"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, January 31, 2012

Post-Poland Hibernation

Weather Report for Kolky, Ukraine (According to one of my babaucia's at school): High -26 °C or for all you Western thinkers a high of -4°F. 

Things are quite a bit chillier than I have ever experienced here in Ukraine, but life is still wonderful. School was actually canceled this week because of the cold so I have a free week of no classes. Not sure what I'll do with my time, but whatever I do will fall under the theme "Hibernation". One bad thing about not having school is not really having much heat in my apartment which sits next to school. I have a space heater and plenty of blankets...plus if push comes to shove, Storm and I will make an igloo.

But...what's more interesting and important is my recent trip to Poland! "Why did you go to Poland?" is probably your first question. Well, Kolky Lyceum sent me and a 3 other colleagues to be delegates to Zgierz Lyceum to continue conversations with them, as well as a German Lyceum, for a cross-cultural exchange program for our students. It was an exciting opportunity that I was really lucky and fortunate to go on. The discussions are going really well, and it looks like I might go to Germany this Summer to finish things up and students will go for about two weeks in September.

Interesting side note: Ukrainians and Poles have very different ways of doing business than Germans and Americans. This is something that I have learned over the past year, but really saw first hand on this trip. For the Eastern Europeans, it's all about the relationships that are built. They want to get to know who they are doing business with, rather than just getting right down to it. The way I might have done something like this was over email or phone conversations, and the Germans shared that same insight. But after living in Ukraine for these past 16 months, I now understand that it's all about the process...rather than just the end result. For the 5 day excursion to Poland, we only "talked shop" for about two hours. The other time were eating, drinking, dancing, going to the Prom (pictures below), site seeing, etc. And I totally understand the mentality...how can I work with someone one a project I hardly know. This idea of doing business might not be the fastest or easiest, but it certainly makes a project a whole lot more meaningful, sustainable, and successful.

Enjoy photos below from my Poland Trip! When I'm in Kyiv on Friday, I'll put up an album on Facebook and post a public link to those...something to look forward to I guess.

2 Hour excursion in Lublin on our way to Zgierz

Old City of Lublin, Poland

Europe anyone?

Former castle...

...now a museum.

Old City of Lublin

A gift from L'viv, Ukraine

From L-R: Svetlana, Oksana, Natalia, and Mr. Benjamin
(From L-R: English/German Teacher, Director of Primary School,
Assistant Director/English Teacher, Peace Corps Volunteer)

Quite cold, but happy.

In Poland, we stayed with Biata, the Director of the Lyceum and her family. She lives in a beautiful house outside of Zgierz and close to Lodz, the second biggest city in Poland. The weather was absolutely beautiful while we were in Zgierz and Lodz, making for some amazing city excursions in Zgierz and Lodz.

"Hooba" the family St. Bernard

In Poland, it's Spring!

Biata's husband owns a tour company so we took tours of Lodz and Zgierz. Lots of translating being done...from Polish into Ukrainian, German, and English!

The center of Lodz

You know, just helping to plan the City of Lodz!

At the Catholic Church in Zgierz. The original bell was stolen
by the Germans in WWII, so the community raised money to buy a new one.

The Kolky Group with the Heart of Lodz (the bell) and Marcas

Our Group at the huge shopping mall in Lodz
My German friends, Varena and Steve are on the left!

One of the most exciting things we did in Poland was going to the schools "Studnyuvka" or 100 Days Ball. Essentially, I went to Polish Prom. I went to a few in my day but this tops them all! The entire school, from floor to ceiling, was decorated like Vienna and the Ball was masquerade themed. I was very impressed.

Some of the highlights of the night were the 25 minute Polish dance performed by the Seniors, the copious amounts of food for our 8 o'clock dinner before the dancing, the wild board course at 2 a.m., still dancing at 4:30 a.m. and trying to teach people the YMCA.

Natalia and Oksana at the party in Vienna!

Traditional Polish Dance...

...for 25 minutes!


A Professional Dancer came to wish the Seniors well!

Having our cake and eating it too!

The Ukrainian Group with Biata in red.

Dance, dance, dance!

A nice evening had by all!

Most of the group...not paying attention.
Our last meal in Poland in Bida, or "Trouble"

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