Friday, December 30, 2011

holla back дід мороз

cultural update
ukraine and russia's bedazzled santa clause (дід мороз - father frost) with his granddaughter (снігуронька - snow maiden) who takes style tips from queen amidala are the stars of the new years and christmas holiday season here in ukraine.

Myrhorod rang in his arrival with a free concert that i accidentally fell into - молодець мені
i will have these skillz mastered

twas a village christmas

with the american christmas season come and gone, ironically as I write this post which will have had its "post date" altered, ukraine feels more like our traditional christmas for many reasons.
my project will all my
english clubs
  • it finally started snowing
  • ukrainian christmas falls on the seventh of january
  • christmas trees (or new years trees) go up around the twenty eighth of december
  • stores in town have lights and santa paraphernalia
  • і тд.
however, that doesn't mean I can't bring / force some "early" holiday cheer to the students in my school. a lot of our american traditions for christmas and new years are combined in ukraine, which makes distinguishing between the holidays much more difficult for myself during the holiday season. 
that sadly took about 25 minutes to perfect

the 25th ended up being pretty low key. with just a small"ish" gathering of local friends over some chilled beverages, tunes of christmas carols, white elephant exchange, and intense discussions over the super powers. it was just enough america to get you back in the holiday spirit for the evening even though outside that apartment door the holiday spirit hadn't picked up yet.

the big finale before holiday break, schools put on a play of sorts where santa and his granddaughter are the main star. kids dress up in costumes (not quite sure why) and go hybrid carol / trick-or-treat for money or candy.  

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Dec 1: World AIDS Day

What some of you may not know about the country where I currently serve, but Ukraine has the fastest growing HIV rate and the largest population of reported HIV infected individuals in all of Europe. Sadly it's a very hushed/controversial subject (understandably) where even in schools the main aspects regarding HIV transmission is just overlooked and untaught. Furthermore, a large proportion of Ukraine's older generation is under the pretense that this issue isn't one of Ukraine's, but of that of other third world countries.
1.4% of Ukraine's population is reported HIV positive
1% is the minimum requirement to be considered an epidemic
the tourism regions of the south are highly affected
While working in Kozelets, the lesson I taught on HIV/AIDS had to be "edited" due to sensitivity issues. I was glad to hear that in my new school had an open policy and a faculty mentality that all the information should be available for it's students to hear. 

 anti AIDS posters students made at my school

The HIV/AIDS working group provided lots of material and ideas to jump start my lessons and trainings I have sense held on the topic. Using my school as a gauge, I have sense held Healthy Lifestyle training sessions on HIV/AIDS, stigma/discrimination, smoking, and alcoholism at what I think is up to six different schools in neighboring villages! While obviously I don't teach in perfect Ukrainian and I'm thankful for my Ukrainian partner to back me up, it's been a great way to meet and reach an audience of students outside my own school. Not to mention utilize some of my micro bio knowledge!

I did a showing of A Closer Walk which features Ukraine as one of the three countries it focuses on in regards to the AIDS crisis. If interested, I highly recommend you to watch it - my students found it very personal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

I don't think anyone should ever be too "old" or "cool" to make a turkey hand - so forcing my 8th through 11th formers was all but sickeningly justified. Though no frets, my younger kids also got in on the action.
apologies, the SLR unfortunately doesn't go everywhere I do, and the iPod doesn't take still shots well

While yes, my work did include holding turkey day presentations (which were awesome might I add), I got to also celebrate it in true Amurican fashion... with Western Murder Mysteries, Saunas, and a total of 3 turkeys of course. 

The day of thanks was actually broken up into two separate weekends - chronological order went as followed...
Thanksgiving #1
My Poltavian family Thanksgiving + Kristen (an outsider) was held in Kotel'va, which boarders Sums'ka Oblast to the north. 
As mentioned previously, festivities at this gathering included a murder mystery (an impromptu play) under the code name : Fort Griffin Clock Tower Celebration at Clyde's Bar and Saloon. General introductions were as follows.
Howdy All,
It's my much esteemed pleasure, as your recently appointed Sheriff, Slim Pickens, to cordially invite you this Friday, November 19, year of our lord 1875, to celebrate our newly constructed clock tower in the center of our fair town of Fort Griffin. Festivities gonna be held at the Clyde's Knothole Bar and Saloon, just a holler from the town center, startin bouts when the wolves howl, with a chili cook off, games, open bar, live music, n' dance shows. I'm purdy new here to your fine budding city, and I know a lot of us have howdied but ain't shook yet, so I'm lookin forward to acquaintin myself with all you fair, God fearing citizens.  I'm certain ain't nothin' gonna go wrong on such a grand 'occasion! Below you'll find your entrance card. Make sure to read your specific directions. Finally, remember to dress and act your parts at this fine establishment, or you'll be 'bout as welcome as a skunk at a nuptial. 
I was deemed worthy to play Buck - Outlaw meaning...
You’ve been an outlaw since … ahh but it’s too painful to say (starting this vague story multiple times in the night would be ideal). You’re tough, you don’t have much of a rhyme or reason for acting so, but you are. You like it when bad things happen to people, you make up your own western themed curses minus the real swear words. You used to have a love affair with Candy the can-can dancer. You let your tough exterior guard down to let her in and she ripped your heart out. And it makes you mad! It especially makes you mad when someone disrespects or has something bad to say about her. The outburst or rage is occasionally followed by a sad streak that comes on real strong and may be accompanied with weeping. Any attempt at consoling (or mocking your weepin’) will be me with another streak of mean. You have noticed the occasional eye from that new can can dancer, what’s her name? Picker, Poker, Pepper…..? She is cute but there just isn’t room in your sore heart right now. You absolutely cannot stand Mr. Tinker the Piano Player, and you are not quite sure why.
Speaks: a gruff voice which turns to high pitched whining when weeping
Cliff notes version - Candy/Priest died, I cried, yelled, and got angry (a lot), investigation commenced, culprit was found, I shot her, and we all continued to hate Mr. Tinker. 
we're all still in character
Overall, impressively quirky and fun. 

The next day was our actual feast. Which involved food prep, some good old "2 hand touch" football (lightly enforced), feasting, lounging, sleeping.  

Since none of us had every truthfully prepared a turkey, we sought refuge in YouTube. Sadly, not all videos were too helpful - example.
Warning: what you're about to see may be disturbing 
A very successful Thanksgiving #1.
Thanksgiving #2
#2 wasn't as easy of a travel though I found a new cheap way to get to Kiev (for only 25 UAH - aka 3 USD)! Stopping in Kiev also meant I got to raid the Peace Corps office for stuff Volunteers who have completed their service left. It's like going into Target, sometimes you score, sometimes you don't. 
Anyways, we (Kym was assimilated) made our way to Rivne via a 4 hour marshrutka from hell. Not in the sense that it was in any particular reason awful, it was just unbearably hot. To the point where I turned to Kym and said, "is it ok for my eyes to be burning?". We left hell and made it to Dyadkovichi (uncle town?) where Maria, my old clustermate, lives. 

We ended up accomplishing much over the extended weekend.
  • Learned Ukrainians are far better volleyball players then most PCVs
  • Held a seminar on Thanksgiving traditions countrywide
  • Saunas are always epic - especially for Miss Booker's 24th birthday
  • Explored Rivne
    • much has changed since Rivne was the headquarters of the Nazi Regime in Ukraine
  • Reunited with old friends over an Ukr Disco
  • I cooked some delicious mac and cheese from scratch
  • and of course checked another Oblast center off the list
the noms
да, это вилка, спасибо Лидия
great hostess and her counter part
While it's hard to beat bourbon whip cream, 65 degree weather, Wii, and a home cooked meal as 2010 Thanksgiving had to offer, this one packed enough Amurica.
time to go home
A special thanks to the many photographers who's images can be found in this post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

iMovie's making me famous

So the word's out in my celo that I know how to make mildly decent looking films, so now the petitions for help are rolling in. The first being at my the local kindergarden. I work there once a week teaching a painting or craft project / simple english lesson. I then proceed to get fed lunch, whether I'm hungry or not (I find for a man, saying no to food shouldn't be in my vocabulary).

here's project №1

So this video was shown at a later point at some kindergarden county gathering. I later received a jokingly sarcastic comment from a neighboring PCV regarding "what the hell I did". Now he must now make a video for his community kindergarden. I swear sometimes it'd be faster to send a letter by word of mouth then through the Ukrainian mailing system. 

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Herbology Lesson

Currently listening to... Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know
So coming from the sheltered California "force field", "bubble", "electromagnetic field", we sometimes miss out on where stupidly common things actually comes from. 

Take for instance this pictures - one may or may not question what the Dr. Seuss looking topiary is. Well, I  "what the'd" the tree with balls. Since mid-fall to early winter, you couldn't not see these guys sprouting up everywhere. As a biologist, I assumed it was just some strange tree's economical technique of seed dispersal / genetic transmission.

Well it comes to find out... drum roll please... it's mistletoe. Which turns out is a parasitic plant that roots itself into a variety of tree species while it matures and steals water and nutrient resources. 

Ironically with this stuff everywhere, there is no tradition here of couples kissing under mistletoe. Though I'm sure Ukrainians would love the concept, seeing how it could potentially lead to marriage. 

My favorite response when I began to ask PCV's if they knew where mistletoe came from was from a fellow Poltavian PCV Alvi, where she responded with "Walgreens". 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Saving princesses and growing staches...

Theme music
Before I begin I'd like to say this rooster outside my window is seriously killin' my writing buzz. So Halloween is generally not celebrated in Ukraine, which I believe is rooted in Ukraine's strong connection with Catholicism. However in bigger cities you can find Halloween creeping in different aspects: with posters for clubs and discos and decorations in chain stores. 

Being a personal fan of horror movies and eating candy, I guess you could say I too enjoy Halloween. Tragically however, the 31st usually falls during Ukrainian school system's autumn break. With a desire to scare some students, my Halloween ended up being four fold including two costumes.
  1. my sitemate in the city held a zombie disco event at her Gymnasia
  2. the annual volunteer Halloween celebration in Kharkiv
    • including oblast themed costumes
    • a window view of one of the Euro 2012 stadiums from the finest unrated hotel one could book a hundred people
    • and taking a stroll in the biggest public square in Europe
  3. tricker treating in my school office
    • sadly very few students showed up
    • upside, I ate all the leftover candy
  4. Halloween themed english clubs
    • explaining that the current holiday isn't about anything more than candy and practical jokes went over well
I truly hope this requires no caption

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fievel Goes West... but just for a week

This be what hot beats I be listening to On'n'On - Justice

I'll be frank, if you don't know what movie this post is referencing, we probably shouldn't be friends / the film warrants a spot in your Netflicks queue or at least an illegal streaming.

So truthfully if you remove Fievel's jacket, cow boy hat, gun (because they're outlawed for the public to own), and add a mustache he could probably pass as a Ukrainian cossack. I'm now realizing I've put way too much thought into this - maybe I should go to bed?


So schools in Ukraine celebrate autumn by taking a week off, or in the case of my school, two weeks. So in light of a week with nothing planned, I decided to go visit my clustermate Mary-Kathryn at her site in Chernivets'ka Oblast and help her at her work for a couple days and then do some site seeing in the area. 

Starting off at her site, the Jamaican sounding town of Kitsman, I managed to take only 1 photo (which MK was not too pleased about) however I feel it definitely encompasses all that is Kitsman. 
While in Kitsman, I/we managed to...
  • cook mac and cheese for her work English club
  • "correct" her apartment
  • meet her cool sitemate who also is fond of making fun of midwestern accents
  • be presumed as MK's Romanian "man"
Like any good excursion, I had to check another Oblast center off the list. With my guilde book not prompting any real excitement for what could be found in Chernivtsi, and I quote, "with Chernivtsi such a jumble of sights, and perhaps only the university a crucial one...", MK showed me around. Chernivtsi isn't any major city in Ukraine but it was very pleasant. I always seem to time weather in the West because it was an awesome day. My one word description of the city would be pastely, and it has a crazy university. Examples can be found below:

From there, we moved on into the Ivano-Frankivs'ka Oblast. The place with the giant egg (an annotation I added to my guidebook), or to Kolomyia was our next stop. Kolomyia is actually home to our first of many LCFs, so we got an expedited locals tour because he had to be on our way to Ivano later that day.  
symmetry makes me smile
Ivano is like a mini L'viv, with tourism slowly building. A stronger ability in the Ukrainian language is needed here over L'viv, with English rarely heard. Speaking Russian here would definitely grant you a few stink eyes - which I kind of enjoyed. I've observed that certain regions claim more pride to their Ukrainian heritage over others. Coming from a region where both Russian and Ukrainian is spoken interchangeably, communication is often more complicated. Anyways, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

surprisingly good food
a young Shevchenko
safety first
 Good times followed on our train back to Kyiv, platskart (4th class) you never let me down.