Saturday, April 4, 2009

Week One in Ukraine

Hi friends,
I have so much to tell, I don't know where to start. The host family I am staying with (as of yesterday) is Lena (45), Max (14--knows some English and got me on the internet), and 3 year old Artom, who I have been playing logos with the past hour. They are quite wondeful. Max spent the day walking around the city with me and a group of other PCT (Peace Corps trainees) and their host moms showing us the beautiful old churches and a lovely park.
I am in Chernigi, a city of about 300,000 (though it doesn't seem that big--no high rises, etc) north of Kyiv, not far from the Belarusa border. I'm learning Russian (yeah!) for eventually assigment somewhere in eastern or northern Ukraine, or the Crimean pennisula.
They have a small apartment in one of the old soviet high rises. I have the largest room, which I think normally is their living room. Has a balcony. There are two other rooms, bathroom (with a washer!), and a kitchen.
Unless you have experienced this, and I know a few of you have, it is hard to describe--being in a totally foreign environment, living in close quarters with basically not understanding almost anything that is being said. It is pretty overwhelming, but of course it is only the second day. I'm exhausted!
The first couple of days once we got to Kyiv, which was an ordeal in itself, we were at a wooded retreat center built in Soviet days outside of Kyiv. Some interesting statues--I took some pics, but I'm using the family computer, so I don't know if I will be able to load any. Eventually I will make it to an internet cafe and can load some of them. I saw my first Ukrainian bird there! Something like a chickadee.
Lots of great PCT's, though now I am mostly with my cluster of 5, I think. There are 25 community development trainees in Cherkigi, so I am sure we will see lots of each other. The PC is VERY organized. I love my language teacher, who is basically the person fromPC I will have the most contact with. Her name is Tamila. She is really a delight.
I feel like I need to get off their computer, so more later, I hope. And maybe pics!--I'll talk to Max....


  1. Dear Barb
    Just to let you know I'm following your adventures.



  2. Oh, do I ever remember the exhaustion. I recall coming home from days when I was really immersed in trying to communicate feeling like I'd been doing hard physical labor all day. I had never before understood how mental activity can be so physically tiring. But that was only during the first few months, or at least it gradually subsided so I didn't notice it much after that.
    How's the food? I recall feeling lucky in my homestay because my family included two wonderful cooks. Some of my fellow PCTs were apparently not so lucky and it was one of the biggest areas of complaint. Nice you have a couple kids in your host family.
    Thanks so much for sharing in the blog. I'll look forward to reading your next installment.

  3. I'm so glad you're tending this blog. It's great to read your update and begin to create a picture in my mind's eye of where you are & what you're doing. Sending love, Moire

  4. I remember it all!--feeling like a special needs child because I understood zippo. But you and little Artom should do just fine together :-) Yes it is exhausting, just having to work so hard to say something simple and mundane. But even just being in that environment you are soaking up more language than you realize. Thank you SO much for keeping us posted on this blog. Next I'm going to look up on a map exactly where you are!

  5. Hi Barb,
    I am happy that it is going well for you. Have you seen any other birds or animals? I miss seeing you but it will be fun to read up on your adventures.
    Take care,

  6. Hi, Barb,

    I just decided to check your blog tonight, and I find I missed your posting by 3 days now. I'll have to be more attentive. Your family sounds great, and you are so lucky to have Max, who sounds so nice. I can certainly remember those feelings of exhaustion and wondering how to communicate the simplest things with my family. And also being grateful to the young ones for their simple interest. So glad you are feeling good about things and safe. Keep us posted, we are thinking about you with lots of love, Robin

  7. Hi Barb!!
    I have to admit that it's really hard to believe that you are really that far away! You've always loved to travel and this seems like a little longer trip. I love that your host family has 2 kids! What a great way to help bridge the communication gap! I'm sure that they are creative with less pretense than any adults in trying to help you to understand them. It sounds as tho' you are feeling fairly settled, as much as one can be! I am in total awe of you & your bravery! I can only imagine the differences between life there & here! You will do fine, I think, as you are very adaptable and teachable (even for an old "dog";-) ) Thank you for taking the time, when available, to keep us all informed & in touch!! Anything is always better than nothing! Love ya, Deb

  8. you're amazing. what fun. I love you.