додому і назад.

So I’m back. It has been about 3 months since I last posted. I would like to say that it’s because I have been unbelievably busy saving the world, but in fact I have just been lazy. A lot has happened in the last three months and I don’t think I will be able to recall everything, but here it goes.

First of all I have moved to a new place. It’s like a beautiful one bedroom apartment without a bathroom (come again?). I have a couple pictures below. I have been cooking every week and I’ve almost perfected my mom’s chicken soup and beef stew. Peace Corps gave us a cookbook during training and I’ve been cooking a couple dishes from that. I made some homemade spaghetti sauce a few weeks back, it was delicious. I have a couple pictures of the food below also.

After my last post the real Ukrainian winter started. There was a week in February when it was -20 to -25C (0 to -10F). The coldest day I saw was -30C (about -20F) – it was scary cold. It’s a weird feeling being in that weather (that feeling you get … when you can’t feel your face) especially being from Southern California.  I remember I used to shiver in 45F weather back home.

School has been in full swing (it was closed during that weather from hell week). There have been highs and lows, but all in all I’m enjoying teaching. I have learned one important thing in the last week. Teaching can be very difficult, but very rewarding.

And what have I learned in the last 2 months? Flies in Ukraine are idiots. Since Spring has started I have had at least 8-10 flies inside my house. Back in America, if you try and catch a fly with your hand … its impossible. But these Ukrainian flies don’t give damn, they will happily fly into your hand. I enjoy these moments of minutiae (yes after I typed this I changed the name of my blog)… I feel like I’m in Seinfeld. A lot of people don’t know this, but I am literally George Costanza. I am anal about bathrooms (even though I shit in a hole), I’m socially awkward, and if I joined a book club I’d watch the movie.

I’m actually writing this last part of the post from Kyiv, I’m coming home! Not for good yet, I’ll be there for two weeks. From April 8th to the 21st. So that’s about it for now – in between my last post and this one there are hundreds of stories to tell which I’ll save for another time. But I’ll leave you with the strangest… I was cooking stew and I had my back to the front door. I heard it open and assumed it was my neighbors. No one said anything so I turned around and saw an old babusia standing in my kitchen. She asked me if the neighbor was home, I said I didn’t know and went back to cooking. I then heard a crunching noise behind me…I turned around. This old lady was sitting in my kitchen eating the carrots I had cut up for the stew. She then got up, left, and didn’t even say goodbye.

The End.

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був добрий день.

I have great news.

I received my first package today it was from my wonderful girlfriend. It was amazing, everything was wrapped in wrapping paper and it was like opening Christmas presents. It looked like it was untouched by customs. I was sent books, candy, a DVD (The Tree of Life), a new tie, a CD that I’m excited to listen to, and knickknacks that only she and I would understand.
And….I am moving into a new place! My amazing counterpart has found me a one-bedroom house. The house is behind a drugstore and the owner of the drugstore lives in the house next to mine, in reality it’s not a house it’s more like a guesthouse. I saw it today; there is a beautiful kitchen (literally one of the nicest kitchens I’ve seen in Ukraine) and a huge bedroom with a queen size bed. And get this …. running hot water!!! Yes that’s right … I don’t think I have ever been this excited about running hot water. There is of course no bathroom, so bucket showers and running to the outhouse will still be a daily routine for me. But I could not be happier. I will post some pictures when I start to move in, which probably will not be for at least a week.

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Звичайно, я піду з тобою….

 

As most of you know I don’t have the most ideal living situation. I failed to mention this in the last post, but my kitchen is not in the same place as my house. My room and my living room are separated from my kitchen …in other words, my kitchen is next door. It’s not far but it’s enough to discourage me from cooking. I was really excited to cook here in Ukraine, as most of you know I enjoy cooking. But the fact that I have no running water and my kitchen is next door makes it very tough … BUT I love my place.

Anyway, one night last week I decided not to cook (I haven’t attempted to cook yet) so I went to one of the restaurants here in Rozhniv. I ordered a coffee and some pelmeni (it’s like pasta filled with meat) and sat down to wait for my meal. About 5 minutes went by and this man walked in from behind the counter …. clearly inebriated.  He sits down next to me and says, “you need some company” (in Ukrainian). I said no thank you, I’m fine. He then grabbed my hand and started pulling me towards the backroom.  Now Peace Corps has provided us with outstanding safety training, so of course as he was pulling me to the backroom…. I followed like an obedient dog.

The owner of the restaurant is a nice lady and the whole time this was going on she was giggling so I assumed I was safe. The jolly man took me into the back and to my surprise there was a large table full of food and 5 Ukrainian men sitting, eating, and enjoying some Ukrainian горілка. I sat down with them and they flooded my plate with food and said EAT ! EAT ! ….

I spent the next 3 hours with 5 random Ukrainian men I will never forget. They drank enough to put a small elephant in the ER…(note to self: never try and keep up with Ukrainians when they drink). We talked about everything; from where I live in the U.S. to how I need to learn all the Ukrainian curse words so I know when my students are cursing at me. It was great.

P.S.

The picture on top of the post is of the entrance to my Дача (cottage).

And for those of you that enjoy posting information about the NBA on Facebook (scores, results, etc.) please remember that there are some of us who do not get to watch the games live. Next time you get the urge … don’t.

Stay Tuned.

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Привіт з Рожнів!

Hello from Rozhniv, Ukraine. I am settled in here and have all the time in the world to write in my blog. We were sworn in as US Peace Corps Volunteers on December 15, 2011. The US Ambassador to Ukraine was unable to be present, but someone was sent from the US Embassy to administer the oath. It was a sad and exciting moment to finally be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I’m not a newb anymore.

I met my counter-part (the person I will be working with for the next 2 years at site) at the swearing-in conference in Kyiv. She is a great lady and speaks excellent English. She calls me almost everyday to see how I’m doing. Anyway, I’m now here in Rozhniv and can tell you the details. I am working in a school of 700 students (Saltykova by comparison had only 80 students) and there are over 80 teachers (Saltykova had around 10). The population is a little less than 7,000 (Saltykova by comparison had 800-1100 people) I live in a cottage alone just outside the school. The cottage is a cute little house, unfortunately I don’t have running water or a bathroom, but it’s a struggle and challenge that I enjoy … if that makes any sense.

My first day of school was actually on my birthday. The day started out at the crack of 8:30, every Monday there is a teachers meeting and I was asked to attend. I walked in the room and could see the longest table I have ever seen and there were 80 pairs of Ukrainian eyes looking at me. Now, Ukrainians are unbelievably hospitable and nice people … but when they look at you, it’s kind of like how you would look at the Unabomber or Charles Manson if he walked in the room. I sat down right away; I had a speech prepared in Ukrainian because I knew I would probably have to introduce myself. After the director (principal) finished the meeting I was asked to introduce myself, which went pretty well. I had spent the night before writing it. So I gave my speech and my counterpart (Iryna) stands up and tells them it’s my birthday. They all stood up and sang me Happy Birthday … IN ENGLISH !!!! …. It was great.

I observed a few lessons after the meeting and I am very excited to start teaching, the students seem eager to learn English. Every Monday there is also a student meeting and at the start of the meeting they play the Ukrainian National Anthem. They played the Ukrainian National Anthem and then to my surprise, they played the American National Anthem!…I’ve honestly never been more proud to hear it. When the school day was over the English teachers took me out to dinner and we chatted for a while and drank some wine (which tasted and looked more like grenadine). But it was very nice to talk to them and the food was amazing.

So I now have an address…if anyone would like to send me a letter or better yet a package my address is below. The best thing to do is copy it into a word processor, print it out, and then paste it onto a letter or package. The address needs to be in both Ukrainian and English. WordPress decided to double-space both the English and Ukrainian address, so just ignore that. At the end of this post there are mailing guidelines.

 Ukrainian Address (Don’t write “Ukrainian Address” on the envelope/package):

Вул: Бойчука

С. Рожнів

Косівське Район

Івано – Франківска Обл.

Україна

78635

Дінеш Дармадаса

 English Address (Don’t write “English Address” on the envelope/package):

Boichuk Street

Rozhniv

Kosiv District

Ivano-Frankivska Oblast

Ukraine

78635

Dinesh Dharmadasa

I have a lot more to write, but I think this post is getting too long.

Stay Tuned.

Mailing Guidelines:

Parcels send via USPS Priority Mail International and valued at $200 or less are delivered without a customs declaration. Please mark the parcel value as less than $200.

Ukrainian Customs Law does not allow medicines, money, official documents, or jewelry to be sent across the border.

It is allowed to bring foodstuffs across the Ukrainian border if it meets the following conditions:

Not more than one box/pack per one kind of foodstuff

All foodstuff weight should not exceed 2kg

Total value of it should not exceed 50 EUR

Food should not be raw

It should be factory packed

Due to recent changes in Ukrainian customs regulations, Peace Corps strongly discourages you from using courier mail services (such as USPS Global Express Guaranteed, USPS Express Mail International, DHL, FedEx, TNT, UPS, MeEst etc.) when sending mail to Ukraine. The new customs regulations provide for mandatory customs processing of all courier mail sent via these services, regardless of declared value.

United States Postal Service Priority Mail International (USPS Priority Mail International) is believed to be the most convenient way to send mail from the U.S. to Ukraine; if the declared value does not exceed $200 and if the weight is less than 50kg. It is also necessary for the shipper to apply the following statement: “Goods for personal use.”

Please do not indicate anywhere in the address or on the package that it is for official US Government use or related to the Peace Corps.

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Мені Сумно

The last few weeks have been tough – in terms of missing home and the workload. A couple weeks ago was Thanksgiving and I never wanted to be home more. Not just for the food, but for the atmosphere, friends, and family. It’s something that we take for granted; yet it is everything. Home is everything.
My time in Saltykova Devitsa is coming to an end and I’m starting to feel it wash over me. I’m going to miss being chased by geese and looked at like I came from Jupiter (the latter will probably continue outside Saltykova). Most of all I will miss Chocha Luba, she cared for me like a son during my time here and really made me feel at home. I of course will be saying goodbye to my cluster mates as well, who have kept me sane in so many different ways.
On a lighter note I got my site for the next two years. I will be close to the beautiful Carpathian Mountains (at the summit). The Oblast (like a State) is Ivano-Frankivska and the town/village is called Rozhniv. The population is between 5,000-10,000 which is a lot bigger than Saltykova. I was told by Peace Corps that the school is huge, it’s a specialty school. One of the Peace Corps staff members told me that the school “claims” to be one of the Top 100 schools in Ukraine. She emphasized “claims”……but it seems to be true on paper and I’m very excited.
As for my living situation; I have a choice. I can either live with a host family or have my own place, which is very close to the school. But I feel there’s a catch with the place close to the school. My Regional Manager (who is awesome by the way) didn’t know too much about the place I would have to myself, other than it was close to the school. Which makes me wonder if I will continue with an outhouse and well for the next two years. Anyway, we will see soon enough.

Here is the logistics for the next few days:

December 13th:
Depart Training Site (Saltykova Devitsa) at 7:30am via autobus …. Yes I said autobus.
Arrive at hotel/Soviet Resort in Kyiv for meetings all day.
December 14th:
Continue with meetings all day.
I believe I will be meeting my counterpart on this day. My counterpart is someone that works at the school, I will be working with her/him for the next two years and they will be taking me to my new home.
December 15th:
Swearing-in: This is where we are sworn-in as US Peace Corps Volunteers (we are currently Trainees), it should be very exciting and a video of each ceremony usually ends up on Youtube or Peace Corps’ website/FB page.
After swearing-in my counterpart will hold my hand all the way to site. We are taking a 9 hour train from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivska, the capital city of my Oblast.
December 16th:
Arrive at Site.

I’m guessing my next post will be from site. If you scroll down you can see my post from before we departed to Saltykova – I was scared. I don’t feel the same now …which is good, but still quite nervous.

Stay Tuned and scan Peace Corps’ FB for a post on newly sworn-in PCVs from Ukraine around the 15th or 16th.

Another quote from Doug – our Country Director
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

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нічого…


We are at the homestretch of training, it’s the beginning of Week 9 …I think? Let me give you an idea of what we are doing here.

First, our Community Project:

The schools in the district all teach out of similar English books. In the back of these English books are scripts. The Ukrainian English teachers read these scripts aloud during class. Our project is to record all these scripts from a ton of books and put them onto CDs, so the students can hear native English speakers.

Second, Methodological Workshop:
Along with the CD’s we are organizing a workshop for the English teachers in our district. We are showing them how to use the newly made CD’s along with the Communicative Approach to teaching a language (Wikipedia it, sorry).

Third, English Week:
We are in the process of planning an English week for the students at our school in Saltykova. It includes a day of Healthy Living, Do’s and Don’ts, and a day of Exercise. I may break out the P90X for the exercise day – 12-year-old Ukrainians doing Ab Ripper X – thanks Tony Horton!

Finally, Ukrainian Language Classes and Teaching continues:
Of course good old 4-hour Ukrainian Language classes continue (though it has been cut down to 3 hours this week). I’m getting more immersed into the culture and language – I find myself speaking Ukrainian in dreams and thinking in Ukrainian. Chocha Luba now calls me her Ukrainian Boy, it’s going be tough to leave her next month. I told her I will take her in my duffle bag to site … but again my Ukrainian isn’t the greatest. I think she thought I said, “Get in my duffle bag.”
Anywho, I have started teaching young learners – specifically 2nd and 4th grade. I love them, its really fun to teach them but tiring at the same time.

I had my Site-Placement Interview on Monday, Peace Corps came down to our village and interviewed us about what we would like to be doing at site. If you don’t understand what I mean…. I am in training right now, it ends in 1 month. After that I will be sent to another location in Ukraine where I will be by myself working in a school and doing my own thing.
Anyway, I will soon have a permanent mailing address and will probably post a wish list of stuff. First on my list, a washing machine….yes that was a joke. There are a ton of books that I want, but I’ll get into that later.

I’ll leave you with a quote that I heard from our Peace Corps Country Director, Doug Teschner:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit”

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Its been awhile …. sorry.

(This post was written on word a couple weeks ago)

Half way through training

So we’ve come to the end of Week 7 of the 12 Week Pre-Service Training. So much has happened in the last month and a half and I’m sorry I haven’t updated the blog, I’ve been a bit busy.
Language has been getting tougher and tougher; at times I struggle to keep up. Each week we have to juggle lesson planning for our English classes, 4 hours of language a day, and a million other things. It seems overwhelming at times, but it helps the time pass.
A few weeks ago we (our cluster) were invited to an embroidering class at the school. I of course have no artistic bone in my body, but managed to embroider my way through the class. It was the one time during training we all got to sit together and talk about things other than Ukrainian, English Classes, and how much horseshit we step in everyday.
Last weekend (Halloween) I went to Kulakivka (neighboring town to Saltykova) to visit Chocha Luba’s daughters. Chocha Luba and I braved the frosty November morning and walked to the bus-stop at the crack of 8. As we stood there waiting for the bus, my fingers started to go numb. Of course Cocha Luba noticed this and told me to dance – I asked her to show me how (приклад). She then showed me the Babusia Dance, a.k.a. how to keep warm in Ukraine. We then got on the bus…when I say bus its not the bus you have pictured in your head (see my FB for a picture).
We got to her daughters house and sat for lunch. We had a roast goose …. It was delicious. Then they broke out the homemade wine…yes homemade wine. It was probably PROBABLY the best wine I have ever had. After the goose, potatoes, garlic bread, cabbage salad, mashed potatoes, and bread. They brought out the Vodka, I didn’t recognize it at first because it was brown, almost the color of Cognac. I had a few shots with the guys, it was the smoothest Vodka I have ever had. I got the biggest laugh since I’ve been here in Ukraine that evening. It wasn’t a joke I told … they were laughing at me not with me. Chocha Luba’s daughter asked me, “how many years are kids required to go to school in the U.S.” Well, my Ukrainian isn’t perfect, so I understood the question as “When does your LCF come back from rotation?” So, I said three weeks. I think that was the hardest I’ve ever seen Ukrainian’s laugh, so then I started laughing, but didn’t know why. Then they asked the question a bit slower and I understood what was so funny.
That is only one of the thousands of stories I have for the last month. But I have a short and strange story from today. I went to Kulakivka for a link session. There is another cluster of PCT’s in Kulakivka, we go there often for “teacher training.” One of the trainees there said that I’m famous at her house. I asked, why? Apparently her host family is good friends with Chocha Luba. And Chocha Luba has told them that she is very fond of me and when I leave her and go to my permanent site, she is going to bring me a pig.

Don’t bother reading that sentence over, I said pig.

Пока !

PS
If there are any questions that you want to ask or if you want to say hello please email me.

PSS
My lovely girlfriend now has a blog, the link is below

http://myotherhalfisinukraine.wordpress.com/

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