"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Arrival Retreat and First Few Days (9/27 & 9/28)

This post was originally typed on September 27 – 10 am

Well, I made it and could not be more excited to be here, with my bags! Right now, I’m on the porch of my room that is at the retreat center where we are spending the first couple of days. It’s an old Soviet retreat and heath center, but nothing like a Club Med or Spa. We’re in the forest, about an hour and a half outside of Kiev. After spending time in smoky airports and crowded planes, the fresh air of the forest is something to be valued.

The plane rides over here weren’t anything to complain about at all. DC to Frankfurt was 8 hours, nothing I couldn’t handle. I wish I had slept more, but I was sandwiched in between some fairly large German men who most definitely needed the extra space. After a short layover in Germany, (Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Jerry for the Euros! They bought me a MUCH needed bottle of water and I didn’t have to use US Dollars!) we headed to Kiev which was a shorter 2 hour flight. I sat next to some other PCV’s and had the aisle, so I could stretch out a little more.

From the moment we walked through customs, Peace Corps has been so amazing with taking care of us. Making sure we’re comfortable, not too overwhelmed, and giving us much time to read…and blog. The day is packed full, but we still have free time to adjust. I’m staying with two other guys for this quick, day and a half retreat. We are all having the same sort of feelings, overwhelmed with excitement, mixed in with intimidation from the unknown, but confidence in the process. It has just been so great to be around people who are here for the same reason, and who are in the same boat as I am. We all have common ground that is both comforting and reassuring. I have my first language lesson at 4 p.m. today with 2 other people in my cluster. We are waiting for another girl who will be joining us on Friday, then our cluster will be complete. Group 40 has a ‘B’ group who were held back because of problems with Visas. They were supposed to stage with us in DC, but were held back until Tuesday. They won’t have the luxury of free time or adjustment, their orientation at the retreat center will be all of 6 hours then they will go to their respected training villages.

My training village is Kivshovata and I will be speaking Ukrainian! Well, I will be learning Ukrainian during my 3 months of training, but could be sent to a Russian speaking community, where I will learn to understand Russian and respond with Ukrainian. A current volunteer who is here at the training site reassured us that the language training over the next 3 months is fantastic, and we really have nothing to worry about. Plus, if we give everything we have and aren’t afraid to fail, we will get even more out of the training experience. For this, I cannot wait; to fail, to be vulnerable, but to learn and become confident, and to adapt.

So far, everything is just fine…even better than fine: things are great. I have been trusting in process and have been embracing the unknown, just like I told myself I was going to. It’s kept me worry free and more relaxed, which at this time I will take every ounce I can get. Now, I’m going to sit back and listen to the guitar playing by Brett, a fellow volunteer. Between the beautiful nature at the retreat center, delicious Ukrainian breakfast that has my stomach full, and great sounds of guitar and nature, I can say one thing for sure: life is good.

This post originally typed on Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I made it to Kivshovata and have arrived at my host mother Lessa’s house! Training was a great, and quick day 2 days, filled with session on cross cultural adaption, safety, some history of Ukraine, and logistical items. There were also some “What to expect at the host home” skits by the Language Facilitators which were really funny, and very true. We were placed into clusters, and I am with 3 other people, 2 of which were in group 40A. Because there were some problems with visas, another group of 40 were held back and left this morning, so Asia, Evan and I will be met by Laura on Friday.

My village is the smallest out of all the training villages, and by far the furthest from Kiev. We dropped everybody off today before making it to our Kivsho, which heightened the nerves watching everybody meet their families. But when you’re actually meeting them, there is no time to think, let alone be nervous! Lessa is a very sweet lady, maybe 40-45 years old. She also has a son in University, but because women get married very early, it would make sense that Lessa is in her 40’s. Today’s first few hours were mixed with miming, pointing, dancing, laughing, eating, demonstrating, and silence. All of which is to be expected and very ok.

Usually I would be stressed out not being able to communicate, but I know it will take time. I can’t wait for two weeks to pass and hopefully be able to carry on a small conversation. Or at least know some of what is being said to me!

My photos I brought, the photos friends gave me, and also the book of Colorado where GREAT to be able to sit and look at with Lessa over dinner. I was able to show her my family and friends; the people that I love, and who love me back home. They helped make dinner go very smoothly and by looking at them, and her explaining me things in Ukrainian, dinner wasn’t silent or awkward. The food was delicious, but I have no clue what it was. I am pretty sure there was chicken covered in a fried egg (kind of), white bread (ALWAYS!), mashed potatoes (from her potato field), something, maybe fish, that was very gelatinous, and some chocolate that I picked up earliest for dessert. In a future blog post I will most definitely tell you about the Ukrainian “game” that is dinner. I was warned, and of course played it!

After dinner, I unpacked a little bit more, and Lessa showed me the outhouse (with a working light, HEY-OH!).  And my shower is inside the house (HEY-OH!). The shower only has cold water, so we boil what we will bathe with, and mix it in a smaller bucket with cold water, getting warm bath water. Then you sort of ladle it on yourself with a small pot. The novelty will soon wear off, but for right now I’m excited that it was a) warm water, and b) inside. Having low expectations that are surpassed…always a good thing.

Now I’m off to bed, but might trek out to the privy before calling it a night. What an adventure I’ve begun! Language class starts tomorrow, and probably exploring Kivshovata with my cluster.

1 comment:

  1. What a crazy insane #bestlife blog post! So thrilling! I can just hear your voice in every sentence and it makes me so so happy. I really can't describe how I feel about this whole situation other than that I can't wait to read more. I love you!