(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.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy birthday to my city!

Happy 276th Birthday Armyansk! The actual birthday was yesterday, but I wanted to make this blog post to comment on Armyansk and the way that i've seen it grow as a city over the past few years. I know that two years not a great deal of time comparatively... but I really feel like i've seen a great amount of positive change here since I first arrived both physically and mentally.

First of all, I think Armyansk has undergone through a set of changes that are setting it up to be more family friendly. The center of the town has been remodeled to be more comfortable with walk ways and benches. Also, shops have been added as well as upgrades to schools. I think that in this way Armyansk is investing in it's kids and it's a great to see it invest in its future like this.

Secondly, maybe it's because i've become so accustomed to this place, but people here seem much more laid back and more at ease. I think it may have to do with the fact that things physically are getting better, but people honestly seem happier. I've seen people smile at me on the street, which I don't remember ever happening when I first arrived.

Day of the city was a culmination of my time here. With a little under 3 months left in Ukraine, I feel like this is kind of like a pre-goodbye party to all the people in the city here. It was a great day to say the least. It started with Dasha, Vanya and Nastya and I going to the bazaar and getting a TON of vegetables for so cheap. This is the season to get vegetables in Ukraine, due to the fact that people are trying to get rid of their surplus veggies before the fall is over. I love it.. I can get so much stuff for so cheap, and it's all super delicious (home grown of course).

After the bazaar we went home and made some Carrot Cake for the evening, which came out fantastic and then went over to Dasha's and to the center. I forgot to mention that my photo students and I won awards from the city for entering a "My Armyansk" photo competition, so we were given our awards in front of the entire city. It was such a great feeling to see our work being recognized, and I felt really proud of my students!

After the awards ceremony we went back and ate all the vegetables we bought at the bazaar in the form of a meet stuffed pumpkin. It came out awesome thanks to Dasha and Vanya. They are the best cooks, I have learned how to cook so well from them. Afterwards we headed to the center again to see some famous Ukrainian pop stars sing, and then for the fireworks. The night ended with us dancing and singing with Dasha's daughters. It was truly a blessed day. I feel very lucky to be here doing what I am, and witnessing the growth of this wonderful country.

Shopping time!

Picking the best

Cho pa chom? (Translation "slang": how much?)

Peppers! Like a ton of different colors.. yum!
Pumpkin that we chose.

Lilyok and I


Butterfly face.

Fancy face painting

Painting clay figurines

Ginger angel painting

My fish!
Abstract art

Crazies with ice cream.

Mmm mmm Czech beer.


AK shooting!

Plastic fishin

Award ceremony

My students and I with our certificates. We also won bags and photo paper.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Final First Bell

It's amazing that the summer is over. It feels surreal to me. Not because school is starting, not because the weather is getting colder, but because I have so little time left in Ukraine.

The idea didn't really strike me quite as hard as it did yesterday when I heard that first bell going off. I don't know where all the time went, but it went that's for sure.

It was really nice to see everyone after a long summer of working at summer camps and travelling. The first thing I noticed was how much everyone grew! I forgot how fast kids grow, and my 7th formers are all almost taller than myself. Scary. I personally don't remember growing so fast. It's cool to see the changes.

Anyways, this was my last first bell. Yes, it's an oxymoronic statement, but to me it rings of sentiment. A lot of emotions came up- first and foremost how much I have become a Ukrainian myself.

It's quite amazing how much i've integrated. I felt like yesterday was a totally normal day with all the little kids dressed up in their finest suits or dresses, and songs being sung, and half- drunk fathers trying to take pictures of their kids while maintaining their footing. To me, it's normal, nothing here strikes me as culturally shocking anymore. I don't even flinch when someone comes up to me on the street and asks me for cigarettes, I don't think twice if I see 4 dudes on the corner at 6 in the morning drinking vodka out of plastic cups. I think it's perfectly normal to brush my shoes before I go out.

All these little things that I thought were insane before seem perfectly sane to me now. Not only sane, but necessary in many ways. I like it when babushkas yell at me and tell me that I need to be wearing warmer clothes. I think it shows that they care about me.

Finally, I think i've realized how much I am going to miss all these cultural nuances when i'm gone. I don't think that Israel will be a huge leap as America would be, but i'm sure I am going to miss a lot of things here when i'm gone. I have about 3 1/2 months left, and I know from my overall experience here that that time will fly by. I can't believe how fast 2 years have flown by. It's like a blink of an eye really. Guess the saying holds true, time flies when you're having fun.