"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

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Well, yesterday I turned 25 and the smile is still on my face! (Even though we keep getting pounded with snow...20 inches since Monday!)

I think the photos (and video) below show you how wonderful my day was. My school continuously showers me with love and appreciation and I am so humbled and feel so blessed to have spent 3 birthdays here.

My favorite part of the day was when we were at dinner (photos below) and everybody was telling me how they celebrated their 25th birthdays. I was sitting there knowing that this birthday will certainly be one that I will remember forever and be able to tell my friends and family about for years to come.

I'm 25!!!

So this video is of my 11-B. They were one of the biggest reasons why I decided to extend my service, because I wanted to see them to the end of their school year, and I wanted them to see me through the end of my service. They have been a huge part of my experience here and I couldn't be more appreciative of this amazing gift.  

My 11-B with the Firework Cake!!!

They are just perfect

Watching the video...and laughing.
(One of my favorite photos captured in Ukraine)

Getting love from ALL the teachers!
Larisa Mykolyivna giving me lots of greetings, kisses, and chocolate!

Sveta and the 10th Form presenting me with a gift from her class after reading the poem she wrote for me

Now the Directors turn to do the wishing)

The Director interrupted by singing 5th formers! :)
(Notice how the could care less!)

Them still not caring that the Director is waiting for them to leave!

Presenting me with a ceramic cossack filled with vodka and a diploma

Posing with my vodka Cossack Men and hand-painted box from the 10th Formers!
My shirt says: "В моєму серці - Україна!" "In my heart - Ukraine!"

I took some cupcakes and brownies down to the cooks, so naturally, we took a photo.
These women have fed me lunch for 3 years and spoiled me each and every day

Most of the English Teachers who presented me with flowers and my new favorite t-shirt!

The 7th Formers got me a decoration broom, balloons, and a sweet poster
(Don't mind the spelling of my name...it's my inside joke with a bunch of 12 year olds)

The 8th Formers presenting me with a beautiful picture of the Lutsk Castle

The 6th Formers singing, and singing...and singing.
Finally I just had them take the photo while they kept singing

Overindulgence Dinner Time
First Course: Cutlets, Salads, Potatoes
Sides: Salo (pig back fat), mushrooms, and apples

Second Course: Potato Varenyky with fresh Sour Cream and mushrooms
Third Course: Cheese Varenyky and Bleenchik (Ukr Pancakes) with Jam

Snow snow snow! 25 cm (last night) for 25 years!

I'm going to open a museum when I get back!
My new favorite t-shirts (my Ukrainian bro gave me one with our photo on it), the video on the top, and the poem below, were my favorite gifts. Each one means something so unique to me and will be cherished forever. 

 "Happy Birthday Mr. Benjamin"
By Sveta Kushnirchuk

One wise saying says:
"So many languages you know, so many times you are a man"
I say:

"So many people you have met, so many smiles have come back!"
I'm not a poet, not a writer,
But sure, you made Kolky brighter!

Your awesome smile, sincere soul
Have proved it is real power. 
You always give us inspiration, 
You always teach us: "You are a nation!"
Starting to live, but not survive, 
Will help us different things to try. 
You work so much, you spend your time
To help us something new to find. 
You give experience and love, 
and now, today you're twenty-five!
With all my heart I congratulate, 
And "Happy Birthday" I want to say!
"Mit Geburstag!", "Feliz Cumpleaños!"
And "З Днем Народження!" of course!

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