"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, June 26, 2012


Hap-hap-happenings abound here in Ukraine for this wannabe Cossack. 

At the 11th-Formers Last Bell with Volodymyr Mykolyovitch, my Counterpart
May 11, 2012

Favorite Pizzas. Favorite Numbers. Favorite Friends. Beer.

Summer Summed Up.

Summer is flying by and I can only try to hold on. I've been enjoying the perks of no school and living close to a river, but last week I was invited by a dear friend to teach at a English Teachers Camp that she put together. 

First, I need to tell you a little bit about the rockstar, super-Volunteer, all-around amazing person that is Melissa Krut. She has, from the first day I met her, been on top of her game and then some. She's the Volunteer that we all wish we could be; she makes you wonder how she has 40 hours in her day. Melissa is a kindhearted person, an inspiring mentor, and an even better friend.

So when Melissa asks you to teach with her at a Camp she's doing, you are not only flattered and intimidated, but you say yes.

Fast Forward to ETC (English Teachers Camp)! It was held in Lutsk, the biggest city closest to Kolky and the site of Melissa. Perk of living in the city for a week: hotels with continental breakfast! That was awesome. 

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, I taught Ukrainian Teachers of English with some other amazing Volunteers from my Oblast (read: state). It was strange, really, teaching teachers. The entire week, I couldn't help but think of the knowledge I was gaining from listening to the conversations in the Methodology Lesson I was leading or the strategies about classroom management and big class sizes. Who was I, some mid-20's, recent college grad yapping about random topics.

But that wasn't it at all. Melissa gave us the freedom to teach what we were passionate about or information we were interested in sharing. I'm sure I could have crammed information about the present perfect tense and told it to those teachers, but they know English grammar 100-times better than I do! Instead, on top of the Methodology Lessons about Student Engagement that Melissa wrote, I taught about my passions and interests. The Communication Major in me chose to teach: Constructive Criticism and The Communicative Method, twice. The Peace Corps Volunteer in me chose to teach lessons from "TOBE: Teaching Our Boys Excellence" twice, "GLOW: Girls Leading Our World" and "Operation Respect", and the American in me chose to teach: Holidays in the States, and Slanglish, twice. All of them were really well received, and it felt good to hear such positive feedback about my lessons. 

Unfortunately, I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked, but I'll be sure to share some of Melissa's and any that pop-up from the other teachers!

Atlee cutting. Sign-Up Sheets hanging.


Melissa is feeling faint?

Nothing like Camp Songs!

The after-party!
(Andrew loves party hats)

Gifts, love, hats, champagne, flattery...
It was all too much to handle!

Now, it's time for a camp of my own - Camp ACT!!! The wait is almost over, and I couldn't be more excited! A HUGE THANK YOU to Kyle, Casey, Wes, Burris, and my Mom and Dad for donating to support Camp ACT. You'll get something special in the mail, hold tight!

I'll arrive to Shatsk for preparations with Staff on Friday, continue on Saturday, and Sunday Campers come! The entire staff has worked tirelessly to put this camp together and it's going to be pretty incredible to see our hard work pay off! The next post from me will contain wayyy too many camp photos and exclamation marks about an amazing week...just you wait.

And finally, a shout out. One of my best friends from college is getting married this week. Ms. Bailey Gable will become Mrs. Bailey May come Saturday and marry the love of her life, Sean. Bailey and I had the chance to Skype last week while I was in Lutsk to catch up a little. Everything is ready for the big day and her excitement is radiating. Bailey and Sean - best of luck and enjoy the day! I wish I could be there to celebrate in person, but I'll be thinking of you both on Saturday. Prayers for the two of you!

At the Avocado Festival with our Avocado Ice Cream
Senior Year at CLU

On my 'Friends and Family' Wall

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Good Start to Summer

Happy Friday to you all! 

I just walked to the store close to my house for an after dinner ice cream bar. Another WIN of Summer - Ice Cream. Not that I can't eat delicious 'morozovo' year-round, I'd just rather not get yelled at in December. 

This week has been busy with school Camp. I don't do a whole lot -- a lot of hanging out, entertaining students for 45 minutes at a time when someone decides to send them to me. Mostly I've been reading (I'm rereading Omnivore's Dilemma right now and really enjoying it through the eyes of someone living in rural Ukraine) and working on different projects. The plates, even in the Summer, continue to spin so I'm going a little crazy trying to keep them from falling. 

Wednesday-Sunday of last week I was in Kyiv. A year ago, Kyiv was still a crazy European metropolis that had the potential of swallowing me whole. I never understood why Volunteers who had been here longer really didn't love Kyiv but now I kind of see where there coming from. The city is just that - a city. I always enjoyed it because it meant getting out of the village and exploring. Now it just seems expensive and a little bit of a hassle, but I try to enjoy my time there as much as I can. 

When I was there, last minute EURO preparations were taking place (literally - there's a countdown in the center and the minutes were ticking...games start today!) The main street and center is block off from cars, lots of vendor tents are going up, and a huge screen in the middle of Independence Square will show the games live for the 'Kyiv Fan Zone'. I'm sure you've heard a little bit of the happenings -- Poland and Ukraine are co-hosting Europe's biggest football (soccer) competition - EURO 2012. They are pulling it off by the skin of their teeth but not in the grandeur and glitz I'm sure some were hoping for. The people of Ukraine (not their government) have really stepped up to the plate and I think will make this a really hospitable and exciting place for foreigners to visit.

I attended Swearing-In on Wednesday at the new Embassy. It was absolutely beautiful, but of course no photos. Thursday, I had a Volunteer Advisory Council meeting which was extremely efficient and productive. Friday I had my glasses replaced and Saturday/Sunday I spent with friends. A Volunteer found a cafe called "New York Bagels" so I went twice while I was there to indulge in some delicious bagels and cream cheese.

This weekend, I'm headed to the site of the camp I'm co-directing with some other staff members. We're meeting with the administration of the forestry college where camp will take place, checking out the accommodations, and we'll sign some contracts. The town of Shatsk is a 'resort' destination for Ukrainians because of it's beautiful lakes - especially Svityez the biggest and most beautiful of the lakes. Not a bad place to have a camp if you ask me! 

Hopefully the weather cooperates this weekend; Summer has started off quite rainy and cold for us here in Volynska Oblast. Today was much warmer -- warm enough for reading in the hammock! If Summer continues to be full of Ice Cream, lakes, and hammocking, then I'll be doing just fine!