Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm blog that is.

Peace Corps has been encouraging us for quite some time to password protect our blogs. When I was in Mauritania I thought this was unnecessary because I could count on one hand the number of people I knew who could speak English or use the internet, and maybe no one who could do both. I now know many people who have mastered both the internet and reading English (okay..maybe not mastered). I have decided to move to a site where I can password protect. If you get info from my mom, she'll e-mail the password. Otherwise, I'll put it on facebook or you can e-mail, or just try to figure it out since it's not very tricky.

Thanks for reading!

The new site is:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Almost there!

Don’t really know where to start…I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, but then again, my parents are probably the only ones keeping track. Things have been going great here in Ukraine. Summer is an amazing time to live here. It’s warm, and there are flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere. We have one week of training left, and on June 14th, I’ll finally know where I’ll be living for the next two years. As of right now, I have absolutely know idea, which I think is how Peace Corps likes it. I’m very excited for training to be over, but I will really miss my family. They’ve been so nice to me, and as my language improves and we can actually talk, I am now only starting to realize how amazing they are. I will definitely be back to visit them.

They’ve kept us pretty busy these last couple of months. Since our third week, we’ve been teaching health classes in Ukrainian. Oh, funny story (not really). We get assigned our topics, the first week, after only being here three weeks, my partner Matt and I were assigned to teach about spiritual health. You can imagine how that went. I don’t even think I can teach that in English. But lessons have been getting easier every week. As part of our training, we also ran a summer camp. The camp included first through tenth graders, which made it a little hectic, but is was really fun. We also held an “Ivanivka’s Got Talent” talent show. The house was packed and we raised a good amount of money for the culture house. We also had to dance and sing on stage, and we managed to learn a Ukrainian song (plus, we got to wear traditional outfits!)

That’s about all. A lot of working and studying and hanging out with the fam. I’ll write more when I know where my site is.

I always like to end with something fun, so I’ll give you some of my favorite Ukrainian superstitions:

  1. Don’t whistle inside. Whoever owns the house will lose all their money.
  1. Women, don’t sit on anything made of concrete without at least a blanket under you. It will freeze your ovaries and you’ll never have babies.
  1. If you just drink vodka, you won’t be hungover the next day, no matter how much you drink. But if you drink just a little beer and a little vodka, expect to feel horrible the next day.

That’s all for now. I hope to hear from many of you soon. Enjoy summer in America!

Check out the new pictures!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The First Week!

Greetings from Ukraine. I apologize for being under the radar for so long, and I especially apologize to any of you who had to calm down my parents when they hadn’t heard from me in over a week. I assure you that I am alive and well, and if you are reading this post, that means I successfully made it to the big city to use the internet and buy a cell phone.

Besides the lack of communication with the states, things here are going really well. I am in training village about 20 minutes away from the larger city of Chernihiv. There are 1,600 residents, and the school, which is K-11, currently has 169 students. However, despite being in a small village, I’m living the high life: shower with hot water, toilet, and electricity ALL THE TIME! So yeah…no complaints here. So far my days have been filled with language and technical training for Peace Corps (along with 4 other American classmates), as well as a few other activities, including a 3 AM Easter service, playing cards and battle ship in Ukrainian, and working in the fields to help prepare for the planting season, although I‘ve only done this one once, so we‘ll see how it goes. I’m loving it!

Probably the most important factor to my happiness here is the fact that yet again, I’ve lucked out with an amazing host family. There is a dad, Vitalick, mom, Natasha, and a daughter, Nastia, 11. It’s a pretty great situation for me, because even though they’re supposed to take care of me, both Vitalick and Natasha are in their early thirties, so it’s not really like they’re my parents (hear that Mom and Dad: I’m unsupervised!). A very important note about this family is that they speak no English, so we’ve been playing a lot of charades and my Ukrainian has been progressing quickly purely out of necessity. Nastia is very sweet and has all the attitude one would expect of the eleven year old girl. Vitalick in a very jolly man and loves to sing along with the TV and make dumb jokes to the point where Nastia rolls her eyes and says something I don’t understand but which I can only imagine means, “Daaaaaaad, you’re embarrassing me!”

I probably spend most of my time with Natasha. She is incredibly nice and always has a smile on her face. She is a professional cook and works at a restaurant in Chernihiv three days a week, which means fabulous Ukrainian food for me. We hang out in the kitchen and we “cook” together, and by that I mean I cut things and she does all the heavy lifting. I think my favorite thing about her is how patient she is with my language skills. She just seems to really want to talk to me even if it means it will take 15 minutes just to clarify one sentence. But hopefully it is paying off, because I feel myself understanding more and more every day.

While I have many funny stories about misunderstandings and what-not, I’ll leave you with the two that are currently in my mind.

Who’s on first? (this whole conversation should be written in Cyrillic, but I don‘t know how to change the language on my computer so I’ll use the English alphabet)

Natasha: Brat zvatea? (What’s your brother’s name? in the most simplistic Ukrainian she can possibly use for my sake)
Me: Brat zvatea Bret. (My brother’s name is Bret).
Natasha: Tak. Brat. Zvatea? (Yes. Brother. Name?)
Me. Tak. Zvatea Bret. (Yes, name Bret).
Natasha: Ni “Brat”, z-v-a-t-e-a? (Not “brother”, name?)
Me: Ya rozumiyou. Zvatea B-r-e-t. (I understand. Name Bret.)

Well, we went on like this for a little longer until I finally wrote down the word for “brother” and the word “Bret“, we both saw that there was one letter difference, and now everything is under control.

Group Hug

The days when Natasha works, she generally comes home between 9 and 10, which is also when I go to bed because at the end of the day of speaking a language that I don’t really speak, my brain hurts and I have to rest it. Well, on Monday Natasha came home from work as I was getting ready to go to bed.

Natasha: djkeoidljdwoeibnowidn? (No idea what she said)
Me: Huh?
Natasha: djkeoidljdwoeibnowidn? (Still no idea)
Me: Ya ne rozumiyou. (I don’t understand).
Vitalick: grhskjgfjdfjeufgjkfghdfjlksfdl? (still clueless…)
Me: goofy grin.
Vitalick: something, something, something, word-I-recognize-as-”dictionary”.
I go get my Ukrainian-English dictionary, and Vitalick flips through to find the word he is looking for. He points to the word.
Me: Sad? (I thought maybe it was the wrong word.)
Vitalick: Tak. Ty “sad”? (Yes. You “sad”?)
Me: Ni. (No)
Vitalick: Dobre (good). Vitalick (points to himself), Nastia, i Natasha “looooove” Becky.

Then the four of us group-hugged it out in the middle of the living room before I went to bed. The next day I told my language teacher about it and she said Vitalick had gone over to her house (we’re next door neighbors) that morning very concerned that morning because apparently at 7 AM that morning, I hadn’t been smiling as much as I usually do. Go figure.

Anyway…Moral of the story, I have Ukrainians here who, even after only a week, are very concerned that I am happy. I’m so happy I decided to come here, and I think it’s going to be an amazing two years. I’ll leave you with that. Check out the new pictures. Keep me posted on what’s going on at home.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Here we go again!

Dear Family and Friends,

It's about that time again. Time to pack, gorge on American food, reassure my mom I'll be know the drill. I'm four days away for leaving for Peace Corps Ukraine, and I'm very ready (other than the whole packing thing). I've really enjoyed my time back in the good ole' U.S. of A, but I'm very excited to get started again.

I'll make this post short and sweet. Thanks so much to everyone for all your support over the last two years, and for what I imagine will be continued support over the next two. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail or give me a call this weekend if you want to catch up. I'm not sure how often often I'll post during my three months of training, but I promise to keep you all posted on the successes, and more likely, the mayhem, or Peace Corps Ukraine.

Thanks again for being such enthusiastic blog readers. I'll miss you all!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

And so it begins............

Setting: It is 32 degrees, raining, and I’m waiting at a stop light to cross the street. There is a middle aged woman and an older woman waiting with me. The middle aged woman crosses the street before the light has changed.

Old Woman: Blah blah blah blah blah? Blah blah blah blah blah blah? (My interpretation: Did you see that woman cross the street? Why didn‘t she wait for the light to change?)
Me: Huh? (Blank stare)
Old Woman: Blah blah blah blah blah? (Look on her face: are you stupid?)
Me: (Nervous laugh and a dopey grin that say “yes, I am stupid”)
Old Woman: Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah? (My interpretation: you don’t speak Ukrainian, do you?)
Me: No (Nervous laugh as the light changes as I quickly cross the street).

So where did this scene take place? Ukrainian Village in Chicago, of course. Today I took a little field trip (I know, I picked the most disgusting day weather wise I possibly could). Due to weather conditions, I didn’t do as much exploring as I would have liked, but I did make it to the National Ukrainian Museum (, and spent a few hours looking around the exhibits. I would highly recommend it to anyone who lives in Chicago. They have several cultural exhibits displaying clothes, jewelry, and art work, as well as exhibits about political events that have occurred in the country. Plus, because I think I was the only visitor, I got a private tour of the museum. Not too shabby for the $5 suggested donation. Everyone I met who works there speaks English and all the written material in both Ukrainian and English. Seriously, check it out!

After the museum, I wanted to walk around a bit, and I stumbled into a Ukrainian grocery store (by stumbled in, I mean I followed my nose to the bakery in the back). I figured perhaps I would try something. I saw some powdered borscht that I thought of purchasing for this cold day, but decided instant soup was pretty lame, so I made my way to the back where the deli/prepared foods were. I was kind of just browsing, but not surprisingly since most people don’t just browse in the deli department, the women behind the counter gave me a look to hurry up and make my choice.

I’ll leave you with one more script.

Me: What is this? (pointing to a plastic container containing the colors white, pink, and yellow)
Deli Lady: (looking alarmed that I had spoken to her in English) Um, uh…It is one part onion, one part potato, one part fish, and one part uhh…. (yells at another girl across the store to get the word for something….the response is beet)
Me: (In my head: Beets are gross but I guess I’ll have to get used to them eventually). Okay, I’ll take it.
Deli Lady: Good. You like pork?
Me: (giving her my skeptical eyes) Yes.
Deli Lady: Good you take pork too. (She puts a deep-fried pork something in a Styrofoam container).

I didn’t really want pork, but hey, it was already in the Styrofoam and everything…I proceed to the checkout, pay $6.09 for my two items, and walk away from my first taste Ukraine.

Speaking of a taste of Ukraine, after returning home, I had to taste my items. So far I’ve only been able to get myself to have one bite of each. Unidentified-deep-fried-pork-ball actually isn’t that bad, but it kind of tastes like fish. I’m worried about a pork product that tastes like a crab cake, but we‘ll see. Plastic-container-filled-with-various-products is a different story. After further investigation, it kind of looks like that seven layer Mexican bean dip you buy at the grocery store. Here are the layers: VERY salty fish, grated potatoes, onions, beets, a very thick layer of sour cream, and what looks like crumbled hard boiled egg yolk. I’m going to try to work up the courage to take a second bite of this one, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen.

So there you have it. My first taste of Ukraine. During my two years of service if you ever find yourself pining away for me, just hop on down to Ukrainian Village and take solace in the fact that we are enjoying the same food, language, and culture.

That’s all for now. I hope you’re all doing well. Hope to see many of you before I leave.