Saturday, July 23, 2011

Skype Shout Out!

thanks Skype for making this all possible -
батьки - parents [San Diego, CA]
брат - brother [San Diego, CA]
сім'я - family [New England, Massachusetts]
друзі - Erin,Conner, Kevin, & Lauren [Sacramento and San Francisco, CA]

друзі - Lydia & Catharine [Kirovohrad, Ukraine]
be sure to remind me to snap a pic when we Skype so I can add ya!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MTV Cribs - welcome to the village

When it comes to small towns in Ukraine where volunteers live - Harkushyntsi may not be the smallest (go go Kym in her 287 person village right outside of Sad, Ukraine... no joke), but I would assume I'm pretty up there. My quaint little village houses 1,200 people, three stores, one actual bus stop, one discotek, a library, a park, a school, of course a golden statue of Lenin, and I think that's about it. But I kind of like it...

View Larger Map

my community map I had to turn into Peace Corps and Mr. Statue in the center of town

Now I know of volunteers that live in huge Oblast centers with populations in the hundreds of thousands and I think that's great (because I'll come visit them and stay there for free), however I'm excited that I will basically get to know and recognize everyone in my village by the end of two years (in theory). 

The mentality of the village I feel is also very different - and that's really why a lot of volunteers, including myself, joined the Peace Corps was to live and experience a new culture and way of life and to hopefully learn from it. 

So I'm sure y'all are wondering what a little Ukrainian countryside home is like - well you're in luck, today I awkwardly stood outside and videoed my home, both inside and out (I had some neighbors stare at me... you're welcome). 

The house is actually really nice. While the TV only gets I think five channels (that repeat over twenty channels), I now rely heavily on podcasts to get my US, and world news (in English). My new "host" father basically has renovated everything over the years with his son. I will say most Ukrainian countryside homes aren't this nice. They've been really great with trying to incorporate me into meals and family/neighborhood events - which was the main reason I wanted to live with a home stay. And it's not like you're locked into the housing by any means, volunteers are welcome to move if they so choose. So who knows, maybe a year from now I'll move into an apartment by myself. However as of now, I'm happy where I'm at. 

I managed to install internet in my home as well! And when I say I, I mean my host father. He told me the options available and called who needed to be called. I had to purchase a pretty expensive modem however it was the main thing I really wanted so I'm glad my host family let the internet guy drill a hole in their wall for the ethernet cord. 

The school I work at is a place I also think I'll enjoy. It's a specialized English school meaning the students receive I believe five english lessons a week over the normal two. I even get my own office that overlooks the countryside. The five English teaches (one is my Counterpart) and students I've met so far seem really excited to have me. 
the original school and main entrance to the school to the current school
the first few days I received way too many flowers

I've only taken a few shots of the village so far. Obviously there isn't a lot but I managed to encounter a very large sunflower field which I was pretty stoked about. 

I decided to, and realize after the fact, make a really awkward video of the fields

cool video of Ukrainian sunflower fields - apologies for the awkward middle school music

Monday, July 18, 2011

Poltava "Екскурсія"

First off, mini cultural moment, Ukrainians love the term excursion (екскурсія). In English it's a word seldom used and is usually saved for a more extreme/grand activity, however in Ukraine well... here's some наприклади (examples).

you could...

  • explore a new city - екскурсія
  • go for a hike - екскурсія
  • be going down the street to pick up some groceries - екскурсія
  • go visit a friend in the next town - екскурсія
  • go visit a friend in your town - екскурсія
  • go visit a friend two houses down - екскурсія
so I think you get it, I'm sure you have things like carmageddon in LA on your mind, but enough with the tangent, this post is dedicated to Poltava, my oblast center.

My counterpart and myself went yesterday on a bus tour which turned out pretty sweet. I won't bore you with words because the pictures can speak for themselves. I guess I'll split it up into sections.

Cathedrals / Churches / Monasteries

Featuring (in order of appearance)

    Museums / Statues / Monuments

    Featuring (in order of appearance)

    Pictures of me

     my counterpart forced me to do this - however I won't lie, it's pretty funny

    I think that about raps up this екскурсія

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Nikolai Gogol... google that ish

    CLICK HERE - now was that so hard?
    the black and white makes him look so serious
    So we all know how Walt Disney has Disneyland as his claim to fame - well Mr. Gogol has my town, Mirgorod / Myrhorod (Миргород). 

    While you and I both know I actually live in Harkushyntsi, I find myself in Mirgorod probably four times a week (it's only 3UAH and buses run all day) so I've since adopted it as my own (a subsequent post will be provided on Harkushyntsi in the near future). 

    Located in north central Poltavs'ka Oblast, Mirgorod is centralized to a lot of other major Ukrainian Cities (which I'm pleasantly happy about). Being located in central Ukraine I think will make traveling to other major cities on either ends of the country much more feasible. 
    My town is actually named after the title of a compilation of short stories written by Nikolai Gogo way back in 1835. While I would like to eventually get my hands on a copy for sentimental value, Ukrainians and Russians love this guy and have probably snatched up most of the copies. 
      The town has around 40,000 people and is a very common resort city for Ukraine as well as Russia. And apparently Canada too (ran into four Canadians in the past 2 days). We have beaches, boat rentals, super markets, fountains, concerts, swans, hotels, etc... and because it's such a major tourest attraction, a lot of buses and trains that normally wouldn't run though this size city do pass through my town! I'm also happy to say I'm not alone here - two other Youth Development volunteers from my group are within 10 to 20 minutes from me. 

      Poltava region in general is very flat and has a large farming community so I want to buy a bike asap. A few weekends ago I went on a 45km bike ride to the surrounding villages and it wasn't too exhausting - I excited for what else I can find here.

      Things I've already found via велосипед (bicycle): 

      • a lake
      • herds of animals
      • gigantic sunflower / wheat fields
      • possible camp sites

      Today I went on a photo tour of the city with a buddy and here are some of the results.
      and yes, that last photo says Robin Hood, and yes, that is a castle.