Thursday, April 26, 2007

Last day of teaching... TOMORROW!!!

Okie... so after 2 years of teaching Healthy Lifestyles and English, my last day of teaching will be tomorrow. How do I feel about this??? Well, at times, I've really enjoyed working with the students. Sometimes, they really focus and participate. This is usually a refreshing change from the norm. When this happens, we have a good time. Other days are not so good though, when no one cares and the students would rather be at home and whine for 45 minutes straight... Ukrainian kids I think are the little princes and princesses of the whine... I want to pull my hair out.

But I'm glad that I was a teacher at least for a short period of my life. I've definitely put to rest that doubt that maybe I should've applied for a masters in education program rather than law. Definitely, not the case. I've also gained a whole new respect for the teaching profession, especially elementary and secondary. I am thinking about sending all of my teachers a letter saying thank you for putting up with me and the hundreds of children that you have endured day in and day out. Additionally, that I extend my sincere apology, though I can not speak for my classmates, if I have ever made you want to pull out your hair.

But all in all, I am sad to see my days come to a close here. I will miss my 11 graders, my 10-A class, my 9-A class and my 7-B class. They all at times have made me think that perhaps the GI Jane look could be a plausible hair styling option for me, but more often then not they have left a smile on my face. Some of these students are extremely bright, funny, or worm-hearted, if not all three and I am excited to hear what they end up doing in the future.

As far as the trip home... Christine, my dear friend throughout this entire process, and I will be heading to Krakow, London, Dublin, and Galway. We are extremely excited for it and hope that all the hostels we end up in are clean and have nice showers!!! Take care everyone and I'll see you all soon... very soon!

Monday, April 16, 2007

One month to go!!!

So here I am, in the final stretch of my service. One month from today I will be boarding a train from Kiev and waving good bye to Ukraine. It's hard to believe that my service is almost over. It's been an amazing time here and I've learned a handful of important life lessons that now I will no share...
1) When a pack of street dogs start heading toward you... maintain direction and and gradually pick up your pace of walk. Any changes may startle them... but always remember, sometimes there is just nothing you can do. Some little boogers will just bite you! (Ask my friends Theresa or Tristan)
2) Take advantage of running water... SHOWER IMMEDIATELY! You may never know when the water will come back.
3) Always bring your MP3 Player to the Internet club or you too can have the real life simulation of being in the middle of a battle say in downtown Bahgdad with all the gunfire, carcrashes and yelling all around. I forgot mine today and let me tell you kicking myself for it.
4) Surround yourself with and eclectic and colorful group of people. When you are in a funk at least one of themany personalities will find a way to de-funk you... or they will just tell you their funny baba story of the day at least!
5)Always wear comfy shoes... I know the knee high stelletto leather boots with silver chains and rhinestones are very popular ladies, but really, when faced with a dog situation as in lesson 1, they are not conducive to a run...

Well that's all for now!!! I've gotta catch the last marshrutka back to the village. I leave Kiev May 16th and will be in the USA June 2nd!!! I can't believe it! See you all soon!

Monday, February 26, 2007

And the SuperBowl Commentator is.... BORIS BECKER?!?!?

So now that I'm back at site I shall report back to you all on the Close of Service (COS) Conference. Myself and 6 other volunteers set off on Jan 31st for the 30+ hour ride on the Trans-Ukrainian train, Lughansk to L'viv. While the ride was enjoyable and filled with good company, it really was a doozie and by the end we all started to become a bit stir crazy. Then on SuperBowl SUnday we rented an apartment in L'viv that had satalite and hoped that one of the channels had the superbowl. With special help from Mike (the most determined to watch the Superbowl) who went to the internet to find the international listing for channels to show the superbowl, we finally found a channel that was airing the game. And though the infamous commercials that we all love were not shown there was an alternative for the humor that the commercials bring... Boris Becker was the commentator. That's right, Boris Becker the German Tennis Pro, has recently become such an American Football conosieur that he was appointed commentator for this international event... Of course we had no idea what he was saying because the broadcast was on a German Channel but still he brought a smile to our faces. We suddenly stopped rooting for the Colts or Bears and only for... BORIS BECKER!!!!! GO BORIS GO!!!!

Well after staying up all night to watch the superbowl we hoped on a local train to bring us to the conference at 7am. THe conference site was beautiful and let me tell you, after staying at less than comfy accomodations throughout peace corps service, Peace Corps really sends you out with style at the end. We went horseback riding, skiing, and sauna-ing (I know that's not a verb in English but it is in Russian!!!). The hotel even had a whole family of Sheep!!! to add to the rustic and beautiful carpathian scenery.... It was a big success. Now i'm in the final stretch and I'll be home soon! Take Care!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

So my kids skip school!

I've come to the realization that it's okie in Ukraine for kids to skip school. This morning I was heading to the internet to do some serious financial aid apps online and I enctountered three of my 9th grade girls going to the bazaar to by gifts for the boys in thier class because tomorrow is Men's Day... Actually tomorrow used to be the soviet soldier holiday but since that no longer exists it has been readapted into men's day... I mean if international Women's Day (by international, I mean only celebrated in the former soviet countries) is March 8th we shouldn't leave the men out of the holiday equation. And while I'm at the computer club about to start this entry, my 11th grade student Ira comes up to me. Apperently she has computer class at the club at 12 on thursdays. I inquired as to what they are doing. Basic Word processing... the same thing they do at school every week and the computer teacher offers lessons after school as well. Now I really like all the girls I encountered this morning. The three from the 9th grade were all at my camp and Ira is a really sweet nice girl but apparently going to school is not a requirement for graduation. And they wonder why they have discipline with their students in class and why so many kids don't go to school. At least Ira was participating in some form of aneducational activity.

Life here is good. 3 months to go! I'm a bit sad that my service is coming to a close. I've made so many great friends and work with some wonderful people but at the same time I'm ready to move on to the next phase of my life. The applications for law schools are out and now I'm going through the fun process of applying for financial aid. BIG MONEY!!! NO WHAMMIES!!! I'm channaling my love for Press Your Luck in hopes that the powers that be will look favorably upon me. I mean, I fall way below the poverty line. So far below, that a limbo contest can not compete.

Winter has finally arrived with it's -15C today (that's about 5 degreesF). I was starting to think that I was serving in Peace Corps Georgia rather than Ukraine. Well, Hopefully I won't be as deliquent in the future with my blog over the last few months. Take care all and my estimated date of arrival is June 2nd!!!!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Apparently, Mayonaise is a vegetable

So this latest tid-bit of knowlege came to my attention as I was teaching a lesson on nuitrition with my new co-teacher Dina Anatoliyevna. We were analyzing our dialy diet according to the food pyramid... you know, how many servings of vegetables does a bowl of borsh have... or complaining that one spoon of sugar in coffee is really all you should have not 2 or 3 and arguing about the size of the spoon is actually much larger than recommended for the serving size... My teacher, who is a wonderful woman, answered my rhetorical question to the students 'now what group is Mayonaise in?'. She quickly responded 'it's a vegetable cuz I buy Olive flavored mayonaise.' So a new light has been shed on the nature of the Ukrainian diet.... Yum!

So just a recap of Camp East Extreme... It was a super experience... I thought it went really well. We had to deal with a crazy camp site director who screamed at me at how loud our students were at 12 o'clock at night and as result woke up the already sleeping camp because our campers were apparently being really loud... Hmmmm... well we had lessons in Civics, Leadership, Model UN, Sports, Debate, and Ecology. Everyone seemed to really like it and the kids are all doing community projects and teaching other people about being good leaders and empowering others for the future. Of course their were some gliches but for our first camp we over came things rather well and there were no tears... All went well... Thank you everyone for your warm wishes and blessings. It was great to know that I had support comming to me and my team from all over the world! I love you all and only 8 and a half months to go!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Life after Americans Attack the Novo-E!!!

Well, I would say that my parents visit went well... They all got back in one piece... I think... and Kay seemed healthy when she left. There were no major food poisonings and none of our trains broke down... Hey, we even had water in my village while they were here. They might all think that I'm the biggest liar but Ukraine really was on its best behavior while they were here!
The trip to the Novo-E was interesting considering we took a bus (a bit different then I had originally invisioned but hey I'm flexible!) We spent 2 days here and they bonded with my Host family and friends making piroshkies and watching the world cup. Unfortunately, because I was the only one that spoke both English and Russian I had difficulties finding time to even go to the bathroom...
The next leg was Kyiv... which was a bit calmer and we only did the big sights and had some yummy food. The family recooperated from the train ride to kyiv by relaxing on the Volunteer's lounge plush couch ( a favorite past time of volunteers) while yours truly had a bit of work to do. We went to the Lavra (it's like the vatican of orthodoxy) and saw all sorts of beautiful churches as well as strolling along Kreshataik in the evening (another PCV favorite pasting because it's FREE!!!)
Then onto Lviv... the only city in Ukraine not to be demolished by the bolshevicks, Nazis or Soviets. I think the fam will agree with me that it is like a completely different country. After some hastle at the train station, we met up with one of my closest friends Christine and her family for a day strolling and taking in the sites. I had only been to Lviv once before so this was rather new for me too! Then our small crew (Christine's and my fam) met up with another PCV's family for a scruptious dinner at Veronica's. $55 a family, gotta love that exchange rate!
The next day Jeff's family (the family we met for dinner) went on to Krakow together. We had a great time there and the city is magnificent... It really was the highlight of my trip!!! Of course we all met to watch the Ukraine World Cup game in this really cool underground lounge. We stayed at this awesome hotel (thanks Mira and Andrey for the recommendation;). It was a good three days there and we could really spend some quality time there. I'm almost glad that Mom forgot when their flight was cause it meant another day in Krakow!!! And you know the people there are really nice! It was great for me too because most of the younger people speak English and the older people speak a bit of Russian (gotta love those imperailistic Languages!)
Then it was on to Rome!!! We primarily did the Vatican but i was super hyped just to be in Western Europe and I love Rome!!! I don't think we had enough time there for Mom, Dad and Kay to really appreciate it but I certainly did!!! We saw soooo much in the Vatican Museum and it nearly wasn't everything... but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly!

But most importantly it was spending time with my family the most. I think that they can now understand more about my work and experience here. But you would have to ask them... I just had the pleasure of observing... Thanks Mom, Dad and Kay for a great trip. The time will surely fly by till the end! Now it's back to work and finishing the summer... which went by way to fast but only 9 and a half months to go!!! I will write about the camp soon... I promise!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What is Charity?

A recent event on Easter weekend got me thinking... what is charity? Is it giving money to every person on the street that asks? Is it donating a spare hour of your life every week to the local hospital or retirement center? Is is it devoting 27 months of your life to educating youth? I think they are all forms of charity. All are commendable in some way and all are necessary as well. But who gets to decide what type of charity is more valuable or important that the others?

After Easter Mass, my friend Christine and I went out for a holiday meal at, you won't believe it, TGIFriday's in Kyiv. Now this is not a normal excursion considering one lunch there is 10% of our monthly allowence. However it was a holiday and we planned to splurge a little. We were chatting on the corner before entering the restaurant finishing our drinks before entering, when a street man came up and asked for money. We politely smiled but did not give him any money and he went on his way. This is a normal occurance for English speakers in Kyiv. Well after he left a Brittish man walked around us mumbling just loud enough for us to hear that we were dispicable, had no understanding of charity and how we were comparable with a few bad words. He obviously was not a PCV and was wearing high end euro-fashion which also led me to believe that he is either a wife hunter or an Ex-Pat living the Ex-Pat lifestyle in a big glamourous city.

That got us thinking though? What really is charity? I think that Christine and I were a bit shocked that someone would have such audacity to criticize another without even knowing them. If he had chosen to give the man a griven or not (which is about $.20) I would have thought no more or less of him. In my opinion personally, time is much more valuable than money and though this particular man might not agree with me I think his solution to the worlds hunger and economic issues of merely throwing money at it is only a temporary fix. We give the man some money, and he gets a one piece of bread. Where is the sustainability in that? Yes, it was a good thing to do and it may give that rich british ex-pat some warm fuzzies for a moment. But after those wear off... what became of the hungry man? Is he still hungry? Probably. He probably never consedered that rather then perpectuate the beggar cycle, that is so prominent in this culture, that his time, or at least his money, may be better spent elsewhere? I guess you can call what he did philanthropy and all philanthropy needs a financial backer at some point, but it starts with an idea or goal that attracts the financial backer. It's not just a one time thing that gives you a fleeting moment of warm-fuzzies but a challenge that takes time and energy on top of money, and in someway benefits all the parties involved.

So what's the answer to the man asking for money... maybe help him locate the nearest soup kitchen or mission? that way he always knows where to go for a warm meal and not just one lousy piece of bread.

Just a thought from the Eastern Front...