Thursday, December 31, 2009

post 31 december

Okay, so then what happened?

Well, I sent some of you bits and pieces of information, forgot who I told what, and then kept delaying writing a blog post because I’d afraid some of you would find it outrageously redundant, and then, and then, and then…

And now! I’m in Lutsk, as you already know!

I gave the speech! You can watch it HERE!
It went pretty well, actually, and I got lots of nice compliments, but now I’m spending most of my time speaking English, so I’m concerned that all of the Ukrainian I know will slip out of my head before I start tutoring!

My counterpart, Natalia, and I took an overnight train from Kyiv to Lutsk, leaving at about 9 pm and arriving around 7 am. It was a very chilly evening, with lots of snow, and some [newly sworn-in! :)] PCVs were delayed in Kyiv for a few more days. In Lutsk, we took a taxi to my new home, an apartment in a dormitory. The elevator wasn’t working, and the apartment was on the third floor, but we still managed to get all of my luggage up to my door—including a giant bag containing a Peace-Corps-issued heater [for which I am thankful now, clearly, but was a little overwhelmed by then!].

My apartment is quite spacious, and I have it all to myself! I have a living room, bedroom, bathroom, shower, and kitchen, plus a tiny balcony accessible through the kitchen window. The windows are large and let in plenty of light, especially on especially snow-gleamy days.

The university where I will be working— for the next two years!—is Volynska National University [named for Leci Ukrainka]. That’s the entire name. Leci Ukrainka was a Ukrainian [surprise!] poet who changed her last name to show her pride in her language and heritage, but that’s basically all I know about her at this point. She shows up in statues and busts, as well as on the 200 hryvnia note [the back of which shows the castle in Lustk!].

So, there’s a castle in Lutsk, as well as parks, restaurants, and all kinds of other fine establishments, including at least two bazaars, a few theaters, and one giant “hypermarket” called Tam-Tam, meaning there-there. Where can I buy hangers and butter and a pillowcase all at the same time? There-there. It’s an exciting place.

I’ve observed and taught a few lessons so far, but this is now on hiatus: now it’s break time! New Years comes first in Ukraine, with Christmas on January 7, so our break is from December 31 to January 10. Then, there are two more weeks of classes for most students in the university, then two weeks of exams, and then the new semester starts in February.

I mention “most” students have classes after the break, but only some master’s degree students have classes then, and that’s who I’m teaching at this point. Conversational English/ Philology and Applied Linguistics- oh my! In the new semester, I will be working with more students, including possibly in a Political Linguistics class, and maybe even a Creative Writing course! Hooray!

Additionally, I’m helping to revise a translation of a Ukrainian history book, and coaching a high school student who is competing in the English Olympiad. Each subject area has an Olympiad, and the English competition includes reading, listening, writing, and impromptu speaking. Luckily, she’s very well prepared, so it’s fun to help her practice.

Other than that, I’m spending much of my time adjusting, including figuring out which buses I can take other than just bus 15, deciding what and how to cook for dinner, and buying the things that I turn out to really actually need after all, like that pillowcase. It’s for the pillow on the second bed, by the way, meaning that hey—you could come visit Ukraine! I have two beds and a big couch, and lots of floor space, too, so, what are you waiting for? :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

post 27 december

I realize that this is a different sort of entry from those you've seen before, but for those of you who read my other blog [] or who have ever read my justwrites, no surprises! Just a day in the life sort of justwrite from yesterday--

I am going to tell you something real and you will feel there’s a difference a glimmering whisper of sense although I usually mention much less reasonable items today I was cooking I was looking outside and I was gathering ingredients there was a half a sky of sun and the slants over the buildings used the views to dry varied laundry and assorted rugs and the dustier ones were given massages of a forceful sort beaten full of sunlight as the dirt flew away there were loud sounds resounding across the courtyard and you’d think hardly reasonable and wouldn’t someone protest wouldn’t someone neglect the soup and turn to yell out the window hey you kids that’s enough or to call last night’s bluff those men in the rain singing out pain or hilarity in occasional harmony after a few rounds of the block taking stock of what they have and finding each other there are numbers we can’t add up ourselves but today from my shelves I drew down a recipe that perplexed me into poetry there were vegetables and the troubles they found themselves in sought light and water and escape from the dark earth the roots of their lives they found surprise in the sink and drank deeply and in the pot not ten minutes later the beet danced alone stronger than the others and requiring more time to contemplate the heat to seek out safety and to offer a hand to the carrots to follow and their fellow potatoes and what I heard as I made my lists and counted fists full of wants and needs was exceeding joy dancing in a covered pot poetry that’s not meant to be read but to be felt instead bouncing off the insides the metal laughing back as the beet playfully attacked each edge of the stage no sage could build an easier demonstration no consternation of interpretation just fascination with this beet meeting itself in the dark and dancing in the boiling heat of an antiquated stovetop

Friday, December 25, 2009

post 25 december

Merry Christmas! I realize that I'm due for a good update entry, and I will write one soon! For now, though, here's a gift for you-- A Ukrainian cookbook put together by and for PCVs. Enjoy!


Monday, December 21, 2009

mini-post 21 december

Volyn National University!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

post 12 december

My time in Chernihiv is almost at a close, and as you can tell from these pictures, a lot has been going on!

- I went bowling at the best—and only—bowling alley in Chernhivi!

- I had my Language Proficiency Interview! Not too sure how it went, exactly, but the interviewer was complimentary and very nice. Questions ranged from telling about myself, to identifying my favorite color and explaining why, to finally… what causes terrorism?! Wow.

- We went to Kiev! We traveled two hours by mini-bus/ van/ marshrutka, then on the metro in the city, saw the Peace Corps office, the English resource library at Kiev-Mohila Academy in the National University, ate lunch in a multi-floor fancy cafeteria, then walked around a lot to see the street of artists leading up to Saint Andrew’s, then Saint Sophia’s, and Saint Michael’s churches, then way high on an overview of Kiev at night and the river all a-fog, plus a giant friendship rainbow, then Independence Square, then two hours back! It’s a beautiful city, but we only had a few hours to see it. Luckily, we should have some chances in the next two years!

- We have snow! Maybe not two feet, or even half a foot, but it’s pretty!! There were big flakes falling in the afternoon when we were in Kiev, and there’s more on the ground up north here in Chernihiv. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of plowing of roads or clearing of sidewalks, but today’s sunny and the snow makes everything look merry and bright. :)

- Monday’s the last day in Chernihiv, and we’ll be saying goodbye to our host families, packing all of our luggage into a bus, and heading to Kiev. That’s the day we’ll find out how we scored on our LPIs and where we’ll be sent for the next two years! We have one day to figure out exactly where that is and meet with our regional managers, and then our counterparts will join us for the next few days of our end-of-training conference. The Swearing-In Ceremony is on the 17th, and that’s when I get to give a speech in Ukrainian! And depart to wherever! :)

I’m not sure what kind of internet access I’ll have in the next few weeks, but I’ll let you know when I have an address and a real place to call home in Ukraine, for at least a little more than two months… :)

Happy holidays!

picture post 12 december


- Why is Laura so angry?
- Because the pigeons like this man more than they like her!
- always random things to buy on the street- sometimes a single cigarette, sometimes peanuts of sunflower seeds, sometimes half a pumpkin
- the class of teachers to whom I presented my final lesson/ workshop
- ‘tis just about the season!
- the wild Nescafe machine in captivity
- what would you choose?
- foxy bowling shoes! the car in the background is a dining table
- Sharon shows how it’s done
- Jessica, the picture of confidence
- Pat, Elise, and some cards thrown by a man who had to be escorted out twice
- Where do birds go in the snow? They can’t really figure it out either.
- the cutest educational tool around== Oksana’s “hot dog” who we toss gently about in review games
- it’s official!
- In Kiev-- McFoxy? Wonder if that’ll take off… Note “I’m lovin’ it” at the McDonalds to the right.
- visiting the Peace Corps office
- statue in kiev! imagine! there are lots :)
- excited-for-cake faces, on cue
- our link cluster, minus Lucas
- Natalia [TCF] and Oksana [LCF]
- flowers grow even on walls along this street of artists leading up to Saint Andrew’s church
- Taras Shavshenko and a dog
- traditional embroidery
- Saint Andrew’s
- awesome mural in an off-street parking lot
- ministry of foreign affairs building
- look! perfect snowflakes!
- look! a picture of perfect snowflakes!
- Saint Sophia’s
- Bogdan the famous
- Saint Michael’s complex- includes a seminary, too
- the church itself, inside the walls—no pictures allowed inside of the church, though!
- flashed-on snowflakes
- overlooking Vladimir the Great overlooking the river
- from quite a distance, a huge arch—a friendship monument between Russia and Ukraine put up in the 1960s
- Archangel Michael watching over independence square
- from this monument, the lines on the ground point to and give distance to lots of national and international cities
- are we to Lviv yet?
- for some reason I always forget to take a picture of this in Chernihiv, but my training city is the home of a famous brand of beer—
- and this building’s all lit up like the flag!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

post 5 december

So, how’ve you been?

I could easily start this post with apologies, but I’ll just honestly tell you that I’ve been busy! I finished my NaNoWriMo novel, learned a lot more Ukrainian, shared some Thanksgiving joy, and taught my last lesson. Phew!

- So, no more quarantine! After three weeks, each oblast got to decide whether an extension was warranted. Chernihiv decided that three and a half weeks was enough. So, school’s back in, just in time for us to wrap up and leave. After the quarantine, I only got to teach one lesson, but as a bonus, it was at the teacher recertification institute. Susan V and I presented a workshop on teaching listening skills to about twenty teachers, whose experiences ranged from six to over forty years of teaching!

- We had our site placement interviews! Still no more information to share there, but I was asked how I’d feel about teaching Conversational English. The truth is, I’ve been practicing that very subject for a long, long time. :)

- Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Ukraine, but we had the afternoon off! I used it to make the little display you can see in my pictures. On the cabinets in the kitchen, I posted information about the history, traditions, and foods of Thanksgiving, as well as a “hand turkey” thank-you note for each member of my family. I also prepared the most crucial dish of the holiday: mashed potatoes! Be careful, though. I’m glad I checked in advance with our teacher about leaving the skins on the potatoes—mashed potatoes with the skins on is usually food for pigs in Ukraine. Lucky pigs! I also brought home some ice cream cake—not exactly pumpkin pie, but pretty good, too!—and we ate that together on Friday night while they made their own turkey hands, none of which turned into turkeys. :)

Random bits:

- Igor could not finish all of his ice cream cake, but then saw that there were mandarins and ate two of them! :)
- People have all kinds of trust in each other. Several times, I’ve seen a baby carriage parked outside of a store, with no mother or father in sight. Once a dog was watching the stroller, super intently.
- Along those same lines—When there’s not much room, people on trolleys and buses pick up nearby unrelated children and set them on their laps. This happens without conversation. Almost the same: I saw a kid the other day spot his grandmother, who was on the other side of the street. He called out to her, and started to cross toward her. Another random, unrelated woman, walking by on his side of the street, approached and took his hand to help him cross the street toward his grandmother. The grandmother called out to thank the woman, but came across to his side of the street instead.
- Our language proficiency tests are next Wednesday. We have to test at “Intermediate-Mid”… or else, I guess! Hopefully I can guide the conversation smoothly toward the kinds of foods I like and don’t like, because that’s one of the topics I know the most about in Ukrainian.

And here’s the bit I’m really proud of—I was asked to give a speech at the Swearing-In Ceremony in Kiev! Out of 113 PCTrainees, about to become PCVs, I am one of three who will be speaking, and, ta-da!, I’ll be speaking in Ukrainian!! I’m definitely very honored to be chosen for this in the first place, and flattered that my teachers have such confidence in my Ukrainian skills! The three of us—Susan A, Ty, and myself—will give the same speech. I’ll go first, because Ukrainian is the national language. Susan will go next, because English is the PC language, here meaning Peace Corps, that most of us will understand best. Finally, Ty will speak in Russian. Oh man! So, the speech has been submitted, and Ty and I will hopefully be getting back our appropriate translations in the next two days, so we can start practicing! So, on December 17, think happy, good pronunciation thoughts for me! :)

December 17 is a pretty big day in general. That’s the last day of our close-of-PST conference, and after the ceremony, we’re heading off to our sites. Where, exactly? I have no idea!! :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

picture post 28 november

more pictures!

- presenting our community project, a collaborative resource website, at the pedagogical university where we teach
- the ceiling of a café we call Paris, as it’s right beside a model of the Eiffel tower
- another beautiful sky [with a sign to Kyiv telling you proceed straight up!]
- flowers and a note for my host mom upon her return to work after some time off due to an illness [“I congratulate you on Return to Work Day! I wish you health!”]
- my family in Ukraine
- Tamara the Patient, my host mom
- obviously I just like to take pictures of the sky
- Laura’s self-directed learning project: writing in cursive Cyrillic!
- Sharon’s SDL: a comic book!
- Chris’s SDL: performing a Ukrainian rock song, and translating it!
- our group with SDL projects—Happy Thanksgiving! You can tell because I’m wearing a brown sweater…
- foggy night in Chernihivtown
- my Thanksgiving display
- more turkey hands on the way
- hands in progress
- the complete display, with thanks to all

Monday, November 16, 2009

post 16 november- pics


164- Me, Laura Ruth, and cooperating teacher, Sasha
167- Halloween after-lesson
89- sleeping dogs… let them
2412- transportation in Ukraine—buses, cars, bikes, walking, and… hot air balloons!
2421- just a few of the mushrooms picked recently by my host sister
2425- library!
2438- some of the ingredients for the brunch I made last week
2440- waldorf salad, and happy eggs and milk
2448- exercise in prepositions, and flu prevention- garlic in front of and on the television
2449- cabbage rolls! haluptsi!
2457- green day at Dva Gusya
2458- it’s beet salad, and Igor helped!
2469- train station
2490- hot dog stand in the train station
2492- who is that masked man? one of many in Ukraine at this time
2501- train station group pic
2502- walking on the tracks is dangerous, as this sign lets you know
2519- McDonalds, also with a McDrive, not shown
2526- Anton on his last day with us, with some of his going-away gifts
2528- group picture on the marshutka
2540- bread, fresh bread!
2541- frying some onions for topping pizza, at Laura Ruth’s apartment
2542- L-R trying to add just a little salt, despite Kevin’s protests
2550- L-R and her host mom, proud of the pizza
2553- the cooks: me, Laura Ruth, Kevin, and Karen
2561- because when you can’t find scissors, you cut tape with an ax

post 16 november

questions to be answered---

How much longer is this all-schools-shut-down quarantine going to last?

November 20 will be the last day of the third week of ordered shutdown. Hopefully, that’ll be it.

How big is Chernihiv?

There are lots of public transportation options, you could get lost, and it’s bigger than Frederick, MD, and Gettysburg, PA [my two hometowns!], put together. It is not as big as Washington, DC, or Baltimore. Really, I have no idea about the population of most cities or towns I’ve ever lived in. Here, it’s about 350,000. There are lots of restaurants, some museums, several schools and universities, and many surrounding suburbs, by which I mean villages. Does that help? J

What’s the coffee situation?

This is definitely a tea[-at-the-table] country, and you won’t find people carrying around coffee in insulated carafes or in white and green Starbucks paperboard cups. You will see, however, Nescafe vending machines at various points throughout the city. People buy small, uncovered cups of these drinks, but usually drink them shortly thereafter. There are some cafes—today, I had an Americano, with sugar from Italy—but tea is more commonly served and widely available. My host mother regularly prepares instant coffee for me with my breakfast, as I’ve expressed that I really like coffee, but it’s usually tea with dinner. Plus, if there’s no milk to be had at the moment, or as a treat, she’ll sweeten and “creamen” my coffee with sweetened condensed milk. That’s reallly sweet. On a somewhat related note, milk is mostly sold in small, square bags. That takes a little getting used to. Plus, when you open it, you’d better have a plan for how to use it.

What kinds of recognizable American “institutions” are there?

Chernihiv has one McDonalds, although one of our language teachers recently pointed out to us that he would never call that a “restaurant.” Agree. In Chernihiv, though, I haven’t really seen any other American chains that exist as independent businesses. There’s a store called “America,” more or less, that serves Apple products and consumers. Out front, there’s one of those silhouette statues of an enthusiastic iPod listener, balancing upside down on his hand. There’s also a sign for Sony PlayStation on the wall of a corner store I pass regularly.
In the grocery stores, you can usually buy Fanta, Schwepps, maybe Sprite and Coca-Cola, and sometimes Pepsi. One of the more common brands of water, BonAqua, is bottled by Coca-Cola. Snickers, KitKat, and M&Ms can be found, although sometimes in perhaps different varieties. For example, there are Snickers that I think come with sunflower seeds [really? I said I think so--], and M&Ms come in brown, yellow, or green bags. Yes, plain, peanut, and… ? I don’t know. I just tried some the other day, and I’m still not sure. They tasted a little different, but I couldn’t tell you how or why.

Are handkerchiefs or tissues more common?

There are no tissues in my house, other than the ones I buy myself. Many people seem to have handkerchiefs, but there are small packs of tissues available to buy everywhere. Be careful, though—many of them are scented, and not always with the most gentle scents. A few weeks after moving here, I had a very small cold, and suddenly discovering that the new pack of tissues I had bought was overpoweringly flower-scented did not help. I didn’t feel bad for not having known this from the start, though, as the brand and labels were Polish.

What’s the bathroom situation?

In the city, none of the members of my group have homes with outhouses. That being said, bathrooms in public places may have either western-style or squat toilets. Plus, in many places, to avoid exacerbating the problems of the troubled city plumbing, toilet paper is used and then deposited into a small trashcan beside the toilet. This varies from place to place. In the apartment where I live, no toilet paper gets flushed.

So, what are you doing for your Self-Directed [Language] Learning project?

Okay, so no one really asked this question [why would you?], but I’ll tell you, because that’s where some of my writing time is going.
One project: Keeping a daily journal in Ukrainian. Fabulous tales, clearly, but good practice for all sorts of constructions. Here’s an example: Now it’s fifth hour thirty-six minutes [ie, 5:36!], and today is the ninth of November. Today, I went to the post office, the library and to two stores. I sent two letters from the post office. At the library, I tried to print. It was not good. There wasn’t much paper and there was not much ink, either. Maybe I will print somewhere else tomorrow. Fascinating! Imagine how long it took me to write that in Ukrainian!
Second project: Creating a reference of mnemonic devices for helping me to learn Ukrainian. Unfortunately, these usually just work for specific terms, mainly nouns, and so constructing appropriate conjugations and sentence structures… still in progress. Here’s an example: вхід [vihd] means entrance, and вихід [veehid] means exit. I had trouble remembering the difference between them, since they’re so similar. Now, here’s this—If you go into [вхід] a store and buy something, you’ll carry more [one letter] on your way out [вихід]. Yeah? Works for me. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

post 10 november

Hi, all!

You'd think that with three weeks of no teaching, I'd have much more time to work on my blog. As it is, though, I've taken up the challenge of NaNoWriMo again [write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November], I'm now writing a journal in Ukrainian in addition to my regular English journal, and I'm still planning real lessons for imaginary/ future students.

Rest assured that I am well, that work continues, and that the waldorf salad I made on Sunday for my family turned out to be fairly tasty. Also, so you know, celery is an import, and you can't buy it at the bazaar, but you can get it at the store. Don't worry! :)

So, more blogs to come, more pictures to be posted, but I'd be happy to have some more specific questions to answer!

In a future post, I will answer the following pressing questions:

What's the coffee situation in Ukraine?
How big is Сhernihiv, "a city of some kind"?
What recognizable American institutions can be found in Chernihiv?
When on earth are you going to know where your site will be?


Thursday, November 5, 2009

post 5 november

Let me tell you what I am proud of today [where today means Tuesday, although I'm posting on Thursday].

1. I turned on the hot water heater this morning without causing any sort of gas explosion. All I caused, in fact, was hot water, as well as a reason for early-morning wandering-into-the-kitchen concern on the part of at least one family member.
2. I went to the post office and sent a letter to America. Half of the writing on the envelope was in Ukrainian, and half was in English. All of the language used in the associated dialogue was in Ukrainian.
3. I checked my coat at the library. Apparently this is what you’re supposed to do. Otherwise, all control breaks down! J
4. I bought a new month of credit for my cell phone from a vendor at the bazaar. All Ukrainian again.
5. I lit the burner on the gas stove and made coffee. Not a big fan of coffee without milk, but it worked, and again, no explosions.

I ended up sharing some of these accomplishments during dinner today. Lacking speed behind the right verbs on occasion, I ended up announcing that “Today, I cooked tea.” Great. You’re right, it wasn’t even tea, but somehow that’s what I ended up saying. Genius.

I laughed and patted myself on the head to demonstrate my own awareness of how hilariously inadequate this particular accomplishment might appear to be.

I will not tell you how many times I used the wrong case endings during our language lesson today.

I will not tell you how many errors there were on the written test I reviewed with my language teacher during my tutoring session.

I will not tell you how little I understood of a fairly developed conversation with my host sister about why there are so many internet clubs and what really goes on inside of them.

I will say, though: Today, I cooked tea. Sort of.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

post november 3

So, this time you saw pictures well in advance of full explanation. Hopefully you've been able to develop your own entertaining stories behind each picture. :) I'm writing on the first of November here, so remember it's National Novel Writing Month use your creativity as you see fit!

To begin with last weekend, we met with Molly, a current volunteer who works at a university in Ivano-Frankivsk [spellings will vary, clearly, in transliteration!], to the west. She regaled us with stories of her situation, including life in a university-owned dorm, without a kitchen, but with her very own hot plate. At one point, missing the ability to bake cookies, she tried to make some in a frying pan! She was very positive and engaging, and made us all hope that well have it so together, too, in a year's time.

After the session, I took the long walk back home, both to see if I could and to enjoy the free time. I passed by Saint Katherines, then headed to the Vol, a park overlooking much of Chernihiv and protected by twelve cannons. Just like in Gettysburg, these cannons currently exist for memorial value and for people to take pictures with. It's a lovely walk, and one of the stops on the we-just-got-married-lets-take-pictures! tour. That day, I saw one bride with a white tutu-like skirt, short and flared and layered, and her bridesmaid with a matching skirt in bright red. The styles vary widely and wildly, well say, but most of these fall brides have cute little white jackets that look furry and warm.

Also, about the cannons-- apparently this is a popular strolling area for couples, but if a guy asks a girl to meet him there and she doesn't really want to join him, she'll tell him to meet her by the thirteenth cannon. Haha. In response to this joke, a cafe called The Thirteenth Cannon opened up. :)

Plus, in this park, I passed the big man-on-bench statue of Taras Shevchenko, Ukrainian poet and national hero. Random dogs, which run about at will throughout the area, tour groups, and two American runners [Laura Ruth and Karen] were all part of the show at the Vol. On the way back, I traveled on Vulitzia Shevshenka [Shavshenko Street] to continue the appreciation.

On Sunday, my family took me to see a nearby monastery. Tamara, Ira, Vika, Igor, and I took the trolley to find a service in progress, and climbed up the bell tower for a view of all of Chernihiv. It was a clear day, and the view was beautiful. The service that was going on turned out to be a celebration of the canonization of a new saint from this area. The attendees surrounded the church, filling the front courtyard and crowding around a set of side doors. The music from inside was amplified outside, and was lovely, if completely incomprehensible. Much of what I was told about this place, in fact, was fairly hard to follow, but it was easily appreciated visually, too.

After the monastery, we walked through a nearby park and ended up at the caves. I'm not sure if these are part of the same monastery, but they are definitely monastic caves. Parts of the interior were high-ceilinged with chandeliers, but many parts were fairly dark, narrow hallways, with varying types of flooring. Some of the signs had English segments, but we did not take an official tour [which probably wouldn't have helped me much, either!], and so I was left with the general impression that this was a very holy and a little bit scary place. One room even featured a glass-windowed stone compartment containing many human bones.

Next was the World War Two monument, with an eternal flame and obelisk on the top of a hill, giant stairs down, and then a series of flat... reliefs? Not really sure what to call them, but they were panels with statues coming out of them. Sorry that sounds so awkward, but thats why I'm including pictures. Finally, at the bottom of the hill, a series of giants pose in statue form, looking both threatening and protective. Two running-by Americans, continuing the weekend trend, stopped to chat with my family. Mattison and Pat are both PCTs in the advanced Russian group, although not quite as advanced as the group I was with. :)

Continuing the same long but good day, I helped Vika and Igor to make pizza. Yes, pizza is popular here in Ukraine, as evidenced by earlier pictures Ive posted and lots of pizza places throughout downtown. Hooray! Ours had no tomato sauce, but the veggies made up for it.

And then the work week began! Phew! Highlights included Monday's trip for Teacher-Trainer Trainees [haha] to the Teacher Recertification Institute. There we observed a workshop conducted by a guest lecturer [Zolya, seen with the long, curly dark gray hair in the left of the picture] and discussed the work of such institutes as well as Teacher Trainers. According to PC staffer Valentina [standing in the at-tea picture, with the short hair], the week of a Teacher Trainer includes about 41 hours of week, including all kinds of different activities. It seems like one or more of us will be at a Recertification Institute, while the rest will be at Pedagogical Universities, teaching both English and methodology. We will probably travel and give workshops, as well, although our specific activities will definitely depend on where were placed. Also, no, we still don't know where well be placed, and we won't know until the very last minute or so.

This week also brought us a new language teacher. LCFs rotate for three weeks in the middle of PST, so we now have Anton instead of Oksana. Our first day together started with individual interviews so that he could see where we are. Basically, I have a name, a job, an age, families, and I like to do certain things and eat certain foods. Maybe not the most fascinating conversation, but he was complimentary and I was appreciative. It's interesting to have a new teacher, with a different style, and Im hopeful that my skills will multiply exponentially because of the opportunity. Clearly, Im able to hope. :) Also, we'll each be developing personal Self-Directed Learning projects, and Anton suggested that keeping a journal--even a brief daily entry-- in Ukrainian would be a great way to utilize writing to practice. Plus, he suggested that I work on compiling some of the mnemonic devices I've come up with, in order to help other students, too. We'll probably do this as a group project, but I've started on the list and hope people will be able to see the benefits beyond the ridiculous nature of many of the suggestions. :)

I ate lots of good food this week, too, including a tasty shredded apple/ shredded carrot salad, oatmeal, apple pancakes, and more. Ira just went mushroom picking yesterday [Saturday, 31 Oct], so looks like well be having some of those. For breakfast today, one of the dishes I had was a baked casserole sort of deal with eggplant on the bottom, rice in the middle, and peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and cheese on top. There's usually more food than I can imagine eating, but I do my best.

I missed the lesson with Lucas on Monday due to the field trip to the Recertification Institute, but I did teach with Laura on Friday. Our cooperating teacher asked us to come up with a lesson involving Halloween, and so we did. The students almost all dressed up, and they even brought cake and a drink to celebrate. Needless to say, it was not the most serious lesson ever, but it was fun and we had a chance to chat at the end, too. We suggested that they ask us questions about Halloween, but their questions ended up including whether we'd like to eat pizza with them, how we like the weather and transportation in Ukraine, and what our thoughts on "Twilight" are. My camera was out of battery, but Laura will share her pictures with me, and I'll share them with you at the earliest convenience.

Also, on Friday night, we each got calls from Peace Corps Ukraine putting us on alert because of the concerns about flu in the west. The Prime Minister announced the closure of schools for three weeks in an attempt to keep flu from spreading. This means, too, that we [PC] are not allowed to travel or to gather in groups larger than our cluster, and we are encouraged to avoid public transportation. So, on Saturday, Laura and I walked the hour and a half to our LCFs apartment, and later, I walked back, too. Then I took a nap! Some people are wearing masks, and theres information on the news, especially about the stricter quarantine in the west. So, were washing hands, avoiding groups, staying home, and being healthy. Im confident that well all be okay, and also that the Peace Corps is monitoring everything very closely.

Man- I really wrote a lot! I didnt even tell you that I washed my clothes again! Or that I had a sparkling grape drink that came with extract of Melissa! Or that Laura and I saw a hot air balloon on Saturday morning! Really, though, I could go on and on, but Id also like to answer questions that you have. Send them to me, and I'll do my best!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

picture post 29 october

- American runners in Chernihiv [at the vol]—Laura and Karen
- more of the 12 cannons at the vol
- awesome statueman- Shavshenko
- random dogs, as frequent the area
- probably would make a good puzzle- statue in the park, with church in the background [see earlier picture for evidence of season change]
- more gettingmarried couples, evidenced by ringed cars
- river through town
- my black leather family- Tamara, Vika, Ira, and Igor
- monastery, church service celebrating the canonization of a new saint of local origin
- the bell tower we climbed to make such a view possible
- mapping our way into the monastic caves
- one of the well [flash!]-lighted, higher-ceilinged segments of tunnel/ corridor
- info plaque
- accompanying icon
- more icons inside
- igor and his mama, vika
- American runners, part 2—Mattison and Pat
- 1941 monuments- statue, reliefs [?] below, eternal flame and obelisk above
- makin’ pizza
- a closing activity in the workshop we [teacher trainers] observed at the teacher recertification institute
- PC Ukraine 37’s teacher trainers, seated, with Valentina [institute staff] and Valentina [PC staff]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

post 24 october

Sunday [18 Oct], as one of the new pictures shows, I went to the English club at the library again. After watching a lesson on how to tell time in English [why do we say half past but not half ‘til the hour?], I watched Matt, another PCT, present about archaeology. Apparently, before joining Peace Corps and coming to my host sister’s birthday party two weeks ago, he worked as an archaeologist in Jordan.

Monday, another lesson. A few more students appeared, possibly due to the wild success of last week’s lesson. :) We didn’t cover as much as we might have liked to, but we definitely engaged them more and had a little more fun, too. Our class included one boy this time, but he was obviously still wildly outnumbered. Only one or two more lessons to go on the American primary and secondary education system!

Tuesday was cooking day at our cluster. Since our second unit was on food, we had to test our skills! I wasn’t really able to capture the entire process in photos, due to the try-to-blend-in philosophy of Peace Corps. I can generally take pictures of what I want to, but it’s definitely a different experience to be a tourist and be able to gawk from a bit more of a distance. When asking babushkas how much their apples cost, it’s pretty awkward to suddenly take out a camera and snap a photo.

Still, we worked our way through the food portions of the bazaar, and then to a store, in order to acquire all of the ingredients for our chosen dish: cyrniki. Cyrniki are cottage cheese pancakes- sweet indeet! The experience of working our way through the bazaar was sort of bizarre—more on display than I’ve ever felt in any other farm-type market! Plus, since our teacher was with us to help us practice the language, she was pointing to lots more than we probably would have pointed to on our own and we were saying the names of lots more things than we would have if we were only shopping on our own. Good practice, but certainly entertainment for the sellers. One of the most interesting buys was the cottage cheese itself, which was one of the items I had signed up to purchase. For this, we went into a big building that featured milk and milk products. For someone used to buying milk products in sealed packages, this was a bit unusual. Everything was very clean, but the cottage cheese was in a pile in front of each seller. The portion that I ordered was scooped up into a plastic bag. Again, nothing wrong with this, but it was a little different for me to see cottage cheese in a bag. Also, one of the items I was buying [baking soda] was the hardest item on our list to pronounce, and one of the harder ones to find, so I think I’ll resolve to reconsider my sign-up enthusiasm if there’s ever a next time. :)

Here’s the rough ingredients, taken from a PC Ukraine cookbook!

1 package cottage cheese домащний сир [domachny ceer]
3 eggs
¼ c sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder розпущувач тиста [rozpooschoovach teesta—of course!]
½ tsp vanilla [we bought vanilla sugar—dry powder]
1 c flour

Stir, fry, and enjoy! Recommended toppings: sour cream, honey, fresh or canned fruits. [We ate ours with sour cream and/or very thinly sliced apples.] Yes, they were smachno, ie, delicious. Please note that in the picture caption, “smachnoho” means bon apetit!

Wednesday was another food-related competency day. We went to a local café as a group, with our teacher, but the menu that they gave us was in Russian. Oh no! We muddled through that vaguely, but Oksana asked if they had any menus in Ukrainian. Nope, just English. Well, then! Another picture shows our results. I had mlintzi [like thin pancakes/ crepes] with poppy seed [paste, inside] and honey on top. Pretty good.

Thursday? Yup. Had one of those. Also had a technical session, in which we met a PC staff member from Morocco, as well as a PCV from western Ukraine who helped to present. She’s with us for a few days to share her experience as part of the adopt-a-cluster program. Also, please note the picture of our cluster’s attempts to differentiate between cold and hunger through diaphragm-related sounds. The point here was that the words for cold [holodno] and hunger [holodno] are pronounced almost exactly the same way, as you can tell from my fabulous transliteration. I’d love to clarify the difference, but it would definitely take an audio file recorded by someone with a better understanding of this alleged difference. :)

Friday was our last day with Oksana before all of the LCFs rotate. We’ll have a different teacher for three weeks, and then she’ll be back. I don’t know too much about our new teacher except that his name is Anton. Also, he’s a man, and he speaks Ukrainian. That’s about it. It’ll be strange to have a different teacher suddenly, but it’s probably a good idea for us to work with different teachers with different styles, etc, with the hope that we’ll learn as efficiently as possible. I’m working hard on the language, I think, but I hope to pick up the pace on my self-directed study a bit more, if possible, in all my loads of free time… I have gotten to the point, though, where I feel like I can make some polite, if very brief, conversation, possibly including one or more complete sentences. One of the best feelings is when my host mother or sister says, in Ukrainian, clearly, “Yes, I understand.” I want to say так! YES! HOORAY!

I also taught with Laura today, spending some entertaining time in a very warm classroom. Hers is a second-year class, full of enthusiastic and smiling students. The general topic was medical treatment, and we talked about dentists, phobias, and things that go bump in the night—that last part in advance of next week’s lesson/ celebration of Halloween!

Friday, October 23, 2009

post pics 23 october

Another week, another update! I’m not intentionally limiting myself to one entry per week, but that’s just how it’s working out. Of course I want to be able to tell you everything just as it happens, but that’s just not entirely feasible for lots of reasons.

Let’s start with pictures, to be followed by explanations:

- Matt, another PC trainee, at English Club [Sundays at the library!], presenting about his past life as an archaeologist
- Fruit and vegetable stands everywhere! Candy and cookie stands, too. :)
- Flowers, too.
- I’d be lying if I said the sky was always this strikingly beautiful, but it definitely was right then. The wires are for the trolleys and street signs.
- Ingredients! Cyrniki to follow!
- Mix it on up!
- Chris and Oksana cook…
- Sharon’s turn.
- My turn [note that I dress to match the curtains].
- Success! Smachnoho!
- Pronunciation practice: hunger vs. cold.
- Random “nice” graffiti.
- The “what time is it?” game, a popular pasttime. :)
- Café field trip- my dish is, not surprisingly, the closest to the photographer

Sunday, October 18, 2009

post 18 october- 2

I taught the first lesson of my Peace Corps life on Monday. We were assigned partners, classes, and topics, and tutored on crafting good lesson plans to fill the eighty minute class period. Good work overall, I think, and nice to be in a situation I more or less understand. Of course, my partner, Lucas, and I were given the exciting task of teaching about the primary and secondary education system in the United States, which might not have been my first choice of topic. Still, the class—fourteen enrolled, nine in the room—was very pleasant and encouraging. All girls, they worked very quietly, even whispering during group work time. Apparently this is not unusual, nor is the fact that they stood up when the bell rang to start class—a sign of respect for the teacher that students here start when they start school—and stayed in their seats until the lesson was done, not even twitching when the bell rang, much less ten minutes beforehand.

Have you noticed how long my sentences are sometimes on this blog? I guess I just have a lot of information that I’d like to share, preferably all at once. J

This week also brought more of the up-and-down adventure of the Peace Corps trainees who found out at their staging event that they were not, in fact, going to be going to Turkmenistan, due to the country’s decision to deny them entry. I believe their group was made up of about sixty people, and Peace Corps has been trying to place them elsewhere. Nine were taken in by Ukraine, and I’m not sure about the rest. We thought that our cluster would be getting one more member, to replace Matt, the teacher trainer who went home in the first week. However, at the last minute, this other teacher trainer decided to stay in the United States, so our cluster will stay at four.

What else this week? Today we went to a history museum in Chernihiv, which was an interesting experience. Artifacts and maps are interesting, but it turns out to be pretty helpful to be able to read the text in the displays. Of course, we had our TCFs [technical/ cross-cultural facilitators] with us to help translate, but there was a lot of guesswork involved. As exciting as it was to recognize certain words and names [googleplex Gogols], sounding a word out does not its meaning make. Ukrainian is a very phoenetic language, so the way it looks is the way a word sounds, but if it’s not a cognate or a known word, that’s where the recognition ends.

Yesterday the trolley I was trying to take home went out of service instead, and everybody knew except me. Luckily, though, I was able to walk the few blocks back to the right route, and back to the apartment. Success! Also, it was raining. It has rained off and on several days this week, which leads to item two.

First item one, though, which is that the heat was turned on on Wednesday. In most of the city, a governmental official—in my understanding—turns on the heat on a set date. In some private homes, the heating system is independent, but where I live, I’m happy to have the heat on. This means that I was able to dry my gloves and jeans and shoes [somewhat] on the radiator when I got back home on Friday.

Item two: I went boot shopping today. The shoes I’ve been wearing are very nice flats, and they are comfortable enough for all of the walking I do every day. However, the rainy conditions and occasionally somewhat choppy walking routes lead to the conclusion that every single female inhabitant of Ukraine has already reached: boots are a good idea to keep your feet and legs warm and dry. So, a few other girls and I went to several shopping centers, stores, and finally the bazaar in search of boots. The choices are predominately black leather, with exceptions made for suede, and occasionally bright random colors, too. Although I have a pair of excellent winter boots that I purchased at home for when it’s snowy and really cold, I was looking for something about knee high and probably black. So, that was about 80% of what was available. Take out the super-high heels and lots of ornamentation, and you’re down to about 25%. Add in the fact that I wear size 9 or 9 ½ , and that’s about 7%. Also, I don’t want to pay a ton, since I’m basically making enough money to eat a very cheap lunch every day, buy tissues, and take public transportation. Our language teacher suggested that we might be able to get fairly cheap boots for about 300, but when we started looking, everything was at least 600, and more often 800 or so. Keep in mind that this is hryvnia, which I had previously changed for dollars at 8.4h per dollar. To end a long and fairly repetitive story, I ended up with a pair of boots from the bazaar, which I inadvertently negotiated down to 350h, exactly how much I had brought along for the purpose. Pictures already posted. :)

post 18 october

Pictures now, blog to follow. I’m updating the album with the following:

my cluster, to be and to have
my alphabet study partner, Igor, my host-nephew [as awkward as that sounds]
unit two = food
my host mother, Tamara, on the left, and at the head of the table, the birthday girl—my host sister, [Y]Ira, plus some of the guests
Tonya, this week’s birthday girl, with Igor
just in case—not as funny as it sounds… cases are tough!
a church down the street
the first day of school, ie, teaching at the pedagogical university
stuffed peppers and salad = breakfast, because you wanted to see
rainy day: my desk, wet stuff drying, potted plants, towels drying on line in balcony
Chris at the museum
Sharon after the museum
Laura after the museum
walk here!
people drive around Red Square honking their horns after they get married, then drive around to different places in the city to get their pictures taken
Igor and I take a break from creating great art
not a great picture of my new boots, but you get the idea [the art is Igor’s, the flowers are overflow from last week’s birthday party][I’d be happy to send you more boot pictures if you’d really like them J]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

post 14 october

Note: This entry is from Saturday! :)

Today’s adventure: hand-washing clothing! Note to the future: don’t put this off! Success in buying an appropriate kind of washing powder led to more opportunities for success, including learning which tubs to use, how much powder to use [no measuring required, clearly], how long to soak, how much bleach for whites, how many rinses, and where to hang. There’s nothing to bring you back to reality like seeing how dirty the wash water turns once your clothes have been soaking for half an hour or so. Really? Where did all that come from?? Plus, the continual bending over and repetitive wringing motions make this a work-out.

Let it be known that the apartments of my host family and the other host families in my cluster all have washing machines. It’s a Peace Corps instruction, though, that we learn how to wash our clothes by hand, as the luxury of a washing machine will very likely not follow us to our permanent sites. Washing machines are expensive, and, like most items people have to save up to buy, they are treated well. In my apartment here, my host family has two televisions, a computer, a microwave—pretty similar to what people in the US would consider standard.

Last night was the birthday of my host sister, Ira [pronounced Yee-ra… actually, I’m not sure how she spells it in English…]. After a brief adventure involving accidentally taking the wrong trolley home to, well, not home, I successfully returned to find lots and lots of shoes just inside the doorway. In Ukraine, people take their shoes off upon entering a home, and often put on socks or slippers they’ve brought along.

Once in the door, I was greeted by a hug from the son of my other host sister [Vika], Igor [pronounced Yee-hor… again, that’s my English spelling at work there]. He’s four, and my occasional alphabet study partner. In the living room, about twenty people were packed in and dining on a tasty celebratory dinner. In Ukraine, the tradition is for the birthday guy/ girl to treat everyone else, and Ira and her mother, Tamara, were bustling about, carrying plates of food and talking excitedly to others. Various friends and colleagues were seated around a long table, and I also recognized another PC Trainee, Matt. Why not? It turns out that his host mother and mine work together.

Lots of food, lots of toasts [mine were with juice and then yummy homemade compote], and lots of smiling ensued. Pictures, conversations of varying success, and general overall entertainment resulted. At cake time, several of the guests sang “Happy birthday to you”—yes, of course in English! The cake [torte, more or less, in Ukrainian] was excellent, with five or six alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate spongy cake, creamy… well, not exactly frosting—more like fluffy mortar [what? yes], and a layer near the bottom that included sweet plums. I thought they were cherries, and was surprised, but they were definitely today’s word: смачно [smahtch-no]—delicious!

Monday, October 12, 2009

post 12 october

Language learning progresses, with complications in terms of possession, multiple cases, flexible nouns and adjectives—and now verbs to be conjugated, sentences to be developed, and some sense to be made. Our language teacher’s living room/ our classroom displays more and more charts, and it’s time for some flash cards to help the process along.

Transportation is one of the exciting/ challenging parts of life in any city, and the lack of any published schedule is only slightly exacerbated by minimal language skills. People travel via bicycle, motorcycle, private cars, taxis, mini-bus [called marshrutne], trolley, and bus. Most people definitely seem to take public transportation, and there’s rarely overwhelming car traffic. The city is full of walkers, too, which may or may not be the same once it starts getting colder.

Each morning, I take the bus [number one, if you’re interested] to language lessons. Riding the bus costs 1 hryvnia and 50 kopeks. Often, in the afternoon or evening, depending on how much I want to walk, I take a trolley [usually number six or nine, by the way], which costs 1 hryvnia. The current exchange rate is about 8.4 hryvnia to one US dollar.

Buses and trolleys are usually full at rush hours—work is 8-5 for most people. Sometimes a conductor will walk around and collect money and give tickets, and sometimes you have to pay the driver. How does a driver make change, print a receipt, and drive a bus at the same time? I don’t know, but it seems to work out just fine. I’m even more amazed by the conductors—I’ve only seen women doing this job so far—who manage to collect fares from everyone on a squished-full bus, make and pass change down through several people, check IDs for school student discounts, ensure that older people ride at the right rate [Free? I’m not sure yet, but I think so.], and more. Plus, this is on a vehicle ridden by a huge range of people, of all ages and occupations, and carrying briefcases, backpacks, shopping bags, and buckets of grapes.

The new language phrase for you today: авжеж. Pronounced ahv-jej, this means “of course.” Of course that man has two huge buckets of grapes on the trolley tonight. Of course you can buy candy right on the street. Of course people are carrying flowers around all over the place. Of course this water is carbonated. Of course this bus goes to the church—but which church?!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

address me!

Hi, all!

It's a few days between entries here, clearly, but I'm writing! I'm keeping my blog public, so that everyone can read, but that means I need to run my entries by a training manager. Also, I can receive mail, I've just discovered-- flat letters only-- but if you want the address, let me know!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

picture time!

Now a chance to post some pictures--

Take a peek in the album linked on the side column!

The group waiting to leave JFK
My Philly roommate, Samantha, and I on the flight to Frankfurt
Fancy bread and salt as part of the welcoming at Desna, the retreat center where we spent our in-country orientation
Desna, the retreat center
Desna, the river
The park center in downtown Chernihiv
Moya cimya—my family, in language-learning style
What would you order? Pizza!
My room
Side view from the balcony
Cluster-mate and podrooha Laura Ruth
Statue of Lenin
Powerwheels to rent from a babusya, with Saint Catherine’s in the background
Another beautiful park
Pastries galore!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

3 october

The past few days have included several minor victories, including traveling on public transportation alone to uncertain stops, successfully buying various items at stores and restaurants without assistance, and just generally keeping it together.

Our language lessons are pretty thorough, but our teacher, Oksana, is excellent and patient. We’ve just started to find out more about our technical assignments—job stuff—which for my whole cluster is either university teacher or teacher trainer. Education is the part I feel good about—more than any extensive past international experiences or Ukrainian language study, we’ll say—but it still looks to be fairly hard to figure out at this point, and I think lots of flexibility will be required. Still, that’s what I’m here to do! It seems possible from this angle that I might be teaching both English and pedagogy, will probably work at a university or a teacher-training institute, and may even live in a dorm.

Tomorrow, Saturday, is a half-day of working, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to relax a little and take in a little more of the sights and sounds of Chernihiv. Most of our cluster has just gotten phones, and most volunteers and trainees seem to have the same service, which allows us to call each other for free. This will be a helpful backup if we get lost… although it’s also pretty likely that we can’t offer too much support beyond the distant moral support. If you tell me what road you’re on and what you can see… and I can tell you how to tell someone nearby, “I’m lost!” --- я заблукала!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

october 1

So, I’m here! After a rapid series of days in Philadelphia, traveling, and in a retreat center in a beautiful part of Ukraine, I’ve made it to my host family in Chernihiv. Over the past few training days, we’ve been informed of all kinds of policies, norms, and possibilities, and had training on security, health, and a very small bit on language. Now, our large group has been broken up into clusters, meaning a set of several Peace Corps Trainees [we’re still not Volunteers until we’re done with Pre-Service Training and sworn in] are in each of many different communities across the region, living with separate host families. Each cluster is supported by a language teacher and a technical trainer, who will work to help us develop our skills during PST.

I’m typing this up on my first night, but hopefully I’ll be publishing this tomorrow at a wifi spot in Chernihiv. It’s a pretty decent sized place, with about 350,000 people, but I really can’t tell you too much about it yet, other than my host family seems great! I am living in an apartment in town with a mother and one of her two daughters, and have had a pleasant time, eaten good food [veggie burgers from scratch, a cabbage-based salad, and potatoes with sour cream, plus watermelon, and a fruit tea/ compote—yum!], and shared lots of pictures.

Well, another day later, and I’m ready to post! Lots of language learning and the start of some technical training. We’re learning to find our way around town… sort of… We’re also discovering how many people speak Russian and Ukrainian, even mainly Russian, which makes for a few challenges in trying to pick up the language swirling around in an exotic and exciting wave. The leaves in town are changing, and the fall air is crisp and fresh. We’re being kept very busy, and even though I do feel mostly adjusted to the change in time zones [+7 hours from the US], I’m definitely ready for bed as soon as the opportunity is available.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To begin with...

Soon, this will be the place to find out more about my fabulous adventures with Peace Corps in Ukraine. For now, though, I'm still around, so there's not too much to find out!

I'm spending my last few weeks packing, planning, and preparing. The best part, though, is spending time with friends and family, including an awesome party celebrating all things Ukrainian: food, music, language, and culture. Yum!