"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

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


  1. Everything looks and sounds so great, Ben! I'm so proud that all your work is showing such fruitful results. You're the best! Miss you! <3 <3 <3

  2. This is great! Makes me miss Ukraine so much. Let's catch up soon