"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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Simply put, a dream come true.

I remember pretty vividly when I first told my Mom that I wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was in elementary school, and was pen pals with a Volunteer as a part of a class project. I just thought it would be so cool get to live with another culture, speak another language, and experience a life totally separate from what I knew. I remember her saying something about one of the Masters Swimmers she knew on the Dolphins was a Volunteer once, and that I should probably finish college first, but concluded with, “I could see you doing that”. And like that, a dream was born.

Fast forward to Thursday, December 16, 2010 when that dream was coming true as I stood up and took the Peace Corps Oath and officially became a United States Peace Corps Volunteer.  After three of the shortest months of my life, I had made it. I was "ready to fly" as Lecia put it.

And then I arrived. Since I started my application I always had pictures in my head of what my permanent site would look like, but little did I imagine it would be this perfect. I truly hope every Volunteer is able to say the following statement, but I don’t what I did or what I said to deserve such a fantastic new home. The train pulled in at 6 a.m. on Friday to Kivertsi (larger “town” about 30 minutes away) where one of my link-mates Val is placed. She was one of my best friends in training and I am so blessed to be so close! From there, Val and I gave some final hugs, she left with her welcoming committee, and a teacher’s husband picked up Volodymyr and me. We drove to my new apartment where I had my own welcoming committee! (This was at 6:30 in the morning!) Cookies, sandwiches, fruit, chocolate, and my favorite, varanaky were all there to greet me as well. My welcoming committee consisted of 3 of the English teachers who were eagerly getting my apartment ready, and preparing the food. We sat, ate, talked about life in Kolky, life in the US, all sorts of things. Like I wasn’t already convinced, but Ukraine has the warmest and most welcoming people. The rest of my Friday consisted with meeting the Mayor, getting acquainted with the village, and having a Welcome dinner with the Director (Principal), Vice Principals, and English teachers. Food, food, food! (You'll never guess who got to take the left overs!)

Saturday consisted on the Regional Olympiad, which was rather exciting. I got to make all of the 'keys' (for some reason the tests don't come with them) as well as read the 'Listening Comprehension' texts twice for all forms, and grade the speaking component. And what would an Olympiad be without a celebration dinner afterward! It was a great way for me to meet more students and staff, as well as meet some teachers from other villages in the region. So many names! 

The past couple of days have consisted of observing and teaching lessons at school as well as settling into my new place. I loved living with Lecia, but it's also nice to have my own space as well. I won't elaborate on my apartment too much, but I LOVE IT. The shower is delightful when there is hot water, and the toilet works well! Still simple living, but so grateful for what I do have.

And just this evening, the "PTA" surprised me with a Christmas Tree and all of the decorations! I think I might be able to post pictures soon, but it really is one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

Can't wait to tell you more about my life in Kolky, but I think it's probably time I cook some dinner! (Kolky is in the Volyn Oblast, the most Northwestern Oblast in Ukraine, but Kolky is pretty East in the oblast). Happy Holidays to everybody back home, and Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it! May your blessings be counted by the number of laughs you share with your friends and family. As for me, I am reminded of my blessings knowing that dreams really do come true.


  1. Ben! So glad you love your placement! It's been great to read about your journey so far and I can't wait to hear more. I'm really excited for you and your journey ahead. In the mean time, have a very Merry Christmas!

    Miss you!

  2. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    Merry Christmas Benjamin. Love to Kolky! Congrats on the toilet and the tree!

  3. Ben,

    You've made a wonderful Christmas for all of us left behind. You are our gift to Kolky and the Ukraine and they are a gift to us for providing you such a hospitable place to be sharing your talents and life.

    Merry Christmas!


    G'ma and Pop

  4. Merry Christmas Ben! Hope your time in Kolky is amazing! Love you!

  5. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
    We missed you this year at Church.
    So happy all is going so well with you.
    Love the journal.
    Pat Price