Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1--International Workers Day

May 1 is a big holiday here—Labor Day or International Workers Day. Not sure what happens except that everyone has it off. There are flags decorating the Chernihiv Red Square and probably a parade. Perhaps I will report before I post this.
From the next day:
No parade, but music in the square plus the communist party and socialist party had booths. Coolest thing was some organization for workers' rights that had a "wall" for people to right things, telling the government what they thought of what is going on in Chernihiv. Of course, I couldn't read it, but it was great to see these young people getting folks to write on the wall. Let's hear it for democracy. This would not have been happening 19 years ago (before Ukrainian independence).
We were supposed to go to Kyiv for a field trip that day, but the Peace Corps wouldn’t let us, because a big demonstration is planned. I, of course, thought that would be a reason to go, but the PC has a very nonpolitical policy and also there is a possibility the demo could turn violent. So maybe we will get to go next week.
Another increasingly exhausting week of language lessons, cross cultural lectures (which have been very interesting), and organizational visits. This was the week that each group had to pick a project to do with a local NGO. Our group decided to help the NGO that works with disabled people to put on a crafts fair which they want to make an annual event. I think it will be a lot of fun to do, plus I think the experience of working with the director will be worth whatever hassles it all entails. She is quite something. A story she told us this week gives you a picture of what kind of woman she is. She was walking across Red Square (which is a bit of free for all in the traffic department) and got hit by a car. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt but was knocked down, etc. The driver turned out to be head of some cosmetics company, so Svetlana convinced her to come to her organization and do the make up for a theatrical event they were putting on in exchange for not pressing charges. Now there is a woman who thinks on her feet (or maybe it is off).
We are also going to do some kind of smaller project with another NGO that we liked a lot that serves needy families, also run by powerful women.
So the upcoming month is going to be even busier, if that’s possible. Will need the rest of the PC time to recover from the training period.
Has been really warm here this week, though I think the weather is going to turn this weekend. The trees are all leafing out and spring flowers blooming. Looks a lot like Minnesota in the spring if you can see beyond the crumblingness of it all. (I know that is not a word but it sort of describes the landscape here.) Tamila told us today that the average income for people in this city is about $100 a month. There are clearly also wealthy people here based on some of the stores and the cars you see, but the majority of the people are quite poor.
(Sweet little Artom just came in to say “Spakone Noche” or goodnight in Russian. He is such a little cutie pie. It’s fun—most of the time—living around a 4 year old.)
I’ve become friends with this great woman in our group—she’s the oldest of the trainees—69—and is a retired professor of history and taught women’s studies. We are working together on coming up with something that might work for the reading group idea. We realized it has to be very simple, so it has become a bit of a challenge. But it’s been fun pursuing the idea. And making a friend in the process.
Well, I’m at home and it is getting late and I am really tired, so I will end for now. Might add more before I post this tomorrow. I tried to post some more pics last time, but they didn’t transfer. Will try again tomorrow.
Love to all of you.


  1. Barb,
    Wow! What full days you have! I'm so happy to hear that you sound settled and are making connections there. Loved your story about the woman who got hit by a car and then brokered a deal with the driver who hit her!
    Thank you for your posts so we can all have at least glimpse of what is going on there, and thanks for doing this work in the world!
    PS Book club is meeting next week. I'll try to get them to your blog so they can all get an update from you.

  2. Hi Barb,
    It is so wonderful getting to share your experience through your writing and photos. A highlight of my week!
    For us a feature of our training was "PCV Visits" when they matched each of us with a volunteer in the field and sent us on our own to visit them for a week. Will you do something like that? Also, when will you find out where in Ukraine you will be posted?
    I loved seeing your host family and cat!
    Thank you so much for your wonderful stories.

  3. Barbie,
    I am so glad to you are doing well, I knew you would!
    We went to the May Day parade yesterday and I thought of you and what a great thing you are doing. Sounds like you has a unique May Day experience in the true meaning and spirit of the day.
    Love, Johanna

  4. Great news and details - we LOVE it. I talk about Barb in the Ukraine now and everyone who hears the story is so impressed and amazed - as am I!!
    Love you,

  5. Dear Barb,
    Training is the hardest part about Peace Corps! Post-training is much easier. I hope you believe and remember that! Good for you for keeping your sense of humor, making friends, and being your curious and enthusiastic self. And thanks for your great posts. I look forward to them.

  6. Barb,
    This is Lori Z. We are at Bear cabin in Whalen, Minnesota for the spring bike trip. We all miss you but I am having a blast reading your blog and vicariously visiting Ukraine. Love the photos and your descriptions. Saw photos of Rosie and Star, thanks to Laurie and Susan and all the technology they have with them. Nice day for biking when we arrived. Went to Peterson and back, played horseshoes and DIX the champ so far! We miss your competitive edge. Spring is arriving and the redbuds are in bloom, trees are starting to leaf out! Keep working on the English club, it is a great idea!