July 17, 2003 - Fond du Lac Reporter: Volunteer Tracy Wrolson says Ukrainian travel and daily shopping can be a unique experience

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ukraine: Peace Corps Ukraine : The Peace Corps in the Ukraine: July 17, 2003 - Fond du Lac Reporter: Volunteer Tracy Wrolson says Ukrainian travel and daily shopping can be a unique experience

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Volunteer Tracy Wrolson says Ukrainian travel and daily shopping can be a unique experience

Volunteer Tracy Wrolson says Ukrainian travel and daily shopping can be a unique experience

Life by road, rail, river and bazaar?

Ukrainian travel and daily shopping can be a unique experience

Tracy Wrolson
Peace Corps Volunteer- Ukraine

(This is the second installment of monthly articles written by Tracy Wrolson, a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ukraine.)

Greetings from Wisconsin! Oops, I mean Ukraine.

As I took my train ride from Kyiv to the city of Kherson, located in the southern part of Ukraine, I was amazed at how the countryside looks so much like Wisconsin’s. Maybe after 3 months I was missing home a little, but green fields, rolling hills, crops and herds of farm animals sounds a lot like the state that I call home.

In fact, many things here are similar. Like the climate. Most people that one talks to about Ukraine envisions cold and very long winters. Well, those do happen, but at the same level as what we are use to. And the summers are very comfortable with normal temperatures ranging from 65 to 90 degrees fahrenheit.

I guess I don’t need all these sweaters I packed. (I shouldn’t speak too soon. Winter will be here soon enough!)

Transportation is something that Ukraine has mastered. I have already mentioned trains, which are a convenient and inexpensive way to travel from city to city. A $10 ticket will get you an overnight ride in a sleeping compartment to just about anywhere in Ukraine.

An overnight train ride may not sound too appealing to all, but remember the last time that you took a 10 hour car ride to visit your relatives or friends? Remember how stiff and tired you were once you arrived?

Now imagine being able to lie down, stretch out and sleep. Feeling refreshed and comfortable when you arrive in your destination city. Good deal these trains.

Other kinds of transportation include cars (obviously, but less then half of the population owns them), buses, horse and cart (no kidding) and even boats. I recently experienced the ‘boat roads’ on the Dnipro River near Kherson. A person pays the same fare as a taxi ride and the boat driver takes you to your destination along the river.

My colleagues and my boat destination happened to be what the Ukrainians call a ‘dacha’ (country home). These homes have been in families for years and years. Some still have year round residents, but many are used for weekend relaxation by family members who currently are living in larger cities.

The ultimate beauty and simplicity of the country home is what makes them so unique. Most do not have running water, so shared pump wells are used.

Gardens are a must at every country home as a local shopping center is nowhere to be found. What a homeowner grows and stores for the winter is what there is to eat. A very simple way of life not commonly found in the neighboring city of Kherson.

Kherson is located on the Dnipro River close to the Black Sea, thus there are many ship docks and swimming areas. In the past, shipbuilding and shipping were huge industries in Kherson, but this trend changed with the fall of the Soviet Union.

The city has 350,000 residents, but it has a feeling of one with a population of 35,000. Like many of Ukraine’s larger cities, there is a small city center, which has many shops, artistic venues and other businesses. Surrounding the center is mostly apartments and homes.

Apartment living is very different than we are accustomed to in America. Most apartments here are furnished and owned by landlords who will move out when some money can be made by renting. Thus, you are left with most of their material possessions, including clothes, to work around when moving in.

Now to the bazaar part. Or I should say the shopping part. Bazaars are open-air markets that sell everything and anything a person needs in life. From meats and poultry to books and DVD’s to live ducks and goats. Crowded booths and tables are filled with merchandise from area farmers and small entrepreneurs. larger cities have many bazaars located throughout the city and they are always within walking distance.

With the advancement of the Ukrainian economy, more American-type grocery and merchandise stores are appearing. But, it will be quite some time before they will replace the traditional markets, which help continue giving this country it’s friendly and open attitude.

When I’m not at the bazaar looking at the dogs and cats, I am a volunteer for a youth organization called Totem. It is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) consisting of many local volunteers and full-time workers who assist youth in expressing their creativity. The ultimate goal is to give the youth of Kherson a place to come to after school and to help them develop in ways that a Ukrainian formal education does not offer.

For the most part, working life in Ukraine, outside of factories, can be described as inconsistent. Inconsistent work schedules, business plans and direction. lack of office space, ever changing governmental policies and a lack of trust in the government are all factors that lead to these inconsistencies.

There is also a collective, rather than individualistic, attitude that was to disappear with the fall of the Soviet Union. A collective attitude that was to be (and will be) replaced by democracy. But, this attitude is still prevalent in many ways within the Ukrainian society, both in work and play.

So patience. We need to have patience with people, with the government, with the elderly lady who doesn’t know that you need get in line at the grocery store. We need to help each other. Whether it is in another country or in your own small town.

‘Wisconsin, you were always on my mind.’ Did I mention that I even found and have been eating a sausage that is strikingly familiar to our beloved bratwurst! It really is hard not feeling at home in Ukraine.

Until next month. It is time for me to do a little traveling around this country. I’m off to the mountains of the west and more roads, rails and rivers.

‘It’s really great fun to go someplace where there are no timesaving devices because, when you do, you find that you have lots of time.’ - Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh.

You can contact Tracy at tracywrolson@hotmail.co~. All and any emails are welcome.

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Story Source: Fond du Lac Reporter

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ukraine; PCVs in the Field - Ukraine



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