Sunday, April 24, 2011

Video Fun

Around The World Slideshow: Jessica’s trip from Kampala, Uganda to 15 cities Costa Rica, Budapest, Ukraine, Lima, Zihuatanejo, Bolivia, Cusco, , Puno, Iquitos, Odessa, Chisinau, Entebbe, Machu Picchu and Jinja was created by TripAdvisor. See another Mexico slideshow. Create your own stunning free slideshow from your travel photos.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Somewhere along the way I have lost my inspiration to write. I am not sure why. Maybe it’s because I am living life, I’m lazy, or to busy. I don’t know, but in reading some of my friend’s blogs I realized anew that I need to keep up with my blogging and journal writing. Some of the experiences I have will be lost and forgotten if not jotted down somewhere. So, in another attempt at reviving this blog I have brewed some coffee, put on some music and am nestled next to my space heater ready to jot down some words about my Peace Corps experience!

Last time I posted anything of substance was when I still lived with my host family. Oh my, how long ago that seems. In actuality I realize it was not long ago at all. These days life seems to be a whirlwind of adventure and new experiences. To begin, I did finally move in to my own place. I live in a small Dacha less than a block away from my host family’s house. I call it my secret garden as the yard is completely unruly filled with grapes, pear trees, apple trees, walnut trees, a picnic table nestled under an overgrown canopy of grapes, chickens, and a number of other plants and weeds that I have no clue about. The house is the last one on the street. Next to my house are fields of wheat, greens, sunflowers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, and a variety of other gardening plants. As you can imagine, the primary source of income in a community so small is farming. In fact, today there was an entire concert put on by the school to commemorate all the farmers and their work. Several people in the farming community received awards. I was put in charge of taking pictures and the concert was one filled with music and dancing about harvest time.

Sunflowers Near My House

My dacha is four rooms. The first room is a kitchen like room with a sink, a table, a hotplate, and Petchka. The next room has a refrigerator, the entrance to the creepy cellar, my water storage, and my clothes line. The next room is basically my living room. It has a couch, desk, and book case that I store my clothes and books in. The last room is my bedroom complete with you named it, a bed! Oh, the toilet is outside next to the shed. When I first moved in I didn’t have a refrigerator or running water. I have a sprocket outside that I would fill buckets with every day and use for my water supply. Apparently the city turns the water on during the winter so as of the last few weeks I now have running water in my one sink. Mind you, the water is only turned on during the day. The times change but usually it is turned on around 9:30 a.m. and shuts off somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00. I only purchased food that was non-perishable for the first few weeks but now I have a refrigerator and it is splendid!

My kitchen in all its glory!

School started on September 1st. The first couple of weeks were relatively mellow with me doing my clubs and observing classes. As of current I usually teach about 8 English classes a week, hold two clubs, tutor a variety of kids, and are currently in the process of writing a grant. My leadership club and I were able to successfully put a small Halloween party together. My friend Anne came to help which I am eternally grateful for! We had about 40 kids show up which is a significant amount considering there are only 80 students total that attend my school. In fact, I was recently having tea with another teacher and her family. Her daughter speaks English and attends the University in a nearby city. As we were speaking her daughter informed me that in reality only about 300 people live here. The “census” reports 554 people, however a great deal of that number is kids who leave for the University or work in the city. Anyway, my point being that the kids enjoyed the Halloween party. A few of my regular kids even glued (literally glued) jewels to their nose to look like they had nose piercings like me. I should feel like a bad influence but I don't. It was adorable!

A couple of my regulars in my English club for Halloween

My clubs seem to be going well although not exactly as planned. Things are hard to plan in advance here because things never turn out exactly as expected. Sometimes I have 4 kids show up to my clubs and sometimes I have 10. Sometimes teachers are really involved and sometimes they are not. Sometimes the school needs money so we spend the first two weeks of school harvesting onions in a nearby village. Sometimes the school schedule is rearranged because there are things being fixed. My point is that I never really know what is going on so I am often just shooting from my hip. Of course I try and prepare some stuff, but often times it falls through or I am asked to do something different 5 minutes before they expect me to do it. My big goal currently is to write a grant to build new sports facilities and purchase more sports equipment for the school. I would like my leadership club to be involved in the project management portion of this; however they are a bit young so we will see how that goes!

Kids visiting me at my house

In other news I recently took a trip to Moldova with some close friends. It was a quick trip full of adventure! I almost got detained on the border of Ukraine and Moldova and was bailed out by the only man I would ever compare to God, the Peace Corps security officer Sergei. We got to go on a wine tour and eat Mexican food which was amazing! On our way back in to Ukraine we got stranded in a random place called 7 kilometers from Odessa which we later learned is one of the largest bazaars in Ukraine. Anyway, it was 4 in the morning so it was just an empty parking lot when we were there. We found a kitten that looked more like a rat because she was so small and ill. I couldn’t turn her away so my friend Jess lent me her scarf and we wrapped her in it and carried her on the bus for an additional 5 hours to Kherson. We then took her to the vet, got her all patched up and then I trekked the remainder of the way home alone with her. She is a welcome addition to my house in Chervoni Promin. Soma is now somewhere in the vicinity of 5 months. Not really sure as we found her and she was malnourished We thought she was more like 2 weeks old however the Vet informed me she was more like 2 to 3 months old.

Some of the Moldova Crew (Anne, me, Val, and Jess)

Soma (Сьома) all wrapped up in a scarf ready for the journey home

Alright, now that I have written a novel my new goal is going to be to update this blog at least once a week as to not have to write a novel and hopefully get back some of my lost inspiration to write. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


A friend of mine had this quote posted on her facebook profile and I really liked it, so I thought I would post it here!

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Catching Up

My first month at site was spent adjusting to doing nothing. Sounds kind of strange I know. I live in a village of less than 600 people and I can’t even buy bread or phone credit in my one store. People in my village survive off of the land. Every day my host family gets up at around 4:00 a.m. to go feed the animals and farm. Being that it is summer, people are either doing this or on vacation thus although the school is open every day no one is working. I watched the entire series of Gillmore Girls and countless other movies. I have read three books, wandered through fields of sunflowers, caught up on the sleep I have missed out on the past 10 years, and yep that about covers it.

During the second week of July I took a bus to the Western part of Ukraine to participate in an English Summer Camp. It was like doing a complete 360! I went from having little to nothing to do to being busy for 12 or more hours a day. I had to get up at 7:30 for morning exercises with the kids. Breakfast at 9:00 and then I would teach 5 lessons a day starting at 10:00 a.m. and ending at 6:30 p.m. Usually in the evenings we also did some sort of evening activity with the kids. I really did enjoy the camp though. Most of the classes were fun classes such as how to make lemonade, teaching them songs, watermelon seed spitting contest, basketball, and capture the flag. I did get to teach a couple of real classes on gender empowerment which was awesome and probably my favorite part of camp. I got to work with a variety of American teachers and Ukrainian teachers as well. I had a really great time and was sad to leave. I was only supposed to be there for two weeks but my friends talked me in to staying an extra two weeks to help with another session of camp. I’m pretty easily talked in to doing things.

After camp ended I stayed with my friend Valerie for a few days. We then took a train to Kyiv for a Peace Corps sponsored training. It was a pretty cool training. I met my director of the school there and we worked together to put together an action plan for a project. I will be starting an English based Leadership club. My hope is that within a few months the kids will primarily write a grant to fund a community project of their choosing and implement it. I will be working with a few of the teachers at my school so that the project will hopefully become a sustainable club at the school.

After the training I spent the night in Kyiv with a few other Peace Corps friends and some American’s that were visiting them. I got to stay in an amazing apartment in downtown Kyiv which would be the equivalent of Time Square in New York. We all went out and saw the city and danced the night away. The next day I hung out with one of the Americans. We went to a shooting range where I shot an AK47 and some sort of other Russian pistol. Later we went and got Indian food which is a huge treat here. Afterwards I booked it to the train station and made it just in time. I took the overnight train to Kherson and now I am home. School starts tomorrow and although I am not entirely sure what I will be doing aside from my club I am pretty excited to get things going. I will also be moving in to my own house very quickly. I looked at it yesterday and the repairs are almost done. I am waiting on them to fix the toilet (which is outside) and get me a refrigerator. Life is pretty great!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Life is Great

I have been in Ukraine for just about five months. My daily routines are starting to set in. The shock of the complicated transportation system is weaning. Not hearing anyone speak English for weeks at a time has become a norm. Walking 2 miles in a day just to get home is not a big deal. Every once and a while though, a moment of clarity encompasses me, and I remember that I am living in a village of less than 600 people in Ukraine and I have to say that it is pretty fucking cool.

I don’t really know what I want to do when I get out of Peace Corps. The opportunities are endless and I revel in that fact. I’m ok with not having a set plan at the moment. My whole life has been a whirlwind of maybe’s, last minute adventures, and doing a ton or random things. I have intentionally planned my life around the ability to be unpredictable and I can honestly say that I love my life. This isn’t to say I don’t have my rants, upsets, and improvements to be made, but overall I have had some pretty awesome experiences and met some pretty cool people along the way and I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything.

Caveat, I had a bit of a nostalgic moment today. They are frequent these days as I have a lot of time to think and ponder. Sometimes I get in the mode of I need to do more, I need to plan, and I haven’t done enough. I need to step back and realize that I have actually done a tone and experienced so many things that many people never will. I have friends all over the globe, I have swam in the Amazon and Nile river, I have seen lions in the wild, I have taught classes on gender empowerment in Russian to kids who have never met an American in their lives. I have worked countless hours for causes that I believe in and have seen tangible changes occur. What I am getting at I suppose, is I love life and I am really excited to continue having experiences throughout life. I am particularly grateful that I have been able to have these experiences and meet the people I have. So for those very few people that read this, I hope that you love life and if you don’t change what is missing so that you do!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whirlwind of Training

I am a bad blogger, it is official. Now that I have much more free time I am presuming I will automatically get better. Here is for an optimistic outlook on upcoming posts! I arrived in Ukraine at the very end of March. It's crazy to think that training is already finished and I have officially been sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was placed in a town of 16,000 people called Миронивка. I grew to love this place and my host family and already miss it. I lived with a Бабушка named Вира in a small but nice apartment. Near my house were several ponds and a river. Every day I would walk to my language instructor's (Лариса) apartment along with four other fellow trainees. We had Russian language class every weekday for four hours. After this we would often meet at our Technical Trainer's (Оксона) apartment to learn things such as classroom management, working with Ukrainians, needs assessments, English clubs, cultural differences, and so on.

After three weeks we began teaching healthy lifestyle courses at the school in Russian. This was probably one of the more difficult things for me. Preparing a lesson plan in another language and co-teaching it with other trainees is stressful at minimum. We also co-taught a couple of English classes. Most Saturdays we would meet a bunch of kids near the school and play soccer, basketball, Frisbee, kickball, and whatever other games we could think of. At the end of training we conducted a three day summer camp and a festival to raise money for sports equipment for the school. Both were very successful.

My Бабушка and her family were amazing. They took me in as family immediately and I foresee a relationship with them for years to come. The night before I left they all came over and we had a big dinner and party. They gave me some going away gifts and I said goodbye. The following day we were bussed to Кyiv where we got to see the other 70 some odd volunteers we hadn't seen in over two months. We had our site announcements and got to meet a colleague who we will be working with very closely over the next two years. There was an official ceremony where the United States Ambassador spoke along with a variety of other people. Following that we said our final goodbye to those we had spent every day with the last two months and hopped a train to our new home. More to come on my new home in my next post!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pictures from Ukraine

Some of my Host Family

Woman Walking Her Goats


Training Group

More of Host Family