"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

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Mr. Bedjamin's" Media Circuit

Well if I didn't have enough attention being the first American to live in Kolky, the regional newspaper and radio station got wind of my presence and decided to strike. So, last week I sat down for my first interview with the Newspaper and interestingly enough we talked for about 45 minutes. She didn't speak English, and my Ukrainian isn't quite that awesome (yet) so I had an English teacher help me translate words I didn't know, or questions I didn't understand. It was an interesting interview, to say the least, and although I walked away from it quite intrigued, I'm happy with the article.

Now, I'm not about to accuse the nice reporter of what some former Alaskan politicians call "Gotcha Journalism" because unlike those inexperienced politicians, I know how to answer questions on the fly and know when questions are loaded (No, I can't see Russia from my house). I politely answered them in a way that satisfied both of us, but still was able to give that look of "Really...you're really going to ask me that?"

Some of my favorite questions included:
  • How would you compare the students in the USA and the students in Ukraine? Which ones do you prefer and which ones are more interested in their education rather than money?
  • What problems are you seeking to fix?
  • Which do you like better, the healthy school lunches in Ukraine or the fatty ones in America?
  • How will you live without fast food for two years?
  • What is your biggest problem with Ukraine?
  • How big is your house? (Referring to the States)
  • Do you like our government/government officials?
  • Does your President have a chance for 2 terms? (Yes, and his name is Barack Obama, ma'am)
And because I didn't react to those questions, nor did I say something outlandish she really didn't go into any of those in the article, but she did manage to spell my name Bedjamin. Last laugh goes to Olena!

The second interview with the radio station was very quick, and I'm sure he just needed a few soundbites of me stumbling over my Ukrainian words and laughing awkwardly. And then, he asked me to say the radio station's name which I thought was pretty cool. I forget what it was, but I can imagine some sort of radio lead in saying in Ukrainian: "You're listening to [INSERT Mr. Benjamin AWKWARDLY SAYING THE RADIO STATION NAME].

This afternoon, I was told that tomorrow I'm being whisked away somewhere up on the border of Belarus to watch our school's "Vaudville Team" (that's not what they're called, but it's the best way to describe them) perform in a competition about traffic rules. They have songs, comedy skits, dance routines, and films that they will show off. Why I am one of the lucky few that get to chaperon I'm still not sure, but as I was told about it today, my Principal finished with, "Oh and Benjamin...the newspaper and TV stations will be there." Grrrrreat.

Front Page! "Peace Corps Volunteer Works in Kolky"  Right Above the guitar playing 3 year old!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


My new home for the next few years.

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Address!

So, here it is...my address! Know that my "new apartment" will be done in a few months, so please don't get too attached to this one, but I knew I needed to post it because people have been asking. I have no clue when I'll move, but when I hear something about my permanent address, I'll be sure to post it.

Please don't let the Cyrillic letters scare you. Copy and pasting it and making a label works really well...just ask my Mom and Dad! Or try out your penmanship! Either way, I would LOVE post, and promise to reply. (I've been saving money to send postcards I bought way too long ago!)

Бeнджaмін Гoґ
Вул. Гpyшeвcькoгo, 41 Кв. 4
C. Кoлки
Р. Maнeвичi
Oбл. Boлинcькa

(English Address only if customs needs it for forms)
Benjamin Hogue
41 Hrushevshy St, Apartment 4,
Kolky, Ukraine (Oblast/Region if needed)
Oblast (State): Volynska, Region (County): Manevechi

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spotlight on Ukraine

Someone pointed this out to me and I thought I'd share. CNN is doing a Spotlight on Ukraine for the month of January, and although my internet does not have the gusto to load the page, yours might! So, spend a few minutes reading about the country where I am currently serving.

On a slightly related note, Peace Corps is remembering the life of Sargent Shriver this week, as he passed away on Tuesday. He was the founder of the Peace Corps, and worked hand and hand with President Kennedy as the Peace Corps first Director. As current director Aaron Williams said, "his legacy of idealism will live on in the work of current and future Peace Corps volunteers". Yes, it most definitely will.

Quote for the day: "It is well to be prepared for life as it is, but it is better to be prepared to make life better than it is." Sargent Shriver

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Sunless, нічо Routine

Well, break is over and classes have finally begun. Finally, I have started my work as a TEFL Peace Corps Volunteer and I couldn't be more thrilled. I like routines, but I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Ukraine, so those are very hard to come by. But the fact that I have my roseklad or schedule, is exciting to say the least. I have stepped into the role of full time English Teacher at Kolky Licium, and part of stepping into that role is stepping into a routine.

I may be speaking for some sort of minority here, but why is it that we like routine so much? And why is is that I like change almost as much as routine? Could one argue that they aren't really opposites? I think part of the comfort of routine is the fact that much of the time here in Ukraine, I am not 100% certain as to what is actually happening...or for that matter what is actually being said. But with my schedule, I do. I know where I am supposed to be, when I'm supposed to be there, and what I'm supposed to be doing. (That is unless everything changes but just for "that day"). Training was a crazy, whirlwind of 3 months and getting through it is nothing short of a major life accomplishment, partly because not one day was ever the same. We "planned" out the next week on the Saturday before, and I would frantically write it down, in Ukrainian, so Mama Lecia knew (kind of) when I'd be home. But throughout the week, I would scratch out this, or change that time, just because that was the nature of the game. But now that I'm in Kolky, and the whirlwind of training, Swearing-In, moving, life in general has sort of come to a stop, I can see my role so much more clearly because I can see my routine. And that's where I will be this week, basking in my routine, because we all know there is no sun to bask in! (March, is only 6 weeks away!)

But what I've decided about routines is that when their broken, you just have to go with it. There's really no sense in frantically trying to fix what was supposed to be. My friend Val and I have what we call a нічо "NiCho" lifestyle. NiCho, in Ukrainian, is a colloquial phrase meaning, "No worries", "It's alright", "Pshhh, I got this". Part of my 'routined' world is loving when it goes right, and being ok when it goes off course, "NiCho-ing" it. Because you never know when you're going to get Ukrained. Like when I needed to go to Kiev on Monday. Yes, it's a 5 hour trip. Yes, it took me 32. But NiCho. After a few different modes of transportation (6 buses, 2 marshrukas, 1 car, and 1 train) I made it to Kiev, and took the easy route on my way home 10 hours later. NiCho.

So, in short, life is good and there is no denying that. Yes, I could use for a little more sun, and a lot less gray, but I've got coffee, and decent coffee at that. The highlight of my week was receiving a package from home. I ran, well it was icey so hustled swiftly, toward the poshta when I was delivered a package form. INTERNATIONAL. All I could think was, Ahhhhhhh, AHHHHHHHH, AHHHHHHH! It was STUFFED with amazing stuff from home, pictures, cards, sweaters, razors, and Starbucks VIA. YES! Thank you so much to everyone who contributed. The next post will be my address, but please don't get to attached to it because it will be changing in a few months.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pre-Service Training Photos: UPDATED

Just found out some people were having trouble with the link. It wasn't a "live" one, so a Copy/Paste was required, but this one is! Just click HERE for some photos of Pre-Service Training. And expect a post on Sunday! (If you're still having trouble, comment below and I'll try to fix it again)

Hello 2011! Hope the new year is starting off well for everyone. I spent my last day of 2010 in Kolky with friends, then a New Years Day dinner with Natalia and her family. She is a vice-principal, as well as fellow English teacher. Then I went to Lviv for a few days to do some exploring. I will post about it sometime soon, but first...PICTURES! This is a public link to my Facebook album, meaning you don't need a Facebook account to view them. Just follow the link and enjoy some (and most definitely not all) photos of my first 3 months in Ukraine.

The Blur of Pre-Service Training: