Sunday, February 27, 2011

DoHe! Please, put your pencils down.


The closest church near my flat.

(H = N = integrated. This week I went to write something on my to do list and used an H as I would in Ukrainian instead of N. Does this mean I’ve been here too long? Will one day I wear mesh and 5 inch heels? Oh, God 6’7 in mesh, I’ll look like a cross dresser!?!)

Howdy from a still very snowy and cold Ukraine! Enjoying a sunny Sunday from the warm confines of my Ukrainian flat with my feet propped up as I sit in my favorite arm chair. This week has been a busier than normal. Monday and Tuesday my site mate and I held a session for the International Writing Competition. We had 22 participants, not the greatest considering we advertised this at all five Kivertsi schools. Yet for its first year, I think it shows promise. Students from the 6th through 11th form were giving three interesting questions and chose one to write about in the hour time frame.

Joke of the Week provided by my brother, Lou.
What has 75 balls and screws old ladies?
(end of blog for answer)


Two 4th formers from my school who thought it was funny I was taking photos of the snow from the bridge.

Here is a sample of a 6th former’s response to the question would you rather be a bird or a fish. “Every animal can do a nice thing: birds fly, fish swim, kangaroos jump, plants make flowers, and cows sing…sorry. Cows don’t sing. They make a moo!...in fish world there are no skyscrapers. There are surface scrappers…airparks (not water parks…Where can be more exciting world than in the ocean.” This kid’s essay was awesome as well as him in person. He was such a little man with his school jacket and professional attitude toward school. Only wish every student could be like him.

By the numbers
200+ - Pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo read yesterday
24 days until opening day for the Cubs
22- Participated in creative writing competition
19- Mexican Wine by Fountains of Wayne played on my iTunes
11 – Countries taking part in the international writing Olympics: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia, Philippines, Ukraine
8- Airmail letters sent this week
6- cups of coffee that I have had in my entire life (all in Ukraine)
5 – Beets that I forgot to boil before making beet salad
4- Times I turned down drinks thus far at school
2- Souls it takes to plow all the sidewalks in Kivertsi (old horse & old man)
1 – Vodka shot with old host mom and val (tried to get out of it)

My friend, Tonya, came over one evening of the week to have tea, cookies and chit chat. She is normally pretty busy, because she is in her last year of interning at the hospital in Lutsk. We caught each other up on the gossip around town. While hanging out she saw the desk flip calendar of “Country Sayings.” She started trying to read them without tearing them off. She came across one she liked so much she wrote it down. “A good word never broke a tooth.” It was so funny at how cool she thought it was. I mean yeah there are funny little sayings, but it was the whole concept of having a little flippy calendar with quotes printed on it that she just found fascinating. It was great to catch up with her and hopefully have more time to hangout this summer when we are both a little less busy.


Val and I holding the first Kivertsi creative writing competition at her school.

I have previously mentioned that I have a “Friends” English club were we watch my beloved American sitcom and talk about it. Since my vacation home and the terribly cold temperatures, it has transitions into an UNO club that means at my flat instead of the cold room attached to the children’s library. I nicely introduce the game in a couple of practice rounds and then settled into a no mercy mindset. If these Ukrainian girls are going to learn, they must learn the real way and that means someone calling UNO on you as they play their second to last card. I’ve lost some games, but I can proudly say no one has called UNO on me yet. Oh, spreading the UNO fever one country at a time.

Friday after school, Val was so nice as to help me cart my heater, smoke detector and fire extinguisher from my first host family’s house to my flat. After I long time of living cold on the edge, I am now well protected against a home fire as well as a little warmer when sitting around in the evenings reading. It was not as simple as just knocking on the door and getting the bag out of the garage.

My old host mom welcomed me and Val in. She had us take off all of our warm weather and gear to go into the front room to sit and talk. It was the 411 on Val (Val didn’t know that she was going to be my buffer going into it). I love the fact after being asked maybe two questions the big “do you have a boyfriend” came up. I feel that every mid age woman that knows a PCV thinks it is their job to find them a spouse. Val has already been on one getting to know (date) greeting with a 31 family friend of one of her teacher’s.

I have dodged the dates with Ukrainians thus far. I avoided my old host mom going into how she could set me up with someone by telling her when I went home for Christmas I got a boyfriend or unofficially have a boyfriend. Really hope little white lies don’t count when I get to heaven otherwise I might not get in. We eventually moved into the kitchen for some sandwiches, soup, fried eggs and my favor homemade pickles. Only after spending a little over an hour, we earned the right to go home with the items we came for. There is no such thing as just dropping by in Ukraine. I’m surprised we got out under 2 hours.


Regardless, how much snow or how cold the temperature the boys will always play Futbol!!

Well nothing else too too exciting to report. As you know or should know, I miss all of you, but I’m really starting to feel completely at home here in Ukraine. I’m hopefully that March will bring no snow (I’m really hoping) and warmer weather. Thanks for reading. Love and miss you all.

Kate

SUNDAY MORNING WITH VOLYNSKA VOLUNTEERS / TERRY

1.Describe yourself in 5 words
GETTING OLDER, BUT RESISTING VALIANTLY

2.Favorite and least favorite thing about Ukraine
FAVORITE: MANY THINGS, BUT THE TOP FEW ARE OVERNIGHT TRAINS, HOLUBTSY (STUFFED CABBAGE LEAVES), HOT WATER PIPES IN BATHROOMS WHERE YOU CAN HANG YOUR TOWEL (WARM TOWEL IS NICE ON A COLD MORNING)
LEAST FAVORITE: RIGHT NOW - THE BUS RIDE BETWEEN CITIES - THE ROADS ARE CRAP!!!!!!

3.Title of your PCV Autobiography
THE PEACE CORPS DOESN'T ALWAYS MEAN A MUD HUT (BUT MAYBE IT SHOULD)

4.3 survival tips for a PCV in Ukraine
- STAY FLEXIBLE - VERY LITTLE WILL BE WHAT YOU EXPECTED, AND IF YOU LET IT, THE PC BUREAUCRACY CAN DRIVE YOU NUTS, NOT TO MENTION THE "LAST MINUTE" MENTALITY OF UKRAINIANS WORKING ON PROJECTS.
- BE PATIENT - EVERYTHING TAKES LONGER THAN YOU THINK IT SHOULD
- TRY EVERYTHING - EVEN THAT FISH SALAD TURNS OUT TO BE PRETTY GOOD AND SALO IS MIGHTY TASTY.

5.What Americans don't know about Ukraine, but should...
WELL, PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING, SINCE AMERICANS DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THIS PLACE. BUT LET'S TRY THE GREAT CULTURAL TRADITIONS - A UNIQUE AND PASSIONATE STYLE OF SINGING, CRAZY (AND FOR THE GUYS, INCREDIBLY PHYSICAL) DANCING, THE SYSTEM OF TOASTS THAT ACCOMPANY THE VODKA, TAKING YOUR SHOES OFF WHEN YOU ENTER A HOME, WEDDING PARTIES THAT LAST FOR DAYS, ONLY HAVING TO CHIP IN FOR ONE BIRTHDAY PARTY AT WORK (YOUR OWN, SINCE IT'S UP TO THE BIRTHDAY KID TO PROVIDE THE GOODIES)-ALL OF WHICH HAVE DEVELOPED AND THRIVED DESPITE A TRULY COMPLEX, FASCINATING AND SOMETIMES FRUSTRATING 1000+ YEAR POLITICAL HISTORY.


(answer)
BINGO

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day


2 reasons I can't run: 1)snow/ice covered sidewalks and roads 2)packs of stray dogs around my hood.

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day readers of No Humdrum Life!! The title of this blog is a Liz Lemon quote from my beloved 30 Rock. Giving a shout out to Anna Howard Shaw who was a Women’s Civil Rights leader, Happy Birthday to her. This Valentine’s Day I was quite popular. By that I mean, I got a Valentine from my pops via snail mail and photo email Valentine from my nephew, Leo. Love them both, but it would be nice to get one from a boy that I’m not related to.

This week was another winter weather land of snow and freezing temperatures. Earlier in the week, it was super bitter cold. I was walking to school on Tuesday and I was so cold I almost started to cry. I seriously was so frustrated for forgetting to put on my long underwear. I was too far on my walk to school to turn around and go home so I just cursed the Ukrainian weather gods all the way to school. For those who think Peace Corps in Ukraine is Peace Corps Light, I suggest to you to come visit and have a 30 minute walk across town when the temperature is right around 0 Fahrenheit while the wind is blowing in your face. Godspeed.

Class Work February 16th, 2011: If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go? What would you do? How long would you want to stay? Who would you go with? (First ten minutes of class given to my 10th form class to complete this task) A kid's answer, "I go in the Poland. I eating fruts, drink beer and sleep. I wanted go in the magazine." Well hell if the school will fund the trip I will be the chaperone. I would love a trip out of Ukraine to eat fruit, drink beer, sleep, and then go shopping. Maybe spring break?!?


Disclaimer: Other volunteers thought we should take a photo for my dad after hearing two road rage incidents where another driver flipped him the bird.

Thursday was the first day I have ever shot around or really played any sports with my students. The 17th marked the 6th anniversary of my high school basketball team winning the Sectional Championship. It was one of my favorite high school games for the obvious reason that we finally hurdled the obstacle of winning a sectional and secondly our grey ghost fan section. I swear there wasn’t an extra seat or at least that is what it felt like. At the end of the game, I had a pass to Jessie on a fast break and our student section went crazy. I had never felt such an adrenaline rush quite like it.

Oh, the good ole’ days! So to celebrate this holiday, I thought why not when I saw the door open to the sports hall and kids shoot around. It was funny, because I swear there was a student from almost every class who came into the gym, sat along the side and just watched. I want to think I impressed them, but the fact I was shooting with a boy’s ball that had probably been kicked like a football one too many times which made it lopsided didn’t help me get into a rhythm too fast. None the less, it was a good shoot around for the sentimental reasons.


Yes, I should have been named Donna after my pops for my frugality.

That night I also hosted a breakfast dinner party. I had a group of PCVs come over to enjoy pancakes, French toast, and scrambled eggs prepared by Val and myself. Eventually, my Ukrainian tutor showed up later to enjoy a dinner with the craziest bunch of Americans this side of Kivertsi train tracks. The photo is because I tell a lot of stories (imagine that) about home to PCV friends. So when we went to take this picture it got brought up how my dad gets super pissed about getting the finger from anyone when driver or really in general. So dad I hope you enjoy the fact I got you 9 “birds” for Valentine’s Day.

Today’s weather was cold and snowy. I have friends coming to visit in two weeks time. I really hope it thaws out a little or at least enough so the sidewalks can be non-yaktrak needed. Nothing else to report. Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day as well as week. Miss and love you all.

Kate

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Your Friend is from America, Yes?


Awesome mural in Lutsk.

This week’s title is brought to you by the local apple selling man in Lutsk. Melissa and I were walking past him headed to the bus stop. He had heard us speaking English and asked Melissa if I was from America. She responded, “Yeah, and me too.” Melissa’s Ukrainian is so good, plus her attire doesn’t scream American so she is often taking for a Ukrainian. (She doesn’t wear earmuffs or tennis shoes with yak-tracks)

Favorite Appropriate or Inappropriate Behavior of the Week: the last two lessons of the day at my school being canceled so the entire teaching staff could walk over to a different school to celebrate a birthday for one of their teachers.

Hmm…what to tell you about this past week. I was under the weather for the majority of the week. Battling a lingering cold and also getting use to my TB medication, nothing too horrible. It is just that I feel a little nausea in the morning from taking my daily pills. Ukrainians take health very serious, so my counterpart insisted that I take Thursday as well as Wednesday off from school to feel better. So my school week was a very short one with only teaching on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.


Blue skies from my courtyard.

I have been back in Ukraine a month now and I’m starting to feel in a groove with teaching. I must say that I enjoy my schedule it logically makes more sense than my previous one and I have more classes with groups of students I genuinely enjoy to teach. Classroom story of the week comes from my 5th B class.

When I walked into the room on Monday morning, all the kids were asking me if I spoke Ukrainian (my school really only wants me speaking English to the students/which means students don’t know my level or if I speak Ukrainian at all; well sometimes I say sit down, be quiet or homework in UKR) Anyhow, I walk in and one of the boys asks me in Ukrainian do I speak Ukrainian. I say back to him in Ukrainian I understand a little. Then I tell the class to pull out their notebooks and write the day and the date. They start begging me to speak in Ukrainian. I keep speaking in English please take out your notebooks and write the day and the date. The boy asks me again and I respond “Not now” in Ukrainian without even realizing it. For whatever reason, the class finds this hilarious and laughed for a good while before I was able to get them under control. I at one point started laughing from their enthusiasm at me saying one short phrase in Ukrainian.

Shout outs of the Week: Happy 202nd Birthday President Abraham Lincoln, no one quite rocks the top hat and beard like you. Another Birthday, but not quite as old as Abe, Val-my awesome site mate; so glad to have you in Kivertsi with me. Happy Anniversary to Erik and Tobey on your one year wedding anniversary. Congrats to Kristin and Chad Rickey on the birth of Baby Charlie!!!


Melissa (featured PCV) and Myself two weekends ago.

At the beginning of the week, I could see the ground and the temperatures were right around the freezing mark. I was getting excited to think as soon as I got over this cold I could start running in preparation for the 10k that I want to run again in late April. I was walking to school on Friday thinking oh I can stop wearing such warm clothes. Wishful thinking- by the time I got out of school at noon the ground and disappeared. Snow and frigid temperatures are back. Booo!! I am hopeful that this February won’t be as bad as last. The previous year, we had some canceled school days because of -30 Celsius weather (-22F). I’m really hoping to avoid that level of cold in my bones this February. Oh, how spring can’t get here fast enough.

Alright I’m going to wrap this up so I can start some hand washing of a week and half worth of laundry. I hope everyone has a great Sunday as well as Valentine’s Day. I must say that it is one of my least favorite holidays, but maybe a secret admirer will come out of the Ukrainian woodwork. I’ll leave you with a short interview of my friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Melissa. I’m going to do this for the next following weeks with different volunteers. Keep an eye out. Miss and love you all.

Kate


This is my Ukrainian dwelling place.

SUNDAY MORNING WITH VOLYNSKA VOLUNTEERS / MELISSA

1. Describe yourself in 5 words
creative, enthusiastic, awkward, hopeful, self-entertaining

2. Favorite and least favorite thing about Ukraine
favorite: people, and then food// least favorite: icy sidewalks and pessimism

3. Title of your PCV Autobiography
Eating Oranges in the Dark

4. 3 survival tips for a PCV in Ukraine
1. Say yes to as many reasonable invitations as possible., 2. Be flexible., 3. Try a little harder sometimes, but just relax, sometimes, too.

5. What Americans don't know about Ukraine, but should...
Ukraine is not part of Russia. Ukraine is not always cold. Ukrainians-- especially young women-- are very stylish, and don't even dash out to the corner shop for bread without looking good. Sweats and hoodies? Nope! Also, many Ukrainians are pretty multi-lingual, and speak Ukrainian, Russian, maybe Polish, maybe something else. Most Ukrainians know more about America than Americans know about Ukraine.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Practicing for Pregnancy


Not only do I get hardcore drugs, but a coloring book as well.

I get to practice the habit of consuming no alcohol for 9 months because of two letters… TB also known as Tuberculosis. I had a TB skit test done two weeks ago at language refresher. So this past week at my medical check-up, I got the drugs that will get rid of the TB in my body. Now don’t get to worried about me, I only have inactive TB which means I was exposed to a person with active and Peace Corps takes the health of volunteers pretty serious which means I get super preventive care.

So let me break down my week by the days for you.

Monday & Tuesday:
Normal days at school. They actually went pretty well, but it could have been me in a really good mood because I knew I had a 5 day weekend coming to me. Tuesday after school before getting on the overnight train, Val and I decided to make some authentic potato pancakes. We were successful and also successful of flooding my kitchen floor.

Finished the pancakes and then Val decided to rinse out a bowl before we started to feast on the meal. She rinsed turned off the water, then turned me and asked, “What is that noise?” Well somehow a pipe that brings the warm water to the sink from the bathroom broke which caused a Niagara Falls situation under my sink. The first think I yelled was “Oh my god, we need a Ukrainian!” Before running to the hall way, the thought of turning of the water came to mind. I went into my bathroom and switched it off. Not too much water came out, but enough to be mopped up and ringed out in a bucket.


Val and I cooking moments before flooding my kitchen.

I called my counterpart to let her know of the issue before headed to the train station at 8:30pm to catch the overnight train to Kiev. I got my train without any problems. Boarded, made my bed, and then climbed up into it to read for the rest of the night.

Wednesday:

Rolled up into Kiev around 6:05am. I got off and waited in the huge train station for one of my other PCV friends to show up. Ashley arrived by 6:30am which we decided was a perfect time to indulge ourselves with McDonald’s breakfast. A bacon egg and cheese has never tasted so good. Finished up and took the 10 minute walk to the Peace Corps office. I dropped my stuff off in the PCV lounge and then got a nice hot shower before my long day of medical checkups.

10am X-rays to make sure I don’t have active TB in my lungs. I got X-rays at Ukrainian clinic. Hmm…how to explain this interesting experience? Nerve racking to say the least in a normal situation and then when you add on top of that the language barrier even more stressful. They printed my X-rays and then a woman came into read them. She was super serious and unfriendly. With how she was concentrating in certain areas on, I was only imaging the worst things especially with how much she wrote down on paper for me to deliver to the PCMO doctor. Leaving the clinic, I was positive I had active TB and was going to get sent home from Peace Corps.


RM Oksana, Myself, Melissa and Ben (PCV newbee in a village only 30 mins away from Kivertsi).

I got back to the office with X-rays in hand to finally talk with the doctor about the TB issues as well as my normal check up. The PC doctor first told me my X-rays were fine and from then on I was a lot more relaxed. She had read the X-rays, took blood, urine sample, and conducted a full physical. Oh, good times. When that was over, I only had a little over an hour to navigate the marsukas of Kiev to get to my dentist appointment. By the time I got there, I was worn out to say the least. I almost feel asleep in the chair waiting for the dentist to come in. Overall, I’m glad to have my teeth cleaned, but it also was the most intense and bizarre cleaning I have ever had. It felt like my teeth were being sand blasted with salt water.

After the very long and intense day, I headed to the hostel with Allison, Aidan, Sam, and Ashley. It took us a little while to find the place, but eventually we got there and dropped our stuff. Then we headed just a block down the street to have Azerbaijani food. MMMM…nothing like having ethnic food at ever possible chance. I had a delicious soup and a great chicken dish. After, we found dive-y bar to have a few or possibly many drinks at to celebrate my diagnosis of inactive TB. Let’s just say there was me, some shots, classic Barry White and me putting on a show for all the Ukrainian patrons to see featuring Aidan and I’s slow dancing skills.


What can I say the Kivertsi Girls are goofs.

Thursday:

Thursday morning was definitely a slow one. We got back to the Peace Corps office around noon. There I pretty much hung out with other volunteers until they caught their train or bus out of town. I did get to watch Discovery Channel, National Geographic as well as other American shows since the office has cable TV. For dinner, Jon and I hit up a local Chinese restaurant oh was it so damn delicious. I wish ours in Lutsk was that authentic. I enjoyed one more hot shower before catching my overnight train back to Kivertsi which departed Kiev at 9:10pm. Finished the book I was reading before going to sleep and got cozy for a pretty comfortable night’s sleep.

Friday:

Got into Kivertsi at 6:05am. I walked back to my flat. Unpacked my bags, tried to clean up around the place. Later in the afternoon, I headed over to Melissa’s place in Lutsk. The Volyska crew (my local PCV friends) got together for a pasta dinner (Dominic, Jon, Melissa and myself). We pretty much just had a nice laid back night.


Out Melissa's flat's window at night.

Saturday:
We met our new regional manager at a local pizzeria for lunch. She seems super on top of things as well as nice. I’m looking forward to working with her in the future. After lunch, a group of us head back to Melissa’s to hangout for the afternoon. Laura and Andy (Rivne Oblast which is roughly 1 hour directly to the east of Lutsk) came to go out for dinner. Laura also found out she has TB like me at language training so this was our last hoorah for awhile with the group. We went out for a nice Ukrainian dinner and then chilled at Melissa’s flat for the second night in a row.

Sunday:

Woke up a little before 9 today. Melissa being the great hostess she is made everyone a very nice spread for breakfast. We all got moving around 11:30 to get back to our own sites. This afternoon, I have just been trying to relax and get some things done around my flat. For the most part, I have read and watched a movie (Finding Neverland with Jonny Deep and Kate Winslet; 2 thumbs up). I got a bit of a cold so just trying to have a low key Sunday before another crazy school week starts tomorrow.

Well I hope everyone has a great Super Bowl Sunday. I’m pretty sure you can guess which team I’m pulling for. Love and miss you all.

Kate