Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yes Please!!

Ukrainian Etiquette

Found this list on a website, nothing seems too out of the ordinary. 
  • If invited into a family home, it is traditional to bring a gift. A bottle of wine, a cake, chocolates or a bouquet of flowers is customary. If there is a child in the house, it is appropriate to provide him/her with a small gift as well. (Kit Kats and a shot glass)
  • Do not shake hands across the threshold of a door. It is considered bad luck. (I wonder how they feel about mistletoe) 
  • When shaking hands, take off your gloves. (normal)
  • In Ukraine it is not a custom to shake hands with a woman. Kissing her hand will make you very gallant. (I don’t think I’ve ever kissed a girl on the hand… like seriously)
  • Be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering a home. To keep apartments clean, most hosts will provide you with a pair of slippers.(sweet, do I get a snuggie as well?)
  • On public transportation, give up your seat to mothers with children, the elderly, or the infirm. (duh)
  • At the entrance of upscale restaurants, expect that your coat, briefcase or baggage will be checked. (so keep important things in your pockets)
  • Be sure to have business cards printed in Ukrainian on one side and English on the other. (smart idea)
  • When eating dinner at someone’s home, casual dress is accepted. (got to love jeans)
  • If you bring flowers, make sure it is an uneven number (even are for funerals) of flowers. (interesting, my OCD will be unhappy)
  • Be ready to give toasts at dinner, for guests are often asked to do so.(can they be in English?)
  • Offer to share your snacks and cigarettes with those around you. (I expect the same in return)
  • Be prepared to accept all food and drink offered you when visiting friends. (I’m scared of the sheer amount of vodka they drink)
  • Ukrainians are known for their generosity when it comes to feeding others. Turning down food may be considered rude. (I’m going to get fat :/ )
  • For business, dress should be conservative. Men should not take off their jackets unless asked to do so. (I’m going to sweat)
  • In Orthodox churches women wear scarves or hats, and men take off their hats. (standard)
  • Don’t put your thumb between your first two fingers - this is a very rude gesture. (similar to flipping the bird?)


This seems fairly appropriate.
The women @ 3:35 will be my new мати

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looks like I'm going to find out.

Aspiration Statement

So Peace Corps asked me to fill out this questionnaire that will be sent to the Ukrainian individuals I eventually will be working with and figured I'd share.

A: The professional attributes that you plan to use, and what aspirations you hope to fulfill, during your Peace Corps Service.
Looking back on the nine month process of getting accepted into the Peace Corps and rereading my initial application essay brought some clarity to all I hope to achieve in Ukraine. I was, and still am, extremely passionate about making a real difference in the lives of others, and I’m excited to be part of something radically different than what I might previously have believed to be a normal path.
During my high school and university careers, much of my volunteer work involved working with fellow students and faculty in order to educate, inform, and teach leadership and healthy living choices. I believe my background in this area will translate well to youth development in Ukraine. I am a very organized, reliable, and professional person who tends to intersperse work with moments of laughter. From my experience as both a teacher and student, I believe youths do not want to be lectured at, and that keeping the environment light-hearted from time to time seems to work best in information retention. 
The most valuable technique I learned while working on my university’s orientation program was collaborative problem solving. Our greatest ideas always seem to come from a combination of diverse ideas and backgrounds, and I am excited to see the positive impact my Peace Corps group can have by brainstorming with people from all over the world. 
And unlike my extracurricular work, my academic work in the Sciences was focused on efficiency, precision, and multi-tasking, rather than collaborative work. But I think this unique combination of experiences has taught me to be a very versatile and adaptive individual who will happily thrive as a Youth Development volunteer. 
B: Your strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
The Peace Corps hosted a video and Q&A seminar in my hometown last year, and as an attendee I received the book “Tales of Peace Corps Service”. After reading through it, I realized a few things: change does not happen overnight, and the American idea of quick transactions and a hyper-paced lifestyle is not something shared by the rest of the world. Going into the service knowing this, I hope to count small changes as large achievements. 
I also believe gaining community respect is key to understanding expressed needs and initiating small steps towards change. As a Youth Development volunteer, enacting small changes in the youth can have significant effects in future generations, and I think that’s really exciting! Learning the local language of either Ukrainian or Russian will be the first step in initiating community respect and acceptance. By getting to know the Ukrainian people and culture, I feel I will be more apt to understand and empathize with the needs of the community. 
C: Your strategies for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.
I still have two months before I leave and am currently contemplating on what I can do to make my transition into a new society the smoothest it can be. I want to stay grounded in my values and experiences that I bring from the United States while at the same time be open to the new ideas and incite my service will bring.
I consider myself a pretty adaptive person by nature, and am more so when comfortable in a group setting. Having a base of local friends to learn and confide in is how I personally adapt to a new environment. I hope my pre-service family and other Peace Corps volunteers I work with are people I feel comfortable with who work similarly, in order to allow my transition to occur most effectively.   
D: The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.
While pre-service training is essential for learning the history and language of Ukraine, I am most excited to learn and share cultural aspects with the host family I will be staying with. Adapting to my new environment is key to staying safe and learning as much as possible. I really hope to gain a sense of home living with this family, because without it, I think the hardship of being so far from friends and family will be much harder to bare (especially being a Californian facing winter for the first time). Learning what my host family’s and community’s children are interested in and seeing what aspects of my own American culture they enjoy hearing about will be of a great benefit to projects and activities that I could create as a Youth Development volunteer. 
Furthermore, I hope pre-service training teaches me to be a less reserved individual. Peace Corps is about meeting new people and making a network of communication to foster positive growth in the communities we work with and I hope to grow as a person to get the most out of my first twelve weeks in Ukraine. 
E: How do you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends. 
I really cannot even imagine how my life and outlook on life will change after my service in the Peace Corps. What I hope my service does is open up my perspective of the world as well as narrow my focus on what I hope to actually do in my life. With the professional fellows programs offered to RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteers), I hope to use that narrowed focus to further my education in that field. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ukraine Bound

So I guess it's about time I created on of these memoirs for my upcoming adventure. I've seen PCV's (Peace Corps volunteers) with them since their application was submitted, which puts me back say nine months from posts I guess I should have been making - so sue me.

Anyways, so it comes to find out I'll be moving to Ukraine (not "the" Ukraine) and being a Youth Development volunteer in the not so far future. I'm currently in the process of going over my packing list and realizing my Californian wardrobe needs a big update for me to survive in the Ukrainian winters to come... but I'm totally excited anyways!

My actual departure date is March 21st. I will most likely be flying to Washington, DC and partake in an orientation event with the other 110 Group 41 Ukraine PCV's. After that, all 110 of us will hop on a plane and lose 10 hours of our lives (time difference) and land in Kiev (capital of Ukraine) and start my Pre-Service Training!