Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Chicken Day

Clustermate Laura, Becky, Melissa, Terry and Clustermate Jon gathered around the table for a Volynska Oblast Thanksgiving.

Greetings on a snowy Ukrainian night. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. I was able to celebrate with five fellow volunteers. Our Thanksgiving wasn’t the most traditional with eating chicken, but we did have some festive dishes like mashed taters, stuffing, and the oh so delicious pumpkin pie as well as pumpkin koshi. My contribution to the dinner was a cold vegetable pasta salad. It was alright, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stuffing for the first thanksgiving in my life. I think I was always freaked out by the idea of the stuffing, but I was actually in the kitchen while it was being prepared and thought I should try it. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!

With my presence there is a good chance of being entertained (the wine helps with that as well).

This week was a short week of school because Peace Corps gave all the volunteers Thursday off and my school being generous also told me to take Friday as well so it has been a long weekend. Very relaxing. Read two books and working on the third. Also I watched a lot of new movies this week. I borrowed some from the ‘Windows on America’ (English library at the normal library sponsored by USAid). One that I have absolutely falling in love with is “The Apartment,” the 1960 Best Picture with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon. I’m pretty sure it has entered my top 5 favorites. When I get home I definitely need to track down the old movie poster for my wall.

So besides Thanksgiving with the crew, nothing else has been too exciting. I’m a week closer coming to home at 23 days. It seems like forever ago that it was over 100 days until home. I have a very organized calendar for my visit home. Just trying to fit in seeing all of people that are ‘near and dear’ (one of the many strange phrases I have picked up from English speaking Ukrainians).

And winter has arrived...God help me!

Sorry for a short blog; I’ll try to make it more exciting next week. But before signing off, I want to congratulate the North Central football team. They are in the “elite eight,” if you will, of the division three playoffs. Go cards!!

Hope everyone has a great Sunday. See you all very, very soon. Oh, I can't wait. Miss and love you all.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

25 Feathers on My Bird

This week I’ve been making hand “I’m thankful for…” turkeys with my students to share the traditions of Thanksgiving. A lot of the kids put their parents, grandparents, and pets. Some kids put things like their football (soccer ball), computer, etc. I got thinking if I really did one for myself what would my feathers be. Since this year Turkey Day falls on the 25th , I thought that 25 sounds like a good amount of feathers. So here I go the 25 things I’m thankful for this year in Ukraine (in no particular order):

1.My health.

2.Oreos arriving in Ukraine.

3.Awesome fellow PCVs.

4.My own baba-free Ukrainian flat.

5.The almost weekly letters I get from my dad about gas prices, weather, what he had for lunch or who he saw at church.

6.Becoming an aunt to the cutest Leo ever born.

7.My dysfunctional but fun and supportive family.

8.Having a four day weekend to celebrate turkey day.

9.The ability to communicate over the internet with people back home.

10.The ticket my sister bought me to come home for Christmas.

11.The fact that I’m 1 of 8,719 Peace Corps Volunteers.

12.Vitalik, a 6th former who was the biggest trouble maker last year who now is super interested in participating in class even if he isn’t very strong in English.

13.The jar of Skippy peanut butter sitting in my kitchen cupboard.

14.The lunch ladies at my school who are always nice to me and use the endearing ending on my name that means they like me.

15.Being an American and having opportunities that not every person in the world has.

16.Having Kimberly as my Peace Corps Guru.

17.The rest of the mail I get.

18.“Our Daily Bread” that my Grandma Schmidt sends to me every 3 months.

19.Kivertsi getting another volunteer in a couple of weeks at another school.

20.Slower pace of my Ukrainian life.

21.My cooking abilities slowly improving.

22.My huge ‘inner’ circle of amazing friends.

23.Having 4 non teacher, non student Ukrainian friends in Kivertsi.

24.The fact that Eat, Pray, Love has been released and I’ll get to watch it at Christmas with my sister.

25.Being blessed by God with a great life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ukraine Has Been Invaded

Over the last month, Oreos have been spotted all over the country of Ukraine; information gathered from face book statuses.

Past Week in Blurts

School is still crazy. Even more crazy when kids try to change into their gym clothes while you are still in the classroom. Makes for real awkward moments. Tutoring is a lot of fun. 9th and 10th form girls really seem to enjoy it as well as slowly improve. Also I’m falling more in love with 6th B and 5TH A. I absolutely love teaching those classes. Only wish I felt as strongly about some of the other not so awesome 45 minutes, I spend in front of a class.

Thursday, reconnected with two friends of the former PCV in my town. The two girls and I went to a local pub/pool hall/restaurant/strip club (only on Saturday nights). Again, we went on THURSDAY evening to catch up over a beer and talk about life. The funniest part of the conversation was about their ‘men of interest.’ Oh, how people like to talk to big mama about their love problems.

If you look really close you can see a huge mound of beets! Dwight from “The Office” would be very impressed (they are partially being covered by blue tarps).

Saturday was an official cleaning day. Did a good amount of laundry by hand as well as gave the kitchen a good scrub. I still haven’t figured it out why in some cultures people sweep their floors with a broom that doesn’t have a long hand. Really how much more expensive can a stick be so you don’t have to hunch over. Some things I will never understand.

Sunday, I went into the nearby city to help out with English club. It was a non-film day; we discussed Thanksgiving while enjoying pumpkin pie, ginger snaps, and Ukrainian cakes. Oh, and over coarse it goes without saying over a couple of tea. After, the American convey (myself and the 3 other PCVs closest to me) went out with a group of Ukrainians that had attended the club for dinner.

The Three Most Interesting Sidewalk Sightings of the Week

1.I was walking to English club and noticed that a person had fallen and was lying on the ground at the corner on the opposite side of the street from me. I thought “Oh my gosh, an old babushka.” It reassured me that a man had taken her arm and was trying to help her up. As I approached, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a woman, but a huge dog. Literally, this dog was the size of a person. It was lying on its back wanting its belly to be rubbed. Meanwhile, the man is yelling at the dog to get up and yanking at its collar with no success of budging the dog.

Weeding through all of the mail that has been sent to me throughout my time here. I’m going to bring the keepers home with me.

2.Walking home from the Thursday market, I saw probably the most dangerous mode of transportation. An old man probably in his late 60s early 70s was riding his bike. Normally, in a small town like the one I leave in I wouldn’t categorize this as a dangerous way of getting around if it weren’t for one small or big reason. The man had a circular saw blade the size of a bike wheel through his handle bars. So if for whatever reason, he stopped quickly or God forbid his chain broke his face, chest, even neck would be the first thing to be sliced. Oh, Ukrainians…

3.Sunday, I had gotten off the marsuka at a stop to then get on a city bus to make it to the library for English club. Normally, I can wait anywhere from a few seconds to 15 minutes at the bus stop. Getting off the bus, I noticed that two dogs were tail to tail. I thought that’s sort of funny, but didn’t really think much of it. Then with my back to them as I faced the street waiting to spot my bus, I heard one of the dogs whimpering. I glanced over my shoulder to see the dog trying to pull away from the other dog still tail to tail. My first thought was “Did some cruel person tie the dogs tails together?” Then watching for a few more seconds it became very clear what was going on; let’s just say somehow in their ‘love making process’ they became stuck together and this was no longer a good time for the shorter male dog.

Well that’s about it for this week. 29 days until home and couldn’t be more excited about it. Miss you and love you all.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wish I Had Jugs

The title of this blog is inspired by this photo.

Today was a good day. I went into Lutsk for the 2 o’clock film club at the local library. We watched ‘The Break Up’ as a group and then discussed. I still can’t believe they actually don’t end up together in the end. I originally saw the movie in the theatre with my mom. It the end of the movie I was teary and said, “I can’t believe they didn’t get back together.” My mom replied with something like “hello Kate it was in the title.” I choose to see the ending as them having the possibility of them getting back together because of the way they turned and looked at each other in the end. Yes, I know I’m a hopeless romantic. You can see this from my most watched movies are the following: ‘The Break Up,’ ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’ and ‘Hope Floats.’ But don’t worry I get weekly injections for it.

After English Club, I went over to the local internet café. I had arranged Skype dates with Bre and my sister. Bre enjoying sleep like she does slept a little late but it was good because I got to catch up on some videos about North Central athletics. Eventually, Bre got on. Oh, how her inappropriate comments crack me up. I’m just glad I had a headset on; regardless I don’t think the smelly teenage Ukrainian boys who filled the café playing ‘Counterstrike’ probably would have understood.

Eventually, Bre and I’s time was up which meant talking to my sister. Oh, how good it is to see a familiar face. Crazy to think how communication has changed since when my parents were my age. I saw an interesting comment on another PCV’s face book page. To preference it, first understand that as volunteers of the 21st century, we get a lot of comments about how Peace Corps was so much harder back in the day and how we have endless luxuries. I agree it is obviously different but I would just argue that there are different hardships. Any who, she has been posting something she is thankful every day for the entire month of November and this particular day the comment was “Thankful for skype....for all the old PCVs who say Peace Corps isn’t like it was in the 70's, yea well you guys also had weed :p.”

Yum, yum a pile of hot cakes!!!

Anyways, chatting with Tobey was great. Got my flight all worked out so I can attend the induction of my basketball team from senior year into the IVC Sports Hall of Fame. I know someone is probably thinking big deal, but being a part of that team especially with the girls that I had grown up playing with will forever remain as a very fond memory. Also talked about plans for Christmas, but the best part was getting to see Leo on video chat. I don’t know who enjoyed it more we both were talking and making faces in the camera. Oh, how I can’t wait to see him again.

This week I started tutoring two girls: 10th and 11th form. They come to my flat after school and I prepare a power point about a topic that is likely to come up in the “Olympiad” which is a country wide competition for skills in English. I pose questions on the topic, and then have them both answer before giving examples of how to create more interesting sentence structures. I also give them home tasks of responding to creative writing prompts. The last one: you are heading into Lutsk on a normal Friday afternoon after school has let out. You are riding along and then suddenly…! Hopefully their responses are creative and funny. We will see.

Friday, I had Jon (my clustermate) over for breakfast dinner. I made delicious pancakes from scratch, because Bisquick doesn’t exist in this country. Even though much of the things, I’ve been cooking lately are breakfast foods I am pretty proud of myself considering I don’t have much experience in the kitchen. Tomorrow, this will continue when I make a mushroom pasta sauce, pasta, and garlic bread for my English teachers who I have invited to come over for a late lunch or early dinner depending on how you look at it. I just hope that they bring wine and not vodka. Things can get crazy with Ukrainians real quick. I’m hoping I have the out since I have to tutor at 5pm. But you never know if you’re safe or not.

One of the few things I've purchased so I can play Santa properly when I go home.

Well that is about it to report from the week. Just been trying to keep things low key so I can save money for Christmas presents. It is hard to buy on budget and remember how much space I have with only taking one piece of luggage home as well as every time I got out I see something I want to buy for Leo. I just can’t help it buying for a cutie is so much easier than picking out something for my 21 year old (love you Kevin). Hope everyone is well and that your autumn to winter weather has been as nice as mine. Miss you and love you all. See you in only 37 days!!! Oh, how I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!


PS Funny moment of the week:
I answered, "No, not really. I guess I'm just excited about Christmas" when her counterpart asked, "Are there any changes in your personal life? (while she winked two inches away from my face) Your eyes look sparkling." I guess my counterpart things I’m taken advantage of having my own flat. I only wish it were true. Oh, good times in the Teacher’s Room.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Downward Dog, Upward Dog, Say What?

Straw shoe and pig fat.

As you can see from the title, I’ve taken up yoga. This week I finally had the money (180 UAH, a little over $20) and the store actually had a mat in stock. It is a John Deere green, if you are wondering. My sister awhile ago had sent me The Biggest Loser Yoga and Workout DVD. Considering, I now live on the second floor out of respect for my neighbors I doubt that I’ll be doing the workout DVD, but the low impact yoga is a go. I’ve always thought really how good of a workout can you get from standing on a mat…five minutes into the workout I was sweatin’ like Bre Parra (if you don’t know she sweats alot, love you Maria). I can tell my muscles are going to be a little sore tomorrow, but oh how it feels good to get a workout.

Monday, we (Jon, Melissa and I) had our last dinner with Katie Sherman at a fancy Ukrainian restaurant in Lutsk. It was pretty good. It opened recently, was a Monday night so it was a little slow. That did however make the service pretty good and quick. We toasted Katie and wished her good luck in adjusting back to American life. She gave some of her most memorable and favorite things about her experience. Katie also told us of probably the best going away present any volunteer will ever received: a dried cat fish about as long as her arm. The best part is that she is going to attempt to take it back to Virginia with her. Good luck, Katie.

Jon, Melissa and Ukrainian Pig.

School this week was nothing too crazy. A little abnormal because of no school on Monday which made the rest of my normal schedule a joke. But hey why not turn a 4 day week into an extended vacation? On Friday, my regional manager was in town so he caught the last half of my 6th grade class. My students were absolutely silent compared to their normal rowdy selves because of his unusual presence.

After observing me teach, Bohdan came back to my apartment to check that it was within Peace Corps safety regulations. He checked out my new digs and said they were good. He also informed me that school number four in my town should be getting a volunteer if everything goes as planned. Which means on either December 10th or 15th, Kivertsi will get their second Peace Corps Volunteer and I’ll have a site mate. I look forward to it and hope it spices up life around here. I requested to Bohdan that it be a tall male volunteer who has a good sense of humor and if that happens he could add match maker to his resume.

This past Monday, I started writing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It encourages people who enjoy writing to take the month of November to write a creative 50,000 page novel in 30 days. Throughout the week, I was good at keeping the pace. Then this weekend fell off the wagon. It is hard to write humorously if you are in a grumpy mood which I have been throughout the weekend. This is the synopsis of the novel that might or might not be finished.

The Kat(i)e side of the table.

The Teeter Totter That Didn't Teet or Tot
The chronicles of Ruby Tuesday O’Shmiderton: a chubby girl living in a skinny world. Come along for her triumphs and failures while Ruby navigates life on the playground, basketball court, and in the classroom while being a little bit bigger than the average girl. Not only does she have to deal with being 'heavy duty' as her dad likes to call her, but she also has to handle the antics of being part of her fun but fantastically dysfunctional family.

Well this about it for me. Hope everyone’s November has started off well. I’m excited that it is only 44 days until I’ll be home in Illinois. Love and miss you all.