Sunday, February 26, 2012


After a few days of teaching and a few days of sickness, I was able to gather enough strength to travel to Ivan'ky. Ivan'ky is a small village to the east and home to my dear friend, Meredith. Meredith has been in Ukraine for over a year now. She is hilarious and full of great classroom ideas. Meredith held a seminar for English teachers in her region so Caitlin, Niza, and myself showed up to help. We got to meet about 20 teachers who were eager to hear about new techniques. They were talkative, interactive, and interesting. We all shared ideas, thoughts, and stories about our students. 

Two other volunteers, Pete and Sara, showed up for the rest of weekend. We got all caught up with each other over Disney movies and big breakfasts. We went to a dinner party with some of Meredith's friends. All in all, it was a great weekend. 

Looks like Spring is arriving quickly. The snow and ice are melting. The streets are rivers but my layers have lessened. My host family is growing grape vines in our kitchen so, hopefully, soon we will transplant them outside. I'm a happy girl! 
For everyone here, we must find a balance between our old and current lives.
Meredith's balance can be found on her fridge. 

Niza and Caitlin showing the teachers a game where students describe words to each other. One student can see the word while the other can not. 
Meredith being awesome and helping everyone out. 

The teachers had to describe the words on each other's backs without saying the actual word. 

To the only male teachers, we gave 'toilet paper' and 'glitter'.
Who won't want to describe those things? 

After the seminar with the teachers, Meredith's 6th and 7th formers showed up to attend the Living Library. 

Each volunteer sat a different table to talk about a different topic: our states, travel or art.
The kids got to ask us questions, look at photos, and tell us about themselves too. 

7th Form 

K-Lin getting the water for dinner and dishes. 

Our first experience with a well of this size. 

The was only one pair of gloves so we shared. 

Meredith and her neighbors who hosted the party. 
Pete answering the "What is this?" question. 

Niza and Sara. 

Our host wanted us to make clay pieces for us to remembered by.
So we did. Lots of hearts and smiles and a goat. 

Marcus, Meredith's cat, knows how to properly relax. 

St. Valentine Day

This year Valentine's Day was a little different. Never had I seen 'St. Valentine' used so much to describe the holiday. Neither better or worse, just different. My fellow English teacher, Kati, along with the music teacher and a ton of eager students prepared a wonderful program of dancing, singing, and drama ALL in ENGLISH! To say the least, I was greatly impressed and thrilled. Not to hear my native language - I enjoy listening to Ukrainian, it challenges me - but to hear my students speak or sing English with confident and comfort. Never before had an audience heard so much hooting and hollering from one person. I was out of my seat after every act. 

My students gave me a total of 14 Valentine cards in a variety of sizes.  I got little cards from my little ones that I easily tucked into my pockets like I wish I could tuck them away. The older girls gave me elaborate cards that I could barely fit into my purse. Only one student, Yana in 8th form,  prepared a translation so I had plenty of work to do at home to figure out what exactly my kids wanted to tell me. It was a fabulous challenge. 

Here are a few images from the program. 

Kati and our students made all the decorations. 

My precious 2nd formers ready to show good things you can give someone for St. Valentine's Day. 

Serhiy and Albina were the leading roles in the drama. They did an amazing job! 

3rd form sang "You are My Sunshine" with a bit of choreography.
There are only two boys in 3rd form.
I think their faces tell a good story of how they feel about singing and dancing with a bunch of girls. 

Anna sang a song, hit all the high notes, and pronounced every word perfectly.
Kati with her home room students. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Moldova: Land of Vineyards and Visas

Due to changing laws in Ukraine, I was sent to Moldova this past week to get a new visa. Luckily, I was occupied by 28 of my friends, a few faces I miss very much. It was wonderful to see so many people, hear their crazy stories, and reflect even more on how I dearly love my village. Unluckily, visiting Moldova was the first step of many steps in this visa process. The next month will be very busy and very interesting!  

Leaving Syhnayivka, my host family, my school, and Ukraine was much more difficult than I excepted. As glamours as a paid vacation and a week of work sounds, I missed my kids. I missed my bed. Wandering around Moldova, I had to actively remind myself not to speak to strangers. Like keep my hands in my pockets so I don't wave at every baba I see. In my village, I am free to speak to anyone because they usually speak to me first. No matter if we totally understand each other or not. Strangers know my name. Strangers and neighbors and students stop to ask about my day and I question them as extensively as my skills allow. When I finally got home this weekend and went to buy water, I was greeted (in almost perfect unison) by everyone in the store. I am amazed daily. 

Moldova did have some amazing sights to see. We drove all night from Kyiv to Chisinau. I am not a good sleeper so I watched twilight turn to dawn across frozen vineyards and rolling villages. The houses were clustered together amidst valleys and single lane roads leading directly to the interstate I drove on. Snow dunes seemed to be pushed with a paint stroke (over a winter wind blast) across the tiny, continuous hills. During the day, touring the city, we came across an little scene with an older women feeding pigeons. None of them noticed when I sat down on the ice to be among them. Big buildings and bazaars and churches were discovered after the birds but I couldn't really care. My mind was still getting lost in the depth of the purple hue on their feathers or how I wished I knew Romanian so I could know what song she was singing to her little ones. I am eager to get all this visa stuff figured out so I can hurry back over to Moldova. I took photos but not nearly enough. I want to go back with more time to wander. To find more pigeons. 

For now, I am back home. Cozy. Well fed. School is in the morning. 

Here are some Ukrainian and Moldavian images! 

On days I have English club, I walk home right at the start of sunset. Last Monday, I found these massive icicles to be mesmerizing. They reach almost to the ground of a small house covered in dried corn stalks. 

Snow on bark.
This frame isn't on the gold light, nonetheless, the bark shined. 

The bottom of the icicles.
Also, it is quite common in my village to cover buildings, mostly barns, with corn stalks. I've been told it's easy, cheap, and accessible. 

Now, Moldova.
My group become complete tourists one afternoon. We snapped on our cameras and layers and found this lady feeding pigeons by the central church. 

It was amazing to watch her.
She and the birds had a mutual obsession with one another. 

Moldavian Bazaar.