(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.)

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!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pics of the past month.

Paintball in Armyansk
Nastya is getting excited to get shot by me.
Posin' with our new camo clothes.
Girls looking G.

DuVale and Chris came up for the fun from Dzhankoy.

Here we go!

Waiting for the games to begin.

Nastya showing us how it's done.

Coming back from a round. I won :)

Team winners!

Chris decided to rub his sweat all over Nastya.

Nastya doesn't look that sad.

Team Yellow.

That one is thanks to me.
That one is thanks to Chris.

School No. 1 6b Bazaar night.
Presenting the food.


Apple eating contest.

Blindfold speed walk. Cheating was on hand.

Phil rockin' the trombone (I think that's a trombone?)
Little Lera showing off the food.

Our director showing the bounty she bought from the students!

School No. 1 Halloween

Zombie witch and regular witch.

Becoming a mummy.

Can't. Breath.

Dominica looking stoked on becoming a mummy.

Wrappin' up.

Teams putting the final touches on their mummies.

Zaichik and Mummy.

Nastya and her mummy.

Regina and the mummies. Sounds like a good band name to me.

It's like the zombi apocalypse- instead of brains they want candy. Scary.

Director shooing students.

Director gave Anna 50 griven for having in her opinion the best costume.
Anna was nice enough to use that money to buy everyone that came to our party candy.

Bobbin for dem apples.

The costume contestants.

Max: the dancer.

Freddy cougar and joker man.

Nice umbrella.

Best costume in my opinion: Gopnicks.

This was up at my friend Katie's school. The seminar emphasized the practice
 safe sex and the ways of  transmission of HIV.

Me and da girls.

No means no Nathan.

Posing with the best clock ever: Putin and Medvedov as the background.

Shashlik dinner of night #1. 

Alex , myself andthe beautiful Gretchka Chesnok (Dara).

Literally spells in cyrillic "time out".

Gulyatin' (walking).

The Lavra of Svetagorsk.

The Crew.

The stairway up.

Up close.

The Jews in front of the church.
Me looking like a hairless cat next to Mr. Bolnik.
Smetana smearing on the skin (sour cream).

Us with Yura after he beat the crap out of us with birch leaves in traditional Russian Sauna style.

Lez go.

Nom nom nom.

Nathans strategy: play the man, not the frisbee.

Playing 500. East coast three flies up.

Dara crushed me. Ow.

Katie rescuing our frisbee from the horse.
I love these two clustermates. I'll miss you guys a lot.