05 December 2005

December in Ukraine

Trouble accessing email today, so I will try here.

We had a great Ukrainian lesson today. Lots of talking, not too much conjugating or figuring out what cases to use. This language is amazingly complicated, which makes it beautiful yet frustrating at times.

Have been meaning to mention that they use abacuses (?) here! You remember, those little metal rods with different color beads that you move up or down to count things. Every time I buy an international stamp at the P.O. the woman uses an abacus to add my 3,30 to 3,30, and it always comes out right!

They also use "real" brooms. Not those plastic things we have, actual branches from a once-living thing all tied together. They work really well too. We've been using one to wipe the snow off our shoes before entering the house.

The snow melted last week during our "head wave" (haha), I think it got up to 10 degrees C. This morning it was 1 degree (plus) and I thought it wasn't so cold. Imagine that. It snowed again a few nights ago, but now it's mostly slush. I'm getting better at walking on it, though we're all destined to fall eventually.

Headed home to study and plan our community event. We will hold an "English Teachers Appreciation Night" on Wednesday and invite local teachers from different schools. It's a chance to share ideas and get them together to chat. Then Friday L and I are teaching a seminar on how adapt an old-fashioned textbook and make it more communicative. Should be a productive, yet super busy, week.

Hope you are all well and staying warm. We think of you often, especially now that it's becoming holiday time.

Big hugs!

02 December 2005

peace corps ukraine rocks

PC Ukraine does an amazing job of taking care of its volunteers. So to all our friends and family, please know that we are in good hands--and know that the writing has been sparse lately because we've been SUPER DUPER busy!

Three weeks til swearing in!

--Staying warm in Ukraine: LL & KH

08 November 2005

site announcement

We are assigned to a city in the Rivnenska Oblast.

Near Belarus.

The city started life as a train station.

I'll be teaching at two sites, a Lyceum or Economics and Law and a Collegium. I'll be teaching English, Business English, and US History (if nothing changes, which is impossible). Karen will be teaching at a pedagogical college.

We leave for our site visit tomorrow.

07 November 2005

Monday in Kyiv

Little did we know, today is a special day in Kyiv. We passed by hundreds of demonstrators in the center, and our driver had to take a very long detour. More on that in email (perhaps).

We are in Kyiv for one day, to find out where they will send of for the next two years. If it were up to me, I would have us stay exactly where we are in P-town. Our host family is incredible, and we are learning our way around town. This morning as we were leaving to catch the 7:15am marshrutka, babusya told us that she has gotten used to having us around the house and she feels pity that we will leave. We assured her we would return in 2 weeks after our site visit, but it was so kind of her to tell us that. We even got a hug from our host mother when we left. It was the first for each of us.

I have been getting your letters and emails. Thank you. Dyakuyu. It is so nice to hear news from home.

We might be sent to a place with internet, or we might be sent to a place with outhouses and no hot water, so you may not hear from us for 2 weeks but please don't worry. We are healthy and happy.

Speaking of hot water...the other night when I went to take a shower (we have to sit down in the tub, but it's closer to a shower than a bath cause you have to wash with the trickle of water that comes out of the spout) I turned the hot water heater up too high, and the water actually began to boil in the pipes. I knew I had done something wrong, but I wasn't sure what to do about it. Babusya came over and turned off the hot water entirely, so at first it was freezing, then hot again, then freezing, and you get the idea. I opted not to shampoo my hair, in case the water was too hot to rinse it out. Hehe...maybe too much information, but you can appreciate the small differences (luxuries) of being home.

All our love. xoxoo


10 cents to ride the metro to Kyiv.
A million dollars worth of stories.

30 October 2005

voda or vodu

In about six days or so we head towards the capital to discover where our permanent site will be. We will stay with our future host family for a week and then come back for some technical sessions. I am hoping beyond hope to go to a place in Ukraine whee I can make full use of the Ukrainian language. You can read into that how you will.
In other news, it is nice to receive letters from friends and family back home. I haven't heard from my family yet, but I am hoping their words are on the way. We've heard from some friends of ours from school; it is so nice to keep in contact with what is going on back in the States.
The language here is picking up. When I first got here, I walked into a shop hoping for a pencil and some tissue. I walked out with a pen and some beer. There days, I more or less get what I want if the shop attendant can understand my jumbled words. Yesterday I bought some slipper and journals. One journal was an adventure as the shop keeper dug through her pile until she could find the right one for me. I stuck it in my bag and didn't look at it really close until I got home. There I found that I had an American Chopper journal, replete with Paul Sr. My uncle would be so proud.  In case you don't know, there is only one self serve shop where I live.  Everywhere else, you have to ask for what you want. It turns each trip for bread or toilet paper into a life or death task. It was really hard when I had zero/nul/NONE of the language, but it was a great way to practice the language.  I didn't realize how badly I could fuck up asking for water in a second language, but with all the cases in Ukrainian, one sentence can vary about 70 different ways. Voda or vodu or whatever ever else it can be.
That as it is, the days of death are fewer these days.
Wishing you love from Ukraine.

23 October 2005

blood in ukraine

They tell us that Ukraine will seem the same, but you'll eventually find the differences. It's like a picture puzzle in the newspaper, sectioned off near the jumble and the crossword puzzle, where you have to find the five differences between the two pictures. Between the US and Ukraine. Yesterday, I began to find the differences.
On the train from I to P, three fisherman boarded. They sat down next to this girl who asked them, I think, to leave. They did not. They were sitting directly across the aisle from me. They began to attack her with questions. Then, eventually, to make a long, long story short, the men started to fight with each other. By the end, the one nearest the window wound up with a bloody nose.
The first difference: no one stood up to break it up; no one really noticed.

19 October 2005


When I was a Freshman, a Sophomore in college, I studied. Don't get me wrong. I read a lot. I also, however, played a little game called Counter-Strike. After many months of long nights eliminating the terrorist scum, I gave up my drug and studied more earnestly. As a result, my grades went up.

Every now and again, home in FOrtuna, I play CS with my cousin. He still plays, now that he's a freshman in college. Once I boarded the plane for Ukraine, I knew that part of my life was behind me.


Every internet cafe I go into, regardless of time of day, there are little boys playing CS. I see the drug working its magic. I see the addiction.

I also see that these kids have some 1337 skills. R0}{oR and all that.

It's strange for me to see. Ukraine is in such a transition. Counterstrike along side of babucyas selling sunflower seeds on the street. Old brick buildings falling down on the main street while new, modern buildings get put up on secluded side streets.

It is an experience I find hard to depict.

18 October 2005

poor kids

When we first arrived, our host mother introduced us to babusya T and she said "poor kids."

So far I disagree. This place is really growing on me.

Went to church with our host family on Sunday. Stood in a line while people lit candles and the main guy sang and swung an incense ball. Then went to a huge bazaar that reminded me of a super-crowded swap meet. Met our host father's sister and her husband. When he heard we were from CA, he asked what we grow there. I'll have to learn that in Ukrainian.

We're studying food now, so I can finally say, NO REALLY, I'M FULL! Every time I serve myself, they say "Malo!" which to me means bad (Spanish), but they're saying I'm not serving myself enough. They worry every time I sneeze, but I try to convince them for me it's normal.

My body feels especially healthy here, and my spirits are high.

We look forward to hearing from you.

15 October 2005

Week 2

So we've begun to get a routine, but are still adjusting to our new life.

This morning we woke up around 7 and ate breakfast with our host mother L. We had oats and a Kix-like cereal covered in yogurt. Tasty. We've finally convinced them that we don't need greasy, meaty heaps in the morning. We dressed and met the fellow married couple volunteers (who live across the street) to walk to our language instructor's home together. We stopped at the bazaar to buy some snacks, and I got some peppermint tea.

We spend about 5-6 hrs per day studied language, and it's coming slowly. Larry is nearly putting together correctly-conjugated sentences but I'm still pointing and naming words. It will be a long process, but we're determined. We remind ourselves it's only been a week.

The food continues to be tasty, and our host family so kind. We wash our shoes in the bathroom sink when we get home because they are muddy. I am perpetually asked if I am cold, while Larry is scoffed at if he wears a hat.

More soon. We love hearing from you.


10 October 2005


Met with the mayor of P-town today. He is a very nice man....
Observing my first class tomorrow. Karen is too. Then we start teaching soon.

Very soon.

08 October 2005

alive in Ukraine


30 September 2005

Day 1 of Staging

We arrived in Chicago with no problems. Larry even got up and walked up and down the aisle on the plane. There was crazy rush hour traffic when we arrived, so it took nearly 2 hours to get to the hotel, but some deep-dish Chicago pizza was waiting.

We've checked in and begun our paperwork. In a few minutes we're meeting with half the group (58 people) in one of our hotel's meeting rooms. Most people we've met seem really nice; a lot of Californians.

After our free breakfast this morning we went in the jacuzzi. That felt great on my legs, tired from a long travel day yesterday. Trying to appreciate all the amenities that will soon be luxurious or maybe even impossibilities.

More soon.


aqui en chicago

Supposed to be in training. Filling out forms and what not. just realized we needed some different loan forms, so we snuck away.
Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.
Everything is going great in Chi town so far.
Mas despues.

28 September 2005


I'd take a picture, but a picture doesn't do it any justice. Standing in the kitchen, booting the scale, balancing ourselves on the balls of our feet so we can read the red, digital numbers.

I've got one bag at 46 lbs. Karen's got one at 46 lbs as well.

We're each allowed one more at 50 lbs, but our second bags are small duffels and only weigh 20-25 lbs.

Off to Chicago tomorrow. All the goodbyes almost behind us, though they get no easier--no matter what we say. I've been waiting years to say this:


If I can't get to the blog again for a while, remember 16 October 2005. That's the day you can go to Perigee-art.com and read the first installment of my quarterly on my PC experience.
Save the date!

27 September 2005

tres dias mas

I said last night at dinner that it seems as though we're on vacation here in SD. It seems like we'll be returning to our regular lives and routines once we leave.
That, however, is not the case. No more regular life for a while.
Three days.

23 September 2005

blood in disneyland

First full day down in SD.  We went to Disneyland yesterday. I had so much fun there, but I imagine I'm the only one to ever draw blood on the Tarzan Treehouse (formerly the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse) in the history of Disneyland. That was a fun one to explain to first aid.
Because we went on a Thursday, ther were hardly any lines. We just walked into Space Mountain (twice), Indiana Jones (twice), and only had to wait 20 minutes for Splash Mountain. Man, I had a fun time.
Today we're going to try to organize all of our crap while we have a free day.  We don't want to take away from hanging out time in order to get packed and stuff, so we are going to do it today while everyone else has lives to live.

21 September 2005

not relevant, but noteworthy

So we're moving. Dust and boxes and cashish. But that doesn't matter.  Check this out.

Karen's done with the golf course. No more putting up with rich people bs. No more grilling up some cheese sandwiches. No more manufacturing tuna salad--which, I might add, she never made for me. It's over. Done.

But before the end, she received a gift from her work. She won it at a company picnic she never went to. Have I ever mentioned how much she hated that job?

Anyway, what she won was a $50 gift certificate to Sticks, a restaurant at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach--the same inn we stayed a for our honeymoon. We made a reservation a few weeks ago for tonight, and tonight we went made our grand appearance.

So we sit down at this table in the corner. There's windows on all sides. As we eat--other than watching the Giants trounce the Nationals (this ritzy place had a sports bar theme--just substitute golf and other bs old people sports for real sports)--we can watch the Pacific smash into the Monterey Bay coastline. This scene was the same view we had nine months ago when we woke up, rose petals plastered all over our bodies--in our ginormous suite. I don't like many rich people, or the lives that they lead, but this place was okay with me for one night.

Our waiter comes over, and we hand him our gift certificate. He asks us if we know what the certificate entails. Of course we say no.  So he tells us we get two appetizers, two salads, two entrees, and two desserts. All drinks, except alcohol, are covered too.

Here's the dinner breakdown:

Karen orders mozzarella sticks ; I order calamari. $20 total

I order salad. $7 total

Karen orders a bacon hamburger; I order new york steak. $37 total

Karen orders a sweet ass chocolate chip cookie thing; I order cheesecake. $16 total

I also ordered a glass of Morgan 12 clone Pinot--the very same we celebrated my first place, prize-winning short story with. $9 total

Bill: $9 total (+ the fat tip we left)

Freaking, freaking, freaking sweet.

It was a pretty amazing experience to have as the one last big one we'll have of this area. I'm thankful for it.

Tomorrow, we're out of Monterey for a coupla years.

17 September 2005

sonic boom for my brother

In Berkeley. We're in that part of the calendar that sees us in SF for the final time.  Last night, we were in Daly City with all of our friends.  We bowled.
My brother and my nephew made it out early in the day, so we hung out with them and our friend Ken most of the day. Video games and comida mexicana. Then we went to the bowling alley around 9 pm. Everyone, except us, was a little late--Greg was late because he was recording the song he wrote and played for the first dance at our wedding in January, so we can have it on our iPod. (It's a good song; ask us to listen to it on the plane.) Aw we were early, we ordered some bowling food.  My brother and I played Street Fighter II Turbo in the arcade. I kicked his ass; no one mess with my Guile.
Yep. It was bad-ass.
We haven't played video games together since we were 15.
Bowling, Ken got over 200. The rest of us, we were fighting to get over 100. Out of two games, I accomplished that once. We yelled and drank and threw balls around until midnight. So fun.
Off to Golden Gate Park for a Peace Corps festival. I think we're meeting a chick from UA 29 there today. Greg and my brother and nephew are coming too. Should be fun. Then Thai food tonight. Albatross afterwards--a bar where you can check out board games.
More later!

14 September 2005

Reality Check

It's starting to set in.

15 days!
2 weeks from tomorrow we'll be on a plane to Chicago.

I finished my last shift at Quail today...thank goodness. That's one thing I won't miss about our life here. Although driving into Carmel Valley in the morning, clear sunshine in stark contrast to Monterey's fog, can be breathtaking.

We bought an iPod (yay!) and are busy getting our music onto it. The "shuffle" mode is very interesting...as Larry's music and mine can be pretty humorous together. Not unlike us at times. I just had Nirvana, followed by Weezer, then Garth Brooks, Greg Milholland, Rod Stewart, and now Lauryn Hill (phew).

We'll be out of our apartment in one week. Wow. But we're doing good, packing a bit each day...and I think it will all fit in my car. Let's hope, cause there's really no other choice. Larry donated his backpack to "We've got your back" that gives school supplies to Katrina victims. We've given more than half our clothes to Goodwill so far. Most of our furniture will sell for $5 - $10, and the rest of it will get put on the street with a "FREE" sign.

I feel like my mode is on fast forward. Soon we'll have said all our goodbyes and will be looking back from the other side of the bowling ball.

The iPod just went from Blink-182 (from Poway, like me) to Ben Harper (from Claremont, where I went to college). It's magically charting my forward progress. Luckily, Larry's music tastes and mine intersect somewhere in musicland around Dave Matthews and Ricardo Arjona. For now we are content with the shuffle mode, but I'm certain we will be longing to hit "Pause" soon enough.

13 September 2005


Not only do you get some hot little arse shots of my cousin and I, you get to see one piece of the washers board. I'm in the throwing position. My cousin is waiting to the side, about to be beaten. Pure ownage captured on film.

Greg was my teammate and, despite him, we pulled into the winner's circle in a best of three series.

For the game, there are two boxes--I'm standing on one in this picture--connected by a length of chain. In each box are cut three four-inch (I think) diameter holes. Into these holes you--and your opponent at the other side-- toss three three-inch diameter (I think) washers. First to 21 without going over (holes are worth one, three, and five points in the order of how far away they are from you) wins. Each person has a partner standing at the other box ready to do the same thing. Last scoring team from the previous round throws first. The other team has a chance to cover your washer and steal your points. If building the boxes sucks, you can always dig holes in the ground [probably what I'll do in Ukraine when I have washers club after school--don't doubt me!].

I win sometimes; I'm really good at games that go to 21.

Really good.

11 September 2005

grey days

The grey ghost is gone.


I've hit the place in my life where I've sold my first car.

I kept the memories though; I pulled them out of the glove box at the last second.

Barstow. Vegas. St Paul. Omaha. Fortuna. Missoula. Reno. Riverside. Los Angeles. Rohnert Park. Life.

le sigh

08 September 2005

laundry list

Right now, I've been assigned the task of cleaning the house. Ridding it of clutter. Piling up the stuff to sell; readying the pile to pack.

Right now, I'm ripping CDs for the (one day to be purcahsed) iPod.

Karen and I spent the last week (Wed-Wed) travelling up and back to my family's places in Humboldt. It was a good time where I was able to spend quality time with everyone. It was normal. None of that we-know-this-is-the-end-and-we're-going-to-act-like-it stuff. It's nice to have the goodbye be more of a hanging out. My family threw a bye-bye/b-day party for us on Labor Day. It was nice to see everyone together. Having fun. Drinking beer. Playing washers.

The final final adios was okay. I didn't tear up til we were 20 miles south. Those first 30 miles were tough; I'd never wanted to turn a car north so badly.

Stayed at Steve's in Rohnert Park for the night. Hung out, had some good food, good spa.

Back to Monterey yesterday and work. Only a few more sessions of that, most of them small on the planning side. Finally got a paycheck for that job, so I'm in a better mood. Should be getting another check soon.

Saturday is my Bday; next Saturday is our party in the Bay.

Perigee piece is due Saturday.

Thirteen days til we're out of Monterey for good.

Lots and lots to do.

01 September 2005


Money ain't nothin' but paper, but sometimes it can do good.
Please, do good.

31 August 2005


And the countdown reaches 1 month.

It's my turn to weigh in. DING (the bell)! Just so you all know that Larry's not the only one getting excited.

I've bought some boots from LL Bean. They should arrive soon. They seem warm and comfy, but we'll see.

We're on the first leg of the Bon Voyage Tour, to Joy and Odette's tonight and then heading up to see Larry's family tomorrow. It will be our first big goodbye. The Going Away party should be fun though. Greg and Anne will be there, along with George and Donna. Hooray! Hopefully I won't be too allergic to Foxy.

Things that I'm getting most excited about:
1) Having my first conversation in my (soon-to-be) 3rd language
2) Salty bread at the welcome ceremony
3) Learning customs and superstitions
4) Being cold (that will last about 5 minutes)
5) Receiving mail from the U.S!
6) Meeting adventurous new friends

Time for Joy to make us some dinner....mmmm!

30 August 2005

passin go and collectin two bills

Dental clearance!

No more holds!

I'm rich, biatch!

29 August 2005


In 1967, Robert F. Kennedy, in the course of a campaign speech, said the following about measuring value:

"Our gross national product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but that GNP - if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder to chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and speck's knife and the television programs, which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children."

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, nor the quality of their education, or the joy of their play - it does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages or the intelligence of our public debate. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans."

28 August 2005


Back from Yosemite. What an amazing trip. We climbed to the top of Vernal Falls, the Sentinel Dome, and went down to the base of Yosemite Falls. We also stayed up late one night and went to a star show in the valley. We camped in the North Pines grounds, so we had a good view of Half Dome for almost all of our trip. It had been two years since I'd been to Yosemite. Oh how I missed it.



Trying to sell the Nova. not having so much luck so far. Maybe soon? Headed up to HumCo again on Thursday. Would really like to have it sold by then.

Having a going away party at my parent's house on Labor Day. Friends and family and beer and washers--If you don't know how to play washers, I'll show you if we meet in Ukr. What more could one want?

Just realized today--don't know why I didn't notice sooner--that our anniversary date is the same number as our Ukraine group.



Also, my Mom's 48th falls on the day of our swearing in. My last day as a Peace Corps volunteer--bar injury--will land on her 50th.

What a present for her!

Lastly, writing that piece for Perigee is harder than I thought. It's been a while since I've picked up a pen with any real intent, so the doubt--Lamott's "KFKD"--blaring at 10 in my head.

Bah...more planning for class to do.

25 August 2005


It's so close, but I'm finding that I'm giving it relatively little attention.

Too busy travelling and working, but I know it's creeping up.

In fact, I think I'm aware of it enough to know that I'm probably avoiding looking at that little countdown clock in the corner.

Off to my favorite place on Earth tomorrow with my favorite person on Earth (sorry Justin): Yosemite & Karen.

19 August 2005


FedExed the confirmation of completed crown and filling work.

Ready to get dentally cleared a second time.

That or scream a lot--right here.

Stay tuned. Same bat-time, yadda yadda.

let's do the time warp again

Just for the record, I can't even believe it's 18 August.
This month has freakin' flown.
Home in HumCo getting the crown on my right middle molar. Then it'll be back to Monterey.
Monday, I get to see my beautiful wife again.
That Friday: Yosemite.
The following Wednesday: back to HumCo.
September will be here before I know it; I'll be 24 before I can adequately reflect on being 23.  Then we'll be gone.
It still seems like so far away, though I know it isn't.
I'm getting to the point where I wish i could do the time warp dance and slow the clock down. I'm really going to miss everyone.
le sigh....

17 August 2005

do meni

So, Gmail just added the ability to switch all of the text (except for email text) into Ukrainian.

I don't think you needed any further proof of how amped (or sad or nerdy) I am to be learning a new language, but there you go.

15 August 2005

it's my birthday...early!

Such good news today.

First, I flew back from SD this morn'. Saw the in-law folken and all that. I had a good time, though for one of the days I was pretty silent--something I'm usually not. Usually I open mouth and think of things later; there, I think a long time before I say anything. I guess I'm afraid of saying the wrong thing--dunno why.  I love her 'rents.  Anyway, I'm not used to thinking so hard when I speak, so I usually say nothing. Not good with 46 days left. Next trip, I'll talk--all else be damned.

Next, Jocelyn, this girl from our group, turns out I've met her before.  She worked for Concordia Language Villages the same year I did--check me out in this CLV video http://clvweb.cord.edu/prweb/english/video/elv_lg.mov (high-bandwidth only); I'm the sexy red-head with the crappy guitar. She was with the Russian village we trained with. Small f'in world.

Further, Perigee wrote back.  The text of their letter:

Dear Lawrence,

Thanks for thinking of Perigee as a venue for your non-fiction, and for your proposal. After some discussion, all the editors agree this sounds like a viable recurring contribution to Perigee. More than that, something which will interest our readers.

So we are interested in taking this to the next level--and if all goes well, establishing your Peace Corps writings as a regular part of Perigee--under the understanding that Perigee reserves the right to edit the work (we would communicate with you during this process) and even to decline it. This will be particularly true with the first "installment."

Keep in mind that we have found prose longer than 3,500 words to be difficult to present in an online fashion; this word limit is flexible (for you), but we suggest you consider it.

The editors normally meet three to four weeks before an issue is released. We would need to have your writing in our hands prior to this meeting. The time frame of deadlines would therefore be September 15th, December 15th, March 15th, and June 15th.

If all of this sounds reasonable to you, let me know so we can look forward to receiving your first installment.

And congratulations on embarking on this new and exciting journey!

Kind Regards,

Robert Judge Woerheide

Perigee Editor in Chief



Jesus jumping Christmas, such a day!

Lastly, they've just released Gmail in Ukrainian. It's all Cyrillic on my screen.

I know, I can't read it very well yet....


11 August 2005

class, class, and lonely planet

Overstock.com has the new Lonely Planet Ukraine guide on the cheap. It's a really good guide; probably the best one I've read. Or maybe the only one I've read--I never really "read" the others, just used them as a, surprise, guide.

Ukrainian is coming along nicely. My students at the DLI say I'm in a good position to remember the new language simply because I am younger than they are. They like to bring my age up at least once a week. Doesn't bother me cuz the class is going fantastically.

My ESL class up near Santa Cruz ends tomorrow. Graduation and tears. These girls make up the best class I've ever had.


We had a portfolio party today--Peter S. would have been so proud. All eight students got to show off the work they've done during the summer semester. I am so proud of them.

Tomorrow: CinderReiLa--a play of Cinderella starring Rei and the rest of the class.

Back to PC, we received a list of Ukraine 29 email addresses today. There's something like 109 people signed up and ready to go to Ukraine with us.

The group is making to be the biggest in PC history.

Still waiting to hear from Perigee about doing a quarterly non-fiction piece for them about my experiences in Ukraine.

The fingers are slammed together, hoping they say yes.

50 days left!

08 August 2005

independent since 1981

Reading a new blog Karen pointing me toward, I tripped over these lines:

"I must be like a turtle- and not be afraid to wave my legs wildly if I flip over! This is hard for us independent Americans who would like to feel that we are strong enough to handle things on our own."

I never really thought that the American tendency towards independence--which I most certainly embody in every way I can think of--would be tested in Ukraine. I guess with all the advice, the packing lists, the preparations, and the history, I never really stopped to think about how a key--and well loved--piece of my personality might affect my cross-cultural experience.


07 August 2005

no definite article

I read an article about Ukraine from my daily Google alert.

It was all about the Ukraine.




Soviet era behind us, the collective American conscience still clings to the definite article.

I tried to write a letter to the editor of that newspaper, but it bounced back. Apparently, they dislike constructive criticism.

In other news, Karen had completed her last teaching job before we hit the Peace Corps. I'm still working on both of mine, but my biggest ends on Friday. Once Friday is done, we're headed to San Diego to see the family. Then the weekends we sat down and planned for six weeks ago start hitting. Between visiting nearly everyone we know, buying stuff for Ukraine, selling everything else we own, and packing we'll be just as busy as we've been over the past five weeks.

Only this time, with more fun.

Not that teaching isn't fun.

But fun is funner or, as Karen says, "More fun."

02 August 2005

lemme tell you about some bs

In case you hear in the news that the law that allows military personnel to serve in the Peace Corps was unknown to the entire Peace Corps organization, I just want you to know that that line is



Karen and I knew about this deal over two months ago, and we aren't privy to information PC brass like Vasquez isn't. We're the peons entering this goddamned organization, remember?

Military in the Peace Corps makes Karen and I LESS SAFE.

And I'm not just saying this cuz I'm not a fan of the president of the USA.

Host country nationals already suspect PC volunteers as military or intelligence operatives. This action makes it worse.

Join with me; write your senator. Tell them that Peace Corps needs to maintain the seperation from the military and intelligence communities that Kennedy intended when he created the Peace Corps.

Here's the links:

To listen to the news report: http://marketplace.publicradio.org

To read the news report: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/01/AR2005080101310.html

Locate contact info for your congressional rep:

For your Senator:

I don't usually implore people to run with my politics, but I am now.

Write and help keep us safe.

01 August 2005

Enchantment of the World

I've picked up a great book called "Ukraine: Enchantment of the World." It's aimed at teens, but much more my style than the long, dry history books Larry goes after. This book has pictures and everything!

Some things I've learned so far from my new book:

-CDs and ice cream cones are much cheaper in Ukraine than the U.S. (except for maybe in Kiev)
-About 20% of Ukrainians work on farms
-Their major crop is sugar beets, with potatoes and wheat close behind
-Ukraine is the largest European country, slightly larger than France
-Ukraine's name comes from the Slavic word okraina, meaning "borderland"
-People have lived in Ukraine for about 150,000 years
-Ukraine has 24 regions called oblasts and one autonomous republic (Crimea)
-Soccer is the national sport of Ukraine, its first match was in 1894
-Ukrainian weddings can last 3 or more days
-Ukraine celebrates International Women's Day in March
-Average temperature extremes: 18 degrees F in January, 77 degrees F in July

Larry and I try to study some Ukrainian in the evenings. We've both got the alphabet down, and are learning greetings and emergency words. The pronunciation can be tricky, especially the backwards "N" sound.

Happy studying! About 2 months left!

30 July 2005

45 rpm, slow speed

First, I can't believe it's still July. Jesus, this has to be the longest month of the year. Someone once wrote to me and said that, in Ukraine, I'll understand what, "The days seem like months and the months seem like days," means. I think I've begun my understanding of that phrase. Work has made the weeks fly by, but each day seems like an eon. I haven't figured out if it's the wait for Peace Corps that has made this month crawl or if it's really just God dragging his finger along the July 2005 vinyl, eking out a few extras tones on his stereo.

Bah. In one month, I'll be saying, "Jesus, I can't believe August is already over!" Just you wait.

In other news, Karen and I met with a fellow from Ukraine 28 (back in the states for a few months because of some needed hearing aids) at the Mucky Duck--Karen hates that place, but you sure as hell can't beat the Happy Hour there. We met for a snack and some drinks. I purchased two Sierras right off the bat, one for each of the following reasons: (1) we knew it'd be a long talk and (2) Happy Hour ended at seven pm and we had arrived at 6:45pm.

So we talked [...] almost the entire time, which was fine with me considering I was excited to hear anything about Ukraine. Karen, I believe, tuned out. There was sports (and this really great sports show) on the tele.

This fellow did tell us that we wouldn't see Kyiv--except for the bits from the plane and in the airport--for about three weeks. So, we must find a phone card and call home from somewhere other than the capitol.

Next, we learned that fish and radishes are high on the Ukrainian food ladder. I hate radishes. Karen hates fish. Guess we'll be getting over that.

We also learned that it was a good idea to buy a cell phone once we got to Kyiv. Never thought I'd have a cell phone in Peace Corps. Outgoing calls to the US are ridiculously priced, he said, but incoming is free...for us. Also, if we have one with text messaging, we could text around Ukraine and to the US. The phones, he says, have English and Ukrainian characters. Once we get there, we'll see if this cell phone business is really necessary.


Next day (yesterday), we met with our PC advisor at MIIS. She laid out our class schedule for when we return from PC. If we start as soon as we can, we'll begin classes about three weeks after PC ends. I don't like that idea, but we may be ready to get it over with by then. If so, Karen's got a large load the first semester--if she decides to stick with the LPA biz. We shall see.

In other news, I want to take the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR) some time while I am in Eastern Europe. I'd take it from Moscow and ride it all the way to Beijing. Lofty, maybe. Exciting, yes. Right now, though, that's my big plan. Want to read about it? http://www.hostels.ru/

That's all for now. Just getting a little more involved with PC again. Finishing my dental in 21 days. By then, August will be halfway over.

By then, it'll seem like today was only yesterday.

[...] [At the behest of my wife, I've edited some comments].

26 July 2005


Time is flying. I've still been checking our Yahoo groups and reading the pre-service training CD that Peace Corps sent, but I devote much less time each day to thinking and learning about Ukraine. We are so busy teaching, and it's hard to believe it's already almost August.


The countdown ticker seems to have sped up. I imagine soon I'll get the urge to slam on the brakes. September used to seem so far off. We've filled up our time left in the States, scheduled our weekends nearly full. The best advice I've read from current or past volunteers is to spend time with your friends and family, eat your favorite foods, and relax. No matter how much of this difficult language I learn, I will feel lost at first. No matter how much macaroni and cheese I eat, I will miss it. No matter how many emails or postcards I send, my family and friends will be far.

So I try to enjoy each day and not think about how quickly the countdown is moving. It will soon be time to pack and say goodbye. And I will.

20 July 2005

so true

From Peace Corps 2:

illipse <> wrote:
"this is a dumb question, but when you arrive in country, does the PC
have anything arranged so you can call your family and let them know
you arrived safely? Do they let you use their phones? Or do you have
to hunt down a phone card and some free time and do it on your own?"


Free time, do it on you your own and on your own dime.

Remember, they certainly would let you family know if you DIDN'T arrive safely!"

If we don't arrive, Peace Corps will be calling you. If you do not hear from us or from Peace Corps, please rest assured that everything is probably fine. My mom doesn't read this, but other important people do. So keep this in mind. I'll be repeating as the days tick away!

No call, no worry.

Call (and it isn't me), worry.

17 July 2005


Hope you didn't take the bet, cause Larry was right (like usual).

We're going to arrive in Chicago on September 30th, to begin staging. Unfortunately both the Cubs and White Sox will be on the road. But we probably wouldn't have had much time, between shots and paperwork, to catch a game anyway.

Approaching the 2 months left mark....

14 July 2005

rediculously shameless

I took first place in a pretty cool fiction contest. They also pub'd two of my poems.

The issue goes live manana.

Check 'em out if you can deal with vulgar language, crude sexual situations, and thoughts you'd (not) expect to come from my mind (if you know me).


P.S. If you're my mother-in-law, I hearby take leave of my (Karen's?) senses and invite you to read. I'd like to share this part of my life with you. I sincerely apologize in advance.

13 July 2005

a lull

The roller coaster analogy could not be any more perfect for how Larry and I have been feeling toward Peace Corps for the past month or so. It definitely applied during the application process, with the frustration and waiting and excitement and the unknown all mushed together.

The days when he was staying up late reading every line of new information he could find about Ukraine have slowed, or perhaps I should say, completelly disappeared for now.

I feel pretty positive about the fact that we WILL go, and that they WON'T find some random, illogical reason that we shouldn't end up there.

Peace Corps has sent language practice materials to other volunteers in our group, so perhaps in a few days we'll know if we're learning Russian or Ukrainian. I assume we'll learn both eventually, but we will know which to focus on more intently at first.

We take turns feeling excited and pessimistic. We take turns not really wanting to think about it. We take turns asking each other what we can't live without when we go, and what we'll miss.

For now, our teaching consumes us. I am learning valuable knowledge every day that you cannot learn from books or even from being told. I'm learning through doing, through messing up. I'm learning to teach young people who may not be too different from my students in Ukraine.

And we continue to ride the ride, get off and wait in line, and ride it again. Right now I'm on the ride and Larry's in line watching. Soon, I know, we'll be on it together.

06 July 2005

much to do

So many classes to plan for.

So little hours in the day.

Little time to think of Ukraine at present.




03 July 2005


I bet you $1 I know where we're going to staging.

From last year's PC send-off list for all countries:

Eastern Europe


Departure Season:




Departure Month:

Staging City:

Leave a comment taking my bet. If I'm wrong, I'll send you $1.

If I'm right, you owe me. :D

01 July 2005

ukrainian blood cells

Andrew Wilson (note new sidebar: Currently reading) notes that an eleventh century text from somewhere on Earth refers to descendants of Ukrainians, "as a people 'feasted to fulfillment on the sweetness of books'."

As a bibliophile--one who is currently selling/giving away/donating his stock in preparation for a big move to the other side of the world--and an avid, avid, avid reader, I find that I must have some Ukrainian in me.

It's just so obvious.

29 June 2005


Quick post.

Karen and I learned how to read and write three words in Ukrainian today.

They are (in no particular order):

This/that/these/those (apparently the same word)
Post Office

I'd write them here for you but there's no cyrillic text here.


Time for bed.

28 June 2005

dobryy den

[This post is my first official remote post. No need to log into blogger. We'll see how it goes.]

Karen and I held our first first joint Ukrainian language study session tonight. I sat on the corner of the bed, staring out the window and onto the neighbors. She sat at the computer. We practiced how to pronounce each of the letter in the Ukrainian cyrillic alphabet. Some went better than others. The ones that look like roman script letters make sense. A "T" is a "T," a "i" is an "i," and so on. I can even handle the boxy looking "D" and the theta-looking character.

It's the backwards god damn "N" that gets me. My Lonely Planet Ukrainian phrasebook--thanks Melissa for that gem--says it is pronounced like the "i" in "birch." Now, I don't know about you, but I can't isolate that "i" sound in
"birch." I go right from the "b" to the "r" sound. I don't even think there is a "i" sound in that word. If you can give me a better example about what the backwards "N"--and the backwards "N" wiith the ~ over it--actually sound like, please leave a comment here.

It's driving me--us--crazy.


Whenever I learn anything, I tend to write everything down. Anything new in Spanish, I've have to write it down. Otherwise, I'd lose it. Gone with the wind and all that.

This studying of Ukrainian is a little different. I haven't really sat down and studied--today being the first day. I've been looking at this Let's Go Eastern Europe book (thanks Jan) and reading through the transliterations. From that reading, I've picked up many of the cyrillic letters. I've absorbed them. Tonight, when I really started to look at them, I found I could already read half of them. I think Karen already knows nearly all of them. By the time we go to staging, we'll hopefully have all the letters and sounds down pat. Maybe even a few phrases.

Karen and I learned a few phrases tonight. The one I remember best is the subject of this post.

It means good day.

Dobryy den.

I'm still working on "good night."


I'm back on Ukraine information overload, and I think it's driving Karen nuts. During breakfast, I was on the PC researching.

Ditto for lunch.

At dinner, I printed out Mark Pulver's journal from www.pulverpages.com and read parts of it. She was less than pleased and asked if I could stop reading at the table.

She grew up were people talked at the dinner table.

I grew up with a TV on the dinner table.

You can see our difficulty.


She sleeps now.

I study.

i'm not even mad this time


I received a letter from dental yesterday saying I was cleared, even though my dentist recommended a filling and a crown. As this was extremely strange, I called OMS (Office of Medical Services) and talked to Danielle (dental asst.). She forwarded me to the dentist, who was a hoot. He flavors his language with a lot of the same words I use!

Long story short: I'm on dental hold again. Gotta get those teeth fixed, which is what I assumed in the very first place.

I'm just glad I called now. I'm glad I'm proactive. I'm glad I didn't procrastinate because:

If I didn't call, I would have got to staging and not been allowed to go to Ukraine.

Because they review dental one final time.

Because they would have seen my dental needs.

Because, as the dentist said today, "How the hell did you get cleared?"

Because they would have made me get the crown.

Because you can't get a crown in three days.

So, off to the dentists in two weeks. And then in five weeks.

26 June 2005

11:23 pm

Again, Karen sleeps softly to my left.

Been reading for a few hours on the Peace Corps 2 Yahoo group. I thought we had it bad. Jesus, despite the waiting, we have it good. Just the damn waiting. But, teacher training at DLI plus the other teaching jobs we have will make it go by faster.

We pulled out our date books today and really planned out where we are going to be for the next three months. Lots of family time. Lots of teaching time. A trip to Yosemite too. Probably Disneyland and a trip to see the Padres lose to the Giants before it's all over and we're crying in the airport--men are allowed to cry. We're looking forward to it all.

In the meantime, I'm still here writing crazy stories (in my new one, this girl wears her boyfriend's face as a mask).

I'm still here.

Thinking about my packing situation.

Feeling Ukrainian dirt under my boots.


25 June 2005

a different sort of news

Ukraine 29 has been getting some invitees who were going to Uzbekistan. The official word from PC is that Uzbekistan would not renew visas and such, which I believed. Then I did a little reseach of my own.

From noughsaid.blogs.com (woman who was in Uzbekistan with PC during the situation):

"Peace Corps called earlier in the day to tell me that two Peace Corps staff were on their way to "check up on us." So I waited, read, napped, tried the phones, SMS's those I could, and waited. Finally, a call came through saying that despite the diplomatic plates on the vehicles and diplomatic passports, that they were not allowed to enter the city. Apparently, events had escalated while they were enroute and it was decided that we would be removed from the city as a precaution. Since two Andijon volunteers were already in Tashkent, and the other two lived outside the city limits, I was the only one to be removed from within the city. After getting through three city limits check-points, they could not get passed the last blockade to reach me. They tried other check-points without luck so I suggested that I walk out to the first check-point since it was only about 100 metres from my apartment building. I could sense that something was seriously wrong when we were walking towards each other only 50 meters apart and they still called me on the cell phone asking if I could see them walking towards me. As soon as the Peace Corps staff reached me, they flanked me on both sides until we got near the vehicles. Only then did I become aware that there had been shootings there just 30 minutes before. We then drove to pick up the two other volunteers who were outside of the city limits and drove to Ferghana City where we spent the night."

She's safe at home.

Here's the official word from PC regarding Uzbekistan's program suspension:

"Recently, the visas of 52 Peace Corps volunteers and the Peace Corps country director expired and were not renewed. Because the Peace Corps was unable to ensure proper documentation from the Uzbekistan government, the Peace Corps has determined it necessary to suspend its program."

Correlate much? I think not.

Man, Peace Corps blogs are interesting.

Interesting indeed.

24 June 2005

ever the (poor) student

...Technology. Instead of staying up by candle-light, lamp-light, or electric-light, my eyes remain teased open by the glow of the computer screen...

I'm back researching, learning, and learning. I've got a few more cyrillic characters down--when navigating the bbc.co.uk/ukrainian site, I recognised the word Ukraine and the word Radio. I'm back in bed with the laptop going after Karen's fell asleep. I'm back talking about Peace Corps again. After a long, long hiatus.

I called the Office of Medical Services about nine times today. No one picked up the phone in the dental office, and no one returned my calls. Le sigh. I have no idea what my account status means. Can they really not require me to have any more work done. That outcome seems pretty impossible. But they wouldn't clear me unless I had required work done. There must be some sort of mistake. (There I go witth he negativity again).

There's a lot of activity in our Yahoo group now, as people are starting to find out they are going to Ukraine. Apparently, the program in Uzbekistan has been suspended, so invitees who were going there are now going to Ukraine. We might meet up with a few of the invitees before we head to our staging city--wherever that will be.

Hope all is well in the not-obessessed-with-Ukraine-again world.

otra vez

I've no dental hold on my account.

I have no idea what that means, but I don't have a hold anymore.

20 June 2005

chasing pocket aces

Lately, I won a fiction writing contest. I won over a bill. Other than a nice bottle of Morgan 12 clone Pinot Noir I promised Karen we'd get if I were to succeed at my text-based endeavour, I splurged on a little online Texas Hold 'Em. Now, I'm not rich; I never bet more than I can afford to lose. So I haven't lost my head (or my ass). I've won a few and lost a few. Still riding my sum after five days of gaming with friends. The quickest way I've found to winning the money is patience--something Karen will say I lack, something I seemed to have gained in the PC process (and a lil TH'E). The quickest way to lose your electronic dollars is, in my humble opinion, to chase pocket aces.

QBD (quick break down): Two cards in TH'E are dealt to each player. Those two cards are called your pocket. Aces are the highest card. So, pocket aces are seen as a really good pocket set of cards. You probably know all of this from TV, however.

Anyway, everytime I chase those GDMFCS--here, I spare you the profanity--pocket aces, I lose. In a $5 buy-in single table tourney, you are given $1500 in chips in which to beat the table. Usually, to win, you want to hold onto those chips deep into the round, after all the newbs have lost their junk. And I usually fold.

But those pocket aces.


So I chase. I push in stacks of hundreds. I get two pair. Aces. Kings. The sweat's rollin'. The ticker's ticking skyward of 210 bpm. It's here that I meet the gambling addict, this blood-pumping, this nail-biting. If I didn't have self-control and a love of keeping my money....

Anyway, back to the dos A and the dos K. Good hand, as far as pairs go. But I'll be bronzed and put on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame if I don't get smoked by a runner on the turn or the river. Every GDMF time.

The feeling, the line right between knowing you have the victory in your hands and realizing you've lost almost all chance of winning your face back, well it sucks. The pit of your stomach, rotting and writhing. Your eyeballs squinting, unbelieving. Your GD junk ready to rip off your body and prance away.

That moment of breath and death has been my time with PC. Some days more breath. Some days more death. Always the proverbial razorblade, rusty and dripping with blood from those across the globey globe feelin' what I feel. Ready for the realization of dreams or the downfall of destiny.

Now, with my 2nd dental update off to PC (the doc saying nothing more than a crown needed), I'm ready to chase my destiny. I'm ready to take hold of the thing I've wanted since I was nine, watching those damn ads on the television, thinking, "How can you love a tough job?"

No more pessimism. Nor negativity. Nor ill will. Nor nasty emails. Nor thought to how many times I've been burned in this GDMFCS process. Nor cussing.



Ain't no one, ain't no cards, ain't no MFGD thing gonna stop me.

If they try, I'm walking to Washington.

07 June 2005


Two of our classmates are off to their staging city. Kelvin is in Arlington, VA getting ready to go to Armenia. He said PC gave him a $320 debit card for his 3 days of staging and for en route to Armenia. Wow. He ate lobster. We'll probably not do that.

Leigh is in Philadelphia, headed to Moldova. We'll be neighbors.

It's exciting that some of our classmates are already well on their way. They've already packed and said their goodbyes. I'm envious and not; finding myself more and more thankful for the extra time before departure.

Another classmate, Celeste (who grew up in a neighboring city in SD), just found out this week she's going to Ukraine on Sept 29th, WITH US! I'm very excited to have another MIIS person in our group, and I think she'll be a great friend and resource in country.

Check out our MIIS PCMI site, it has some pre-departure and academic-oriented thoughts.

In case you're wondering about Larry's quitting status, he's not. He won't let himself. He's slowly starting to admit to himself that we're going to go. Soon we'll be in Kelvin and Leigh's shoes. Packed and having said our goodbyes.

02 June 2005


I don't mean quit quit.

I mean, "I'm tired of being tired of this process."

By the time we go, we'll be pros at all this.

So, I'm not really quitting. Karen won't let me. She is decidedly more optomistic than I.

And I don't need financial aide...except by wandering philanthropic persons not related to me.



I have a hold on my Peace Corps account. Because of my--for once--lack of procrastination, I let Peace Corps know that my dental records would be over one year old (by eight days) by the time Karen and I finally left for Ukraine.

They said thanks, put a hold on my account, and sent me the paperwork to have a second dental exam.

So I've been on the lookout for insurance to help me pay for it--as Peace Corps will pay up to $20. I just applied for some today, so I hope it works out.

If, for some reason, Peace Corps delays us again, past September, I fucking quit.

You heard it here first.

17 May 2005

a preview

this morning was a preview into what it will be like to say some pretty serious goodbyes. some "see you in a little over 2 years," rather than "see you soon."

saying goodbye to dave and mary was much harder than i expected. i suppose it's never easy, but it's just downright sad to think we won't see these incredible friends for quite some time.

of course it's reassuring knowing that we will see them again. perhaps sooner than we know, somewhere in eastern europe or south asia, mid-adventure.

until then we will go about our respective business, our own separate adventures, until the lines connecting the dots cross. perhaps we will all end up right back where we started, playing doubles, drinking margaritas and singing karaoke on the peninsula. until then i'm thankful for the memories and looking forward to the stories we will be sharing next time we get together.

14 May 2005


I guess life has normalized; we've come off of our information junk-food diet and have rejoined our normal lives. I've got no new information to report aside from the fact that Karen and I finally submitted our aspiration statements and resumes to our host country.

Today was the graduation at MIIS. I would have been walking across the stage, receiving my degree, if I had no interest in going to Peace Corps. As it were, I was a flag-bearer. Originally I was an alternate, unworthy of first choice of flag. Then I received an email saying, "Lawrence, we've got to have you step in and carry a flag. Will Ukraine be okay?"


It's nice to sometimes receive signs in your life that things are okay, that you did make the right choice.

Holding the Ukrainian flag today was an interesting experience because it was really the first time I was able to hold that powder blue and sunflower yellow field in my hands. I felt a strange, nostalgic attachment to it. Not nostalgia for the past, but some sort of anticipatory nostalgia. A glimpse into the future, and a longing for it. Holding that flag, for the first time, I knew I'd be coming back to MIIS holding that flag in my heart, feeling emotions for that flag that I cannot even understand now. It was a strange--and I cannot think of a better word than anticipatory--emotion.

29 April 2005

please, beat me with branches

It's hot, and I'm sweaty.

I'm naked, and I'm hanging out with a bunch of dudes.

First it's the sauna, then the branch beat down, then the ice water dunk.


At pcukraine.org, they've got this newsletter going. I guess it's monthly. There are a lot of PCV submitted articles. The one that caught my eye, prompting this post, follows.

Check out page nine of http://pcukraine.org/content/ukraine/issues/03-05.pdf

In other news, our apsiration statements and resumes are going out this week, we hope. Basically, in these forms, we talk about what we have done, what we can do, and what we expect out of service. Also, we lay out our personal and professional goals.

My #1 professional goal is to leave for Ukraine.

My #1 personal goal is to come back alive.
Lastly, happy three-month anniversary Karen!

Three months and no divorce. We're doing better than 40% of America!

24 April 2005

information junkie

Every since I was little, I've been slightly obsessed with possessing some sort of intelligence. Being smart in, you know, something. I guess it was some way for me to maintain control of my life. Some way to better myself. Now that my life is a bit more normal, I still find myself seeking avenues that lead to Smartville. Recently, its been through learning Spanish. Now that I know where I am going in Peace Corps, I naturally want to begin learning that language. Increase the mass of my grey matter.

Of course, in Ukraine, we'd either be learning Ukrainian or Russian. The only way to find out which is to do what Cris said, hammer PC so they tell us where we're going.

Karen and I have talked about that a lot, and we still haven't decided as a couple whether or not we are going to do it. We talked about it and said that we kind of look forward to the surprise and experience of finding out where we'll be when we are in country. The advantages to us in finding out now would be materials development and a language learning headstart. While this would serve us greatly for our posts, we don't know if the benifit is worth the hassle. Plus, if it were a true, post related benifit, PC would tell us because we know that they already know where we are going.

We don't want to go into this whole PC thing as special people. We want to be like everyone else. We know, as we've been told, once we are in training and they find out we are PCMI MA TESOL students, our anonymity will be history.

We want to enjoy it while we can.

After all this waiting to find out where we are going, after how much we hated the waiting, I can't believe we might choose more waiting.


20 April 2005

why bother skirts

One of my questions for people who've been to Peace Corps-Ukraine, especially those currently there, is about clothing. I've been told many things about what to bring, from warm wool socks to washable dark colored business attire. Everyone seems to mention the current trend for the under-30 Ukrainian women (a category I do fall into regarding age/gender, but definitely not the "ukrainian" part), fondly referred to as "why bother?" skirts.

The women are said to wear tall, stiletto boots with skirts that are barely there.

As one current volunteer put it:
"Women here do wear spike heels and tight clothes. Most of the clothes they wear at work would seem inappropriate in most American business places. "

Another female volunteer commented:
"The current look for the under 30 set includes stiletto boots and tight jeans or very short skirts (It is not unusual to see a loooooong bare leg extending out from under a coat. Skirts are short and seeing all that leg peeking out from under a long coat is pretty provocative.) Despite mud, snow, or rough terrain, these young women indulge themselves. They are stunning. Of course such beauty is short-lived."

Those of you who know me should laugh at the prospect of me trying to fit in with the above descriptions. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It's funny for me too.

I've received so much excellent advice about bringing comfortable clothes, and well-made clothes that will stand the tough washes. I plan to attempt to fit in, within reason and within comfort. This may mean not fitting in at all. I'm sure they will not know quite what to make of me. But then again, I'm sure that happens here on a fairly regular basis as well.

18 April 2005

this would be the orange tiger, not the blue one

"As European investors take a closer look at post-revolutionary neighbor, Ukrainian businesses and government are taking the first steps towards Europe by organizing an investment conference in the continent's financial capital – Frankfurt/Main. The event organized by PricewaterhouseCoopers and CFC Consulting with the ambitious title "Ukraine's Business Potential: Europe's Emerging Tiger" will be held on April 28th, 2005."

Looks like an exciting time for Ukrainian business.

Or would that be European business?

More reason for a younger generation with a mastery of the English tongue. Of course, this might mean Karen will be teaching in a business university. Not that that's bad.

Not that that's good.

i was right

Apparently, I was correct. When the guess said Bass Pro shoes, he meant shoes from the Bass Pro Shop (www.bassproshop.com). Those are definitely some fishing shoes.

Elsa wrote again, saying, "I recommend 'The Orange Revolution' by Timothy Garton Ash and Timothy Snyder, New York Review of Books, vol 52, No 7, 28 April ’05." I'm interested in Ukrainian recent history, so I'm sure I'll scout out this book. For now, I'm reading Harvest of Sorrow. It's a slow go, but I'm trying to power through it. I forgot how dry people can make history. Maybe I'm not far enough in the book yet for the juice.

Everyone we talk to about our assignment says, "Pray for the West." Apparently Ukraine is split into the East and the West. The East leans towards Russia, history, Russian and all that jazz. The West--well, towards the West, America, Ukrainian and all that jazz. My feeling is, either way. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other, etc....

Karen and I sent off our visa applications and our DS-82s (for a passport renewal to get the nifty no-fee designation). It was nice to send that off because it's another step forward instead of all those backward steps we were taken about a month ago. We've also set to updating our resume and writing our aspiration statements for Ukraine. We have to write what we expect, what our goals are, how we will serve our post, etc.... It's quite fun. When these documents are sent, this will be the first time people within our country get a good look at our skills.

Crazy. No?

13 April 2005

kris & jr: we're going to ukraine

We've dammed the river up a bit; now we're just trying to absorb. I think that was Karen's plan all along. I just like to jump into things.

A fellow named Jeffrey--an RPCV working on an MA TESOL in Mississippi--told us that people never tell you how hot Ukraine can be. He recommended Tevas. I suppose it's a Peace Corps staple. He also says:

"The best perk of PC is the traveling you are able to do. We did almost everything by train - Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, Hungary. I don't count Croatia. Though I crossed it twice, I never got off the train. We ran out of time because of a Hungarian train strike. A round-trip flight from Kiev to Istanbul cost me $175.00 in 2000."

Of course, we'll work hard in the Peace Corps--toughest job you'll ever love and all of that--but Ukraine is so centrally located, we'd be expected to travel.


Elsewhere: My cousin never passed on word to my aunt and uncle that we are going Ukraine. I just found that out tonight when I called. She asked me if we knew where we were going yet. I told her I told Justin to pass the news on until I could get back to them. I guess the passing didn't get on. So, I apologize to Kris and Jr. I should have followed up.

Lastly, a MIIS alumna was in Ukraine 11. Must contact her. I'll put that somewhere on the list.

11 April 2005

fish procreate in the stuff

"No Volunteers are placed at any site with higher than normal levels of radiation."


In other news, my grandmother would like this:

"Because of the heavy metal content and possible microbial contamination of most of the water supply in Ukraine, Volunteers are discouraged from drinking tap water. Inexpensive bottled water is readily available in kiosks and stores, and the Peace Corps will provide funds for purchasing it."

My grandmother doesn't drink water from the tap from Fortuna, California. She says, as Karen fondly remembers, that it has "pollywogs" in it. My Uncle has more profane ideas about it--if you've met him, you can guess the bevy of words he'd use. Anyway, if my grandmother heard, or even thought, that I was drinking water out of the tap in Ukraine, she'd straight up die.

So, as I love my grandmother, here's to bottled water!


P.S. We got a new CD from PC regarding Ukraine. So much useful information, I had to put some of it up.

10 April 2005

jack and elsa

Imagine a dry summer creek bed, paved with cracked dirt and infested with nomadic insects, a path meandering in and out of brush and leaves and shadows to such a degree you cannot tell where the edges of the bed really lay. Now, come back to that same bed towards the end of winter--a winter that really matters--and what do you see? Not the bed, that's for sure. The edges of the bed you could barely discern are now briming with cold, urgent water cascading from the mountains, from the quickly melting snow.

Got that image? From parched earth to waterly deluge?


Now apply that image, metaphor, what have you to a couple of Peace Corps bums waiting around for an invitataion. PI (pre-invitation, an eon of our life forever subjugated to abbreviation) we were the insects, though thoroughly unnomadic, planted in that riverbed. Nothing came by except passerbys and the dry wind. Now, post-invitaion (another PI would be sorta of confusing), we're rolling along the bottom of that creek, pushed along by the force, the flood (god damned extended metaphors), of information.

Once we got our invite and put our electronic information to some Yahoo groups like:




the water came rollin' off the mountain.

Most significantly, we've recieved buku emails from a RPCV couple named Jack and Else. I mean BUKU emails. They've sent along a lot of practical advice. Advice about drinking, clothing, shopping, pickpocketing, and 24 or so newsletters they wrote while in Ukraine. A lot of useful information--a good portion of the water ripping down our creek-cum-river bed.

Some recent tidbits from Jack and Elsa:

"I bought a new 1 year old model laptop on e-bay, before I went. Get one that you can afford to lose."

"Sometimes the best answer is to say that you never drink. One of our compatriots got drunk regularly. He was rolled, his money and passport stolen. Getting drunk means that you have no resistance to danger. Don't do it."

"When we were there, the housing was supposed to be the responsibility of your primary site. I know that this was relaxed quite a bit after we leftand Peace Corps was paying for apartments in many cases. Strive for the best that you can get, don't settle for a small terrible place. Rents were about $50 per month. You should get a 2-3 room apartment. We had a 3 room apartment in the suburbs at first and then moved to a 2 room apartment for most of our stay. In an apartment, you get a bathroom and kitchen and then start counting rooms. There are no closets to speak of. The two room apartment has a living room and a bedroom. The 3 room apartment has aliving room and two bedrooms. Balconies are good for drying your clothes, otherwise they will have to dry in the bathroom. The hot water is controlled by the government and is pumped into your radiators. There is a circuitous pipe in the bathroom for the heat and you can dry clothes on it. In the summer it is nice to use the lines on the balcony. If you have 2 balconies (a little unusual, but we had that setup in our first apartment) you have a choice of where to hand clothes, so you can pick the sunny side. This is not such an important point, but one balcony is nice. If it is large enough, you might even sit on it sometimes. Watch out for tiles falling off the sides of the buildings, you could get injured."

"As a couple, you will rely on each other. Nevertheless, resist turning in on yourselves. Be individuals and be independent; learn what there is to learn, and do the best you can for your host country nationals."

And my two favorites, "Never let the bastards get you down" and "If you knew nothing, you would figure it out."

Thanks for fillin' up our creek bed folks!

09 April 2005

article free

The first thing I learned is that there is no "the" before our country.

I thank Cristyn Elder for this helpful piece of advice, that I have since read in many locations. It is poignant coming from a fellow English teacher. =)

It's interesting to me that my mouth keeps wanting to call it "the Ukraine," even though I'm trying not to do so. It's not like I've ever talked much about this country in my daily life, yet something in me thinks it needs a "the." I found a good explanation here: http://www.infoukes.com/faq/the_ukraine/.

We've checked out some library books now. I'm a little panicked that one of the main dishes involves a beet-vegetable soup. And lots of cabbage. But at least there will be a lot of bread, cheese and meat. So I think I'll be ok.

thanks to cris

It's always the small things that get you. You never learn them, or you learn them too late do do you any good.

We had a meeting with Cris today at MIIS. She was in Ukraine 99 - 01. PCMI, TESOL, the like. We wanted to bend her ear about her experience, glean some advice we hadn't yet heard, answer some of our newly forming questions. She was in Kherson during her PCV experience, and she was a teacher trainer. She spent a lot of her time travelling around Ukraine to train.

In reverence to the rebel spirit I first saw in her two years ago when I first talked to her about Peace Corps Ukraine (my original PC country choice), her first piece of advice was to "hammer" at PC in order to find out where and what we'll be teaching. Unlike everyone else, Cris believes that because the information regarding our posts is so specific, PC actually already knows where we are going. She said, in order to do the best job we can as PCMI students, PC should tell us what we'll be teaching. So we can gather resources and such.

Or just to sate our curiosity. She told me I should be the one to call. Since I'm a male, and we'll be talking directly to PC staff in Ukraine, I might be able to sweet talk some information out of the staff. Too bad that sweet talking requires patience, something I've historically had little of--especially since applying for Peace Corps.

Maybe I'll try something new. Who knows?

Other advice condensed into a list, comments follow. You're about ready to be done reading, right?

+ "You'll meet teachers that don't give a shit."
--I already have.

+ "Try to observe the Ukrainian teachers."
--They are strict. We must learn how to be mean, how to crack the whip, how to make kiddies cry.

+ "Decoy wallet. A guy kept a fake wallet in his back pocket for pickpockets."

+ "Get in touch with publishers in Ukraine: Oxford, Longman, etc...." Try to get materials.

+ "A volunteer was murdered in Kiev."
--We heard the story. He did some unintelligent things.

+ "Your English class might be observed by someone who doesn't speak English."
--I'm not really expecting too much logic in our two years of service.

+"In terms of attitude: Start strict, then relax."

+ "Enjoy it. You're really lucky to be going."

We feel lucky to have such wonderful people, and such wonderful resources, surrounding us. We'll keep in contact with Cris from now through infinity; she's very nice and a very important person for us to know.

Thanks to all of you for all the small things you give us everyday.

08 April 2005

fishing boots

7 April 2005

One of the first things we were told was to get some waterproof footgear. It was the last thing I thought I’d buy first. They’d recommended gear from the Bass shop. I swear to God they meant fish. It made sense to me: fishermen need waterproof shoes. I resolved to find a bass fisherman’s catalog and find me a pair of durable, and waterproof, bootsies.

Then I talked to Karen. She cleared the whole thing up with a trip to a part of Monterey I didn’t know existed. “Bass,” she told me, “is a shoe company.” She didn’t know anything about fishermen. Neither did the employees in the store.

While Karen found a pair of dark coal calf-highs, I coaxed a pair of black, waterproofs onto my feet. Man, were they comfy—and a brand recommended by a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). I walked around in them, imagined the snow that would eventually be caked into their tread, and debated the $70 price tag. Karen did the same sort of debating.

Then, during my short walk across the crisp, blue carpet, I ran into a sign. Neither the kind from God nor the kind a catcher might send to his pitcher. Something made of paper and decorated with raised, red letters. It said:


50% off.

Now, all of the socks in our future will be overjoyed at today’s decision: We’ve got ourselves some boots.


Thanks to Scott for this link:


This link is to the Yahoo group of one of his couples he recruited. They are in Azerbaijan now. They’ll be headed back a little after we head out. Apparently, they lived in Rohnert Park. Small world….

Anyway, the half of the couple with the name of Will said this in response to doubts about his—and his wife Tara’s—decision to join Peace Corps:

"All fear is fear of the unknown. That’s why horror films suck the second time you watch them, you already know what’s going to happen next. You are nervous about us going because you don’t know what’s going to happen to us while we are there, not because it is actually a bad idea. The reason why life is so exciting is because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. "

Now, while the last sentence doesn’t make happy out of the bang up we did with the Highway 101 median just north of Cloverdale, California, it does provide an idyllic view of strong, sometimes seemingly foolhardy, choices.

I guess people were nagging the guy because of the choice he and his wife made to join Peace Corps. We’ve been lucky. We’ve had a lot of support—and been given a lot of wait time by Peace Corps to get used to the idea of us being gone.

In my opinion, however, horror movies suck the first time through.


Another very cool link from Scott:


I just read _Angry Wind_ by Jeffrey Tayler—RPCV! He traveled through this area. I can’t wait to read her experiences. She seems like a very good writer. I gotta send her a care package. Kharma building, I suppose.

More stuff to fill up my pre-PCV life with, besides loving Karen—which I do a lot.

07 April 2005

upon waking

It seemed too simple.

I didn't even have to open the email to find out the information I had been waiting months for. And then I knew and it felt really strange. Too easy, somehow.

This application process has taught me not to trust answers that seem easy. So I didn't want to believe we were going to the Ukraine until I had the invitation in my hand. Even when I did, it was hard to believe because we had been told so many times it was coming when it never came.

Now we know, and the information gathering has begun. Larry, true to form, has a thirst for anything and everything related to Ukraine, from Yahoo groups to travel novels, to newspaper articles, to blogging (a concept on the edge of my active vocabulary). I, on the other hand, work more slowly. I am just as interested in finding out about our future destination, I just read, move, and process more slowly.

It will be an adventure, that's for certain. I'm looking forward to feeling prepared, then feeling completely unprepared, then feeling prepated again.

And I second his comment about being a "sour grape--or two." More like 10 most of the time, but who's counting. =)

06 April 2005

still here

6 April 2005 (later than earlier)

This from our recruiter, Scott Webb...eons ago, it seems.

"What were the best and worst parts of serving with your partner?

Andrea: I honestly can't think of the worst but the best has to be sharing such an amazing experience with someone you love. It is the greatest thing when we see or hear something that reminds us of Niger and we know what each other is thinking and feeling about it without saying a word.

Scott: I agree. It was really great to show people our age that marriage isn’t like settling down or binding yourself – you can have an adventure with your spouse. I felt like we were serving as a positive example."

And one to be followed, I'm sure.

tick tock tick tock

6 April 2005

I guess this is how I move forward in my life. I study and commit and submerse and envelop.

I've been attacking every word I can find about Ukraine. About Peace Corps. I've been eating up blogs, facts sheets, weather reports, Yahoo! groups, friends who've even just heard the word Ukraine, school contacts, Ukrainian doctors studying at MIIS, and even, sadly, a Ukrainian cookbook.

Thankfully, I've got a tag-team partner. Instead of working today, as we both should have been doing, my mother-in-law and I were systematically trying to grasp a divining rod and find out where our staging city is going to be. I supplied a list, from peacecorps.gov, of all the staging cities available. I suggested the city with flights to Ukraine has a high chance of being our staging city. Then Jan jumped over the top rope, tumbled to the canvas, and checked out flight schedules for 4 October 2005 from those cities to Ukraine. Guess what?

They all god damn go to Ukraine.

Strike one.

I think Jan and I are racing to find the most websites about Ukraine. She's winning right now. She's found the best sites, which Karen and I have been feasting on each night. I read faster than Karen does, so I tend to summarize what I've learned. I talk too fast, so I often have to repeat myself, which is fine. I love talking about it. I'm so excited. I'm learning, reading, writing, seaching, editing, and discovering like a madman.

I feel like I'm on speed.

Notice the post time? Karen's been asleep for an hour. It's either the info gathering or the smuggler (Anthony, you'll remember smugglers) Karen made for me before she conked out that's got my fingers and eyes racing across the net tonight, looking for anything blue and yellow--Ukraine's flag colors.

Did you know Ukraine's birth rate is going down?

Did you know the popualtion in Ukraine is 48 million?

Did you know blah blah blah?

It's kinda like that.

I'm so happy Jan is, seemingly, so excited about this invitation. Peace Corps is a very important step in our lives, and it is very important for us to share this with people in our lives. It really helps out the morale when those people push back, support, and encourage.

We (I?) met a girl named Leigh today who is going to Moldova with Peace Corps in June. Moldova is right next door to Ukraine. We're looking forward to getting to know Leigh more before she heads off. Potential contact in the region.

In reading this blog (http://books.dreambook.com/sarahperez/dae.html), I see the pre-Peace Corps invitation frustration Karen and I felt. I won't spill my now forgotten, by me at least, angst here. I'll simply quote Dae's fairly accurate words: "life has been extrememly routine--on hold really." Life for us hasn't been routine--marriage is a wondeful fixer upper for the routine blues--but we have felt our lives were on hold. Waiting and waiting and waiting.

Dae says, "it's hard to grasp that i'm finally leaving, after over a year of waiting. and it wasn't that good kind of waiting, like milhouse said about kissing. that it's not the kissing itself that's so good, but the waiting before the kiss. this was some of the most excrutiating waiting i've experienced. while time ground down to a halt, my personal time sped up. by this i mean that although it seemed like the months couldn't pass fast enough, i felt like i was aging rapidly, my prime years were being pissed away, friends were getting married, getting serious jobs, doing things that adults do."

"this was some of the most excrutiating waiting i've experienced."

Yeah, that's about right.

But the next wait, the six months paving the twisting path between today and the kissing and hugging and goodbyeing at the airport, will not excruciate me.

I will, like a sponge, soak up every last second the clock, now ringing in 11:13 pm over Karen's heavy, but sonorous, breathing, can tick away.

building trust

5 April 2005

Jeff said that students will lose respect if the teacher doesn’t seem to have everything wrapped up in a little box, ready to learn. They don't like grey.

“How do you reconcile learner-centered teaching with teacher-centered expectations?” I asked.

“Do it their way first. Then you can introduce the grey areas. They have to trust you first.”

Building trust--I anticipate--will be one of the hardest and most important first tasks. Being as young as we are--24 on me and 25 on Karen once we're in country--we'll have to work extra hard to get our colleagues and our students to trust us. To respect us.

We actually got our invitation today. Definitely going to Ukraine.

I’m a 171. Teaching 10-17 year olds. Secondary school style.

Karen’s a 172. Teaching 17-23 years olds. University style.

learning to breathe

4 April 2005

We saw (name censored to protect the innocent) at a career fair here in Monterey. He was surprised to see us.

“You’re still here?” was written all over his face. He had shaved his head, and at first we didn't recognize him. then he smiled and started to talk.

"Randall (not his real name)," I said out loud, as if savoring each syllable. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway: He's one of the only decents I've met in my PC experience so far. Not that I'm a peach.

Sometimes I'm a sour grape--or two.

We told him that we’d be getting our invitation to the Peace Corps by the end of the week. He said if the wireless worked in the building we were in, he’d find out for us right then.

Karen said, “We’ll drive you to the campus. They’ve got wireless there.”

I thought, "I'll fucking carry you on my back. Hop on!"

But he told us to email him later, which we did.

His email: one word.

After, god, how many years, it comes down to one word.