Saturday, April 11, 2009

Week 2

I keep trying to make this post and it keeps disappearing. Ah well....tomorrow I will try a wifi place with my laptop.
I am doing well, am happy to be here, enjoying every minute of this experience. Well, almost every minute. (Sorry about my typing--their keyboard is very sticky). My days so far have consisted of breakfast with the family at 7, leave at 7:30 and walk to the apartment of my language teacher Tamila where I and my "cluster" --4 other PCVT's (PC Volunteer Trainees) have language class from 8-11:30. I am so0000 glad I took that Russian class. Feel like I am doing pretty well, though on the street and at home it is, of course, pretty impossible to understand and be understood! But a few words get in there now and then. And it is only week 1 we have to keep reminding ourselves.
The rest of the day is spent in working in a larger group with training on community development and meeting with organizations and government groups. I usually walk home around 5 or 6, hang out with the family practicing my language and helping Lena cook, sometimes doing the dishes--Max and I take turns--and studying.
Today (saturday) I went with some of the other PCVT's to visit an old church and monastery and underground caves where the monks used to live. Very very interesting. Chernihiv is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine--900 years old.
Tomorrow I am going to the central library where an English club (Ukrainians practicing their English) is run by a 80 year old PCV here. I wondered into the library at some point this week, and they were very excited to see me--the first Volunteer that had come in they said--and they were looking for volunteers to help with the club. This Sunday they are discussing why there are so many single mothers in Ukraine. Should be really interesting.
Next week is the Ukrainian Orthodox Easter holiday--very big deal here, of course. So should be interesting. My family doesn't seem to be religious, but maybe this is when we will go to church (and I will wear a skirt!)
There are mostly older PCVT's here--some of them can be a bit whiny about conditions--but mostly they are a good group. Though I actually like best just hanging out at home with my host family. They are such a loving family, it is nice to be around them.
The food is quite good, though heavy of course on some things I don't normally eat. But what is really wonderful to see, is that Lena makes everything from scratch--and I mean everything. Sour cream, fruit juice, all the vegetables and fruits she uses are mostly preserves she made. If she uses walnuts,she cracks them and picks out the nuts. Stuff like that. It's wonderful to see
Trying to do some yoga in the mornings, walk as much as possible. Did have a bad cold a couple of days this week, but feel okay today. Despite missing you all, I am so happy to get to do this.
They did have a display in the library and there was a picture of Itasca. Made me homesick at bit...
One funny incident. On my way home one day, a babushka stopped and asked ME!! for directions. I had to tell her sorry, I'm from america and don't speak russian. All of which I was able to say in Russian so not bad I guess. Though now Tamila says we should say we speak russian a little... very, very little, I would say.
Much love, Barb


  1. Hi Barb - This is all so interesting! I have so many questions - you mention the babushka above; when I was growing up, that is what our Bohemian grandparents called a head scarf. It never occurred to me that you might stay with a family with a little one or a teen. I think that is good fortune; children definitely put a different spin on things. Best wishes, Sharon

  2. thanks so much for the news and details of your days - it's excellent! Love You!

  3. Dear Barb
    It is exhausting to try to communicate in another language--and somehow much harder to understand that to speak. I can quite picture you with Max and Lena. Thanks for letting us see you so clearly. Yes, we are too used to having everything made and done for us in the food department.

  4. Barb,
    So good to hear from you! Glad that you are loving your host family since that seems like it would make such a big difference in the quality of your training months there. I guess if you're being asked for directions, you must be fitting in already!
    Today is Easter and L and I are heading over to Pam and Kate's and plan to talk to you from there. Can't wait! You are an intrepid individual and my thoughts are with you often.
    Take care, Barb.
    Love, Janie

  5. I was coloring easter eggs yesterday at my sister's with various items from the spice cupboard and vegetable bin (all turned out looking a bit sad, pale and dirty) and thought of you and those fabulous ukrainian easter eggs. Will you have a chance to learn how to make those? I am enjoying following your adventures here.

  6. Hi, Barb,

    It's Robin. Your post is fascinating and I am so glad you are into it, & your family is good to each other & to you. It is exciting that Lena makes everything from scratch. Remember making butter & yogurt & sprouts in Iowa City, on Kirkwood? Are you set up for Skype yet? We want to see pictures of you in your dress, you know. And any other pictures of you & your surroundings. Are you liking the Kindl? Love, Robin

  7. Barb,

    So glad you set up this blog - it's wonderful to be able to follow your adventure. Happy to hear how comfortable you are in your home there. And, really, being asked directions on the street - you must look at home there. Keep up the tales as you are able.

    It's just about beginning to look like something you could call Spring here today. HOORAY!

    Be well,
    Mary Ellen K

  8. Barb, all of the different ways that you're acculturating are fascinating. Thanks for setting up this blog. I remember not writing in my journal after awhile because everything seemed so familiar. If we keep on posting back to you, maybe that will help you to continue writing? Congratulations on being mistaken for a local! On MPR today I was listening to an IMF official talking about how Easter European economies really need international financial help, and I was thinking: Eastern Europe feels a lot more personal to me these days knowing that a friend is living there. Peace and happiness to you, love, Carol.