"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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Have a Dream...

As I hope most of you Stateside are aware, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated last Monday. Never before Peace Corps has this holiday meant anything more than a day off at the beach in California, and probably 2 swim practices while in High School. It's now amazing to me what I take from this day, and what I'm able to share with others. 

I decided to go away from the book in a few of my higher classes to teach about Rev. King. It fit in nicely with my USA Country Studies class, and also with my 'Leadership Lessons' with my Seniors, but I figured some of the older kids in the other forms would find it interesting and enjoy something a little different.

I sat down to prep for this lesson and watched King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. And wept. Alone, Sunday evening before bed planning my lessons for the week, weeping after watching this speech. 

Have you listened to Rev. King's speech recently? I mean sat down, with the words, and listened to what he was saying. I'll be honest, before this week I hadn't. A few sound bites and images of the speech have been with me since Middle School, but his passion, his sense of urgency and commitment hasn't ever hit me until now. Dreaming has never been easy, and I don't think it's supposed to, but Dr. King did it even in what seemed like an impossible time to dream -- and that's the take away. 

My kids can relate. Ukraine can relate. Division. Corruption. Greed. Hate. Hopelessness. But they still have dreams. 

The assignment was to write some dreams for Ukraine. What do you, as young Ukrainian leaders, dream for your motherland. Below I'm compiled some of my favorites (with permission of course). The parts in bold are from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech that we used as an outline. I wish you could hear my students stand up and dream these dreams out loud. Their passion, sense of urgency and commitment, just like Dr. King, is so alive in their voices and their spirits. Read these out loud and understand why this was one of the best days I've ever had in the classroom. 

Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It's a dream rooted in the Ukrainian dream. 

I have a dream that one day, the whole Ukraine will unite, that Ukraine won't be divided into the East or the West, that we will have our own native Ukrainian language and we will hear it everywhere. I have a dream.

I have a dream that Ukrainians will understand that we are a nation, that we have the right to exist, that we aren't apart of Russia or a Russian nation. I have a dream.

I have a dream that Ukraine will win the EURO Cup or the World Cup in football, uniting our country behind something other than dividing politics or a language fight. I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day we will undersand who are our national heros and who aren't. I have a dream that one day every Ukrainian will say, "Yes, Bandera is a hero!" I hope that one day we will learn our history, we will know who we are, who are parents are, what the pice of our independence is. I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day we won't be obsessed with how much money we should pay to become someone in this country, we'll trust and believe in our authorities like we believe in ourselves. I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day no Ukrainian will strive to live abroad or work abroad because of their dissatisfaction with they country where they live. I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day there will be no division into Eastern and Western Ukraine and all Ukrainians, knowing that we are one, will join hands under a peaceful, clear, Ukrainian sky. I have a dream.

I have a dream that Ukrainians will understand that it is ok to dream. I have a dream.

And when this happens, Ukraine will flourish and we will, too. We won't hear, "Oh, that's a bad country. I don't want to live here. USSR was much better!" We will be a united and strong nation and we'll build a happy future for our descendants. 

And when this happens, when we'll understand that nothing comes in a second and WE are the ones who have to make changes here and when we start doing it, no matter how difficult it seems, true Ukrainians will awake from the deep sleep in our souls and that's how our real Ukraine will rise! 

And when this happens, Ukrainians will be united, Ukrainians will be prosperous, and Ukrainians will be proud. 

And when this happens, Ukraine will be be an even more amazing place to live. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Two Thousand Thirteen!

Maybe I was a little premature to title my last post "Celebrating in Snow" because, well, the snow is practically gone! We got a few flurries last night, but really, it's melting a lot faster than it's falling. I'm back home in Kolky after a wonderful time in the "mountains" celebrating New Year's and ringing in 2013 with 26 Ukrainian friends! 

Secret Santa Cards from one English Clubber to another! 

Of course, Santa comes to Ukraine on St. Nicholas Day, but he also came in the form of an amazing care package too! Not pictured is a wonderful down-blanket my Grandma Jerry sent! I got to open it via Skype Christmas morning in America! 

Santa strikes again! 

It's not Christmas without cookies! 

Notice how I only rationed a handful of Candy Corn for the cookies. 

As I mentioned before, I celebrated New Year's with Ukrainian friends in the Carpathian Mountains. We arrived the evening of December 31st and took off back to Lviv on the 2nd. It was a wonderful time, full of new friends, lots of Ukrainian (even though 2 of my good friends from L'viv speak amazing English, so they helped me out!), food, drinks, dancing, and games. We even managed to take an excursion into a nearby village to sip from its natural spring and explore the 200+ year old church there. We also had some time in the sauna, some frisbee throwing, and movie watching. All in all, it was one of the best New Years I've had to date! 

Only the start to our New Year's Eve table
(Notice there aren't any drinks yet!)

A semi-candid shot by my friend Pavlo

Dancing to prepare for 2013!!!

Counting down near the bonfire outside with champagne toasts! 

A few of my friends - Pavlo, Luda, Mariana, and Maria!

Where's the snow!? 

My favorite photo from New Year's Eve!
A Santa Claus, a Snow Princess, a few New Year snakes, and an American. 

Happy 2013!!!