To recap the summer…
My travels began in early June in the city of Kremenchuk, Poltava Oblast. I was a teacher/group leader at three, week long English language camps.
The first camp in Kremenchug was an English immersion secondary school camp, hosted by the Pedagogical University and dreamed up by the amazing Andrea Zimmerman PCV. I was a team leader for a third of the kids as well as taught three classes a day. My team, convienetly team blue, was the best and blew the others out of the water. It is amazing how much more fun things can be with the right kids. The days were long, 8:30 – 6pm but the kids loved every minute, since the activities were so diverse, active and fun. Here is a sample daily schedule….
I came home for a few weeks in July. The fourth of July was duly celebrated and I managed to go to Kyiv for a weekend to see a free Elton John Concert in the main square and the final match of the European Soccer Cup. Great times.
Next stop was Turkey, a surreal experience. My plane landed in the city of Antalya, a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful old city dating back to Emperor Hadrian in 130 AD and location on the southern coast. It was so modern, English speaker friendly and diverse that I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign country at all. However, I didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to stuff my face with all the delicious Turkish food I could find.
My mother, father and I met my brother in the town of Goreme, the heart of the Cappadocia region. Cappadocia is truly one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. The region is full of underground cities, beautiful landscapes and fairy chimneys (rock spires that jut out of the dry mountains inhabited as early as the ancient Hittite Empire).
Our next stop was the infamous Istanbul, which lived up to all my expectations. We stayed with some family friends who truly embodied the finest hospitality Turks are known for showing their guests. We saw all the sites, tasted amazing food, experienced the night life and even learned how to play backgammon.
At the end of July I returned to Ukraine to work at ABC Camp in the city of Kharkov. I was a team leader, helped with the journalism elective as well as taught two lessons a day on either personal development or great speechs in cinema. The entire camp was a mix of disaster, exhaustion and success.
Disaster: The entire camp was very poorly planned, down to misplacing thousands of UAH and going over budget by hundreds, to constant bickering between the staff.
Exhaustion: The camp was over two weeks long, not a big deal, but each day lasted 12 hours from start to finish including 2 hours walking to and from the hostel and lunch spot in +95 degree weather.
Success: The kids had no clue of the discord amongst the staff. They also loved every minute of the camp and not only thought it should be a month long, but that we should spend all 24 hours of the day together! I loved the Americans I worked with, met some amazing Ukrainians and was constantly blown away by the campers’ thoughts and ideas.
In any case, ABC Camp is a great opportunity for these kids and has an amazing foundation for success. What makes it all the more incredible is the number of devoted Ukrainian staff and campers who return year after year because they believe in the mission of ABC = Action Brings Change.
My last adventure was truly the highlight of my summer…seeing my boyfriend, Breno, for the first time in a year. Since I left the USA, we have talked on the phone/skype nearly three times a day, every day, but this was the first time we saw each other in person. After spending a few days in Kyiv to cure his jetlag, we decided to get away from our lives and travel to Greece. We started in Athens, Delphi and Meteora then flew to the stunning island of Santorini and finished the trip relaxing on the beaches of the largest Greek island of Crete. To top it all off, Breno came back to Romny to see my new life in Ukraine and meet all of my friends.
We saw ancient ruins…
Shared romanic moments in Santorini…
Explored the stunning beaches and Canyons of Crete…
Strolled through the beautiful streets of Kiev and Romny…
Pretended to be students…
And of course, ate shashleek with Lesia and drank with the site mates…
Now back to school. Life is good. I am the luckiest girl in the world.
Is it really August? Were has the summer gone? I’ve only been home for a total of two weeks since school ended but it has been great. Internet access and free time have both been scarce and I haven’t had any opportunities to update you all on my adventures, so here is a brief synopsis of my past few months and plans for August.
- Week 1: Close of the school year, project planning with fellow teachers, 11th form exams.
- Week 2: Leader at English Language Immersion Camp for secondary school kids in Kremenchug
- Week 3: Leader at Teacher Training Camp in Kremenchug
- Week 4: Leader at English Language camp for Young learners in Kremenchug
- Week 1: School maintenance in Romny, 4th of July Celebrations, Elton John/Queen AIDS benefit concert, Euro Cup Final match in Kyiv, Romny Dance Camp
- Week 2: Turkey with parents and brother
- Week 3: Turkey with the family, Russian Language Camp
- Week 4: Camp ABC in Kharkov
- Week 1: Camp ABC in Kharkov
- Week 2: Greece with Breno
- Week 3: Greece with Breno
- Week 4: Ukraine with Breno
There you have it, my excuses for being MIA. I’ve missed Romny a lot throughout these months and I am sad I wasn’t able to spend more time with my friends there. Thankfully, I have another whole year of service.
I’ll post more details and photos of my adventures when my life returns to normal in September. Now, I’m off to meet Breno for the first time in one year! I don’t think I can describe my excitement 🙂
Bringing in the New Year in Kremenchuk and Komsomolsk was a blast. Although time in Ukraine seems to fly by, days seem to last a lifetime. When Sarah, Lauren and I were finally reunited, it seemed as though we had never been apart. I am so happy to have such great friends only a five hour train ride away.
Lauren and her site mate, Nathan, picked me up at Kremenchuk’s train station late Friday night. Since it was too late to go out, we spent the evening chatting, drinking homemade wine, and learning about Nathan’s experience as a volunteer. I slept at Lauren’s host family’s apartment in the suburbs of the city. Saturday morning, after a much missed home made Ukrainian breakfast, we were joined by Sarah and walked around the city. Kremenchuk is beautiful and has its own beach along the Dnieper River. However, its architecture maintains the stereotypical post-WWII vibe, since almost the entire city was burned to the ground during Nazi occupation in the early 1940s.
Saturday evening, New Years Eve, the three of us took a 20 min marshrutka ride to Sarah’s town of Komsomolsk to attend one of her co-worker’s parties. We arrived at 10:30pm and were immediately given wigs, hats, and glasses full of wine. We sat at the table alternating boy, girl, boy, girl and at midnight lit fire crackers (at the table) and started the feast. The next five hours were full of eating, drinking, games and singing. A good time was had by all. The night seemed to go by in 20 min.
The next day we relaxed at Sarah’s apartment and walked around her town. Komsomolskyi also has a beach right on the Dnieper River is a popular place to live for people who work in Kremenchuk. We headed back to the bus stop around 8 pm but since nobody in Ukraine seems to think bus schedules are useful, we waited for nearly two hours and froze our toes off until it came.
My train home left Kremenchuk at midnight and arrived in Romny around 5:30am. The ride was much more enjoyable than I expected. I had a bed all to myself, everybody was quiet and we were even served tea and chocolate. My only confusion was when to get off the train. It was dark outside so I couldn’t see any station signs and the conductor never announced any stops. My ticket said we would stop in Romny at 5:34am, but I assumed the tain could easily be early or late so I couldn’t rely on that time. I decided to wake up 30 minutes early and go make friends with the conductor. Fortunately, she took pity on me because I didn’t speak any Ukrainian and was traveling alone and told me she would come get me when we arrived in Romny. She did, and all worked out great.
This past Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I spent at school with the other teachers. Although it is winter break for the kids, the teachers still have to show up and work. On Thursday, the teachers decided to throw a spontaneous party and prepared a feast complete with home-canned eggplant, tomatoes, fish, sausage, alcohol and of course potatoes. Never before have a seen 50 female teachers take multiple vodka shots together with such enjoyment. Knowing I couldn’t keep up with their tolerance, I drank wine which lead to my director asking the English teachers to teach me how to drink vodka…oh man. The teachers eventually convinced to give the traditional fourth toast to men 🙂 So I rambled out a slightly tipsy, Russian/English, jumble about how women need men and how much we appreciate the few but wonderful five who work at our school.
That night I decided to enertain myself by making Pelmeni, or homemade dumplings. Instead, I experienced my first citywide water outage. I am not sure of the technicalities, but a water outage affects the whole city and is considered a common occurrence. During an outage, there is still water in our pipes, but it comes out all nasty and red like mud. When I moved into my apartment, I was told to keep a basin full of water at all times in case I need water during an outage. This happened a lot at my school in Kyinka, so I wasn’t too surprised but it did ruin my Pelmeni plans since I needed a bucket of water and I had not put any aside.
Friday was Orthodox Christmas Eve and everybody had the day off. I slept in, did some P90X, yoga, showered, then set about making my Pelmeni. I have to brag a little bit and say that they turned out awesome!! I am so proud of myself (even though I did set off my fire alarm when I was frying the meat). It was quite easy and I would highly recommend making some if you are in the mood to cook for a few hours. Here is the basic recipe:
- Mix 3 cups Flour, 1 cup cold water, 1 egg.
- knead dough until one mass then let sit for half and hour. Sprinkle flour on large table and hands to prevent dough from sticking.
- Fry some ground up meat, onion and spices. I used meat seasoning and garlic salt.
- Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is flat thin, then cut out circles. I used the top of a shot glass to cut out mine.
- Put a small spoon of meat in on each circle, fold it over and pinch the edges to close the dumpling. Then take the two corners and fold them together to get the classic Pelmeni look.
- Boil each dumpling for about 5-10 minutes.
- Serve with pasta sause or simply melted butter.
I have also become an expert at frying fish. I was never much of a fish person in the states, but meat is so expensive here, so I have found fish to be a great protein supplement. I simply buy a fish at the bazaar/market, gut it (something my host mother so diligently taught me), peel off its scales, cut it in slices, roll each slice in flour, then fry away! It is so tasty, but I also set my first alarm off EVERY time I do this.
Tomorrow I am attending my first Orthodox Church service. When I was asked to accompany my co-worker, it seemed like more of a challenge then an opportunity. The service is three hours long, we have to stand the entire time and all women have to wear a head scarf (and no lipstick). It should be very interesting and I am grateful that my co-worker is willing to take me even though she knows I am not Catholic, much less a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.