(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.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A breathing, walking, talking library?

This past weekend I traveled up to help my good friend and ex-cluster mate, Katie out. In addition to the seminar that we did, it was her birthday, so good times were had all around.

Let me explain a bit about what a "living library" is for all of you that have never heard of it before. It's basically a group of volunteers who each chose a subject, and then act as a "book". Students ask questions about the topic and you explain to the best of your knowledge what you know about it.

My topic was "American Entertainment", so I basically just let students talk my ear off about different topics, which primarily included Twilight, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. It was a blast though. I got to show them how to use my camera, and what "makes" a good picture. All in all, a very positive experience. It's always nice to meet students from another school and see what they do.

After the seminar on Friday, we partied like rockstars at Katie's sitemates house, Danielle. We had a lot of fun- maybe too much fun, because the last part of the night is a bit of a blur, but all went down smoothly in the end-- maybe except for Danielles apartment. If you're reading this Danielle, I owe you an apartment cleaning and some tacos.

All in all the weekend was a success, and if you don't believe me, check out the pics below!

Katie getting swamped by student presents

Bippity what?

I see Mr. Thumps in there somewhere...

I'm gonna pretend like I don't know what's really going on here...

Cafeteria deluxe


God she's spoiled

Yep, i'm a living legend.

So is Michael, but i'm better.

Alison's students look amused.

Ukrainian reps.


Before the shwayze kicked in.

Hit me up sista.

Our mexican lady. One wicked bartender let me add.

Katie getting the royal treatment.

Is there anything on my tongue?

Let me holla holla holla.

What is happening?


Sweet wheels Mike.

Creepy, yet wholesome.

Watch out for Mr. Tuff stuff over here.

The B Team.

Changing it up.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hey all!

Just a short message today. More of  an advertisement actually. So as many of you know, it's now officially Christmas season, and you know what that means... GIVING!

So as some of you may know (and have generously donated) I am trying to raise funds for my grant project to get my school a functional and modern technology lab. I am asking you, my beloved readers to spread the word these holidays.

We have already racked up a thousand dollars worth of donations! Yes, this is great, but we're far from reaching our objective of $7,500. Please please please spread the word! My school and I will be ever so grateful for your help, support and giving!

Here is the link: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=343-270

Thanks again!

Happy belated Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 14, 2011

A success story :)

Ok in reality, it's one of many, but this one is the one i'm most proud of to date. So as you all may know by now, I have been teaching a photo club this past semester for my older students (mostly 10th-11th forms). This past week three of my students entered a photo contest for all the schools in the town, and to my delight, placed in the top three spots!

I couldn't contain my excitement, and had to write a short success story due to the fact that my passion is photography, and seeing my students sweep this contest really gave me a huge boost in the confidence section.

Not only did they win, but this wave of successful projects brought on a whole new wave of enthusiasm for making photo projects. This afternoon everyone was asking about what they could do to make a good project. I feel extremely fortunate for all these opportunities, and can't even explain the gratitude I have for my wonderful counterpart, Dasha, for all the help and support she has given me to catapult my dream into action.

To see my students' work, click here:

Thanks again to National Geographic for the resources and the support.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Technology Resource Center

I'm extremely pleased to announce that the project grant that I have been working on for a while now, has finally been validated by Peace Corps Washington!!!

The grant has been a lot of work for me over the past few months. I have been talking to teachers about it since I arrived in Armyansk, and really more than anything, trying to assess what it is exactly that the school needs from me.

Finally, we came to the conclusion that the school just isn't up to snuff on it's technological resources. There are only several working, and modern computers in the entire school, very few students have access to them, and moreover, there is no real learning process with regards to new and updated equipment.

Essentially, in todays world where technology is rapidly changing and becoming more and more sophisticated, our students are being left behind. Not only in the sense that they do not have the required skills to be productive members in the broader sense of our "global village", but more so that they don't really stand a chance to push themselves outside of the boundaries of their consigned communities.

 Every day when I go to school, I see a vast potential of the students at my school, and I see a certain hunger and capacity for learning-- and yet, the materials that the school is able to offer are often (and usually) extremely outdated, boring, and really un-engaging.

What my goal is through this project is to bring a certain amount of excitement and progressive thinking to the students of School #1 Armyansk. I know in the bigger scheme of things, it's only the beginning of something that will be greater in the future. But really, I believe that by making small ripples in a big pond might eventually cause a wave. I know it sounds corny, but hey, I've gotta try, we all do.

So here is where I need you, whoever it is that is reading my blog at this time and place, to step out and try and help me make this ripple here. I'm not asking for millions, the project itself is going to cost approximately $9,000 US, and it's going to provide my students with 10 modern computers, access to Internet, a scanner, projector, smart board and printer. My school has already contributed 25% of the above cost, so i'm looking to fundraise approximately $7,000.

So please, if you know anyone who could help with this, please forward on this link for me, I would greatly appreciate your help, and I know my students would as well :)


With much love and peace from Armyansk, Ukraine-


Monday, October 24, 2011

Faces of the brightest

"отличники" literally translates into "The best" or just "Excelled". These students who are referred to as "Atlichniki" are at the top of their classes, receiving only the highest of grades.

I was asked to photograph them this past week so that they would be recognized at the front of the school for their hard work. So, as a true Anthropology enthusiast and photographer I took this opportunity to really get into it, and feature this work as "Faces of the Brightest Ukrainian Youth".

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The One Year Mark

Dang. It's been a while since my last post. I must apologize, but the first month of school has almost come and gone and it feels like things are moving again. From laziness of summer to the grind of school.
But the cool part is, school has taken a whole new fun-ness to it if you will (yes I know that's not a word, no I don't care).

First off, I finally started my photography club this week. I'm very proud to say that there has been a lot of interest in it, and the three cameras I received from National Geographic are being put to good use. I will be posting the pictures this next week on a separate blog (it will be linked here), so that is very very exciting for me.

I  am also starting to get the hang of teaching a bit more on lock-down. I mean, it's no piece of cake by any means, but it's definitely starting to make more sense in terms of how to structure my time and what to focus on and what not, etc.

Furthermore, i'm now tutoring several students after school, and am holding several English and outdoor sport clubs. I am able to converse more with my students (mainly because I think we met half way between my skill level in Russian improving, as well as their English skill level improvement) and feel very confident that I understand mostly what my students are saying to me.

Lastly, *drumroll sounding* yes, yes it's true- As of September 26th I will have been in Ukraine for exactly one year. Unbeleivable. I know. I still can't wrap my mind around it. It seems like yesterday I got off onto the rainy tarmac in Kiev Boryspol. I was warned it would go by fast, but who would have thought this fast.

Looking back at all I have accomplished, and all that lays ahead of me, I can proudly say this is the best choice i've made for myself in a long long time (probably ever). I am not just proud of my decision, but I'm glad to admit that I didn't really believe it would do such wonders to my maturation/individuation process- but here I am a year later in awe of what i've been able to accomplish all on my own, and never a moment of "Oh crap, what have I done with my life."

Anyways, enough of the drivel- I'll leave you all with some photos I took with a student the other day while we were working on our first photo project entitled "My Armyansk". She really got some winners, and i'll post those on the student blog, but for now you have some of mine :)

Love and Peace from the border lands AKA UKRAINYA
Nitai "Rijik" Vinitzky (Rijik= red head)