Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

Happy Thanksgiving November 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 6:59 pm

I know I’m a day late, but Happy Thanksgiving 🙂  I’m currently grateful to be in Kyiv again reading wonderful emails and messages from you all.  You have no idea how much they all mean in managing to shrink that Atlantic Ocean.

My day yesterday was far from traditional celebration (as it involved skewers of cheese, olives, and pineapple wedges for appetizers, cabbage leaves stuffed with onions and carrots, dipped in flour & egg & fried in animal fat of some sort instead of turkey, and cake w/sour cream & ‘brown milk’ frosting) but even from a thousand miles away there’s a lot to be thankful for.

First of all, decaf coffee and its implications.  My family knows that I like coffee in the mornings but don’t drink it at night during our abundant tea breaks due to caffeine (explaining that was a big victory early in the training).  So yesterday when it came time for cookies & chocolate imagine my surprise to have kava BEZ caffeine handed my way.  Finding coffee was miracle enough in Morozivka so I can’t even imagine where she found such a decaf treat.  Yet another example of how cute/caring they are & now I can savor the chocolate melting in hot coffee phenomenon at any hour.  Lovely.

We also were able to get back in the classroom this week & I was relieved to be reminded of why I’m here & how fun it can be.  I taught 3rd & 4th formers today & they couldn’t be cuter.  (I posted some pictures of them on Flickr).  They’re attentive & smiley & young enough that they participate & want to learn.  It was really reassuring to see them learn & have our lesson sink in with them.  So fun.  Sadly we only have a few more sessions with them but it paints an optimistic picture of the next two years.

Other good news- I was finally shown how to properly use a squat toilet.  This may qualify as an overshare but I feel that it was a life-changing demonstration & is certainly grounds for thanks.  Now I won’t have to worry about ruining my shoes and will hopefully have sweet quad muscles by the end of service.

All good things, huh?  And now it’s the Christmas season, my favorite.  On that note I’m off to download some Christmas music while I have internet.  Have some hot chocolate for me!



The Final Countdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 6:19 pm

Friday, November 20

I am another week closer towards my final site placement and per usual the mixed emotions are running rampant.  On one hand I’m extremely excited to start teaching/feel like I’m contributing, and I’d be lying if I said that the prospect of portion control and regular email access sans prepubescent boys (typically the only non-Peace Corps trainees patrons at the Internet Dungeon) doesn’t  sound wonderful. I’m starting to realize however, just how much I’ll miss my new town and Ukrainian family.  I think Morozivka is finally warming up to the foreigners as evidenced by the storekeeper who ran after me for about a block screaming ‘divchata’ (girl) when I left my binder in her store accidentally last week.  And my family continues to be nothing but helpful and inclusive.  I can finally express full thoughts so now we can joke around at the dinner (or breakfast, or tea, or 13th snack of the day, ect.) table & talk about everything from teenage pregnancy to the difficulties that arise from trying to talk while having dental work done.  Being able to communicate makes a world of difference, a novel concept I’m sure, and I’m even embracing thinking and dreaming in Ukrainian.  I should probably clarify that my speech is completely and utterly grammatically incorrect and all conversations are made possible due to the other party’s excessive patience.  I do my best not to think about what I’ve said afterwards because I’m pretty sure a common sentence goes something like “The lesson (in the incorrect case) to start at 9:00 and I will home at 6:00” but whatever, we make it work.  Other recent victories include my newfound domestic prowess.  This Friday evening I successfully hand washed and clothesline-dried my laundry, scrubbed clean every pair of shoes I brought and peeled an apple and pear with a fairly dull knife…leaps and bounds from what I could do before.  I’m contemplating going all out & getting a Ukrainian haircut but the fear of the dreaded mullet (currently all the rage here) is a pretty strong deterrent.

So to celebrate my current good mood, here are some fond Morozivka moments:

  • Emily finally got her care pack from home today & like a true Ukrainian, shared her wealth by giving us all a Reese’s Cup.  I’m sure we looked like we were eating our last meal on death row as we each managed to take literally 15 bites out of one cup.  It was a 10 minute ordeal & Hershey’s would have been wise to shoot a commercial of our reactions and poetic musings about how wonderful and underrated the chocolate + peanut butter combo is.
  • Thomas, prone to perpetually tardiness, was running late for the train to the neighboring town for our lesson one Saturday morning & thus had to run to the train station (about a mile).  He was warm from running so he took his coat off; seemingly logical behavior.  Unfortunately for him, he had to go through the bazaar to get to the train so his jaunt in a short sleeve tee-shirt was the talk of the town for the next few days.  We don’t have a newspaper here but if we did I think that ‘story’ would have received prominent placement for the amount of scolding he received from neighbors, teachers, and random babusias alike.
  • Ashley was explaining happily that she got to shower the previous night but then had to clarify that “By shower I mean bathe in the kitchen”.
  • On the underground metro in Kyiv a man acted like he was oblivious as the bag he was holding very conspicuously shook, meowed, and hissed.
  • While learning about the clothing unit my teacher casually referenced mesh tee-shirts as a normal menswear item that a volunteer may want to purchase during our two year stint.  So apparently I know what to get for Bronson & Luke if they come to visit.  This also reinforces what I’ve thought on multiple occasions- that watching Borat beforehand was a bad idea.  Hardly a class goes by where there isn’t something that reminds me of it & makes me fake cough in order to stifle a laugh.  Pretty accurate filmmaking as far as I can tell.
  • On a group outing to the discotheque someone decided that it would be a good idea to start the ever-popular train (like a congo line but faster).  We tend to be a spectacle & elicit a good degree of mimicry, so I think the instigator (no, not me) thought that the locals would jump right in.  Apparently it was too much too soon though as we were the only 5 participants & gave up after a lap.

See, nothing but fun.


A Day in the Life November 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 5:23 pm

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I’m typing this from a wireless connection in downtown Kyiv AND I just ate sushi AND I’m on my first unchaperoned trip out of Morozivka 🙂  After last week’s excursion with our wonderful language teacher we have finally been deemed able to navigate the city well enough to not be a gigantic liability (theoretically) so Emily, Thomas & I wasted to time in hopping a marshrutka to a place where the coffee isn’t freeze dried and the internet is free.  This bright new world of technology also means that I was finally able to post my pictures & they can be seen here (there’s also a link on the side that says ‘pictures’).  I’ve done a truly terrible job of documenting everything but I think we’ll be able to get at least one more trip in so I should I have better pictures up within the next few weeks.

It’s been kind of difficult to accurately describe what this whole experience has been like so far so I’ll do a little play by play of my day yesterday to illustrate:

  • I woke up at 7:30, heated water in the our kettle & brought my mug of instant coffee & a banana to have with the last of my peanut butter while I said my morning prayers in my room.
  • Approximatel20 minutes after finishing my ‘Mom’ had me go to the kitchen and have a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast part dva.
  • I got ready, donned the full length parka & headed through the bazaar to the train station to catch our 8:45 elektretchka to Barishivka
  • After walking past a man selling knives on the crowded train we quickly hopped off and started the 30 minute trek to our teacher’s apartment.
  • We spent 3 hours learning about how  to adapt Ukrainian textbooks & then had a cross cultural session about gender roles in Ukrainian which was particularly welcome as the principal of our school is a man & despite being very nice refuses to shake any of our hands except Thomas, the lone male.  Cultural adjustments galore.
  • After class I went back home, had borsch with my ‘family’ & then spent a few hours writing lesson plans.
  • I’ve been asking to help around the house & usually am laughed at & ignored (nicely though) so I was thrilled when Snijanna knocked on my door & asked if I wanted to help cook.  The next 2 hours were spend making mlintsi (like crepes) filled with sweet cheese of some sort which was fun but a little painful as we didn’t use a spatula but went the ‘pick it up and flip it with your finger’ route instead.  (I also can successfully peel potatoes and kiwis with a knife now too…not bragging, just saying).
  • Next on the agenda was savoring some more borsch & a few too many of the mlintsi.
  • I’ve taken to running in place in my room like an idiot while going through flashcards so that followed my dinner in a fruitless attempt to undo all of the carb ingestion.
  • An hour or so into it my other ‘sis’ came in & told me that that was enough exercising & that it was time to drink tea & eat more mlintsi.  Vicious circle much?  So I drank some tea, ate some lard & pretended like I understood the Ukrainian horoscope games that we played at the table.
  • I finished up the Saturday joining the whole fam in watching a little of a Russian show called ‘Dance for Your Dreams’ where as far as I can tell people dance in crazy costumes & apparently the winners give money to a charity or something?  Who knows really.

So there you have it, a day in the life.  Fascinating, no?  I still feel a little bit like I’m in a middle school sleep-away camp w/ our schedule & curfews & whatnot but I genuinely like it here so it’s all good.  Battery’s almost out so poka for now!


One month until… November 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 5:21 pm

Consistent internet!  Or at least that’s what we were told by the current volunteers that we met with this week.  Daily Skype and Yahoo News seem like glorious possibilities right now, but I’ll find out for sure in about a month when I’m assigned to my permanent site for the next 2 years.  Craziness 🙂


Trick or Treat? November 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 12:25 pm

So guess what I was for Halloween.  Give up?  Quarantined by the Ukrainian government due to the Swine flu epidemic.  Oh and Halloween apparently lasts for three weeks.  My costume is adorable & includes a mask made of gauze.  Welcome to my world.

Now please don’t worry, we’re actually not in danger at all & I hear that the Swine is much worse back at home but Ukrainians really don’t like sickness so they take overzealous precautions.  Case in point…due to the H1N1 outbreak in Lviv (12 hours away from us) our schools have been cancelled for 3 weeks which means we have a 3 week respite from lesson planning to learn this crazy language with our new & amazing teacher.  It also means however, that I have to start my mornings and end my nights with a full shot glass of onion juice soaked with a little bit of honey.  As you can imagine, I smell great. 

We did have an adorable little Halloween party w/ my other trainees complete w/ pumpkin carving.  Apparently cows eat pumpkins here so we regularly stumble upon huge piles of them.  I miss you all a ton and caramel apples were not to be found but it did make the first holiday away from home a lot more bearable.  I hope you all had wonderful holidays too 🙂

We’re in Kyiv now at the Peace Corps office so I am off to hopefully find a workout video in Ukrainain but I think I’ll have internet access again tomorrow & can be more thorough.  пока!