September 13, 2003 - Personal Web Site: PST and Peace Corps service in Ukraine
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September 13, 2003 - Personal Web Site: PST and Peace Corps service in Ukraine
PST and Peace Corps service in Ukraine
PST and Peace Corps service in Ukraine
PST (Pre Service Training) was in Fastov, just south of Kiev. My host family were Clavdia, Sasha (her son), Olya (his wife), and Serozha (their son). I had Russian language class 4 hrs each day with Susan, David, Kelly, and our teacher (LCF) was Vlad. I am serving in Rivne, which is western Ukraine. Let me know if you have questions or would like a picture of something in particular. I'll try to update often.
Start of travels: Mar 05, 2003
The fun ends: Not sure yet
Well we have been here about a month, closer to 6 weeks actually, and I am not crazy yet. Things have settled down a bit and I am learning some of the ins and outs of Rivne. We arrived at a great time of year because the market (bazaars)are teaming with fresh produce from nearby farms and dachas. Its great to see as each new fruit and vegetable comes into season. I think strawberries are done, but watermelons have just started. I cant eat enough though, but it great to walk through the bazaar on my way home from work and pick up the fresh vegetables that I'll have for dinner.
Work is going all right, I'm still trying to sort out what they do, what I can do, and what will be the most effective and sustainable. I will begin teaching business english classes in September, and thought i would introduce some western business practices as well - I might even try introducing the subject of filing cabinets.
It rained all last week, and I thought we were out of it, but them I was caught in the rain again today, but the sky looks sunny, so fingers crossed that the ark-building can cease.
Rivne is a great place to be stationed (i'm not sure that's proper PC terminology, but anyway, here I am) Kiev is quite expensive on the PC allowance, but Rivne is affordable, and we can save money to travel (like to Kiev and L'viv - which I am hoping to visit soon). We have more than one hotel, a drama theater, a movie theater, great bazaars, a huge park, a marschrutka to Kiev called the Crazy Turttle (only 4 hours, and yes it is spelled with two t's in the middle, those drivers don't let anything like potholes or road construction slow them down, its a great service!!), lakes (one with swans, one with boats), well you get the idea. We also have discotechs, but as I don't go, I know nothing about these. That's it for now, any feedback is welcome (don't criticize the spelling though, some characters like apostrophes aren't allowed, and learning russian is reeking havoc with my english spelling, and sentence structure to a certain extent - sorry!)
The last weekend in June, Maggie and I took the Crazy Turttle to Kiev for a much needed break from Rivne. We didn't even know we needed it so much until we were actually on the marshrutka heading east. Susan met us at the Kiev Train Station and we met up with some other PCVs at a house party - it was super to see so many people again! The next morning I hopped on the electric train for the familiar ride to Fastov and spend about 24 hours with my family. Clavdia even gave me my old room back (which is really hers), it was great to see them again, I'll be going back again in August to celebrate my birthday. Hope you like these pictures.
I've been living in Rivne now for 7 weeks, the time has really flown by to be honest. My site continues to surprise me; it's been an ongoing project to sort out what they do and how my time here will be the most useful. It's been fun on the weekends to walk around new areas of the city; we sought and found another western-style supermarket last weekend! My daily shopping is done at the bazaar located between the office and my flat.
Keep in touch!
Maggie and I struck out on our first Ukrainian tour!! A weekend trip to the Carpathians, all-inclusive (hotel, transport, and even a meal - shish kabobs on Saturday night) and only 60g (about $11). So what is we have to be at the bus stop at 4:40 am, what a great deal! After about 15 minutes on the bus, the fairy tale ended. We had a false start, in that we were heading out of town before we realized we were one person short, and had to go back. Once we were on the road, it was one ccm after another. We expected (I know - why do we continue to have US expectations in UA??)that any stops (for meals or potty-breaks) would be in habited areas, with, possibly, a toilet or cafe. I have since learned from two Ukrainians (one, who couldn't stop laughing while I related this tale - Thanks Vlad)that it is normal the stop along the road for all sorts of 'breaks' and that Ukrainians like to be in nature (even roadsides??) and prefer their own food (even though much of it was canned?). I don't understand, but it was 'enlightening'.
Once we were on the road, we learned that if we wanted a room with a toilet and shower (hmm, we'll be hiking for three days, who wants a shower?) that would be 10g additional, and the shashleek (shish kabobs) on Saturday - add another 2g, and let's not forget the additional 5g to get into the national forest area. Did I mention that this was billed as an all-inclusive tour.
We arrived safe, hot and sticky - the bus had air-contioning, but it didn't work very well and the windows didn't open. I actually didn't work at all if the weather outside was too hot (interesting concept - makes for irritable tourists). We arrived after 9 hours (we were told 6 hours) in the Carpathian town of Yaremcha. It is very beautifully situated in a valley and there seems to be a fair amount of construction going on - and even an expensive hotel that we were told Kuchma stayed at (needless to say, we didn't stay there). When we were shown to our hell hole we were greeted with superstained pillows, a bathroom that reeked of horse-piss (or sardines - or a sick and twisted combination), no sheets (we were informed those would be 8g addtional), and a room that we were certain would be crawling with la cucharachas at nightfall (turns out, they wouldn't even lower themselves to infesting a place like this - so Yeah!- no cockroaches). Also no hot water, remember we paid extra for a shower, the smell, apparently was free. So to salvage the day, we joined Andre, his wife Olga, and her brother Andre (the AOA team) for a walk in the national forest, while the rest of the group went to a bazaar. The weather was a bit drizzly, but it was nice to get outside and walk around.
Saturday – We decided to be good little program-following members of the group, and joined everybody on what was promised to be a terrific excursion up to a village on top of a mountain. Wow! We could hardly wait. So we set off in the bus, stopping first at an Olympic training facility for ski jumpers. We watched the jumpers for a bit, and Maggie made a new friend in a cute little puppy with very sharp teeth. So sharp in fact that they broke the skin, no worries in the States, but as we couldn’t locate and isolate the pup, as a preventative measure, Maggie is in Kiev to begin the series of rabies shots.
After a cup of Nescafe, we all climbed back on the bus and headed for the promised mountaintop village. One point that was left out was a hike up a steep and rocky road, another was that the rocky road ended at the chairlift we would ride to complete our journey to the top of the mountain. No problem! Maggie decided to put her fear of heights aside and up the mountain we went, trying to not look too closely at the rain clouds rolling in. Arriving at the top of the mountain, we saw (wait for it….) no village! Who saw that one coming? However, there were a few kiosks selling tourist trinkets and rain ponchos (ha ha, but the Americankas wore their raincoats! The only ones in the group prepared for the weather – I revel in this as we were given condescending looks about not bringing food, which we in fact had brought plenty of, and the driver smugly said that the ‘foreigners’ may want to spend more for accommodation, the Ukrainians in our group looked at us, smiling – he got the last laugh though, everybody thought the accommodations were dreadful). There were also ponies that you could sit on and have your picture taken, or ride around a track, and traditional Ukrainian costumes to try on. We passed on those and headed up the slick, grassy slope to the summit. Of course, by this time, it had started to drizzle. The view from the top was excellent, and we looked at it admiringly in all directions and had a group photo taken by a Ukrainian horseman in a woven cowboy hat with ‘Marlboro’ printed on the band. We descended the slope carefully, and headed to the chairlift, unfortunately, we did not get on immediately. Instead, we obliged Andre’s summons to take a picture of him and Olga in traditional Ukrainian costumes. After that, we all headed to the chairlift, the drizzle getting a bit heavier. Maggie wondered aloud if it would be safe to be on the chairlift in the rain, we determined, that it would be fine, as we had both been on chairlifts before while is was snowing. Of course, the rain meant that the seats were already wet when we got on and about 2 minutes later to clouds burst open and we descended in a downpour. The good news is we were wearing our raincoats with hoods, and the lift didn’t stop, break down, or in any other way prolong our drenched state. At the bottom, the rain let up a bit and made our way back down the rocky road to the bus. The five of us stopped for a hot cup of tea, and were found by an irritated guide, and told to hurry up, that the rest of the group was wetly waiting on the bus to go back to the hotel. So away we went. We were pretty much dry by the time we got back, and once more separated ourselves from the group, as they were planning an excursion to the national forest, where we had been the day before. After confirming that shashleek that evening would be at 7:00, we headed to observe deer (behind a fence) with the AOA team. Later, Maggie and I went our own way to the local bazaars to check out the crafts. The bazaars were very touristy and filled with kitschy trinkets, but we found a good café and enjoyed some mulled wine and a light dinner. At 7:00 we headed to appointed place for shashleek. However, the group had just returned from their excursion, and shashleek would be a bit delayed. No problem. But the driver/guide/cook/pia Sergei had a fabulous treat for us, he had arranged for hot water! Not in our hotel, but in another one that had a communal shower room, with a locked door and only one key! Yeah, we thought, this might not be so bad after all. (Aren’t we just the eternal optimists though??) We followed the lady to the shower room, she showed us around, turned on the taps, and said the hot water would be on at 8:00. What we found out later is that they told the group of girls that were staying there that they had lost the key and the girls would have to use the boys shower room downstairs. So at 8:00 we head over for a shower, more accurately a hairwashing, I had already decided that I was just not getting naked and wet in this place. Three guesses on what happened next, I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t washing of any kind. Not only no hot water – no water at all. The sinks down the hall had hot water, but nothing in the shower room. (Yes, in fact we are now laughing at each ccm, otherwise we would have been crying buckets – you have to admit, it makes a much more interesting story, and its all true!) On the trail of tears back to our cell, we encounter some folks from our group, who tell us to hurry to the shashleek. Whatever. We drop our shower stuff off in the room, and are heading out the door, when we are stopped by the long absent guy that turns on the hot water. We have hot water in our room! Or we will if we let it run for a while, and if we don’t use it now, just let it run, so it will be there when we do want to use it. Yeah! Things are looking up! But now Andre has come to get us for the shashleek – we must claim a place at one of the tables, oh, and bring food, and plates. What the f? We don’t have plates, but we are not missing out on shashleek that we already paid for. Alas, Sergei doesn’t have enough shashleek skewers to go around, and we will be eating in shifts. We are not in the first shift. At this point, I decided that now would be a good time to wash my hair, so back to the cell, once again passing people from our group, who have gone back to get ketchup, blankets, and plates for themselves. The hot water held out, I was able to hold my breath long enough to wash my hair, and we were once again sitting with the rest of ‘Shashleek Group 2’ waiting. Waiting. Waiting. We ate at 10:30, finished our skewers of meat, and promptly got up and turned in for the night.
Sunday – I never thought I would be so looking forward to being back in Rivne. But we had one more day of vacation ahead of us. We ate breakfast in our cell, and went in search of the group and the day’s program. We piled on the bus for the ride to see the deer, these would be the same deer we had seen the day before with the AOA team – how is it that we are always one step ahead of this guy?? Wait, change of plan – everybody off the bus, we are going for a hike to the spring, which was promised, incidentally, on the first day and is why many people didn’t bring water with them. Heading up the rocky, mountain path, several in our group were none to pleased with this change of plan, as they had on heels and foam sandals, less than ideal footwear for mountain hiking. Naturally, we lagged behind the group, wondering if we would continue to follow them or not. We did and it was a great hike, past a small shrine on the hillside, and through a picturesque valley, bringing us finally to the river and a well pumping springwater. The hike continued to the deer and back to the hotel grounds, where we all packed our bags and around 12:30 we started back to Rivne.
Sunday was the warmest and sunniest day of the three, so it seemed only fitting that we would spend most of the day on a bus too hot for the air conditioning to work. To top off the trip, on the way back to Rivne, Sergei stopped in a field (actually drove through the woods/forest/whatever) at the mosquitoiest time (about 7:00 pm) for people (not us, we were too MAD) to eat and avail themselves of the facilities. Which meant that we arrived in Rivne at about 9:30, just in time for the water to be turned off (we hadn’t showered for three full days; we needed to bathe). Fortunately, I still had one full bucket of water from Friday morning, so was at least able to have a bucket bath. Needless to say, I was up at 7:00 the next morning heating water for a proper full-submersion bath. That concludes my first Ukrainian all-inclusive tour.
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Story Source: Personal Web Site
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