30 December 2006

america, america...

something about shedding light (or grace) on me (or thee).

man, it is so nice to be home. i forgot what it was like to feel like i belonged somewhere. the static dragging along in the back of my mind, the constant reminder that some things are a little off kilter, has fallen away. i'm smiling. i'm happy. and i've still got 13 days. w00t!

karen cut her hair today. she cut it real short. she asked my opinion before she did it, and i thought she'd look nice with short hair. i, as usual, was right. her students will say things like, "oooooo!" and "ooooooooooooo!"

went to a beach in San Diego yesterday. it was nice to be so close to the ocean. there's a pic up there on top of karen walking down the beach. (all that long hair is now gone.)

it's 78 degress here, plus. we're happy to be here, basking in the sun.

i was blown away, and still am taken aback, by all the english i am hearing. all the diversity i am seeing. i'm still not used to seeing people who aren't white. and i'm still not used to hearing perfect english. even my english has degraded since living in ukraine.

to all of my friends still in ukraine for the holiday season, i wish you luck, joy, and love.

and these words: america is more amazing than you probably remember.

25 December 2006

merry christmas

merry xmas from Krakow!

staying at a hostel near wawel acstle with our friend celeste. we're all flying home tomorrow. it'll be a very long day, flying against the time zone and all of that. but we'll touch down tomorrow night and be with family. almost teary just thinking about it.

krakow, as always, is amazing. two nights ago , i stayed up all night with my friend casey. he was taking off for home early in the morning, so we decided to punch through the night, drinking. we pub hopped, moving from a cool music club (where karen and celeste were with us) and then off to a pizza club, a sub-street level pub built out of bricks and resembling a bomb shelter, to our final stop--a death metal club. the woman at the door didn't seem to want to let us in. she kept asking, "you know this is a death metal club, right?" as it was, it as the only place still serving beer, so we pushed in. got a 1/4 of the way through the beer and decided it really wasn't a place we wanted to stay.

the train from l'viv to krakow was long. we had about a 4 hour wait at the border. we always heard the waits were long on the train, but 4 hours? turned out an old woman in another wagon had died and the authorities were waiting for a lawyer to come to clear up the legal troubles of a ukrainian dying on a ukr/polish train in poland. it was a strange experience for us. ignorant of the situation, we all played rummy. karen and i had a coupe mate in an older ukrainian woman who aws flabergasted that we a) spoke ukrainian and b) didn't have family in krakow. why would we go to another city if we didnt have anyone meeting us? other than that, seh kept trying to get karen to drink hot, black tea beacuse it was "good for the heart." in Casey and celeste's coupe was a man from London. i think casey still thinks the guy was a spy. he's lived in ukraine too long.

anyway, havign a pot luck chtistmas dinner tonight with some aussies. should be fun.

love to all. see some of you soon.


17 December 2006

another day deeper

two days ago was my best friend's birthday. it was the second, and the last, that i have missed. next year, i'll be there in person to celebrate. he'll be picking us up from the airport midway through our time home in california; he will drive us to meet my mom. we're very excited.

yesterday, on a saturday, i held a leadership conference at my school. karen and i interviewed 23 students and selected the top twelve to take part in the conference. we invited another volunteer to help us give the conference. the start time was 10 am, and, par for the course, only a handful of people arrived on time. but, by 1015 we had eight students and we kicked off the four hour event with a kinesthetic activity. then, as we began our first session, and introduction to leadership, two more students came, bringing the final total up to 10. we talked in the second session about communication--active listening. in the third, and final, we discussed problem solving. the students were very active. i was surprised to see students who rarely ever raise their hands in class raising their hands in the conference. everyone was talking and cooperating, all in english. karen, casey, and i were very impressed.

and i was very happy. for all the lameness that happens at my school on the administrator level, i have to remember that the kids are where its at. they came in on a saturday and worked very hard. they wanted to participate, and they wanted to do it in english. i gave them an opportunity to speak in ukrainian, but they chose not to. they wanted to push themselves, to try. something i really don't see in class in school. it was refreshing. i'm hoping to do many more of these conferences. i also plan, next semester, to begin after school clubs: writing and debate.

lastly, we're leaving very soon! it's exciting, but i'm so busy here, our journey home hasn't been on my mind so much. but it's coming on fast.

07 December 2006

it's already december

a fairly familiar title, but what can you do. thinks are still trucking along here. we're officially under three weeks until we return home for a much needed plug-in to a familiar culture. it's good here, but by that i really just mean it could be worse. and i'm really glad that it's not.

parent teacher conference tonight. kinda like open house, i assume. except there aren't projects on display in each teacher's classroom. students don't troupe through the corridors hand in hand with mother or father. in fact, when i asked if father's would be coming out as well as mothers, the students just laughed at me. a sad laugh, i felt. i'm sure there'll be some daddy's down there tonight, right?

this conference comes just at the right time for me because my supervisor at my school just informed me that a majority of students and parents are unsatisfied with my work. she went on to list a number of reasons why--though each one was a specific problem my supervisor has with me and, most likely, wasn't uttered by a parent. that hunch was later confirmed by a colleague. so, i'm not getting along with my supervisor. my supervisor observed one of my classes and pretty much disliked everything i did, dismissing it as "new wave methodology" that my supervisor had tried in the past and found ineffective. it wasn't a super constructive meeting--but after our mutual bitchfest three days ago, it seemed constructive--but at least my supervisor has some basis for the negative things my supervisor says about my work now. previously, all the negativity was based upon hearsay. so, at he conference, the majority of parents get a chance to tell me just how much they dislike the practices of the american they have never met.

in seriousness though, being a western trained teacher is a tough gig here. everything is seen as a game instead of a legit practice. and i refuse to unlearn everything, sink into grammar-translation and dialogue memorization and call that something which it is not: learning. my students like me and they are learning. its a benefit if a student is learning but doesnt, at first, recognize that fact. especially with my 8th formers, which are the students particularly in question.

it's all very frustrating, but in a very small way. being lied to has kind of reduced my emotional involvement in the argument. i don't need to prove myself as a competent teacher to someone who needs to lie to attack me. that's not worth it.

and, in 2.5 weeks, i'll be home! nothing can get me down with that on the horizon.

27 November 2006

Black Ribbons

Ukraine Marks 73rd Anniversary of Famine
Released : Saturday, November 25, 2006 7:06 AM

KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine held solemn commemorations Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary of a man-made Soviet-era famine that killed one-third of the country's population, a tragedy that Ukraine's president wants recognized as an act of genocide.

At the height of the 1932-33 famine, 33,000 people died of hunger every day, devastating entire villages. Cases of cannibalism were widespread as desperation deepened.
Black ribbons were hung Saturday on the blue and yellow national flag, and in cities across the country, officials laid flowers at monuments to the estimated 10 million victims.

President Viktor Yushchenko and Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz unveiled the cornerstone of a planned memorial complex in the capital. Later Saturday, officials planned a procession and the lighting of thousands of candles on a centuries-old Kiev square.
"I would like for us never to tolerate the shame of having to hold discussions about what to call this," Yushchenko said at the ceremony. "This is one of the most horrible pages of our history, and for a long time now, it has had only one name."

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin provoked the famine in a campaign to force peasants to give up their private farms and join collectives. Authorities collectivized agriculture throughout the Soviet Union, but farmers in Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the U.S.S.R., fiercely resisted and bore the brunt of the man-made disaster.

Yushchenko has asked parliament to recognize the famine as genocide, but some lawmakers have resisted, and Moscow has warned Kiev against using that term.
Russia argues that the orchestrated famine did not specifically target Ukrainians but also other peoples in the Soviet agricultural belt, including Russians and Kazakhs, and this month said the issue should not be "politicized." But historians say that the overwhelming majority of victims were Ukrainians, and the famine coincided with Stalin's effort to quash growing Ukrainian nationalism.

"Practically every family who lived in Ukraine at that time suffered deaths," opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said.

During the Soviet era, the mass starvation was a closely guarded state secret, but information trickled out over the years and Ukraine has since declassified thousands of files. Ten nations, including the United States, have recognized the famine as an act of genocide, defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group. Genocide is a crime under international law.

Moroz said he supports recognizing the mass starvation as genocide, and predicted that the president's bill, which has run into some trouble among lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, would come before parliament next week. Some lawmakers from Yanukovych's Russia-leaning Party of Regions have suggested calling the famine a tragedy instead of genocide, but party member Taras Chornovil predicted the president's version would ultimately pass.

Under Stalin, each village was ordered to provide the state with a quota of grain, but the demands typically exceeded crop yields. As village after village failed to meet the requirements, they were put on a blacklist. The government seized all food and residents were prohibited from leaving, effectively condemning them to starvation.

Those who resisted were shot or sent to Siberia.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

01 November 2006

it's already november

wow! the time is just trucking along. we're already in november. man!

in kyiv now after a elongated stint in poltava. karen and i worked on a civics conference (we specifically demonstrated ways democracy can be evident in education). we were also able to hang out with our bestest pc friends, kris and jen. it was sure nice to see them, and to get away from l'viv for a little bit. until i left, i didn't realize how frustrated i was with everything that was going on there, professionally. personally, most everything is good. being in poltava, observing teachers, participating in conferences, and meeting new students really energized me.

being in poltava was my first experience in "the east." though some people might call poltava the center, i think it is east enough--and russian speaking enough--to count as east. and being there, i realized that some of my preconceived notions about that part of the country were wrong. people seemed happier in poltava than they do in l'viv. people were smiling, laughing. we walked around at night several times in poltava and never, ever felt unsafe. this is not true in l'viv. l'viv is a bigger city, however, so maybe that accounts for some of the goodness i found in poltava (a decidedly smaller, but not small) city. in short, yay for poltava! i really think it comes down to the fact that there are jobs in poltava. factories adn such. money. none of that is really in l'viv. l'viv is a beautiful museum with a rich history, but unless they can spin a strong tourism base out of the city--and they seem to be trying--there's not much else there in the money-making field.

25 October 2006

Leaves everywhere

For some reason falling leaves seem to be Enemy #1 around here...and they are swept up almost as fast as they fall. I can't really understand this, because to me they are so beautiful and natural and they will just become mulch under the snow in a month or so, won't they?

During my walk to school in the morning I pass numerous women, mostly elderly, bent at the waist, backs parallel to the ground, sweeping leaves. Their brooms are about 2 feet long, forcing them to bend over really far in order to reach the ground. Their "dust pans" are made of metal, and must be really cold to hold on to. Usually they are putting the leaves into big trash bags, and after that I don't know what happens to them.

In the park there is a flatbed truck which serves as the trash truck and leave truck. Interestingly, the bed to this truck is only about 3 feet deep, so much of what's inside flies out when it moves.

Often you'll see someone sweeping into the wind, scattering leaves more than gathering, or someone else dropping more leaves to the ground than they manage to put into the trash bag. It has occurred to me that perhaps they are creating work for themselves. At home I might think they get paid by the hour, and are therefore not in any hurry to accomplish their task. However, here I'm not sure that they're paid at all.

We've had similar puzzlement over the trash issue. I've come to the conclusion that people really do want to throw their trash in a trash can, there just aren't any. They will often pile their trash neatly in a pile, with a lot of other people's trash, near an overflowing trash bin, or just in a corner somewhere, where there ought to be one. Perhaps this severe lack of trash bin creates jobs for people: picking up trash. If you installed dozens of new bins, someone could just dump them, replace the bag, and be done with it. As it is, someone sweeps it to a neat pile somewhere, and then by hand puts it in a bag. It's easily a half day's work. I've heard of Volunteers meeting opposition when trying to install new trashcans in a city. It takes away jobs.

19 October 2006

a short

Just pulled out of an AP wire story--written by a former PCV in Ukraine--about a dress made entirely of confectionery. The last graph of his piece reads as follows:

"The baker hopes to someday open a business with his sister in Ukraine, believing there's more room for skillful bakers here than in Paris. 'Here you can buy jobs,' he said. 'You want to be president, governor, (parliament) deputy, OK. But my job you can't buy--you have to do it.'

The here being Ukraine.

The here being Ukraine.

15 October 2006


Forgot to say. www.perigee-art.com published my newest Peace Corps piece. Enjoy.

a crisp begin to autumn

The sun is up, but doesn't really start to heat anything until 11am or later. We are lucky to still be in for warm afternoons, but the promise of a continued "babane lito" (or Indian summer (known as Grandma Summer here)) is fading. Today, the chill sunk in. The thermometer on our balcony read 8 degrees C. The whole sky was an overcast grey spitting a fine mist over all of us ants walking around the earth over here. Soon, it'll get much colder and much wetter. I'm beyond happy that I have a happy pile of books to sustain me through the long, dark cold.

Karen is busy reading journals written by her students. They have a weekly correspondence where they can practice their written English with a native speaker. Several of her students are imploring her to have children because that is a woman's duty. Those of you who know her know that's going over well. So well. Women are born to make children, and Ukraine's population is dropping. So the government offers "cash for kids," probably not unlike our tax breaks. Seems like a surer way to keep your population stable would be to keep people in your country, but that seems beyond the means of the leaders here.

All the rest is well beyond well. We are having a good, busy time and look forward to coming home in 10 weeks!

10 October 2006

jeebus i'm famous

I'm in a Wikipedia entry that I didn't even write!



08 October 2006

Teacher's Day

What a wonderful sentiment: to honor those who teach, to say thank you for choosing a respected, but often underappreciated profession.

Ironically, during the same week of this holiday the teacher's at my College didn't receive their paychecks. They were told they would be waiting for them in their banks for over a week, but the money never appeared. Last time I checked, they were still waiting.

I did receive some gifts: 3 different boquets of flowers, and a really nice book in English about Lviv. I received the book a week late because the class that gave it to me only had 5 students the day of the holiday.

Many of my students didn't come to class on that day, which also happened to be the day of their presentations. So for teacher's day I had to adjust my planned lesson, and reduce their grades by 25% for being late (a new policy I've implemented which is shocking to them).

Other volunteers had no students at all. Or students who presented them with chocolates and then asked if they could be excused for the rest of the day. In one of my classes students had to give their presentations over the distracting voices of the teachers celebrating their holiday in the back of my classroom.

Nevertheless, however well-intentioned but misguided these celebrations were, the sentiment is there. Somewhere in history someone decided that teachers were important enough to merit their own holiday. And if it's the "thought that counts," it's a gift that makes me smile.

06 October 2006

diversity in Ukraine

The PM of Ukraine recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post.

He said, among other things, "Finally, Ukraine is and will remain a country of great diversity. We have the largest Jewish population in Europe. I have many close friends of the Islamic faith, and we have countless Christian denominations, including at least three Orthodox ones."

In McDonald's yesterday, a dark-skinned man walked up the counter and asked for an application for employment. The employees handed him an application while laughing at him, and as he walked away they continued to laugh at him, using words to characterize his physical apperance which I considered racist.

Diversity is not one of the things I see here.

02 October 2006

bittersweet news

As some of you already know, my work was being considered for a
nomination for the Pushcart Prize. The PP is a very prestigious award
for small press authors and can lead to much bigger things. I was very
honored to be considered for this prize. They say to be nominated in
itself is a prestige unmatched at this level, and I agree.

That said, I have the humble honor of letting you know that I am now a
Pushcart Prize nominee. I am nominated for a piece I wrote about my
Peace Corps experience titled "Mirrors Finding Floors." You can find
this piece at perigee-art.com . I can't express how honored I am.
Perigee was only able to chose six pieces out of their entire stock of
published work's for 2006; mine was the only work of prose selected.
The work will wing its way to the Pushcart editors after I get another
edit done. They make decisions sometime late next year. What happens
from then we'll discuss if I am selected--which is very doubtful.

That's the sweet; now for the bitter: I was selected for a piece I
really don't like anymore. I wrote it during a difficult time of my PC
experience; in fact, it was my first written in Ukraine. It reminds me
of the dark, so maybe that's why I don't like it. But, I really just
think it could have been written better. Here's goes the editing

P.S. The Perigee letter:

"Dear Lawrence Lawson,

As you know, over the last several weeks the editors and I have been
reviewing the work we published during 2006. We've been looking for
our Pushcart Prize nominees. The Pushcart Prize is a respected and
coveted award which only the best writers and poets receive. Even to
be nominated for the prize is an achievement and an honor.

Each year small presses, like Perigee, have the opportunity to
nominate six of the works they've published. The nominees are then
considered by the Pushcart panel for that year's prize--which includes
publication in the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology.

I'm pleased to inform you that Perigee is nominating you for the 2006
Pushcart Prize, for your Peace Corps prose piece "Mirrors Finding
Floors"--which we published in our 12th issue. Not only have we
continued to enjoy your Peace Corps writings, but this piece in
particular was among the very best work we've published this year. You
have our thanks and our congratulations on a job well done.

We have announced you as a Pushcart nominee on our official weblog.
We'll be sending your work to the Pushcart panel in November, in time
to meet their December 1st deadline. If you wish any final changes
made before the panel considers your work, please let us know during
October. Otherwise, we wish you good luck as the panel considers your
prose. We will notify you of any prize status as soon as we receive
word. If you have questions, feel free to contact me directly.

Warm Regards,

Managing Editor"



27 September 2006

50+ years ago

This week my students are presenting the information they've found about their "Famous American." In order to show them how things would work, I did a mock presentation last week on tennis great Billie Jean King. I gave them some basic facts about her, all her career tennis victories, her struggle for women to earn equal prize money, her victory over Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes," and of course her life-long dedication to the game. I asked them to please ask questions based on this information, but I can never get them away from their favorite question...

It's always the first thing I'm asked when I meet a new group of Ukrainian students.

It's not about the U.S....though I may be the first "American" they've met,
It's not about my choice to live in their country for 2 years teaching English,
It's not about whether or not I miss my family (though that usually comes 2nd)...


Do you have any children?

Interestingly, (though not surprisingly), Larry doesn't get asked this nearly as often.

So they couldn't care less about Billie Jean King's legendary tennis career, they just wanted to know why she didn't have a "normal" family. And they demanded an answer. They wanted to know how I could choose my career over having a family, didn't I feel lonely in my life without children, and why I devoted time to helping underprivileged children but didn't have any of my own.

I literally didn't know how to answer these questions. When I said I (BJKing) was divorced, they demanded to know "why?" I told them it was a personal question, but they were unsatisfied.

This week during their presentations, the questions have continued. They consistently ask their classmates, who are acting as famous celebrities, first and foremost about their families. If they are unsatisfied with the response, nothing else seems to matter. No career achievements or international acclaim are as acceptable to them as having a "normal" family.

It's strange to be the only person in the room shocked by something. To everyone else, these questions seem normal. At first, I tried to explain to them that in the U.S. it would be more appropriate to ask "DO you plan to have children?" rather than "WHEN do you plan to have children?" But the concept of having children as a choice is something I feel my students are years away from accepting.

26 September 2006

my briefs

We are four days away from the opening of the celebration of L'viv's
750th anniversary. We are four days away from A high-tech, German
laser show put on in the center of town at "no cost to the city
besides the cost of transportation." We are four days away from a
medieval-styled tournament--replete with knights and ladies and swords
and armor--at the historic Shevchenko Park. We are four days away from
an opportunity to explore the network of tunnels and caves that form
the "underground city of L'viv." We are four days away from Okean
Elzy. We are four days away from Ruslana. From an all day and all
night Jazz festival.

Now, we seemed to have just been here. The excitement. The build-up.
It was Independence Day, one month ago. There was to be concerts and
contests and festivities. Instead, the country cancelled most of the
festivities because of a plane crash in Donetsk. Nothing happened when
it was supposed to happen. The wind whipped out of the sails.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't expecting the same this time. The same
let down. The same disappointment. I'd also be lying if I said that
despite all of that, I wasn't excited.


In other news, we have a new heating system in our house. Our landlord
put it in, along with help from a relative. Two days on, it's leaking
water all over the bathroom.


Obsessed with West Wing. Maybe I'm a little late to the ballgame, but
let's just celebrate my arrival.


Battles in my classrooms. Some students want in who aren't on the
roster. Other students who are on the roster don't care to be there.
Others still are trying to bring in influential friends to force the
administration's hand. Ukraine.


Battles over Crimea. Ninety-three percent of schools there are
Russian. These schools serve a Russian population that numbers under
50% of the peninsula's population.


Russians angry about Ukraine's bid for NATO, which the PM has bagged anyway.


Oil painting. I've picked it up. I suck at it, but I suck at writing
and guitar playing and I still do those things.


I woke up at 7am this morning. I fell back asleep when I shouldn't
have. I woke up 30 minutes later.


That's probably enough.

22 September 2006

a calling, they say

New Peace Corps ad. Maybe you've already seen it.

I remember where I was.

I was in a greasy takeaway in Hull, England.

And now I'm in Ukraine.


15 September 2006

Dead White Guys

This week in all my classes I've been assigning their first project of the year.  They have to research a famous "American" and then give a presentation to the class on what they've learned and why this person is interesting to them.  Then their classmates will interview them, as if they are that famous person.
We start this day by brainstorming all the "Famous Americans" they can think of.  As I expected they mostly name movie stars, musicians, and a few politicians from the news.  Britney Spears, Madonna, 50 Cent, Bruce Willis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Clinton...you get the idea.  A debate always arises when they name Arnold Sscwarzenegger about whether or not he's "American."  I stay out of it, trying to facilitate their thoughts on the complicated question of what it means to be "American."  I think they have no idea what a big question that is, and I enjoy watching their thoughts unravel.  First they say he's not American because he wasn't born in the U.S.  Then usually someone will argue, but he lives there!  And I say, I live in Ukraine, does that make me Ukrainian....you get the idea.  At the end of the discussion I have them vote whether or not he's American.  All of my classes have decided he is.  The deciding arguments: he is a politician, he speaks English, and most importantly, he has an American wife.  Hehe, one girl tried to argue that he didn't have American features.  I asked her what those were....good luck!
It's been really great.  I can see in their faces that these are issues they've never really thought about as their idea of what it means to be Ukrainian is fairly narrow and rarely challenged. 
One thing that shocked me on the first day I taught this lesson was who my students chose to research for their project.  After hearing who they named in the brainstorming activity, all of the modern pop stars and a few current politicians, I was shocked to read the list of dead, old white guys they had chosen for their project.  On the first day, they had signed up for: George Washington, Robert Frost, Theodore Dreiser, JFK, and Charles Dickins (oops).  I thought it would be fun and interesting for them to research a famous person, but clearly their choices were made based on who they would find in their library's ancient encyclopedia collection.
As I've taught this lesson, I've emphasized the importance of choosing someone they're actually interested in learning about, not just someone they know will be in their Literature books.  I understand their reliance on outdated materials, you make the best of what you have, but am encouraging them to give the more difficult options a try.  A few of them use the internet, another thing I have to remind when I assign projects like this one.  It's such a given in my world.  I hope to arrange a training for them at the local "Internet Access & Training Program" Center in town, where they can use computers for free.
I'm getting better at teaching this lesson as the week goes on, and students are becoming more daring.
Today's list of people my students will research: Madonna, Eminem, Sandra Day O'Connor, Christina Aguilera, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Swank, Leonardo DiCaprio, Britney Spears, Andre Agassi, and Julia Roberts.  For better or worse, at least it's what they're interested in.

09 September 2006

ab day or a bday

Tomorrow's the big day, but I had the party last night.

Just asked over my closest PC friends--only Jen and Kris couldn't make
it. In between teaching and planning for teaching, I made all the
food. Potato salad, beet salad, bags of chips (those were tough to
make), and the fixings for do it yurself pizzas.

Put on some music off of the iPod--pumped through some new pc speakers
I picked up next door to the apartment--and we all sat around and

And boy was it nice. After the first week of school, we all got to
just sit around, unwind, and not talk about work. The house was filled
with just Americans, so we were able to experience just our
culture--so needed sometimes.

Earlier in the day, I went to the little store next to my house and
bought beer--five bottles at a time. On the third trip, the woman who
works there asked me what the beer was for. usually men buy a bottle
at a time, stand around the store, and drink it. By buying multiple
bottles and leaving and then reappearing, I was a little odd. So I
explained it was bday. She congratulated me and showed me to the beer
cooler. (Some things they do drink cool here...sometimes.)

I'm really just rambling here cuz I wanted to tell you i had a little
bday party and it was great to be surrounded by friends. Sometimes we
forget how great that feels. So thanks to all my friends who came out.

03 September 2006


There's so much to say, so I never end up saying anything. I just want
it to be complete, but that can never, ever happen. Not unless you've
been here. Had the experience. So, for now, a quicker thinger.

Went to a football game a few days ago with some friends. Watched the
local team physically dominate the Donetsk Metalurg team. our team got
about a bazillion shots on goal, landing none of them. The game ended
in a tie. The rain made the field slick, so the players were having a
bit of a time trying to control the ball. The entrance to the stadium
was mayhem. People screaming, crowding for tickets. Our friend Casey
barrelled to the front and bought a handful for 20 uah a pop ($4). He
said, "the hooligans are buying seats for 10, so I bought ours for 20.
Hope no one minds." Football fanaticism is a pretty big problem in
Europe, it seems, and maybe everywhere in the world besides the US (we
have Am. Football for that (see: Oakland Raiders)), but we saw no
problems inside the stadium. Maybe because the police were their
taking mostly everyone's beer away, a surprise move, I must say.
Circling the field, every ten feet or so, was another police officer.
Usually they don't make me feel safe, but that night they did.

The more I live here, the more I realize American is a police state
(something I know so many people have already discovered). It's
strange how we are the "land of the free," but we have so many laws
that bind us, that make us feel safe. It was something I was never
conscious of until coming to Ukraine--how those laws, both written and
unwritten, make you feel safe. Living in a different culture helps you
pull your nose away from the mirror and see the whole picture, and I'm
grateful for that.

28 August 2006

Big event

A few days ago we happened upon a lot of people outside of our beautiful Opera House. We hadn't heard of anything big happening, so we went closer to investigate. There was a screen set up in the square, showing people inside the Hall and someone giving a speech. There was also a banner commemorating the 150th anniversary of Ivan Franko's birth. We stood and watched for a while, and I realized we were the only people under 50 in the entire crowd, and certainly the only people not dressed up for the occasion. A few young people passed by, but seemed uninterested to stop and find out what was going on.

At a pause in the speeches the camera zoomed in on a familiar face. It was the President of Ukraine, right there in our own Opera House. He was listening intently, up in the balcony with an empty seat on either side of him. Later, he addressed the audience. The audio outside in the square was bad so I didn't catch much of his message. It was brief, and at the end people outside applauded politely.

You can read about it here, but the translations are strange, and I think the message is somewhat lost. It's interesting, nonetheless. I was especially struck by the crowd, 180 degrees different from the one we were immersed in a few days earlier at a "hip-hop" concert.


18 August 2006

studies, marshrutkas, and krakow

It's been a while since a big update. We've been really busy here in L--, and things are about to get busier. I've been having individual tutoring sessions with students from Karen's college as well as from L'viv National University. We're working under the framework of 40 minutes of English and 20 minutes of Ukrainian. I have such sessions almost every day, which is really helping my spoken language come to the surface, giving me quicker access to this most foreign of languages. On my own, I read a lot of Ukr newspapers; I've got myself quite a collections of interesting articles.

It is interesting to read these articles because I find some of the same frustrations I have with the systems in place both in Ukraine and L'viv voiced by citizens of this country. For example: public transportation. We ride marshrutkas--mini vans--around town when we need to get somewhere faster than our feet will carry us. The drivers of these vehicles are, according to our standards, very irresponsible drivers. They veer into oncoming traffic, take turns at improbable speeds, and are either all gas or all brake. All while having 15 people sitting down and another 15 people standing in the narrow aisles of these vehicles. More than once in these vehicles have I been bandied about like a potato in a sack (vigorously shaken). Sometimes I question their credentials, thinking that most of the drivers are probably the boys in school from whom (side note: from learning Ukrainian, I'm really starting to understand how to used whom in my own, native language) nothing is expected until they drop out of school. Later, they attend driving school. Maybe. Lo and behold, in an article written in the L'viv Gazette a week or so ago, citizens and writers are discussing the same issue. They talked about the bad driving, the danger in riding these vehicles (though we're in no more danger here than on a LA freeway with cars nearly caroming off of each other each second), and the general lack of ability the drivers have. They discussed measures to supervise, and if needed, suspend these drivers from work.  In a country that isn't even allowed, on the whole, to fail students out of school, it's nothing more than a lot of hot air. But people are talking about it; they are sharing my frustrations. This is a rather large, and welcome, discovery.

Speaking of Marshrutkas, we took a series of them on our way to the WONDERFUL city of Krakow, in Poland. First we went to the Ukrainian border town of Shehini. There, we walked to the place at the border that you can walk across and met about 1,500 babusyas. We walked past the end of the line, to kind of get our bearings, and we had all 1,500 babusyas screaming at us, "Can't you see the line!" "Can't you see we're waiting." So I played the card my parents sometimes blame foreigners in our country of doing: I pretended I didn't understand them and kept on with what I was doing. My wonderful wife, however, was against this idea and took us to the back of the line. Undeterred, and knowing we'd be in line for literally six or seven hours with all of the babusyas smuggling cigarettes and vodka into Poland if we didn't play our "i'm an American card", I found a gaurd and produced some uber Ukrainian. I told him we were American, new to the whole border thing, American, and that we didn't know where to stand and that we were American. He proceeded to ask me bunch of questions which, I assumed meant he was really interested in the intricacies of my life or he was waiting for a bribe.

During this exchange, I told him we were meeting our friend in Krakow who flew in from the US. Only, up until then, I thought the word from friend who is a girl is "podruha." Turns out, instead, that I was telling the guy I was going to  Krakow with my wife to pick up my girlfriend (like the dateable kind). He laughed. We laughed. He pushed us to the front of the line. Grateful we were, but we still had to wait an hour in the crush of babas who were sending cigarettes across the border. But, 2.5-3 hrs (with the time change) after we left our door in L'viv, we were on a marshrutka, in Poland, to the strain station.

Then we were in Krakow. AMAZING! It's really a must go. We toured the city, soaked up all of the old and nicely preserved churches and buildings, listened to a bugler who, every hour, came out of the main tower of the main church on the main square to blow a tune, only to cut off mid-note after about 45 seconds--signifying a time, back in the day, when Tatars invaded, the tower bugle dude tried to warn the city, and was cut short by a swift moving arrow (though the town, so I heard, was duly warned anyway). The public transportation was amazing in the city--we could find out everything we needed to know from things called "schedules" which are notably absent in Ukraine. People were friendly AND helpful and FRIENDLY and HELPFUL. 

We took two side trips during our time in Krakow. One to the salt mines, very near Krakow. It's an old salt mine that found bored miners carving intricate statues out of the salt rock beneath the surface of the earth. We waited 2.5 hours in line for a 2 hr tour and it was the most unique thing i have every seen. We ended up 400' or so beneath the surface. Down there are churches carved out of salt, statues of famous people (like the Pope and Jesus and Copernicus--not Britney Spears or George bush), kings, and other neat things. We descended 380 steps at the first part of the tour. It was crazy deep, vertigo inspiring stuff.

The second trip was to Auschwitz-Berkenau, about 2 hrs outside of Krakow. This was a huge tour and we didn't have nearly enough time to see, appreciate, or let affect us all of the things that were there. Our tour was almost four hours. We saw all of the things you'd expect. The empty bunkhouse. Gas chambers. Gallows. Memorials to those who lost their lives, written in all of the languages that were spoken there (+English). The monstrosity done there is too massive to fully comprehend, but I walked away not asking how the Nazis could have done this, I was asking how humanity could have done this. Such evil, I feel, could be perpetuated by any human/group of humans. It wasn't unique, unfortunately, to that group of Germans. I hope we, as humans, can carry on the memory of what happened there and not allow it to happen again. (Not completely off page, a man on our tour kept comparing A-B to Guan-Bay.)

So, that's a lot to read. I hope you enjoyed it. We are back in L'viv now, really noticed how far Ukraine got left behind, how far Poland--or parts of Poland--got ahead. Realizing we are here for a real reason. We'll continue to do our best, in ways that are good.


winding down

As the summer winds down, I feel like it's barely getting started. We still have constant visitors, which I'm sure I'll miss once the cold, dark Winter approaches. We've just returned from an incredible trip to Krakow, where we met up with Michelle the marathon-traveller/gradstudent/picture-taking machine. =)

It was an incredible trip, full of friendly waitresses, patient ticket salespeople, and easy-to-follow public transportation. Polish turned out to be fairly easy to understand when spoken, but the written form was full of crazy consonant clusters we didn't know how to pronounce.

It was wonderful to have my friend here, to experience a bit of our life in our city. I enjoyed witnessing what was remarkable, odd, or shocking to her, many things I have long since gotten accustomed to ignoring.

Auschwitz was awful and wonderful; we had an excellent tour guide who compassionately described some of the horror that took place where we stood. There wasn't much time to let things sink in, but I'm so glad we went. Our time there was much too short.

In a week or so meetings will start up in preparation for the new semester, and then I will get into a new routine. I'm looking forward to seeing my students, hearing of their summer "rests," and hitting the ground running in terms of our English study.

Happy Ukrainian Independence Day, August 24th. This year is the 15th anniversary and we will celebrate with a concert, good food, and even an appearance of a world champion Strongman.

09 August 2006

quick updater thinger

Just wanted to drop the line I've been meaning to drop for a week now (but waited to append it to a larger update that just never came):

KRK, Poland > SAN, California 25 Dec
SAN, California > KRK, Poland 12 Jan

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!you make plans to see me or vice versa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In other news, headed to Krakow Saturday for a few days. Gonna see Auschwitz--that's gonna be tough but important.

29 July 2006


Who needs to lift weights when you can hand wash!?

Usually I just wash 2 or 3 things at a time, the bare essentials. But yesterday I got ambitious and threw 8 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and some socks and underwear into my big purple wash bin. I think it's intended to be for painting, as I bought it at a hardware store, and it has that rippled slanting slope that you run your paint roller over to even out the paint. Well that's my new and improved washboard, that fits perfectly across the edges of the tub.

I started just after L left for tutoring yesterday morning, and was still scrubbing, rinsing, and wringing when he came back 2 hours later.

Many of you might be thinking, duh, Karen...that's life of people without washing machines. But really, it forces me to realize how EASY "modern conveniences" have made our lives at home. I've never had to hand wash. I even had the nerve to complain about saving up quarters for the laundromat. I never thought about how much time and sweat and EXERCISE it produce something we take for granted: clean clothes.

Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but I have a renewed appreciation for the hard work that falls under the blanket category of "housework." And I'm just taking care of myself, imagine if I was trying to do laundry for a family, including sheets, towels, work clothes....ahh! One thing's for sure, I'd be buff.

And allow me to mention the fact that on two different occasions I've heard of Ukrainian women asking their husbands for washing machines only to be met with the question,

"but what would you do all day?"

19 July 2006

a great honor

"It is a distinctly regional force, hated by the majority of the country, which despite disillusionment with Yushchenko, gave fewer votes to Yanukovych in March 2006 (32%) than he received in the first round of the 2004 presidential elections (36%)."
This from the Ukraine report I regularly receive in my inbox. It's interesting to be here, to watch the defection of Moroz of the Socialists to the pro-Russian Party of Regions (who don't feel Yushchenko's election was even legitimate and whose ideology the Socialists opposed, at least in the ways that I understand), feel the shifting of the political climate (just look up "Ukraine horns" in Google news), and to try to understand the RAPID changes that are occurring here.  That as of this moment, P of R is in the majority, less people support them now than in 2004 is breathtaking to me. A lot of us volunteers see things in black and white as far as politics go. We don't delve in too much because we aren't allowed to and, frankly, because we don't really understand the foundations the current political climate is built upon. What I do know is that, standing on the Maidan today, watching the yellow flags of PORA (the Ukr. youth movement which lent substantial support to Yushchenko's 1st pres. bid) and Yulia Tymoshchenko's flag (red heart contrasted against a stark, white field) flapping against the backdrop of a hundred more flags flapping against tents and rows of tents and tents in rows, I was moved. Deeply. People are camping out again on Independence Square--nowhere near the 1,000,000 from 2004's Orange Rev, but hundreds--demanding democracy. Demanding their country listen to them.
One banner I read, hanging from the pedestrian bridge that crosses a cobblestone road that twists behind the square, said/demanded, in Ukrainian (and I dunno if your PCs can read the text):
сперше--про україну
потім--про себе
Which means: First, about Ukraine / Later: about yourself. Which pretty much sums up how I feel about what's going on.
To be standing amongst so many who simply want a voice is a great honor.  A great honor indeed.

10 July 2006

small things can get you through

On the rains, we usually take coupe--a four person "room" on an overnight train. At first, not knowing the language, culture, etc... it was easier to fend of two other people as opposed to many more that you find in Platskart--a full carriage of beds with no divisions.  We had received advice when we first got her that we had to try Platskart at least once. It was an experience.  Recently, a few of our friends had taken Platskart pretty much across the country and spoke fairly favorably of it (as favorably as you can get about a noisy, bumpy, overnight ride). So, on our way to and from Khmelnytsky (where we worked in a fairly unsuccessful summer camp), we decided to try Platskart. It was well worth it not only for the presence of so many people--which makes getting away from one quite simple--but also for the kind people whom we met on the train.

On the platform, we walked the seeming mile length of the train toward our carriage. We showed the conductor our tickets and boarded. My seat was taken by a large woman and her small child. it was daytime, and I wasn't going to use the bed, so I didn't bother trying to sit in my exact seat--as the American in me is wont to do. I sat with Karen on her bed--which folded up in the middle to create a little, uncomfortable table. The carriage was half full, and we found ourselves sitting across from one of the only full berths on the train.  there sat a family headed to Simferopol, in Crimea. After a few hours, the mother of the family discovered that we could speak Ukrainian and engaged us in a very pleasant conversation. We talked about the weather, the lack of farms in Ukraine (which was strange as, while we talked, we rolled past 18 billion farms), and some ukrainian literary figures. Normal and pleasant.

Pleasant because the woman didn't treat us like three year olds because we still can't navigate the genitive case.

Pleasant because she didn't treat us like a novelty because we were Americans who spoke Ukrainian and not Russian.

Pleasant because she treated us normally like we were normal people normally riding on a normal train.

Unfortunately, that's kind of rare. Usually, we feel like fish in a bowl. Googled at because we're American. Because we speak Ukrainian. Because we don't understand Russian. Because we're here at all.

But she treated us like normal people, and I thank her for that.

29 June 2006


The other day my mom wrote the abbreviation "A/C" in a message, and I wrote back and asked her what that meant. So quickly I've forgotten...

People always insisted that humid heat is worse than dry heat. That it's hotter, and it's harder to breathe. I thought I preferred it to dry, because my skin likes the moisture. But I'm currently rconsidering my stance. My legs were actually sweating today on the marshrutka into Kyiv, and this from a person who doesn't sweat. It's stifling hot these days, but I know I shouldn't complain. At least it's not snowing, right?

So we survived our first Ukrainian summer camp experience, and we're headed to #2 in a few days. We learned that it's important to ask for details before you make travel plans, to confirm that there is actually a camp to teach at in the first place. We got stuck in the difficult situation of teaching students who not only didn't want to be studying during their summer vacation, they didn't even know about the camp they were attending in the first place. On the first morning, Larry asked then, do you know why you're here? They all responded, "No!" in unison. We told them they were at English language camp, and they're weren't exactly thrilled. However, being that we're flexible, resourceful PCVs, we made something from nothing and it turned out not half bad.

Students created brochures for a local park, including information about plantlife, animals, park activities, scenery and a trail map. And they had to do it all in English, so we taught them the vocabulary they would need (meadow, path, grove, valley, etc), drew some pictures, played some games, and that was that. We only had 3 classes with them, but they came up with really good drafts.

Meanwhile, Ukraine eeked out an exciting World Cup victory, putting them into the top 8! All this in their first ever World Cup appearance. Looking forward to the next match tomorrow night.

20 June 2006


Perhaps my body adjusted to the cold. Since when is 75-80 degrees hot!? I think it's pretty humid here, but really. I'm getting emails and letters about record breaking heat in CA and CO, in the 90's and 100's, so this is nothing. It's like my body forgot what it's like, but I guess we'll find out at Softball Camp in a few weeks. It'll be like old times, red-faced Karen playin' ball.

This morning, L and I ventured to "Arson," a big supermarket we'd heard good things about. It has big wide isles, and more checkout stands than Costco. A lot of pre-packaged stuff like meats and dried fruits that might come in handy when we don't want to elbow our way through the crowds at the bazaars. Although, I think it's growing on me. In general people here seem more used to dealing with foreigners. They stare less. Sometimes people don't even turn around when they hear us speaking English.

Did we ever tell you what it's like buying meat at the bazaar? You enter a big cement warehouse with big chunks of meat hanging on hooks or lying on newspaper all around you. It's mostly female vendors, and they shout out to you as you walk by. People are poking the meat with their bare hands or picking up chunks to smell them. When you choose your vendor, usually someone that's been recommended to you by a friend, you ask what's fresh, or tell them what you plan to make with their meat. After asking the price and agreeing, you tell them how much you want. They then select a huge chunk of meat, still attached to a large portion of the animal, and place it on a flat surface (often a tree stump or cement block). They grab an axe and smash it into your selected chunk a few times until it breaks loose, put it on the scale, punch something into the calculator and stuff your meat into a plastic bag for you. Sometimes they even double bag it.

19 June 2006

Short update from L-town

Sunny now. Trying to capture the vitamin D and store it away for summer. Getting a little red, but enjoying the weather.

Just hosted our two friends from P---. We trained with them and were so happy to have them here. We took them around to all of the sites in the span of two days. We live in a good location where we can navigate to any point in the city pretty well. They were impressed with the view from the top of a high fortress. From there, you can see the edges of L---, where it melts away into western Ukrainian forest. For living in such a big city, it's nice to be reminded we're really just some people living in a large community right in the middle of a forest in Eastern Europe.

In two days we take off for a 20 day tour of summer campdom. We are teaching in two different cities, one in the central Ukraine, and one in the West. We are looking forward to seeing new parts of the country, but we just love our city so much it's hard to leave it. But, there is work to be done, and that is why we are here.

Enjoy youselves. Thinking of you.


07 June 2006


We are definitely sampling the good life. We've moved into our own apartment: 2 large rooms, a nice kitchen and bathroom, and a balcony. There's water all day, though the best pressure is during the usual 6-9am/pm. We have high ceilings and get morning sun into our bedroom and living room, when there's sun. Lately it's been cloudy and occasionally rainy, perhaps they have summers similar to Monterey here, though it's strange because we're not near the ocean (sea). You can check out photos of our new home on flickr.com (If you're not a member, let me know and I'll "invite" you).

Yesterday, during a discussion with my students about working or studying abroad, one girl asked if it was true that people in the U.S. are all fat. =) I think she was worried that this question would offend me, so she padded it with the disclaimer that she has family in the U.S. and they told her that people don't all look like they do on tv. I told her that in general, I thought it was safe to say that people in the U.S. are fatter than people here. We talked a bit about fast food and exercise and diabetes. This same girl dreams of going abroad and living in the U.S. I asked her where her family lives, thinking in my head what a rude awakening she'll be in for if she's expecting Beverly Hills, 90210. She replied, "Detroit."

Today's my last day of classes and I'm looking forward to having some more free time to explore the things we've been wanting to see in L---. Though I'll actually miss teaching my students. They're so interesting and fun to talk to and motivated. I'm sure the summer will fly and I'll be back in the classroom before I know it. I'll be doing an English Club in the library once a week here; we'll see if anyone shows up.

Yesterday we bought a bit pot to make soup in, and Larry cooked up some corn chowder. It's by far the best recipe we've found in the "Babusya's Cookbook" PC gave us. It's delicious, and it just gets better each day. Looking forward to a bit bowl of that for lunch later.

Wishing you sunshine and smiles from beautiful Ukraine. Happy day.

26 May 2006

ramblings on a friday afternoon

Three days ago was the hottest day yet in Ukraine. For Karen and I, it was beach weather. As there is no beach here, or anywhere near here, we made do by going to our schools and doing our jobs--as much as we wanted to just stroll around the center, take in some outdoor sights, or just park ourselves on a bench and eat some ice cream.  Of course, upon arriving at school, we found that our students had done just that. In some classes, I was teaching three students. In others, six. Such is the life here.

All those commercials say it is the toughest job you'll ever love, and it is tough some days. But other days, man, let me tell you, it ain't so tough. Standing beneath the cupola of a 14th century church, admiring the, unfortunately deteriorating, frescoes depicting priests and lay people....and the disembodied--and screaming--head of Jesus. Discovering a new pizza joint--pizza, having recently been rediscovered as our favorite food--and watching my excited wife order pepperoni, a rarity here, and watching her smile decline as a pizza wheels out of the kitchen, replete with hot, red chili peppers (and no the kind that play guitars with socks dangling of their dangles). (Upon receiving the bill, we saw, written, "pepperoni," which ended our debate of whether I had ordered wrong, or if they really though that was pepperoni was hot, red chili peppers. At least, in that new place, themed like a European football hangout, pepperoni has a different meaning.) Taking in a beer (Guinness!!) and a Margarita (Karen) at a newly discovered pub, Irish themed, and meeting with a fellow PCV and new friend to us all, a Ukrainian named Roman who works for a Dutch firm and has a former moto-cross & tennis champion for a father in law. (When info on tennis courts in L--- pans out, I'll let you know if that is fact or farce). So, no, it ain't always tough.

But when everyday you've got to run around the school, finding someone who might know of someone who has the key for your room--because copying them would make too much sense, it's a little tough. When you're getting yelled at on the marshrutka in a language you barely understand (Karen's story), it gets a little tough. When you've got four summer camps looming on the summer horizon, it gets a little tough.

But, man, when those kids get all excited cuz your actually there, cuz you actually understand them, cuz they actually understand them, and cuz you're actually, actually, actually there and will actually be there for another 18 months, it is worth it.

Anyway...rain now. And lots of it. The reason: It's L----. Kinda what we always said for Humboldt County.

"Why's it raining is freakin' June?"

"Cuz it's Humboldt."

This weekend, some folks coming in from the East. A Birthday. Meeting my language tutor on Saturday.

On Tuesday: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In Ukrainian.

Next week, the last week of regular school. Then a 10-day day-camp. Time to bust out my newly purchased guitar.

Oh yeah, and in the next 10 days, we're moving again. And for the last time until we move back to the US.  Moving to a nice 2-room apt near the center of town.



[P.S. Congrats and golf claps to Scott Webb for getting the accept into MIIS. Too bad we won't be colleagues--as you'll surely finish before we're back. You're at a great school in a great part of the state.]

20 May 2006

a sat morn in l---

A bright sunny day in L--, a fitting epilogue to yesterday's downpour. Monuments and church-tops are drying off in the heat--and hopefully so are my clothes.

I went to class in the morning, bez umbrella, and taught a killer lesson on advertising. End of class rolls around as my students are ready to unveil a slogan and an intended audience for their own products--like a cell phone that doubles as a fork--and the bell rings. I tell then I'll see them during the 3rd lesson, and we'll finish up the presentations. They tell me they don't have class because there will be a history test--scheduled eons ago before I existed in this historic town--that they have to take. This was confirmed by the vice-principal, and I finished editing a few pages of a colleagues Am. Lit. text that I'm in charge of, and then stepped out into the rain. This was at 9:30am. It was still raining when I stepped out of "Tsukerhya," a fabulous cafe near the center where I ate apple strudel and had a perfectly mixed mug of Irish Coffee, at 3:30pm. I'd been trying to hold out against the weather, exploring the new--and dry--markets and shops of my new city, so that I could meet a new language tutor at 5:30pm. We were going to walk around and do the first talking in Ukrainian I've done in weeks. Unfortunately, the rain got to be too much, and I, unfortunately, had to cancel. Boo!

Heading into the summer here. Got a number of camps lined up. Will be working in the old training town of P---. Then off to K---- for a softball/leadership camp. My new site has a plan cooked up that'll take me to Poland for another camp in July. We've been having a go about that because my site kinda thinks it owns me for more than the 18 hours a week they are entitled to. nothing to complain about with a free trip to Poland, though. Of course, I've done 24/hour summer camps ( I.E. Concordia) and I'm not anxious for a repeat.

Anyway, we're off soon for High Castle--again. This time, we'll actually see the castle and avoid the bribing.


[p.s. As I have more frequent access to Internet, I'll be sending more frequent updates. If you want off the list, please let me know. no hard feelings.]

[p.p.s. Congrats to Cris Elder for securing an ELF in Guatemala!!!!!]

09 May 2006

L-town week one


We have arrived safely.


We finally have an apartment.


We have to move again in a month (into our 6th domocile in the goold ol' Ukr).

Okay, now that that is taken care of, welcome to L-town. It's a big city in the west if you don't already know the name. Pretty much tourist central right now. Watched a huge concert in the city center yesterday. One of my favorite Ukrainian bands, Друга Ріка (Second River, I guess), was playing, along with a few other decent bands. The city put up a stage right in front of the historic Opera house, creating a real interesting contrast between old and new, between were we came from and where we are now. the center was filled with 15 year olds, just packed. Most of them drinking--those kind of laws aren't really enforced here. No problems of note, however.
Some friends from the surrounding area acme in to join us. It's nice to be in a place now where we can talk to some of our friends and realize that the shit we went through is some of the same shit everyone else is going through. Or went through. We were so isolated in S-town.
I'm working at a school of international relations. The English spoken there is really good, so I feel like I'm going to be a able to do a lot of good work in getting the kids to a higher level. 
Oh, friends just came in. Gotta jet.

03 May 2006

next stop

After a mid-semester vacation while we waited for our site transfer, we are finally headed to our next home. We have played tourist for nearly two weeks now, and we are looking forward to playing teacher again. We are anxious to feel settled, to be in one place for longer than a month or two, but we have (at least) one more move before that happens.

When we arrive in our new city I will pass along a mailing address through email. Speaking of email, we will likely have much more frequent access to ours where we are headed.

Feeling excited and lucky and, as always, very well taken care of by PC.

02 May 2006


So I didn't really surprise her, but surprise is the same word in Ukrainian as it is in English. What I'm trying to say is that surprises are kinda common.  So I went with what works: I walked her around the Andrivska street market and watched her eyes. She's hard to shop for not because she's got expensive taste and not because she wants a hundred things. якраз навпаки, вона часто не хоче нічого. (Exactly the opposite, she usually doesn't want anything.  I'm the consumer of the relationship; she can talk herself out of buying anything.
So today, I talked her out of talking her self out of buying anything. Except I bought it, of course. 
We picked up a piece of art from a local guy. At first, I had to track him down through the other street vendors whop had set up shop near him. He was engaged in a chess game near the middle of the cobblestone street which dipped--suspiciously like a hill in this flat, flat land--down past a 18th century church which gorgeous matte teal onion-domes. He started in on us in Russian, as they all do. Then he asked if e understood. We said we understood Ukrainian better. He said he saw we were foreign and thought we'd understand Russian; I think he was surprised that tourists could understand/speak Ukrainian. We told him we lived here, which explained our ability. [Once the switch went over and we were getting all Ukrainian, we understood nearly everything].
He quoted us some prices on his really good, part-abstract work. Some really reasonable prices. As we'd already passed buy his place on the street, his work hanging from a black, cast-iron gate, I knew which pieces Karen was interested in. Once Karen knew I was indeed going to buy one of his pieces, and that it was better if she choose it rather than me doing an eenie-meenie-moe number of the ones hers eyes lingered on, she chose one titled, "View from the other side of the moon." It shows the earth in the distance. In the foreground is the side of the moon that we never see. The artist rendered his thoughts of what exists on that side of the moon in his print.
So, happy birthday Karen (a few days early). Now we just gotta find a way to get it to L-town safely.
And find a wall we can truly call ours for longer than two or three months to tack it to.

protests across america

It's pretty nuts to be sitting in downtown Kyiv and watching images and news of the protests gearing up in America.  Seeing photos today of supporters of undocumented workers was uplifting today. I hope the national dialogue changes to one of inclusion. And not into a nation-wide race riot.
All the rich people, poor people, every people who are afraid of the influx of immigrants in America need to look in the mirror. America is a nation of immigrants. We can see it in all of our faces.
And we always will.
It's time to respect ourselves, our ancestors, and those living and dying everyday trying to make a life for themselves in America--or anywhere.
Living in another culture, being the outsider, gives me a perspective I wish more people in our country, our island, had.

01 May 2006

walking with the dead

Still in Kyiv. Today is labor day, so the town--except for Khreshatik--is like a ghost town. In the words of my friend describing Poltava, "It's post-apocalyptic." Yeah, that.
Took the Funicular--a short tram that crawls up a hill near the river Dnipro--today. Thought it would be like a touristy view of the city. Walked up to the kaca to buy tickets for the journey. 50 kopeks each; the same as riding the Metro. Gave the lady a 1 and got two tokens in return. When I looked at them, I realized they were just 50 kopek pieces. Nothing special. Turned out to be just a way to get from the river, over the hill, and down to Khreshatik. Of course, we got a pretty nice view of the river and wound up in a beautiful park which leaned up against old church grounds--one of the churches had an onion-dome made out of wooden shingles. Lots of cool sites up there, and of course today's the day we leave the camera in the hotel.  Oh well.
Went to another ancient church ground the other day. The Kyiv Pechescka Lavra in downtown Kyiv. Part of one of the churches on the grounds dates back to 11th century AD.  We'd heard about the underground monastery. I wanted to see that.  When we finally found it, after winding around the epic churches which crawled above us and into the sky, Karen couldn't go it. She didn't have a head scarf and didn't want to buy one for 15 UAH. Neither did she have a long skirt. Orthodox up in here. So I entered alone. Well, I entered with a large group of Ukrainians. They all had candles and rosary looking devices. The journey into the first part of the cave was slow as everyone stopped to pray at every official looking prayer stop. The narrow, rounded path got narrower as we wound into the earth (really only about 20 meters down).
Then, the stops and the prays got more frequent. Women and men were throwing themselves on top of these box things that were lining the walkway, praying, and clicking their beads against the boxes. Then they'd kiss the boxes and move onto the next. The next of like 20 or 30. As I progressed, I discovered the boxes lining the narrow corridors were actually wooden framed coffins paned with glass. Inside, hermit priests from the 11th - 15th centuries, some replete with oil portraits of how that looked in life hanging above  their final resting places. From some of the dried, blackened hands poking out of the burial shrouds, I had a pretty good idea what they looked like in death. In some other rooms were ancient artifacts that we couldn't look at. Some famous holy relics. The tour wound further into the earth, but I a route out the first exit. Being a little claustrophobic and having a different relationship with the dead than most Ukrainians do, I decided to bail before I really let out the screams I'd been holding in.
Off to L in the west on Weds--so we hear.

28 April 2006

a friday afternoon

Another big holiday weekend coming up. Almost half the year is holidays, I swear. Kyiv might be really busy this weekend or really dead. Being coming to the city to celebrate or people leaving the city to celebrate. Really, it could go either way.

In the middle here--Kyiv and really any adjacent oblast--and our Ukrainian language skills kinda fall outta favor. They can get us around. We can od what we need to do, but the lingua franca is definitely Russian. And I can get around even in Russian. Can do what I need, just from what I've picked up from the Surjik (a blend of Ukrainian and Russian) I hear. But I am much more comfortable in pure/almost-pure Ukrainian.

Living in the West as we did, we rarely heard Russian in large doses. Just on TV, which we didn't watch very often. Our langauge usually came from talking or reading, and most of that was in Ukrainian. It got to where I was even thinking in Ukrainian.

So we're glad to be headed back out to the west. We're having a good time in Kyiv, taking in some theatre (Don Quixote ballet, translated into a ballet--PHENOMENAL), visiting the touristy places in town, and taking a much needed rest. We saw Hetman Ivan Mazepa's house yesterday. And today, being the dorks that we are, are attending a seminar in downtown Kyiv being given by Peter Master. He'll be talking about how to teach the English article system in a more coherent way.

Like I said: dorks.

Before that, we'll prolly head over to the underground monasteries.

Yeah, life.

20 April 2006

a more robust update


In Kyiv. In the sun. Gotta say, Kyiv is a much different city in the
sun than it is in the snow. Don't get me wrong. The snow is beautiful.
But as all y'all who spent some good portion of your lives in the
midwest/northern plains/east/anywhere besides bila okeana, the snow is
beautiful til you gotta do something in it. Til you live in it for a
few days. Then it gets to be "that g-d snow" instead of just "snow."

We're hopefully headed to our old host family in P-town for Easter.
Got some meetings and stuff to handle in Kyiv with PC. Site
reassignment. For those of you who havent been in semi-constant
contact with us, I'll break it down real quick. Our sites, while
consiting of a number of wonderful people and unbelievable students,
was unable to procure us an apartment to live in for two years.
Despite some pleasant nudging, later turning into threats to take us
out of site, our sites could not find us a place to live. No
apartment, no teachers. Really, really sad for the kids because our
coordinators and directors didn't think we'd seriously leave. Even as
we were closing down our bank accounts, getting the notary to make up
some new rules so we could get our packages at the post office that
are still coming, people were still saying, "Oh, you'll be back in a
few weeks when we find something." Well, my sites were. Karen's
director couldn't be bothered to find an apartment, yet he quickly
found us a taxi back to Kyiv. My sites will probably be getting
volunteers again. We helped pave the way for a stronger relationship
between S-town and PC. Karen's site...I don't know.

So, there wasn't ever a safety concern for us there. Nothing more
serious than a lack of commitment to us. So now we will talk about a
new site tomorrow. As we speak Ukrainian--pretty well, I'd say, for
only studying six months--they're leaning towards the West, if they
can. We'll be coming in at the end of the semester, so we might not be
teaching til next semester, which is rough. We love teaching. I really
come alive in the classroom--in front of a class or with a pen in my
had are the times I really feel like I've tapped into some secret
energy from the Earth.

Leaving, I had, at each of my sites, all of my students in one room.
Then I had to break the news to then. Then cried. I cried. My
coordinators cried. I told then have much I did to get here. How long
I waited, how excited I was, and how crushed I was that I couldn't
stay. Crushed. Then, to watch them all run out to the front of the
school, crying and waving. Makes you feel all good and all bad and all
at the same damn time. Alive and dead.

Staying at a hotel in Kyiv currently. Taking the Metro back and forth.
Always fun. Buying fresh, poppy-seeded breadfrom the street vendors.
Taking in the ancient landscape heavily salted with modernity.
Standing on the escalator, hand on the thick, black rubber band that
serves as the handrail, my feet on the metal, moving steps, I find
that the handrail moves faster than the steps. So, if you lean on it,
your arm will eventually pull forward and you'll be leaning at a weird
angle. And that's kinda how it is here. Only the world Ukraine proper
so desperately wants to be a part of is the handrail.

And Ukraine itself is the steps.

Our Ukraine WebBlog: http://klukraine.blogspot.com

19 April 2006

In Kyiv

In Kyiv. Awaiting site reassignment. Things turned for the worst, I
suppose, and now we'll be headed to a new city. That's exciting at

Off to relax after a fair bit of stress. Hope to respond to you all
personally soon. The important thing is: we're safe and happy.

Love to all.


12 April 2006

Ukraine in April

Okay, so I really don't get to the internet.

First of all. http://www.perigee-art.com . 15 April 2006. My next
installment of my Peace Corps work for that magazine. You gotta pay $1
for the priveledge, but it's only a buck. I getting right famous and

Enough with the plugs.

It's getting warm hear. Actually, it's done got warm here. Snow's
gone. The river's full (of water and trash). The ground is all sand,
like we're at the beach or something. It's getting easier and easier
to live here. The language is really coming on at a good clip--thanks
to four hours of tutoring a week and us still living with our host
family. I'm writing stories again, entered some of my work, and moving
forward with that.

The teaching is going good. really taught some good classes lately.
I'm really settling down in the classroom and working with a style
that the students really respond to. The novelty of the American has
pretty much worn off for the students, so I'm just their teacher now.
But one they seem to like, which is nice. School ends the end of next
month. Then we've got a summer to look forward to. If any of you want
to visit, that would be the time.

We'll be going back to P for easter (a week later than yours) and we
are excited to see out old friends and family. We'll be going back
there in the summer, we hope, to work on a camp.

though things are good here, things are also slow. It's a real small
town mentality here. All there is to do for the youth is
drink--drinking laws are not enforced. We're hoping to provide some
alternatives--I've started a basketball thing on Saturdays. Of
course, we're real scatter brained because we don't have an apartment
yet. The people we work and live with have had a hard time finding
empty apartments--and have had a hard time understanding the urgency
of living on our own. We're three weeks past the date we should have
moved and still waiting. We've went from patient to angry to angrier
to amused to complacent. I've learned a lot about myelf during the
process, but I feel our contacts here are a little slower in wanting
to learn anything about us.

When the sun is shining here, it's beautiful. Well, not the city so
much. It's utilitarian. But the weather is beautiful. I've missed
the sun.

Post office here doesn't believe it can send postcards, so we're
having to package them all up and send em in letters. Jim, your
stamps are finally coming--though all the beautiful stamps are not
available in my town. Or anywhere it seems. They have posters for
them, but they don't have them for sale.

Wish you all well,

Our Ukraine WebBlog: http://klukraine.blogspot.com

22 February 2006


All you warm ones (except Celeste),

Well, we're marching ever onward. The cold that hit the country while
we were in America didn't sweep away with our arrival. The following
monday, we got hit with -28c weather. Only one day, and the day I
happened to be walking around downtown with nothing to do. I'm sure
some of you have been in weather where, when you bearth, your
nosehairs stick together. Where you face feels like you're laying it
on a block of solid ice. All of this, and the sun was still shining.

It's a cruel trick, looking outside the window and seeing sunlight,
long forgotten here, creeping through the snow bound tree limbs and
thinking, "Today will be a find day to wear my non-artic clothing." A
quick trip back inside to change back into that artic clothing, and
the day finds its start...

So our first full week back, we taught as much as we could, but the
cold weather drove most of the students away. It's like snowed-in days
back at home, only here the snow's constant. We've got "too cold to
move; foolish to go outside days." I think I taught maybe nine classes
the first week back. Karen, less, but not just because of the cold.
She's got some schedule problems at her site. Something about two or
three classes shoved into the same time slot. The confusion is
understandable if the schdule there is anything like the schedule at
my school. Take graph paper and draw along the x-axis (is the
horizontal axis really x? It's been so long since imaginary numbers
and parabolas) all of the grades (or forms) that study at the school.
Along the y-axis, draw all of the of the tiem slots available,
grouping each day of the week seperately. Now, on different colored
pieces of cardboard--some the designs of christmas wrapping paper,
others all cardstock from Soviet times--type the names of all of the
classes. Each class gets it's own color--some of my English classes
have this weird chess-piece design. Now, spend a whole day arranging
those tiles on the graph paper so that none of the classes conflict.
Impossible, say I , but they manage to get it almost right. Of cours,
my schedule changes every week. Of course, of course, I haven't
really been at that site much because of going home to America and the
language conference we just had in Kyiv.

Oh yes, language conference. PC sent us to Kyiv for a Ukrainian
language refresher. We'd have four days of content-based language
instruction while staying at that fine Ukrainian resort, P-sok. All
the egg-dipped chicken and egg-dipped beef and egg-dipped mystery meat
we could eat. So, we're at the conference, and we get to see our
friends again. Kris and Jen and Ben and Nate; names meaningless,
maybe, to you all, but pure joy to us. So we have our classes, which
were quite good. I got to do in a class what I do at home--read
newspaper articles, practice ukrainian cursive, sing along to
Ukrainian songs, etc.... Good stuff, but I felt, once again, like a
second grader. I've really come along with the langauge to a point
were I feel realy comfortable with what I know--that plateau thing.
Being there, and taking the advanced course, the world was once again
laid bare to me; the skeletons of the earth that I saw were made up of
every bit of Ukrainian I (a) still don't know and (b) didn't know
existed. One class I attened was more a philosophy of the language
than anything tanglible or useful (now, although on work for my MA at
MIIS it'll be invaluable, I feel). I learned how the three genders of
the language (male, female, and neuter) give way to a fourth gender
(spilny) which is really the hermaphrodite of the language as words
that fall within its orbit take both male and female gender. Oh my God
I'm boring you with nerdy word facts....

Anyway, it was good to see our friends. Ben got a (not!!!!) pirated
copy of Brokeback, and we watched that one night. Good movie, but I
liked the story better, I think. I played chess (finally!!) all three
days and got my ass royally kicked by my former Ukrainian teacher. It
was cool though, cause we did it all in Ukrainian, and now I know how
to say the useful word "castling" which some people don't even use in
English and I'll barely

(oh, oh, just gave an impromptu English lesson in the Library)

be able to use the word in normal conversation with people here. I
thought here'd be some chess playing fools, but I've only seen people
playing once. And that was while they were trying to exchange Dollars
for Hryvnia in the street.

Anyway, back in S-town now, and we're thinking about the way of things
here. How much easier life could be for people if only a few things
were to change. How our work here is really affecting our students.
Our we really helping them? Is knowledge of authentic English really
going to help them when they teach with the Ukrainian variant of
English like "to go in for sports" and "the US is washed by three
oceans" ? If the students don't go anywhere but here, are we really
helping them by teaching them Englosh as it is really spoken by native
speakers? Or are we hurting them because they'll use words that even
their teachers don't know? And will later correct out of them? ?s ?s

Started working with a Ukrainian tutor. Got off to a slow start
because she wanted to take me back to Ukrainian 101 when I'm already
in 301. Had to really convince her that I already knew what she was
talking about (and that I really wanted speaking and writing practice,
not listening practice and vocabulary drills). I'm starting with a
second tutor today, so I'm up to four hours a week, which really isn't
much, but coupled with actually living in the culture I'll use the
langauge in, it's a big help. In a few weeks, I'll get that piano
tutor. One lives across the hall from us. I'll learn piano, something
I've always wanted to do, and I'll learn some language at the same
time.Just gotta find a patient teacher.

Well, that's enough for now. Gotta teach in 40 minutes. Hope all's
well with you and yours.

Your friend (or relative) in Ukraine,

03 February 2006

a new start in ukraine

Though it's been only a few short days since I've seen some of you, and I apologize for not being able to contact more of you while I was home, I feel I should take advantage of the Internet while I have it and send in an update. Access is limited, and I've probably got something to say.
Home was bittersweet. I was overwhelmed by seeing my family, whom I dearly miss, and by watching the woman who raised me, who loved and was loved, lowered below the earth. It's been an emotional tilt-a-whirl. After four months in Ukraine, I got to go home. After 24 years as a grandson, I am grandparentless (excluding the spiritual side of the matter). At home, I was lucky enough to have two weeks with the most important people in my life. We were able to grieve together. To laugh together. To remember together. And to share the occasional beverage together. There was a lot of closure in my trip that I never would have had if I weren't allowed, with Karen, to fly home.  I am indebted to the PC Ukraine staff for the work they did to get us home. I owe them what I've already given them: two years of my life.
It was hard to leave my family again, but I knew I had to.  I didn't belong in America.  At least, not yet. I was embedded in Ukrainian culture just enough to experience some culture shock upon returning home.  It's hard to put into words that make sense but there were so many things that I had gotten used to not having. Having them again, all again and all at once, shocked me a little. It was an important lesson to learn: having everything I wanted, doing anything I wanted was hard to get used to...after four months.  I can't imagine what it'll be like after two years.
I felt in a dream, stuck between the American culture I knew and the Ukrainian culture I was getting to know. From buying a bottle of water with a $20 and not being harassed for exact change to being transported anywhere I wanted to go (a) in a timely fashion and (b) without being squished up against a hundred people, all the little things added up, giving me a glimpse of how I'd feel returning to America in December of 2007 (or Dec 2006, if I go home for Christmas).
Being back here is just as strange.  Having to come up with exact change. Slipping on the ice. Being forced to speak Ukrainian again. Adding to that the jet-lag, which is befuddling my mind. [Example, last night, in the hotel, Karen's cell went off, and I began grilling her about when my grandma would be calling]. So, some of the things are the same. But there are also some things that are different. It's kinda like having a new start. Some of the negative things we've experienced, or the negative attitudes we have, we can reshape or redefine.  It's like coming to Ukraine for the first time, only being very informed about what it's going to be like. We know a lot about the culture, so we can react better to those things this time around.
After 19 hours on various planes, living through delays and such, we returned to Ukraine, flying low over the same patch of land I saw back in the beginning of October, only this time fitted with layers of snow instead of naked, burning fields. Back at the office, we learned from the Director of PC Ukraine that we had missed the coldest winter he'd ever seen in Ukraine. Everyone here is talking about the black frost, the -25 to -30C weather, the snow. The coldest winter in years--and hopefully the coldest for years.  I don't feel too bad that I missed that part of the winter.
Back in Kyiv, everything's the same.  Snow falling in sheets. Slush and ice of the ground. Women freezing in the streets to sell their wares (mobile phone cards or jars of pickles). Men wandering, talking into their cell phones. Today, on the street, we heard a Brit talking into his cell phone. Two weeks ago, I would have died to hear him talk; after being home for two weeks, listening to all the English I could handle, it wasn't such a treat. I realized, though, in another couple of months, I'd be back, roaming the streets of Kyiv, listening for that man's voice again. Until you're in another country, living under a different language, you might not understand the joy in hearing your native tongue.
The political parties are out on the streets, gearing up for the elections. It's nice to see people out on the streets, supporting causes that are important to them. Everyone has his or her flag, scarf, or banner in support of their candidate. There are so many parties, I can't even begin to count. But they must be worthy candidates because these people are standing out in the freezing cold, waving their flags all day.  Worthy or else rich.
Karen and I are in Kyiv for another 24 hours. Then we take a train up to S-town. We'll get in at 11pm, so we'll get to lug our suitcases home in the dark. Looking forward to being in our new home--as we've just switched host families. We didn't even have the chance to unpack; we were there less than 24 hours before I found out about my grandmother and had to go home.
Anyway, I should end this before I ramble on some more.  Missing in all and wishing you all health, love, and life.

02 February 2006

back in ukraine

Just writing to let you all know that we are safely back in Ukraine. Jet lag is crushing my brain, but other than that, we are okay.  It was nice to be home in Cali, although I wish it wasn't a funeral that took me home. It was nice to see my family and my friends. Also, it was nice to avoid the -25C weather here.

Hope all is well.

31 January 2006


Somewhere between two places, we are airborne.

This time at home has allowed me to reflect on the positive things, the simplicity, that I am growing to love about Ukraine.

And when in Ukraine, I was remembering fondly all of the advantages and conveniences of life in the U.S.

When fully immersed in one or the other, it's easy to become frustrated by the day-to-day challenges. When far away from either I find myself focusing on the good.

Today we are somewhere in the middle.

22 January 2006


Is how many times a day I think about her.
Is how many times a second I wish she were still here.
Is how many warm memories I have every moment I think of her.
Is how many kisses I wish I could still give her.

Is how many wonderful years she had lived.

My grandmother was an amazing, strong, beautiful, unique woman who I wish you could have met.

Who I wish I could have met again when I came home.

Who I wish everyday that I could see again.

14 January 2006


Apparently i've been sending my blog updates to the wrong address!  Here's an update from several weeks ago!
I'm glad to be writing to you all.  It's been quite a while since I've
been able to send an update. Karen and I are settled into our new site
in the Northwest of Ukraine. We are speaking a lot of Ukrainian here,
and we are learning some Russian along the way.

Our new host family is nice.  The house is small, but comfortable.
There isn't a lot of room for our stuff (and we togther have less
stuff than many single volunteers do), but we'll make due for three
months.  We are located on a road that I used to dream about, so I
feel comfortable that this is a good place for us.  And the host
mother, who works at the local hospital, calls me Laren.  Those of you
who confuse my name and Karen's name will find humour in this.  The
host family is very nice.  The food is very good.  The host daughter
speaks very good English, but only speaks Ukrainian with us.  We are
happy to be where we are.

We spent a week in Kyiv after we left our previous city. We didn't see
much besides the poorly illuminated walls of the Santitorium Prolisok.
 We were glad to see our friends, some of whom we dearly miss now, but
we weren't sad to leave that building.  Of course, we'll be going back
there soon for a language refresher in Feb.

It's cold here.


I just want to emphasize that. Ice on the road and all.  Ever walked
on ice--some of you surely have.  If not, go to your local ice skating
rink, put on some boots (no fair cheating with skates!) and take a few
steps forward.  Fun, eh?  Now, do it all the way across town!  Yes,
not so fun anymore, eh?

Life is good here, and we are doing fine.  We miss our families over
the holidays, but, then again, we miss our families everyday. We are
settling in here near the Belarus border--hoping we don't accidently
cross it--and finding that work at our sites will be fun and
challenging. Our coordinators are nice. Every woman we meet wants to
be our mother.  Those of you who know how well I work with being told
what to do will find this especially funny.  But, it's also nice. Nice to be taken care. Nice to be
worried for.

We spent Christmas on a train.  That was not so bad as we were able to
talk to our families back at home.  Thank god for cell phones in Peace
Corps.  Lucky us.  We also played cribbage on the train with some
fellow volunteers.  I 15-2'ed all up in that mother.

To end, I want to wish all who read this, and everyone you know, a
very merry holiday season.  I'll share one last thing before i go:

ukrayinska jittya

Or: Ukrainian Life.

Whenever somethign happens that didn't go quite according to plan,
everyone says, "That's Ukrainian Life!"  Missed the bus?  That's
Ukrainian life. Fell on the ice? That's Ukrainian life.  Walk into
your house and find men you didn't expect to see building a new door?

You guessed it: That's Ukrainian life.

Until next time, pohkah.