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.