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“somewhere in the rush i felt, we’re losing ourselves”

31 Aug

 Since October 1, 2009

1: times I’ve checked my iCal since March

2: jars of peanut butter consumed

3: average cups of coffee I drink per day

4: number of New Years resolutions I’ve completed

8: approximate number of hryven in a dollar

9: number of New Years resolutions I made

11: times I’ve fallen on ice

13: pounds I would tentatively guess that I’ve lost

15.5: working weeks of this coming semester

44: novels I’ve finished

48.76: pages I averaged reading each day

65: the price of a hair appointment for me in hryven

100: my general pages read goal per day

120: the cost of the most expensive item I’ve let myself buy in hryven

334: days that have passed

16,286: pages I’ve read


1: day until school starts

2: number of cookies I’ve eaten today

3: books I’m currently reading

4: the highest number of overnight trains I’ve taken in a week

4:11: time into the song I paused

4.50: the price of tomatoes per kilogram at the bazaar

8: possibilities I’m considering for what to do after Peace Corps

9: hours it takes to get from L’viv to Kyiv by train

10.97: months I’ve been in Ukraine

68: temp (F) it has felt like here the past three days

180: minutes I spend worrying in a day

*Music: “Days Go By” -Keith Urban


“I went and stole some wings and thought why can’t I?”

20 Jul

This is out of character, but just a straight forward update today to let everyone know what I’m up to, as I haven’t posted in about two months!

Life in Drohobych

Perhaps the happiest I’ve been throughout my service time at site, I’m currently extremely grateful for my phenomenal friends Olesya and Pavlo (they’re brother and sister) who patiently bear through our deal of alternating days speaking English and Ukrainian.  Several days ago Olesya and I sat in the park after doing some grocery shopping at the bazaar and I worked through translating the titles of the articles in a Christian newspaper we had been handed at some point on our walk.  Plus, seeing their family is continually a lift in my day!

On Friday as a storm rolled into town, I sat with Olesya and her mother in their home where a cool breeze whispering of an incoming thunderstorm could reach us, chatting about cultural ideas of the family unit as a fluffy puff of a kitten and his mother dozed lazily on my lap.  Sometimes I feel as if my Ukrainian would develop significantly more if I could relive days like this all year long.

Untangling Ukrainian

After the confidence shake that was Language Refresher, I have rebounded wonderfully.  The group I trained with at the Ukrainian Language camp was mostly volunteers who have been here longer, inevitably leaving me feeling incompetent after each session.  The only time I felt helpful was when we had to conjugate verbs; the tenses were indicated with the letters for their Ukrainian names, which my Ukrainian tutor had drilled into my head!  Point being, I survived the camp, and returned to site with a new found motivation to work on my Ukrainian.

These past few days I’ve been speaking so much Ukrainian with Olesya that I’ve been dreaming in a stressful mixture of English and Ukrainian that usually leaves me exhausted in the mornings.  Having felt my Ukrainian skills stagnate for quite some time, it’s a relief to feel a leap in my communication skills, and to hear that Ukrainians notice it as well.  Olesya’s mother and I can easily communicate now and she bolsters my confidence every time I see her by commenting on the marked difference in my speech.

A Sense of My Summer, Pictorially.

 <–My 11th form students graduated and made us proud by receiving a lot of medals.  The big ceremony was with all the schools in the middle of the town.  That’s the emblem for the lyceum where I work the boy is holding up.






On L’viv’s Day of L’viv there were –> many musicians playing out on the street, including one of this year’s contestants on Ukraine’s Got Talent.  He’s playing the bandura (as you can see, something like a traditional Ukrainian guitar), which I find to be one of the coolest instruments ever.  He can listen to a song on someone’s phone once and then immediately play it (while I watched he played everything from traditional Ukrainian music to hard rock).  Now that’s talent! 







<– I went with one of my students from English club to the old synagogue in town, which in good weather is turned into a local art gallery.  They had paintings done by a local artist as well as a photographic series.






Kari and I spent some –> time in Kyiv, showing her friend Jordyn around.  We went back to what we had seen in fall, and had much better lighting for some great photos!  This is my favorite statue to photograph.





<–We finally made it to the Chernobyl Museum where I snapped a couple photos before someone came to tell me I had to pay if I wanted to take pictures.  This picture has the words to a poem about the memorial of Chernobyl painted into the objects.  I love the rich colors and the traditional prints the painter put into the grandmother’s scarf and the long scarf wrapping around the perimeter of the work.  While we were there we ran into a group of Americans from the US Marine Corps – random.





I went to meet my family –> in Copenhagen and we drove across the bridge to Sweden.  We went hiking where part of the film The Seventh Seal was shot.  Even though it was raining/misting both times we were there, it was a great place!






<–The day before I had to fly back to Ukraine, the whole family went to the Carlsberg brewery.  Despite my aching feet from high heels, it was an interesting walk through the displays and we all enjoyed the beer tasting at the end.  The taxi driver who took us all the way back out to our hotel near the airport afterwards was wonderfully friendly and told us all about the challenges of living on the paycheck of an average person in an extremely expensive city.





After dragging myself off the plane into –> 40 degree weather in Kyiv, I barely made it to Nosivka to see my host family for the first time in 6 months.  I had a wonderful week full of movie watching with Ira, disco dancing with Ira and Yulia, Ira taking pictures of me, learning to make jam at home, and thoroughly enjoying some of the amazing cooking that I’ve missed so much the last six months.  I can’t wait to get back and see them again sometime soon!







<–I had a whirlwind birthday weekend in L’viv with Olesya, Pavlo, Andriy, and some of their friends.  I got to see Olesya do her work with Artistry at a product show (a makeup brand of Amway) finally!





We had an authentic  Fourth of July BBQ in L’viv at –> Kari’s place.  A volunteer even provided us with real tortilla chips, graham crackers, and marshmallows from her parents in the states!  It was nice to spend the 4th with Americans.





<–At Language Refresher, Joe and I got in touch with our inner children and played on the see-saw.  We needed to blow off some stress after a day full of language classes on grammar and skills work.  Kari just laughed at us!






We were at a sanatorium –> for Language Refresher while they were celebrating a summer holiday that included massive amounts of dancing.  The little kids were digging it!  Despite the bug bites, it was a delightful evening.






<–Part of the holiday involved audience members popping balloons which contained strips of paper on which were written tasks for them to complete.  Matthew got to pop one of the balloons – it’s a nice action shot if I do say so myself.






Just so you’re all sure nothing –> has changed, here’s proof that, as usual, I found a kitten to play with at Language Refresher as I do everywhere I go.  Living without pets for this long has been harder than I imagined it would – I want a kitten so badly I already have a name picked out for one – Conrad. Yes, as in Joseph Conrad.






Though I’m kicking myself for posting a blog so somniferous, I hope all of you enjoy the photos and brief life update.  Here in Drohobych there’s a wonderful new volunteer named Kelly who lets me use her wireless internet (with which Skype video works), so let me know about Skype dates to be set up when I get back from working a private Ukrainian camp in the Carpathians for three weeks (I’ll be gone until August 16th).

*Music: “Sunrise” -Yeasayer

“anywhere i go you go, my dear”

30 Mar

Oh, the glory of getting care packages.  Specifically, the ones that hold such delicious surprises as American snacks.  Despite having a deep appreciation for the chemical, preservative, unidentified substance-free food I eat 24/7, a little taste of something American (syrup and fat laden though it may be), never fails to inundate me with nostalgia.

Just as nostalgia makes you idealize the past, geographical and temporal distance from certain foods make them far more appealing than you actually find them.  Digging into my newly acquired peanut butter expecting a savory treat, I found it shockingly saccharine.  Consequently, this PB will be going toward making peanut butter cups rather than sandwiches.

Delicious as Ukrainian cookies and candies may be, they are primarily chocolate based, which always makes me miss my favorite American candy – Twizzlers.  I’ve seen such brands as Mounds, Snickers, Twix, and Milky Way in my grocery store, but as you will likely notice, only the chocolate candies have taken root here.  I decided to share the happiness of care packages with the other PCV in town by presenting him with some of these amazing candies – too bad he doesn’t like them – more for me next time someone sends them!

I knew I was going to be technologically behind when I returned to the US after my service, but I started worrying about how behind I am going to be if “Tweet Me” is already an acceptable and mass produced candy heart phrase.  It’s a little unnerving to me that “Tweet Me” could be thought analogous to “Hug Me” on a romantic holiday.

There was, however, one candy heart message that never goes out of style.  So, thank you for the amazing care package(s) mom and dad [and everyone that has sent me equally amazing surprises], and I miss you;

poem: “i carry your heart with me” -ee cummings*

*This week in Ukraine in preparation for Easter, it is tradition not only to avoid all fighting, but also to refrain from singing or listening to loud music.  Though I have been listening to music, I thought I could at least give a tip of the hat to the culture by entitling my blog entry after a poem rather than a song.

“I’ll roll my eyes, turn a cold shoulder to these even colder skies”

21 Jan

“Do you have a ruble?” or, Recent Adventures #1;

Wandering through the Christmas villages that dot the Lviv layout for three weekends in a row was sufficient to convince me I should try the гаряче вино (hot, spiced wine) featured at almost every booth.  I have to admit that though the smell of cinnamon was part of the allure (a thing I’ve been missing for four months now), I was also enticed by the possibility of toasty fingers while we wandered through the cobblestone paved alleyways.  Curiosity finally got the best of me this past weekend after Kari and I braved the icy streets after enjoying a thoroughly American dinner of four cheese pizza (featuring feta!) and beer.  Streets all the colder for our time spent in the basement of the toasty restaurant, I started prodding Kari about the prospect of the spicy drink shortly after we strolled into the Плоша Рінок (Plosha Rinok).  Likely as cinnamon deprived as me (though she was smart enough to pack some in her suitcase), Kari acceded to my entreaties.

Being accosted by a man in search of a ruble (which, just to clarify, is not the currency of Ukraine) failed to dampen our excitement, though he came close when he decided attempting to take our wine was a sufficient substitute for finding a ruble.  Lacking the Christmas spirit their job would seem to entail, the booth worker shooed him away, informing him as well as the rest of the street that Kari couldn’t speak Ukrainian, though she had just ordered our drinks in Ukrainian while I continued to snicker about the ruble.

Retreating from the crowd to stand and sip our wine (walking on ice while carrying a scalding liquid being a skill neither of us have yet developed), we simultaneously wondered aloud why did we think we could each finish an entire cup of this?  From memory I’d say it was less spice and more booze than the Swedish glugg I was hoping it would emulate.  Though I consumed a mere fourth of that little plastic cup (a generous estimation), the cheerfully warm fingers and stomach were well worth the hryven’…or do I mean rubles?

*please take a moment to note the hair length, one of the many things I’m excited about these days.

*Music: “In Like a Lion (Always Winter)” -Relient K

The Bucket List Goes Digital

9 Jul
I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I’m an

Extroverted Reinventing Traveler

Check out where you can share your past and future adventures and cheer on others. I’m officially addicted.

Adventures of a Different Shade

2 Jul

I’m now taking the liberty to post a non-Peace Corps related adventure update in my blog since my URL is conveniently vague.

I am now a … brunette.

It’s been a little less than a month since my big change, and honestly, I think I’ve launched myself into a deep state of denial about what is proving to be more than simply a dye-job.  Remember those magnetized prank moustaches you could buy to stick on TVs or mirrors?  I have a mental one…of my blonde hair.  Miraculously, every time I look in a mirror my mind glosses over the dark honey brown and transplants a golden halo of comforting blonde hair in its place, causing my on-going delusion about my gloriously healthy relationship with and astounding ability to handle change.

There’s a way of presenting yourself to other people when you’re blonde…and female.  My self confidence has never been very high, so I always felt like I had to fake this blonde attitude that, to me, appeared to be a natural quality of every other person with the shade.  Though the idea of “fake it ’til you make it” works for some, I never got over the feeling of being an impostor.  I was a self-conscious blonde.  Emphasis on the self-conscious.  The residual awkward, shoe-gazing middle schooler left in me convinced me that though I was constantly being noticed just for my hair color, people who looked at me instantly saw my insecurities like a huge birthmark across the span of my face and would turn away in disappointment.  Confidence seems to be a requirement of the blonde identity.  Sorry, you must be this confident to highlight your hair.

Years of “faking it” have made this transition a nightmare.  Now, rather than being an insecure blonde, I am a vain brunette.  Joy.  It’s all due to my apparent propensity for mirror magnets.  I still think I’m blonde.  Not only think, but act, walk, primp, smile, talk, and interact as if I’m blonde.  You see, blondes are given a get-out-of-jail-free card on appearing prissy on the street.  They’re expected come off this way.  So, prissy nose in the air, I walk to work in the morning doubtlessly causing some unwarranted thoughts about my feelings of self-worth.  Walking down the street, I feel a compulsion to tell everyone that I recently dyed my hair.  “I’ll change my mannerisms, I promise, I just don’t know how to be a brunette yet!” Priceless.

I was overcome by sheer horror for my strict adherence to the socially accepted identity of “a blonde” when I stopped in a building to ask for directions to a particular office and lead into my question with, “This is so stupid of me, but…” When I was blonde, this is what people wanted to hear.  Start with that phrase after they notice your blonde head, and the person being questioned automatically likes you.  I always felt the need to fill this stereotype for people, as if it was equivalent to being polite.  Stereotypes are comfortable and I’m a shameless accomodator.

But how does that phrase go over as a brunette, you might ask…Not well, not well at all.  Suddenly, instead of being expected to lack common sense and filling this expectation to a response of pleasure and acceptance, I had failed the test.  This woman expected me to have a brain, a thing rarely expected of me as a blonde.  Even college professors frequently walked into classrooms on the first day of a semester with the thought “annnd riiiiiight…there!…there’s the class ditz” emblazoned across their foreheads.  Well, I had failed the test and the secretary’s face was as clear as a cue card.

Maybe by the next time I get a touch-up (which will be my second), I’ll actually see brown hair when my hairdresser turns the chair around.

Here’s a picture of my brown (wait, I think I mean blonde...) hair:

my new brown hair

Finally, on a completely unrelated subject, here is the problem I’m tackling in Ukrainian currently;  “Я не говорю добре українською” is an essential phrase that means “I don’t speak Ukrainian well.”  It’s pretty much a subtle, polite beg for help.  What a shame I seem entirely incapable of smoothly saying “говорю,” or “speak.”  Ironic?