You know you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine when…

  1. You realize time is relative, schedules are null, and nothing happens on time.
  2. 6-hour bus rides and 15-hour train rides don’t seem that bad.
  3. You’ve begun to think rhinestones, synthetic fabrics, and denim-on-denim is stylish.
  4. You have a collection of “nice” plastic bags.
  5. Openly cheating in school doesn’t phase you anymore.
  6. You always carry toilet paper with you. Always.
  7. You feel personally offended when people say “THE Ukraine.”
  8. You hope that your platzkart train-mates will be women rather than sketchy men.
  9. Pupils don’t show up to school because they have to help their families plant potatoes, and it’s considered a legitimate reason.
  10. Your students or what you now call “pupils” greet you with “good morning” at all times of the day.
  11. You’ve been dying to find one of those ‘say me yes’ shirts at the bazaar.
  12. When anything bad/down right weird happens you say you’ve been “Ukraine’d”.
  13. You find yourself craving a good bowl of borscht.
  14. You’ve eaten (or at least been forced to try) meat jello and pig fat.
  15. You hesitate before sitting on concrete and cold surfaces because you fear being yelled at for freezing your ovaries.
  16. Sitting at the corner of a table is taboo and will leave you marriage-less for seven years.
  17. You start to think Toyotas and Fords are really fancy cars.
  18. You also start to think anyone driving an actually fancy car must work for the mafia.
  19. You stare at foreign tourists as much as the local people do.
  20. You’ve never looked forward to canned fruit as much as you do in the winter time.
  21. The second question strangers often ask is if you’re married.
  22. You’ve lost track of how many times people have asked you, “Don’t you want to go home?”
  23. You have to sit in a specific way at a specific place in your house if you want to get internet or cell phone service.
  24. You can’t help but wonder who taught your students to say, “My happy birthday is in june.”
  25. You distinguish between your Peace Corps family, your American family, and your multiple Ukrainian families.
  26. It’s become natural to throw your toilet paper away in the trash bin.
  27. You no longer realize you’re using foreign words when speaking English and say things like, “davai!”; “bez”; “butterbrot”; “seriozno?”; “vokzal“; “bazaar“; and “mahazine” to your friends and family back home.
  28. You start using the phrases “the States” and “when I attended university…”
  29. You are no longer shocked at how crowded the local transportation is.
  30. You’re on an overnight train in 90+ degree weather and no one is willing to open the windows for fear of catching a cold.
  31. The locals offer you a shot of samohon, vodka/horilka, brandy, or cognac for friendship.
  32. The women ask you if you are married and have kids, the men ask you if you like Ukrainian girls, and both ask you how you enjoyed the winter.
  33. You regularly feel ashamed for your lack of exact change and have forgotten what customer service is.
  34. You visit other PCVs with no extra clothing except a hoodie (which will be your pillow).
  35. You must constantly remind your students that China and Japan are different countries and that Africa is, in fact, not a country.
  36. You ask your PCV friends (when visiting for the first time) if there’s anything special you need to know about their toilet/bathtub/sink/kitchen situation.
  37. Someone has to have at least 6 or 7 visible gold fillings before you notice their teeth.
  38. You wish your walls had carpeting so that your room wouldn’t be so cold.
  39. You sometimes feel old because you’re 24 and lack a spouse and 3 children.
  40. Straight men wear fluorescent mesh and tiny speedos.
  41. You have “train” clothes, “train” slippers and a “train” mug.
  42. You’ve come think of showering daily as luxurious.
  43. You have become a cultural ambassador for races, religions, and other groups that you do not belong to.
  44. You find yourself trying to convince Ukrainians that you can’t call it a sandwich if there’s only one piece of bread.
  45. The water, electricity, and internet outages every week for uncertain amounts of time are now just expected and your house is stocked with jugs of back-up water.
  46. Carrying a water bottle around classifies you as a weirdo and drinking cold anything will of course make you sick or be bad for your throat.
  47. The amount of wind outside seems to affect your internet service.
  48. You know all of the vegetables harvest seasons and carefully monitor the prices of tomatoes.
  49. If you see someone with dirty shoes you immediately start to judge their personality.
  50. You pack a picnic when going on the overnight train.
  51. You have a system for classifying all of the Natalias, Sahsas, Zhenias, and Vikas in your contact list and classes.
  52. You answer your phone with, “Allo?”
  53. You feel safer when there is an 85-year-old woman around.
  54. Trash piles on fire don’t phase you.
  55. You rarely leave the house without polishing your shoes or putting on some makeup.
  56. You’ve learned that the word “preservativ” is not meant to be used when talking about food.

Thanks to fellow Ukraine PCVs for creating most of this list: Kristen H., Connie P., Zachary P, Patrick K, Betsy O., Kristen C, Jenny O.

I’ve modified the list to suit my experiences. Kristen H.’s original version of this list can be found on her blog, here.

5 thoughts on “You know you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine when…

  1. Marcia

    all i can say is Tammela Platt is the best ever Peace Corp.volunteer with the best sense of humor and love for Ukraine , her pupils,and friends!!!!!and a really funny writer….LOve,your Gma and biggest fan..

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