"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

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Easter in Ukraine. If you don't remember this post last year, I absolutely loved Easter 2011. The traditions, the food, the happiness is all so uniquely wonderful...nothing that I'd ever experienced before. This year, I'm aware that Easter is a huge deal, and I know a little bit about what to expect which is bittersweet. The surprise of the holiday is taken away this year, but I am able to prepare myself and be ready for what's to come. That means this week has been a whole lot of Easter preparations for everybody around Kolky. 

First, not really associated with Easter but rather the time of the year, I went with my 10th Formers on Wednesday to plant trees in the forest...or at least they told me it would be a forest in 40 years. Quite the manual labor field trip students in the States aren't accustom to, but my kids seemed to enjoyed themselves...and the mid-week break from lessons.

1km line of seedlings(?) saplings (?)

A soon to be tree

Sophie and Dima working away

Roma digging, Karina planting!

In my birthday package, my family sent two Easter Egg dyeing kits, so I brought them to school on Wednesday after I was finished in the forest. Of course, Ukraine is known for their beautiful hand-painted eggs, Pysankys, but I wanted to show a little of my culture to some of my students. They really loved dyeing their eggs and had a fun time. Kolky doesn't seem to have white eggs, so the hint of brown make for some colors of eggs even I hadn't seen!

Natalia Vasylivna and Anastasia Serhivna (in the very back)
dyeing eggs with the 7A Form

Two Moms stopped me in street and asked me how I made such beautiful colors. My "arts and crafts" vocabulary isn't quite up to par, but I explained to them how I got the kits and briefly about the dyeing process. They were intrigued and proud that their daughters would have the most colorful eggs in her baskets come Sunday. 

Mr. Benjamin and some of the 7th Formers
(Note: My class consists of one boy - "Wolf" as he prefers to be called)

My Ukrainian "Waste not, Want not" mentality kicked in after the dyeing party so I took home the dye and made my own eggs. Trading eggs with friends and family is a fun Easter tradition, so this year I'm prepared when people stop by my house over the next few days! 

The eggs I dyed

Happy Easter! Христос Воскрес!
On Friday, I had an Easter Egg hunt for both of my 5th Form classes, as well as my 6th and 7th Form classes. My friend Val shared her awesome idea, so I used it for my students. I hid 32 paper eggs all around the classroom with one word on the back of each. After finding the eggs, the students listened to the poem I read, and had to put their eggs in order to form the poem! It was a fun activity, and even better for me to see 12 kids racing around a classroom in their first-ever Easter Egg Hunt. Pure joy I tell you!

The week of preparation is coming to an end as I get ready for when people bring me food. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were devoted to baking banana bread. Banana bread is quite foreign and such a oddity here, but once people try it, they really love it so I thought it would be fun food to share. Lent is a time when Ukrainians take on a strict Vegan diet, so lots of treats are made for and eaten on Easter.

Banana Bread for Easter!

I'm going to rest and relax this afternoon, because I'll go to church for mass really early tomorrow morning - probably around 1:30/2 a.m. After church and the blessing of the baskets, I'll come home, nap, and the eat some of my blessed food! I'll probably also host my Counterparts when they bring over a feast, but at least I'll be able to bring some of my own dished to the table. Last year I was so caught off guard, but not this time around. 

I also decided to look up tomorrow's verses from the Orthodox Liturgical Calendar, so I'd be prepared and know what was going on at least during the readings. John 20: 19-25 Jesus Appearing to the Disciples - I guess in all our busyness before Easter, it's good to stop and think about how unprepared everybody was for the events leading up to the empty tomb and how still, we can dye the eggs, make the bread, fast for lent, do it all, but never will we be prepared for the gift that was give to us that Easter morning.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

GLOW and TOBE Seminar!

A few Saturdays ago, my school and I hosted GLOW and TOBE Day Camps for my students. 4 of my closest friends made the trek to Kolky to help me put them on. What a fantastic day was had by all!

GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and TOBE, Teaching Our Boys Excellence. In the morning, Val organized the GLOW portion for the girls. Together with Grace and Lauren assisted by my 10th formers Kate and Sophie, they spoke about what it means to be a strong woman, making up a Girls Bill of Right, and talking about healthy relationships. Over 30 girls came to GLOW and did so great! The PCVs said their English was outstanding and they were empowered and motivated!

Tommy and I, assisted by my 10th former Roma, taught the boys about what it means to work as a team, qualities of an ideal leader, and how better to expess our feelings through words. I had 12 Boys give up the most beautiful, warm March Saturday to be inside speaking English and writing feeling poems. But in reality, they were really into all of the lessons and had a blast hanging out in a more causal and relaxed setting with Mr. Benjamin, Senor Tommy, and Roma.

...people too!

Drawing the "Ideal Leader"

Presenting our leaders

Roma helping out at the TOBE Seminar

Crossing the River

Tommy and Roma pulling away stones!

Flipping the Mat

The girls GLOWing

The Girls playing "Electric Train"

Writing their "I Am..." poems

After lunch, Val and I spoke about stereotypes and how limiting they can be. We discussed what being a "real" Ukrainian man and woman means and how none of us fit into the stereotypical boxes. We also talked about the influences that create these stereotypes and why they can be harmful. In small groups, the students created dialogues acting out situations, first as "stereotypical men and women" and then as empowered individuals. We all really enjoying how funny the skits were, but the messages really stuck and opened a lot of minds to the real problem that creating stereotypes can cause.

Discussing Sterotypes

Explaining the task to teams

Acting out Stereotype Dialogues...with a slap in the face!
You GLOW girl!

Everybody getting into the dialogues

The GLOW Facilitators
(L-R) Lauren, Val, Kate (10th Form), Sophie (10th Form), Grace

Ready, Set, GLOW!

The PCVs with some of the Kolky's English teachers

At the end of the day, I was just so happy. Happy to know that I have 4 amazing friends who would give up their weekend just to come help me put on a Seminar for my students. Happy to have a supportive school who went above and way beyond their hosting responsibilities providing us with the space, teachers, food for 50 and a celebratory after camp meal for staff. And happy to have open-minded and motivated students who want to learn about these things to make their lives and world better.

A lot of days here in Kolky sort of get blended together, all amazing, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then there are those special days that also sort of get blended together as the "really good ones". However, this day truly stands out and will be remembered for a lifetime. 

I posted a bunch of photos on Facebook and even without an account you can view them HERE. Check out what the start of year two in Kolky has looked like me. Yes, many of the pictures include snow and ice, but that is all changing soon. Even though I was the April Fool waking up to snow last Sunday, I feel Spring in the air more and more every day. Classes are going well, but there seems to be a buzz throughout school of wrapping-up and winding-down. I'm busy with preparations for Camp ACT, a Summer Camp I'm the Co-Director for this July. We've just kicked off our fundraising campaign, so if you feel inclined and are able to donate, be my guest and do that here--> Donate to Camp ACT! 

I'm so excited for things to come because this experience just keeps getting better and better. If the GLOW and TOBE Day Camps are any indication of what my last 8 months will look like, I can hardly wait!