Sunday, July 3, 2011


Hello to all my dear friends and family!

I hope this blog post finds you all happy and healthy along with enjoying some genuine summer sunshine! I know that I have been dubbed a "terrible blogger" but with the more time I am finding on my hands, I am finding less excuses to not to blog so I will try to make more of an effort. I promise.

Summer began on May 27th, when all of my 11th form students graduated and entered the "real world". I attended their "school leaving" party which consisted of an all night party gathering together all of their teachers, families and friends. We celebrated at a restaurant in Kivertsi with plenty of food, dancing and photos. The party did not subside until early in the morning when three teachers, including myself and all of my students walked to a near-by lake to watch the sunrise. It was truly a touching moment because we do not have such traditions in the United States. I felt honored to be invited and able to participate in such a long standing tradition. To say the least, I enjoyed myself considerably.

The summer pressed on when I was asked to participate in a summer camp called "Camp Rainbow". Everyday, for the next three weeks, I went to school to play games and interact with the kids on a more personal and fun level. I did not conduct lessons but instead attended lessons of my own. I learned many new games that are played often by Ukrainian students. I was also able to interact more with the younger students that I do not get to see in class a.k.a. the 1st-3rd form pupils. I found many friends among the younger folk, making me very excited to see them in the next coming school year. I appreciated this time because I got to expose the inner child in me through endless card games and soccer games.

I had a week off from all the craziness which allowed me just to relax and become a bit productive in preparing for the school year to come. I was also able to brush up on my Ukrainian with tutorials and gatherings with some Ukrainian friends that also live in Kivertsi.

I just got back from a week long venture around Western Ukraine. My friends Laurent, Grace and I went hiking and camping in the Carpathians with some of Laurent's teachers. We hiked to the highest peak, Parashka, in the range nearest to the city of Lviv. We were very fortunate to enjoy a sunny day of hiking before the rain rolled in that night. We hiked for about 7 hours but enjoyed some quality time at the summit, eating glorious food and engaging in some quality conversation. I got a great deal of practice concerning my Ukrainian which, as you all should know, I needed. On the journey back home, we stopped at a few Holy springs and visited an old castle that use to reside in the Carpathians. We sang songs and I was able to hear many stories about their lives and their journeys as individuals. It was a trip I won't forget when I look back on my time spent here.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July and, to be honest, I am feeling a bit nostalgic since I won't be able to spend this notorious holiday with my family on the lake. But I will be spending it with some amazing friends I have made here and there will be new memories to be had. I will also be attending a language refresher camp next week, to brush up on my Ukrainian language skills.

I am counting down the days until I have some wonderful visitors here from the United States. Two of my very best friends, Bradleigh and Hayley will be coming to the beautiful land of Ukraine in August.

I hope you all enjoy your 4th of July with your beloved family and friends!

Much love and happiness to you all!

Monday, February 14, 2011

"The children know that you love them inside their hearts."

Good Day America!

Hello to everyone, to my dedicated readers, I apologize for the delay. Again. Sometimes Ukraine distracts me from getting in contact with the blog so I sincerely apologize. Life has been moving at a fast pace but I am still keeping up. Teaching consumes the majority of my time but that's exactly how I want it. I am connecting more and more with my students and I, myself, am learning more Ukrainian with my 4th form which has become very helpful.

My birthday was this past weekend! Yes, I turned the big 24. I spent the weekend in Kolky with two of my very dear friends, Benjamin and Peter Narayan. Peter made the big trip up from south of Lviv, which I couldn't have been more happy about. Peter was such a good friend of mine during training, seeing his face made my birthday all the more special. We spent time in Kolky making meals, laughing and just enjoying each other's company. Relaxation was the goal and that goal was accomplished. I recieved a lovely package from my grandma Diane. She must have read my mind because everything in the package was exactly what I was going to go to the store for the next day! She sent delicious cookies, soaps, candy and other essentials that are hard to find in Ukraine. So thank you so much, grandma, you truly are a lifesaver. Thank you.

Today I ventured to school and was greeted by the song "happy birthday" from a Ukrainian language teacher, she said she had been practicing. As students passed by me in the halls, the word had spread that it had been my birthday. My first lesson with the 7th form turned into a musical jam session with instruments being played and many songs being sung. It was wonderful. The students bought me flowers and candy. I proceeded to my 11th form class and they had gone to town! The room was decorated with balloons and drawing and hearts everywhere. They had gotten me some beautiful flowers with candy and sang me happy birthday as well. I felt so loved. My teachers and I celebrated at the break with cake and drinks. My college, Tatiana Micolivna, purchased me a traditional Ukrainian bells that are to be hung in the house to fend of anything evil. They are beautiful. I recieved a picture of my other collegue and I dancing at her birthday party a few weeks back. Another english teacher bought me a gigantic book about Ukraine, full of pictures and captions in both english and ukrainian. I feel so blessed to have a school that is that appreciative, it reminds me that this experience is a two way street for all of us, we are all taking and giving so much to each other, even in the smallest of ways.

Thank you to all who sent birthday greetings, it was such a treat to hear from the United States on such a day. Everyone that made phone calls and sent emails, they were all cherished. I love each and every one of you and think about you often. Have a great week!

Love you all. Continue to spread peace.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oh Sunshine.

Hello to all!

Greetings from Kivertsi, Ukraine! I hope this post finds you all happy and healthy. The snow is coming down now, just when I thought it was over. This week we had a day of wonderful sunshine that just made my heart all warm inside. But Ukraine is Ukraine so the snow had to make another appearance. Now we have at least a foot of snow. I enjoy it though, being from southern Oregon and all, I don't get to see much snow on a daily basis so I am learning to appreciate it's beauty more and more. It's nice to look outside and see the snow falling as I sit all warm inside my house. It's relaxing.

This week I taught my first lessons solo. I taught  a couple 9th forms, a couple 11th forms, a couple 7th forms, a 5th form and a 6th form. I absolutely loved it. The students are so eager to learn english and I try my best to make it as enjoyable as possible. I feel the students picking up on that aspect and they, in turn, are equally as excited as I am. I had my 5th formers drawing up their own jack-o-lanterns. It was wonderful to see their creativity and to see how much fun they had while doing the activity. I am discovering that I enjoy the younger forms quite a bit, I can't help but smile when they greet me so warmly. They are so curious and have an infinite amount of questions for me everyday about my life, family, friends and the United States. I encourage them all to visit America one day and the more I am there, the more eager they are to visit one day. I love seeing that kind of enthusiasm especially in the younger students.

I ate Holy Supper with my host family and it was delicious. Earlier that day, my host family took a large jug of water to the church to be bless. After Holy Supper and the entire next day, we could only drink from the Holy Water jug. It was the best tasting water I had ever had in Ukraine. I felt privledged to be taking part in such a sacred holiday. I will always be grateful to them for inviting me and considering me to be apart of their family.

On Saturday, I ventured to Lutsk to meet up with other volunteers to participate in a Collaborative meeting. Twenty volunteers, including myself, met for about 2 hours and discussed grant writing opportunities, community project ideas and other options available for us to conduct in our communities. I found it to be extremely helpful and encouraging. I got some great ideas about different projects I can do in my community. I want to get some new books for the 11th form and I was informed about a grant I can write to do just that. I am very excited and anxious to get going on some amazing projects. I have some good ideas brewing.

I hope the States are wonderful and I miss you all dearly!

Much love.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Feeling the Love

Hello to everyone!

This past week has been rather mellow. The school has still been closed due to holidays and let me tell you, there are more holidays in the month of January than I even thought imaginable! It's wonderful being able to celebrate and to given the opportunity to be fully emerged into the traditions set for each holiday. I have been attending school everyday to continue my tutorials with students participating in the regional Olympiads. I am tutoring a 11th form student and a 9th form student. They are both brilliant and I find myself improving my english as I study and break down the language I have spoken all my life. As time progresses in Ukraine, I am finding more and more beauty in language. The more I am challenged and forced to communicate in Ukrainian, I am beginning to find a whole new level of appreciation between the interaction of human beings. Ukrainian is one of the most beautiful languages I have ever heard which also makes me driven to improve. Besides tutoring, I have been progessing in settling in and discovering different parts of Kivertsi I had not been exposed to before. I am loving the town more each day.

My beloved site mate has returned from the states. Her name is Kate Schmidt and she has already been living in Kivertsi for a year now and teaches at a different school in town. She is from Chicago, Illinois and we are always finding ourselves laughing and having a great time whenever we hang out together. I am very fortunate to have a site mate that is very much like me in terms of humor and light heartedness. I am truly blessed, it is a great outlet to have when Ukraine starts to get the better of you. I helped her move her stuff back into her apartment which was quite the adventure. The buses here in Ukraine are always packed and try to imagine two people trying to get onto a packed bus with a 50 lb hiking backpack and a 20 lb school backpack. The Ukrainians on the bus were not even phased by the efforts which made for an even funnier situation, it was a moment in which I wished I had a video camera to capture the process. It was rather comical.

I have recieved some amazing pacakges from home that have only made this transition that much smoother and the battle with homesickness that much easier. Bradleigh Cameron sent me the most amazing backpack and treats. My father sent me a OSU beanie which I find myself wearing everywhere. Oregon is alive and thriving here in Kivertsi. Carli Godard and Hayley Buckbee sent me so many goodies that I found myself teary up at their thoughtfulness. They sent me some chocolate, a book, a couple movies, gloves, warm socks, cheetos!, nutella, candles, tea, very endearing letters and notes, everything was just so thought out, it honestly brought a few tears to my eye. I can't express how much all of those treasures meant to me, I don't think any of them will ever understand just how special recieving those gifts was. Thank you again to all of you who have been so supportive and have shown me so much love while being thousands of miles away from home.

Today, I taught a couple 9th forms and a couple 5th forms. I taught one 5th form class the "itsy, bitsy spider" song, hand motions included. It was the cutest thing trying to watch them manuver their hands like so. They eventually caught on and I couldn't get them to stop singing it! I taught the other 5th form class "mary had a little lamb" and they loved that as well. I found myself signing autographs after class and being given a bountyful amount of stickers that I eventually had to start sticking on my hands and on my sweater. They were so sweet. I had a couple 7th form students make me bracelets! They asked me one day what my favorite color was and sure enough, today they came and surprised me with a couple beautifully, threaded bracelets. It was amazing but frustrating that I couldn't express my gratitude as much as I would have like to. I hope my smile said it all because it was huge and full of true gratitude. I have felt so welcome at the school and the students have begun to take me in as their own. The teachers only continue to be supportive and appreciative of my efforts. I have bonded with more than just the english teachers. There is a french teacher named Tammara, it was her 55th birthday party that Ben and I attended, who never fails to give me a hug and a huge smile everyday she sees me at school. She is wonderful and I hope that as my Ukrainian improves, or my French, we can converse on a deeper level and create a lasting friendship. I always look forward to seeing her at school.

Tomorrow is another big holiday here in Ukraine. It is the day of "epiphany". I am not quite sure about the details yet but there will be a large celebration at school as well as in my home. My host family has been wonderful by including me in their festivities and my host mom, Tonia, is a delicious cook. She is also rather healthy compared to most other food I have eaten. She is the first Ukrainian I have met that uses olive oil instead of sunflower oil. What a rare find that is indeed.

I miss you all dearly, I'll keep you posted.

Much love.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh the Holidays...

Hello dearest family and friends,

I am sorry about the delay in posts, I have been without internet for a while but now I am back in action with the cyber world. I appreciate anyone that reads these! Thanks for your support.

After christmas, I returned to Kivertsi to do some individual tutoring with some students whom will be participating the region Olympiad. The Olympiad is an academic competition regarding all subjects in school, of course, I was tutoring those students who were moving on in English. I loved getting some one-on-one time with students, allowing me to get to know them better.

For New Years, I returned to Kolky to hang out with Ben and some other friends he had already developed in the community. We attended a rather large gathering of Ukrainians meaning we were the only ones who spoke english. It was a great experience! We ate so much food for hours on end while dancing the night away. We left 'early' which in Ukraine means 2:30 a.m. It was wonderful to be apart of such a celebration in a country that knows how to celebrate!

A couple days after New Years, Ben and I were invited to join six other volunteers in the beautiful city of Lyviv. Lyviv is suppose to be only 5 hours away but Ben and I found ourselves venturing for nearly 8 hours to get to Lyviv but it was so worth it. Lyviv is the most beautiful city I have visited in Ukraine especially around the holidays. The city was lit up with colors and tress decorated everywhere and it was snowing! Lyviv is suppose to be considered "the heart of  Ukrainian tradition" and it lived up to that indeed. The architecture was original and classic. It was all I imagined eastern Europe to be. The volunteers and I climbed to the top of "Castle Mountain" which gave us a 360 degree view of Lyviv. I can describe how amazing the view was, my pictures do not do the view much justice either. When people come to visit, I will be taking them to that very spot, for sure.

I have been attending other random parties for teachers and their families which has been a pleasure. Ukraine celebrates christmas on the 6-7th of January so for Christmas day I gathered at my counter parts Ivanna Ivanivna's home to meet with her family and some of her close family friends. I probably ate my weight in food and before I knew it, guitars were brought out playing some of my favorite classic rock music artists like Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin. It was such a treat and an experience I won't ever forget.

Today school started back up again and I have yet to recieve my final schedule regarding classes. I have a rough idea but the school is trying to figure out its' own schedule as well. I will let you know I figure out what forms I will be teaching.

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays! Much love to everyone.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kolky for Christmas

Hello dear friends and family,

Another christmas has come and gone but this year I spent the wonderful day of Christ's birth in a small village called Kolky. It is located just 30 minutes up the road from Kivertsi. My good friend, Benjamin Hogue (from Grand Junction, Colorado), lives there. On Christmas eve we attempted to make the national dish, borscht and it was delicious. We were pretty impressed with our efforts and having been our first time, it was probably some of the best borscht I have had since being in Ukraine. Ben had a small christmas tree that was accompanied by many gifts his students had gotten him so the feeling of Christmas was present. My teachers and students gave me a wreath with a candle so we used that as decor as well. My teachers were very dear in writing me a sweet card and presenting me with candy and even a glass angel that lights up as a token of their seasonal greetings. I felt very loved and embraced around a holiday that is very much family oriented. It was difficult to be away but I am starting to develop a circle of my own in Kivertsi. I am appreciated and they never stop showing that to me.

On Christmas day, Ben and I enjoyed quite the dance party and opened gifts. We just spent most of the day watching movies and eating delicious sweets. It was nice to relax after the first week in school. For christmas dinner, we prepared grilled cheese and some mashed potatoes. It was a random combonation but suited the occassion. The next day, after Christmas, we went to the bazar and met up with Ben's counterpart. He invited us to his home for brunch and to meet his family. He had a very sweet family and we enjoyed some wonderful food and tea with them. We sang songs and played with his grandchildren. Ukraine has the most hospitable people I know, everyone wants us to be apart of their family, to feel loved. It is unlike anywhere I have yet to venture, it is truly making me fall in love with this culture. I hope that I can only learn from their ways and execute them once I return to the states. Their hearts are still full of compassion regardless of all the adversity they have undergone in the past 20 years. The people of Ukraine have yet to cease in amazing me. I am blessed to be apart of their transition into an independent state, their democracy is young but has enormous potentional (quote from Benjamin Hogue).

I hope everyone had a wonderful christmas filled with much love from family and friends. I love you all.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Real Thing

Hello Family and Friends!

I aplogize that this is my first post but I never got around to much during training that did not consist of Ukrainian lessons or lesson planning. But now I will try to post blogs as often as possible, probably once a week. I will try to keep you all updated with pictures and other goodies that will help you feel more informed about my where abouts in the wonderful country of Ukraine!

I have currently moved to my permanent site in Kivertsi from my beautiful training site of Tarascha (in central Ukraine,two hours south of Kiev). Tarascha had a population of about 15,000 with 3 schools. I worked at school number one called gymnasium. I taught the 4th, 6th and 11th forms. They were all dear pupils and it was difficult to leave them. I plan on visiting again in the summer of 2011. I lived with a wonderful host family. Natasha, Olga and Julia all greeted me daily with warm smiles and lots to talk about. They helped my Ukrainian develop all throughout my training experience. I also had a very fun and humorous training group which was made up by Laurent Marshall from New Hampshire, Ashley Greve from Illinois, Egle Vilkelyte from Florida, Peter Narayan from Georgia and the lovely Grace Harter from Washington D.C. We all had a great connection and really bonded like a family. I miss them dearly.

I have arrived at site in Kivertsi, I have been here for a couple days now.Kivertsi has a population of about 13,000 with 5 schools. There is a train station located in the town that can travel all across Europe. I live on the second floor of a house with a married couple named Sasha and Tonia. They are very sweet people and they challenge my Ukrainian skills daily which is good because everyone knows I need much practice.My good friend, Ben from training, lives just up the road in a smaller village so it's nice to have a familiar face in the vacinity. I ventured the school I will be teaching at today. I was greeted by 57 teachers and over 830 pupils. They were all very friendly and showed me a very warm welcome. The entire 11th form conducted a presentation for me in English about Ukraine. I was very impressed to hear they had memorized their speeches and took the time to do such a thing for me. I was very appreciative. They also gave me a hand stitched towel along with the sacred bread that is only given to honored guests that come to the country. I do not think that my welcome could have gone any better, I am very excited to continue working with all the faculty and students.

On my first day in Kivertsi, I was greeted by another volunteer whom is living in the same town. Her name is Kate Schmidt and she is originally from Illinois. She showed me the town and soon we travelled to Lutsk and met another volunteer there. Melissa Krut works at the university in Lutsk and also welcomed me with open arms. Later that night, we all gathered together in Kivertsi for dinner in which two other volunteers joined. A Community Development volunteer named Terri and another T.E.F.L volunteer named Dominic. It was great to get to meet other volunteers who are close by.

I attended the regional Olympiad on Saturday and helped grade students from around the area in writing, speaking and listening. After the Olympiad, some of the english teachers treated Kate and I to dinner. It was a great chance to get to know the teachers on a more personal level and to introduce myself in a more comfortable setting. The english teachers are very intelligent and I look forward to getting to know them more as time progresses.

Until next time, much love to you all!