Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shakin' What My Momma Gave Me (All Over Town)

My fellow female teachers doing a skit.

Dasha (my landlord's 4 year old grand daughter) and I having a 'snack'.

My vice principle (family friend of my landlord), landlord/new babusci, and the two medical college students that I live with.

This past week I took my first outdoor non-track runs. The old folks who like to sit by their gates stare at me like I’m running down the street naked. Certain old men will nicely yelling at me to try to get my attention and what I’m only guessing to ask me why I’m running, but since I have my iPod in I just yell ‘good day’ and keep on trucking. I have found what I roughly gauge as a 4 and ¼ mile route. Down one of the main streets to the road that leads to Lutsk which I then head in the opposite direction and curve back around town. Then as the road keeps going to the next village, I take a street that comes from the backside of town up past the cultural building, park, school number 4, post office, turn at the bus station keep running past my house two blocks up. Head two streets down and loop back to the house (in case you ever want to come jogging with me). It is nice to take in the fresh air (well sometimes fresh air, I come across many horse apples) and get in some exercise. I want to attempt to do a ½ and maybe even a full marathon before I finish my PC service. I got a long way to go.

Well this last past week was not the average. I took a day off from school on Monday because I was in transit back to my town from the 10k. Then on Tuesday, I only went to school for my English Club that watches “Friends.” A huge crowd of two students came, better than non right? Wednesday was a regular day of classes with 10th, 6th and 9th formers.

Thursday was a half day at school which I wasn’t informed about so I showed up to school for 5th and 6th lesson. I should have guessed something was up because I saw more students playing hokey and walking around town than a normal Thursday. Sure enough it had been a half day and I had missed the classes I was supposed to teach. My vice principle didn’t seemed to be too bothered by it and just asked me if I was going to go to the cultural building to see students from the district perform.
Since I hadn’t really taught the entire week or been involved I thought why not.

I walked over to the performance which was in a building that has an auditorium that looks like it is used for community programs and functions. I saw dancing and singing from all levels from the 6 different schools in our town. But the high light of the show or what I found the most fun was the skit performed by my female teaching staff. It was supposed to be the conversations of old babushkas at the water pump. I was cracking up and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even understand the jokes.
Friday was classes as normal with the 5th graders and two sections of 3rd. The third graders are fun to teach even though their abilities are relative low they for sure make up for it with enthusiasm. Enjoyed my lessons and was at home by 1 in the afternoon.

Saturday, I went to Chernovograd which is roughly a 2 and half hour bus ride southwest of Lutsk and Kivertsi. There was a group of 12-14 PCVs that met up for the collaborative. We shared ideas for projects and teaching in the classroom. You could say we’ collaborate.’ It was nice to get a few new ideas for projects as well as find out more information about writing grants. Hopefully I will get motivated this summer and get more involved with that sort of stuff. It was also cool to meet a couple of volunteers that I hadn’t met before.

After the meeting, Allison, Aidan and Travis convinced me to go back to the V.V. with them for the night. It really didn’t take much and I was on the first bus to Voldyrmyr Volynski. Allison and I went to a store where you can buy already cooked food and salad for pretty cheap. It was really nice out so we ate dinner outside. Before heading over to Travis’ place for some social drinking, we had a little beauty session at Allison’s place. We both trimmed each other’s hair and Allison touched up my eye brows. (Interesting fact: I never thought I would have a tan line from my own eye brows). After a long morning of recovering from the adventures of the previous night, I jumped on a bus back to Lutsk.

The marsuka ride from Lutsk back to Kivertsi would have to be the worst I’ve ever been on. I don’t know if there are fewer buses on Sunday but every bus to my town was crammed with people. I was standing and holding on to the bar above my head. But I’m pretty sure there were so many people on it I could have let go because that was the state of constant contact I had with the other passengers. Did I mention I was wearing a sweater and had my pea coat over my arm? At one point, I really thought I was going to pass out from being so hot. I’ll start praying for my survival this summer.

Other exciting news is that if you can’t tell from my frequent face book status updates, I bought a modem this week which means I have internet access whenever in the comfort of my own room or like at the moment my own bed. I have downloaded skype. The connection is a little slow for video but it works well with voice conversation. So sign up for skype and holla at me: katemarieschmidt or the only Kate Schmidt in Ukraine.

So far living with the new people is great. Today is rainy but tomorrow I’ll take some photos from the outside and also of my room to post. Hope everyone at home is well. Yesterday marked T- 1 month until I’m an aunt!!! Get excited. Miss you all.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

10k = Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Near the start line of the race, notice the flowers on the tree.

One of the PCV runners of the 1/2 marathon coming back into town.

PBJ sandwich has never tasted so good, definately worth running 6.2 miles.

Hungarian College. They got crossed by the border, currently are 5km from their native country.

Kelsey trying to decide on wine (by the way she was the winner of the 10k wootwoot)!

This week was a memorable one. On Tuesday, I moved into a new place. I’m currently living with a babusci who just turned 65 this Saturday. She is a widow and rents her two extra rooms to medical college students. Currently, I have two young men (16 & 17year olds) who are students as housemate as well as a 23 year old man who is doing a law internship in my town who will soon move to Lutsk. They will live here until the end of the school year. The summer months it will only be us two women. Next year could bring a couple more students male or female. I’ll describe the living situation and probably add photos next blog.

School went fast this week because I only taught Monday through Thursday. After school on Thursday, I grabbed my things quickly to head to the bus station to meet up with a PCV Katie who lives in a nearby village. We hopped a marsuka and picked up two more volunteers we traveled with to the wine country. It was 3 hours by bus to Lyiv which went by fast chatting with the other two girls. One of the girls and I discovered that our sisters have similar names despite Tobey being very uncommon for a girl and what was even more strange was the fact my sister’s middle name is Elise and her’s was Eliza. We got a pretty good kick out of it.

We got into Lyiv with a couple of hours to spare. There we joined 5 other volunteers for a quick borscht dinner before hopping on our 9 hour train to the wine country. We were in the general overnight sleeping area which means 6 beds: 2 bunk bed style with places for four people near the window and then across the aisle was one more set of bunk beds that were parallel with the aisle that ran through the entire car. It wasn’t too bad of a set up, I was able to snooze in and out the whole night. We arrived at 5am (kyiv time, 4am local) so we had an early morning walk wondering around in the rain looking for the volunteer’s apartment. We all crashed on the couches and floor before going to breakfast at 7am.

After breakfast, we saw the office which the event was being operated from. By noon, most of us where at our respected home for the weekend with some of us in a hotel, camp site, and two guest houses. I was at the hotel in a big room with four other girls. My cuddle buddy for the weekend was Kelsey (link mate from training). That night we had a pretty good pasta meal to carb up for our big race the next day.
Pre-morning breakfast was followed with going to the town center for the opening ceremony of the wine festival. It included a marching band, horse drawn carriages as well as a society/club of wine makers. (See face book for photos). Our Peace Corps country director was around this weekend for the festivities and had a chance to briefly speak at the opening. He has made it his personal goal to meet as many volunteers as possible and associate something unique with us so it will be easy to recall our name or story the next time he sees us. Guess what the first thing was written down next to my name… T-A-L-L, haha.

The 10k had roughly 30 runners as well as many other volunteers who manned certain points in the race as well as the water and snacks for crossing the finish line. My friend Kelsey took won the 10k beating a couple of Ukrainian young men as well as other American girls. Another PCV guy won the half marathon with a time a little over an hour and half mark. The weather for Saturday couldn’t have been more perfect. It was sunny but not too warm. I made the trek in my Da Bears t-shirt (got to represent) and adidas pants.

With having the Al Carius saying “run for fun and personal best” as my personal running motto, I don’t feel the need to disclose my running time but I can say I’m pretty happy with myself for not finishing last or even second to last in the 10k. I feel pretty accomplished for the “big girl” as I was often called on the basketball court but I will say next time I will avoid training on the track and try to find some hills around Kivertsi. I agree with one of the girls who said “I thought I was going to see St. Peter at the pearly gates because I just kept going up and up and it never seemed to end.”

The rest of the weekend was a lot of hanging out with volunteers that I hadn’t met before or had briefly met at swearing in. We enjoyed the shashlyk, grilled juicy pieces of meat on a skewer that was marinated in delicious spices, and many types of wine. My travel buddy for this adventure was Katie. We bummed around Sunday taking pictures, talking with other volunteers and mostly deeply enjoying the beautiful sunshine after a long cold winter in the Volynski oblast. Our outbound train to Lyiv was at 7:50pm. This time the general over night sleeper wasn’t available so we had to spend a little more money on beds in a cabin. There were two Ukrainian men who we shared it with. It was a sauna like temperatures when we first got on and even around the time we wanted to go to sleep. But by the middle of the night with the help of my iPod as a distraction, I was asleep. Then I grabbed a 3 hour bus to Lutsk before finishing the last leg of the journey with a 30 min marsuka ride back to my lovely little town.

Overall it was a great weekend and really fun to socialize with other volunteers as well as get a nice workout in (my legs still don’t feel normal, I blame the ridiculous hills). So yeah that is about it. I hope to get the majority of my photos up on face book this week. I didn’t capture the Carpathian Mountains which were visible after making it up the first hill outside of the town nor the beautiful vineyards on the rolling hills but I’m sure through other PCVs albums via face book that I’ll be tagged in that you will get a chance to see them.

This past Saturday marked 6 months in country and 4 of those at my site. The days are slow but the weeks go by fairly quick. Here is too many more 17ths to pass and hopefully as enjoyable as this last one. Hope all is well at home. I miss you all. Keep lookin’ up.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

“I survived a Ukrainian Easter Extravaganza”

The two people who witnessed and encouraged a crazy amount of food consumption on my part (my friend Tanya and her mom)

Can't have Easter without Peeps (thanks momma perrone)!

This past week I have ate more food than any other week of my life. Ukrainians drag out any holiday for an extra few days to week. All week long, I have been celebrating Easter with my host family, fellow teachers as well as one of my Ukrainian friends. To make you understand, think about eating a Thanksgiving feast dinner for 6 out of 7 days. I have been running a lot this week but I still don’t think it comes anywhere close to balancing out the mass amounts of paska (traditional Ukrainian Easter bread), sausage, egg and potatoes salads, mashed potatoes, homemade cheese, cookies, cake and candies that I have consume either willing or by force of a Ukrainian woman.

This week was alright. My patience is running a little thin with being promised new living situation and no results. And frustration mounts when I get to school for my classes and one of my classes of 11th formers all decide to play hooky and not show for classes because of the holiday. Still looking to feel at home with my job of teaching but sometimes it is hard.

On the upside, the weather has been warming up. So the long walk to school in the morning is now really enjoyable. It is also great to see a lot of sunshine, does a lot for my sanity. There were some points this winter when I thought that warm weather and the sun where never going to show.

This Friday, I met up with returned FLEX (it is a exchange program run by the US government for foreign students from all around the world to study in the states for one year) students to develop and arrange some volunteering at a local orphanage. The idea is to pair one volunteer with two returned students to have a couple of English clubs and activities planned for each week. It will mostly get off the ground in mid May. I’m excited to get the chance to work outside of the school.

That’s pretty much about it. Hope the weather is warm where you are and that turkey jello is not being forced on you at any meal. Keep lookin’ up, friends.

Facts and Numbers as of May 11
127: letters I’ve sent home to the good US of A
90: letters I’ve gotten here in Ukraine
18: episodes of Grey’s Anatomy that I watched from this current season
14: miles that I ran this week on the track by my house
12: number of paska a woman has to sample before she will have the fortune of getting married that same year
10: shots/toast during a typical feast of celebrating Ukrainians
7: roughly the weeks until I’m an AUNT!!
6: days until I run a 10k in the Carpathian Mountains
2: times I ran in the rain/drizzle this week
1: the shirt I need to say “I survived a Ukrainian Easter Extravaganza”
½: the amount of a piece of Ukrainian salt fish I tried. Not my thing, tasted like a very salty, and fishy piece of beef jerky
0: times I’ll shower/bath today because there’s no shower on God’s day. I thought cleanliness was next to Godliness…
?: days until I will get a flat or new host family to live with for the remainder of my service

3 things I’m glad I brought with me: my running shoes, computer and ipod
Food I would like to be eating right now: bowtie pastry doughnut things from Kroger’s
What I’m getting use to: the unexpected and always changing school schedule
What I’m not getting use to: the Ukrainian system of standing in a line or should I say not standing in a line
Moment I regret: during a mid-freak out destroying a half a big of peanut M&M’s that I was waiting to share with other volunteers
If I could be dinning anywhere for dinner tonight: home for my dad’s meatloaf and huge salad
Random moment where I thought to myself this is a great experience: walking past a house and seeing someone blow out the candle on top of the paska with their family sitting around the table
Biggest frustration: classroom management
Biggest challenge: staying positive and energetic
Overall Low of the week: knowing that I’m missing out on moments at home with family and friends
Overall High of the week: Becoming a lot more self-aware

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eggs Taste the Same Everywhere

The Easter spread well all that could fit on the table.

If you built it, they will come. I'm a believer.

Boys throwing the ball around.

The V.V. Crew: Aidan, Allison, & Travis.

And not only do eggs taste the same everywhere they also make me the same level of gassy. Just because I thought you would want to know.

Happy Easter! I’m sitting here on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the sunshine that cracks through my bedroom window. I got up this morning turned on my PC played some worship music softly while reading my good book. Something that I didn’t anticipate so much was how much I would miss going to church. I enjoy the sermons but I love singing worship music with a group of followers. For me it is the most genuine and fulfilling type of worship. Hope when I get back to the states, I’m not such a grump butt when rolling out of bed to go to church.

My host mother and sister had prepared a lot of the food yesterday for this morning’s brunch. The older host sister along with her husband and son came over at 10:30. We all stood while my host mother said the blessing, we sat and all ate a piece of the same hardboiled egg. Next came the first vodka toast (I got away with having wine) which would was followed by food, more toasts and more food. I’ve finally have been able to gauge how little food to put on my plate to not stuff myself in the repetition of toasts and eating as well as enough food to not have my host mother add to my self-served portion. We probably sat around the table while eating and visiting for the next 2 hours.

I’ve noticed a few Easter traditions so far. One is the fact this past week people have been sweeping and cleaning up the trash and litter that has accumulated over the winter. Also they paint the curbs and bottoms of trees and posts white. I was explained it is for a fresh start to a new spring as well as the white wash (chalk like paint) is painted on the trees to protect them from frosts that still happen.

Another tradition is the Saturday night before Easter people take baskets with a traditional Easter bread as well as fruit, candies and meat to be blessed at church. Yesterday, I was told by an English speaking Ukrainian that it is called the overnight service from 8pm-4am. After along week of hanging out with friends in the V.V., I turned down the invitation to go to church with my host mother thinking I couldn’t survive it. I was surprised when she came back at 10pm so maybe next Easter I’ll go to the church to witness their traditions.

The following Monday after Easter (tomorrow) for Ukrainians is a national holiday and I’ve been invited to my vice principal’s house for another dinner so I’m only guessing I’ll witness some more traditions. As well as I’ve been invited to my Ukrainian friend’s (Tanya) house to celebrate on Tuesday. Ukrainians seem to stretch their holidays for as long as they can. But hey I say party on!

This past week, I finished my relaxing spring break in Voldymyr-Volynski (Allison’s site). It is a lot of fun because not only do I get to enjoy the company of Allison but I’m also entertained by two hilarious male volunteers Aidan and Travis. I was there from Wednesday to Saturday and our activities included: drinking ‘miracle’ water from a well, playing 3 uncommon American sports (baseball, football, Frisbee), second hand shopping, running at the stadium, lots of walking around town, climbing a really old and steep wall that is centuries old, playing Trivial Pursuit, cooking meals as family, knighting each other with a whiskey sword, and of course indulging in a few alcoholic beverages.

Now, I’m just going to relax at my place until school starts again on Tuesday. I got loads of laundry to do but that will be held off because today is God’s day even more so with it being Easter. This week was definitely a good time to relax and regroup. I have 8 more weeks until the end of school. Here is to finishing out strong.

Most Frustrating Moment of the Week: the ‘non-line’ line mass of people trying to push into the marsuka before passengers who were exiting the marsuka could actually get out.