Saturday, July 24, 2010

Africa, America, Ukraine: Everyone Loves UNO

Hey Everyone,

I'm just sitting around in my free time thinking of new activities for my classes and English clubs. English reading materials are hard to come by as well as American games.

This is where I'm recruiting your help. I am asking anyone who is willing to send me magazines from this summer. Don't feel the need to go buy anything whatever you have on your coffee table will be fabulous. Really anything from Sports Illustrated, People, National Graphic, Shape, Men's Health, Automobile, magazines for younger kids, really anything.

I want to use them with the younger kids in 3rd and 4th all the way to people in their 20s who come to my English club that I have. You can send them in a flat large envelope for around $10.

If you really want to help my students and me out any UNO, Scrabble, Catch Phrase, Taboo, Monopoly or any other games would be absolutely amazing and provide a fun way to practice their English. So check your closets, dust them off and send this way. I know sending a pack of UNO cards cost around $5. Other games will be more but remember to just send the necessities don't worry about the original boxes. It will be greatly used and appreciated.

Hope everyone is well and your summer weather isn't hot as mine. Miss you all and thanks in advance for anything you send.


(otherwise it takes an extra time)

Кeйт Шмідт
A/Я 13
Bул. Шевченка 8
м. Ківерці
Волинська обл.
Україна 45200

Kate Schmidt
8 Sevchenka St.
Volynska Oblast
Kivertsi, Ukraine

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If You Build It They Will Come

Our Ukrainian 'Field of Dreams'

The Sharks who captured 3rd Place.

8 lovely Peace Corps Volunteers who do a fantastic job of representing America.

Me and Kate (she was the next PCV that my training family hosted). Super hilarious girl.

Matt (one of my favorite PCVs) rockin' the Magnum P.I. look.

Me today just so you don't forget how I look and just how nappy my hair is.

Well I am sitting in my room at my site and sweating as if I were in a gym in a unairconditioned gym in the middle of the summer playing AAU basketball. Just got back from the one grocery store in my town. There is a limited selection that I can buy there but normally they have all I want besides the family super size cereal that I like to buy. Feeling a tad homesick, my cure for that is American products. I bought a diet coke (never find Diet Pepsi) and a Kitkat.

This last week I was at a baseball/softball camp in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine which is southeast from my site exactly 6 and half hours on a bus. I had asked a co-worker how long it takes to get there and they guessed around 4-5. So the trip there wasn’t that bad because I just kept thinking it would be the next town for an extra two hours.

The camp was Sunday through Saturday (11th-17th). There were 8 Peace Corps Volunteers and around 60 Ukrainian participants from 13 to 30ish years old. We were assigned to a team and acted as a coach, player and umpire. My team was the sharks because of our royal blue t-shirts. It was fun to interact while playing the game. We taught them take me out to the ball game and other cheers such as “hey batter batter, hey batter batter, swing batter!”

Two of the fields were made on the soccer field at the local university while the other field was at a nearby middle school on their soccer field about a 5 minute walk away. The other volunteers and I stayed at the university’s dorm. Most of the nights, someone would have a recipe that they wanted to try so they would go buy the groceries and everyone would pitch in money. It was inexpensive and pretty delicious if you ask me. My favorite dish or dessert I should say was the ice cream sandwiches one of the girls made.

The first couple of nights were the last of the world cup games. We watched them at different bars. It has been really fun to watch how Europeans get so into “real” football as I have been taught to say. One of the nights, we even had the chance to watch the game with two South African guys. As much as I love Da Bears and Cubbies, “real” football is the world’s sport and really fun to watch during the world cup. I might just stay interested after getting back to the states.

Sunday morning, I caught an early marsuka to try to avoid the blazing sun and heat. It worked until I got back to Lutsk (the city close to my site) and had to catch a marsuka for the last 15K home. I get on with my big hiking back pack (really glad I bought it for PC, holds what I need and doesn’t kill my back regardless how many pairs of yeti shoes I put in it) but unfortunately there were no more seats and was forced to the last standing spot in the aisle. I’m standing there sweating holding on to the bar on the ceiling worrying about my forearm sweat dripping on the lady seating on the right side of the marsuka.

Paying enough attention to whip my forearms on my t-shirt to avoid this awkward situation, I start to think “have I just pissed myself?” At the last town before Lutsk (hour away), I finally bought a Sprite because I was dying of thirst. Normally, I try to avoid liquid but figured I was in the clear. As I’m standing there thinking how could I have peed on myself I realize that I’m sweating so much that it is running down my backside to my legs. Note to self: next time wear a white t-shirt to avoid looking like a man with all the sweat marks.

Yesterday and today, I’ve been lounging around trying not to get too sweaty. Today, I only did one load of laundry by hand because it looks as if it was going to rain. It eventually cleared up and my stuff dried on the line in no time. Washing stuff by hand isn’t the worst, but I will be excited to get back to the states to have soft clothes from the dryer. Not a big fan of crunchy socks and underwear. My babusci just came into my room to tell me that before leaving tomorrow to meet Allison in Lutsk I must wash my clothes that I have separated in different piles on the floor.

Leaving with my new babusci hasn’t been bad, but it still hope one day to have my apartment (even though I realize that is highly unlikely because I don’t think my school cares to look nor pay the difference of rent.) It is just sometimes I feel enough of a freak show walking around in Chacos, Nike bball shorts, t-shirt with my hair up in a messy bun and Ghanaian bag over my shoulder that I would really appreciate the non-judging free space of my own tiny apartment. I guess this experience will just make me appreciate it that much more when I do get my own place in my life plus I would miss out on the random vodka drinking that happens probably 3 to 4 days of the week.

Well I am going to make a fruit/yogurt salad with the fruit I bought from the market today. Didn’t proofread because I’m hungry, please forgive me. Hope everyone is well and know that I miss you all.


Oh, if anyone has read any good books and would like to send them to your favorite volunteer I would greatly appreciate it. I have three books left. One will be done this week. The others since they are light paperback books will probably accompany me on my back pack trip in August if I don’t read them before.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

English Camp, Ukrainian Construction & American Celebration

Sasha being Sasha.

Group shot with the English flag which was weird for me.

The homestay work crew. Got to love the shirtless, funny hats and sandals look.

Allison keepin' it real with the booze, Kari throwin' a sign, & Me stating "What don't judge us."

People chattin' it up outside in between our little dance parties we had.

Well it has been a month since my last post, but I do have the excuse I’ve been on the move. I spent 3 weeks at a summer camp in Chernivtsi in the south. Then after only a couple days at home I traveled to Lviv to spend the 4th of July with other volunteers.

The camp was a three week overnight adventure. It cost around $500 per kid so almost every camper was from a wealthy Ukrainian family. There were 4 groups of rough 15-25 campers. Our group was special because we were the English speaking one. Roughly, we did 2 hours of English with the kids. Playing different games, activities, discussions about many things. We tried to keep it fun but still educational (sometimes we were less successful with that i.e. playing mafia and it kids throwing English out the window). Allison, Aidan and I were the only PCVs there. The head counselor of our group was a 23 Ukrainian guy, Stas. He had lived in New York City and runs an interpretation business with his dad so his English was excellent. Stas was enjoyed by the campers as well as the three Americans.

Overall, I enjoyed camp but weather kept it from being really great. The first four days were incredibly hot and humid. Then the rest of the time it was chilly and rainy which translated into many games of UNO, Scrabble and watching Disney and Pixlar movies on Allison’s computer. I still think kids enjoyed the camp despite the rain. I have many photos on facebook that show many of the talent shows/concerts performed by the kids.

To and from the camp I travelled by overnight train for a little over 12 hours. The set up of the train isn’t that bad. On the train, you have a mattress you can roll out and for a little extra money by a sheet and pillow case. The problem is that the windows don’t open which means a long ride in a hot box. It was especially hot on the way there it reminded me of in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ where the guy got throw in the hot box. The train is hot but I would prefer it to a long, long marsuka ride.

I arrived home on the 30th at 3:30am. Walked the 4 blocks to my house and by the time I got semi-settled in I was wide awake. Not being able to sleep threw me off for a few days. The 30th I just bummed around and watched “Breaking Bad” yet another TV show that I’ve started here in Ukraine. The 1st and 2nd of July, I headed into Lutsk to meet up with and bum around with Jon and Melissa, the two closest PCVs to me. Meanwhile back at the house construction was underway. My landlord’s son (late 40s), medical college housemate (17) and his friend (16) built an entryway room on the side of the house which also included a shed that is accessed by a door on the outside corner of the house. (I will posted the finished product soon).

Thursday night we drank for the concrete block walls being finished, Friday evening we drank and had an even bigger dinner because they finished the roof. Ukrainians are all about celebratory dinners and gathers. I’m only scared because after a long week of celebrating the 4th I don’t know if my liver can handle the gutters being finished today. Oh, bosha… (Oh, God).

Saturday moving a little slow from the night before, I backed my bag and was on a marsuka to Lutsk a little after 9am. Jon and I took a 3 hour bus to Lviv. We meet up with part of the crew at a pub. A group of us rented a flat near the center. The night of the 3rd, we enjoyed a few different places while watching the world cup games. Now that Ghana is out of it I’m cheering for Germany since I’m a Schmidt.

Happy 4th of July!!! Started off with a brunch meal at McDonald’s, the most American you can get in Ukraine. A group of us wandered around tourist-y market with the normal stuff as well as cool antiques. I bought a few things. Sweet basketball pin from the 1980s summer Olympics, the same one that the USA boycotted was my favorite find.

Around 2ish we got to Kari’s (PCV in Lviv) house. She lives in the same school she teaches at which made it a great place to have a cookout because she has access to the kitchen and dining room. Great food (see the spread on facebook), fun to meet new people, kicked back on drinks, threw around the pigskin and a dance party. I have to say it was one of the most memorable 4th that I’ve had in awhile. Hope next year is as fun.

Today, I started to get a crack at my huge laundry that I’ve accumulated over a month. Also still trying to catch up on emails and letters. Hope everyone had a great 4th of July. Miss you all.