March 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Internet: Blogs - Ukraine: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps: Wendy Lu in the Ukraine

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ukraine: Peace Corps Ukraine : The Peace Corps in the Ukraine: March 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Internet: Blogs - Ukraine: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps: Wendy Lu in the Ukraine

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 12:10 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps: Wendy Lu in the Ukraine

Peace Corps: Wendy Lu in the Ukraine

Peace Corps: Wendy Lu in the Ukraine

19 March 2004

Tonight as I slowly walked up the escalator at Arsenalna metro at 20:30, returning home from tutoring and working, I realized that I wasn’t exhausted as I so often am by this time of night. I tried to remember the last time I thought to myself, I’m sooo tired, and felt it deep in my body and spirit and couldn’t remember!

I thought back through the winter, back to the previous spring when we’d just arrived and how tired I was during training, then a slight reprieve during the summer. I feel as if a fog has lifted. The weather has been warmer and the sun shines longer each day. I think maybe that in addition to having reached another level of acceptance and acculturation, just having the winter waning helps me. I have exercised through out the winter and tried to get the prescribed hour of natural light each day, but I think I may have been affected nonetheless by the season. And everyone says this was a mild winter!

Today as I walked outside in the 50F air, in the sunlight at 18:00, I remembered back to training in Brovary and how it seemed that every day I looked up another foot, literally looking up from watching the ground for the ubiquitous holes and mud puddles. How each time I looked up more, I saw something new, something I could read and understand, or a smiling child or even just a patch of blue sky. I remembered how much hope and comfort those small sights gave me. I thought of this because today in the light and warmth I felt myself looking up again.

I thought about how I’ve been wearing a brimmed hat all winter, a wonderful black velvet hat that Christopher’s Mom, Donna, sent me. It is a stylish and warm hat and keeps snow off my face. Now that the weather has freed me from that hat, and I’m no longer concentrating on the ice, I begin to see new things again. Today I noticed for the first time that the building where I meet my Russian tutor has a wonderful Soviet mural depicting people dancing, doing “labor” and sports. I saw new flowers in the underground passages where people set up tables selling goods. The babushkas have new produce. Even though the growing season hasn’t really started yet, there’s a hint of verdant things to come. It’s joyous, it’s the beginning of spring.

Sure, we may not yet be done with winter, but spring has shown itself and the end is in sight. We have made it! My first Ukrainian winter is writing its finale. Oh, thoughts of the market to come – berry season, the smell of strawberries hitting my nose as soon as I near the bazaar, then later watermelon. But I get ahead of myself. Today is just right. It’s this blessing I receive and I’m grateful.


posted by Wendy Lu at 8:22 AM

~ 06 March 2004

Here’s my day – I hope I it is interesting for you.

7:00 mobile phone alarm goes off, reset for 20 min. later. Think about my strange dream that involved the plane I was flying on being hit by a missile. Hawk was in it, which was nice.
7:20 get up, shuffle around
7:45 Christopher and I make it out the door to the cold, snowy morning, walk 4 blocks to the track at the Design and Technology University. Run for about 20 min. and decide we get extra points b/c of wind chill factor. Bird Man is there and it seems like he spends less time than usual in his speedos, pouring water over himself.

Return home, do stretches, pilates, drink coffee, shower, etc. Make it to the bus stop by 9:45, run to catch a trolley bus, then get off at Arsenalna metro stop, run to catch a marshrutka. Make it to IOM ( by 10:10, miraculously.

Since I’ve only been working there a little while, the guards at the door don’t know me yet, so I explain again that I work there. Upon arriving at the third floor (no lift), where I work, I see male co-workers running around with flowers – Monday is perhaps the second biggest holiday (first is New Years), “International” Woman’s Day (mainly celebrated in CIS). Since Monday is a national holiday and therefore a day off, the men are doing their duty on Friday. I’ve no sooner set down and said “hi” to my coworker Lisa-Jo, than Sergey, an attorney, presents me with three beautiful tulips. Flowers are presented in odd numbers on happy occasions, even numbers for funerals. Women’s day is observed by giving all women and girls in your life flowers, presents and chocolates. We also had an email from the “IOM Men” wishing us a happy woman’s day.

I worked from 10:00 until 14:00 at IOM, finishing up a proposal for ad agencies to bid on a big counter-trafficking information campaign on buses, trams, billboards as well as TV and radio PSA’s (public service announcements). Lisa-Jo, who is from South Africa, had a DVD that her brother produced from Christmas home movies and after watching that, I went to the bathroom for a cry, because I felt so homesick afterwards, even though it was someone else’s family in Africa.

After leaving IOM, I walked down Chreshiatik, the main street in Kyiv. IOM is located at one end of Chreshiatik, at Independence Square (Maidan Nezoleznoshti), and I walk to nearly the other end, to get to my other job, my original organization, CEUME. Not 15 seconds at my desk, and there’s Volodiya, our tech guy, who presents me with a cream colored rose and makes a short speech, wishing me love and happiness and success. Did I mention that one has to kiss the flower giver? Luckily Volodiya is nice, doesn’t smoke and isn’t lecherous.

I work for a couple of hours, testing our new website (nothing’s working, what is that programmer doing??), then find resources for the business English training that I’m teaching this evening on writing resumes and doing interviews. At 16:30 we have a staff meeting and after about 30 minutes of people reporting on work and upcoming events, our directors tell us that we’ll continue the meeting in the café downstairs. We go down to the restaurant which is in the next building and which has a black, pot-bellied pig as a mascot. It sleeps in the restaurant. This café is in a style very much in vogue in Kyiv, which I call “Early Village Fantasy.” It’s a kitschy rendition of what a “village” home would look like if a gay designer came in, cleaned up the 40 years of grime normally associated with rural life and put in little chachkies everywhere. There is more china on the wall than 5 families could use, lots of drawings of cows and robust women, gingham and lace adorn every edge. The salad bar is designed like a well – well, I could go on but I will spare you, gentle reader.

Anyway, Pavlito (of “vaginal American” fame) has a clipboard w/ a some writing scribbled on it and a big bucket of flowers waiting by our long table. The whole staff sits down, we’re brought a really nice Georgian red (I’m wishing at this point that I didn’t have to teach and could have more than sips). There’s a nice spread on the table of salads, meats, bread. After we have wine, Pavlo begins calling the ladies up one by one, and presenting us with a flower, and a brief poem about why each one is like her flower. They gave me carnations dyed red white and blue. I’ll let you figure that one out.

Then we ate and drank, and every so often a man would make a toast to the ladies. These toasts are lovely and ornate and I understand barely half, especially when in Ukrainian and not Russian. There was a funny discussion in Russian about the two words for “hot” – one is for things and one is for people. My coworker, Sveta, says that sometimes men can be “hot” using the word for things and it has the same meaning as in English. I say that sometimes men can also be delicious and by my colleague’s reactions, I think this might be dirtier than it is in English. Pavlito asks me if I understood the conversation if I knew what I’d said. I’ll have to ask my tutor is that was a faux paus. Apparently it was funny, because it was repeated several times around our table. Eventually I steal away to finish my prep work for the class and to go to the school.

I arrive at the school, greeted my other friend, Sveta, who runs and owns the English school. We make copies, I meet a teacher there who studied in Charlotte, NC for high school. The class goes well, they’re lively and we have a fun discussion, then I had them split into pairs to practice interviewing. They knew more than I thought they would about resumes and interviewing and it was interesting to hear about their experiences.

Afterwards, at 21:00, Sveta and I chatted for a while, and she gave me an enormous box of chocolates as a thank you for teaching the class. I told her she doesn’t have to give me chocolates every time I teach a class, but she just blinked enigmatically. I really must make hanging out w/ her a priority, because she is so cool. She’s someone I would like anywhere in the world, if that makes sense.

Now 22:30, I’m home, eating popcorn (thank you, Julie and Frieda!) and Christopher is reading his “graphic novel.” I’m so happy to be home and wearing my slippers and sipping a beer. I’m also so happy to have had the fortune to land in this country, to have found the work and people that I have. I’m not trying to pretty it up, I get tired and sometimes negative about this place, and I will mention without comment that the government shut down the Radio Free Europe station, sometimes I wish for the ease of America, but I always come back to being grateful. I guess when I stop that, if it happens, it’s time to book passage home.


posted by Wendy Lu at 12:15 AM

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.
Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes
Take our new poll. NPCA members begin voting this week on bylaw changes to streamline NPCA's Board of Directors. NPCA Chair Ken Hill, the President's Forum and other RPCVs endorse the changes. Mail in your ballot or vote online (after Dec 1), then see on how RPCVs are voting.
Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
Your vote makes a difference Your vote makes a difference
Make a difference on November 2 - Vote. Then take our RPCV exit poll. See how RPCV's are voting and take a look at the RPCV voter demographic. Finally leave a message on why you voted for John Kerry or for George Bush. Previous poll results here.
Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers
The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.
Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ukraine; Internet; Blogs - Ukraine



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.