(All opinions and descriptions of life in Ukraine contained herein are mine. I do not, nor am I qualified to,
express the official opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

The end? No, a new beginning.

I started this blog about two and a half years ago with the intention of chronicling my time in Peace Corps. However, this time has now come and gone and i'm left with one last post pertaining to my actual experience being part of Peace Corps Ukraine. It's kind of strange to think that I went through this process and it's over. I am definitely proud of myself. But moreover, I am more in awe of all the things that I experienced and learned during those past two years. I think it will be highly beneficial not only for myself but for people interested in what the Peace Corps actually offers people who join it to list the things that I learned during my service.

Some of the things I learned during my service in the Peace Corps:

1.How to fully give.
2.How to fully receive.
3.To be part of a foreign community.
4.To learn to cook well.
5.To speak, understand, read and write and sing in a foreign language.
6.To make new friends.
7.To teach large groups of children and adults subjects that I never thought I would ever teach such as HIV/AIDS awareness, photography, English, sharing cultures, leadership, gender identity, and even self-respect.
8.To help a student who was suicidal realize there is so much to live for.
9.To create long lasting connections with people in my community.
10.To be spontaneous.
11.To be flexible.
12.To deal with frustration.
13.To invest in oneself and see the benefit of doing small things for yourself such as ironing, cleaning, baking, singing while dancing in your underwear. Things that give you mental health and strength.
14.To be part of something bigger, and not know exactly what your contribution is giving, but knowing that you have a purpose in life that is bigger than what you always see.
15.To learn new things every day, such as if you add some water to the bottom of a pot of cold rice, then it will heat up evenly and the rice will be moist again.
16.To learn self discipline.
17.To create newness within, and not expect things to change externally.
18.To learn to live simply, without frills or gadgets or any kind of new technology or comfort.
19.To love and be loved.
20.To create projects that you will never see come to fruition.
To trust people, even if you don't know them.
21.To be honest and straight forward, even if people don't always like what you have to say.
22.To create an optimistic viewpoint for yourself, even during days where you think that you're about to have a mental breakdown. Finding light in darkness.
23.To love life and every small moment that it brings you.

I've probably missed some things that i've learned, but this is a pretty healthy list. I think I could probably think of many more things, but you get the general gist of my experience. I wouldn't replace it for the world, and I feel so fortunate to have had it. Of course it was hard, of course I wanted to come home many many times to see my family and friends and eat familiar food. But looking back at it, I want more of it, I want to be challenged, pushed, pulled to my limits and boundaries. I liked the fact that no matter what I did I always felt like I was doing it for the right reason. There was never and doubt in my mind why I was there. I knew that no matter how much I suffered I would also have that same amount of joy in the future. I was right, and I thank myself for pushing myself to enduring and making the best of this time to create a better me. I don't claim to be perfect coming out, but I sure as hell know that i'm a totally different person than the one who came in 2 years 3 months ago.

In essence this blog post is to affirm the fact that when we go through uncomfortable and hard times in life we grow. I know many people who are afraid of pain and suffering and hardships, and this message is directed at you. Push yourself, you will grow. Try to hide behind comfort and the familiar and your chances of growth are diminished considerably. Trust me when I tell you, you will not regret it in the long run, and you will even enjoy it at a certain point.

Finally, I would like to say that I will most likely be ending this blog. I will most definitely create a new one. But after considering extending this blog into one of my next step in life, i've decided that the best thing to do is to close it, just like this period in my life. Closure is important here because I feel like it will help me better understand everything that i've gone through during this time. I'm still trying to figure everything out, considering i've only been out of the PC for 3 days now. I'll try and post a link to my new blog on here so that you, my dearest reader can subscribe to the new one, which I intend to make as interesting, if not more interesting than this one. I hope you will subscribe.

Thank you for reading and following my adventures in Ukraine. I appreciate all of your support and kind words, and hope to see you all in the flesh in the near future. Also, if you have any feedback on my blog, please let me know what you think could be done to improve it in the future.

Thanks again, and much love and peace as always!

Celebratory dinner with Dasha and her family

The best counterpart and friend anyone could ever ask for.

Nastya, AKA Gingerbread lady.

No American sending-off could be complete without Jack.
 It was Dasha's first time ever trying Whiskey! It was a hit :)


Nastya, Dasha's daughter eating Tiramisu.
Hopefully this is what the future holds for me?

Dancing the night away!

My life in three big bags. Preparing to leave site. :(

My lovely students and friends sending me off at the bus station in Armyansk.
I miss you already!!!

Me looking goofy and excited to ring the "final" bell, a tradition in Peace Corps to
signal the end of your service by ringing this bell in the office in Kiev.

Back in Israel with the final days of Hannukah.
Tully man, my brother all grown up lighting the candles.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Final moments

The last days at my school have come and gone. It's surreal that i'm done with school. I don't really believe it still. I had a great last day with a feast and some awesome photo sessions with students. They showed me so much love and appreciation, i'll never forget them. Here are the pictures. I miss them already. 

5A Class group 1

5A Class group 2

6A Class

3A Class

4A Class

11A Class

7A Class

6b Class

3b Class
Girls from my 5b Class.

Girls from my 9A Class. I'm sorry but the class photos came out blurry with 9A :(

Danil getting close and personal.


Pizza with my name on it that 10A made for me.

10A Class and our final meal together
Dasha showing the class student recipes.

Delicious food that they made

Getting ready to eat.

10A girls and I goofing off after eating.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Goodbye Video

I made this video in commemoration of my service at my school. I'll miss these kids a lot!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Final week at site

I can't believe what I just typed in the title box. It's surreal. I'm looking at my final week at site. Next Sunday I'll be shipping out to Kiev and then a week later to Israel. I don't really know what to even type. I just figured I needed to create a post where I summarized how I feel. To be honest, I don't know how I feel. It's a mixed bag of emotions.

On one hand I'm ready to be back with my family and move on to the next stage in my life. But there's also a feeling deep down that i've fallen in love with the city i've lived in for the past two years. I don't know really how I fell in love with it. It's foreign. It's strange for me. It's a place I thought I could never really get acclimated to due to the language, the people, the culture, the traditions. Yet here I am on my last week, and i'm feeling more connected to it than anything i've felt connected to in my life. Maybe it's not the place. Maybe it's the people.

Yes, it's definitely the people. I mean, without the people there is no place right? For me this statement rings true, because I know that the people here make my life so much better, so much worth living. I love the kids I teach, I really do. Yes, they can be little brats at times and drive me crazy, but they love me, and I know that I love them. They come up to me now, knowing that i'm leaving in a week, and keep saying "Why are you leaving us?" I try to point to the fact that my visa is expiring, that I have family I need to get back to, that I am not a Ukrainian. But deep down, I feel Ukrainian. I even act Ukrainian now. I don't even know what that means, but I know that I do. I like their food, their traditions their swear words, their woman, their everything. I don't know what i'm going to do without Ukraine in my life. 

Seriously though, this place has made an impact on my life that goes beyond words can describe. I have so many memories about this place and these people that make me feel so happy when I think about them. To name just a few that stand out immediately:

Swimming in the bay during the summer.
Going on walks with my students.
Eating shashlik with friends next to the canal.
Going to the local sauna with Dasha during the winter.
Watching my students graduate.
Watching a student read his or her first words in English, knowing that I had some part in educating them.
Sitting in the center of town and eating salted shrimp with beer.
Dancing with my director and having her kiss me and telling me that i'm the best.
Sliding across the ice on the bay during the winter.
Playing ping pong at the local church with students.
Taking photos with students.
Dancing at our local club piligrim under the stars.
Having a semechki (sun-flower seeds) spitting competition.
Playing soccer on an ice-cover field, slipping and sliding like i'm about to die, but laughing my head off the whole time.

And now... saying goodbye? I can't imagine it. I won't imagine it. I don't think it really can happen until it does. I don't know how to say goodbye. It's a problem I have. I never want to end anything, and now this is the end of a very important period in my life, and I still can't believe it's been two years since I arrived on a snowy morning in December 2010.

Where does the time go? I want to relive the moments, but I guess that's what we have memories for isn't it? The memories will hold strong for the rest of my life. I want to thank everyone in Armyansk for making me feel so at home, and for being so positive and helpful. You know who you are. Thank you. I will never forget you.

Love forever,


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time for Thanks

Thanks. It's a strong word. It's stronger than I ever imagined it could be now that i've gone through a process of giving for two years. Thanksgiving. What a concept. Giving thanks for what we have. I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for everything i've received in my life in the past two years. I feel so fortunate.

To begin with. My wonderful opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps and experience Ukraine from an insiders perspective. Coming in I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and it hasn't been by any means, but I couldn't have asked for anything else. I feel so thankful for all the interesting individuals i've met, I couldn't have done it without so many of them in my life- My cluster mates from kiev with whom I studied Russian with, my teachers, my counterpart Dasha who I seriously don't think I could have survived without, my students at School 3 in Obukhiv and School 1 Armyansk- Showing such enthusiasm and love for me every day at school. My life here has been happy-go-lucky. I don't know how else to describe it properly in text, all I can say is THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who has ever impacted me in my life while here in PC and back home in the states.

To my parents, I love you both, thanks for giving me life and for guiding me in the right direction in life and always always having patience for me. I love you more than words can express. To my brothers, Orian and Tal I miss you guys so much, and don't know how much I can't wait to reunite with you and spend time with you and see how you've grown. I miss you more than words can express. I am so thankful to have you both in my life, and I learn a lot about life through you guys. Thanks for being so awesome.

To Nastya, my wonderfully beautiful and loving girlfriend. You have been a rock for me, I love you so much and am so thankful to have you in my life. You are so patient and giving and I never have taken you for granted for a second. Thanks for everything you've done for me, and thanks for teaching me about life and how to be stubborn about the things that we want.

Finally, thank you to whatever higher power it is that is keeping me in check. I am not a religious person, but recently i've found power in spirituality and I want to say that I do believe somewhere out in this vast universe something is out there giving me good fortune for my health, experiences and life in general. Thank you to whatever you are and the abundance you've created in my life.

Here are some pictures of my holidays below. I had a pretty low-scale affair considering I got a bit of a cold last week, but now i'm recovered. I had a great time with Dasha and her husband Vanya and my girlfriend Nastya. We had a small dinner at my house (by small I mean we ate half of Armyansk) and then we went to the local sauna and drank tea. It was the perfect evening. I am thankful for Armyansk and what i've been able to achieve here over the past two years both internally and externally.

Miss you all, and most likely i'll be seeing a lot of you in the near future (expect me in the summer back in the US and A).

Lovingly and thankfully,

Nastya showing off her pie.

Dasha getting down on some school thanksgiving grubbin' 
Utka s tikvoi- Duck with pumpkin


My plate. Duck, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, salad...  I want more now.

 My 11th form celebrating Turkey Day
Such good food they made!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My walk to school

This is my daily walk to school. I know it's a bit late to show this since i've got exactly a month until I leave. However, at my COS meeting in September, our country director recommended that we take a picture of things that we wanted to remember, and considering it's so beautiful out recently with the fall colors I decided now is as good of a time to do this as ever. Here is my daily walk which takes a whole 5 minutes. 

The door to my building.

My front yard.

The path that leads from my building.

The soccer field in front of my building.

Main path towards the center.

Leaf piles everywhere.

Preparing for winter.

Almost can see school.


The main street that runs in front of my school.

So happens it's called "Shkolnaya" street (school street).

There it is in all its glory (behind the tractor).

Front end.

Tree in our front entrance.

My classroom on the end of the hall on the left on the third floor.

Dasha teaching our first form. GOOD MORNING TEACHER!

Max, quit picking your nose guy!