I wrote this post on Tuesday, December 14.
Well, I must admit, this is by far the most exciting and longest over due post to date. I haven’t had any sort of Internet for about 3 weeks, and when I would get the chance to check e-mail, it was essentially looking at the e-mail without the opportunity to respond. Please don’t think I forgot about you, but patience has most definitely been key over the past three months for me. But enough about that…I’m done with training and right now I’m in Kyiv!
Training ended on Monday, when my cluster packed up and left Kivshovata. Our final week was spent teaching our last lessons at the school, presenting our Community/School Project, saying goodbye, packing, and sharing meals and laughs with new friends and family for the last time in a while. It was hard to say goodbye to the school and the students, mainly because they were so good to us from day one. They also showed interest in our learning, appreciated the work we did, and made us feel welcome and comfortable. After a process of “Needs Assessment” and “Community Mapping”, our group collaborated with the Kivshovata School to provide an audio resource packet to supplement their textbooks. Different people had expressed the need, multiple times, that native speakers were helpful and beneficial to learn from, so we recorded texts that the teachers requested from different books. We even applied for, and received a small grant from Peace Corps to use towards the purchase of a new boom box! It was an exciting accomplishment, mainly because we implemented the project while teaching classes, learning language, and living through the Ukrainian winter!
Saying goodbye was very hard, but I know I’ll be back to visit. It was a fantastic three months, filled with unforgettable memories. And even though I wasn’t able to be a consistent blogger, I was able to journal a lot and capture the great times, and some of the challenges as well. Part of my struggle toward the end was my frustration with relationships and language. It sounds like an interesting combination, but I will elaborate. I was able to build some amazing relationships with people in Kivshovata; Mama Lecia, the teachers, other host families, babucias, just to name a few. But towards the end, I was frustrated that I couldn’t express to them my gratitude and appreciation for everything they taught me, not only about Ukraine, but also about myself. As far as language goes, I am happy where I am, and very proud at the LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) score I accomplished. But three months of language is not going to give me the tools to express my feelings as eloquently and intentional as I would have liked. Kivshovata deserves huge thanks from me, but I was unable to communicate it. Leaving was hard knowing that things were left unsaid, but that’s become my motivation; learning the language, pursuing practice, and communicating often. So that in a year, or a half a year, I can go back to visit and get to know my family in Kivshovata on a totally different level, one that I barely surfaced in my first three months. But moving forward is always an exciting time, which brings me to my current status, the Swearing-In Retreat in Kyiv!
On Monday, all 90+ Trainees from PC Ukraine Group 40 arrived in Kyiv for our Swearing-In Retreat. We have the opportunity to get together as a big group one last time before the big event of moving to site. When we first arrived, we were handed our room key, a huge packet of information, our week schedule, and an envelope. This of course wasn’t the envelope of our site placement, but rather one that contained our LPI score. I was very excited and relieved that my hard work over the past three months paid off and it showed in my interview. After moving our bags (almost done for a while lugging those damn things around!) and eating lunch, all of the Trainees gathered in a big conference room to find out site announcements. Ukraine is split up into 10 regions (don’t ask me how) and each region has a RM (Regional Manager). He or she is in charge of all of the Volunteers in the region, and is the go to person for most things. Each RM announced whom they are going to be working with and in what Region, and then after gave us envelopes with more details about our placement.
Drum roll please…I will be in Kolky! Kolky is a small village not from somewhere I can't remember in a region I can't remember. (This week I've been flooded with information...) It is pretty much EXACTLY what I wanted, without getting my hopes up too much. Less than 5,000 people, fantastic school, and I’ll be living on my own. They are “renovating” a small place for me on the school property, but for the first few months I will have an apartment. When I was talking to my RM about my placement, the first question I asked was, “What is the coolest thing about Kolky?” He gave me this huge smile and said, “Ben, the coolest thing about Kolky is Kolky. The people, the school, the Director, the housing, the village; I knew Kolky was where you needed to be.” This made me feel amazing and I am having such great feelings about my new home.
Today was another exciting day, and probably the first time it’s felt “real” since arriving to the center of Kivshovata. Today, we met our Ukrainian counterparts. A counterpart is another teacher from the same school that essentially mentors you through your two years of service. My counterpart is Volodymyr and right away I could tell we are going to be great colleagues. He speaks fantastic English, is enthusiastic about having a Volunteer, cracks jokes, and is really interested in getting to know you. We chatted about ourselves a little bit, and he told me a little bit about Kolky, but really didn’t have much time because we were in sessions, sometimes together and sometimes apart. Even our meal times were separated, but I think the 9 hours to site will be enough time to really get to know Volodymyr more.
Another update to come soon, but my time with the internet is running out by the seconds! Swearing-In on Thursday, and a Peter Yarrow concert tomorrow! (Puff the Magic Dragon!)