Last Week of PST!

Saturday after our last cross-cultural class, my cluster mates and I took the bus to the next village, Ivanivka, where another Peace Corps training group lives. They were doing their community project and invited us to come watch, so we went to show our support. Their project was a talent show called “Ivanivka’s Got Talent,” and they had kids from their school perform in it. They started the show off by singing “We will, we will rock you!” and they had all the Americans in the audience come and help. It was a blast : ) The talent show went really well, and they had a really big turn out from their village.

For the grand finale, they did this awesome dance routine they made up, but halfway through the routine the backstage guy cut the sound and told everyone the performance was over and it was time to leave. We were all left scratching our heads as to why it ended that way, until afterwards when our friends explained. Apparently Saturday was a day of remembrance for the people who died in the Stalin-engineered “famine” in the 1930s (it wasn’t really a famine, Stalin just chose to withhold food from Ukraine and call it a famine), and therefore it wasn’t an appropriate time to be holding a talent show and having fun. Which is completely understandable, except no one from the town informed the Peace Corps group there that it was a bad day for the event. But apparently someone called the Board of Education and complained, so the Board of Education called the cultural center and told the soundman that the talent show needed to be over. It was an unfortunate ending, but I think all in all the talent show was very successful. I was really proud of the Ivanivka cluster : )

Then on Sunday I had two very special visitors come to Kolychivka! My friends Abby and Lee from Chernihiv, who I went to Kiev with a few weeks ago, came out to visit and see the village. They both live in the city, so seeing a village was a novelty for them. When they arrived I gave them the grand tour of Kolychivka, including sites such as the church, the school, and the 3 little convenience stores. I also pointed out where my fellow cluster mates live, and where we go for language lessons every day. That’s really all there is to see here, so we came back to my house and Anya made a huge lunch for all of us. Lee and Abby are both learning Russian, but Anya speaks Russian fluently as well, so it was no problem. And Anya was thrilled I had friends over, so it was great on all sides : ) It was a really relaxing Sunday, and I’m glad I got to spend it with them!

On Monday, I was finished with class by noon and had the entire afternoon off. So I went to the city to catch up on Skype, and I got to talk to Justin, my best friend from home! It was a great surprise, because we’re never online at the same time. Whenever I have Internet he’s always working, but this morning he had off so we got to see each other on Skype. It was pretty much the highlight of my week : ) I think I’m going to invest in a modem when I move to my permanent site so I can have Internet in my home/apartment. I don’t mind going to the city for Internet, but it would be really wonderful to be able to Skype from my home whenever I wanted! And especially if I end up living alone, I think I’ll definitely need Skype for company. And maybe a cat too. ; )

So this is my last week of training, and my last week in Kolychivka with my cluster-mates and host family. Today (Tuesday) was my last day of Ukrainian language class, because tomorrow I have my LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) with someone from the Peace Corps. Basically, it’s a twenty-minute conversation that determines my language level. I’m not really concerned because I feel pretty comfortable speaking in Ukrainian. And besides, it’s not like you can fail! The goal is to score “Intermediate-Mid;” if your level is lower than this, the Peace Corps assigns you a tutor. If your level is higher, you’re on your own, but free to get a tutor if you want to. And Peace Corps pays for any tutoring, so I think I’ll take advantage of that and continue to work on my Ukrainian!

On Thursday my SDL (I’m blanking on what this acronym stands for… but it’s a Secondary Learning Project type thing) is due. Every PC trainee is supposed to complete a secondary project during training on their own to supplement their language learning, and on Thursday my cluster is doing a show-and-tell session for our SDL projects.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone does! I actually still have to finish mine, but I’ll post the finished result so you can enjoy it too ; )

That’s all I have to say for now… training has gone by so fast! I can’t believe it’s already time to move on. I’m pretty nervous, to be honest. Starting Monday everything changes, and I’m not sure if I want it to. I’ve gotten used to life in Kolychivka, where I teach English classes and go to Ukrainian lessons with friends, and spend time with a wonderful host family. I even have days off to go to the city and have fun (and use the Internet!), so it really hasn’t been a bad deal. But next week I’ll move to a new place, where I won’t know anyone… I’ll just leave it by saying I’m less than excited.

It’s also weird to think that it’s Christmas time at home… I busted out the Christmas music this week, but it feels wrong to play it knowing I won’t really be celebrating Christmas this year. Christmas is in January here in Ukraine, so no one is talking about it yet. And an interesting fact for you about Ukraine: here, New Years is celebrated with a Christmas tree instead of Christmas! Isn’t that random? I hope someone in my new town/village/city (I don’t know which it will be) invites me home with them so I can see a genuine Ukrainian Christmas. Then this season won’t feel like such a complete bust… I’m also considering spending (American) Christmas (December 25th) with fellow Peace Corps friends. It all depends on where I end up living, and how far away said friends are : /  So when I think about the future right now, its not too bright. But maybe I’ll end up living in a fantastic site, near some PC friends, and everything will be great. But I’m trying not to have any expectations so I won’t be disappointed with where I end up. So this weekend I need to do all my packing, because Monday morning I’m headed to Kiev to swear-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and move onto my permanent site! I can’t believe it’s finally here!

All my love.



Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary

Did you know that 2011 is Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary? I didn’t know this until the Country Director in Ukraine told us, so I thought I’d share this interesting tidbit with you. And here are some cool facts about Peace Corps too!

  • The FIRST group of volunteers, 51 strong, arrived in Ghana on August 30, 1961.
  • Since 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps.
  • 7,671 volunteers were serving in the summer of 2010 in the Corps.  In 1966, there were more than 15,000 in the field.
  • The Peace Corps’ operating budget this fiscal year is $400 MILLION, about 1% of the federal government’s foreign-operations budget.
  • Peace Corps volunteers here been trained in more than 250 local languages.
  • 60% of ACTIVE Corps members are women.
  • Today, the Corps works in 77 Countries Over its history, the organization has served in 139 nations.
  • Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did a Peace Corps stint teaching math in Swaziland.
  • More than 60 universities including Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Virginia, participate in the master’s international program, which combines a tour in the Peace Corps with a master’s-degree curriculum.
  • SIX current members of congress-Senator Christopher Dodd as well as FIVE Representatives-are returned volunteers.
  • 28% of applicants to the Peace Corps are subsequently invited to serve. 7% of Peace Corps volunteers serve with their spouse.
  • The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 28.  14% are over the age of 30 while 7% are over 50.
  • The oldest volunteer in Peace Corps history was Arthur Goodfriend of Honolulu, who was 87 when he completed his second tour in Hungary in 1994
  • The oldest current volunteer is 86 and working in Morocco

These facts came from this article, if you’re interested in finding out more! (

Kiev, Part 3

So today on my day off, I found myself making the trip to Kiev for the third time in less than three weeks. Why, you might ask? Because I have a freaking ear infection. I felt it coming on Friday, but when I woke up Saturday I knew it wasn’t going to go away. So after class on Saturday I called the Peace Corps doctor and told him I thought I had an ear infection, and could I please take the antibiotics in my medical kit? (When we arrived in Ukraine, the Peace Corps issued us deluxe medical kits, complete with every type of medicine under the sun, bandaids, sutures, sunblock, tweazors, condoms, you name it, it was in there! Some other day I’ll blog about sex education in the Peace Corps… it’s a great story.)

So the doctor was very nice, and he said it sounded like I had an ear infection, but he couldn’t diagnose it without seeing me in person. So today I made yet another trip to Kiev. On the upside, I’m going to be very familiar with Kiev’s public transportation systems! To get to Kiev I need to take a bus to Chernihiv, where I catch a marshrutka (like a microbus) that takes me to the metro on the outskirts of Kiev, which I ride downtown. Then Peace Corps headquarters is only a 10-15 minute walk from there, so its not a bad trip.

I also had company for my trip to Kiev. Kacey, a Peace Corps Volunteer who lived with my host family in the spring during her training, came back to visit for the weekend. It was great to meet her, and one of the girls she trained with also came back to visit Kolychivka. So it was nice to ask them about their Peace Corps experiences thus far, and they had lots of fun stories to share. Jackie (the other volunteer) had really cool dreadlocks, and I was envious of how low-maintenance they are. She definitely rocked the dreadlock look; they didn’t look nasty or smell or  anything. And for a a few minutes, I thought how nice it would be to have hair that didn’t require any effort. But I like my hair most days, and I really am turned off by the fact that you have to cut off your dreadlocks when you get sick of them. You can’t just take them out when you’re tired of the look—you have to cut all your hair off! I don’t think I’m that brave : ) But I really would like to change my hair, so I’m thinking about dying it. Any color suggestions? (And Tori, I already know you’re going to say red. I’m that good : P)

The best part about Kacey’s visit was dinner with Anya and Victor and Kacey Friday night. Anya spent the whole day cooking and cleaning, and she even told me to go clean my room because she didn’t want Kacey to think I was a slob. (Haha—too bad I am!) I got home from school just in time for dinner, so I barely had time to meet Kacey before we sat down to eat. Anya asked us to speak in Ukrainian during the meal, and then we could have the rest of the night to get acquainted in English. And I’m glad she mentioned it! Usually I have no choice but to speak Ukrainian at home, because no one speaks English. But with Kacey there it would have been easy to lapse into English when I didn’t know the right word in Ukrainian. But it wouldn’t have been polite to our hosts to use English, so I’m glad she reminded us to just use Ukrainian : )  And it was a very satisfying feeling, when I got through the whole meal in Ukrainian! It was also bizarre to realize how much Ukrainian I knew; I could ask Kacey where her site was, what she does at her site (she’s doing a Youth Development project, so her work is different than mine), and what her life was like back in the states. I felt like I already had asked all the important questions by the time dinner was over! Usually I’m just frustrated by how many Ukrainian words I don’t know, so it was nice to pause and reflect on how far my Ukrainian could get me. It also made me hopeful that I know enough Ukrainian to survive on my own at my site : )

So today Kacey and Jackie were headed back to their sites, and they had to go to Kiev to catch the train to their city. So we took the marshrutka to Kiev together, and then I headed to PC headquarters to see the doctor. I was early for the appointment, so I hung out in the lounge and took advantage of the wireless internet : ) I also got to meet some current volunteers, but they were all excited about going home for Christmas next month and it just ended up making me sad thinking about how I’ll be here instead of at home. But finally the doctor arrived and it took him less than 10 minutes to look at my ear and tell me I did indeed have an ear infection. He said he wasn’t sure why, as I wasn’t congested or sick in any other way, but my ear was inflamed and he gave me ear drops and antibiotics, in case I ran out of the ones in my medical kit.

I found my way back to Kolychivka fairly smoothly, except for the part where I had to tell the bus driver to let me off at my village. First he was confused that I was speaking Ukrainian (instead of Russian, which he spoke), and then once he realized I was a foreigner, he was really confused about why I would want to get off the bus in the middle of nowhere. He told me we weren’t to the city of Chernihiv yet, but I told him I lived in the village and really wanted to get off. I don’t think he believed me, but at least he stopped the bus and let me get off : )

As soon as I got home and told Anya what the doctor said, she insisted on taking the drops and being in charge of their administration; I just chuckled and went along with it. If it makes her feel better about it, why not? Then my real Mom called to ask what the verdict was, and I told her about having an ear infection with no other symptoms besides pain in my ear. She asked if I had any nausea, and I remembered that I felt sick to my stomach Friday before the actual pain in my ear started. She said it was probably swimmer’s ear, and when she said that all the dots connected. I tried to bucket shower last Thursday, and ended up getting water everywhere trying to get the stupid shampoo out of my hair. At some point I even swallowed some on accident, so I know there’s a good chance that’s how I get water in my ear. It was nice having the mystery solved : ) Moms are so smart! How do they know all the answers?

My bucket shower experience wasn’t fun, but the water was so cold that I didn’t want to submerge my whole body. At least now I know how the general concept works so I can do it if I have to at my site. Before coming to Ukraine, I thought a bucket shower was where you stand in a stall, and water in a container above you, naturally heated by the sun, comes out when you pull on the cord. You can’t use much water, but its very similar to an actual shower. Well, in Ukraine, a bucket shower is where you stand in a tub, and use a cup to pour water from a bucket over your head and body. You put cold water in the bucket from the sink, and in order to heat it, you pour a kettle or two of hot water into the bucket, so the end result is tepid water (if you’re lucky). And then it takes tons of cupfuls of water to get your hair completely wet, and even more cupfuls to get all the shampoo out. And the rest of your body freezes while you stand there. (Can you understand why I would consider dreadlocks after this experience? I could save tons of time washing my hair! I could avoid bucket showers! I could look so bad-ass! lol). So my first bucket shower experience resulted in an ear infection; this is a bad sign. Hopefully I’ll get better with practice. For the rest of my time in Kolychivka, I’m just going to enjoy the actual shower in my house. Its not worth the hassle to bucket shower—if my site only has a bucket shower, I’ll figure out how to master it then!

So I’m back in my village and it’s late Sunday night. This week coming up is going to busy! Its my last week teaching at the school here. On Wednesday, I have a “Demo Lesson,” where I’m rated on how well I teach and whether I’ll make a good English teacher in the Ukrainian education system. I’m not too worried because most of my lessons have gone really well; the fifth grade is easy to teach because they are so eager to learn! Then on Thursday Andrew and I teach together for our last class, and we want to do something fun that the students will remember. I don’t know what yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes : ) Thursday is also Thanksgiving, and me and my cluster-mates are cooking and getting together to celebrate. I don’t know what I’m going to cook yet, but I’m glad we’re doing something even though it’s not a holiday that is celebrated in Ukraine.


Happy Thanksgiving to you all… eat some turkey for me : )



Teaching Highlights

I’ve been saving some of the more memorable moments from English class to share with you! Ukrainian kids are hilarious, and teaching English is always an experience. So here goes!

One of my favorites was with the 5th grade (I know teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but 5th grade is my favorite class, hands down), when they were practicing reading. I know I blogged about learning to reading the Cyrillic alphabet, and how the “false friends” trip me up all the time. These are the letters that look the same but make different sounds. The letters B, H, P, R, X, C, and Y make entirely different sounds in Ukrainian. For example, “B” makes a “v” sound, and H = n, P = r, X = h C = s, and Y = oo.

So the concept of “false friends” works the same way for Ukrainian students learning English. They see the letters B, H, P, R, X, C, and Y, but have to learn the English sounds for these words. They see Y and think “oo,” not “yeh.” It’s so interesting to be learning Ukrainian as I’m teaching English to Ukrainian students; I can definitely sympathize with what they’re going through! And the more Ukrainian I learn, the more I’m able to translate what I’m trying to teach in English. Sometimes direct translation saves me a lot of time doing charades and confusing them : )

So here is the funny class moment: One of my shy students was reading with his head completely down, and I was trying to listen to his pronunciation. Ukrainian teachers are very big on error correction—they want you to correct a mistake as soon as it leaves the student’s lips. I don’t really like jumping in and shattering the student’s concentration, and in some cases, confidence, but every week my technical trainer tells me to correct errors immediately as they occur. Needless to say, it’s kind of frustrating. So my student was stuck on the word “ugly.” There is no “u” or “g” in Ukrainian, so I helped him with the “ug” part. He thinks for a minute, and then finally says “ugloo.” And it sounded so funny I had to bite my tongue and not smile, but as I was thinking about it later, I realized it was a false friend that had tripped him up. He got the “ugl” part of the word, but when it came to the “y,” he read a Cyrillic “y,” which makes an “oo” sound.” Hence; “ugloo.” I understand how false friends work, and I can sympathize. They mess me up all the time too! I wonder how often Natalia wants to laugh at how we pronounce/butcher Ukrainian!

Okay, so I just re-read that paragraph and it isn’t as funny written down as it was in person. Oh well, pretend like you think its funny anyways. The next story I have is genuinely funny (I hope). Me and my cluster mates from Kolychivka went into the city of Chernihiv to watch our friends, Michelle and Chris, teach a university class. FYI: When you join the Peace Corps TEFL program (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), volunteers with a bachelors degree teach in secondary schools (anywhere from 4th-11th grades) while volunteers with a masters degree teach in universities. After seeing how fun the university class was, Tammela and I agreed that we should have gotten our masters degrees and then joined the Peace Corps—the university classes would be so much more fun to teach! Well, not exactly more fun, but definitely more advanced—you’d be able to teach so much more to these classes, because they understand English very well. Most of the time in my secondary classes I need to give a Ukrainian translation just so the students understand my directions!

So Michelle and Chris were teaching their class about London. They read a text about the city and where things were located, and then they had the students work together to draw a poster of the city. After they finished their poster, the students were asked to present it and explain where things were located. One girl was explaining about the theater, and the pub located next to it. Michelle asked her, “what is a pub?” and she answers, “it’s a café for alcoholics!” It was hilarious, and I definitely laughed out loud when she said it. And she was so serious, I’m not sure she even realized why it was funny. And while I met quite a few alcoholics at the pubs in Ireland, I’m pretty sure people who aren’t alcoholics like to hang out there as well ; )

And this brings us to the last funny teaching moment. At the root of this issue is my name and how I want students to address me. In America, teachers go by Miss/Mrs. _____ (last name). Calling a teacher by their first name is not appropriate. In Ukraine, teachers go by their first name and patronymic name. The patronymic name is derived from the father’s first name. For example, the Ukrainian English teacher in Kolychivka is called “Olexsandra Vasilivna.” Her father’s name was Vasya, so the patronymic version of his name is “Vasilivna.” All of her students and colleagues address her as “Olexsandra Vasilivna;” you must use both names to be polite.

So originally, I thought I would try to adapt to Ukrainian culture by using my first name and patronymic name when I taught. That was until I realized what my patronymic name was! My father’s name is Greg, so my patronymic name is something like “Gregovina.” And the Ukrainian version of Kathryn/Kate is “Katerina” or “Katya,” so my patronymic name is either “Katerina Gregovina” or “Katya Gregovina.” And besides being a mouthful, I don’t think I’d remember that someone saying “Katerina Gregovina” was talking to me! I respond to “Katya” now, 80% of the time, but I don’t really want students calling me by my first name anyways. I’m definitely at the younger end of the spectrum, as most teachers in my school are middle-aged. So having students call me by my first name would make me feel even younger and less of an authority figure.

And I think the bottom line is that I’m an American here teaching English—I’m not Ukrainian. I love learning about culture and I try my best to adapt, but living here won’t change the fact that I’m American. And the reason I’m here teaching is because Ukrainian schools requested American Peace Corps volunteers to teach English in their schools. So I introduce myself to my students as “Miss Kathryn.” Ukrainians never refer to each other by family names, so if I asked them to call me “Miss Baus” I’d really confuse them. I didn’t really want to use “Miss Kate,” because only close friends call me Kate anyways. “Kathryn” feels older, so I think it’s a decent compromise. But Andrew calls me Kate and “Katcha” (I think its his own version of Katya) in class all the time, so I have no clue what they’re going to end up calling me. But as much as I love my Dad, I don’t think I can go by Katya Gregovina! : P

That’s all for now, I hope these teaching moments amused you and helped explain Ukrainian culture a little bit more. They don’t seem as funny written down as they did in person, but oh well. I tried : )


Much love!

Mormons and Moving Out

This week we have shorter Ukrainian language lessons, and as a result, more free time! I taught the 11th grade on Monday with Andy, and now I’m finished with my teaching for the week. So I actually have daylight hours to spend doing whatever I want, and I’m loving that feeling : )

Today Tammela and I went into Chernihiv to hang out at this Internet café called Два Гуся, which in English means “Two Gooses.” This is pretty much Peace Corps central, and I’ve never been there without running into other PC volunteers. They have great coffee and fast internet, so its always a high priority for me when I’m in the city : ) We met one of our friends from another cluster there, and she had tons of movies to share. This is another popular aspect of Peace Corps life—sharing media! Music, movies, pictures—you name it, we share it. It’s a good thing there are no copyright laws in Ukraine… if we were in America we’d be in trouble : )

After we finished using the Internet (and Skype in my case!) we headed out to catch our bus. As we were walking down the street, these two guys were looking at us (in our backpacks, speaking English—a pretty good indicator!) and said “America!” And looking back at the situation now, I can’t help but laugh that all it takes to have a connection with someone here is to speak English and talk about America! haha. But anyways, these two guys were from America too, so I asked them if they were with the Peace Corps. I’m part of Group 39, which has almost 80 people, and I haven’t even met them all yet. And a week after we came to Ukraine, Group 40 arrived and started training too. I think they have 70 some volunteers, most of which are training in the Kiev oblast (region). So combined, there are more than 150 new PC volunteers training, not to mention the couple hundred volunteers already stationed throughout the country. Random fact: Peace Corps Ukraine is the largest Peace Corps post in the world!

Anyways, back to the story: the answer was no, these guys weren’t PC volunteers. But they were our age, and from America, so I asked—what are you doing here? They answered that they were missionaries, from the Church of the Latter Day Saints. As in Mormon missionaries! And they were nice guys; we talked for a couple minutes and told them about training in the Peace Corps. They live in the city of Chernihiv, and their service is for two years as well, so we had a lot in common.

This is the second run-in I’ve had with Mormon missionaries, and they are genuinely some of the nicest people. During college I went on a mission trip to Mexico to distribute eyeglasses with the Lions Club, and we met some Mormon missionaries there who volunteered to help translate for us. In Mexico, I talked a lot to one of the elders (each missionary goes by the title “Elder _____ [last name]) about the Mormon faith, and the Book of Mormon, and the differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormonism (is that a word?). And it was a really enlightening conversation, one that ended without any hard feelings. What I really love about Mormon missionaries is their sincerity; they are unabashedly sharing their religious beliefs with everyone they meet, traveling all around the world to make a difference and build Mormon churches. I can’t help but respect their straightforward approach. Most of the young men in the Mormon church spend a year or two abroad as missionaries, almost as a rite of passage to adulthood. I wish mainstream Christian churches were more into this kind of service!

At dinner I told Anya about the missionaries, and I asked her if there were any Protestant churches here in Ukraine.  She said she’s never heard of any, and that most Christians here are Eastern Orthodox. There are a few Catholic churches (she says with distaste written on her face) but that’s about it. I was a little disappointed, because I was hoping to find a church once I move to my permanent site. In Cairo I attended an Anglican church whenever I could, and I really enjoyed having church be a part of my routine there. It added a sense of normalcy to life, when nothing seemed normal : )

As we drank our tea after dinner, Anya mentioned that the first Peace Corps volunteer she hosted, Kayce, is coming to visit this weekend. Kayce is kind of famous here in Kolychivka, at least with Anya and Victor! I’ve heard all about Kayce since day one in Kolychivka. For example, she is from California, and is a vegetarian. She is half Mexican (her father is Mexican) and she once cooked an entire Mexican meal for Anya and Victor. She didn’t speak much Ukrainian when she lived here, but Anya says her Ukrainian has improved a lot since she moved to her site. So I feel like I already know Kayce, and I’m looking forward to meeting her in person this weekend. I told Anya I had a lot of questions to ask Kayce when she comes, about life in Ukraine after training.

Anya asked me if I was nervous to move to my site, and I answered her honestly—yes! And then she told me that she was very worried about me. I asked her why, and her answer made me life out loud—“you can’t cook! You need a mother to take care of you.” I laughed and told her I would be fine, so then she insisted on counting all the meals I can cook on one hand, as if to prove her point. I assured her that I would learn to cook more once I had to, and that I would call her for cooking help if I started to starve (fat chance—no pun intended!). She told me I can stay here in Kolychivka with her and Victor, and I told her sincerely that I would love to. Peace Corps doesn’t usually post volunteers in the communities where we train, but living with Anya has been a great experience and I wouldn’t mind staying with them at all. I know in three weeks when I move to my new site I’ll miss them quite a bit!

I told her that all Peace Corps trainees have to move onto new sites, and that they all seem to do well. Both of her previous volunteers (Kayce and Liz) are happily adjusted to their new sites, and I pray that I will adjust too. Anya told me she didn’t worry about Liz or Kayce because they were older than me and knew how to cook. She said something to the effect that Kayce was smarter in the ways of the world than I am (I’m not really sure what that means—is she saying I’m naïve? Or just young?) and she will worry about me a lot. I promised to call, and for now, that’s all I can say. I really have no idea what December will bring, and worrying about it now will do me no good. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Some days it’s harder to accept than others, because my default mode is to stress about it. But I’m just trying to enjoy my final days in Kolychivka with my friends and host family. I can worry about my permanent site when I get there in December and can do something active to change it : )

So if you think of me at all this month, pray that I’ll leave my future where it belongs—in God’s hands, in the future! : )


Much love to you all!



P.S: I was looking up quotes for advice about worry and wisdom and prayer and such, and this one from Teddy Roosevelt hit me like a sucker punch in the stomach: “Let us not pray for a light burden but a strong back.” I shouldn’t be praying, “please God don’t let me get a crappy site,” but more along the lines of “please God let me be strong enough for whatever comes.” So much easier said than done.

Kiev, Part 2

This is another blog post that has to start with a birthday shout-out—so Happy Birthday Elaine Baus! I hope you’re having a wonderful day at home and getting to eat good Japanese food. Know that my stomach here in Ukraine is jealous ; )

Today I went back to Kiev with my friends Lee and Abby, who are Peace Corps volunteers training in Chernihiv. I don’t see them that often, because we are training in different clusters, but whenever I run into them we always talk about hanging out. I met Abby in Washington D.C. at Staging—we were roommates before we came to Ukraine! And I sat by Lee on the flight to Germany, where he tried his best to teach me some Russian. He took Russian in college and is already pretty advanced, but he taught me the basics like “My name is Kate.” (Minya zavoot Katya! I’m impressed I remember that, it was almost 3 months ago!) Lee mentioned that there is a Hillsong church in Kiev, and I told him that I’d be interested in going sometime. Hillsong was started in Australia, and is well-known for having great worship music. I have some Hillsong albums on my iPod, and its good stuff! Abby is also a Christian, and she was excited to go to a church service with us. (The churches in Chernihiv are all Eastern Orthodox and Russian speaking, so all of us have missed Protestant, English-speaking church-services!)

So I saw Abby and Lee last week, and we decided on going to Hillsong before the end of Pre-Service Training. Once we swear in, we move to our permanent sites, and we’ll probably be on opposite sides of the country. I’m learning Ukrainian, so chances are I’ll be heading west towards L’viv, but Lee and Abby are studying Russian so they’ll probably be headed east or south. So we wanted to go to Hillsong together before training ended, but it turned out today was the only Sunday we all have free until the end of training. So today was the day!

I woke up obscenely early (6am!) and took a bus to Chernihiv to meet Abby and Lee. The bus stop is right next to a McDonalds, and I was there a half hour early, so I went inside and treated myself to McDonalds coffee. It made the early morning much more bearable : ) So Lee and Abby and I found the bus to Kiev, and got on. We were talking and getting settled when this guy sat down in front of me and said hi (in English). I said hi back to be polite, but I had no clue who he was. He had a cap on, so I couldn’t really see him that well anyways, but his voice sounded familiar. He started talking to me like he knew me, so I answered, while my brain tried to figure out who he was. And then Lee looks over and says “Sergei! Hey, how are you?” Then recognition came—he was one of the Peace Corps language trainers, who sometimes stops in at our lessons and makes sure we’re being taught well. With the mystery solved, I was very excited to have him on the bus with us. He was great company on the ride to Kiev, and we got to ask him tons of PC related questions that we don’t know the answers to. He shared lots of interesting information, but sadly enough, he couldn’t share with us the secrets of where our sites are! Peace Corps has already determined our site placements, but we will be kept in the dark until swearing-in. I’m not a huge fan of this policy, but I’m trying to be patient : )

So we got to Kiev and took the metro into the city and found our way to the Hillsong church. It didn’t look like much from outside, but a sign saying “Faith. Hope. Love.” (in Russian) let us know we were in the right place.

The services are normally conducted in Russian, but Lee knows Russian well enough to translate. But when the speaker stood up, I realized I wouldn’t need Lee’s translation to understand! The speaker was actually one of the pastors from the original Hillsong church in Australia! So he spoke in English, which was awesome. The message was about how precious children are to God, which was something I needed to hear now that I work with so many kids : ) He also talked about going to Haiti to do humanitarian work after the earthquake, and learning about how child slavery is rampant there. They found out that 80% of the child slaves in Haiti are kept by Christian families, and the Hillsong pastors decided to host an intense week of conferences with all the head pastors of the churches in Haiti to discuss it. He said the conferences went really well, and that the churches there are trying to reform this horrible practice. He said the child slaves are purchased from rural parts of the country and their parents are told they’ll be given better educational opportunities and such in the city, but in actuality they’re sold and treated like dogs. It was really sad, but so good to see the work the Hillsong churches around the world do.

There are many orphans in Ukraine who live in horrible conditions, so the message was very relevant to be sending here—that all children are loved and valued by God, and need to be treated as such. The pastor kept referring to a verse in James that says, (paraphrased) “Pure religion is this—to care after the widows and the orphans in their distress.” I really love that the Hillsong church is concerned with not only preaching the Bible, but also applying it and living it. It was a great service and I’m so glad we went to Kiev to hear it. And it was in English—what a great added bonus! The church itself reminded me so much of big churches in America, complete with huge screens and intense sound and lighting systems. I snuck in a picture, and I’m going to share it with you! This is the pastor from Australia I was talking about.

After church we had lunch with a friend of Lee’s who happened to be Kiev (what a small world) and then we went shopping at one of the largest bazaars in the city. It was a wonderful, relaxing day, and I’m glad I got to spend time with Lee and Abby! The majority of my time here is spent with my cluster-mates, which is usually great because I love hanging out with them : ) But the change of company for a day was nice, and I’m glad I got to spend time with Lee and Abby before we swear-in and move away!

I have to go for now, I’m about to call America and wish my mom a happy birthday! Much love to you all  : )