31 August 2007

C to the O to the S

COS (Close of Service) Conference

Group 29 / Ukraine / 2005-2007

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

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

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

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

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


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

30 August 2007

Larry "Best Hair" Lawson

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


24 August 2007

two days...

...until our close of service conference begins in the Carpathians.

today, though, is ukrainian independence day. we're spending it hosting friends tonight...and tomorrow night. i anticipate a lot of happy feelings. we're all excited at coming this far....

go us!

18 August 2007

two contrasting articles on ukraine

one light and airy (and very telling about ukrainian medical 'theory')

BBC reports on Ukrainian Wine Therapy

and one somber

Poland Gives Up On Ukraine

15 August 2007


if everything goes according to plan, we should be leaving Ukraine as rpcvs in 100 days.

it all comes down to this.

14 August 2007


Just got back from Donetsk where we worked at Camp H.E.A.L. We taught about cool topics like Human Trafficking, HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, and Leadership. We played a lot of games, ate S'mores, and even sang around (near) a giant campfire. The students I brought from Lviv had a really good time, and seemed to learn some good information.

Larry with his group in a final team-building activity: the human web.

My students from L'viv created a project to teach seminars at the local Orphanage.

That's me teaching about anti-Human Trafficking.

Now we're finally going to rest for a bit, but next on the agenda is something really exciting: our COS (close of service) Conference. We get together with all the volunteers left from our group (we started with 116, but I think we're down to about 75), learn about what kind of paperwork will be required, but mostly just celebrate that we've made it this far.

We're approaching the 100-day mark!

13 August 2007

t-shirt i picked up in kyiv

has an image of this soviet, wwii era poster!

it says: have you signed up to be a volunteer.

yes, i have.

just not in the way it means.

wonder how much trouble i'll get into for wearing it in l'viv.

12 August 2007

back in kyiv

after a week long tour in the east working at a camp. good camp for the campers--they learned a lot about HIV/AIDS in Ukraine and about Human Trafficking in and thru Ukraine.

some of the staff there was way more excited about their coffee than about working with kids and that was sad, but i guessmost grp 29 pcvs have their minds out the door already.

in kyiv this morn at 5am. sitting in the internet cafe at the vokzal. headed to the new office soon to pick up a package. headed back to lviv--home sweet home--tonight. then, in 12 days or so, we'll be off to our close of service (COS) conference.

can't believe this LONG part of my life is finally burning to dusk.

02 August 2007


fresh off of karen's LIFT conference. what an amazing experience. an upLIFTing experience, if i may. and i suppose i may because, well, you can't stop me.

the conference was only for women--i was the only guy there--and we had students come from as far away as chernihivska oblast (practically russia :)). we spent four days talking about gender equality, violence against women, and project planning, among others.

karen planned the conference for months and, of course, ukraine stepped in its own way several times. the site was less that optimal, less than supportive, and we got thrown a curveball in having to pay for a hostel we were led to believe would be free. add to that a few drunk men hassling us about having a conference / giving us keys (who worked at the site!!!). add to that the last minute snafu of not having access to the money karen raised from friends and family over the past few months and the lead up to the conference was a NIGHTMARE!

but then the conference went off without much of a hitch. we worked our booties off for four straight days and changed a lot of women's lives. they were so appreciative of the time we spent with them/the things we taught them. at the end of the conference, different teams had to present a project they were going to implement in their community to make the lives of normal ukrainians better. one group talked about how they were going to collect money to make cotton bags and encourage people--through selling the bags and passing out information with the bags--to reduce their dependency on plastic bags (which are choking the environment in many countries, ukraine not excluded). one student asked how they were going to get the government involved in the project.

the woman discussing the project, ulyana, said, "we aren't going to involve the government. this is something we can do ourselves."

that little statement gets the "best thing i've heard in ukraine in two years" award.

LIFT was the most rewarding thing i've done in ukraine, hands down. i'm so glad karen didn't have to cancel it at the last second because of all the bs that came down the pipe. those girls we a part of a great thing and they know it.