"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, May 28, 2012

End of the Year Happenings

Just to keep you on your toes, I'll quickly show these Easter photos about two months late.  My friend Inna gave me these photos (I was too shy to take photos at church) but here, everybody is circled around the church while the Priest comes and blesses us, our baskets, and the contents of it. If you have forgotten, here's my post from last year about Easter in Ukraine.

Easter Service - 12:30 - 6 a.m.
Around 4:30 waiting for our baskets to get blessed!

Thanks to Inna for the photos!
Well, I'm finished with the 2011-2012 Semester! No more school for a while...kind of. Actually, every school in Ukraine is required to do 14 days of "Summer Camp" after Last Bell, so for the next 3 weeks the Lyceum will have "lessons". These lessons aren't mandatory, but all the students seem to enjoy them so they come and hang out. (Personally, I don't think their parents are ready for them to be at home all, so they tell them to go! I know Kathy and Dirk would have taken up that offer!) The students participate in games and challenges, with a little bit of learning and actual school stuff mixed in. I plan scavenger hunts, play lots of English games, and throw the Frisbee and Football around. It's actually pretty fun and breakfast and lunch is free, so I'm not one to complain.

Here are some of the events that led up to Last Bell --

Kolky Lyceum hosted our Oblast-wide (read: State) English Meeting. This was a pretty big deal because all of the administration from Volyn come (my Oblast) and different teachers present about their schools, and what they're doing to promote democracy through English education. My Director gave a little speech about our school (in Ukrainian of course), my Counterparts spoke about our international partnerships, including Poland and Germany, and I spoke about some of the projects our English faculty has done together outside of the classroom. I've posted about some of them, but they include 'Operation Respect', 'GLOW/TOBE Day Camps', 'Kolky Community Clean-Up', etc.

Volyn English teachers come to Kolky Lyceum!

Mr. Benjamin presenting about some of Kolky Lyceum's projects

The English program we put on for the Teachers!

Mr. Benjamin was Prince Roman - the founder of Kolky!
(Get it? The American is the founder. Irony.)

Prince Roman learning about how Kolky has changed throughout the years,
and how Kolky Lyceum follows democratic principles.

10th Formers reciting a poem

Some of the 7th Form girls singing a traditional Ukrainian song, in English.

My 10th Formers being awesome.

Everybody singing "We Are the World"

The last week of school, we give final grades based on students marks throughout the Semester and we evaluate the "Big 4" (Comprehension of Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking). To evaluate the 10th Former's Speaking skills, I had them teach a lesson. It was about anything they wanted, as long as they taught us something (about Ducks, or Rap Music, or dessert...anything) and only spoke in English. They split themselves up into 2 groups and each group gave a 45 minute lesson.

Tuesday's Group chose to teach about motivation. The title of the lesson "You Can Do It!" and it was absolutely fantastic. We learned about setting goals, dreaming big, and about people throughout the world who started with nothing but achieved their dreams. The facilitated communicative activities with the whole class to practice what we had learned. Wednesday's group taught about subcultures! We learned about Punk, Goth, Hippies, Metal-heads, and Hip-Hoppers! They dressed up like each one and even had us create our own subcultures! I was blown away with everybody's creativity and ability to give such amazing lessons.

"You Can Do It" Lesson

Anastasia Serhivna participating with the teachers for the day

Roma and Dima presenting their own "Sub-Culture"
The girls on the left presented about hip-hop, punk, and hippie subcultures for their open lesson.

Finally, the holiday of Last Bell - the last day of school! You saw photos from the 11th Formers last bell, but now it's time for everybody's last day. At Last Bell, students get awards for the year, we hear a few speeches, teachers are given flowers, the "last bell" rings, then we go home! Everybody loves this day. I was proud to present 3 awards to students who participated, and won the Creative Writing Contest. Misha and Liza won 1st place in all Volyn Obast, and Alina, from my 10th form, won all of Ukraine! Also, my 10th Formers, Roma, won our Regional English Olympiad so he and I got awards!

Look how small some of our band members are!

Kolky Lyceum's administrators and our local Priest

Our "linika" (line meeting) where my best bud Roma is getting an award for having perfect marks!
(Also, do you notice our new doors!? Look at the photos from the previous post!)

4th Formers moving to the big school...and singing about it!

Ringing the Last Bell!

After Last Bell, I headed down to L'viv to celebrate the start of Summer with some PCV friends. We ate some good food, saw a movie in a movie theater, and danced the night away. Ukraine is hosting EURO 2012 soon, so we will avoid L'viv for the month of June. Everything will be not within this PCV's budget! 

Tommy and Ben in 3D. You have to have glasses to see it.

It's beginning to look a lot like EURO 2012 in L'viv!

Summer is here and life is good! I'm headed to Kyiv for Group 43's Swearing-In Ceremony and a VAC Meeting. I'll be there for 5 days, so send me and e-mail if you want to Skype and we'll figure out a time!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Spring in Kolky

It seems the decent Spring weather, summer camp co-directing, and general hooliganism at school has kept me away for a while. A break this long in blogging is not a habit I'd like to keep, so don't blog write me off just yet.

I left off with Easter, which feels like it was last weekend, but in reality it was about a month ago (for us on the Orthodox Calendar at least). I had such a fantastic celebration -- going to church at 12 a.m., standing there for the better part of 6 hours, getting my basket blessed, feasting like a madman at Easter breakfast...and Easter lunch and picking at leftovers for the better part of a week. Easter breaks lent (duh) and in Ukraine, that means business. People eat, and eat, and eat (and drink) to celebrate Easter. Anastasia Serhivna (one of my Counterparts and English teaching colleagues) invited me to breakfast at her house with her family. This breakfast isn't the typical ham and cheese egg-bake that I'm accustom to (shout-out to SOV!) but rather, fresh sausage, mashed potatoes, every delicious Ukrainian dish, cutlets, meat jello (yes, meat jello) just to name a few. And of course, no Easter breakfast would be complete without cognac and wine, I suppose. I'm trying to get the photos that my friend took at church, so when I do, I'll be sure to publish them.

In other news, Camp ACT planning is going so well. It's a lot of work to create a camp from scratch, but the entire Camp ACT Team is fantastic and working so hard to make everything perfect. In August, we were just a bunch of friends saying..."What if...?" and now it's a reality! I'm Co-Directing with my good friend - and link-mate in Pre-Service Training - Egle. She is amazingly organized and definitely the person you want leading a camp with you. We had a Staff Meeting in Lutsk where we chose our 75 Campers (from about 200 applications) and I'm so happy that the 4 students I gave applications to are IN! A lot more has to be done, but ACT is in a really good place right now and I know that in 2 months time, our investments will pay off. I'm also thrilled that we've raised about 60% of our funds and I want to thank all of you for your donations. I means so much to me that my friends and family are helping me with this project -- I've continuously humbled by your support. If you'd like, and are able, follow this link 1.usa.gov/DonateCampACT to support Action, Creativity, and Teamwork in Ukraine!

School is wrapping up and all of the students are definitely in summer mode. The 11th Formers, our graduates, had their last bell on Friday and graduation yesterday. The ceremony was the typical Ukrainian fanfare -- lots of singing, speeches, and flowers. The parents invited me to the after party, and we danced and ate and drank until the wee hours of the morning. We eventually made it to the bridge in Kolky to see the sun rise (an awesome school tradition), but it was kinda cloudy, so everybody just sort of left when it got light. A few of the boys dared me to jump in the river, and after some slight protest from the parents, the 5 of us walked to the bank and took a cool dip. I went swimming for the first time in the Styr (this year) on Friday because it was beautiful and warm. Today's 6 a.m. dip was a bit chilly but awesome, nonetheless.

And what sort of son would I be without wishing the best, hardest working, most beautiful Mom in the world a Happy Mothers Day. Every year, Mom always gets to pick out a hanging basket of flowers for Mothers Day after church. This one is waiting for you in August in Kolky!

Love you Momma!

Below are other random photos from the past month or so! 

With my students at an English Seminar in Lutsk

Parts of the Body Game with the 7th Form

Spring is here! Apple trees in bloom

My bird friend, chirping outside his birdhouse in my front yard! Can you spot him?

Excursion to the Partisans Glory Monument and Museum
on Victory Day (May 9th!)

Old Soviet Metals...then I was told not to take photos

The two teachers who I celebrated Victory Day with!

BBQ after our excursion

Sasha grilling up the salo (pork back fat!)

11th Formers Last Bell

Well wishes from the 1st Form...

...and flowers of course!

Ira and Bohdan ringing their Last Bell

Some of the 11th Formers singing to the teachers at Graduation