"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, April 4, 2011

An Update; Long Overdue

Happy April friends and family alike! No my lack of internet the last few weeks was not an impressive and drawn-out April Fools Day joke, it was simply due to a PCV budget, a journey though Western Ukraine, and some interesting interactions at the Internet store.

When I last left you, I was embarking on my Spring Break adventure and I might have even promised photos of my new place. Well, next post will be one of photos, this one will be one of updates and stories. (I have to keep you coming back some how!) Spring Break was incredible. I packed a lot into 9 days but I had such an awesome time everywhere I went and with everyone I saw. Here's the trip itinerary, and a little bit about each stop.

Spent Saturday in Kyiv for my clustermate and good friend Evan Kelly's birthday! We met some other friends and Volunteers in the city and enjoyed walking around new places, going to some bazaars, almost participating in a taping of a Ukrainian Dance Television Show (go figure) in the Center of Kyiv, and eating some birthday burritos!

Spent 2 days in Kivsho with Mama Lecia, Dima, and Spook. I haven't slept that well in 3 months. Kivshovata is where I grew up into my Ukrainian self, so it was cool to go back after a few months and share a little bit of my experience already. 2 days wasn't nearly enough, but it was just enough to play a lot of cards with Dima, catch up with other host families and the school, play with Spook, and eat way too much. It's also good to know that I can hold a Ukrainian conversation(s) without any help! Lecia is already texting me when I am visiting next. Something tells me I'll go back this summer.

Evan and I headed down from Kivsho to Asia's place in Lanivtsi, where she was quite the exceptional hostess. Lanivtsi is a great fit for Asia, and she has already made some great friends and connections. Again a quick trip, but one that was full of stories and laughter.

With Evan and Asia, I headed down to Ternopil, where we stayed with our friend Natalie. Ternopil is a very big city, so she was a great guide and showed us some fun places to hang out. There was a "Meet Your Neighbors Meeting" for Ternopilska Oblast folks, so I sat in on that and met many more PCV's. Can't wait to go back to Ternopil and explore more!

Took an early train out of Ternopil so I could have a full day in L'viv. L'viv is by far my favorite Ukrainian city that I've visited. It's so beautiful and the old architecture give it a remarkable charm. It's vibe is one of youth, history and Ukrainian nationalism, all of which I am a fan of.

A PCV down south works with an NGO to organize a hike to Ukraine's highest mountain, Mt. Hoverla for those that are interested. Not sure why this hike is done in March but I thought it would be a hoot. Aaaand a hoot it was. I love to hike, and I love hiking with people who also love to hike (or crying campers). But never have I been hiking with 300+ people (including 80+ PCV's) up a mountain with terrain of mainly snow and ice. It was slow paced at times, and never a difficult "climb" but the ice wind was hitting pretty hard towards the top...which was closed due to 'weather restrictions'. I chose to keep myself warm with the whole "layering" system (My Colorado Mom taught me well), while others chose to keep themselves warm with the "liquid" system (Because their Ukrainian Mom's taught them well). It was fun to spend time with friends, and new PCV's outside exploring, but it was even better to watch the people do cartwheels down the mountain. I didn't get any videos, but soon I'll have a post with some hard core fall photos!

The train ride from Hoverla to L'viv was one of celebration, partly because we owed it to ourselves for trying to conquer Hoverla, but also to celebrate the simple fact that nobody broke any bones or died. Arrived into L'viv at 3:15 a.m. (what up, time change) took the first bus back to Lutsk at 7:15, and made it back into my warm shower and bed my noon. Needless to say I took a much deserved nap, trying to take back the sleep train cots, hardwood floors, and bus seats so rudely stole from me. An awesome trip doesn't quite sum up everything, but it'll do for now.

The last few weeks have been pretty routine, other than the lack of Internet. The sun is shining and we even peeked into the mid-50's. Take that Colorado snow flurries! I even enjoyed a Football Match (European, of course) with some PCV friends on Sunday, which was a lot of fun.

My new address is below. Don't be afraid to send Peanut Butter or Girl Scout Cookies. Looking forward to e-mailing so many of you back that keep me updated and supported. Although my connection and communication is in limited supply, my gratitude and appreciate is not.

Бeнджaмін Xoґ
Вул. Шкілна, 3
C. Кoлки
Р. Maнeвичi
Oбл. Boлинcькa

Benjamin Hogue
3 Shkilna St.,
Kolky, Ukraine (Oblast/Region if needed)
Oblast (State): Volynska, Region (County): Manevechi

Time to bust of the new jar of homemade pickles that I bought from a Babucia on the street this morning, and make some dinner. Oh, and speaking of pickles, Happy Birthday to you. :)

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