"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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring Loaded!

The weather has turned, and Ukrainian life is buzzing with activity, anticipation, and preparations for Easter! Everything is being painted white, houses are being gutted and deep cleaned, and even Mr. Benjamin is going through his clothes, sorting and purging. 

It's been a while since my last post. The weather has kept me outdoors and active, which I'm sure after the last 5/6 months of hibernation, you'll cut me some slack. This evening before bed I'll post about two exciting events that I took part of, and then later (hopefully Sunday) I'll sit down and post again about some big events my students, colleagues and I put on! 

At the beginning of April, right after I arrived back home from Rome, I helped put on 'Operation Pay it Forward - Share a Smile'. This was a project my Peace Corps Manager, Oksana proposed for me and a few other Volunteers to organize. Together, we created a "Super Kids Day!" at a local Youth Home. Then with all the Volunteers in my oblast (state) and neighboring state, we put our plan to action! About 40 kids, ages 5 - 17 rotated between different stations: leadership, teamwork, crafts, appreciation, and games! They had an amazing time, but it was also such a wonderful experience for the PCVs too! Some of the photos are strangely blurry, but they are fine nonetheless :)

Oksana, my Peace Corps Manager, and her new best friend for the day!

My favorite boys! 

In March I was asked to presented at a TOEFL (Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) Conference the following month, so mid-April, myself along with a few other selected Peace Corps Volunteers went down to the sea side in Crimea! (It wasn't really too warm, but the views were beautiful!) I didn't really understand what an honor it was to be presenting at something like this, but it was made clear once we arrived. The institute in Sevastopol was beautiful and the conference was really nice. 

It was the 18th year this international conference has taken place in Ukraine, but usually every country, including the States, holds such a conference. They are supported and funded by the U.S. Embassy's English Language Office's - so essentially your tax dollars hard at work! My presentation was about Constructive Criticism and how it can be helpful in the classroom and also in the professional workplace. It allowed me to also talk about intercultural communication (favorite topic ever) and it spurred a lot of interesting discussions between everyone who attended my session! I was really happy to have been apart of it!  

We won the raffle!!!

The conference was only a day and a half, so we had some time to explore the city of Sevastopol and the ancient ruins. It was a relaxing long weekend, spent with some fun friends. I'm glad to be able to check 'Go to Crimea' off my Ukraine Bucket List!

I even did a bit of a 'polar plunge'. Although the water wasn't iced over, it was about 40°F...brrrr. But how could I be near the sea and NOT swim. If it's a body of water, you bet I'll take even the quickest of dips! 

Easter is next weekend (May 5), but I will certainly organize my photos from last weekend's big events in Kolky and update you on the American Party and the Workshop my school helped put on! We have some days off of school this week, so I know that between reading in my hammock and throwing the football, I'll find some time for another blog! 

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