Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last Week, Last Bell

Younger students who danced in traditional dress.

Two of the guys who picked traditional wear.

Svitlana, Myself, Vice Principle Louda, My counterpart Halyna

Little students pinning on tiny bells to celebrate "Last Bell"

Graduation cake at the party.

Monday there was not school because of the Green Day. Tuesday I had off because my counterpart didn’t think students would focus enough to listen to me. Man, she really isn’t paying attention in my average class. Wednesday was the last day of classes. The normal throw the ball around the class and ask different questions followed by many games of Hangman. Also got some games of heads up, 7 up with the younger students.

Last Bell was Thursday morning. It was at 9 in the morning. The celebration is held right outside the front door of the school. Students are presented with sashes that say graduate on them. Also students who achieved different academic accomplishments through competitions with other schools in the district are recognized with certificates. The school flag is also passed from the current graduating 11th form to the 10th formers who will rule the school next year. Flowers are also giving from the students to the teachers thanking them for their work.

The last thing done outside during the celebration is one of the graduating 11th form boys hoists a 1st form girl on his shoulder and parades her around as she rings the ‘last bell.’ The 11th formers marched back into the school for the ‘last class’ with parents and former teachers as guests. There the homeroom teacher, who has been with these students since 5th form, shares about the class and wishes them well in the future. I was the 11th B class, they had prepared a slideshow as well as the teacher read short stories that the students wrote when they were in 5th form about what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Next teachers who have taught the students in different subjects stood and wished them things for the future. I was surprised to see some of the boy’s eyes even welling up, but it was clear that this class was really enjoyed by all the teachers. They had me speak. I kept it short because I’m not one to like to talk in front of parents and other teachers. I had to wrap it up because I felt myself getting emotional. It just exciting to see students feel so accomplished by finishing school and moving on to their next big adventure. After the students made their well wishes, parents went to the front of the class to wish them all well. I got the teariest during this. I just couldn’t help it with very proud and tearful Ukrainian moms talking.

After finishing up at school, a group of teachers headed to a local café to have lunch and celebrate the year officially finishing up. For some reason the male teachers didn’t attend so it was a group of 20 women and the male school director. I passed on the vodka explaining I didn’t want to drink and before I knew it I was getting poured many shots of wine. Apparently wine in Ukraine is not alcohol.

Friday, I lounged around the house before heading into Lutsk in the afternoon. Katie, Jon and I hit up a pizza café and enjoyed sitting out on the patio. After, we wonder around in a park near the river. Before coming home, I did a little shopping at Tam-Tam (UKR Wal-mart). If for a moment I get distracted enough and not listen to other people talking, I can almost forget I’m in Ukraine. Grabbed a few things before hopping the marsuka home. I lucked out with catching a spacious marsuka. About half way through the ride a mom of two sat down in the seats in front of me. A five year old was sitting near the window while the mom sat directly in front of me holding a toddler boy. The kid was super cute and pretty interested in observing all that was around him. I started playing peek- a -boo (don’t know how to translate that in UKR) while listening to my ipod. Then for some reason I started to tear up…again couldn’t help it.

Yesterday was graduation day. It started a little behind at 5:15 in the evening and we weren’t leaving school until 8:30pm by the time the last photos were being snapped. The boys wore nice suites while the girls wore dresses (prom like dresses). Students were presented with diplomas, there were more flowers exchanged between teachers and students, parents who had helped with different things throughout the school year were recognized. Also there were a lot of interesting fashion…crimes as some would call them, check out my face book photos to understand.

All of the students, parents and teachers headed to a café near the school. Very delicious spread, plenty of alcohol, loud music, and soft cake (rare thing to find here). I just kept thinking to myself ‘really this is peace corps’ as different UKR women tried to scoop more on my plate and the men filled more than one glass with vodka (3 to be exact). I had a lot of fun. Challenged my students to translate one last thing as I gave them a good luck toast. I danced a little bit (after good amount of UKR spirits) but was still hesitant being the only American at this shindig. I called it an early night at 1am, but the party rocked on.

Overall it was an emotional week for me. I have been bummed out not to be at home to see my sister’s new baby boy Leo. I miss home a lot. Well not so much home but just missing out on the moments. Also proud, tearful moms of students many who plan to go on to university. It is closing in on a year since I graduated from North Central. Not that I wasn’t ready to graduate or that I don’t like where my life is at the moment, I do still miss the college atmosphere. I loved interesting topics, readings, class room discussions, hell even a research paper if it is an interesting topic. I also miss great friends to have good conversations with while eating a frosty or whatever special mystery meat was being survived at k-man. Just sort feel old in a way I guess and jealous of the students who are just entering their college careers.

But didn’t sulk too much in those thoughts. Today, I sat outside for a good five hours reading and day dreaming while taking in the sun. I guess it is just a preview of what my summer looks like for the most part. Hope everyone is well at home. Much love YOs.


Monday, May 24, 2010

“They won’t listen to you, you’ll be free”

Workin' on our tan lines at the outdoor bar near the park.

All we need is a Ma and we got the Golden Girls of Ukraine. (Mine host babusci is the one in the middle)

One of the babusci said the baby must be big since I'm big which led them trying to figure out exactly how tall I am using the door frame as a measurement. Too funny.

Holodets: turkey jello. As you can see, I only took "cheut cheut" (little) after being forced and then put a good amount of ketch on it. I still gagged.

This past week at school was an easy one. I fewer classes than normal because of end of the year tests. Nothing too excited to report on that front. This Wednesday will be the last day of classes and today there was no school because of Green Day which is a national holiday. On Friday, I asked one of the teachers what she wanted me to do with my Tuesday classes. She responded with, “they won’t listen to you, you will be free.” Life is a little more laid back than at home so tomorrow instead of going to school I’ll be sitting outside finishing some books.

On Wednesday, I had another successful ENG club that I run out of a room in the library building. The first meeting I had 15ish people, second 18ish, this past one only 7. But they were an engaged and enjoyable seven. We went over vocabulary of places in a big city: hospital, university, theater, etc. Played a few games of taboo and charades with the vocab. Toward the end did an activity of building sentences with the vocab and making sure the correct tenses of verbs were used when talking about actions of yesterday and then plans for today and tomorrow. This week’s topic is music. Hopefully introduce a variety of my favorites: Dixie Chicks, 50 Cent and my beloved Celine Dion.

Friday morning was definitely the most excited day of the week. While I was walking to school at almost 8am in the morning my sister Tobey gave birth to a sweet baby boy. I got a few texts that day as well as a short phone call this weekend. Momma and Poppa Natzke along with my nephew are doing well and should now be back at home. It is hard to think that I missed out on the special moment. But that is the biggest trade off of getting to have this experience so far away from home; not being able to be in two places at once. Hopefully visiting via Skype until an in person meet is possible will hold me over.

After school on Friday, I met up with Allison in Lutsk. We did some shopping. Did pretty well with getting our checklist done but Allison wasn’t too successful when it came to finding a swimsuit. Let’s just say searching for a person who is blessed up top and then petite on bottom makes for some pretty funny cross cultural exchanges when trying to explain to a sales person that a tortilla chip would cover more than the bikini top trying to be sold.

The weather was gorgeous so we roamed around the center a little and eventually met up with a few other PCVs at a sidewalk pop up café. Enjoyed a couple of brewskies before heading back to my town. But not first without our traditional stop at Tam-Tam pronounced Tom-Tom which is the closest thing Ukraine has like a Wal-Mart. It is nice because there is cafeteria like restaurant at the back of the story. Pretty good veggie salads. Finished up there and then hopped a very crowed marsuka back to my town. I was ready with cookies and a chick flick but ole’ Allison tuckered out before 9:30pm.

In the morning, we both got up around 8:30am hoping to get to Lutsk by 10 to shop the market before hoping a bus back to the V.V. (Allison’s site, 1hour and half bus ride). Normally, I’m not a big breakfast eater here in Ukraine. I prefer a bowl of cornflakes and can be out the door in 20 mins. That didn’t happen.

Saturday marked the day of Mikola. Women in Ukraine have a patriarchal name. My host babusci’s father name was Mikola so we celebrated the day of Mikola which happen to be this Saturday. Not only did we celebrate her father we celebrated Baby Natzke. When we first sat down there were only a few dishes, but as Allison and I soon found out when two of her friends dropped by more dishes and alcohol got brought out. It wasn’t until a little after 11 that we left the table and a little tipsy at that. You probably think why not just say no thank you. Let me tell you I was influenced in high school to drink, I was influenced in college to drink, but nothing has compared to peer pressure or should I call it babusci pressure. She tells you to drink. You throw back, no questions asked. If you don’t believe me, you are more than welcome to come visit.

Finally after escaping to go catch a bus, Allison and I arrived to the V.V. around 2:30 in the afternoon. It was absolutely beautiful with blue skies and sunshine. Since we endured the heat of the bus ride, we thought we would reward ourselves with a beer in the park right behind the bus station. Four hours later with different PCV friends as well as Ukrainian friends, we found ourselves again tipsy but it was worth the good conversation and tan lines. Later we made our way back to Allison’s place dropped our stuff and headed to the restaurant across the streets in the company of Aidan. After a shared bottle of vodka, my chicken sashleka and salad, I was more than jolly.

Sunday was a slow morning. But eventually got moving and back outside to get some sunshine. We went over to Aidan’s place. I was able to get the rest of Grey’s Anatomy which I was so excited about. (FYI: probably the best season finale ever, too bad I had spoiled it by reading up online before watching it. I’ll would have probably cried even more if I wouldn’t have known what was coming) We had some afternoon ice-cream and eventually I headed back to my site.

Today I feasted with my babusci’s family for Green Day; a religious holiday celebrated 50 days after Easter. I’ve taken a nap, re-watched the Grey’s finale, watched the assignation of Jesse James, and now I’m working on my to do list. Hope everyone had a great weekend and the start of a good week. Later yo-s!


High of the week: finally becoming an aunt!!!

Low of the week: Two way tie. A drunken Ukrainian man using my shoulder as pillow for an hour and half marsuka ride and unfortunate tracks (ask me sometime in person).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Under the Rainy Weather

Can't say I'm not excited for the World Cup! (last trip to Lviv)

Well it is going on two weeks now that I have had a lovely cold as probably allergies thrown into the mix. I was supposed to go to Voldymyr-Volynski this weekend to celebrate Aidan and Allison’s birthdays but made the grown up decision to stay home and rest (making the good decision canceled out a lot of fun with other volunteers, but it’s Ukraine so there will definitely be another time).

Hmm… what happened this week that is note worthy? Wednesday, I had another meeting for my English club for high school age students from other schools as well as 20-somethings who want to keep learning English. I was surprised when 18 people showed up (17 girls and 1 guy, not surprised by that). Did a warm up
activity/icebreaker from my days of being a resident assistant. Next, we watched an episode of ‘Friends’ and two groups of students raced to reorganized events from the episode into the correct order. Since many weren’t at the first meeting I did the same intro power point presentation to share a little about myself and what Peace Corps does in Ukraine.

Thursday, I joined a group of 10 students from my school at school number four in our town to present about Ireland. The district schools hold a Europe Week in which different schools pick different countries to represent. I briefly shared about my great great grandparents having Irish roots. I think my school had the best presentation because not only did they have me as part of it they also danced an Irish jig, baked a traditional pastry as well as gave a power point presentation.

Friday, I taught 5th and 3rd grade classes. During my first 3rd grade class, I had the other half of the class started to attempt to come in the class room (it was an abnormal schedule so pretty much as soon as I started teaching class was technically over and the class is so large it is divided into sub-groups). So three students went to the door and pushed it shut against the force of half the class who were on the other side. Meanwhile, I’m standing at the front of the class looking like victim and having no control over the rambunctious third graders who wouldn’t take their seats. Just another day in a Ukrainian classroom.

Other than that nothing too excited happened this week. Didn’t run a lot because haven’t been feeling the best. Plus, it is spring like weather, one moment sunshine and the next a down pour. Today is pretty chilly with a cold breeze with off and on again rain/drizzle.

Hope all is well. I’m excited to report only 7 classroom days of teaching left (insert two thumbs up here). Bring on summer. Miss you all.


Funniest moment of the week/top 5 of Ukrainian moments: my friend Tanya (current medical intern) was visiting and since I wasn’t feeling well she brought me some apples, bananas, and oranges. I thanked her for them and told her how much I love fruit especially apples. I also told her about how much I love to eat apples with peanut butter. I explained it is like Nutella but made with peanuts. I then made the comment “I would sell a kidney for a case from America.” She replies “so you would sell your nipple since you have two.” I was dying laughing. She eventually explained that there is some universal medical language or something. I’m still not too sure about what she was saying but did realize she was taking about kidneys and not nipples. It was too funny.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Two for One

First I’ll start with Mother’s Day because let’s face it without them none of us would have came into the world. I would like to wish my mom and two grandmothers Happy Mother’s Day. All unique women who I have learned a lot about what it means to be a strong woman. Love you and wish I was at home to celebrate it with you.

Second holiday which is more widely celebrated here in Ukraine is Victory Day. Today is the 65th anniversary of Hitler’s Nazis being defeated by the Allie forces. In every town that I have visited here there has always been a World War II monument, even in the small village I was in for training. When first in country, I was like geez what is their obsession with all these monuments. So today I got online and looked up some information.

I learned that thirteen million Soviet soldiers lost their lives, roughly 3 million from Ukraine. America suffered 400,000 casualties. Not to discount the lives of the American soldiers but there is a drastic different in the numbers. Not only did Ukrainians suffer the losses of their fighting men but civilians often fell victim to the Nazi campaign in Ukraine. I read an article that stated the average family had lost a direct family member to the war.

War is a horrible thing but when it is your own backyard it is that much worse and impacting. It really hit me today to think that this country as part of the Soviet Union had to recover and move on from the ugly history and losses of the Second World War. Today around the Lutsk as well as my town, I saw many old men strolling proudly in their old military uniforms. I went to the park where many people had gathered to place flowers at the graves of soldiers. There was a gathering to remember all those who fought and loss their lives. It was a unique experience to see how Ukrainians look back at the victory.

This week was a short one at school. One day to be exact. I had off Monday and Tuesday for Ukrainian Labor Day. Then I battled a cold Wednesday and Thursday. Friday I went to a school which isn’t that hard of a day because I have classes in the 5th and 3rd grade sections which means simple activities with enthusiastic classes.

Yesterday and today for the most part I’ve been lounging around reading, watching different TV shows on my PC. The only real productive thing I have done was going for a run yesterday and grocery shopping today. I’m still not back at a 100% so not trying to go too crazy with anything. Tomorrow I’m going to attempt another run and if the weather is nice sit outside and read.

Hope everyone’s Mother Day weekend is as relaxing as mine. Miss you all.


Most interesting moment of the week: being told that heating up vodka and drinking it from a coffee cup would cure my sore throat and running nose. Can’t say that I tried.

High of the week: Getting to skype with my sister on video chat. Roughly 17 days until baby natzke!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lviv-ed It Up

Aidan and I at the top of the clock tower in Lviv.

Melissa, Jon and Katie representing Volyn!

One of the many awesome buildings in downtown Lviv.

This week was an eventful week. Well not too much exciting at school. Just another normal week. The weather is warm and the students are really starting to get rambunctious. Only 15 more days of classes and then FREEDOM!!!

Wednesday marked my first adult English club. The social work program for the district is run out of a building in my town. The director asked me if I was interested in having an English club for anyone who would be interested. The first meeting went well. 11 people were in attendance. Some high school and university students as well as couple of mid 20 year olds and a 30 something year old lady. All were female so if I ever hope to marry a Ukrainian man I’m going to have to step it up with recruiting. For the first meeting I simply did a PowerPoint about my background as well as shared a little about Peace Corps. They all had the chance to introduce themselves as well as discuss activities they would like to do in the future. I’m hopeful that this will be a meaningful experience for me and it is nice to do things outside of my school.

Thursday was another first; I watched our local Ukrainian Premier Football (soccer) team play. Their name is Volyn and they are based in Lutsk (the nearby city). It was interesting to find out it is illegal to drink inside the stadium but all you have to do is leave at half and go to the beer tents right outside. Take into account it is the norm for teachers to have parties at school where they drink, so it is just a little amusing to think you can’t kick back while watching your team play. Also something us American learned the hard way is that you need to bring a newspaper to sit on. For some reason the seats are covered in chalk (maybe they are painted in chalk, I don’t know). Regardless, I sat down wearing dark jeans and by the end of the game it looked like I was wearing the washed style of jeans. The game was totally worth the less than $2 ticket. Oh did I mention we kicked the other teams butt: 4 to 0. I cheered like I normally do. No “break their legs” chant but you never know what could happen when I’m in the stands.

Friday after school, I headed to V.V. spent the evening sitting outside playing scrabble with Aidan and Allison. I attempted to get into it but it is just too slow of a pace. Meanwhile, Allison and Aidan thoroughly enjoyed battling it out. Allison took 1st. Hung out the rest of the evening and eventually turned in pretty early so we would be well rested for our morning bus to Lviv.

3 hour long bus ride and we got into Lviv. There was a group around 12 or 13 of us PCVs who met up for one of the girls’ birthday. We enjoyed sightseeing around the city, climbing the clock tower to get a view of the whole city as well as consuming the local brew of beer at a number of outdoor cafes as well as bars. Oh, also got to indulge on Micky Dee’s. I’m not a huge fan of fast food at home (besides my love affair with a Wendy’s frosty) but a Big Mac has never tasted so delicious. Also it is funny because with how much Ukrainians stuff PCVs when we eat at McDonald’s we feel as though we are eating healthy… isn’t that the saddest thing you have heard?

After a running around Lviv for an hour and half, we made it to a bus station that had buses to Lutsk on Sunday evenings. Allison and Aidan came back to Kivertsi with me for the night so they would be close to Lutsk for a sashlek and paintballing with former FLEX participants on Monday. There was 7 PCVs who went and a few of us played paintball. I sat out because yesterday woke up with a little bit of a cold and didn’t feel a 100% as well as I didn’t want to totally dominate the game. We also had a lot of food; Ukrainian picnic style. I think it is a safe bet to say that I have never been to nor will ever go to a Ukrainian get together where the lack of food is an issue.

Well that about says it all for this last week. Right now I need to go check my clothes on the line. Might just sit outside to lesson plan for tomorrow as well as take a little snooze in the sunlight. Hope everyone is well. Later YOs.


Most interesting moment of the week: Riding back to my town on the marsuka and being like what’s that noise? I took my iPod buds out to clearly hear a box full of little chicks peeping away in a cardboard box that was on the lap of the lady sitting next to me.

Countdown for Baby Natzke: roughly 22 days!!!!