RPCV update…


Dear Readers,

Thanks for all your attention, support and comments these past 2+ years. This blog as been an tremendous way for me to share my journey through Peace Corps with you as well as document my own thoughts for the future.

As you probably know, I’m back in the States now. The past few months have been filled with a variety of emotions: excitement to be home, sadness over the current political situation in Ukraine and nervousness over the next phase of my life. I’ve busied myself with bi-weekly Russian lessons via Skype with my tutor back in Ukraine, a daily personal study of Portuguese (so I can talk to Breno’s family when I visit Brazil) and training for a private pilot license with my father. Flying has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, so I am beyond excited that my father and I can work together on it this year. In August, Breno and I plan to move to Washington D.C. where he will work as a research associate for the Urban Institute. Although I don’t have a job lined up at this time, I’m confident that I will find something soon. However, if you know of any positions in an organization that specializes in International Development and Human Rights…shoot me their name!

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be tying some loose ends within my blog by publishing posts about events, thoughts and points of interest that I did not post in real time. Most of them include descriptions of my proudest achievements during Peace Corps service of which I didn’t know how to put into words at the time. Of course, I’ll also write about how it all ended. I’m sorry for the massive delay and holes in my story. Bear with me and keep in mind during the confusing timeline of posts that the posts will be published with a date that marks its spot in the actual chronological order of my whole Peace Corps story, not its date of publication.

Again, thanks for all your love and support!



26 months down, 1 month to go!

I’m finally starting to figure out this whole Peace Crops Volunteer thing.

But winter is coming, I have no heat, no hot water, and now my toilet doesn’t work….I think its time to come home.

DecemberCalendarAnyways, its official, my “Close of Service” date is set for December 2nd. A mere month from today!

My mother is coming to join me in Ukraine on Nov. 14th to help me pack, say goodbye and host my last school camp. After that, we’ll slowly make our way back to the states with some stops in Lviv, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague & Tbilisi.

I’m not quite sure how I am feeling right now. The Peace Corps roller coaster of emotions has seemed to evolve into a massive circus of emotions that I have no idea how to direct.


Darien Book Aid Plan, Inc…again!

A 15lbs shipment of books from Darien Book Aid Plan, Inc. to help my 11th formers prepare for University Entrance exams (and learn to love English in general). Can you spot the Worldly Wise book?

A 15lb shipment of books from Darien Book Aid Plan, Inc. to help my 11th formers prepare for University entrance exams (and learn to love English in general). Can you spot the Wordly Wise book?…the bane of my middle school reading classes!

The Russia Left Behind

Lauren and I traveled from St. Petersburg to Moscow in June via the fast train. Little did we know all that we missed along the way. The New York Times produced the following News graphic about this very journey by car. The presentation is spectacular and it offers a great insiders view into the culture and sights on this road trip.

Screen shot 2013-10-15 at 6.11.04 PM

To view the full article, click on this link: The Russia Left BehindScreen shot 2013-10-15 at 6.17.33 PM

European Club

Today my school participated in the local Euro Club contest…Essentially to find the best Euro Club in town. For the past week, 10 of our most active students have been pulled out of school to prepare their speeches about designated topics as teachers run around preparing materials and power points for the presentation.


Our school’s participants and facilitators (only missing Halya).

However, once we got to the contest, we realized there were only three other schools who were even participating and our activities, preparation and general awesomeness would blow the other schools out of the water. Our students also presented their entire program in English of which the judge didn’t understand a word. In the end, we also learned that EVERYBODY was a winner as each school received a certificate of participation. Oh well…so it goes.

We presented the following topics:

    • Our specialized training in the international language of English
    • information technology classes to aid our students’ future careers abroad
    • Ukrainian culture days
    • University of Michigan’s ICS Earth Odyssey program participation & skype date with University students
    • SPA grant PDM and Fundraising trainings
    • European Day Fundraising Fun Fair with 4 guests from the EU.
    • Five day Free Kick & English camp
    • Worldly Wise School’s pen pal exchange with a school in California. We highlighted and showed clips from the videos we exchanged showing our cultures and schools to each other.
    • One World Classroom’s International Art Exchange program
    • The traveling PC Oblast camp, Camp Excite
    • The numerous travel destinations our teachers and students have been to this past year (including Germany, France, Turkey and Italy)
    • Our singing ability of  “The Ink is Black the Page is White“. (although a Ukraine version)

Although many of the topics don’t deal directly with the EU, we emphasized that our practice and knowledge of the English language directly prepares us for international communication with the EU.


All the participants and our facilitators. As you can see, the room we used doubles as a disco hall.

“The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain”. -Lord Byron


My world was turned on its head today when I woke up and didn’t shiver. I was confused at first but than I walked over to my heater and sure enough, it was on…not warm, but on. FINALLY!

For the past couple weeks its been unusually cold in Ukraine. Last Saturday it even snowed in the Oblast but since my heat is controlled by the local administration, I had no power to turn it on or off (We’ve even been shivering in the schools as we teach our lessons wearing winter jackets and drinking hot tea at every break – the cement building style makes it even colder inside than out). And hence, the scheduled date of October 15th radiated from my calendar as the day the administration would turn on the heat and the day I would wake up not shivering. Thankfully, christmas has come early.

Photo on 2013-10-03 at 15.38 #2

How it feels to sit indoors on October 3 in Romny, Ukraine

But of course, my usual pace in Ukraine is one step forward and two steps backwards. Although I got some heat earlier than expected, my hot water heater has decided to be temperamental and stop working. So, bucket baths it is until I find someone to fix it or we wait long enough that the problem (me) disappears.

Happy Teachers’ Day!


“I congratulate you on the Day of Teachers”

October 2nd marked my third time celebrating teacher’s day in Ukraine. What an awesome holiday. It is a shame that it isn’t celebrated in the USA although it is technically scheduled for the first week of May.

In Romny, Ukraine, the students go all out…

First, the older grades teach the younger students in the classrooms. This gives the students and excellent opportunity to understand the difficulties of being a teacher (planning the lesson, classroom discipline, frequent frustration) as well as feel the joy of successfully teaching a topic.


Teachers’ room starting to pile high

Second, the students run around the school between lessons presenting their favorite teachers (or ones with which they need to up their grades) boxes of chocolates, flowers and other small presents. It is so much fun to see their huge smiles and nervous giggles as they approach each teacher. Meanwhile, the teacher’s room is piled high with colorful boxes and bouquets after just the first lesson. I received a bunch of flowers and chocolates but it was nothing compared to some of the more senior and strict teachers who receive so many that they need to take a taxi home!


Katya & Vlada: two of my favorite students and best dancers in the school

Third, at my school this year they Student Government prepared something special for the teacher’s relaxation. In the Home-Education room, they prepared tables like a little cafe complete with cookies, tea and coffee that we could visit between lesson or in our free time. In addition, the students monitoring and cleaning the cafe talked with the teachers about their personal reflections on being a teacher.

Fourth, as usual, everything is celebrated with a concert. Our school is known for our epic presentations, beautiful stage (less than 2 years old with space for 200 people in the audience),  dance groups and amazing singers. They didn’t disappoint for us teachers. Our day was cut short (only 4 lessons) and we had a private showing of the concert at 11am. The students performed it later in the day for their families and students from other schools were invited to perform.

The 1st Grade wishing us happiness, love and health!

The 1st Grade wishing us happiness, love and health!

Fifth, we rented out the biggest and best restaurant in town and about 50 of the 70 teachers got together for a feast at 5pm. There was great food, lots of drinks, frequent toasts (of which I made 2…in Russian) and of course dancing! It was a great time but I also got very emotional when the Director was giving her toast. I realized how much I will miss these people when I leave in 2 months and after all the ups and downs we’ve been through, how much I feel at home with them and accepted in their lives.