НІЖИН

Yesterday (Saturday) we got to skip our cross-cultural class in favor of taking a day trip to the city of Nizhen, the hometown of our technical trainer Katerina. I think traveling is much more cross-cultural than sitting in a room full of Americans talking about culture anyways : )

We took the train to Nizhen, so me and my cluster-mates met at the bus stop in Kolychivka bright and early so we could get to Chernihiv, where the train was leaving from at 8:30. I thought I’d left enough time to get to the bus stop, but as I was walking there my cell phone started vibrating in my purse. I fumbled to get it out and answer, and then Andy was asking me where I was. I was two minutes away, but the bus was already at the stop! So I ran the rest of the way, and the bus waited for me. It was a little bit too close for comfort! The rest of the trip went as planned though. We met with our link (another cluster that we have class with once a week) in Chernihiv, and set off for the train station.

When we got to the station (or Вокзал, in Ukrainian), the first thing I noticed was the hammer and sickle underneath the sign on the building. Its so interesting to find remnants of the USSR in Ukraine, and all the buildings that are more than 20 years old (as in, pre-1990s) have tell-tale signs of Ukraine being a former soviet state. Today Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine, but all the old buildings have signs written in Russian. To this day, most of the large cities in Ukraine speak Russian, while only villages and cities in the west speak Ukrainian. It can be hard when I go to the city for Internet, because even when I order food or ask for directions, people respond in Russian. Hopefully my permanent site will be a location where Ukrainian is spoken… otherwise, I guess I’ll be learning Rusian too!

In the train station, we got to practice our language skills by each buying our train ticket in Ukrainian. I got off easy though, because I was the fifth person in a line of Americans to go and the lady already knew where I was going before I asked : ) Once we all bought our tickets, we went outside and found the right train and got on. The train was packed, and not one seat was open in our car. So we all stood in the aisles, wondering if this was normal. I asked Natalia, and she said busy morning trains are often jammed packed with standing room only. She said you have to get there early if you actually want a seat. We made the most of it though, and Janira and I talked with Michelle, who is from our link cluster, about how training in Chernihiv is going. Michelle is training to be a university English teacher, so she’s had a lot different experience than we have had teaching in the secondary school! Here’s a picture of Janira and Michelle, so you can see exactly how crowded our train was : )

The train finally started moving, and after a couple stops enough people had got off the train that there was room to sit down. I ended up sitting by Sabina, who is the new language trainer for our link group in Chernihiv. She’s from Crimea (southern Ukraine, on the Black Sea), and was so interesting to talk to! She asked where I had traveled before, and I told her about Egypt. She asked if I spoke Arabic, and I told her a little bit. She told me that her father is trying to learn Arabic and that it’s a really hard language to study. I asked her why her father wants to know Arabic, and she ending up explaining her heritage to answer my question.

Ethnically, Sabina is a Crimean Tatar, which is much different from being Russian or Ukrainian. Tatars have a long history in Crimea, and are Muslims, whereas most Russians and Ukrainians follow the Orthodox Church, or at least they did before the USSR decided religion was a threat to the socialist identity. Today in Ukraine there is freedom of religion, but back in the days of the USSR, religion was outlawed. In the USSR’s quest to purge the empire of religion, many people who refused to recant their religious views were either tortured or forced into exile. Sabina told me about many horrible forms of torture used to make people recant, such as being chained standing in water up to the waist for days, without being allowed to sleep, eat, or even sit. She also told me that before she was born, when Ukraine was still part of the USSR, her father and his family (who were practicing Muslim Tatars) were forced into exile in Kazakhstan. She and her sisters were born in Kazakhstan, but when the USSR fell and Ukraine declared independence, her parents moved back to Crimea where she has lived for most of her life. It was a fascinating story, and I enjoyed getting to know her better. Here is a picture of us in Nizhen!

In Nizhen we spent the day walking around, seeing the town and its monuments, and visiting schools. We started out at the House for Children, where parents can pay to have their children go for extra lessons in music, art, English, etc. Katerina teaches English there when she’s not training Peace Corps volunteers, so it was nice to see what her life is normally like. We sat in on a class of 4 and 5 years olds learning words like “ball, doll, car, lorry, etc.” (In case you’re wondering, “lorry” is a word used in Britain for trucks. Don’t even get me started on another British English rant!)

After seeing the school, we went outside and got to watch a reenactment of Cossacks sword fighting. It was a blast, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed the sword fighting more than I enjoyed touring the school ; ) We whipped out our cameras like a bunch of tourists, and took pictures of the fight. I told Janira and Tammela that I thought one of the Cossacks was cute, only to find out he spoke English and heard. Something like this could only happen to me : ) After the fight was over, he showed us all the traditional weapons Cossacks used to fight, and offered to take pictures with us. I even got to hold the saber    : )

Our last stop in Nizhen was at the university where Katerina studied English, and it was beautiful. The weather was also cooperating, so we enjoyed being outside in the nice fall weather. We took pictures of the campus and explored the grounds surrounding the school, and just enjoyed spending time together. I really do like my cluster-mates, they’re pretty great people : ) And our link cluster is a lot of fun too, so I’m glad they came too! Here is a picture of the ladies of our link. From left: Michelle, Tammela, me, and Janira.

Next Saturday our cluster is headed to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. So we’ll be doing a lot of traveling this week! An interesting linguistic note: Kiev is pronounced “Keev” to Ukrainians, while only Russians (or foreigners) pronounce Kiev “Key-ev.” Seeing that I’m learning Ukrainian, I’ll pronounce it “Keev.” : ) I think its really interesting how even pronunciation can be an issue of nationalism; even how one says the name of the capital says something about political allegience… hmm. Food for thought : )

All my love!

-KB

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James Bond and TV in Ukraine

I’m typing this blog entry sitting on the couch with my host parents, watching a James Bond movie dubbed in Russian. There are no subtitles, but I’ve seen enough James Bond movies at home on the couch with my own father to know what’s going to happen next. This one is From Russia With Love, which is ironic because A) I’m watching it in Russian and B) I’m pretty close to Russia here in Ukraine! Tonight my homework for Ukrainian is watching an hour of T.V.—pretty fun homework! But half of the channels on the TV here are in Russian, so I’m not really learning any Ukrainian sitting here. So I’m working on my blog instead : )

My host mother just asked what I’m doing on my computer and I showed her this word document I’m typing on. I’ve tried to explain the idea of a blog to her, but she’s never heard of it before and I probably don’t do a very good job explaining it. Here in Kolychivka computers aren’t very common, and there is no Internet. Anya has heard of email (she calls it “electronika poshta”), so I tell her I’m writing emails on my computer and saving them for when I have Internet.  I do this pretty often too, so between writing blog entries and actual emails, she probably thinks I’m writing a book.

Anya has had enough of James Bond, and she tells Victor to change the channel to what we’ve been waiting for all evening. This family dynamic is so similar to the one in my real home that I can’t help but smile—my Mom gets sick of James Bond pretty quickly too : ) And tonight girl power gets Victor to change the channel to our favorite Friday night show.

Friday night is actually the only night I look forward to watching T.V. here. Why, you ask? Because there is one show that I can enjoy no matter how much Ukrainian I understand—Танцють Всі! It translates to it “Dance everyone!” and is kind of like American Idol in the US, only with dancing instead of singing. After a couple dances, a panel a judges critiques their performance and a number flashes on the screen so you can call in and vote for the couple you liked the best. Tonight I was tempted to call in, not because I loved the dance routine, but because one couple used a favorite song of mine to dance to! It was “The Dog Days are Over” by Florence + the Machine (who I was introduced to by my awesome little sister), which was also in the movie Eat, Pray, Love this summer with Julia Roberts (crappy movie, but a great soundtrack!). You can listen to it here on Youtube if you want to hear it for yourself : )

One of my friends in my cluster, Tammela, also watches Танцють Всі with her host family, and we get so excited for Friday nights. At the end of class today, she pointed out that it was time for Танцють Всі and I was so pumped! Other nights I watch TV with my host family just to be sociable and get out of my room, but I don’t usually understand much. So I look forward to watching this dance show where I don’t have to know any Ukrainian to enjoy it! Tonight Танцють Всі impressed me twice—first, with the “Florence + the Machine” song, and then with Super Mario Brothers! One couple used the theme song and dressed up as Mario and the Princess, and it was hilarious. It made me think of when Heath and I were little and we used to play Super Mario Brothers on his Nintendo. Back in the good ol’ days before Playstations, when we fought over who got to be Mario and who got to be Luigi. Oh the memories : )

The last week I’ve had a little bit of free time, and I got to Skype with my Mom and Dad twice! It was so great to see their faces and talk instead of trying to find the 2 feet of space in my village where I get decent phone reception. My Dad woke Tori up too so she could say hi (the time difference means we usually talk in the early morning for them, and the late afternoon for me). I also got to see Leo and Sophie on Skype, which is fun but not as satisfying as seeing them in person because all you see is big black blobs scurrying past the camera. Dad got Leo to stand up on his back legs to say hi, but Sophie wasn’t bright enough (or dumb enough, depending on how you look at it) to let Dad help her stand up and look at the camera. I miss those big balls of fur. Mom said Sophie got her winter coat and is all soft now, and I wish she was here in Ukraine to keep me warm! Sophie gives the best hugs : ) I love Skype; it makes living abroad so much more bearable when you can see people you love at home and know for sure that everything is fine there. Talking on the phone isn’t the same as seeing them : )

This week was fall break in Kolychivka, so the students didn’t have school all week. Which meant no lesson planning for us! I knew I was going to love being a teacher!  ; )  Starting next week I’ll be teaching more lessons and spending more time getting tutored in Ukrainian, so I’m glad we got a little bit of a break before then. Right now, my cluster mates and I study Ukrainian 4 hours a day together, and then each get tutored an hour on our own with the language trainer once a week. But at the end of PST (Pre-Service Training) we have a Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) that we have to score at least an “Intermediate-Mid” on, so starting next week we each get tutored for two hours in order to prepare for the LPI. Its not the end of the world if we don’t score “Intermediate-Mid;” if anyone is below this level, the Peace Corps just assigns you a tutor at your site so you can continue your language study. I want a tutor to help me study even if I pass Intermediate-Mid!

The LPI is pretty basic—each Peace Corps Trainee has an interview with a Language trainer and, based on the conversation skills the trainee demonstrates, is placed into a category. We have two mock interviews with our own language trainer as we get closer to the end of training, so I’m sure we’ll all be ready for it when the time comes. I’m surprisingly not stressed out by this : ) I guess its because I know what’s going to happen; its not something uncertain hanging over my head that I have no power to change. I know the LPI is coming, when it’s coming, and how to prepare for it (studying A LOT!). So it doesn’t really stress me out like many other things Peace Corps-related.  The Peace Corps favorite word is “flexible;” every time something is done last minute or not explained at all, they just say “be flexible! It’s a core Peace Corps virtue!” and expect that to make everything okay. In my book, “flexible” is the new “f” word. But I’m trying here, that’s got to count for something, right? : )

Tomorrow morning we’re going to Nizhen for the day, and I have to leave at 7. So that means I should be in bed now instead of pondering the mysteries of the Peace Corps universe. I’ll save that for another day.

Much love to you all!

-KB

Food Update

I skimmed through my blog entries today and realized that I’ve only written one entry about food, and much of it was devoted to new foods I don’t necessarily enjoy. So this blog entry is going to rectify this imbalance by focusing on all the excellent Ukrainian food I’ve been eating here. I thought it was unfair that you have only heard about the 1% of strange foods I’ve tried, and not the 99% of great home-cooked meals my host mother makes!

So the basic staples of a Ukrainian meal are meat and potatoes, in endless variations. The Ukrainian word for meat is “miaso” and I never know exactly what type of meat it is that we’re eating. I know chicken, pork, rabbit, and beef are all popular, and I like almost everything my host mother makes. This week I finally tried liver, and it wasn’t bad. It has a unique taste, but I didn’t mind eating it. The worst part is the aftertaste, honestly. I was burping gaseous fumes the rest of the night!

Every lunch or dinner meal starts with a bowl of soup, either being a chicken-and-potato based soup, or borsch, which is a Ukrainian specialty. I love borsch, and so far its definitely one of my favorite things to eat here. It is made from beets, onions, cabbage, and sometimes meat, with tomato sauce as the base. My host mother promised to teach me how to cook it this Sunday, so I’ll post more details about its ingredients and such next week!

So after a bowl of soup, the main course is served. Like I mentioned before, it usually consists of meat and some form of potatoes. Sometimes my host mother makes macaroni noodles instead of potatoes to mix it up. She also makes a Ukrainian specialty called “Vareniki” that is like a miniature pierogie stuffed with meat and boiled on the stove. Another favorite food of mine is “Malintsi,” which is like what I’d call pancakes at home. Sometimes its just plain malintsi, which you dip in homemade jam. I’ve also had malintsi stuffed with cheese. But my favorite is malintsi stuffed with blueberries, which you dip in sour cream while it’s still hot. I think of it as Ukrainian blueberry pancakes, with sour cream instead of syrup on top. So delicious! (In Ukrainian, you would say “doozay smachno!”) My host brother has his own specialty—potato pancakes! I felt a little bit homesick when he made them and got out the sour cream to dip them in; it reminded me so much of my Dad at home! He always gets potato pancakes at the Fair every year, and I’m sure he would have loved these : )

The last Ukrainian dish I really enjoy is called “Holobsi” which is either cabbage or peppers (I’ve had both variations) stuffed with meat, rice, and onions. Its really flavorful, and I want Anya to show me how she makes it so I can make it at my permanent site when I move in December! I’m never home when she cooks except on Sunday (my only day off) so I need to use all the Sundays I have left to learn how to cook : )

Most days I have to be at school at eight, and I feel bad because Anya is about as much a morning person as I am (which is to say, not at all) and she feels like she has to make me breakfast every morning before I leave. This Saturday I’m going on a day trip to Nizhen, and the bus leaves at 7:20. She’s been insisting on waking up to feed me and see me off, but I begged her to let me make my own breakfast. She finally said okay but didn’t look like she believed me when I told her I could get my own bowl of cereal and make myself tea. I guess we’ll see Saturday if she gets up or lets me manage breakfast on my own!

Next week is Anya’s birthday, as well as Victor’s (her husband). Their birthdays are within a few days in the beginning of November, which is crazy because both of my parents (and my brother!) in America have their birthdays within the first two weeks of November too! I told Anya I want to buy my parents cards in the city and send them in the mail, and she laughed and told me they wouldn’t be there in time.  I told her it’s the thought that counts, and she told me I have to write “sorry its late” in the card too. I think she’s hilarious, and I realized why she likes hosting Peace Corps volunteers—she likes continuing to mother even though her sons have grown up and flown the coop. I’m helping prevent an empty nest with my presence here, lol! To be honest, I really appreciate her, even when she’s mothering me. It makes me feel a little less alone and homesick when I see how much she cares for me and my well-being : )

I want to get her something for her birthday as a surprise, so I’m going to buy something tomorrow on my trip and hide it when I get home. She comes in my room all the time, which is fine, but I’m going to have to be creative if I want it to actually be a surprise : )  I haven’t decided if I will get Victor something, because I have no idea what a Ukrainian man in his 50s would like, to be honest. I have a hard enough time figuring out what to buy my real father, and we don’t have a language barrier in our way! Victor and I don’t talk as much, but he’s always very nice to me. Last week Anya had to go to the city before I left for school, and Victor and my host brother went crazy trying to make me breakfast. I had made a sandwich and told them I was fine, but Vasya (my host brother) insisted I needed an omelet (“Anya always makes you eggs!”) and Victor tried to force a second sandwich on me as I left for school (“Anya will kill me if you leave for school hungry!”) They’re hilarious.

Last week my language trainer came to my house to check on me (it was while I had a cold), and Victor told her I needed to have more time off to spend with them at home. He said the Peace Corps keeps me too busy and he and Anya would like to see me more. I thought this was so kind of him—I didn’t know he liked having me around! But all the happy feelings I was feeling evaporated when he ratted me out, telling Natalia that I needed to see a Peace Corps doctor because I still had a bad cough. They still don’t believe it was just a cold, even now when I’m perfectly healthy. But I always wear my house shoes inside now, so Anya doesn’t worry about me getting sick again : ) Here’s a picture of Anya and Victor, which I took for my Dad because he really wanted to see what my host family here looked like. So I thought I’d share it with you too : )

That’s all I have time to share, but I hope this time my stories about Ukrainian food made you jealous rather than squeamish ; ) Is there anything you want to know about Ukraine? I’m open to suggestions for blog topics, so just let me know if you’re interested in anything particular and I’ll tell you what I know : )

All my love,

Kathryn

More Fun Teaching Moments (And a brief tangent about animals in my village)

For me, the best part of training has been the time spent learning how to teach English in a Ukrainian school. I like my students, and even enjoy lesson planning for the most part. The lack of resources is slightly frustrating, especially when I think of how much time printers save ; ) I think I might invest in one when I go to my permanent site—Merry Christmas to me! Haha, its either that or buy myself a pet, and I think I might have to do that to save my sanity.

I have made a four-legged friend in Kolychivka though, who answers to the name of Rufus. Well, at least he answers to it when we call him that! The name was Andrew’s idea, and it seems to fit him. Rufus is a stray dog that randomly escorts us to school, and sometimes we see him seeing outside of the school letting the little kids pet him. He looks like a German Shepherd mutt, and he has such a sweet temperament. If I had my own place, he would be adopted today : ) But here in Ukraine, dogs are not considered pets the same way as they are in the US… here, when dogs are pets they are tied to a 4 foot chain in the yard and serve as home alarms. Most dogs don’t even get that; most wander the streets as strays. I showed Anya (my host mother) pictures of Leo and Sophie sitting on the couch, and she gasped “They live in the house?!” I tried not to laugh, and I explained that they come and go as they please. I can’t imagine what she’d say if I told her that Leo loves air conditioning and the Sophie’s very favorite thing in the world is going for car rides. I don’t think dogs would ever be allowed to ride in a car in Ukraine. So I decided to keep the extent of my dogs’ spoiling a secret ; )

In my little village, animals are kept for their usefulness. So many people have chickens, rabbits, pigs, and cows. The cow population here is quite large, and the cows seem to have a lot of freedom. In the morning, their owners walk them to the fields across the street, where there is a collective pasture that any cow can graze in for the day. Then around five o’clock everyone stands in the “voolitzias” (roads), and somebody opens the gate to the pasture and all the cows cross the street and go to their homes. I have no idea how the cows know where they live, but they seem to find their way home just fine. Sometimes they stop and graze on the way, so it takes a while for them to all get out of the road. I think its funny to watch, because it can cause a backup in traffic while the cars wait for the cows to get out of the way. Instead of a “Deer Crossing” sign like we have in America, Kolychivka needs a “Cow Crossing” sign. It makes me jealous sometimes when I’m sitting in language class and we hear the cows wandering home but still have two hours of class left : P

Okay, I’m done with the animal tangent. Back to what I wanted to tell you about—the best parts of teaching English here : )

This week Andrew and I taught a lesson to the fifth grade about school vocabulary, with vocabulary words such as school subjects and school locations. The only problem is that the national curriculum in Ukraine teaches British English, which is completely foreign to me as an American. You may think I’m over exaggerating, but I swear that I have never heard of some of the words that I have to teach now. For example: canteen. When I think of this word, I think of a flask for water that you take camping or that soldiers use. In the textbook I’m teaching out of, a canteen refers to a cafeteria. If you asked an American student, “where’s the canteen” at school, I’m sure you’d get a puzzled look. Also different; British English calls “math” maths (yes, with an “s” on the end) and “gym class” PT lesson (meaning, physical training lesson). And I can’t just skip teaching these words, because my students need to know them in order to do the homework! So that’s mildly frustrating. But as I was making the vocabulary list of new words to teach in English and their Ukrainian counterparts, I realized that several of the words were cognates (meaning they sound the same in both languages). For example, Math in Ukrainian = математика (Matematika), and History = історія (istoria). So I knew these words would be easy for the students to learn, as they sound so similar.

Usually we begin our lesson with introducing new vocabulary words, and then do some kind of activity to reinforce the new words and help the students practice saying them. The night before our lesson I was making the vocabulary flash cards for class the next day, and I thought of the game “Memory” where students have to remember where the words are in order to make a match. So I planned on introducing the words in Ukrainian and English, and then taping the words to the board with the word facing the board so the students couldn’t see them. Then the students would have to come up to the board and flip two words over and read them out loud. If the words matched (meaning, if they had both the English and the Ukrainian form of the same word) they got to keep the pair. If not, the words had to be turned back over so they couldn’t be seen, and another kid got to come up and try. On the way to school, I ran the game past Andrew to see if he would mind deviating from our original lesson plan, and he thought it sounded fine. (Andrew’s really easy going, I got lucky having him assigned as my teaching partner!)

So the lesson started as usual, and we introduced the new words. The hardest words for Ukrainian students are the words with the “th” sound (like in the and with), because there is no corresponding sound in Ukrainian. So the word “Math” was tricky for them, and I had them practice putting their tongue between their teeth as they said it. They looked at me like I was crazy, but after the twentieth time trying it, it sounded more “math” and less like “maz.” Oh the little successes : ) After they said all the words correctly, I explained the Memory game and showed them how to do it by flipping over two vocabulary cards, saying both, and seeing if they matched. They got the hang of it very quickly, and soon they were volunteering to come up and try instead of looking scared when we called on them. As more matches were made and there were fewer words on the board, almost every kid had his (or her) hand raised and wanted to come up and try. One kid in the front row was almost falling out of his chair to be called on, and I think it was the most enthusiasm I had seen from so many of them at once! It was a huge success and I’m glad we incorporated it. I’ll definitely use it again seeing how well received it was : )

Another activity that Ukrainian kids love is called “Word Swattor.” Our language teacher Natalia used it with us in our Ukrainian language lessons, so I know it works with any age. Either that, or us Peace Corps trainees are just very young at heart and enjoy kid games to learn vocabulary! ; ) Here’s the gist: you take the vocabulary words and spread them face up on a desk and have all the students crowd around it. Then the teacher says a word, and all the students quickly try to grab the right word. Whoever grabs it first gets to keep it! And it’s good because you have to use your listening and reading skills at the same time to make the connection between the word and its written form. I observed a lesson by a fellow Peace Corps trainee (Tammela) who used “Word Swattor” with her eighth grade class, and it was a huge hit with them. So when Andrew and I were lesson planning for another lesson, he suggested using “Word Swattor” too and I agreed. We have 12 students in the fifth form (grade), so we made two sets of vocabulary cards, and we split the class up and he played with half and I played with the other half. The fifth graders were crazy about it, and the little boys got so excited that they had their hands up and hovering over the words while I tried to read them. Andrew had his group keep their hands on the edge of the desks until he said the word, which was smart. After the kids got the hang of it, I started saying the word in Ukrainian, and the students had to snatch the English equivalent. It made it more challenging, but this way they had to stop and think instead of just make mad grabs for whatever looked right. I love that I get to teach kids young enough to play games like this; it makes class so much more fun! Although I wouldn’t mind teaching some higher grades that can study more in-depth topics… maybe at my permanent site I’ll get to teach a variety of grades. I would love to be able to do English literature and country studies of different places that speak English (US, Great Britain, Australia, etc). I hope this is the case : )

That’s all for now, but I found out that I’m able to get mail during training! Just flat envelopes (as in letters or cards)—no packages. So if you’re feeling inspired, send me some snail mail! Here’s the address:

U.S. Peace Corps/Ukraine
PCV Kathryn Baus, Group 39
111A Saksahanskoho Street 01032
Kyiv, UKRAINE

Saturdays Are The Best Days

Why are Saturdays the best days, you might ask? Because it’s the one day a week that I get Internet access! And I get to read all the lovely emails and blog comments from you, my encouraging readers. : ) I now have the freedom to travel to the city whenever I want, but unfortunately, I don’t have the freedom to make my own schedule. And the current schedule dictates that I am booked until at least 5 or 6pm, and Anya (my host mother) always waits on dinner for me. And since leaving the house after dark is a no-no, I have no time for the city until Saturday : ( Its kind of frustrating, but I know I’ll have more freedom after training is over!

Today after I spent some quality time on the Internet, me and my fellow cluster mates went to see some cave churches that were founded almost 1000 years ago. We went with our link mates (Peace Corps trainees we meet with once a week for “link” days) and some of their university students who wanted to show us all the historic sites of the city. Our link mates are people who have masters degrees and are training to be English teachers at the university level. They are all older in age, ranging from 25-45. So their university students were closer in age to us PC trainees from my cluster (we’re all 22-24 years old) than we are to our link mates!  We had a great time seeing the city with them, and the highlight for me was climbing to the top of an old bell tower and watching monks from the monastery ring the bells. It was so loud standing there next to the bells as they rang, but such a fun experience! I felt like my whole body was vibrating along with the bells. I took a video of it, and I’m hoping my blog has enough space for me to upload it here! (My fingers are crossed). Well, its not working today : ( I’ll try to upload the video another day, so for today you’ll just get a picture of the bells : )

From the top of the bell tower we had an incredible view of the neighboring church, as well as a great panoramic view of the city of Chernihiv. I loved seeing these sites with our new Ukrainian friends, who took so much pride in showing us the beauty of Chernihiv. I’m glad I went!

I wasn’t sure if my host mother would let me leave the house this morning, as I currently have a cold. Its nothing serious, but she’s very concerned. She blames my cold on me not wearing my house shoes, and insists on me drinking tea with honey every hour to warm me up. I’m fine with this part of the deal! I like tea and honey! The harder part has been her insisting that I not shower until I get better. She thinks taking a shower will make me sicker, which is kind of funny because if I was home in America, my Dad would tell me that a nice hot shower would clear my sinuses : ) Oh the joys of living cross-culturally. I humored her the first time she said no, but today is day 3 without a shower and I think tomorrow I will beg if it comes to that. I’m okay with 2 days without a shower, but 3 days is stretching it. And 4 days… that’s just nasty : P

Is it cold in America yet? I had to break out my winter jacket today for the first time : ( I’ve been wearing my warm fall jacket, but its getting crisp here and my host mother insisted that I wear the warmest jacket I have. I hope you guys have warm fall weather longer than we did here!

Much love to you all.

Sunflower Club

The school in Kolychivka has an after-school club called the “Sunflower Club” where students go to learn about other countries and cultures. The vice-principal is in charge of the Sunflower Club, and she asked us PC trainees if we would come and share about our home states and what they are like. My cluster-mates are from New York, California, Michigan, and Massachusetts, so we all had different places to talk about. The day arrived that we were supposed to speak in Sunflower Club, and we all had lessons to teach that morning. So after lunch we had our technical trainer Katerina help us translate a few phrases into Ukrainian about what our home states were famous for, and we tried not to worry about saying the words wrong or not being able to answer the questions the students had for us. I was kind of dreading Sunflower Club, as we didn’t have much time to prepare and I didn’t know what to expect. So after school we congregated in this room with a huge sunflower smiley face thing on the wall, and I tried to look excited to be there. All the kids introduced themselves, and then we gave our quick presentations in Ukrainian. There were a few chuckles from the kids, so I know our Ukrainian wasn’t quite flawless. But after that, they started asking questions and life in the US and Katerina ended up translating for us so we didn’t have to worry about butchering Ukrainian anymore : )

The questions were so interesting! They started out with questions about what school is like in America, and we tried to explain the differences. In Ukraine, students are graded on a 12 point scale and receive marks at the end of every class period. So we talked about our grading system based on letters A-F and how F means you don’t pass. This concept was completely foreign to the students; in Ukraine, there is no such thing as failing or being held back. The students automatically pass to the next form (grade) at the end of the school year, regardless of how well (or poorly) they do in class. They also asked us if everyone had their own cars, and when we started driving. When I said I was 16 when I started driving, the kids were very excited. Here, they have to be 18 to drive. What I loved about the exchange was how we got just as much out of it as they did—they had questions about America, and in asking us, they explained Ukrainian culture to us. I really enjoyed it : )

Towards the end, they asked us what we did for fun in the U.S. All of my cluster mates are super athletic and talked about running and doing yoga and such, so when it was my turn I said “riding horses and listening to music” because it was true, but also because it was different from what everyone else said! Then after Sunflower Club ended, this one little girl came up to Katerina and started talking to her and pointing at me. Katerina beckoned me over, and said that the little girl loved horses too and wanted to meet me. So we talked for a few minutes, with Katerina translating everything I didn’t understand, and I told Seraphima (the little girl’s name) that if she ever comes to the US she can come ride horses with me : ) I’m pretty sure I made her day, and I’m glad I got the chance to meet her at Sunflower Club. She’s in the sixth form (grade) and we don’t teach sixth form, so I wouldn’t have gotten to meet her if we hadn’t spoken at Sunflower Club! At the end we took a picture with all the kids, which I’m including below. Andy, Andrew, and Tammela are standing in the back left, and Janira and I are hunched down at the right end of the front row. Our technical trainer, Katerina, is standing at the far right. Seraphima is in the middle of the front row, wearing a pink jacket.

So the next morning I observed Andy and Janira’s lesson in the seventh form, and on the way out of the classroom after the lesson I almost ran into Seraphima who was waiting in the hallway. She looked really bashful and started talking really fast in Ukrainian and I tried to catch what she was saying. I caught something about horses and something she did last night, but I was pretty much lost. Katerina had come out behind me, and quickly explained that Seraphima drew a picture for me last night of a horseback rider that she wanted me to have because I liked riding horses too. And she took this incredible drawing out of her folder and gave it to me, and hurried away to class as I tried to thank her. I was so impressed with it; it was so detailed and precise! It made me remember how much I loved horses when I was her age, when I first started riding and convinced my parents to buy my first horse  : ) I took a picture of her drawing so I could share it with you and you can see how great an artist she is : ) She even wrote an English inscription, in cursive! Wow! I’ll definitely treasure this gift; it’s in my binder in its own sleeve with all of my teaching materials, and whenever I flip through and see it I smile. I’m pretty sure Seraphima made my week by giving me this drawing… I wish I could express that thought in Ukrainian and tell her!

Click on the pictures to make them larger!