drink any of the 4.5 liters of vodka that I illegally brought into America. I wake up and don't know where I am. Touch phones are too advanced for me (sorry if you accidentally get called). When a baby reaches their arms out for you, there isn't quite a feeling like it.

First week has been a good one dispite not feeling caught up on sleep. Hope the days slow down a little, but excited to see more important friends and family in my life. Keep lookin' up. Chicago get ready because here Schmidty comes!


(my dad's computer doesn't have spell check sorry for the mistakes)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

T-2days: Operation Best Christmas Ever

Wearing Kevin's Hat at the New Year's tree in Lutsk.

Only two days now until I’m home in America. Last night at my flat, tomorrow morning I’m head to Lviv. I’ll stay in a hostel near the center and then Tuesday morning going to catch the trolley bus to the airport. I could have taken a really early bus Tuesday morning to Lviv, but don’t want to take any chances with missing my plane.

This week has been pretty eventful. Overall, classes went pretty well. However, my 11th formers were really rude and disrespectful to the point I just walked out of the class with ten minutes left. They can waste their time, but I’ll just go lesson plan in the teacher’s room if they are going to be like that. My counterpart had a talk with them. Hopefully in the new year, it will help with their bad behavior, but we will see.

Friday was the day my new site mate got here. Her name is Valerie and she will be teaching in school number 4. She is from Oregon and seems like a real cool chick. I’m really excited to have someone right in town to do programs with as well as just hangout. I also got to meet one of her link mates who lives just north of Kivertsi. So far group 40ers are a fun bunch.

On Friday night, I had a nice dinner party to welcome Val to the group. 5 Peace Corps Volunteers and 2 Ukrainians in attendance. It was a lot of fun and hopefully will be having more and more of them in the coming New Year. The funniest moment of the night came when I asked people’s opinions on how much they thought my bag weighed. The two American guy PCVs picked it up said it was heavy, but thinks it is right at 50lbs. Dima, the Ukrainian, picks it up and confidently says, I could fit two more bottles of vodka. Oh, too funny.

The party was over around 9ish because some of us had to help Saturday morning with the Olympiad (country wide English competition). My school hosted it for the Kivertsi District. Val came with her counterpart as well as other English teachers. It is a lot of fun to be around other Kivertsi English teachers. They were very interested in asking g questions to Val and I think she had a good time getting to know them. After the competition, we were invited out to a local restaurant with six of the teachers.

It was interesting to see how Ukrainians deal with a vegetarian (Val). They were like do you eat a little meat, is fish ok, will you eat it if it has a little chicken. Glad I’m a meat eater. So we probably spent almost 2 and half hours there, and three bottles of vodka. After bottle #1 and #2, Val and I would looked at each other and would be like yes we are done, and then magically another one would appear out of someone’s purse. Oh, Ukraine.

Then as we were leaving live music was getting ready to start to play and they asked us if we wanted to stay longer to dance. Afraid of the possibility of more vodka, the two Americans graciously declined. But we are planning to do a once of month, English Teacher Tea Evening. One teacher was like we should do it on Fridays so we can dance…I’m guessing tea won’t be the only beverage if that is the day we settle on.

This dinner was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable dinners that I’ve had in a long time here. I’m guessing because everyone at the table spoke one common language, and the fact that there were many toasts to Ukrainians and Americans being friends, love, tall men (me), to health, and pass that I can’t remember. Haha.

Friday was my year mark at being at site. I think it is appropriate that I can now take a vacation home. It has been 14 months since I last stepped foot in the U.S. I wonder if “freedom” still tastes the same? (as bored PCVs we come up with the most ridiculous sayings here, please don’t judge). Please pray for safe and smooth travel home for me. See you all very very soon. Merry Christmas world!


PS As my pops would say, “Remember Jesus is the reason for the season.” Do something Jesus like every day regardless if it is the holiday season.

Terry, Dima, Dominic, Tanya, Val, and Melissa eating deliciousness.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Barefoot in Snow

Everyone celebrates Christmas just on different days.

The title of this blog was inspired by a man that lives near my school. Today after 5th lesson, I was walking home and noticed a man walking to his mail box BAREFOOT in the snow!!!!! With how Ukrainians won’t open a window on a boiling summer day, because wind will make people sick,this scene has boggled my mind. The only thing I can come up with to explain it is that there must have been vodka involved in his early afternoon routine.

Hmmm…what to share about the last week? Throughout the whole week, I’ve had Ukrainians in and out of my flat working on my flat. It was a five day process to get it fixed properly. First guy couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work. The next guy fixed it and it was super warm in my flat. Third guy said that he could fix it, but didn’t have the right part. It wasn’t until Friday that it was fixed and set at a normal level. It is still a little chilly in my flat. I’m writing you while wearing the following: tank top, long sleeve shirt, turtle neck sweater, vest, long johns, sweat pants, and wool socks. Oh, I can’t wait to be wearing a normal amount of clothes and feeling warm, 8 days.

Last week at school, I was barely hanging on. Classes that are normally pretty good were on my last nerve; chatty, lazy and disrespectful. At one point, I quietly sat down and stopped teaching. Eventually, they could see that I was pissed. Eventually when they finally stopped talking, I went over to the board and wrote 4,000km (not quite sure if that is the right distance). Then I asked them if they loved their families. They were like yes. I followed it with do you think I love my family. They again replied yes. I went on to explain that I’m far from my family, volunteering, not getting paid to teach them. I think they were surprised to hear that I don’t make money for teaching them, but it didn’t really hit home because 5 minutes later they were up to the same antics. That is pretty much a good summary of how my week at school went.

On Friday, Lutsk received a volunteer from TEFL group 39. Dominic will be teaching at gymnasium in the city. He is from Indiana, has a good sense of humor, well read, and seems like he will fit right in with the Volynska Peace Corps crew. We went to dinner on Friday night to welcome him to the area. Then on Sunday, he joined us at the Windows on America community English Club for a presentation and discussion about Christmas. The highlight or maybe I should call it the lowlight was the five American volunteers singing the 12 days of Christmas while slowly remembering the correct lines. The Ukrainians who attended were nice enough to applaud after we finished.

After going to diner with the crew, I headed over to the local internet café. This is where boys from the age of 8 to 30+ congregate to play “Counter Strike” probably one of the most popular and violent of video games in Ukraine. The battled each other online while taunting each other from each little computer stations. I go to use the faster connection to Skype. This week I got to chat with my sister, brother in law and nephew. At one point, I was distracted when I thought two junior higher were going to fist fight. Oh, good times. Any who, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them for over an hour. Leo is growing so fast. I can’t wait to be properly introduced to him. I’m so excited!

But as for right now, I’m just trying to take it day by day until this week is over (4 more if you were wondering). Just have to survive the 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th forms and I will be home bound. Here is to this week flying by. Miss you, love you and see you all real soon!!


Funny moment of the week: I was talking to my linkmate Shannon, who lives four oblasts away from me, on the phone. She was walking back to her flat in the evening (pitch black after 4pm you know) after working out at a gym in her town. She was telling me how shady the area that she was walking through looked and saying that she had never been that way. She then stated “this is like straight out of one of the safety videos Peace Corps shows us. Then they ask the group ‘What were the three things Shannon did wrong?’” Oh, how Shannon makes me laugh even if she is KMs away.

Jon, Ashley and Melissa looking super excited for Christmas carols that we had never heard of.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Honor Defended

One of the churches in the V.V.

Funny Moment of the Week: On Monday leaving school some boys were playing outside in the snow throwing snowballs at each other. One kid ran up to me and handed me a big chunk of snow. They were trying to show how to throw snow balls like I’ve never done it before. I wanted to get in on the action, but I could predict it getting way too out of hand and me being a target the rest of the winter. So I told them I didn’t want to play. One kid who is a sweet kid softly tossed a snow ball at me, after I had said I didn’t want to play. Immediately, the kid gets pegged by three of the other boys yelling at him, “Miss Kate didn’t want to play.” Oh having my honor defended by 5th grade boys; too funny.

As you can see from above the cold weather is here. It is sad to think that it probably won’t be until March when I see the ground again. Oh, how I never thought going home to Illinois for Christmas would be a winter getaway, but it is true for this year.

School this week was interesting to say the least. On Tuesday, I found out that my Vice Principle who is my go to person is retiring from working at school, because in the recent elections she was voted to some position in the city government. Most likely another teacher will resume her role; so having a high up who speaks English won’t be something I can benefit from anymore. My schedule will change. Teaching more classes with my counterpart and I’m sure times of classes will be switched around as well. Oh, how one week is never like the last.

Frosty, frosty tree.

Thursday was a big day for me. I headed into Lutsk to meet up with my PCV friend Melissa to do some Christmas shopping and to grab some coffee/hot chocolate. I got some great presents that I’m super excited about. The ladies who work at this Ukrainian gift shop had to have been entertained by Melissa and I. The ride home was interesting because I was on one of the most packed marsukas I’ve ever been on while carrying fragile gifts. At one point, I was holding onto my book bag like it was a million dollars and depended on the other people pushing so much on me to hold me up right when the crazy marsuka driver swerved all around the icy road. Marsuka surfing = good time. I suggest you do it without fragile items though.

I got back into town just in time to have dinner with my Ukrainian friend Tanya. Her mom is a fabulous cook and despite my horrible Ukrainian and her lack of English loves to have me over. She kept asking me about American parties and couldn’t believe people don’t drink vodka like Ukrainians do. We had some pretty entertaining conversation over the meal (potato/meat pancake hash brown like things and potato mushroom soup). Super, super delicious.

Melissa and I trying to stay warm on the way to English Club.

Friday after school, I headed to V.V. to hang out with Allison and Aidan. My favorite pizza in Ukrainian is from a place in their town. So we met up for dinner and drinks. Nice to spend some time with those guys because I’ll be going home for Christmas and they are headed to Egypt with a group of volunteers. We got back to Allison’s place and our jeans were soaked from pushing each other in the snow and tromping through it so we all took off our pants to put over the radiator with the intention of going over to another café. Sitting on Allison’s kitchen floor in our long johns was such a good time we spend stayed in the rest of the night.

In the morning, we did our share of file sharing. I can now say that I finally know what Jersey Shore is from personally watching it. Can’t say that I’m too impressed. I’m so embarrassed in what gains huge popularity in the U.S. But I’m sure as a run out of “The Office” and “30Rock”, I’ll finish off the seasons of it in the boredom of the freezing Ukrainian winter that I have in front of me. Also got some new books from them as well which I’m excited about. It is always good to be stocked on things to entertain yourself with because you never know when the weather is going to be so bitter cold that you don’t want to go anywhere.

Long walk home with hands in pockets.

Eventually, I got myself down to the bus station and caught a bus back to Lutsk. I was late for a dinner party that Melissa was having at her flat, but was still able to meet her Ukrainian friends and enjoy her delicious cooking. Yum!! Melissa is by far the best PCV cook. I like everything that she cooks and I am completely satisfied that I’m sort of thinking that it wouldn’t be that hard to be a vegetarian… maybe when I get home.

The next morning, we slept in and eventually had left overs for breakfast. Then in the afternoon headed to the community English Club for a presentation about AIDS since the 1st was AIDS Awareness Day. We have an old Ukrainian man that comes to this club and sometimes makes things really awkward with his statements. This week he eventually had to get going and as he was putting his coat on when stating, “The US should stop with its arms race and find a cure for AIDS.” Ummm, ok. After he left, we had some more meaningful discussion with the rest of the group. Overall, I would say it was productive.

Well I have 15 days until the land of Lincoln and couldn’t be more excited about it. Can’t wait to walk on sidewalks that don’t threaten my life, seeing Leo (& the rest of my family and friends), and American food. Hope everyone is well and staying warm. Miss and love you all.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Chicken Day

Clustermate Laura, Becky, Melissa, Terry and Clustermate Jon gathered around the table for a Volynska Oblast Thanksgiving.

Greetings on a snowy Ukrainian night. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. I was able to celebrate with five fellow volunteers. Our Thanksgiving wasn’t the most traditional with eating chicken, but we did have some festive dishes like mashed taters, stuffing, and the oh so delicious pumpkin pie as well as pumpkin koshi. My contribution to the dinner was a cold vegetable pasta salad. It was alright, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stuffing for the first thanksgiving in my life. I think I was always freaked out by the idea of the stuffing, but I was actually in the kitchen while it was being prepared and thought I should try it. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!

With my presence there is a good chance of being entertained (the wine helps with that as well).

This week was a short week of school because Peace Corps gave all the volunteers Thursday off and my school being generous also told me to take Friday as well so it has been a long weekend. Very relaxing. Read two books and working on the third. Also I watched a lot of new movies this week. I borrowed some from the ‘Windows on America’ (English library at the normal library sponsored by USAid). One that I have absolutely falling in love with is “The Apartment,” the 1960 Best Picture with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon. I’m pretty sure it has entered my top 5 favorites. When I get home I definitely need to track down the old movie poster for my wall.

So besides Thanksgiving with the crew, nothing else has been too exciting. I’m a week closer coming to home at 23 days. It seems like forever ago that it was over 100 days until home. I have a very organized calendar for my visit home. Just trying to fit in seeing all of people that are ‘near and dear’ (one of the many strange phrases I have picked up from English speaking Ukrainians).

And winter has arrived...God help me!

Sorry for a short blog; I’ll try to make it more exciting next week. But before signing off, I want to congratulate the North Central football team. They are in the “elite eight,” if you will, of the division three playoffs. Go cards!!

Hope everyone has a great Sunday. See you all very, very soon. Oh, I can't wait. Miss and love you all.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

25 Feathers on My Bird

This week I’ve been making hand “I’m thankful for…” turkeys with my students to share the traditions of Thanksgiving. A lot of the kids put their parents, grandparents, and pets. Some kids put things like their football (soccer ball), computer, etc. I got thinking if I really did one for myself what would my feathers be. Since this year Turkey Day falls on the 25th , I thought that 25 sounds like a good amount of feathers. So here I go the 25 things I’m thankful for this year in Ukraine (in no particular order):

1.My health.

2.Oreos arriving in Ukraine.

3.Awesome fellow PCVs.

4.My own baba-free Ukrainian flat.

5.The almost weekly letters I get from my dad about gas prices, weather, what he had for lunch or who he saw at church.

6.Becoming an aunt to the cutest Leo ever born.

7.My dysfunctional but fun and supportive family.

8.Having a four day weekend to celebrate turkey day.

9.The ability to communicate over the internet with people back home.

10.The ticket my sister bought me to come home for Christmas.

11.The fact that I’m 1 of 8,719 Peace Corps Volunteers.

12.Vitalik, a 6th former who was the biggest trouble maker last year who now is super interested in participating in class even if he isn’t very strong in English.

13.The jar of Skippy peanut butter sitting in my kitchen cupboard.

14.The lunch ladies at my school who are always nice to me and use the endearing ending on my name that means they like me.

15.Being an American and having opportunities that not every person in the world has.

16.Having Kimberly as my Peace Corps Guru.

17.The rest of the mail I get.

18.“Our Daily Bread” that my Grandma Schmidt sends to me every 3 months.

19.Kivertsi getting another volunteer in a couple of weeks at another school.

20.Slower pace of my Ukrainian life.

21.My cooking abilities slowly improving.

22.My huge ‘inner’ circle of amazing friends.

23.Having 4 non teacher, non student Ukrainian friends in Kivertsi.

24.The fact that Eat, Pray, Love has been released and I’ll get to watch it at Christmas with my sister.

25.Being blessed by God with a great life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ukraine Has Been Invaded

Over the last month, Oreos have been spotted all over the country of Ukraine; information gathered from face book statuses.

Past Week in Blurts

School is still crazy. Even more crazy when kids try to change into their gym clothes while you are still in the classroom. Makes for real awkward moments. Tutoring is a lot of fun. 9th and 10th form girls really seem to enjoy it as well as slowly improve. Also I’m falling more in love with 6th B and 5TH A. I absolutely love teaching those classes. Only wish I felt as strongly about some of the other not so awesome 45 minutes, I spend in front of a class.

Thursday, reconnected with two friends of the former PCV in my town. The two girls and I went to a local pub/pool hall/restaurant/strip club (only on Saturday nights). Again, we went on THURSDAY evening to catch up over a beer and talk about life. The funniest part of the conversation was about their ‘men of interest.’ Oh, how people like to talk to big mama about their love problems.

If you look really close you can see a huge mound of beets! Dwight from “The Office” would be very impressed (they are partially being covered by blue tarps).

Saturday was an official cleaning day. Did a good amount of laundry by hand as well as gave the kitchen a good scrub. I still haven’t figured it out why in some cultures people sweep their floors with a broom that doesn’t have a long hand. Really how much more expensive can a stick be so you don’t have to hunch over. Some things I will never understand.

Sunday, I went into the nearby city to help out with English club. It was a non-film day; we discussed Thanksgiving while enjoying pumpkin pie, ginger snaps, and Ukrainian cakes. Oh, and over coarse it goes without saying over a couple of tea. After, the American convey (myself and the 3 other PCVs closest to me) went out with a group of Ukrainians that had attended the club for dinner.

The Three Most Interesting Sidewalk Sightings of the Week

1.I was walking to English club and noticed that a person had fallen and was lying on the ground at the corner on the opposite side of the street from me. I thought “Oh my gosh, an old babushka.” It reassured me that a man had taken her arm and was trying to help her up. As I approached, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a woman, but a huge dog. Literally, this dog was the size of a person. It was lying on its back wanting its belly to be rubbed. Meanwhile, the man is yelling at the dog to get up and yanking at its collar with no success of budging the dog.

Weeding through all of the mail that has been sent to me throughout my time here. I’m going to bring the keepers home with me.

2.Walking home from the Thursday market, I saw probably the most dangerous mode of transportation. An old man probably in his late 60s early 70s was riding his bike. Normally, in a small town like the one I leave in I wouldn’t categorize this as a dangerous way of getting around if it weren’t for one small or big reason. The man had a circular saw blade the size of a bike wheel through his handle bars. So if for whatever reason, he stopped quickly or God forbid his chain broke his face, chest, even neck would be the first thing to be sliced. Oh, Ukrainians…

3.Sunday, I had gotten off the marsuka at a stop to then get on a city bus to make it to the library for English club. Normally, I can wait anywhere from a few seconds to 15 minutes at the bus stop. Getting off the bus, I noticed that two dogs were tail to tail. I thought that’s sort of funny, but didn’t really think much of it. Then with my back to them as I faced the street waiting to spot my bus, I heard one of the dogs whimpering. I glanced over my shoulder to see the dog trying to pull away from the other dog still tail to tail. My first thought was “Did some cruel person tie the dogs tails together?” Then watching for a few more seconds it became very clear what was going on; let’s just say somehow in their ‘love making process’ they became stuck together and this was no longer a good time for the shorter male dog.

Well that’s about it for this week. 29 days until home and couldn’t be more excited about it. Miss you and love you all.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wish I Had Jugs

The title of this blog is inspired by this photo.

Today was a good day. I went into Lutsk for the 2 o’clock film club at the local library. We watched ‘The Break Up’ as a group and then discussed. I still can’t believe they actually don’t end up together in the end. I originally saw the movie in the theatre with my mom. It the end of the movie I was teary and said, “I can’t believe they didn’t get back together.” My mom replied with something like “hello Kate it was in the title.” I choose to see the ending as them having the possibility of them getting back together because of the way they turned and looked at each other in the end. Yes, I know I’m a hopeless romantic. You can see this from my most watched movies are the following: ‘The Break Up,’ ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’ and ‘Hope Floats.’ But don’t worry I get weekly injections for it.

After English Club, I went over to the local internet café. I had arranged Skype dates with Bre and my sister. Bre enjoying sleep like she does slept a little late but it was good because I got to catch up on some videos about North Central athletics. Eventually, Bre got on. Oh, how her inappropriate comments crack me up. I’m just glad I had a headset on; regardless I don’t think the smelly teenage Ukrainian boys who filled the café playing ‘Counterstrike’ probably would have understood.

Eventually, Bre and I’s time was up which meant talking to my sister. Oh, how good it is to see a familiar face. Crazy to think how communication has changed since when my parents were my age. I saw an interesting comment on another PCV’s face book page. To preference it, first understand that as volunteers of the 21st century, we get a lot of comments about how Peace Corps was so much harder back in the day and how we have endless luxuries. I agree it is obviously different but I would just argue that there are different hardships. Any who, she has been posting something she is thankful every day for the entire month of November and this particular day the comment was “Thankful for skype....for all the old PCVs who say Peace Corps isn’t like it was in the 70's, yea well you guys also had weed :p.”

Yum, yum a pile of hot cakes!!!

Anyways, chatting with Tobey was great. Got my flight all worked out so I can attend the induction of my basketball team from senior year into the IVC Sports Hall of Fame. I know someone is probably thinking big deal, but being a part of that team especially with the girls that I had grown up playing with will forever remain as a very fond memory. Also talked about plans for Christmas, but the best part was getting to see Leo on video chat. I don’t know who enjoyed it more we both were talking and making faces in the camera. Oh, how I can’t wait to see him again.

This week I started tutoring two girls: 10th and 11th form. They come to my flat after school and I prepare a power point about a topic that is likely to come up in the “Olympiad” which is a country wide competition for skills in English. I pose questions on the topic, and then have them both answer before giving examples of how to create more interesting sentence structures. I also give them home tasks of responding to creative writing prompts. The last one: you are heading into Lutsk on a normal Friday afternoon after school has let out. You are riding along and then suddenly…! Hopefully their responses are creative and funny. We will see.

Friday, I had Jon (my clustermate) over for breakfast dinner. I made delicious pancakes from scratch, because Bisquick doesn’t exist in this country. Even though much of the things, I’ve been cooking lately are breakfast foods I am pretty proud of myself considering I don’t have much experience in the kitchen. Tomorrow, this will continue when I make a mushroom pasta sauce, pasta, and garlic bread for my English teachers who I have invited to come over for a late lunch or early dinner depending on how you look at it. I just hope that they bring wine and not vodka. Things can get crazy with Ukrainians real quick. I’m hoping I have the out since I have to tutor at 5pm. But you never know if you’re safe or not.

One of the few things I've purchased so I can play Santa properly when I go home.

Well that is about it to report from the week. Just been trying to keep things low key so I can save money for Christmas presents. It is hard to buy on budget and remember how much space I have with only taking one piece of luggage home as well as every time I got out I see something I want to buy for Leo. I just can’t help it buying for a cutie is so much easier than picking out something for my 21 year old (love you Kevin). Hope everyone is well and that your autumn to winter weather has been as nice as mine. Miss you and love you all. See you in only 37 days!!! Oh, how I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!


PS Funny moment of the week:
I answered, "No, not really. I guess I'm just excited about Christmas" when her counterpart asked, "Are there any changes in your personal life? (while she winked two inches away from my face) Your eyes look sparkling." I guess my counterpart things I’m taken advantage of having my own flat. I only wish it were true. Oh, good times in the Teacher’s Room.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Downward Dog, Upward Dog, Say What?

Straw shoe and pig fat.

As you can see from the title, I’ve taken up yoga. This week I finally had the money (180 UAH, a little over $20) and the store actually had a mat in stock. It is a John Deere green, if you are wondering. My sister awhile ago had sent me The Biggest Loser Yoga and Workout DVD. Considering, I now live on the second floor out of respect for my neighbors I doubt that I’ll be doing the workout DVD, but the low impact yoga is a go. I’ve always thought really how good of a workout can you get from standing on a mat…five minutes into the workout I was sweatin’ like Bre Parra (if you don’t know she sweats alot, love you Maria). I can tell my muscles are going to be a little sore tomorrow, but oh how it feels good to get a workout.

Monday, we (Jon, Melissa and I) had our last dinner with Katie Sherman at a fancy Ukrainian restaurant in Lutsk. It was pretty good. It opened recently, was a Monday night so it was a little slow. That did however make the service pretty good and quick. We toasted Katie and wished her good luck in adjusting back to American life. She gave some of her most memorable and favorite things about her experience. Katie also told us of probably the best going away present any volunteer will ever received: a dried cat fish about as long as her arm. The best part is that she is going to attempt to take it back to Virginia with her. Good luck, Katie.

Jon, Melissa and Ukrainian Pig.

School this week was nothing too crazy. A little abnormal because of no school on Monday which made the rest of my normal schedule a joke. But hey why not turn a 4 day week into an extended vacation? On Friday, my regional manager was in town so he caught the last half of my 6th grade class. My students were absolutely silent compared to their normal rowdy selves because of his unusual presence.

After observing me teach, Bohdan came back to my apartment to check that it was within Peace Corps safety regulations. He checked out my new digs and said they were good. He also informed me that school number four in my town should be getting a volunteer if everything goes as planned. Which means on either December 10th or 15th, Kivertsi will get their second Peace Corps Volunteer and I’ll have a site mate. I look forward to it and hope it spices up life around here. I requested to Bohdan that it be a tall male volunteer who has a good sense of humor and if that happens he could add match maker to his resume.

This past Monday, I started writing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It encourages people who enjoy writing to take the month of November to write a creative 50,000 page novel in 30 days. Throughout the week, I was good at keeping the pace. Then this weekend fell off the wagon. It is hard to write humorously if you are in a grumpy mood which I have been throughout the weekend. This is the synopsis of the novel that might or might not be finished.

The Kat(i)e side of the table.

The Teeter Totter That Didn't Teet or Tot
The chronicles of Ruby Tuesday O’Shmiderton: a chubby girl living in a skinny world. Come along for her triumphs and failures while Ruby navigates life on the playground, basketball court, and in the classroom while being a little bit bigger than the average girl. Not only does she have to deal with being 'heavy duty' as her dad likes to call her, but she also has to handle the antics of being part of her fun but fantastically dysfunctional family.

Well this about it for me. Hope everyone’s November has started off well. I’m excited that it is only 44 days until I’ll be home in Illinois. Love and miss you all.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bye Week for Four Reasons

Da Bears schedule so I can keep up with who we are playing.

Bye for the Bears. My beloved Chicago Bears are 4-3 and currently in a 2 game losing streak. Hopefully this bye week, they can get prepared for the Buffalo Bills game next Sunday. I pray that our O-Line can step it up. Cutler is getting hit way too much. Our defense isn’t awesome at this point but I have hope they will get it in gear with my future husband #54 leading the way.

Bye to Katie Sherman. PCV 35er sweet Katie Sherman will be headed home this week. On Saturday, we had an Italian night dinner in her honor. She was very ecstatic about receiving a hedgehog baked good from TamTam. I first got to know Katie when we went to the 10k. The girl is so crazy that she planned to run the 10k; felt so good at the half way (turn around) point she kept going with all the people who were running the half marathon. Oh, Katie how all of us Volynska Volunteers will thoroughly miss your presents at our hangouts. Good luck adjusting to life without bubbly water, pig fat, extreme vodka consumption and talking to non-English speaker with an accent.

One of the few trees with colorful leaves on it.

Bye to Leaves. This last week has been my fall break (one week vacation from school). The weather has been fabulous. Sunshine and beautiful colors of leaves in all of the trees, but this week it seems as all the leaves were making their last stand. I just took a walk around outside and there are very few leaves still up. Oh, how it all goes so quickly.

Bye to Politicians. Today, Halloween, are the elections for local government. There are many pop up tents around my town as well as Lutsk passing out information on the many candidates. I believe someone said there are around 10 for the mayor of Kivertsi. I’ve had different printed information left stuck in my door. The most amusing campaign strategy or I guess slogan would have to be one Katie told me about. It was a huge bill board with Bohdan Something, his picture and in very large print “I won’t steal city government money.” Oh, only in Ukraine.

Nothing like grilled cheese, soup and a good PCV friend (Melissa) to share a fall day with.

So like I said I had this last week off. It has been filled with a lot of reading, movies, sleep and cooking. There are also only 51 more days until I’m home in the great state of Illinois. To help pass the time, I’m most likely going to take part in NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month). The goal is to get yourself to 50,000 words by midnight of Novemeber 30th. I’m thinking my novel will be a collection of the crazy stories of my life thus far. I have a couple of ideas about how to organize it, but regardless it should be interesting. I doubt I will share the whole thing with any one person, but I’m guessing some components of it will show up on my blog.

The decor my mom sent made my room very Halloweeny!

Well hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Halloween. Life is short so remember to live it to the fullest and let your loved ones know that they are important to you. Miss and love you all.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Pig Fat Festival, Why Not?!

Yum yum, salo house.

As I mentioned in my blog last Saturday, I attended a festival that celebrated SALO! For those of you who don’t know that is straight up pig fat with very little if at all meat in it. It was in Lutsk the nearby city. My fellow PCVs and I enjoyed watching Ukrainian dancers and a band. It was very interesting to see people come out and taste test the different types of salo, salo spread and other misc. things that were being sold. The most unique item I saw was a house made of salo and other meat products. Don’t know if it really made me hungry though.

I sampled a thinly sliced piece of salo on a piece of dark bread and also the spread on the same bread. The ones I tried where heavy salted so it didn’t taste that bad. I still can’t get the idea of eating salo. It is fat. So I look at it and think I could just take it and slap it to my butt because that is surely where it is going to end up. I would much rather eat a piece of chocolate that tastes good and I don’t imagine going directly to my butt (even though it all ends up there).

Most eventful thing of the week: MOVING. I was under the impression on Friday afternoon that I would be moving Monday afternoon. Monday morning rolls around, I gently ask the babushka if I can shower. She starts yelling loudly. I can pick up ‘you can shower at your new place’ and then blah blah blah in Ukrainian that I didn’t understand. This just makes me so happy I’m moving. I get to school and ask my vice principle at what time I’m moving later in the day. She says oh, you can’t move today maybe Tuesday or Wednesday.

PROBLEM in my mind!! Monday is the day of the month that I normally pay rent. I explained to my vice principle that the babushka is not happy to be losing income with me moving out of her house and that I don’t think she will let me stay for an extra two days. My vice principle tells me not to worry that she will call the lady and everything will be alright. Later, that day my VP calls the babushka. Again I hear from my room yelling at my VP on the phone. I for sure understood ‘this isn’t my problem, this is her problem.’ They continued talking with a little less yelling.

I just sat in my room not fully understanding what is going on. Eventually an hour later my counterpart calls me and says at 6pm, I will come with a car and you will move. This is at 3pm so I awkwardly say in my room for a couple of hours before finally moving. Before leaving the house, I tried to smooth over the tension by saying after I have moved in that I would like to have her and the medical college boys over to my flat. It worked a little bit but she was still very sour about me leaving.

Thumbs up for the long awaited move.

So Monday night, I spent the night in my place without electricity, heat or gas which wasn’t a big deal if you let your pee mellow. Tuesday night not waiting to see if the electricity was actually going to come on, I headed into Lutsk to hang out with Melissa and use her shower (I hadn’t had a real shower in 5 days). Wednesday, I had my Ukrainian friend, Tanya, come over for tea and burned her some DVDs of Friends. Thursday, I enjoyed my first fully solo day in my place.

Friday, I hosted my first dinner party of my life. The volunteers closest to me (Melissa, Jon, Katie, and Terry) all came over for pelmeni. Dinner started around 6ish. It was delicious. Terry had made a Ukrainian salad with the main ingredient being beets. Jon pitched in with making us some very interesting mixed drinks. Melissa topped it all off with baking oatmeal cookies for dessert. Quite tasty if you ask me. Katie (who is COSing in 2 weeks) brought me some house warming presents. Terry headed out at 9:30 to catch the last marsuka back to the city. The rest of us enjoyed the remainder of the night by playing some games, and watching a movie. I was first to go to bed because we discovered that the second devon (fold out couch) of my place is a lot more comfortable than the one I had been sleeping on because of the lack of foot board (a plus for us tall people).

The socializing is always in the kitchen.

Saturday, I was woken up at 9am by my counterpart knocking at my door. She came over to show me how to use ‘the values’ aka turning on my faucet and being like ‘you have water.’ She also showed me how to turn the gas and water off. I already knew it because the first day I watched her do it. Oh, good times. I wish Ukrainians understood that just because I’m horrible at their language doesn’t mean I’m incompetent. Eventually, we got up and moving because at 2pm, we planned to have a writing workshop at Melissa’s.

But before the workshop, we enjoyed a smorgasbord of sandwich materials that were great on bread along with Melissa’s homemade potato wedges. We talked about our experiences with writing. Then we all shared different things we have written. The most amusing part was when we acted out Katie’s short plays that expressed the craziest moments of her Ukrainian life. The one that had me laughing pretty good was when her host mother and dad were so worried that she had a pimple right before going home knowing that she was going to see her boyfriend. Oh, how funny Ukrainians can be.

So as you can see it was a very busy week. That is the reason I took today off which means besides showering I wasn’t too productive. I sat around in my pajamas. Well I take that back I have already started on my Christmas list and making a schedule so I don’t miss anything important when I’m home visiting. For example, I already wrote down the two Bears games that will happen. Oh, can’t wait to watch some American football soon.

Part of my life that makes me think of my pops.

Well I need to get moving. Allison is headed over and I’m looking forward to kicking off fall break (no school this week) with her. Hope all is well at home. Note: only 58 days until I’m home in the Land of Lincoln!!!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Щасливого один рік річниця до мені

(Happy One Year Anniversary to Me)word to word translated by this horrible Ukrainian speaker, probably wrong. Oh well, I tried.

Do I look a year older? (4-1 my beloved Bears record, woot woot!)

Facts and Numbers as of Late
Best thing about Ukraine: Ponchix (homemade jelly filled doughnuts)
Worst thing: tie- the lack of organized lines and mayo or sour cream being put on everything
Most watched TV show: Grey’s Anatomy
My Breakfast: two slices of bread with delicious peanut butter and water
Most watched movie: Hope Floats
Crazy thing I want to do when I get home: tattoo of something regarding my faith and want to get with my grandma. She wants a small flower
The 3 objects I use the most: computer, camera, books
The 3 objects I wish I had: clothe dryer, Whitey (my old car), an American library near by
Funniest moment of the week: ‘What country is this?’ I ask while pointing to US on an unlabeled map. Confidently from the back of the class one of my 5th graders yells ‘the U.S.S.R.!’

‘Hope you’re holding up okay’ from Bre. Handmade card from my favorite former resident Robin ‘Nations’.

Infinite: the kisses and cuddling that I’ll give my nephew when I’m home
1,000+: sunflowers consumed
225: Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson played on my iTunes and/or iPod
185: sent letters
145: received letters
66: days until I’m home in the great land of Lincoln
28: books read
26: packages
18: number of 8th grade students who can make you want to end it
6: inches that my bed is too short
3: number of dark chocolate bars I’ve had this week
2: days until I live in a babushka free zone
1: bottle of cooking oil I have yet to finish off

What a year worth of letters look like.

48 degrees overcast grey skies with on and off again drizzle. Much like the weather I arrived in. Oh how crazy it is to think that it has been a year since leaving home and coming to Ukraine. This week has been an up and down one but ended on a good note.

My classes this week were a little difficult and that just might be the understatement of the year. I was stressing because my vice principle was in the process of looking for a flat for me. I was hoping that I would find something by the 18th so I won’t have to deal with paying the current landlord/housemate another month’s rent.

On Wednesday, my vice principle had mentioned there was a flat that she wanted to show me that is near the school but wouldn’t be finished for another two weeks. She told me we will go look at it Thursday after school; Thursday comes and then she tells me maybe Friday or Monday. Thursday, I was frustrated to say the least thinking when and how is this ever going to happen. Friday I got to school to teach and after my second lesson, my vice principle tells me I will go look at a flat with my counterpart that is close to where I am currently living.

My counterpart showed me the flat it is very standard Ukrainian: entry way hall/room, small kitchen, closet, tiny bathroom and one big living/bedroom. To me this is the description of heaven. The woman who owes it currently only uses it a few times a week when she comes to work in Kivertsi. They are going to get it ready this weekend and hopefully by this Monday or Tuesday I’ll have moved in. As soon as it was officially a suitable place and that I could move in very soon, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Oh how I can’t wait to walk around my very own flat buck naked just because I can. (oh those will be some pictures to share).

I only wish I had a washing machine… from Kimberly. ‘I may have “gone green” but I’m still thinkin’ chocolate!’ from my mom.

Today I’m just hanging out and trying to get my stuff organized for the big move. Hopefully start reading Catch22 later today all curled up in my sleeping bag. Tomorrow I’ll head into Lutsk (near by city) to meet up with the local crew of volunteers for brunch and then get ready for this… a SALO FESTIVAL! Let me remind you that salo is straight pig fat. I can promise you some interesting tales from that. Then at 2pm we will all head over to the local library for our community wide English club. Has the makings to be a really fun day.

After being here a year, you would think that I would have all these great in depth thoughts about life. All I can really say is that old lessons are being relearned. I’m still learning new things but I can say that the more I learn the more I also realize I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Here is to keeping an open mind and heart for another year in Ukraine. Growing is sometimes painful but always worth it in the end. Hope everyone at home is well. Know I think of you often and always love you.


The List:
Be fair.
Woosah… let it go.
Remember to smile.
A sense of humor can get you far.
Days are long, but years are short.
Listen closely, and think before you talk.
Patience is virtue and silence really is golden.
Give without limits, give without expectations.
What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Most importantly for this experience, live like you are never leaving.

Myself and the bride to be Casey Graham(cracker)!! So exciting.

Almost forgot if me moving into my own flat is great news, I have even better news. My very good friend Casey will be getting married to one of the nicest guys I know Corey this coming Spring. She has asked me to stand in the wedding so I’m in the process of trying to get the money together to buy a ticket. Oh, how exciting this is. Congrats to them.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


My favorite marsuka stop on the route toward Lviv. Spudnik inspired.(sorry pops it isn't level, took it quickly from a moving marsuka)

First and foremost, I wish Juanita R. Stone a very happy birthday. Grandma, I hope I’m as cool and interesting as you at 85 years young. No average old lady here, just one hell of a grandma. Be ready to go get tattoo when I’m home for Christmas.

Currently, I’m exhausted. My friends were here early in the week and I feel like I have been going nonstop since last Wednesday. This week school has been busy and also a little stressful. Yesterday, morning I got up to go into the nearby city to catch a two hour bus to another volunteer’s site. There were around 12 volunteers at a meeting to exchange ideas for teaching and English clubs; called a collaborative.

After another 2 hour bus ride north back home, I had dinner at TamTam (equivalent to Wal-Mart) with Terry, Melissa, and Jon. Later, Melissa and I headed back to her flat to hangout, eat some popcorn and watch a movie before falling asleep. This morning we lounged and watched ‘Into the Wild’ while waiting for Film Club at 2pm. At the library near the center of Lutsk, we viewed and discussed ‘Endless Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.’ It was a little confusing for the Ukrainians who attended but I think overall they enjoyed the film. I returned home a little after 6 o’clock.

Me being a cheeseball in front of the biggest church in Radehiv.

Right now I’m just trying to get stuff ready for another busy week. Tomorrow I’ll go into my lessons completely blind because one of the teachers wasn’t around to get instructions and the other teacher couldn’t located the book I was suppose to use. Mondays are also English club in my town and Ukrainian tutor session. Here's to a 'Manic Monday.' Oh how I'm going to 'wish it were a Sunday.'

Incoming mail is at an all-time low. Me sending it out isn’t at much faster pace. Right now I’m trying to save pennies where I can so I can have some money to do a little Christmas shopping before getting on the plane to the Land of Lincoln. As porky the pig would say ‘that’s all folks.’


Scariest Prediction of the Week: This winter is suppose to be the coldest Ukrainian winter in the last ‘1000 years’ (that’s how it was actually reported on the news).

Last letter of ABCs of Happiness; sign from Ashley's school (where the collaborative was).

'People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you're fortunate enough. But that's not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don't, you will leak away your innate contentment. It's easy enough to pray when you're in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.' - unknown

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Elona, Alona, Alina, Ahhh!

North Central Cardinals in the house! Kelsey, Sarah and I on a drizzly day in Lviv.

The girls and I with our hottie soviet soldier/host at the password restaurant.

My favorite 6th form class. (please notice the Bears beat the Pack again this day, hope that holds true for the real second meeting).

Howdy all!! Sorry for the non-Sunday post. I have been quite busy this last week. Let me give you the run down.

Monday- Normal schedule at school. Ukrainian tutor for an hour. Evening English Club
at the library.

Tuesday- Another normal day at school. Read about the Bears win over the Pack, woot woot!!! Happy 57th Birthday to my pops. Announced that I’m coming home to Chilli for Christmas.

Wednesday- Morning classes before going to Lviv via marsukas and buses to meet up with Kelsey and Sarah (two NCC college friends).

Thursday- Exploring the city with major stops at a really cool restaurant with a Soviet theme where you have to say a password to get in and you take a shot as soon as you walk in the door. Later in the evening we watched a performance of Swan Lake at the Ballet and Opera House.

Friday- More sites: Castle Hill, Markets, and old but very cool Cemetery outside of the city center. Then in the evening headed to Zolochiv.

Saturday- Girl’s Weekend at my link mate’s (Kelsey) site (Zolochiv) where we had a book share and Mexican food cooking.

Sunday- The long trip back to Lutsk via marsukas, trams and buses. Hung out with the local Lutsk volunteers for dinner.

Monday- Sarah and Kelsey got to visit my school and teach some of my 6th and 7th grade formers before venturing back into Lutsk to check out another Castle.

So compared to my average week this was a pretty eventful one. Monday I had a really great day at school. I explained how the Chicago Bears were playing the Packers and the whole idea of a rivalry to my favorite 6th form class. It only came natural to select team names in a vocabulary competition that we use Bears and Packers. The battle of transportation vocabulary was intense but the Bears captured a 7-6 win over the packers. (Looks like it was a preview for what happened on Monday Night Football).

Getting to hanging with my college friends was really great. They were my first visitors and will be my only ones until the spring. I enjoyed showing them around and trying to share the average day of my Ukrainian life.

Girl’s weekend at my friend Kelsey’s place was awesome. There were seven volunteers and then my two friends. My visitors and I went to explore a castle Saturday afternoon because it was quite gorgeous after some rainy and drizzly days in Lviv. We traded books, art supplies, cooking ingredients and some other misc. stuff. It was a lot of fun because I got to see my PCV friend Shannon who I hadn’t seen since swearing in last December.

Overall, this past week was great, but I’m super worn out. So this week and weekend is going to be about relaxing and get things organized around my room. Hope everyone is having a great start to their autumn and that your weather is less dreary as mine.

One of the most challenging things of the week: keeping Alona, Alina, and Elona names straight in my 6th grade class. It probably doesn’t help that they sit in a row together.

Love and miss you all.


77 days until I land in Chicago!!

A very illegal photo of Swan Lake.

Super cool and old mural in a church near the center of Lviv.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Autumn Flower Day

Trapped beauty.

Soft landing.

Easter colors.

This past Friday was the day of Autumn Flowers. Each class at school makes a composition of flowers. Then they are all displayed in the foyer of the school. At 11:30, students gather to do different readings and performances with the theme of autumn. They then were dismissed at 12:15 for the day. The older students would be coming back at 7pm for a disco in the school’s sports hall. I haven’t yet been brave enough to experience one of those. I’m sure I will sometime this winter.

Pond on the south side of town.

The school week was a pretty average one. I did have some issues with my 8th grade class. They don’t seem to understand rule number one of respect. It is enough to make me want to throw something. I don’t which is probably the reason I have discovered gray hair #2 this week. Oh, what I’m giving of myself to do this experience. I will give them a few more chances before I just say screw and teach other classes who listen and actually want to learn.

'You talkin to me'

Yesterday, I had a great experience in the post office with two girls who work there, 20 & 23. I checked my mail: nothing. Then I went to the counter to buy some avion envelopes. One of the girls said, “you drink pivo…with man… in Kivertsi. Is that you boyfriend?” She was referring to my PCV/ clustermate Jon. He came to town this summer to hang out and grab a beer. Apparently, we were being watched. I said no. I tried to explain just a friend but I’m not too sure they believed me. Since it was a slow Saturday at the post office, they were asking me a billion questions. I told them I would walk home to grab a small photo album. I came back in the next 10 minutes; we probably talked for another half hour. I invited them to my English club tomorrow night. I guess I’ll have two more Ukrainians watching 30 Rock and Friends. Oh good times.

"hey guys! I got a halfa watermelon."

Thursday, I went into Lutsk to meet up with Jon and Melissa. While Jon was finishing up with classes, Melissa and I took the opportunity to browse the second hand stores. I scored a sweat pair of Nike sweat pants (I’m sure my mother along with Sarah Perrone is thrilled I owe yet another pair) for less than $2. When Jon finished we headed to a restaurant before we all headed back to our houses. I must say that borscht and other Ukrainian soup are really hitting the spot as the weather slowly drops. Oh and most importantly in this visit, I picked up ‘Eat Pray Love’ that Melissa grabbed for me from the Peace Corps office. So it is round number two for this book. I can’t wait to see the movie.

Well that is about it for this week. Hope everyone is great and your autumn is starting off as well as mine. Miss and love you all.


Jon takes getting his man mug very serious over a woman's glass.