11 June 2008

We will...

Si, se puede!

21 April 2008

Equal Pay Day

Tuesday, April 22 is Equal Pay Day!

Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The day, observed on a Tuesday in April, symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. (Tuesday is the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week.) Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color.

Equal Pay Day:
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wear RED on Equal Pay Day to symbolize how far women
and minorities are "in the red" with their pay!

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on January 24, 2008, “The Fair Pay Restoration Act: Ensuring Reasonable Rules in Pay Discrimination Cases.”


The Fair Pay Restoration Act (S.1843) – drafted in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which held that employees must sue for pay discrimination within the current 180-day statute of limitations – would permit employees to sue employers for wage discrimination even if the discrimination was discovered beyond the 180-day limit. (This act is similar to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act cited below.)

Join the Fair Pay Campaign to support this legislation.
The Fair Pay Campaign is led by the American Association of University Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Legal Momentum, the National Organization for Women, the National Partnership for Women and Families, and the National Women's Law Center, with 250 other local, state, and national groups -- including NCPE -- joining them.


18 April 2008

01 April 2008

a new website

in case you haven't checked it out yet, i've got a new site up:


i'm using it as a portal to showcase my writing and my publishing endeavours.

check out www.lawrencelawson.net

12 March 2008

The Payoff Revisited

Some of you may remember my 26 April 2007 post about Oksana, my Ukrainian student who was chosen to study in the U.S. for a year. Well, here's an update.

Oksana has been at Spalding University in Louisville, KY since September. She has a few months to go in her study abroad experiences. She has taken really interesting classes, participated in college life as her Residence Hall's treasurer, and has volunteered in two local schools.

A few days ago Oksana came to visit me for her Spring Break. We toured around Monterey and San Francisco. Her friends in Louisville had warned her that CA was like another country. When she landed in the sunny 70 degree weather (on a day when 10 inches of snow fell in Louisville) and saw flowers blooming everywhere, she decided her friends were right.

We took Oksana hiking at Point Lobos and we took her to an International Women's Day event put on by the United Nations Association of Monterey. We wore our Ukrainian embroidered shirts and ate a variety of food from different cultures at the potluck.

While she was here, Oksana also tried Japanese food, Mexican food, and Indian food. Everything she tried, she liked.

We took her to the Monterey Aquarium where we saw some very playful sea otters, and some colorful jellyfish.

We went to a Russian friend's house to celebrate the end of Winter and the arrival of Spring. There, Oksana had the opportunity to talk to Russian speakers from many former Soviet Republic countries, and even another Ukrainian girl! We ate blinchiki (crepes) with different toppings and enjoyed the company.

Finally, we went to San Francisco and saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, Chinatown and the Ferry Building. Oksana had only seen the bridge in movies, and couldn't believe how huge it was in person. She also commented on how everyone in SF is so different from each other.

Oksana gave us a reason to play "tourist" and get out of the house and see the sights. While I greatly enjoyed our outings, what I will treasure most are our conversations. I was continually amazed at how much her English has improved and what a changed person she has become. She expresses her opinions thoughtfully, and is not afraid to disagree with people. She is questioning the world around her, and making insightful comparisons to life in Ukraine. She has worked so hard and deserves all of the successes that I know are headed her way.

Today Oksana is touring the Grand Canyon. When I visited her at her parents' house in their small Ukrainian village, she told me it was her dream to see the Grand Canyon. She didn't know why, but it's the place she always hoped she would be able to see. Today she will see it. Just another check mark on her long list of accomplishments...

What's next, Oksana?

29 February 2008

please follow my writing...

...if you are so inclined.

Rejections of a Writer


Successes of a Writer

this is going to be my year.

i can feel it.

16 February 2008

writing the book

I didn't think I'd ever come back here, but here I am. It's been a while.

I just wanted to let you know, all of those still reading, that through a bizarre set of miracles, I'm sending a book proposal for my non-fiction book based on my PC Ukraine experience to an agent in NYC next week. If she likes it, maybe something really exciting will happen. If she doesn't, at least I'll have taken a very important first step.

Those of you near and dear to me, if something does come out of this, I'll be contacting you to ask if I can use your real name (first only, not last) in the work. So, think on that....


01 February 2008

we're back...

Some days it feels like riding a bike...

We're back in student mode, seemingly always rushing from one thing to the next, living by our day planners to keep things straight, and spending hours in front of our computers or buried in books. Our professors and colleagues welcomed us back, though it's a sea of unfamiliar faces in most of our classes.

Other days it's overwhelming...

Just the amount of stuff everywhere, in stores, people's houses, on the road. Cars are huge, and everywhere I turn there seem to be infinite choices to make. The work seems to have been removed from our lives in the name of modern convenience: washing machines, dish racks, high speed internet, and of course, my car. =)

Most days Larry and I walk everywhere and make a point to sit together and eat our meals. But we've noticed how easy it is to get caught up in whatever needs to happen next. Most days are easier than I expected them to be. I'm drowning in new concepts and tasks, but they're interesting and not at all beyond my grasp. It's just keeping up with the work load that consumes me.

And I feel fortunate every day that I wake up and see the sun shining, and I glance down the road a few blocks to the deep blue ocean, with my new appreciation for seasons and what they mean in other places to other people.

22 December 2007

Beautiful Northern CA

After a week in San Diego visiting my family, we're in northern CA with Larry's family. We took a drive up the coast on Sunday all the way to Brookings, Oregon. It's cooler up here, but just beautiful.

It's been so nice to be surrounded by family since returning home. I've especially enjoyed taking part in the holiday traditions we've missed these past 2 years like decorating the Christmas tree and sending out cards.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

Hugs and Kisses from Fortuna, CA.

26 November 2007

gotta add this one from the road

sorry to go back on my word, but this has gotta go up.

checking my email on the street in Berlin, I found this news item and rejoiced.

as I'm an RPCV, I can finally say something political...but I'll let the picture speak for me.

16 November 2007

The "R"

So it's all official. The paperwork is handed in. Most of the goodbyes have been said.

We've been showered with gifts and kind words. It's been hard to know what to feel, happy and sad, relieved and surprised, hesitant and ready. Mostly, I feel ready.

Thanks to those of you who kept in touch. Your words of support and your interest in our lives here were always bright spots in my sometimes challenging days. I hope we were able to paint some pictures of life in Ukraine for you, and somewhat increase your understanding of this part of the world.

I am proud of finishing. I couldn't have done it alone. I have been touched by many incredible people along this journey, and supported by many more at home. I have gained valuable experience that I will carry with me. I'm looking forward to readjusting to life at home and finding out what aspects of this adventure I'm going to miss.

Love from Ukraine!



we'll make this a joint post as our last post from the good ole ukraine. we'll continue the blog at home for a little while--highlighting the differences in culture, our readjustment, and detailing some of the things about Peace Corps Ukraine / Ukraine that we couldn't talk about while serving--and then shut it down.

so, we're rpcvs now. what a hell of a long initiation process (stole that from another rpcv) to get into the club. two years of slogging through another culture, language, and worldview. it opened my mind though and, in a way, opened my heart. and, at the same time, service in Ukraine hardened my heart (my friends at home will have to help me be friendly and optimistic again as pessimism and rudeness have been some of my most surefire tools of survival).

things i miss that i'm looking forward to:

laughing out loud in public. (karen and i did this yesterday and it felt SO GOOD.)



things that i'll miss here:



verenyky with cherries and sour cream and sugar!!!

living in a beautiful, historic city

it's been an amazingly short--and, at the same time, amazingly long--two years of service. i dreamed of being a PCV for a good chunk of my life. and, for these two plus years, i dreamed of being an RPCV. now that i am, i have few adequate words to describe it. basically, i feel ready.

ready for my next challenge and ready to go home and understand this previous challenge.

thank you to ukraine for all of the memories. thank you to all of my students, host families and friends for all of the good memories. you made these two years worthwhile. everytime you smiled or said "thank you" or asked a good qustion, you made me feel happy.

good luck to oleh, levko, and dima on FLEX round 2! and good luck to Marta in everything! you're my stars and were the light of my two years in ukraine!

peace out for the final final from ukraine,

RPCV Ukraine 05-07

13 November 2007

"so long"

so long to Casey...see you in the States buddy.

it was Bandera's first 'first snow' in Ukraine on Monday 12 November
and it was our last 'first snow' in Ukraine

six days.

damn right we're counting.

11 November 2007

well oh so very well

had our give-away party last night. lots of people from our oblast came and took all of our (plus Casey's and Shelley's) stuff. the first round of give-away was a free for all, take what you like kind of affair. the second round was a white elephant (yankee swap!) giveaway for the big items (speakers and the DVD Bonanza among others). a good time was had by all. some people did have a difficult time understanding what RSVP and BYOB means. college anyone?

we're down to eight days. today is casey's last day in l'viv. gonna miss that guy, but we'll see him again in the states.

hope you are all well as karen and i do our final packing and end this chapter of our lives!

09 November 2007

Becoming Women

My most interesting conversations and experiences in Ukraine have occurred with the girls who regularly attend my English Club. They are the ones who were self-motivated enough to take time out of their busy schedules to practice English. They even came to our Club during the summer, when they could have been relaxing with their friends.

I will miss our conversations and our projects, their amazement at the things I tell them about life in the US. They listen attentively and write everything down, from inspirational quotes to silly slang words.

These young women are kind and motivated. They are beautiful and intelligent. They want to improve their lives and their country, and are just learning how to take the first steps in this process. They continually impress me with their strength and compassion, and I am so proud of who they are becoming.

They thank me for believing in them, though they've never given me a reason not to. I know they will have many successes and create new and exciting opportunities for themselves. I believe so strongly in their futures, and I look forward to our continued correspondence.


I am becoming the woman I’ve wanted,
grey at the temples,
soft body, delighted,
cracked up by life
with a laugh that’s known bitter,
but, past it, got better,
knows she’s a survivor—
that whatever comes,
she can outlast it.
I am becoming a deep
weathered basket.

I am becoming the woman I’ve longed for,
the motherly lover
with arms strong and tender,
the growing-up daughter
who blushes surprises.
I am becoming full moons
and sunrises.

I find her becoming,
this woman I’ve wanted,
who knows she’ll encompass,
who knows she’s sufficient,
knows where she’s going
and travels with passion.
Who remembers she’s precious,
yet not at all scarce—
who knows she is plenty,
plenty to share.

--Jayne Relaford Brown

30 October 2007

last tour

I’m back in L’viv after a whirlwind 13 day goodbye session across the center and east of Ukraine. We went to Kyiv to start the final paperwork to get out of the country. As it stands, we have 20 days left in Ukraine. Then we went to see our host family one last time, and we had an amazing time there. Then Karen went home and I went east to my friend Travis house (read: cabin). After my time there, we all went up to Kharkiv (the 2nd biggest city in Ukraine) for our annual Halloween party. The pictures which follow this post are a smattering of images from the times I’m about to describe.

First off: Kyiv. Not much to say here. Just ran around the office and got paperwork signed. I was unimpressed with the diligence in the office, but I’ll expand upon that thought in 21 days. We stayed in an apartment on the cobblestone street which serves as the scene for the city’s largest craft bazaar (Andrew’s Descent.) We stayed for three nights in Kyiv for a total of $44.80 which is ridiculously cheap for Kyiv. We were just lucky to have friends and other volunteers to share the space, and price, with. The agency had double booked the residence (b/c nothing can really go as planned in Ukraine) so a second group of volunteers, who had rented the place, had to hoof it to another apartment. We met Olya, a girl from my English Club who now goes to Kyiv-Mohila University (pretty much the best Uni in Ukraine), for dinner at Puzata Khata. It’s always nice to see her. She’s so bright and cheery and happy.

Off to Pryluky to see the host family. It was a short trip because Larysa is now a LCF (Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitator) for Peace Corps. She works in the Oblast capital (Chernihiv for all those at home keeping score). So, we arrived Saturday morning, helped her make lunch, spoke a lot of Ukrainian, and waited for our host dad and daughter to return home from buying a new computer. We had a wonderful lunch of chicken borshch accompanied by some warming horilka. That night, we had tea with the neighbors, Kris and Jen’s host family, and some family friends. The conversation quickly descended into Surzhik (a mix of Ukr and Russ) that we had a hard time following. The next day, we hung out with the family until the afternoon, when Larysa had to go back to work. Before she left, we decided to do something special….

For those of you who’ve been with this blog since the beginning, you may remember our first few weeks in Ukraine. During that time, our host family took us out to a park outside of Pryluky for a hike. After the hike, our guide took me off into the woods and told me to dig into the ground with a rusty pick. What I dug up was a bottle of homemade horilka. He had buried it because, “It is Ukrainian tradition to bury something special in a place that you want to come back to.” In Pryluky this last time, we told our host family that we wanted to bury our engagement rings in their yard. It was a sign that our time with them meant a lot to us and we looked forward to coming back one day. Our host dad found an old Tic-Tac box and we dropped our rings into it. He then wrapped the box in a plastic back and took us our to the front yard. He dug a hole and we dropped the rings in. Then we all took turns turning dirt onto the rings, burying a piece of ourselves in Pryluky—in the one place in Ukraine we truly hope to come back to.

Our host family means a lot to us and, the next day when we left at 4am with Valera (who is a marshrutka driver between Pryluky and Kyiv), it was a hard leaving. When Valera walked us to the metro, I was unable to say all the things I wanted to say to him—how much he meant to us, how he made us feel safe, how we’ll miss him—because I was spending all of energy trying not to cry. They were a part of our best experiences in Ukraine and we’ll always remember them and miss them.

After Pryluky, Karen went home to L’viv to teach and I, taking the last of my vacation days, went east to my friend Travis’s house. He lives in a small village in Donetskaya Oblast and is known to have one of the toughest sites in Ukraine. When he wants water to bathe or wash with, he has to pull it ten feet out of a well with a bucket and a hoe. When he’s gotta use the bathroom (winter or summer) he’s got to truck out to his outhouse. When he wants to heat up his house, he’s got to cut wood and stuff his stove (petchka) with wood and coal (he buys coal by the ton). When the fire’s burned down, he takes the remnant coal and wood and sifts it outside to get rid of the pig-iron (creating quite the ash storm). It’s tough living for two years, but for the three days I was out there, it felt like I was at my family’s cabin—except we have running water and an indoor toilet there. We had a good time hanging out—only getting freaked out by the locals one time when we met the man on the train who, unknowingly following Kurt Cobain’s words, was so high he scratched himself until he bled…the entire 30 minute train ride.

Onto Kharkiv for the annual Halloween party. [PC Ukraine hemorrhaged about this party…. More about that in 21 days.] It was a good time and people had a lot of fun. Group 29, especially those who organized the party + their friends, made sure everyone was safe. There’s not a lot about this party, I find, that I can write about without setting PC off in a fuss, so I’ll write about this in 21 days too. Highlight of the day, before the party, was a horse-driven cart carrying a two men dressed as skeletons, a stereo system, and a sign advertising a Halloween party that night in Kharkiv. When they saw us, they turned up the music (heavy metal) and headbanged down the boulevard. Seeing that all happen while being pulled down the street by a horse was just too funny/anachronistic to forget.

I took a 21 hour platskart (where the conductor didn’t want to let me on the train and a family was dead set on getting my bed) back to L’viv and now I’m back with my wife. I missed her and I’m happy to see her. Saying goodbye to our friends and family out east was hard, but as we get older we find that it comes with the territory. If you make friends, one day you’re going to have to say goodbye to them. Without their footprints all over your life, even the sets you never see again, make your time here on earth rich and happy.

I am blessed with good friends. I hope you are too.

Kharkiv Cathedral modelled off of Istanbul's Hagia Sofia

Figures at base of T Shevchenko statue in Kharkiv

Weird mural in Kharkiv Zoo

Travis pulling water out of his well

Fountain in Kharkiv

Only statue I know of that has T Shevchenko as a painter, in Pryluky

Our host family--Me, Valera, Larysa and Karen

Me burying rings in yard

Karen on Andrew's Descent

22 October 2007


Our thoughts are with everyone in southern California affected by these fires. We're hoping for the winds to die down and the air to become humid. It's hard to be so far away when bad things happen, but we're lucky to be in contact through emails and sms messages.

We hope the damage is minimal and that your loved ones are safe.

Best wishes from Ukraine.

11 October 2007

picture day

Brand-New Statue of Stepan Bandera near our house.

St. George's Cathedral (near our house)

Karen in Plosha Rynok with Teacher's Day Flower

Larry in Plosha Rynok with kvass

Our Attempt at Making Donuts

The countdown of days left in Ukraine, starting from 100. We're now at 39.

I taught from Safran Foer for a day.

A beautiful chuche we discovered one day in L'viv. They are just kinda hidden everywhere.

Fall has come in all its colors.

Some participants of my English club.

City Hall's Tower during a Yulia Tymoshenko Rally.

It says "(The West) ahead toward Europe, (the East) back to Russia, and (the middle) spins in circles and goes nowhere." A political party's add.

Karen at Olesky Zamok (Castle)

Posing at the Zamok.

Sign at Entrance to Olesky Zamok

10 October 2007

A Reflection on 2 Years in Ukraine

I keep thinking about how I need to start packing, to start sorting through the binders of lesson plans and classroom materials, the drawer of mail from friends and family, the CDs and tapes of photos and memories we’ve accumulated. But I find myself fighting the urge to get ready to go, almost as if to slam on the brakes and slow down the countdown a little. Time has never moved as fast in my life as it’s been moving for me lately.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to being home, seeing family and friends, driving my car, eating Mexican food, and readjusting to life in the U.S. But right now it’s hard to imagine being on the other side of this experience. One of the things I’ll miss is how every day is an adventure. At home we take for granted the small interactions and experiences that are made challenging here by culture and language. When viewed with some distance, I know these moments will be funny and interesting, though they can be crushingly frustrating at the time.

I will also miss this experience because of the lifestyle I have maintained during the last two years. I live in a beautiful apartment with high ceilings and a sunny balcony and sleep in a comfortable bed. I walk everywhere, usually 6-8 miles per day, with an occasional trip on public transportation when necessary. I eat fresh, local foods that vary by season. I cook more than I ever did before, and I appreciate the time and love required to make things from scratch (and re-heat them without a microwave).

Last week in class I was teaching about cross-cultural communication. We discussed different aspects of culture and likened culture to the metaphor of a tree. There are parts of a tree that you can see, like the trunk, branches and leaves, and there are the parts you can’t see, the roots. Without the roots, the tree would die or fall down, or would never have grown in the first place. We compared this tree to culture, attempting to demonstrate that the aspects of culture that we can observe, such as clothes, holiday traditions, and amount of touching, are a result of the invisible aspects of culture, such as concept of beauty, religious beliefs, and concept of personal space.

Living here for two years has given me the ability to begin to understand the roots of some cultural behaviors that I would otherwise view from an outsider’s perspective as weird or illogical. Many things can be explained by history, religion, or some other unobservable aspect of Ukrainian life. This experience has also given me a chance to reflect on my own culture in more depth.

Often when you are walking through the Center of L’viv on a weekend you will see numerous wedding parties getting their photos taken in front of the town’s monuments. Sometimes there are 3 or 4 brides lined up just steps away from each other at the same monument, waiting to have their picture taken on their special day. I’m sure that in some of these wedding day photos, there is a stray bride in her white gown and veil in the background of another couple’s picture. Perhaps it’s the only child in me, but I would never want to share my special day with other couples, especially not in the backgrounds of my photos! I would have run the other direction if we had met another wedding party on the beach in Monterey on our wedding day. I suppose this attitude is similar to the motto on packed Ukrainian marshrutkas, “there’s always room for one more”; Ukrainians are really good at sharing space.

I never realized how much I relish my personal space until I came to Ukraine. Even in Spain, where people would often bump into you on the street without saying “Excuse me,” I never experienced the stifling lack of space of my daily life here. This situation has made me realize how irrational my attitude toward space really is. I view it as “my” space, as if I own it. The fact that I haven’t been able to relinquish ownership on the space around me during the last two years shows me that this personal space bubble is really a part of me. I have begun to embrace it, along with trying to keep a sense of humor about it. When people sit on my lap at concerts, tell me to scoot over and share my small seat on the bus with someone else, or hip-check me on the street I try to visualize these wedding photos and remind myself that it’s good to share.

That said, I am really excited to go home and maneuver my personal space satellite through the streets of Monterey and the San Diego Zoo, the aisles of El Comal, and in the roomy interior of my Galant. I’m going to eat myself silly while trying to maintain my walking policy whenever possible. I’m going to bask in the comfort and convenience of a washing machine and never again complain about saving quarters for the Laundromat. Soon I’ll probably join the ranks of those complaining about gas prices and a lack of free time, but I will do so with the knowledge and appreciation that it can be and has been another way.

07 October 2007


she's so beautiful (in a niece sort of way) it makes me teary.

06 October 2007

3 october 2007

as i forgot to blog about twice, 3 october 2007 marked the end of the second full year we've spent in ukraine. the two years have seemed to fly by and, at the same time, drag on. we spent the day teaching. we celebrated on the 4th by going out for pizza (the 4th, coincidentally, is the two month mark until we arrive, once again, on american soil--that time, for good).

spent a relatively sunny saturday walking to the park to find donuts (which weren't being sold at 1030am). ukrainians, judging by the empty streets and our two years of experience, do not get up early on weekends. you can get up at 7 am on a saturday, troll around the downtown, and literally have the streets to yourself (except for all the tourists who are looking for an open shop (which doesn't really exist that early on a saturday)). that nothing was open early on a saturday or sunday once frustrated us. now, we just laugh. they'll either figure out that the swaths of tourists wandering the streets probably would be inclined to spend money in their shops (if they were only open) or they won't.

had a yelling match in ukrainian the other day at the train ticket office. the woman working there was convinced that i should go to the english speaking window (which doesn't exist) because she couldn't understand that I wanted to go to slavyansk--a city in the east of ukraine--and not slovakia (a country to the west of ukraine). we finally worked through our differences and she tried to sell me a ticket, only she was having a hard time remembering that it was october, not september, and tried, continually, to sell me a ticket for the 23d of last month. ah, ukraine....

slowly packing up here. discovered that there is a ups office near our house. the guy who works there is really nice. unfortunately, he said it costs $200 to ship 10 kilos of stuff to america. that seems pretty pricey. but, at least we have it as an option. i'd never walked in that direction, away from our house, so it was nice to see that part of lviv. the man began by speaking russian to me, but switched over easily to ukrainian when i asked him too. he even used a few phrases of english, which i had a hard time understanding cuz my mind was in ukrainian mode.

44 days.

03 October 2007

election plus

it happened.

it's still happening.

too bad i can't comment on the weird stuff i heard about.

guess we'll have to wait 47 days for the tell all.


in other news, i'm teaching from Foer's Everything is Illuminated in my American literature class. I was explaining to my students that one of the narrators, Alex, uses words that he obviously found in a thesaurus. Therefore, he says things, and uses words, that a native speaker wouldn't normally use in certain situations.

one of my students raised his hand and said, "you mean, he tries to use non-famous words?"

"Exactly," I said. "Non-famous words or, as I like to call them, uncommon words."


my students, today like every day, told me how much better the ukrainian school system is than the american school system. this discussion came as we were talking about the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) testing that's coming up in L'viv. Winners of the competition study in Americ for an academic year.

During the conversation, one particularly clever student asked if homework was assigned in America.

"Yes," I said. "And if you don't do it, your grade lowers. But you have homework here too, so it shouldn't be a big deal."

"Yes, we have it," the student said. "But we don't do it."

And now i'm wavering...which system is harder?

30 September 2007

sunny days

sat outside today on the main prospect drinking a beverage with a friend and his am-ukr acquaintance. she talked about apartments and real estate in Ukraine and it got me thinking. an apartment in Lviv, remodeled, goes for $300-$500 a month, depending on location. Ukrainians, unless they are rich "businessmen" can't afford this. it is the foreigners, like me, that prop this market up and make it IMPOSSIBLE for normal Ukrainians to rent. of course, most Ukrainians own their houses, but in these house are three, sometimes four, generations of families. no one can afford to move out.


because expats found that its cheap to live here. and that sucks for Ukrainian middle class because (a) it doesn't exist and (b) it doesn't have a chance to exist because they can't find real jobs to give them enough real money to make a living (like paying skyrocketing rents, skyrocketing food prices, skyrocketing gas prices, etc...).

26 September 2007

free-markets and such

stopped some kid on the street and offered him $10 for the Yulia Tymoshenko shirt he was wearing. i was too late to get the free ones/didn't want to get mauled by the ukrainians mobbing for the free ones.

he ripped the shirt off his back like it were on fire. then he shook my hand.


(for any pc admin type reading this, i want you to know i OF COURSE won't be wearing the shirt in public...in Ukraine.)

23 September 2007

some poetry?

It only took two years for one of my students to find the blog. So, now I’ve gotta be more careful about what I write. Not that I wasn’t careful already, but I was probably slipping as service was coming to an end. Still, DC and Kyiv read our blog pretty much religiously (not a testament to the writing but more indicative of big brother tapping the phone lines) so we don’t say all that we could…or should. Gotta wait for the post-PC book for that. Gotta use my seven journals full of scribbling for something, don’t I?

Less than two months! Actually, 57 days. Of course I’m counting….


I just wanted to pop up here and briefly share a poem one of my students—we’ll call him T—wrote in one of my classes. I asked for a volunteer who wouldn’t mind if I shared his or her poetry—in the lesson, we were discussing symbolism in poetry. A boy raised his hand and I present you his poem.

Man go to fishing in village. In village

he breading a fresh air. Man

go to village in horse.

There are good dishes.

My friend skiing

on snowboard on snow.

My friend can skiing to 12 o’clock.

More refreshing than his grammatically flawed, yet original (praise God) prose was the fact that though the rest of his group mates ditched their class (their teacher just didn’t come to school that day), T came into my class and asked if he could join our lesson. He wanted to learn English, he said. He didn’t want to sit around and do nothing. I was happily shocked.

So here’s to you T! Good work!

02 September 2007

Game On!

As many volunteers discover, when you are passionate about something it shows in the way you approach your work in that realm. Softball has been my passion for most of my life. It taught me many important lessons in life, some more difficult than others, and I am lucky to have had so many opportunities to play ball.

Last Fall some volunteers in Lutsk invited me to help them with a softball clinic, specifically with pitching. I was excited for the chance, though weary after a negative softball experience last summer which involved young men with big egos, coaches with limited baseball knowledge who liked to argue, and little girls getting yelled at for striking out. This experience was completely different and restored my hope for Ukrainian girls learning softball.

I met many bright, motivated girls who were not afraid to try something new. Softball is not easy, and there are a lot of points which we take for granted (like which direction to run after hitting the ball, which hand the glove goes on, etc). Underhand fastpitch requires a lot of patience and practice, yet these girls were determined to listen to what I had to offer and try their best to improve.

I thank the volunteers in this area who have tirelessly created a softball league from scratch, who even wrote a grant to build the region's first softball field. They have created a positive environment for these girls to learn important lessons like teamwork and perserverence, and have created the opportunity for them to participate in a productive activity during their abundant free time.

Here are some photos of me passing along my love for softball, which my parents encouraged by enduring endless travelling tournaments, scraped knees and tears of frustration, and hours on uncomfortable bleachers. Play Ball!

31 August 2007

C to the O to the S

COS (Close of Service) Conference

Group 29 / Ukraine / 2005-2007

The moment I have been waiting for for two years has come and gone. I'm really, at the same time, in disbelief and at peace with it. The four days we spent at Perlyna Karpaty, a resort settled in a forested nook in the northeastern edge of the Carpathian mountains, were some of the most enjoyable of my service. As opposed to the first time our entire group (74 remain of the original 116), the decidedly American energy that bubbles to the surface when 74 United Statesians gather together was infused with a healthy dose of Ukrainianess. An example of this is that during our final dinner, we sat at long tables dressed in an abundance of food and drink much like our Ukrainian forebears. During the dinner, a three piece string band played Ukrainian folk songs. We were excited and sung and danced along for all of them; however, when they played English language songs, our enthusiasm was less palpable. It was a time for us to celebrate our hard work and two years in Ukraine. It was also a time for me to really, truly realize how much of Ukrainian culture I have stitched into myself. I also have come to realize that when I leave Ukraine this November, jettisoning myself across the world as an RPCV, I'll be sad.

I haven't admitted to myself that I'd actually be sad, but it's obvious to me now that I've been lying to myself. It's hard to live here, and I do look forward to a resumption of my life in the United States, but it's also great to live here in ways it's hard to adequately explain.

At our conference, we celebrated our accomplishments. We said hello to colleagues and peers we haven't seen for a while. Karen and I (and Ben) also lamented the absence of Kris and Jen Wiley, our friends from the first days in Ukraine. They were our spine during service, providing us with the support that allowed us to stand when all we wanted to do was slink to the floor. The conference was not the same without them, and they were truly missed.

We also took a few trips during our conference. Some elected to go horseback riding (I had enough of that as a kid and Karen has a strange fear of horses) while others took the ski lift up to the top of a high mountain. We did trip number two and ended up going to the same place Case and I went skiing back in February. It was beautiful, but we had to leave early because I had to get back to a Language Proficiency Test. I ended up scoring Advanced High (the highest score short of fluent, native-like ability that's possible) but our meeting was interrupted because we had to take a group picture so that score can't be counted officially (which sucks). I'll have to take the test again in October and hope I can score the same.

Now we're about to start school--our last two months of teaching. I'm sure it'll go faster than i anticipate and I'll be seeing all of you before I know it. until then, enjoy your lives--that's what they're for.


P.S. My (our) thoughts are with Greg and his family during this difficult time. RIP Rodney Milholland (1978-2007).

30 August 2007

Larry "Best Hair" Lawson

At our COS conference this past week, Larry won "Best Hair" among all PC Ukraine Group 29ers. The competition was fierce, but you can see from the photos, that the best man won. Perhaps those of you living outside of Ukraine might not think this style is "modern" or "cool," but trust me that more than one local approached Larry during his mullet-mohawk transformation week to compliment his "modny stil" with genuine intentions.