Highlights of the Month: March-April Edition

Long time no post, I know — it’s been a busy and exciting month. For time’s sake I shall provide a bullet-point list of highlights from the past month or so, with links to follow, where appropriate.

  • In the past month or two my Peace Corps Partnership Grant has begun to be implemented at my school here in Sniatyn. Thanks to many wonderful donors, the grant was funded and my school was able to buy multimedia equipment for the English classroom. We bought: a laptop; speakers; laser printer-scanner-copier; a projector & ceiling mountings; a projector screen; a dry-erase board with markers & magnets; a teachers’ table; and various connection cords. It’s amazing how far just $1800 can go here in Ukraine. If you’d like to see pictures of my classroom’s transformation, click HERE. It has been so wonderful to be able to use the projector and screen for my English clubs and classes — it makes learning English so much more fun and interesting for both the pupils and me.
  • At the end of March I set off on a week of travels to London and Prague (with an overnight stop in Warsaw on the way home).
    • In London I spent four days catching up with good friends Sam (a high school classmate now living in London) and Hannah (a fellow Obie studying abroad in London). The weather was gorgeous the entire time, so I walked between three and four hours every day, exploring different areas of the city and falling in love with the bustling-yet-relaxed vibe and beautiful architecture. Hannah and I went for a lovely run in Regent’s Park and cooked some tasty kale-based lunches. I was also able to tag along on her history class’ walking tour of South Kensington / Exhibition Row and got to attend part of her English class — it felt so comfortable and fun to be around Obies again. Sam and I spent a great day together exploring Greenwich and the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea; we also had delicious fish & chips at the third-oldest F&C establishment in London. I could go on and on about what I saw in London, but instead I’ll let my pictures narrate the trip.
    • Prague has a totally different feel from London, but is an equally as fascinating city. The city’s architecture is astounding and almost fairy-tale-eqsue: red roofs, tower-topped churches, a castle on a hill. I took a great (and free!) walking tour with a pleasant Czech guide; she told us a lot about Prague’s history and taught me what all the Czech letters sound like. (The Czech language is not dissimilar from Ukrainian/Russian; I could understand quite a bit.) My main reason to visit Prague, however, was to run the Hervis Prague Half Marathon (along with 10,999 other people!). The race went up and down the Vltava (Moldau) River, across cobblestones, tram tracks, and bridges. The energy from so many people was amazing. So amazing that I ended up running a 4-minute personal best for the distance: my finishing time was 1:47.01. I met some great people at my hostel — including an elite (sub-1:20 half marathon) runner and three girls traveling through Europe after studying abroad in the UK. Pictures HERE.
    • The above link also has a few pictures of Warsaw, where I spent 20 hours on my way back to Ukraine. If I’d been there longer and not on a Sunday, I would’ve loved to explore more and visit the Warsaw Uprising and Chopin Museums. As it was, I walked to the beautiful Old Town center and ate some tasty dumplings.
  • I’ve been perfecting my soy-lemon poached chicken recipe and have cooked Ukrainian borshch twice in the past week — I’ve updated the recipe HERE.
  • This week, the whole town — and country — has been preparing for Orthodox Easter, which falls on 15 April this year. Today is chystyy chetver,” or “clean Thursday,” the day when everyone is supposed to clean the house and bake paska, the traditional Easter bread. I’ll celebrate with Halya and her family on Sunday.
    • At school this week, in preparation for Easter, the pupils hosted a yarmarok (market). Each class sold cookies/cakes/buns and handicrafts like Easter eggs (pysanky) and embroidered towels. The money they earned will go to the school.
  • Today Tamara, the TEFL Lead Specialist for Peace Corps/Ukraine, came to my school to talk with my director and English teachers about how to apply for another Peace Corps Volunteer for after I leave. She asked my colleagues for their impressions of me/my work, and I was extremely flattered by their kind words and appreciation of my work here. Sometimes I feel like I don’t do nearly enough, but it seems that they are certainly happy with what I’ve done. Of course, I’m also their first PCV and so they have nothing with which to compare my work. But I was flattered nonetheless.
  • I played some table tennis with two 11th-formers this afternoon before playing volleyball at school. They taught me the proper paddle grip and it was fun to whack the ball around a little (though I am not good by any means).
  • I continue to write periodically for Full Stop. You can read my latest book review HERE.
  • The Literature GRE approacheth! I’ll take the test in Kyiv on 21 April and hope not to totally bomb it. You can see what I’ve read over the past six months HERE — feel free to leave book recommendations in the comments section.

What have you been up to this Spring?

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