"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, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks

Celebrated my favorite American holiday in style this week.

First, I started with English Club where we had a fun Thanksgiving Party. We watched a little Charlie Brown, made some crafts and hand turkeys (gotta do the hand turkeys), said what we are thankful for, and feasted on fruit, cookies, candy, homemade treats, and punch.

Making a "What We're Thankful For" Collage

Helping out with the collage


Finishing Touches

Hand Turkeys!

The feast awaiting to be eaten.

Way too much sugar...

The Thanksgiving Group

Having lots of fun with my favorite little pup Via this week as well. She's missing her partner in crime Scout, who was given to my neighbors, but they see each other sometimes when Via wonders off. She's sleeping in my hallway at night because it's pretty cold, but she LOVES exploring and bugging the students when they are having recess.


Ms. Via prancing

Also I was invited to attend a neighboring village school's English Week Concert entitled "We Love Our Dear Ukraine". Ukrainian dances, singing of traditional songs, speeches about Ukraine's history, people, cities, and culture...all of the above in English! I was even invited to tell about my time in Ukraine, my impressions, what I do, etc. Their English was great and they did a terrific job performing. Makes me wonder why they all wanted my autograph...

Dancing the "Hopak"

"My Ukraine"

Dancing the Kyiv Waltz

The final act with a Ukrainian Flag Balloon

Squished in the middle

Then on Saturday, I celebrated with 16 other American's at my friend Valarie's place. People traveled long and far to make the great feast (I only had to travel 45 minutes) so it was really special. My entire training link (10 of us) were together again for the first time since Swearing-In. The food was fantastic, but catching up and laughing was my favorite part.

Dessert...missing 2 apple pies.

My shirt says, "Stuff the Turkey, Where's the Booze"
Perfect shirt for Turkey Day? I THINK SO!

The feast! So much food :)

The dishes included: Roasted Chicken, Deviled Eggs, 2 types of mashed potatoes, green been casserole, cabbage casserole, Veggie Lasagna, Jello Surprise, Homemade Stuffing (ME!), Carrot & Apple Salad, and Baked Mac & Cheese. For dessert we had pumpkin and apple pies, caramel corn, and dried apples. It was everything Thanksgiving should be and more.

My plate. (It was a small plate so I had to stack!)

Of course Thanksgiving was missing my family from back home, but they called on Thursday to send me love. It's making me that much more excited to head home for a short vacation over Christmas and the New Year to celebrate with them. 

This holiday has always meant a lot to me, but this year especially I came to the realization that I am incredibly blessed just to be able to give thanks. I'll conclude with the prayer I said at the table on Saturday.

Good and Gracious God,

We gather together today with thanksgiving:
For the blessings of abundance that this meal represents;
For the adventure we continue on, that we take each new turn as an opportunity given;
For health and wholeness of mind, body and soul, empower us to do our best in the toughest of times; 
For support and love, both near and far, from those seen and unseen;
And for this opportunity, to celebrate and come together as family,
May we never forget to give thanks for gifts we receive, from each other and from You.
With humble hearts and hungry stomachs, we say thanks.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Catching You Up

A big hello from foggy and drizzly Kolky

So sorry for the hiatus. Gray skies have made for not the best internet, but it doesn't stop my camera from taking plenty of pictures! Check out the following from the past month or so!

The Day of Vyshyvanka - Kolky Lyceum celebrated this very nationalistic and traditional Ukrainian holiday in style. We welcomed many of the regional Ukrainian Literature and Language teachers for a seminar and showcase of our school. Majoirty of students and all teachers (including me!) wore our Vyshyvankas to school.

The 6th Grade Ensemble welcoming guests to the Day of Vyshyvanka

A vyshyvanka is a shirt that contains traditional Ukrainian embroidery. Embroidery is a big part of Ukrainian culture and history, dating back to the origins of the cossacks. Usually each Oblast (State) has their own vyshyvanka colors, but the national colors for a vyshyvanka are red and black. The red symbolizes the love Ukrainians have for their country, the black representing the sorrow of their past. My vyshyvanka is my favorite and most cherished tangible gift that I've received in Ukraine.

With two of my counterparts in my very own vyshyvanka!

Students from the 9th Grade presenting their crafts

Nadiya and Sveta

The student's work. Some of those are beaded pieces of jewelry, other are embroidered cloth.

Vika presenting at her table

The Kolky Museum (one display room) happens to be in my Lyceum as well. Guests were invited to take a tour of it, learning more about the history of my village, the revolution that made it famous, and some of the movers and shakers since the year 800.

Some of Kolky's founding fathers...or better yet, henchmen.

I have a page in the school's scrapbook!

No celebration would be complete without a concert!

Teachers and students put on a short, humorous skit about a wedding

Singing some traditional songs.

I also had many trips to Kyiv for different reasons (actually 4 weekends in a row) and stumbled on an English speaking Lutheran Church...of the German persuasion! Interestingly enough, it can be found in the middle of Kyiv, next to the center of the capital, on "Lutheran" Street! 

I knew I was close when I found #13, Lutheran Street!

The church service and the people we met were so wonderful and welcoming. It even smelled like a Lutheran Church! It was so nice to worship in English with some of the same liturgy, prayers, and hymns that are so very familiar to me. I'm so happy to have found a place of worship for when I am in Kyiv. I think I told someone that I'd be a "regular on an irregular basis" -- whatever that mean.

The beautiful Lutheran church in the center of Kyiv.
Quite different from what I the orthodox ones!

I also made a trip back to my training community, Kivshovata! What a wonderful stay I had with Evan and Asia, my best buds/clutermates from Pre-Service Training.

The village where my Ukrainian self grew up

Kivsho lovin'

Some of the beautiful Autumn colours.

Asia and I got our hands dirty and helped her host Mom in her back field clear some of the weeds and dead shrubs! Quite the experience, I'd say.

First time using a long-handled sickle....only in the former USSR I guess...

Doing quite well!

Visiting Evan's host Mom for some wine, homemade vodka, and dessert.

Me with Evan and Asia

Now I'm gearing up for Thanksgiving. Although Peace Corps gives us the day off on Thursday, I'm going to still teach and celebrate at school. Then on Saturday, I will travel to my friend Val's place about 45 minutes away for a big feast. I think there will be 17 of us (whoa) for dinner, so I'm excited to celebrate with my PC Family.

Lastly, these are a few of my best friends in Ukraine. Not sure why the girls wanted to do a family photoshoot, (must be the holiday season) but I really like them.

From L to R: Grace, Ben, Egle, Jon, Val

Better known as IceV, JK, Weez, BBug, and E$ (L to R)
Adorable or cheesy? Not quite sure which...

Can't wait to show off more fun photos of how I celebrated Thanksgiving both at school and with my PC Family!