Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Thoughts in My Head

Best way to start the day: Mr.LW and Titka Katya time.

2:25am. I should go to bed, but have lots to say. Glad to be home yet at the same time overwhelmed. Sometimes in a good way. Sometimes in a bad way.

Cottage cheese is better than I remember. Underwear out of the dryer are so soft. I love DA BEARS more than I thought. It is nice to 'realize to read' again. Love being small town and bumping into people around town and they welcome me back.

There are a shit ton of kinds of toothpaste. Seems like overkill. Walmart: minor freak out. Babies don't stay babies for long. People still laugh the same. The Schmidt kids do the best photo shoots: quick look Ukrainian. M&M and theater gift card is an awesome white elephant gift.

Beating someone off the line at a stoplight is priceless. Rubber chocolate doughnuts are and will always be my favorite. American beds were made for me. I should be beat for my hot water consumption, but I finally feel clean.

I love having alot of tennis shoe options. Beer tastes so good. And I have no desire to drink any of the 4.5 liters of vodka that I illegally brought into America. I wake up and don't know where I am. Touch phones are too advanced for me (sorry if you accidentally get called). When a baby reaches their arms out for you, there isn't quite a feeling like it.

First week has been a good one dispite not feeling caught up on sleep. Hope the days slow down a little, but excited to see more important friends and family in my life. Keep lookin' up. Chicago get ready because here Schmidty comes!


(my dad's computer doesn't have spell check sorry for the mistakes)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

T-2days: Operation Best Christmas Ever

Wearing Kevin's Hat at the New Year's tree in Lutsk.

Only two days now until I’m home in America. Last night at my flat, tomorrow morning I’m head to Lviv. I’ll stay in a hostel near the center and then Tuesday morning going to catch the trolley bus to the airport. I could have taken a really early bus Tuesday morning to Lviv, but don’t want to take any chances with missing my plane.

This week has been pretty eventful. Overall, classes went pretty well. However, my 11th formers were really rude and disrespectful to the point I just walked out of the class with ten minutes left. They can waste their time, but I’ll just go lesson plan in the teacher’s room if they are going to be like that. My counterpart had a talk with them. Hopefully in the new year, it will help with their bad behavior, but we will see.

Friday was the day my new site mate got here. Her name is Valerie and she will be teaching in school number 4. She is from Oregon and seems like a real cool chick. I’m really excited to have someone right in town to do programs with as well as just hangout. I also got to meet one of her link mates who lives just north of Kivertsi. So far group 40ers are a fun bunch.

On Friday night, I had a nice dinner party to welcome Val to the group. 5 Peace Corps Volunteers and 2 Ukrainians in attendance. It was a lot of fun and hopefully will be having more and more of them in the coming New Year. The funniest moment of the night came when I asked people’s opinions on how much they thought my bag weighed. The two American guy PCVs picked it up said it was heavy, but thinks it is right at 50lbs. Dima, the Ukrainian, picks it up and confidently says, I could fit two more bottles of vodka. Oh, too funny.

The party was over around 9ish because some of us had to help Saturday morning with the Olympiad (country wide English competition). My school hosted it for the Kivertsi District. Val came with her counterpart as well as other English teachers. It is a lot of fun to be around other Kivertsi English teachers. They were very interested in asking g questions to Val and I think she had a good time getting to know them. After the competition, we were invited out to a local restaurant with six of the teachers.

It was interesting to see how Ukrainians deal with a vegetarian (Val). They were like do you eat a little meat, is fish ok, will you eat it if it has a little chicken. Glad I’m a meat eater. So we probably spent almost 2 and half hours there, and three bottles of vodka. After bottle #1 and #2, Val and I would looked at each other and would be like yes we are done, and then magically another one would appear out of someone’s purse. Oh, Ukraine.

Then as we were leaving live music was getting ready to start to play and they asked us if we wanted to stay longer to dance. Afraid of the possibility of more vodka, the two Americans graciously declined. But we are planning to do a once of month, English Teacher Tea Evening. One teacher was like we should do it on Fridays so we can dance…I’m guessing tea won’t be the only beverage if that is the day we settle on.

This dinner was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable dinners that I’ve had in a long time here. I’m guessing because everyone at the table spoke one common language, and the fact that there were many toasts to Ukrainians and Americans being friends, love, tall men (me), to health, and pass that I can’t remember. Haha.

Friday was my year mark at being at site. I think it is appropriate that I can now take a vacation home. It has been 14 months since I last stepped foot in the U.S. I wonder if “freedom” still tastes the same? (as bored PCVs we come up with the most ridiculous sayings here, please don’t judge). Please pray for safe and smooth travel home for me. See you all very very soon. Merry Christmas world!


PS As my pops would say, “Remember Jesus is the reason for the season.” Do something Jesus like every day regardless if it is the holiday season.

Terry, Dima, Dominic, Tanya, Val, and Melissa eating deliciousness.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Barefoot in Snow

Everyone celebrates Christmas just on different days.

The title of this blog was inspired by a man that lives near my school. Today after 5th lesson, I was walking home and noticed a man walking to his mail box BAREFOOT in the snow!!!!! With how Ukrainians won’t open a window on a boiling summer day, because wind will make people sick,this scene has boggled my mind. The only thing I can come up with to explain it is that there must have been vodka involved in his early afternoon routine.

Hmmm…what to share about the last week? Throughout the whole week, I’ve had Ukrainians in and out of my flat working on my flat. It was a five day process to get it fixed properly. First guy couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work. The next guy fixed it and it was super warm in my flat. Third guy said that he could fix it, but didn’t have the right part. It wasn’t until Friday that it was fixed and set at a normal level. It is still a little chilly in my flat. I’m writing you while wearing the following: tank top, long sleeve shirt, turtle neck sweater, vest, long johns, sweat pants, and wool socks. Oh, I can’t wait to be wearing a normal amount of clothes and feeling warm, 8 days.

Last week at school, I was barely hanging on. Classes that are normally pretty good were on my last nerve; chatty, lazy and disrespectful. At one point, I quietly sat down and stopped teaching. Eventually, they could see that I was pissed. Eventually when they finally stopped talking, I went over to the board and wrote 4,000km (not quite sure if that is the right distance). Then I asked them if they loved their families. They were like yes. I followed it with do you think I love my family. They again replied yes. I went on to explain that I’m far from my family, volunteering, not getting paid to teach them. I think they were surprised to hear that I don’t make money for teaching them, but it didn’t really hit home because 5 minutes later they were up to the same antics. That is pretty much a good summary of how my week at school went.

On Friday, Lutsk received a volunteer from TEFL group 39. Dominic will be teaching at gymnasium in the city. He is from Indiana, has a good sense of humor, well read, and seems like he will fit right in with the Volynska Peace Corps crew. We went to dinner on Friday night to welcome him to the area. Then on Sunday, he joined us at the Windows on America community English Club for a presentation and discussion about Christmas. The highlight or maybe I should call it the lowlight was the five American volunteers singing the 12 days of Christmas while slowly remembering the correct lines. The Ukrainians who attended were nice enough to applaud after we finished.

After going to diner with the crew, I headed over to the local internet café. This is where boys from the age of 8 to 30+ congregate to play “Counter Strike” probably one of the most popular and violent of video games in Ukraine. The battled each other online while taunting each other from each little computer stations. I go to use the faster connection to Skype. This week I got to chat with my sister, brother in law and nephew. At one point, I was distracted when I thought two junior higher were going to fist fight. Oh, good times. Any who, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them for over an hour. Leo is growing so fast. I can’t wait to be properly introduced to him. I’m so excited!

But as for right now, I’m just trying to take it day by day until this week is over (4 more if you were wondering). Just have to survive the 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th forms and I will be home bound. Here is to this week flying by. Miss you, love you and see you all real soon!!


Funny moment of the week: I was talking to my linkmate Shannon, who lives four oblasts away from me, on the phone. She was walking back to her flat in the evening (pitch black after 4pm you know) after working out at a gym in her town. She was telling me how shady the area that she was walking through looked and saying that she had never been that way. She then stated “this is like straight out of one of the safety videos Peace Corps shows us. Then they ask the group ‘What were the three things Shannon did wrong?’” Oh, how Shannon makes me laugh even if she is KMs away.

Jon, Ashley and Melissa looking super excited for Christmas carols that we had never heard of.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Honor Defended

One of the churches in the V.V.

Funny Moment of the Week: On Monday leaving school some boys were playing outside in the snow throwing snowballs at each other. One kid ran up to me and handed me a big chunk of snow. They were trying to show how to throw snow balls like I’ve never done it before. I wanted to get in on the action, but I could predict it getting way too out of hand and me being a target the rest of the winter. So I told them I didn’t want to play. One kid who is a sweet kid softly tossed a snow ball at me, after I had said I didn’t want to play. Immediately, the kid gets pegged by three of the other boys yelling at him, “Miss Kate didn’t want to play.” Oh having my honor defended by 5th grade boys; too funny.

As you can see from above the cold weather is here. It is sad to think that it probably won’t be until March when I see the ground again. Oh, how I never thought going home to Illinois for Christmas would be a winter getaway, but it is true for this year.

School this week was interesting to say the least. On Tuesday, I found out that my Vice Principle who is my go to person is retiring from working at school, because in the recent elections she was voted to some position in the city government. Most likely another teacher will resume her role; so having a high up who speaks English won’t be something I can benefit from anymore. My schedule will change. Teaching more classes with my counterpart and I’m sure times of classes will be switched around as well. Oh, how one week is never like the last.

Frosty, frosty tree.

Thursday was a big day for me. I headed into Lutsk to meet up with my PCV friend Melissa to do some Christmas shopping and to grab some coffee/hot chocolate. I got some great presents that I’m super excited about. The ladies who work at this Ukrainian gift shop had to have been entertained by Melissa and I. The ride home was interesting because I was on one of the most packed marsukas I’ve ever been on while carrying fragile gifts. At one point, I was holding onto my book bag like it was a million dollars and depended on the other people pushing so much on me to hold me up right when the crazy marsuka driver swerved all around the icy road. Marsuka surfing = good time. I suggest you do it without fragile items though.

I got back into town just in time to have dinner with my Ukrainian friend Tanya. Her mom is a fabulous cook and despite my horrible Ukrainian and her lack of English loves to have me over. She kept asking me about American parties and couldn’t believe people don’t drink vodka like Ukrainians do. We had some pretty entertaining conversation over the meal (potato/meat pancake hash brown like things and potato mushroom soup). Super, super delicious.

Melissa and I trying to stay warm on the way to English Club.

Friday after school, I headed to V.V. to hang out with Allison and Aidan. My favorite pizza in Ukrainian is from a place in their town. So we met up for dinner and drinks. Nice to spend some time with those guys because I’ll be going home for Christmas and they are headed to Egypt with a group of volunteers. We got back to Allison’s place and our jeans were soaked from pushing each other in the snow and tromping through it so we all took off our pants to put over the radiator with the intention of going over to another café. Sitting on Allison’s kitchen floor in our long johns was such a good time we spend stayed in the rest of the night.

In the morning, we did our share of file sharing. I can now say that I finally know what Jersey Shore is from personally watching it. Can’t say that I’m too impressed. I’m so embarrassed in what gains huge popularity in the U.S. But I’m sure as a run out of “The Office” and “30Rock”, I’ll finish off the seasons of it in the boredom of the freezing Ukrainian winter that I have in front of me. Also got some new books from them as well which I’m excited about. It is always good to be stocked on things to entertain yourself with because you never know when the weather is going to be so bitter cold that you don’t want to go anywhere.

Long walk home with hands in pockets.

Eventually, I got myself down to the bus station and caught a bus back to Lutsk. I was late for a dinner party that Melissa was having at her flat, but was still able to meet her Ukrainian friends and enjoy her delicious cooking. Yum!! Melissa is by far the best PCV cook. I like everything that she cooks and I am completely satisfied that I’m sort of thinking that it wouldn’t be that hard to be a vegetarian… maybe when I get home.

The next morning, we slept in and eventually had left overs for breakfast. Then in the afternoon headed to the community English Club for a presentation about AIDS since the 1st was AIDS Awareness Day. We have an old Ukrainian man that comes to this club and sometimes makes things really awkward with his statements. This week he eventually had to get going and as he was putting his coat on when stating, “The US should stop with its arms race and find a cure for AIDS.” Ummm, ok. After he left, we had some more meaningful discussion with the rest of the group. Overall, I would say it was productive.

Well I have 15 days until the land of Lincoln and couldn’t be more excited about it. Can’t wait to walk on sidewalks that don’t threaten my life, seeing Leo (& the rest of my family and friends), and American food. Hope everyone is well and staying warm. Miss and love you all.