Sunday, December 25, 2011

Doug Day

The Wednesday after our great Tuesday night, Douglass Treschner, the PC Country Director, and Iryna Krupska, the PST Training Manager, showed up with the security team and our link group (a group of trainees from the next town over) to partake of all the food and teach us how to safely travel around Ukraine.

True to Ukrainian form, a regular Wednesday sprouted into something grand and hilarious and surprising.

Hope you enjoy the images!

Iryna  Krupska (this lovely lady has been a constant encouragement to me since I arrived in Ukraine), Douglass, Treschner (he is constantly sharing quotations that I am constantly scribbling down to add to my collection), and Mama Olea 

Myself, Douglass Treschner and Mama Olea
Sorry these two images are so strange - I do not know why! 

The group took a quick tour of Burty before starting in on all the food. 

Everyone with lovely, little Burty behind. 

Everyone walked back to my place when I realized Doug wasn't with us.
He told me later, he got distracted by Burty and taking photos of our farmland and lake. 

Practicing our 'brick face' with Sasha and Doug. 

After our guests left, we decided to take advantage of golden hour and stroll of the edge of town.
This is the road that leads in and out of Burty.
This is what I first saw when we first arrived in Burty on September 21.
That day this road freaked me out because I thought we were driving to edge of nowhere and I had no idea how to get back to civilization. Now, this image looks like home. 

Anna being a Banana. 

Caitlin being her real cute self. 

Drew being strange. Nothing new about that. 

I know Sam will hate this image. (Sorry!) But for a real serious dude - who used to work at the White House - he let something loose in this frame. A version of Sam we hadn't seem before this frame.
Also, I can seem to stop giggling. 

The Dude. 

Anna interrupted Sasha photo session in her usual style. 

Sometimes we would take Ukrainian brick face photos.
Sometimes we would take American grinning photos.
Sometimes we could pay respect to Canada - Drew has citizenship in Canada and America - and take our group photo with moose antlers. 

Every group must have a jumping photo. 

Walking home from the field, Sam's house was first to stop at.
Upon arrival, we were flagged down by his host mother and grandmother telling us to come meet the chicks.
One of their hens had, just 2 days before, had 10 fuzzy little birds.

The look of distress on my face is not from my dislike of baby chickens - I happen to adore them - but the realization that this little guy was climbing out of my grasp. I didn't know how to stop him and was terrified to move my hands in fear of dropping him. 

So I got a little help from my friend.
That's really all I ever needed. 

Caitlin took to holding baby birds like she does to most things in her life.
She was real good at it.
She and her chick had a few intimate minutes together. 

Leaving Sam's place to get home for dinner, we herded the chicks behind the barn towards a warmer corner.
This little one didn't seem so fond of that idea.
We discovered how many Americans it takes to catch a baby chicken. 

Baking Up Some Basic Chords

To preface, this entry is out of chronological order. Sorry about that! I am putting entries together quickly to appease whatever audience I may have and seem to have skipped over a few weeks. So, I'm backtracking. Please bear with me.

Somewhere in the blur of our first month in Ukraine, Sasha got a call from PC headquarters in Kyiv that the PC Ukraine Director and a few other higher ups would be visiting Burty during our next Safety and Security sessions. You see, Burty had never been used by the PC before for training so the office staff was very curious to check it out. Also, headquarters had heard such great things about the unique individuals living there! But in reality the PC Director and other staff members routinely visit training groups.

When Mama Olea caught wind of this she went off the deep end. Similar to my real momma, she not only wanted her to house to look amazing but to have her table packed with food to offer up. Mama Olea is a very wise woman considering on the big day we packed over 20 people into our tiny classroom.

This particular day was just a regular Tuesday of language class but transformed itself into a recipe learning, guitar playing, cultural exchange night. The baking was planned but the fellowship wasn't. Excitement over glorious smells floating from the oven to each room of the house -the smells were so great they floated all over the farm to soften the chilled air -  and learning to butter wash sweet biscuits came easy to the girls and I. Listening to Sasha, Drew, and Papa pick at a guitar was mesmerizing. Papa Volodia told us he hadn't played a guitar in 43 years but he successfully summed out several smooth chords.  In that evening, we weren't separated by language or nationally or age, we were together among music and sugary scents. We were together.

The images below show a few glimpses of that sacred Tuesday night.

Oh, let the giddiness begin. 

Anna cutting her rolled up dough into a layered heart. 

Butter washing the sweet heart buns. 

Sasha working on his chords. 

Drew being a booger. 

Proving I can do more than just take a fancy photo. 

Caitlin took to rolling dough quite naturally and perfected the art quickly. 

Nonetheless, Mama Olea stepped in to take over and speed up the process.
"Excuse me girlies. Enough playing around. I need to do some real work." 

After spreading the dough into a perfectly round, level circle, Mama covered it with her homemade  raspberry jam. 

Then she rolled all that up and pinched the dough closed.
Later, it would bake up together into crispy magic with jam pouring out the edges. 
Check him out....
I must credit Drew for putting on my apron with Sasha's 'dolla, dollar bill' slippers to brave a tiny kitchen packed with large personality women. 

Turns out, he fit right in. 

It wouldn't be the last but this is the first photo of Mama Olea and I together. 

Papa taking his turn on the guitar.
It was obvious he had fun figuring out chords but gladly give the guitar back to Sasha.
"I play the accordion. I've always played that. I'll just keep playing that. You play this other thing." he said. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Halloween of Treats? Nope, 8 Tons of Beets

In honor of Halloween and our disappointment of not being able to dress up and go out, our little Burty bunch has cleverly decided to have some Tricks and Treats still. Our Tricks: card games and Drew's slide of hand magic. Our Treats: any candy we were hoarding away and a glorious bag of Starburst jelly beans my dear mother carepackaged over. (Thanks Momma!) Walking home from the bus stop on our party Saturday, we had been in the next town over for a Peace Corps cultural training session and do our weekly errands, Mama Olea stopped us in the street saying that she was leaving town to visit her grandbabies and Papa Volodia needed some help with something at home. We would be feed after. Everyone should be at my house in an hour. Deal? Deal.

Personally, I was grateful to have some help with farm chores. Mama and Papa bragged around Burty that  I 'worked like a man' because I could help with clearing the field and feeding the animals then turn around and help cook dinner. But honestly, I knew if Papa was asking for help, the job must real big and I didn't want to mess with real big by myself.

Oh, my. Big doesn't begin to describe it. 

Instantly, when I reached the front gate, I saw it. There was no missing it. A massive pile of shredded beets sat in our courtyard. Covered my courtyard. I'd heard rumors of such things but never seen it. Papa was franticly running to feed all the animals and yelling and pointing at the front corridor. Knowing that meant, "Cassie, go get dressed and help me!" I tossed my stuff into the air as I walked through the front door - it took me a week to find where my scarf landed - and changed into my work clothes. An old pair of Papa's boots and jeans already ruined and field overcoat to protect all the rest. I had no idea what to do and how exactly I was supposed to help. I had no idea that we were about to participate in the an Ukrainian farming tradition as old as the country itself. As dusk arrived, so did everyone else. We attacked the beety hillside with shovel and pitchfork.

Hopefully, these photos will do the evening justice.

This is what I came home to.
Sawrick, the dog, was going mad due to violation of his territory.
I don't blame him. His dog house was somewhere under all that. 

Papa prepares the earthen room and shows us what's up. 

Caitlin is, typically, very sweet but does branch out to be mischievous. 

A bit blurry but Drew and I trying to recreate 'American Gothic'. 

The women charging the hillside ready for whatever is about to happen. 

Our first round of shoveling. 

The heat of beets against the frigid air created great, smelly, heavy steam that rose the against night.

Peering into the seemingly endless abyss of steam and beets. 

First round of stomping.
I love this photo because it's me and Papa. We were jammed into these corner stomping beets down. Also, he was telling me he needed to keep me warm. Then he started in a story about stomping beets as a child. I don't remember all the details and I didn't catch all the words but it was sweet. 

Ira, our current language teacher, appeared to giggle at us. I quickly invited her in.
"Nope." she said, "I'll just watch. It much more entertaining." 

When my shovels weren't of great quality, Papa took over for a bit. He threw as much beets in the pit in 2 minutes as I did in 10 minutes. The dude is a rock star. 

These women can work hard and look good doing it. 

Papa Volodia is not only a rock star shoveler, he's completely adorable.
He was laughing with us most of the night. 

Regick, the cat, came out to discover what the racket was. 

Anna Banana doing her 'beet' dance. 

Papa told Ira a great story and I struggled to finish. 

Beet stomping is best done in group unison.
Papa told us he had never such a show in a beet pit in all his 62 years.
We took that as a great compliment. 

Papa Volodia loved me and enjoyed the company of all the Americans that dailied his house. But his had a special thing with Drew. If I ever told him I was going to Drew's house he would say, "Yes! Go there!" or he would ask me to bring Drew home with me after.
Therefore, I adore this photo of their joined laughter. 

Not the greatest image but you can see how much closer to the ground we got.
Although, the women started up the hillside first the men finished it off. A few more stomps after this photo, we were instructed to revert back to our traditional roles and go check on dinner. Fine with me!

***So as a recap, there are just a few steps to get 8 tons of beets from a courtyard into a 10 foot pit. ***
1. Spread plastic on pit floor. 
2. Put a generous amount of salt on plastic. 
3. Shovel in beets. Judge amount of eye and experience. 
4. Climb or jump in! 
5. Level out with shovel and stomp/dance/jump away. 
6. Climb out of pit via ladder or with a little boost/pull from your friends. 
7. Repeat process until pit is full or your run out of beets.

Store your beets well to feed all your livestock all winter!