пʼятниця, червня 29, 2007

big update!

Yeah, I'm still alive. My apologies to all of my faithful readers who keep checking back and wondering why I haven't posted recently...it's a combination of general busyness, Tif's visit, and three days when the Internet didn't work. However, my Internet guy has put my connection on a different channel (I don't know exactly what this means in English, but it seems good) and now my connection is a lot faster...and I can upload photos! (See previous post.)

Let's see...going back about two weeks now, before Tif came. My friend Andrey's church did a series of evangelistic tent meetings for four nights in an area of town where a lot of my kids live. Each night, they would have a general meeting explaining the basics of Christianity with music and a sermon, which was then followed by a meeting that was more youth-oriented on topics like AIDS, alcoholism, and drugs. At least 25 of the kids from my school were there (we only have about 280!), whether sitting and listening or occasionally drifting over from the cafe/bar across the road. I don't believe that anyone got saved during the meetings, but hearing the Gospel is a rare occurence over here, and I simply pray that seeds were planted that will come to fruition later. I know that the mom of one of my seventh form boys really enjoyed the meetings and wants to start attending church regularly. I myself really felt convicted to pray for my kids...the barriers of language, culture, and my role as a PCV limit my ability to witness to them in words, but going to the meetings regularly and praying fervently for each child by name were things that I could do in spite of those barriers. It was a boost for my own faith.

Tif arrived last Friday, and we've had a grand time! She knows the language and the area, so a few days she was off visiting people she knew from before and finding souvenirs, but we've been together a lot, especially in the evenings...cooking, listening to the music she brought, and having random conversations on any and all topics. Oh, and finding out that the cafe on the corner has a lot of good food at cheap prices! I enjoy eating out once in a while, but I would feel odd doing it by myself here in town.

Sunday was Yula and Serhii's wedding...I had wanted to do a huge post about that event alone, but I think I'll just leave it with all the comments I wrote about the pictures in my last post. If you have questions, let me know.

Monday we bummed around town, took pictures by the statues of Lenin and Taras Shevchenko (Ukraine's greatest poet), and stopped by to visit Robert, the new PCV in my town. He works at a non-profit organization that helps invalids, large families, and families with invalid children. The organization had gotten a LARGE donation of used clothes from Canada, and the director had invited me over to look through and see if there was anything I would want. Most of it wasn't anything I would/could wear, but I ended up with two sweaters.

Last night was the school-leaving ceremony for the 11th form (US graduation). It involved lots of music and dance numbers, including small children dancing (very cute), a harem dance (weirdly fascinating and not what I would consider appropriate for the occasion...Tif caught some of it on video), and me singing "Fly Me to the Moon" in English. It was a very nice ceremony, and the kids were all dressed up--the boys in suits, the girls in prom-type dresses. After the ceremony, there was an all-night dance for the kids...last year I stayed, but we were planning to go to Kharkiv today and so we left after the ceremony.

Woke up this morning at 7 am to a severe thunderstorm and me having a sore throat and feeling exhausted, so we stayed home and are planning to go to Kharkiv tomorrow, as we thought it better that I rest today rather than keep pushing and get very sick when we go to L'viv next week. So I went back to bed and slept until after 11. Then we had pork stroganoff on toast for lunch (don't ask, we invented the combination earlier this week and it's really good), and Tif went off to go exchange money and look for Harry Potter books in Russian to complete her set, while I attempt to catch up on blogging.

Next Monday, we head for L'viv in western Ukraine, which is supposed to be a beautiful old city reminiscent of Prague or Krakow. It'll be about a 24 hour trip from Balaklia to L'viv, but we're up for the adventure. Then we get back to Kyiv on Thursday and Tif flies out on Friday morning. We're planning to go out to McDonald's that morning for her birthday, but we'll see how that goes. I think I'm going to visit the Malkos in Zgurivka next weekend, then come home for a few days, and then I'm off to Donetsk again.

Tif's back, so I'll close for now. :)

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четвер, червня 28, 2007

these pictures are each worth a thousand words that I haven't been able to post

Yeah, I know I never seem to post anymore. But my Internet didn't work for most of this week, so I wasn't able to even check my email all that well. But now my Internet connection is faster than ever, and I was actually able to upload photos. So, for your viewing pleasure, Yula and Serhii's wedding!

Also, Tif and I are having a great time and are headed to L'viv next Monday. Yay us. :)

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понеділок, червня 25, 2007

Quotebook, Internet-style

Random things said during Tif's visit:

T: "What's this card that says 'ghosts'?"
S: "That's my Apples to Apples game."
T: "I thought that Apples to Apples had little apples with it that you put on a tree."


T: "It spreads like wildflowers...wild flower...wildfire!"
S: *giggle*
T: "Well, wildflowers do spread!"

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пʼятниця, червня 22, 2007

this is not a post

Yes, I know that this is not a real update post. I promise one at some point. Hopefully soon.

Right now, I'm just fascinated that all pages connected to Blogger are now in Ukrainian on my computer. It used to be that just all the dates and such on my actual blog were in Ukrainian, which I chose because I thought it was cool. Having, for instance, the page I'm typing on now be in Ukrainian is sort of annoying. I'll have to think about this.

Tif comes today! I'm meeting her at the Kharkiv airport this afternoon!

Now, off to do my last bit of cleaning before she comes!

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пʼятниця, червня 15, 2007

Iced Tea (when you don't have ice)

Because Mom asked, my recipe for iced tea (makes 1 liter):

3 strawberry-flavored tea bags
1 mint-flavored tea bag
1 liter of water
sugar to taste (I use 2-3 tablespoons)

Bring the water to a boil. Pour into 1-liter jar (or, for those people not dependent on the metric system or with a better equipped kitchen, a medium-sized glass jar or pitcher). Tie tea bags together by the strings and place in hot water. Stir in sugar. Leave the jar on the counter for an hour or so to let the tea steep. (I usually leave the stirring spoon in the jar to weight the tea bags down so they don't float on top, but I don't know if it really makes a difference.) Put the jar in the refrigerator. After a couple of hours, your tea is ready! I suppose you could add ice cubes when serving, but my freezer doesn't keep things cold enough for me to make ice.


Anyone have good ideas about what to do with goat milk? My friend Natalia gave me some, and I'm not crazy about the flavor when I drink it straight. I've been using it in strawberry shortcakes this week, but I'm open to new ideas. (As much as I hate to admit it, there may be a limit to how many times a week a girl can eat strawberry shortcake.) Googling "goat milk recipes" got me lots of ideas about cheese and fudge, but they generally either called for ingredients I can't get (rennet, corn syrup, marshmallow cream, etc.) or involved cooking thermometers.

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середа, червня 13, 2007

Evangelicalism in Ukraine--links

I decided to post these links that I've recently found while poking around the Internet in hopes that you all (or at least Mom and Mrs. Green) might find them interesting and that they can shed some light on what evangelical Christianity looks like over here--the ways in which it is similar and dissimilar to evangelical Christianity in the US.

Protestants in the Former Soviet Union: What Survey Findings Reveal: Fascinating, but also troubling in spots--the average pastor's salary from the church work he does is roughly $70/month (for the percentage that answered the question on the survey). Most people I know have an average monthly salary of $100-$120 and think that it's difficult to live comfortably on that amount.

Ukrainian Evangelical Culture: This site is primarily designed for people coming on short-term mission trips, but there's a lot of interesting information about the structure of church services and the lifestyle of many Christians here...it's interesting for me, because I learned most of what's written there over a period of observation and interaction, and here it is all written out!

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appropriate both for my students and for me

"The Learner’s Task"

Some say it isn’t any fun
to imitate another’s tongue;
while idioms and turns of phrase
can often baffle and amaze
the novice who must learn their ways.

Loquacious speakers seldom pause
to rest their ever moving jaws;
and so the learner simply gapes
as useless input fast escapes--
these speakers might as well be apes!

Nor can one recognize the words
that stampede forth in growing herds
arranged in patterns quite opaque
and grammar strange enough to make
it clear that there’s been some mistake.
(Such is the learner’s sorry stake!)

But lest the learner, in dismay
abandon hope, I haste to say
that there remains one certain way:

To learn a language, girls and guys,
you simply have to memorize.

~Keith Slater

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вівторок, червня 12, 2007

the strawberry post

Ahh...I went to the bazaar this morning and came back with a kilogram of fresh strawberries, a kilo of onions, a bunch of dill, and a bunch of tiny new carrots. I love summer produce!


Yeah, I know I haven't posted in several days, but I was out of town this weekend. So here's my recap.

Thursday night, I visited the Shevchenkos, a family from my church who had invited me over for dinner when they saw me buying strawberries at the bazaar the previous Saturday. They told me there was no need for me to buy strawberries when they already had them in their garden. I went, but I also bought my own strawberries. :) We had borscht, strawberries with sugar, and varenyki (similar to ravioli, dough with filling that's either boiled or steamed) with cottage cheese and strawberries, with a side of sour cream. There are two little girls in the family, Maharita and Nastia (just finished 4th and 5th forms), and although we've been going to the same church for over a year, we got properly acquainted that night. At first, I was worried, because the girls seemed shy, but very soon that turned into, "And this is our room--this is Nastia's side and this is my side and this is my photo album and this is a picture of my best friend and do you want to put together a puzzle and here are our dolls and this is the cupboard where they live and Mama made these doll clothes but we made these ourselves..."

I really liked seeing that the girls made doll clothes...I love the Y kids to pieces--they're my family here--but I could never see any of the girls there sitting down to sew doll clothes. Someone else would go over to them and destroy the partially completed project, and then they'd start arguing, and in the meantime the needle would get lost and someone would step on it... I think the next time I go over to the Shevchenkos, I'm taking an old skirt lining I have and we'll learn how to make drawstring skirts for dolls.

Friday evening, I took the elektrichka an hour south to visit some other PCVs. The PCV down there had had a camp last week, and on Saturday, the counselors were all going on an excursion to Sviatahorsk (Holy Mountain), an Orthodox monestary just over the border into Donetsk Oblast. My friend Erin McS was coming to visit me after camp ended, so I had the chance to go on the excursion also. Friday night, we all (1o or so of us) went out to a cafe in the town and went dancing. Some of the American guys had had a bit much to drink (to put it mildly), and they were very active dancers to begin with...they were trying to dance with Ukrainian girls, but the girls were somewhat freaked out and pretty much kept fleeing the dance floor. Entertaining for those of us who were sober. Also fascinating was that in the center of the dance floor, there was a post with mirrors on all sides of it, and when the Ukrainians danced by themselves, they all watched themselves in the mirror. Cultural differences...

We got home around 1 am and then I got to take my first hot shower since February or thereabouts. Ahh, bliss...

Saturday morning, we got up and took a van down to Sviatohorsk. I had looked it up in my guidebook the day before and knew that, as a woman, I had to have a headscarf, but we stopped by the bazaar to get scarves for Erin and Jessica, the other girls. We had to have our heads covered, something on our shoulders (no tank tops), and skirts that were knee-length or thereabouts. The bazaar had all sorts of filmy-type scarves, and many people there were wearing scarves wrapped around them as a skirt, if they'd come in shorts or something. The guys were supposed to have long pants.

We saw the lower monestary and were able to go in for the end of the service that was going on, which, as always, was beautiful with everything being sung acapella. Then we went on a short tour and had a picnic lunch on the other side of the river. It was an interesting comparison, because everyone had to be so covered up at the monestary, but in the picnic area, the same people would strip down to bikinis and Speedos.

After lunch, we were feeling overwhelmed by Ukrainain hospitality and over-organization of what was supposed to be a relaxing day, so us girls took off to the bazaar by ourselves to go shopping. I bought two headscarves, a filmy white one and a navy blue one with gold flowers, and two candlesticks made of clay that I was told was from the mountain and glazed dark blue. The candlesticks, unfortunately, broke on the way home, but they were only about 40 cents each USD and since they broke cleanly, I think I can glue them back together.

Then we went on a hike up the mountain and back in the fields to a grave of one of the monks from long ago...during Soviet times, the monestary had been a hospital for psychiatric patients (I think...), but this grave had been hidden and wasn't discovered. Then we went to the upper part of the monestary, where we could see all the way back to the town where we'd been staying, a forty-minute drive away.

Facing the monestary on a different cliff was a huge Soviet-era statue of the first Party secretary, or someone like that. One of the Ukrainians who was with us commented that he found it poetic justice that the area around the statue is eroding, while the churches are being rebuilt.

Then we all went back to the town where we were staying, went out to a cafe for dinner, hung out at one of the houses where some of the guys were staying, and then went back to the cafe where we were the previous night. Our apartment decided not to stay late, so we had french fries and then went home for more hot showers.

One of the really neat things about the weekend was that Ethan, one of the PCVs who was in the apartment I stayed at, is a Christian, which is always encouraging to find out here. He went to Liberty University, where he majored in biology. We've had dissimilar experiences here--unlike me, he was involved with a church in his town during training and made some good friends there, but when he got to site, there's no Evangelical church there, so he hasn't been able to go to church for five months. We were able to chat a bit about being believers out here, which was really cool.

Sunday morning, Erin and I got up and took the train back up to Balaklia. We had a fun time--the highlights included watching the brass band in my town rehearse while a dad and his two little girls danced on the outdoor stage by the Palace of Culture; making the ultimate sacrifice when the electricity went out and we had to eat a half kilo of vanilla ice cream with strawberries; making homemade pizza; and watching Walk the Line.

Yesterday we went up to Kharkiv, got Erin her train ticket back to Kyiv, and then went out for Italian food (yes, food was an important part of this visit!). We wanted to go to the second hand store I really like, but it closes early on Mondays, so we went to a bookstore instead, where I found a children's jigsaw puzzle that's a map of Ukraine and Erin bought an armload of ESL story/fiction books in English to use with her kids.

So it's been a great weekend, but I'm tired.

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середа, червня 06, 2007

yesterday, today, and this summer

Once again, posted a day later than I wrote it because Blogger wouldn't let me post. Not sure what's wrong with Blogger...

Yesterday was fun. I didn't have anything going on at school, so I hopped the 11:50 elektrichka to Kharkiv after making photocopies for my lesson today. When I got into the city, I went second-hand shopping at the store I went to a couple of weeks ago, but this time I actually had more than 15 minutes to look at and try on things. I found three books, all more-or-less mediocre but in English and quite cheap, and three shirts--two tank tops (one is white with a teal flower and the other is pale blue with some Old-West themed writing and design) and a light purple dressy summer blouse with embroidered flowers on it. All together, I spent about $15, which is a bit stiff for used clothing over here, but it's all really good quality and I needed some more summer tops.

After shopping, I hung out with Mike, who was also in town. We sat on the cement steps near the opera house and talked, complete with beverages (I found bottled lemon iced tea!). Later, we were joined by Marie, a French girl who's been studying at a university in Kharkiv for the past year but is going home on Thursday. I was planning to take the 6:50 train home, but we went out for supper and the pizzas we ordered took FOREVER and showed up less than 10 minutes before my train would have left. So I just took the next train. (Yes, Tif, the infamous 8:20 out of the main station!) The pizza was pretty good...pepperoni and red pepper slices. The crust on the edges was REALLY good, crisp on the outside but chewy within, and with a good flavor, but in the center it was too thin and the pizza was a bit greasy. But overall, good.


My summer plans are being formed, and I'm amazed how quickly my calendar's filling up.

Now-End of June-ish: Praktika at school

June 22-July 6: Tif's visit

July 14-July 29 (tentative, pending application approval): working as an assistant at the Summer English Intensive Program at Donetsk Christian University. I'm really excited about this opportunity. I was looking up evangelical weddings in Ukraine the other night (prompted by Yula's upcoming wedding), and ran across a mention of DCU. At the time, I thought that one of Nadia's cousins who I'd met at New Year's had studied there (it turns out he actually studied at a Bible college in Dnipropretrovsk...I knew it was something with a "D" in southeastern Ukraine), so I checked out their website and found the summer program. They still have a few slots open for workers, and I cleared it with PC, so hopefully everything will work out!

Early August (no definites, many possibilities): Brandi's visit? / Crimea with the Ys? / Lithuania with Kathryn? / Odesa with the oblast girls? / Krakow on my own? We'll see...

August 26-30: Peace Corps COS (Close of Service) Conference in L'vivska Oblast. Scary how soon all of that's coming up...

September 1 (most likely September 3, since the first is a Saturday...but you never know here): School begins again!


It's funny...I was not at all thrilled about working at praktika (summer school), but several PCVs have said that they're sort of jealous of me because I have something going on right now...they're bored. At least two people were like, "My school doesn't include me with anything like that." Mike also added that no one tells him when staff meetings are and he's not expected to show up for them...if I don't show up to ours, the director grills Nelya about my whereabouts and then I hear about it from Nelya that I really do need to come.

And I've been having fun. It's more laid back, and I'm not teaching every day. Half the time, I come, check papers for an hour, and go home; and yesterday, I got the day off. But today, I did music with my 10A form and we had a lot of fun. The kids complained about the music choices--"When are we going to listen to music that's popular in Ukraine?", but they had fun. And I picked several songs that they were at least slightly familiar with. I didn't, however, include rap or heavy metal, which is very popular, because a) I don't have any, b) you can't hear the words, which defeats the purpose, and c) the English-speaking artists that are the most popular here tend to have very profane/vulgar/obscene lyrics, which aren't appropriate for school.

Our playlist today:

"Honey" by Tina Karol
"Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones
"Oxford Town" by Bob Dylan
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by MadHeads XL
"The Great Lakes Song" by Lee Murdoch
"Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer

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понеділок, червня 04, 2007

sorry so late...

Please note: This was written on Monday, but then Blogger had issues and wouldn't let me post. And I was out of town yesterday. Please, don't lynch me for not updating in over a week. Mom says that it's like having her own personal serial to watch, reading my blog, so assume I was preempted by the Movie of the Week or something.

Well, I know it's been a week since my last post, but since Mom hasn't mentioned that people have been asking her why I wasn't posting, I think I'm in the clear. :) For those people who want to know, a) it was in the mid-90s most of last week, leaving me without the ability to think clearly, let alone type; b) while playing badminton last Monday, I somehow pinched a nerve in my right arm, which made extended computer time, especially typing, challenging (much better now); c) the end of the school kept me busy; and d) I just wasn't in the mood. :)

But now my arm is back to normal, the temperature has dropped to the mid-70s (perfect!), and "praktika", the Ukrainian version of summer school, is in full swing. It's different from US summer school...each homeroom of kids has certain subjects that they're supposed to come to school for (and it's not just the slower kids), and each day is only one subject, which is usually supposed to last 5 hours but never does. And part of the time, the teachers take the kids on field trips instead of book stuff...Nelya took her class to the town museum today, and last Friday, I ended up helping as a chaperone with the 1st-5th formers, taking them to a concert at the Palace of Culture for Children's Day and then going with the 5th formers and Olha Ivanivna afterwards to go swimming/wading in the river. (So nice, especially as last Friday was very hot.) I have my oh-so-unmotivated 10-A class twice this week, and the topic I was given was "listening comprehension", so I think that on Wednesday, we're going to listen to music and on Friday, we'll watch one of my DVDs. I spent this afternoon looking up song lyrics and translating the difficult words into Ukrainian. As a result, I ended up with a cheesy pop song that has versions in both Russian and English stuck in my head. Have been playing soft, pretty music like Fernando Ortega to scrub out my brain.

While at the supermarket today, I found something resembling ranch dressing. At least, it resembles my faint, far-off memories of ranch dressing. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of consuming, while not a huge amount, more than my stomach could easily handle, so then I got to follow it up with Pepto-Dismal-type tablets, cherry flavored (yes, the D for B is intentional).

Well, Blogger ate the second half of this post earlier when I tried to post it, so let me see if I can remember what I posted...

Yula and Serogia's wedding plans are progressing...they had hoped to keep the guest list down to about 100 or so, but apparently as soon as all the extended family heard that Yula was getting married (before the invitations were sent out), they all started calling Nadia to tell her that they were coming...and had already bought their train tickets! It looks like the Y house is going to be filled with people, as they are the family members who have a true gift for hospitality. Nadia says she keeps telling people that they'll fill up all the floor space, and she doesn't know how she's going to feed everyone! (Viktor suggested tents out in their huge garden and letting people cook their own food over campfires...)

Ihor Y (age 5) asked me on Sunday why I don't have kids. This is the second time he's asked me something along these lines...I think he really wants more kids to play with! Or maybe he just can't comprehend an adult without kids. :)

On Saturday, I'm going with a group of PCVs on an "excursion" to visit an Orthodox monestary just over the border into Donetsk Oblast. I'm looking forward to it, and then on Sunday and Monday, Erin McS, a PCV friend of mine, is coming to visit me. Yay for company!

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