Help Our School Install an Intercom Speaker System

•December 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This is my Peace Corps-sponsored project that allows me to raise funds from back home to help the members of my community in Borova, Ukraine

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” This project will help build local capacity and promote long term sustainability. Having such a vital tool as an intercom system will allow for social issues like bullying, human trafficking, and AIDS to be addressed in an effective and timely approach.

Here is the link to contribute to our project:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=343-283

Livin’ The Dream

•September 1, 2011 • 1 Comment

After ten weeks here in Borova, I still catch myself in those moments of disbelief that I am a Peace Corps volunteer living in a foreign country.  Whether sitting totally lost in the conversation at a birthday party surrounded by merry Ukrainians, or unexpectedly celebrating one of the ‘oh-they-have-a-holiday-for-this-too’ moments, I’ve had to face the reality that I’m in a very different place.  I am most definitely a big fish in a very small pond surrounded by a crystal-clear bowl.

Just a week ago (Aug 24), Ukraine celebrated 20 years of independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union.  And thank goodness.  Instead of being surrounded by beautiful women and friendly townsfolk, I could be in the African bush fighting off malaria. Or, I could be in the South Pacific on some tropical island as I imagined Peace Corps service to be, but nevermind that.

Today, the 1st of September, was the beginning of the school year.  Having been asked to show up for the first day of school by one of the teachers, I thought I’d give a token appearance by popping my head in the door to say ‘hi’ and maybe introduce myself.  Silly me.  Of course there was a big celebration to kick off the first day of school. And to my shock, I had to stand front and center for the entire celebration and then address the entire school, with parents and grandparents in attendance.  I spit out a few Russian words, or what sounded like Russian, and then reverted to good old English as I started hearing some chuckles from the peanut gallery.  At least I got some lovely flowers out of the whole deal.

My two regrets so far, not bringing enough gifts from America, and my incompetence in learning Russian.  So far I’ve been to at least seven birthday parties, that I can remember, in just the first two months of my twenty-four month journey.  A care package from the States filled with Americana mementos would come in handy right now (Ahem).   And of all those celebrations I’ve been to, I really can’t say much of what was talked about.  Given that Ukrainians love to laugh and are very entertaining, especially after a few drinks, I can only imagine what I’ve missed out on.

I’m going where?!?! (Life in Borova)

•July 13, 2011 • 2 Comments

Life at site is great.  Borova is a quite, little town nestled in Eastern Ukraine surrounded by sunflower fields and a picturesque river.  There are essentially no English speakers here and my Russian is anemic, so I truly am a stranger in a strange, but beautiful land.  Here are some highlights from the first four weeks:

I feel better integrated now that I’ve actually received candy back as my change when buying something at the store.  I thought getting candy instead of Kopecs was just an urban–or in this case, a rural–myth.  I live with a babushka who laid the smackdown on an enterprising soul at the bazaar who took advantage of my generosity.  After going four months without seeing any gummy worms, $20 for 20 gummy worms didn’t seem that expensive.  My babushka thought otherwise and got my money back after several minutes of ‘negotiation.’   The circus came to town and the clown made me perform a funky dance in front of the audience.  I told one person that I didn’t sleep well the night before, and it seems half the town found out about it.  Between the bazaar incident and my forbidden-dance moment, I can only imagine what the locals think of me since I can’t understand anything that’s being said to/of me in the three languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Surzhyk) that are spoken here.  And nearly every conversation seems to include something about me finding a Ukrainian wife and living in Borova for the rest of my life.  Sounds like a pretty good life…

Spasiba (thank you) Chernigov!

•June 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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The past eleven weeks have been so rewarding.  I’ve had the privilege to live in a beautiful city with beautiful people who have offered me so much.  Despite being difficult to learn, the Russian language is also incredibly beautiful and vibrant.  It allows the speaker to express themselves in ways  that can’t often be expressed in English.  At least that’s what I’ve heard; not that I have first-hand experience, yet.   My host mother and brother have been gracious hosts.  I will always be grateful to them for their hospitality.  So Chernigov, Dasvidanya, and on to Kiev, where I learn tomorrow where I’ll be for the next two years.

Just Because

•May 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Here are some recent pics from this beautiful country.

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The Finer Things

•May 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In my first post in Ukraine, “The Simple Things,” I listed some things I was grateful for.  At the time, I was more worried about my possessions not getting lost and being able to take a hot shower.  Funny what one month in Ukraine can do to change the narrative of my expectations for the next two years.

Before leaving the States, I knew that PC Ukraine was often referred to as Posh PC because some volunteers here have practically all the amenities of home.  Despite what I had heard, I was still expecting a watered-down variant of a ‘typical’ PC experience.   Granted, images of bamboo huts, mosquito nets, and washing laundry down by the river-bank didn’t immediately pop into my head when thinking of what I might experience. 

At least in the rural parts of Ukraine, volunteers experience traditional Ukrainian culture.  Here, the chicken you pass by in the morning could end up on the dinner table that evening, and your host mom will know that you gave away your unwanted left-over breakfast—that you were “saving for lunch”—to the neighbor’s dog.  (Never underestimate the gossiping power of the Babushkas!)  In the ‘W’illage, you ‘get’ to use an outhouse; and dodge chickens/cows while navigating the land mines (piles of manure) along the pot-hole-ridden dirt path of the two-block village.   As a CD volunteer living in the city, I get to dodge cars/people and try to decide what café/restaurant I’ll eat my over-priced, under-portioned lunch at. 

Last week in cultural class, I was given a list and asked to pick one thing I was struggling with the most while living in Ukraine as a Peace Corps trainee.  Some of the choices: homesickness, diet/food, culture shock, missing something I really liked back home, doubts about my decision to be here, feeling like I’m in a fishbowl.  My pick: Not Suffering Enough!   I welcome adversity and hardship–that’s why I joined the Peace Corps.  “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”- Neitzsche   

Maybe one day I’ll get to see if the grass really is greener in a Ukrainian village.  Or, perhaps I should be careful of what I wish for.  Since I can’t always control what life has to offer, I’ll take from it what I can, for now, and continue to appreciate the simple things.

Kiev

•April 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment
 
My first fieldtrip in Ukraine: Kiev
 

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