Who loves the Sun...?

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Okay. So I tried putting pictures up here and snapfish was sucking, so....if you want to see what I've got up so far, take a looksy over at http://www1.snapfish.com/home/t_=11457820 if you need to sign in, ask me and I'll send you an invitation. For those of you I know, I probably just did.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Sorry I've been out of touch lately. Illness and my free internet connection being down for the past couple of weeks has turned into me not checking my email in basically three weeks. I'm so sorry! Don't mean to be igoring any of you...I'm working on getting caught up and back in touch. With patience, all of you most important people in my life, will (hopefully) soon have emails sitting in your inboxes.
Oh. P.s. Don't think I'm going to die or get medically seperated from PC anytime soon, for those of you who knew the story of my past month's lightheadedness. My resting pulse is still higher than it should be, but it's not 130 anymore so that's good. :) I'm almost all completely better, so we're thinking it was probably an inner ear thing that might just take a while to clear up. Anyway. I'm fine. Thanks for the well wishes and prayers, my friends.
I'll try to get you all an update soon. Now we've just get to start praying that I get internet at my apartment (it's way more complicated than one would think anything could be)! Someday....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Who Loves the Sun?

I do!!! You don't realize how incredibly important it is to survival until you live without it for months at a time in the cold, dark, Ukrainian Winter.

The past 2 days have been amazing. Not only did I see the sun, but it's been 40 degrees Farenheit here. AMAZING (go global warming go :-/)! My sitemate Maita tried to convince me that I've been in Ukraine too  long with what I consider "sunny days" but I don't care. In my mind, if it's light during the day at all, even if that great ball of fire is hidden by clouds, it counts.

I may not see it, but I have faith that it exists. That's more than I have a lot of days.

Come quickly, Spring. I miss you.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'll give you a raincheck

I'm going to post pictures soon. As well as a post about my winter Ukraine travel adventures. I promise. I just didn't want to write about it without pictures and I can't upload pictures here at the library in Chernivsti. Well, maybe I could if somebody tells me how to burn pictures onto a cd. But until then, it's just whenever I make it to Kyiv to the Peace Corps office and the magical land of USB ports ;)  Which I am, in fact, about to do. Next week. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where's home?

Sorry it's been so long since I've written. After a whirlwind month of traveling, I'm finally getting settled back in to my routine in Chernivsti.

But some things have definitely changed. After spending 2 weeks "back home" in the United States, everyone told me it would be the hardest thing ever to come back to Ukraine. That getting a brief reminder of what life is like would make everything that has become normal to me look even worse. Pleasantly enough, this wasn't true.

I couldn't wait to come back! I wanted to come back to where things make sense to me. Granted I did break up with my boyfriend of 2 years while I was home and in general just had a much different trip than I expected, but going "home" gave me such a different perspective on where "home" really is.

Turns out, I live in Ukraine. Maybe you all have known this for the past 9 months. I knew it too. But I guess I didn't really REALIZE it. I get it now. Up until this point I feel like I was just "waiting out" 2 and a half years. Half of me was still back in the states.

I went back to New Jersey expecting everything to be the same. And for the most part it was. But I wasn't. Stepping back into my old life was a good mirror for me to see exactly how much I've changed. I'm stronger now, more independent. My friends say I'm more irritable and definitely more "East Coast" (turns out Ukrainians and New Jerseyans have more personality traits in common than most people think!).

I went back needing a brief reprieve from the everyday hardships that have become my life. I felt anxious and lonely and just wanted to indulge in the luxury that is the Great United States of America.

What I got was so much more. Sometimes I may feel anxious and weak when Ukrainians are screaming at me in a language I don't understand (in fact in happens every time I go to the post office, often just when I step out of front door!) but now I know I can handle it.

Ukraine may have hardened me in ways I didn't expect, but I needed some hardening up. I know my life is not going to get significantly easier anytime soon, but just realizing these few very important things, has at least made it...worthwhile.

I may have moved to Ukraine 9 months ago, but revisiting my old haunts that I no longer fit into, has really made me see where "home" actually is.

For better or worse, Here I Am.

Welcome Home.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to Me!

I learned another lesson about Ukraine this Thanksgiving holiday after spending my entire Thanksgiving Day and night on one of those lovely Ukrainian buses we all dread to have to take.  I was on my way to Kirovograd to visit my good friend Jenny after changing my Thanksgiving plans so many times, nobody knew where I was going to show up.

See, first I was going to go to a very small village outside of Odessa where my friend Eileen was having a ton of volunteers over to celebrate. But after going to the train stations and finding that trains from Chernivsti only leave every OTHER day and trains coming back from Odessa only leave every ODD day, and the one I needed was all sold out, I realized I could only get home three days after I was supposed to, or I had to go all the way to Kyiv first. For those of you who don't look at a map of Ukraine hanging on your wall every day, that meant 3 overnight trains in 4 days. Not a fun prospect. But all of you that (attempt to) buy train tickets in Ukraine know, it's not exactly something that's fun or easy (even for those fluent in Russian and Ukrainian)! So I just took what I could get. Because of course at this point everyone in line was getting mad at me and the ticket lady was getting frustrated, but as soon as I walked away I thought, "What the hell am I doing?" The way the trip worked out (and the fact that Eileen lives 2 hours away from the nearest train station) meant that not only did I have to take three overnight trains, only get one day in Eileen's village, I would have most likely have missed Thanksgiving dinner all together!

I ended up exchanging the tickets the next day. All that hassle only cost me 40 grevs. :)

So after thinking I might end up in Lviv, and part of me just wanting to spend the weekend by 
myself in my freezing apartment wearing everything I own and feeling sorry for myself, I decide to go to Kirovograd because I haven't seen Jenny in a few months now. And last time I made this trip, I SWEAR it was only a nine hour bus ride. Buying a bus ticket in Ukraine is about a million times easier than buying a train ticket is. There aren't OPTIONS like there are when you want to travel by train. At the train station, they asked you what class you want to travel in, if you if want an upper or low bunk (I like lower in platscart and upper in kupe....try getting THAT across when they're sold out of the first class you asked for. It seems like it should be much easier, I know...), they don't even need your passport. So after I very easily obtained a much more expensive bus ticket than I remembered I asked when the bus arrives in Kirovgrad. "6 in the morning." "6? But it leaves at 2 in the afternoon! What the...?"

Well, okay. So it's not 9 hours. But I already bought it and everyone was peer pressuring me that if I spent the weekend huddled alone around my PC space heater I'd regret it. So I go. First,  of course, it was the worst bus ride I've ever been on in Ukraine (and that's saying something!) I was right near the front and not only did they blast the old Russian sitcoms all afternoon and evening right above my head, but it was freezing all day because they kept opening the doors and then stiflingly hot all night when the driver finally turned the heat on. 
Plus I had the sweetest woman in Ukraine sitting in front of me who kept turning around and glaring at me (I have no idea why!) and who was lucky enough to have the one seat on the bus that reclined to be almost completely flat (meaning...in my lap). And Ukraine must have known it was a holiday somewhere because all of the food stands at the bus stations we stopped at were closed. So I spent my Thanksgiving, needless to say, hungry and more than just a tad grumpy.

But I knew it would pay off! So after sleeping a measly 3 hours, I wake up at 5:30 to be ready to get off in Kirovograd at 6. And we pull into a station at ten to 6, but...it's not Kirovograde. So I call Jenny and together we think,
this MUST be the station right before Kirovograd. The bus must be just gotten delayed along the way. After another hour and a half, however, Jenny calls me back, wondering where the hell I am, and suddenly I see it. A sign that signs Dnipropetrovsk: 18 Kilometers.

That's right friends. I just went across the country. Instead of getting into to Kirovograd at 6, my bus must have gotten in sometime in those few precious hours I was sleeping, probably at 3 or 4 in the morning. After getting out and buying my bus ticket back to Alexandria, where we were having Thanksgiving in a village outside the city, I went about 8 hours out of my way. Now, being a Ukrainian language learner, I've always been nervous about going to the East, where I've heard horrible things about what people do to you when you don't speak Russian. But I just boldly went to the ticket counter, said, in Ukrainian, "I'm sorry I don't speak Russian, but....yada yada yada." and even though most everyone answered me in Russian while I was there, I only got a few cold stares, and even convinced one young man to speak Ukrainian to me! I took a few pictures of the smoke stacks to tease Mike about later and got on another 3 hour bus, going this time I made sure, to the right place at the right time.

Okay right. So my Thanksgiving lesson. First I learned to ALWAYS ask at least 3 people what time you will be getting to your destination
(and one of them should be the driver!). Second, I learned, oh wait....reconfirmed that I hate Ukrainian transportation. And third, it's still worth to go see good friends and meet new people, because even after all of that, I had a wonderful weekend, and Thanksgiving celebration and now....one more story to add experiences here in great Ukrainia. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Tomorrow morning at 9:34 our newest member of the Chernivestka Oblast arrives for site visit at the Chernivsti Train Station. His village is a 25 minute Marshutka ride away from Chernivsti, and is rumored to have NOTHING (not a single flushing toilet in the whole town) 
so I'm thinking that he'll be in Chernivsti pretty often. I can't wait! I'm so excited to have new blood 
and someone else to hang out with! Hopefully he's cool and hopefully he likes his site and doesn't 
want to switch before they come permanently in December. We'll just have to convince him that 
we're awesome enough to put up with an outhouse for 2 years. :)

Besides meeting newbie at the train station, I will also be teaching my second lesson at a local Chernivsti school on how to prevent human trafficking. Now, in theory, I know what to do. I have a whole lesson planned on what I want to get across to these kids that are very at risk to be trafficked. And I'm really excited that I have this opportunity to get to spread the message to so many kids! In reality...it's a little different.

You think kids in the states are poorly behaved? Wow. I could not imagine kids in the states even attempting to act like the boys did during my first lesson. ESPECIALLY to a guest speaker! I did everything I could think of to get through to them. I waited. I threatened. I called them out and tried to make them repeat what other students had said. I stood next to their desks. I shouted over them. Nothing. It's so frustrating! After the lesson, a darling girlchild came up to me and told me a story 
about a woman she knew that was trafficked. She wanted to tell me during the lesson, but obviously 
couldn't make herself heard over her classmates. It's such a shame. Almost all of the girls were sitting there 
trying to listen, however, so I might make another visit to that school and talk to the all girls health class. Women are more at risked to be sexually trafficked, but I wish I could think of some way to get through to the boys too, since they're not immune to get trafficked, and even if they were, they all have sisters, mothers, and friends. The more we spread the word about ways to prevent it the better.