(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, January 31, 2011

The Icy Black

My friend Courtney came up this weekend to visit me. We hung out, watched movies, cooked, walked around, and most importantly- slid around on the black sea. Yeah that's right, I Nitai Vinitzky have WALKED ON the black sea! If you're intrigued- read on...

My counterpart Dasha sent me an e-mail saturday night saying: I want to show you a place that you haven't seen yet. So me and Courtney headed over to Dasha's Sunday morning. Dasha had a big smile on her face- "You guys ok with taking a cab?" she asked non-chalantly. Uhm, ok we both responded, unsure of what this adventure entailed.

"I'm taking you to the bay" Dasha said as we climbed into the cab. "Ok" i thought in my mind- "What exactly are we going to do next to the bay at this time of the year?" I thought to myself, a bit confused as to why we were taking a fairly expensive cab to just look at the cold ocean.

As we neared the bay, I could see a strange white flickr coming off the surface. It looked like... maybe? No, i couldn't beleive my eyes! The bay was frozen SOLID with ice. I could see a couple standing out about 40 feet talking to each other on the ice. Another group of kids was running around the shore and onto the ice, sliding on their butts as they made their way across the bay.

I was in shock. My heart pounded, I felt like a little kid being given a brand new toy. "IT'S FROZEN SOLID?!" I yelled. I looked at Courtney, she was grinning from ear to ear. We ran out on the Ice, a bit apprenhesive at first, I thought- Oh shit, I'm gonna fall through! I heard a bit of cracking, but I had to try this. As we headed out, the ice got thicker and thicker, and also more slippery.

I ran and skidded for a few feet. It was heaven. Ice as far as the eye could see. "I think it's frozen all the way across", Courtney beamed. "Maybe about 5 kilometers" said Dasha. "Let's GO!!!" I screamed at them, and started to run like an adolescent getting out of class for recess.

We spent the day frolicking around the ice, and trying to find the "best spot" for sliding. At one point a couple guys came out on a little moped and started speeding around, as if it were the salt flats.

It was a great day. The sun came out, and so did the little kid in me. I'm thinking of taking a bike down there while it's still frozen and trying to ride straight across- who knows, maybe i'll make it to Odessa!


Yeah, It was a bit scary... but well worth it!

Talking couple


Courtney grinning like a little kid :D


Dasha and I

Motorcyclist


Dasha Sliding

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE



Cracked ice- photo taken by Courtney

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frozen Puddles

I looked out the window at around 2:30 pm wondering if I should wear an extra layer to soccer training today or not...? I ran the tips of my fingers over the window pane. I immediately felt a stabbing pain from the cold go down into fingers and through my wrist. I smartly decided to throw on my fleece- which usually makes me uncomfortably hot, but I knew today was an exception.

I locked my door and headed out of my building at approximately 2:45 pm, looking at my phone to see if I had time to stop by the store and grab a small baguette to munch on for after practice (I always get hungry afterwards and want some sort of snack). I decided against it, considering it takes about 15 minutes to get to the stadium, and I like dressing with the rest of the team if possible.

The moment I stepped out onto the frozen street my breath froze, my eyes began to water, and my knees began to tremble. It was freezing: literally. I pulled my hoody strings tight around my beanie, and shoved my gloved hands into my jacket pockets. I decided to begin running immediately. I usually wait until I get to the road where there is no ice, but today was an exception.

As I ran, I noticed the intricate patterns of the frozen ice on the surface of the puddles. They looked like jigsaw pieces welded together with frozen water. I wished I had my camera, but decided to mentally photograph instead as I jogged through the frozen art gallery.

It was especially silent for this time of day. Usually there are babushka's sitting out front of the buildings yelling something at each other. They usually hush to look at me as I jog by, and as soon as I pass, I can hear them chatter something about "Amerikanetz". But today, it was an exception.

I could hear my heart beating loudly in my chest, my breath heaved out in white, cloudy bursts with every stride I took. I felt like a dragon spurting white flames.

The water hung from tree branches; gravity stopped by temperature. The beads of icicles clung to the thin twigs on small trees, making them look like heads of Q-Tips.

Up ahead, I saw a big puddle ahead and decided I would dare and skate across it. As I neared it I sped up. Leaping into the air, I threw all my weight on my front foot, and prayed the ice was thick enough to hold me from breaking through it. I was fortunate, and skidded smoothly for about 5-6 feet clear across it.

I arrived at the stadium at 5 'til 3, my nose burning, my eyes tearing, my ears ringing, my heart racing. I could feel the stabbing dryness in my throat. The stadium was even more silent than outside of my apartment building. The grass was coated with a thick layer of frost. It looked like a giant cake.

I noticed the rubber pitch we play on was also dotted with small, frozen puddles. I wondered if coach Grigory would still allow us to play today. I grinned, thinking of the fun it would be if we did play.

And play we did. I almost died on several occasions. The first time contesting a 50-50 ball, I sprinted quickly and caught the side of my foot on the puddle and did the splits. The second time, I pivoted on a puddle and my whole right side of my body moved while my left kept turning... I was lucky to come out of it with no sprained ankles or even a fractured skull.

One kid, Vlad almost killed himself on the goal post running to cross a ball, he ran into the biggest puddle of them all and started slide toward the goal post, and was lucky enough to be able to navigate past the post and into the net.

Oh, how I love playing "football" in Ukraine. We play on a little rubber pitch that could kill you, but we play with joy and love, and each pass is as if it were in the World Cup. The love of this sport was shown at a great level today amidst the frozen puddles. A day that I will never forget- I'd like to dub it "Soccer skating".

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nitai Хозяйка Vinitzky

Yes, I've become domestic. Super domestic in fact. For all of you puzzling over my new middle name in the title, it means: House wife or Landlady in Russian. Yes, that's how domesticated i've become- it's my middle name now.
If you don't believe me, please keep reading.

Today, my day consisted of:

1. Going to the bazaar early this morning to buy all sorts of odds and ends, including a Aquafor water filter (european-style Brita), Sugar, Flour, Grater, my favorite type of apple (Goldens, friggin' delicious), beets, potatoes, and a long power extendor for my next project-

2. Washing clothes. This part was the part of my day that started to make me really feel like I was in the peace corps. Up until now, I haven't done any laundry in Ukraine. The first month I was here, my landlady just randomly told me that she was going to do my laundry for me. I was not opposed to that. But today, I finally busted out the little machine she bought for me and put it to use. Let me tell you something- it feels really good to pretty much manually wash all of your clothes- both mentally and physically. It's not easy work. I got a really good fore-arm workout from wringing out almost every peice of laundry I own. Unfortunately, my clotheslines are out in this little deck/patio area that is kind of freezing cold, so we'll see how long it takes them to dry...
View of my drying system

3. After getting down and dirty with my clothes, I cooked up a storm. I made my very own curry from scratch for the first time in my life. It's the easiest thing to do. For my fellow PCV's, you must try the recipe that is in the cookbook given to us at training (I think it's called Curry #1). It basically takes 2 minutes, and the results are scrumptulescent.

Today Nitai's kitchen pumped out Vegetarian Curry and Beet Salad

4. I cleaned the crap out of my house. I took apart my whole stove and scrubbed the living H out of it. My house didn't know what was coming to it, I just basically ravaged every last corner that I initially missed in the first wave of cleanings that occurred when I moved in. Now, I can confidently say that I have left no corner un-scrubbed.

This basically sums up my day of being a maid. It wasn't half-bad either. My forearms are nice and sore, my back is feeling it too from scrubbing... To all of the PCV's who allegedly said they don't get any exercise in the winter in Ukraine - do some laundry and scrub the living god out of your house, and trust me, you will get quite the aerobic workout.

Anyways, time for bed now- all this talk of scrubbing and cleaning has worn me out...

Until next time, mountains of love and peace-

N

(Title Credit to Alison Cumbow- you are my inspiration for living in this world)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quarantine

Right as I start to think: "Hmm, I'm getting a bit of the hang of this whole teaching thing..." the door slams shut right in my face. That's right. I won't be teaching another class until the 31st of January.

It's kind of a blessing and a curse. Yes, I have 11 days off. But on the other hand- I've really been enjoying teaching, and just being at school with the local kids. They are a lot of fun, and I never ever expected I would actually enjoy this job as much as I have been.

By saying I didn't expect to enjoy this job, I mean that in the best possible way. When I signed up for the Peace Corps, I never imagined that every day I would jump out of bed, excited at the prospect of going to school. I thought I would have my moments of joy, and a lot of downtime and sorrow- But man, have my expectations been outplayed- BIG TIME.

1st expectation that was exceeded was that I have an AWESOME, and I mean AWESOME counterpart. She basically makes my life a piece of cake. She is very clear, and understands what I want and what I need to be as effective as possible.

2nd exceeded expectation- I have an AWESOME school, and the kids are all pretty damn nice and for the most part on task at all times.

3rd exceeded expectation- I have running, hot water, a comfortable, quiet apartment, and I live right next to my school.

4th exceeded expectation (this should actually probably go higher up on the list)- the weather here is pretty damn warm for a Ukrainian winter. I mean, I was expecting to freeze my nether-parts off, but no. It is on average about 50 degrees Fahrenheit out, and sunny way more than I ever thought it would be- which leads me to my

5th and final exceeded expectation- I live in Crimea, it is warm here, it is beautiful here. The people seem really laid back. I train with the local football team, I eat awesome, locally grown foods from the Bazaar (that includes tomatoes, carrots, onions, beets, cabbage, lemons, and many many more), I have already made several friends (within the first month), I have been quite healthy (since my last big sickness), and am in pretty high spirits all around.

Life is good in Ukraine- and I hope it continues this way, I really don't see anything slowing me down, but here's to a positive future anyways!

Much love and peace,

N

Monday, January 17, 2011

First week of school- Done!

My first week has come and gone at lightning speed. I'm actually writing this on Monday night, so I've officially started my second week of teaching. Let me just sum it up in one succinct word: Awesome!

I mean, my teaching definately needs some fine-tuning, but my students listen to me, they want to learn, they enjoy class- yes I can tell. Some students are so overzealous, they stand up before I even ask a question, jump up and down holding up their arm in preperation to answer. It's amazing how much I really enjoy this. I feel like i'm learning more than they are about the English language. It's really really good.

I have to go to sleep, but I wanted to just update you all as to my love of life at this point in time. Feeling very independent, very strong, and very optimistic. Oh, and i've been cooking like crazy- so I will leave you with a few shots of my recent creations...

Love and Miss you all!

Eggs and Hashbrowns

Beet Salad (Thanks to my moms friend Marla for this recipe)

Daal ala Ukraine

Sunday, January 9, 2011

School starts... Tomorrow!

First of all, let me wish all of you a wonderful and happy new year.

And yes, it's true. All the hard work and the patience and the sickness and everything is going to finally pay off... tomorrow! I'm damn excited to say the least. It's everything i've worked for over the past year. I never thought I would get to this point. It just seemed so elusive looking back on it from a year ago...

Recap of the last year building up to this point:

December 2009- Met Travis Axton, regional interviewer for the bay area at the local farmers market.
Januray 2010- Debating whether or not to turn in my application.
February 2010- Preliminary application turned in
March 2010- Interview with Mr. Axton
April 2nd, 2010- Invitation to begin my application process.
May- July 2010- Medicals, medicals, and more medicals...
August 2010- Invitation to serve.
September 2010- Left for Washington D.C. for staging
October- December 2010- Arrival at training site, lots and lots of training (language/tech.)
End of December-Beginning of January 2011- Lot's of preparation at my site for teaching
January 2011- I FINALLY GET TO TEACH!!!

So as you can see, it has been a year to remember. I really believe 2010 was one of the best years of my life as an adult. I say as an adult, because it's the first year where I was completely out of school. I feel I got a lot of things accomplished internally, externally, and with my family and friends. I feel like I am much more dependable and even keeled than ever, and I like that about myself.

I hope 2010 was as good for all of you as it has been to me. What excites me is that I have so much more to look forward to in 2011, and 2012 for that matter. I am extremely enthusiastic about the future, and I feel like that's how life should be- you should always be energized for what's around the next bend.

Much love and a wonderful happy new year to you all!

Nitai

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years- Ukrainian style!


Last week may have been the worst week so far in Ukraine. A serious sickness over took me- I have been sick since Monday with some kind of wicked Ukrainian flu. Anyways, on New Years Eve I was still pretty out of it, but was still able to make it over to Dasha's house for an AMAZING meal! She made pretty much every single dish ever conceived of in Ukraine. It was amazingly delicious to say the least. After dinner, we went out to the town square and watched people shoot off fireworks and dance around the big Christmas tree. We were enjoying the atmosphere of drunk merry-makers until a couple rockets flew right by us, almost impaling Dasha's husband Ivan. That ended our night, I was pretty shook up- but all in all I had a great night. I felt very welcomed and at home at my counterparts house. Ukrainians know how to make you feel right at home.

Here are some shots:

Dasha's girls

Dancing

Fire!

more fire...

Fireworks