Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy 4 Month Anniversary to the Earmuff Wearing American PCV

This Kate Klassic, as I'm starting to call my cards, is my 100th piece of snail mail.
(please note that my bootay is not drawn to real size, too big wouldn't fit)

This pictures make me realize something. No, not that Unicorns aren't real but how "thumbs up" is probably in too many photos. Sorry I can't help it.

This girl was cracking me up in vocab exercise. She was trying to say church but all she kept saying was chann...chann...chann... very energetically. For some reason, she reminded me of a young Amy Griggs.

A "small" afternoon snack last Sunday at Tanya's house.

This past Tuesday marked 4 months of being here in the lovely country of Ukraine. I have now been at site for 2 months. This week I can say I’m finally starting to feel at home and found a routine. Now don’t be confused and think that this means any two days are alike. Every day brings surprises some more pleasant than others. Overall, I’m glad to be here. One friend wrote in a letter I got awhile ago “We all miss you, but we’re glad you’re there.” That’s how I feel as well. I’m glad I chose to be a PCV but there are many days where I wish I could be in two places at once. But I’m learning a lot about myself and how to serve others. Hopefully I’m benefiting the Ukrainians I interact with on a daily basis as equal as they are making an impact on me.

So here is the skinny on this past week:

First of course the topic of the weather. It has been warming up the last half of the week, I stopped wearing long under wear. It nice to not make the laundry plus it is definitely a confidence booster when I get to go over one more notch on my belt with the lack of two extra layers. With the temperature warming up the mass amount of snow started to melt. Yesterday for the first time, I could see the brick drive way at my house. I was thinking to myself give it a couple more days and even if it is still welt and cold I’m going to go running on the main roads in town that have melted enough to create space for me and passing cars.

Not so fast. This morning I woke up to probably 2 inches of snow. It is now 11:30am and the snow is still coming down. So who knows when I’ll ever get to run outside?!?! Can someone tell me if we saw the ground hog this year????
Even though, I’m a little bummed about more snow, this week I found out that the man who recently opened a gym is friends with my school director which means I have the hook up. I’m going to tutor his 8th grade daughter once or twice a week in exchange for working on M-W-F. After finishing my classes on Friday, I went with the vice principle to check out the gym. It is small but very nice. Some of the equipment is newer than stuff we had in Merner. I had prepared myself to see former USSR weights that their past Olympians used. I was excited for the nice lifting machines, but when I saw the one very nice treadmill I nearly cried.

So as of tomorrow, I’m going to start my new Ukrainian workout program. Hopefully running 30mins and lifting on M-W-Fs. Then in the comfort of my own room where the door doesn’t shut, I’m going to discreetly do “Biggest Loser” yoga. I’m sure when my host mother comes into my room to randomly chat she is going to love seeing my big booty up in the air. I’m just going to remember to lay off the cabbage and eggs. I’ll give you three guesses why. Silent but violent mean anything to you???

The Ukrainian Mail Santa brought me a present this week. I got a package from Mama Perrone (aka the best Old Navy hookup). I got very nice blue pea coat, fleece pullover (which is now a daily after school staple), scarves, PJ pants, and whole bunch of other stuff. When I pulled the coat from the box, I’m a little embarrassed to say if you would have been in the other room you would have thought a 5 year old girl finally got the Barbie dream house she always wanted.

Along with Old Navy presents, she also sent me some delicious chocolates: Ferrero Rocher candies, chocolate covered pretzels, and my beloved peanut M&Ms. I snacked on them throughout the week and also shared with my host family. But I have really been trying to throw back on chocolate this weekend because once the workout start I’m going to attempt to eat healthier aka reject huge servings of food from my host mothers while also trying to stay away from sweets as much as possible. So this weekend, I have been consuming mass amount of chocolates all in the name of being healthy. Does this classify as an oxymoron?

Speaking of food, I had an interesting bowl of fish soup. Besides, clam chowder in Boston for the Civics trip in high school, I don’t think I have ever really had fish soup. It tasted so fishy; I was scooping the bottom of the bowl for small gold fish. I think I’m going to pass the next time that is made. Also in this same sitting were Ukrainian sausages which aren’t really sausage it is more like very fat hot dog. As a kid, I was always a fan of Oscar Myer but I could handle Ballpark Franks. I remember refusing to eat Aldi hotdogs because they were nothing like the standard brands. Let’s just say now, I would chow down on an Aldi’s hotdog with no funny facial expressions. Because Ukrainian hot dogs are very soft, too soft and they also have a smell to them…makes me think of burnt pile wood for some reason.

Random things from this week: I was able to charade/use my Ukrainian for describing mushrooms in approximately 5 secs. to my host mother. I said “when warm” then pointed to the ground and made a pop noise (as if mushrooms really coming out of the group with that loud sound effect.) Regardless, she got it. I’m thinking if charade-ing with help of minor Ukrainian was a sport, I would be a world class champion!

2nd random thing: I was walking to school on Monday through the park. There was a pack of 8 dogs. The funny part was the group was super diverse: sizes, colors, types. They were all just taking a morning stroll. It would have made a great photo ( I’m starting to carry my camera every day to school). Here in Ukraine there are many stray dogs. Another morning I counted 14 stray dogs that I crossed paths with on my 30 minute walk. For some reason, it made me think of the movie “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”

This weekend was nice for the fact I was able to chat with Tobey, Bre, and Jessie on the phone as well as chat a few people on chat. Always nice to hear familiar voices. Really blessed with many great friends. Yes, Tob I consider you my sister and friend (trying to be pleasant again). It is funny being away from home for a long period of time. It is interesting the moments I miss certain people and what exactly I miss about them. Or after seeing something outrageous around town, for instance when I saw see through tops being sold in the market I wished Annie and Kimberly were around so we could argue what is more classy mesh or weaved yarn ones?

So this is what I had to report to you all after…let me get my calendar… 18 weeks. Reason I put weeks is because I was talking to Margaret and she mentioned it being week 8 back at NCC. I am closing in on being out of college for almost a year, funny to think eventually I stopped counting my life on a 10 week schedule. But I think it will be awhile before I forget what each week distinctly means.

Hope you all are well. Keep lookin’ up, friends.


Almost forgot the biggest news, congrats to Mr. & Mrs. Erik Natzke (I’m hoping you guys really go with Schnatz). Erik thanks for making Tobey an honest woman and welcome officially to the family (even though you have been part of it for a while now). Love you both.

Walking through the park. The photo didn't turn out how I planned.

Look closely. Wet clothes out to dry...more like freeze. Still haven't quite figured this Ukrainian practice out.

Too much snow for a stroller. No problem, these moms got sleds for their little ones. Best part is that the kids are so bundled they look like the brother from "the christmas story."

Map of who slept with who on my beloved Grey's Anatomy. More needs to be added. I know the whole idea of this is sad. But there are only so many books you can read, cards you can make, before you need to think outside the box.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lost But Not Losing It

Me & one of my favorite classes, 10th form.

5th grade girls.


Partyin' it up!

Friday afternoon, I hopped a marsuka to head into Lutsk for dinner with my clustermate Jon. Normally, I take the large buses but instead I decided to take a marsuka that was already at the station. Marsuka is like a small bus or large van/truck like vehicle. It was labeled route 107 which I thought would get me to the center. Just to be safe I asked the driver. He confirmed “Pomme potim Centra.”

There I am riding at the back of the bus trying not to fall asleep after a long week, I get to what I’m pretty sure is the “Pomme” stop. I start to stand up because the next stop should be the Centra. We hit the circle and start heading the wrong direction. I tell myself it isn’t that big of deal because maybe the marsuka route has a different route. I figure give it a little time and then it will be fine. The more time, the more I headed away from the center. But at this point, the marsuka isn’t making as many stops.

I called Jon to tell him I’m going to be an extra 30mins because I am a dumb American that doesn’t know what she is doing. I got off at the next stop and found my way back. I’m guessing that the driver thought I was going to exit at the “Pomme” stop and then grab another city bus to the center because apparently that marsuka doesn’t go to the center. While the bus kept getting further and further from the center, I started mentally cussing realizing that this was going to be a waste of my time meanwhile Jon is standing outside waiting for me. I quickly come to my senses. Telling myself it wasn’t the end of the world. All and all, I did a little detour that cost me 1/8 of a dollar.

Thus far my experience here in Ukraine has taught me patience with people and situations. That situation on the bus made me think of how frustrating it must have been for my Turkish refugee family when they came to America. I’m normally not a dumb person, and I get the idea of a bus route, but when you are in a foreign country where you don’t fully understand the system nor the language you are helpless in many situations. I can remember my Turkish mom being so frustrated with learning the language slow and not being able to keep the normal pace of life. We have all seen it where there is someone struggling with a language at the checkout counter or information desk. I can unfortunately say there have been times when I think to myself “Come on already.” Now I am that person. I’ve had many moments that make me respect and have sympathy for people who find themselves in situations where they are handcuffed because of language.

Besides getting a little lost, this week I realized that I’ve been spelling my name wrong. I had been spelling it where it reads “Kite.” I learned this while writing the return address on a few letters in the teacher’s room. One of the ENG teachers was like I thought you pronounced your name Kate not Kite. What? Oh, I’m one sharp cookie I tell you.

This week was English Week which meant that I got to teach a lot of fun lessons and activities about Valentine’s Day. Each class created their own signs that were posted in the foyer. Above you can see the two boys from 7th form and two girls from 5th form. I got a number of Valentine cards. The 10th form class bought me three pink roses. I wish they could have been from a handsome, older and rich Ukrainian man but I’ll take a class that is largely dominated by girls over not getting roses. Also one of the photos shows what a Ukrainian teacher party looks like. This was to celebrate the birthdays that fall in February; it just so happened that it was Valentine’s week.

The week started out a little rough. If you need confirmation talk to my sister because I sent her an email when I was infuriated that would be highly inappropriate to quote on here. Still trying to teach the best I can and realize it is up to the students. My college friend Kelsey, who is currently teaching in the Philippines, sent me a message with the analogy that ‘we are the conveyor belts. we try to make the product as appealing as possible but in the end they are the ones who have to take it.’ It is hard because I’m trying to keep my insanity in the classroom yet not become apathetic which at this point is my biggest daily challenge.

So yeah that’s where I’m at right now. Please prayers to keep my motivated and focused. Hope everyone is well at home enjoying the winter Olympics. I won’t be watching them but every day that I glide to work I feel as if I’m in the race of my life against Ukrainian babushkas.

Keep lookin’ up.

Gross fact of the week: I can normally guess how cold it is by if the snot in my nose freezes on my walk to school.

My sister keeps me warm and informed.

My huge Valentine!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Package Extravaganza

My packages (Timka for reference)

All the American goodies!!! Felt like I was 5 and it was Christmas morning.

Today on my cold walk home, I stopped by the post office to send homemade Valentine’s Day cards to two of my friends in other cities in Ukraine. Checked my own PO Box. Christmas in Kivertsi; I had four packages. The 10 minute walk home from the post office with this batch of packages was interesting. I was praying the whole time “God, this won’t be a good time for me to biff it in the snow.” I made it home successfully.

Sat in my room and just stared at them for a little while before opening them. As you can see in the following photo I got some good stuff. I need to say thank you before I allow myself to use any of them. Thank you Mom, Uncle Pat, Tobey & Erik, and Dad & Wanda!!!!

Mom: the wallet is perfect, bells will work great in the classroom and my cluster mate Allison is looking forward to watching “Mad About You” with me.

Uncle Pat: you have completely fed my Grey’s Anatomy addiction. I’m going to try to ration them out. Try is the key word. The magazines will be great to read and then use in the classroom. The Shack also looks like a very interesting read.

Dad & Wanda: I’m so excited about the books I don’t know where to start. Looks like I’ll be very popular when it comes to loaning them out to my PC friends.

Tobey & Erik: I loved the everything in the packet. From the workout CDs to the pudding to sweet home made scarf to the unicorn key covers. But most of all I enjoyed the card with the photos. Oh and don’t forget the chocolate and the popcorn. You know your sister well.

I knew before getting these packages that I have the best dysFUNctional family ever, but now it is even easier to brag to other volunteers. But don’t worry I’m not going to be a huge brat, I plan to share some of the stuff. Miss and love you all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Never Take Your Eye Off of A…

Ukrainian Borscht and Sushi, why not?

Notice something that sounds a little gross?

…Ukrainian Woman with Sour Cream. Tonight my host mother was making me these little ravioli like pastas stuff with potatoes and cheese. Normally, people eat them with a decent size amount of sour cream. Before I let her put any on my plate, (yes, she serves me food regardless how many times I tell her I’ll do it myself, very uncomfortable) I usually say the phrase chut chut which means a little. Well I wasn’t paying attention and next thing I know is that half of my plate is covered by a huge pile of sour cream. God, please allow me to still fit into an airplane seat when it is time to go home.

I’ve been here so long I’m not quite sure how long it has actually been, but I guess it is a good thing. It shows that I’m adjust and settling in to my new hometown. I’m starting to get recognized by people when I’m out and about. I got waved at by one of my host mother’s friends, crossed paths with the medical college student’s (that I’m tutoring) mother and my host mother’s daughter who is married on different days. But my favorite encounter would have to be with one of my 5th graders and his mother at the post office. He was like in shock that he would see me outside of school and that I would actually say hello to him. He was probably worried that I would tell his mother that he is a bit of a problem child. But he didn’t really have anything to worry about because even if I wanted to I have no ability. Well as far as I could get would be “your son bad student.”

Oh, big big news!!!! This week I saved a life. It was freezing on Wednesday morning and with the behavior of the students on Tuesday I wasn’t looking forward to the day. As I was shutting the gate, I was like “God, please let me get through this day and allow me to feel like I have some purpose for being here.” I wasn’t half way to school and there was this little puppy near the busiest road in my town. He was tiny and shivering. I couldn’t bear the idea of seeing what would be left of him if he was to wander a little further. So I picked up this pup and walked to school. I had four lessons and there was no way I could keep him in the teacher’s room so I got an Avon box from a teacher. I took him inside the box and went outside to the tiny little store right by the school. I set him next to the door where it was a little warmer. I told myself if no one takes him by the end of the day; he is coming home with me.

I went and taught my first lesson. On my way to the teacher’s room, I noticed an unusual group of students near the door. Looked a little closer and noticed one of my 11th formers holding the pup. To make a long story short, the entire day teachers would make students put the puppy outside and not a few minutes later another student would go get the dog. By the time, I finished my classes I didn’t see the puppy anywhere so I’m guessing someone probably took him home.

Overall this last week of school was probably the most frustrating with teaching. It’s like I want to help these students as much as I can but I can’t make them want to learn. I anticipated doubting and questioning my being here but I always thought the question was going to be “is the difference I am making enough to justify/validate being away from all my family and friends.” I now am faced with a difference question that sounds something like “am I making any difference at all…”
After a frustrating week, I decided it would be a good idea to go away for the weekend and visit my cluster mate, Allison, in Voldymyr Volynski. It is roughly 2 and half hours on public transportation. There are two other volunteers besides her serving in the city plus my other cluster mate, Jon who lives only 30 mins from me, made the journey as well. It was a weekend filled with American TV shows, scrabble, wine, beer and you guessed it vodka. I enjoyed the festivities of Friday night but decided it would be a good idea to be the designated walker for the second night. Saturday night we ended up going out to a bar and talking with a random group of Ukrainians who then invited us to the disco. It is so funny to see how interesting people find it to hear us speak especially when we are attempting to speak their language. It was an enjoyable night; think we got to bed by 3am. You’re only young once, right? Don’t worry Mom I’m responsible, I swear.

Sunday, I lounged around Allison’s place until rough 2pm caught a bus then marsuka before getting back to my lovely little town. Should have done laundry but that doesn’t happen because what I call “God’s day.” Did a little lesson planning and organizing my room before hitting the hay at 9:15.

So yeah this is my life. Still waiting for an apartment, still adjusting to Ukraine and the mass amount of vodka, sour cream and mayonnaise that at least one is involved in every meal (no joke). Hope everyone is well at home. You all are in my prayers some with more specific prayers than others. Want you to know I think about you alot. Later YOs.


Me and Allison enjoying freezing Chicago like wind.

One of the many churches in V.V.

Scrabble anyone?