Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dnipro...blah blah blah Oblast

Disclaimer - this is the forth blog post of "catch up day". I most likely will not be proof-reading it for spelling or grammatical errors. 

My last week in Aug was spent making my way between the two huge industrial cities of Kryvyi Rih - Кривий Ріг and Dnipropetrovs'k - Дніпропетровськ in the Dnipropetrovs'ka Oblast. The 8.5 hour Myrhorod - Kryvyi Rih bus ride (from hell) was not the ideal way to get pumped up for camp but thankfully I had a fellow Poltavian Megan and curb side / swiss army knifed cheese, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber sandwiches to ease the awfulness. Literally a fellow passenger almost died on the bus. 
I was in Kryvyi Rih for yet another Summer camp - Camp LEAD; which was a English immersion leadership camp for 16-21 year old students that myself and maybe 15 other PCV's were a part of. We all were housed in this old soviet hotel that made The Shinning + Hostel seem like a mashup potentially possibility - creepy hallways, abandoned basements, flickering lights, eerily quiet and deserted hallways at night. However I will say that's what made it really fun to explore. 

We each were responsible for a group of 10-15 students. "The 7G's" aka my group was of course the найкраща група. We placed first in the best skit award for our awesome rendition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone as a soup opera. 
They also gave me some sweet new Russian and Ukrainian bands and movies that I need to get on downloading. Anyways, highlights of the week in the form of words and photos.
  • campers getting highly into watching The Mighty Ducks to the point where they were cheering when goals were scored
  • teaching the kids dodgeball
  • Ukrainian independence day park festivities 
  • characatchers of some of the PCVs

It was actually really sad when the week ended, good thing these kids took no time in friending my on Vkontakte (the Russian equivalent of Facebook). 

The weekend in Dnipro was pretty relaxing as well - seeing how we stayed at a fellow 41er Kathryn's sweet pad. Got to see some sites, cook some good food, and just chill before school starts.
I got home on the 28th with just enough time to relax for a day before that which is school began.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Has it really been 5 months?!

So my counterpart asked me to put together a short video of my time in Ukraine to be shown at this educational department rayon conference - I then realized it's been five freaking months?! I dunno, it seems like time has flown by.

Music: Something Good Can Work - Two Door Cinema Club, Furr - Blitzen Trapper

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Сорочинський Ярмарок - Sorochyntsy Fair

Good news amigos who may visit me next year in August - another must see event right next to where I live! From Aug 16-21 there is one of the largest (it's massive) and most well known festival that takes place in Ukraine and is conveniently only about 30 minutes away form where I live. Let's just say I started getting couch surfing requests from Ukrainians.

Anyways, it's ridiculous. It's like a music festival / carnival / dance party / Wal-mart / bazaar. You can do / buy just about anything there. For expamle, you can...
  • go zorbing
  • go zip-lining / rock climbing
  • buy cars, winter coats, massage chairs
  • ride rollar coasters
  • listen to live traditional Ukrainian music
  • buy traditional garb
  • eat / drink at much shawarma, shasleek, kvas, pivo, etc...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weekend back in Koz town

With a weekend free and need to be in Kyiv on Tuesday for a week long convention, I took up the opportunity to visit my PST community / family / pets / cluster mates in good old Koz town.

While it took a little longer then expected to get from Myrhorod to Kyiv (typical Ukraine), a good slice or I guess burger & fries of American fast food made everything ok. Though I can't believe they upped the Express Kyiv-Kozelets marshrutka by 2 UAH! Of course when I finally got home to Kozelets there was a massive amount of food ready to go - I should have known not to have eaten, however I ate again (and probably enough for two people). It was fun to be able to communicate and understand more - the dictionary was not actually at the table. 
So my real mom and Ukrainian mom have this Facebook / google translate friendship going. So one of the conversations around the table was how my real mom informed Natasha that she wanted to see pictures of where I lived during PST (because the few that I took of my room and backyard didn't suffice). My rebuttal was how I thought it'd be awkward to just walk around the house taking pictures while Natasha or Zhenya would be sitting watching TV or something. In the semi quoted / translated words of Natasha, "You should have taken pictures, I will clean the entire house today, and then we will take pictures". I gave Natasha the reigns of my camera after showing her how to use it and here are the results. Unfortunately the kitchen was neglected to be paparazzied, maybe next time.   
my personal favorite
The cellar where all the food is kept for winter
Now that everyone should be happy, we can continue. The first night in Koz happened to be yet another disco park event. For some reason I got contracted into being the photographer for the event - but I did get free admission to the disco! 
It was fun to hang with the Koz group and host brothers, sisters, friends, etc...  I managed to make my rounds to both Mary-Kathryn's and Kym's host families and of course got some good food out of it before they had to leave on Sunday. 
The Kozelets vs Oster game unfortunately was won by Oster.
It was an all around good trip and I can't wait to come visit again. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

L'viv, Львів, Львов, Lwów, or Lemberg - however you say it, you are fantastic

Words literally can't describe how freaking sweet this city is. Lets just say a couple things... 
overly complicated train tickets
  1. if you come to visit me from the states - we're going here (no choice)
  2. if my PC salary / workload could afford both the 250 UAH and the 14 hour travel time - I'd be there on the reg
  3. put on your walking shoes - because why bus when there is so much to see around every corner (and I know a quaint 6km walking tour)
So some few weeks back and through the magic of social networking sites, I mentioned the idea of traveling somewhere / anywhere because I had a light work week before the craziness of August would commence. The idea of L'viv was thrown out there. At frist it was retracted by yours truly because it was a hop, skip, and a half country away. I'll admit L'viv was one of the main cities I was dying to visit, however I was a tad scared of traveling by train solo for such a long distance. However after a little fuss I gave in and purchased the basically non-refundable tickets (they lose like half their value if you return them) and thus locked me into that which became Львів 2011.

Let us begin with a weekend recap video to get y'all pumped to visit - courtesy of iMovie, DSLR, iPod Touch, and one sleepless night

music: Young the Giant - My Body

So as you might have figured out, L'viv is like stepping out of Ukraine and into a real European city - ironically where the people actually speak pure Ukrainian. People seemed really receptive/excited to hear foreigners give a go at their language. 

So the excursion began at midnight in Myrhorod where the Kharkiv - L'viv train picked me up. While their was initial hostel / apt renting complications over the meaning of "booked", it all worked out for the best. Much thanks to Miss Robin Belinsky for letting me crash at her apartment in town while I waited around. Anyways, I don't know why I was nervous at all - trains are freaking awesome! I met a lot of really interesting people, a lot of which knew about the Peace Corps program / had a volunteer in their town. 

So one may ask what an overnight train ride is like in "economy" third class? It's much like the black friday videos of people trying to get into WalMart - but it's totally the way to go. There are no little rooms like the Hogwarts Express however the stewart does come around with a cart of goodies you can purchase (sadly, no chocolate frogs). It's like this, four bunks to a given space, with two other side berths facing perpendicular to the other four bunks (I'm sure there must be a more logical way to describe this). I guess the sardine aspect is a bit of an over exaggeration but it's definitely a forced meet and greet situation - and their is apparently Ukr train etiquette
  • If you have the lower (нижнє) seat, people can and will sit on your bed without asking
    • However once you put the sheets on your bed, a request or invitation is required
  • Sharing food and drinks is highly recommended 
  • Sharing your life story is also highly recommended 
So I arrived around 2:30PM the next day and met up with Kym waiting at the train station and we made our way / out of our way (undesired directional detour) to our castle / hostel we were staying in. In total eight group 41 PCV's from all over descended on L'viv. 

Top Sites
  1. climbing the tower in Ploshcha Rynok square
  2. tall castle (високий замок) lookout 
  3. Криївка bar/restaurant
  4. Hostel Roxelana which was located in a castle
  5. churches from a variety of religious affiliations 
  6. view from the Citadel-Inn
  7. L'viv Handmade Chocolate factory
  8. L'viv Brewery
  9. wheeling and dealing at the craft bazaar
Top Highlights
  1. architecture
  2. bomb homemade dinners / breakfasts daily
  3. taking way to many pictures
  4. getting free apples from the bazaar women
  5. losing at chess with a local 
  6. photo session with a group of baba's
  7. moon-walking on the Taras Shevchenko statue
  8. never ending walking tour (due to frequent cafe, bazaar, beer, girl clothes / jewelry breaks)
  9. meeting creepy Russians
  10. getting hit on by a bazaar baba
  11. guy in the hostel who had an "issue"

All and all, awesome trip, awesome people, would do it all again.