On Saturday, my school and I hosted the traveling PCV Sumska Oblast traveling English language immersion weekend camp…Camp EXCITE! About seven volunteers from around the oblast came to help out, teach lessons and play games. Although the camp is normally for 8-11th formers, I begged the camp directors to have some of our best younger students attend as well. Turns out, the youngest group was the most behaved, learned the most information and all in all had the best time. In total, we had 43 students attend, the majority from the 6th and 7th forms but also five from the 5th form and even one from the 4th form who regularly learns better than many of my 7th formers!
This year’s camp theme was ‘American Road trip’ and we had lessons on California, Alaska, Washington D.C. as well as a special holiday handicraft lesson on how to make Christmas Cards. In addition, we played camp games, leaned the cupid shuffle (which our school dance teacher witnessed…and I think was a little flabbergasted by its rap video origins and 5 min circular repetition), ate cookies and of course, drank some tea.
One of the best parts of the camp for me was that seven of my English teacher colleagues came to help out. However, when debriefing with them afterwards I was a little shellshocked when one of them summed up her experience with the sole statement of, “the camp was fine, but it was bad that it was on Saturday.” This hurt me a lot yet and I couldn’t see the point of it, so I’ve decided to add constructive criticism to my list of teaching goals. However, they are awesome girls and I am so happy to be working with them. They’ve definitely made my last year much more fun
After the camp finished, the volunteers and I gathered for a collaborative meeting. Although it was little rushed and easily turned off topic, I think we shared some valuable advice. Despite seeing other volunteers in Sumska Oblast very often for Camp EXCITE, community projects and other social events, I feel like we never discuss our work as volunteers on a professional level. On a regular basis, we talk plenty about funny things that have happened to us or cultual moments that took us off guard, etc., but it felt good to reflect on some good projects and/or interactions other volunteers have experienced.
In the late afternoon, we all ventured out to Garrett’s (my site mate) village a few miles outside of Romny. It was my first time visiting his place despite living so close for the past year. Yep, thats right…December 15 marked my one year anniversary of living in Romny. I can’t believe I’ve been in Ukraine for 15 months. It seems like I just arrived, yet I feel completely at ease and comfortable in Romny and Ukraine in general.
The Sumska gang celebrated at Garrett’s flat by cooking shashleek (slow cooked, pork, shish kabobs). It was super cold outside while cooking the meat over the smoking coals, but in the end, it was delicious.
There is only one and a half more weeks of school until winter holidays start on December 28th. However, I have already stopped teaching many of my classes since the students and teachers are preparing for end of the semester exams. Most of my free time is now spent reading or taking hot baths to stay warm. There was a real feel of -7 F today…Brrrrrr.
Today, December 19th, many Ukrainians celebrated St. Nicholas Day. This is a favorite among many kids because it is the first of three winter holidays they wake up to find presents. Families celebrate this holiday in the evening with dinner and congratulate all the men/boys in their lives who have the name, Nicholas.