Monday, January 31, 2011

Listen to Teddy...

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."- Teddy Roosevelt

Well last week was my first full week back at school. It actually went smoother than I initially thought it would. I got a new schedule for this term, because there is a new teacher for the younger students (2nd-4th form). I must say that I love my new schedule. Mondays and Fridays are light and the middle of the week I have more classes which makes the cold walk across actually seem worth it.

On Friday, I got to teach the 4th graders. They are super fun, because they are just so excited for me to be in their class. They asked the teacher if I was going to be teaching them when I first walked in the room and when she answered yes they all started screaming while jumping up and down. It is one way to be greeted warmly.

The cutest thing happened after I finished co-teaching the lesson. A little girl came up to me and asked if I knew something. I could understand the “did you know” in Ukrainian, but I was confused with what. I asked the new teacher and she told me that the little girl was asking if you know her grandmother (by name). I told her I didn’t think so. Then the girl said “but she lives in America you don’t know her?” I said sorry that America is a big country. “I thought you would know her,” the girl disappointedly responded.

One of the thousand of icicles around town. It gets a little warm and then really cold the next minute. The sidewalks are like bumpy ice skating rinks.

Another funny and not so brilliant on my part was when I went into teach my 10th form class. As I walked in the student greeted me with the normal “good morning teacher.” Then as I’m making my way across to the desk that is in the corner everyone (literally everyone) was staring at my crotch. Apparently, when I was in a hurry this morning I had tucked in my shirt, belted my belt, but forgot to close the barn down. Oh good times! Forgetting doesn’t really surprise me that much as the fact I walked all the way to school in freezing temperature and didn’t notice a draft.

Speaking of freezing temperature, the weather is cold as you would guess. The think the part that is driving me a bit crazy is that one day it will be freezing cold and the next day decently warm for Ukrainian winter. The problem is that the ice/snow will melt a little, but then refreeze which makes the town like one big lumpy ice skating rink. I’m so glad my pops sent me yak tracks. They truly make a world of difference. The teachers at my school think they are great idea. Maybe, I could make a little money on the side marking up the price by $10 and reselling. Too bad the shipping costs would be ridiculous.

Val (my new PCV sitemate) and our first attempt at Spanish rice.

Friday, I hit a new mile stone. I’m in the 200 letter club (I’m the founder). I sent #199 and #200 to my dad and Kimberly. Then #201 just went out today to the lovely Sandra Christ formerly known Wischmeyer forever known as “Swimmer.” Wonder if I’ll make it to the 300 hundred mark by the time I COS. I would say there is a good chance of it. And for my 201 sent, I’ve received 170. So my great family and friends please keep the letters coming. My mailbox loves the lovin’!

Well this week is going to be short teaching week. I have four lessons tomorrow and then in the evening catch an overnight train to Kiev. Woohoo for mid-service medical checkup. I’ll be there until Friday morning when I arrive back to my town by another overnight train. Alright hope everyone at home is happy and warm. I hear Illinois might get a lot of snow dumped on her. Now before anyone shovels go for a 30 minute walk when it is windy and you will know what every morning is like for me. Miss and love you all.


WARNING: Don't sleep on wet curly hair...this is what you will look like in the morning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Colder Than a Bucket Bath

Convincing other PCVs that jumpin' in is a good idea.

Howdy all! Oh how the last week has been an eventful one. Tuesday morning, I headed to a Soviet Retreat to study Ukrainian for week. There were around 55 PCVs in attendance and many Ukrainian Peace Corps Staff. Each day we had numerous sessions about different topics as well in different groups.

It was great fun; because I got to see a lot of PCV friends I hadn’t seen in awhile as well as meet new people. I tried to change it up with people I would sit with at meals to really be a social butterfly. On Wednesday evening after dinner, I got back to the dorm we were staying in to hear about people who wanted to go jump in the river. It didn’t take much convincing and I was in thin long underwear ready to get my polar bearness on.

Me sprinting for the shore for a towel post polar bear dip. Coldest thing ever!

We all gathered outside. Took some before photos and then walked down to the river. The river was frozen accept for a little sliver right at the bank that was only a foot deep. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t about to roll around and get all sandy in freezing water. If I’m going to do a polar bear dip/dive I’m going all out.

While everyone was watching the crazies roll around in the little open water, I had my eyes set on a fishing hole square that had been cut in the ice. I took my coat off and then went out on the ice slowly. In my “expert” opinion (after jumping up and down on the ice a few times), I was convinced there was no danger, I started to persuade people to come out and jump into the little hole.

My beloved cluster mate, Laura, was the first to take the plunge. It was sort of funny, because she was in all white long underwear and looked as if she was coming to be baptized. This started the jokes of me saving the souls of the sinful Ukrainian PCVs’ souls. Around 10 PCVs took the leap of faith. I was the last to jump in. I asked from a countdown from 10 in English for the group. It was around “4” that I thought “what the F am I doing,” but the peer pressure worked as I jumped in screamin’ at the top of my lungs.

Story time with yours truly.

I had ice baths up to my knee/thigh in college, but this was by far the coldest thing I have ever experience. After my head broke the service, I started doggy paddling thinking swim to the shore and get out. My good friend, Kelsey was yelling at me to grab her to be pulled out. Oh how the shock of it caught me off guard. Overall, I would say all PCVs should take a polar bear dip once in their service. (keep an eye out for a video to be posted on facebook)

I was surprised with how much I enjoyed the language refresher, but eventually Friday morning rolled around and it was time to pack up. Peace Corps had hired a small marsuka to take us to Lutsk since there were a decent amount of us. I grabbed a 107 back to Kivertsi to have some down time before our collaborative meeting on Saturday.

Dana, Maggie, Theodora, LCF Katia, Me and Emily. The group I studied UKR with.

Saturday morning, I was slow to rise with it being so freezing in my flat (heat not working again). Eventually got moving met up with Val and Ben (closest and newest PCVs to me) and we jumped a marsuka to the University in Lutsk. There gathered around 24 PCVs from my oblast and two boarding ones.Collaborative meeting is to share and discuss information about all different topics that are relevant to youth development, community development and TEFL volunteers. It is also nice to get to meet a lot of new people. (PC Ukraine brings two groups of volunteers a year; they get placed to their site in Dec. & May) So this last bunch of volunteers just got to their sites before American Christmas.

The meeting went really well. After we broke off in two groups, one headed to a pizza place while the group I was in hit up a Chinese restaurant a little further from the center. After dinner, I headed back to Kivertsi. Once at home, Melissa and I got talking on the phone about how we were losers and thinking of going to bed really earlier. We settled on it would be more fun if she came to Kivertsi to chat, watch Toy Story 3 and spend the night. It ended up being true. We hung out until late last night, made a small breakfast this morning before she headed back into Lutsk.

The snowy drive back to Lutsk. We had a brief warm spell; waiting for April weather now.

Now I’m just jamming out to my Christian worship music and waiting for my Ukrainian friend Tanya to call me, because I’m suppose to go over to her house for dinner. Oh, how I love her mother’s home cooking. I’m also going to put some “Friends” episodes onto her new desktop computer. Then later tonight, I plan on screaming at my computer screen while watching the digital updates of the Bears Packer game. GO BEARS!

Well I hope everyone at home is well and warm. It is strange to think just a little over a week ago I was in America. I’m sure these next months until the fall will fly, so I’m trying to absorb as much of this experience I can. Really lucked out to be 1 of 404 American Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine. Miss and love you all.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Dude You're Going to Have to Push Me"

Me, Merc, and Elite 8 Team.

It is Sunday morning here in the lovely Kivertsi, Ukraine. A cloudy winter day, but relatively warm compared to last winter at this time with a high of 34 F. I just got done taking my first bucket bath of 2011. It isn’t so much that I mind the bucket bathing process as how cold I feel when doing it. Luckily the temperature in my flat isn’t that bad compared to how chilly it was when I left to visit home.

Anyways, I’m back. The flights here weren’t bad at all. I realized that I prefer to have a window sit so I can prop my head against the window. The flight from Chicago to Warsaw I was on the aisle and the head rest didn’t pull up which ended up in me not being able to nap that much which was frustrating. But my connecting flight from Warsaw to Lviv had the adjustable head rest which meant I fell asleep before takeoff. I did however think the plane was crashing when I woke up surprised to have slept through the whole flight and was startled by the landing.

Me and Swimmer shopping on State St. down town.

I got my bag, grabbed a quick taxi to the outer bus station, bought a ticket and the bus departed less than 15 minutes later. Again, fell asleep on and off on the 3 hour bus ride back to Lutsk. Arrived to Lutsk around 6:30ish hopped bus 15 to Melissa’s part of town. Melissa greeted me with a big hug, warm bowl of soup and delicious biscuits. Glad I made the stopover in Lutsk I think coming back to a cold, empty flat would have been a bit depressing.

I went to bed a little before midnight and slept straight through until 10am. When Melissa started talking to me to wake me up, I was a tad confused to why my sister was at my dad’s house waking me up. Oh, wait I’m back in Ukraine. We might up with Val, my new site mate, and then headed to the center to meet up with the boys. We all enjoyed catching up over tasty Ukrainian cuisine.

Rockin'Out in Da Bears Apparel.

After we headed back to Melissa’s place, Val was nice enough to help me get all my bags back to my site. We probably stood at the marsuka stop for thirty minutes. The 103 came but since it was decently full and stops on the other side of the stairs in town I opted to wait for the 107. Around 10 minutes later a 107 comes along. It was so full and saw us standing there with my huge bags that it didn’t even stop. Then probably another 15 to 20 minutes another 107 comes along.

The driver motioned for us to go to the back door. So imagine me with my close to 50lbs hiking back pack on stepping up two feet to get on to the back of a very, very crowded bus. There was only one handle that was on my left side. I tried to hoist myself up, but only get half way there. I would run out of umpf to make it. I turned back to Val and was like “dude you are going to have to push me.” With a little help from my friend, I made it on. Since I still had my back pack on, it didn’t allow much room for Val to get on. I’m knocking into people and apologizing, but people at the back of the bus didn’t seem too phased by it all. I only wish I had moments like those on video.

Tob and I getting down with Kinect, oh how crazy technology is.

I got back to my flat. Unpacked my bags while visiting with Val. We made an easy dinner and she peaced around 6ish because I was so tired. I got a second wind around 8 then couldn’t fall asleep until 1am. Woke up around 9am, cooked eggs for breakfast, took a bucket bath, now just chilling until Val comes over. It isn’t even noon and I’m already for a nap. We are going to run some errands are town and maybe watch a movie later in the afternoon.

Tomorrow, I’ll swing by school to say hello, but then Tuesday morning I’ll head to a nearby town until Friday for a language refresher with my local volunteers. It is nice not to be thrown straight back to the wolves (Ukrainian school children). Hopefully I will easily transition back into my Ukrainian life.

Can a kid get any cute than this, I think not!

It is so crazy how you board a plane, ride for however many hours and then you step off in a completely different world. I had a great three weeks at home. It was a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but none the less a good time. Seeing my family and friends was definitely the best part of it all. But here are the high and low lights of the trip for me.

Some of the many highlights:
Leo Walker (the cutest little man to ever exist), taking funny photos with my brothers and sister, laughs in my sister’s theater, seeing all the high school teammates, Cherry Lounge, shots with RA crew, driving, mini chocolate doughnuts, Mexican food with Pat and Swimmer, and really just all the small moments of hanging out with family and friends.

Fun morning of taking random photos with Kevin, me posing at the old railroad station in Chilli.

Few of the low lights:
The Bears lost, not getting to see Theran, not having enough time to visit everyone the amount I wanted to, and having to board a plane knowing it will be around 11 months until I’m home again.

Well I’m going to hang with Val this afternoon and probably nap a little too. Hope everyone is well. I had a great visit in America. Thanks for making it special. Here is to a great 2011 in Ukraine for me and in America for you. Love and miss you all.


(Sorry really too tired to proofread might do it at a later date; still a little jet lagged right now)