Category Archives: English Club

“So many things were different, yet the experiences had much in common”: Peace Corps from father to daughter

The following post is inspired by this, from the Peace Corps Passport blog, about a woman whose father, like mine, was a Peace Corps Volunteer before her. Below, with the guidance of some questions asked in the model post, I reflect on how my dad’s stories and experiences as a PCV inspired me to apply and serve. This has been a work in progress for a while, but I thought now was a good time to publish it because in addition to my dad, I now have one more close Peace Corps connection: my good friend Hannah leaves this weekend for her own Peace Corps adventures in Georgia.

my dad and I, overlooking the Prut River valley in my PC post of Sniatyn, Ukraine (May 2012)

father & daughter, overlooking the Prut River valley in my PC post of Sniatyn, Ukraine (May 2012)

How did your dad’s Peace Corps service inspire you to serve?

I grew up hearing my dad, Terry, tell stories about teaching math and physics at an all-boys high school in rural Mpwapwa, Tanzania, where he was a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from 1964-1966, in the first five years of Peace Corps’ existence. (Terry writes that Mpwapwa “was a small town, with a small hospital and local population of little more than 1000, which swelled to nearly 5000 when all the 6-7 schools were in session, including the expatriate population of 200 or so, mostly teachers and their families, plus some employees at the Teacher Training College and the Agricultural Station, both a few miles out of town.”)

I might not have joined the Peace Corps if it weren’t for growing up hearing Terry’s stories. He told us about all the cool trips he went on during vacations — I especially liked hearing about his time as an Outward Bound counselor and climbing Kilimanjaro (I can’t remember if those happened together or separately). There was also a story about a Jeep getting stuck in the mud and about his star pupil who would read novels at the back of the classroom and whom Terry always tried to challenge intellectually.

I wanted to have adventures like my dad.

Did your dad encourage you to apply, or was he surprised?

Terry didn’t specifically encourage me to apply. During my senior year of college, I was tossing around gap-year options and he might’ve suggested Peace Corps. Or I came up with it on my own; I can’t remember. I struggled at first with the length of commitment — 27 months — PC service would require. Terry didn’t push me either way. Eventually, I realized that 27 months is hardly anything in the grand scheme of things, so decided to go for it. I don’t think Terry was surprised, though of course he couldn’t have anticipated it when he was a PCV:

Little did I know when I boarded a giant jetliner in the blowing late December snow at Kennedy Airport in 1964, bound for a posting in East Africa with the newly formed Peace Corps’ first group of secondary school teachers, that my daughter would be heading for a posting in Ukraine 46 years later, just shy of the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.

Do you think you went into service with a different perspective because of stories you had heard about your dad’s service? If so, how did those stories shape your expectations and decisions?

Definitely. Because I knew that I’d be serving almost 50 years after my dad, I tried not to let his stories shape my expectations or decisions. I’d be going to a different country at a different time, so I had very few concrete expectations going in. That said, Terry’s stories helped prepare me for big cultural differences and taught me to be open-minded and flexible toward opportunities that might come along. Of course I ended up in semi-rural Ukraine rather than rural Africa, but throughout my service I often reflected on what it must have been like for my dad when he was a PCV.

Did your dad visit you while you were in Ukraine? Did he provide any insight as to how things had changed since he was a volunteer?

My mom and dad visited me during my second spring in Ukraine. They spent valuable time with me at my site, experiencing how I lived and meeting my pupils, colleagues, and friends. Terry has provided a lot of insight as to how things have changed since he was a PCV in Tanzania.

1) The Internet didn’t exist when he was a PCV; no email, no Skype. No cell phones, either — my dad had to go to the larger town/city in order to make the very occasional phone call home. Snail mail was the best option for keeping in touch and sharing experiences with those back home. Terry writes:

We received all our mail, the thin blue folded aerograms from family and friends (that took 10-14 days transit time in both directions), at our school, P.O. Box 3, Mpwapwa, Tanzania.  I believe I had only two telephone conversations with my parents during my two years there, on the only phone available – also at our school in the Headmaster’s office, telephone number: 4, Mpwapwa, Tanzania.

In contrast, many contemporary PCVs — myself included — keep blogs during their service. I Skyped with my family almost every week for the 26 months I was abroad; Skype also allowed me to keep in touch with close friends. I still wrote snail mail, but email certainly played a larger role in regular communication.

2) But despite being fortunate enough to have technology access, I had to learn an entirely new language (with a different alphabet) for my Peace Corps service. Terry didn’t have as much of a language barrier to overcome in Tanzania; Swahili and English are both official languages, and he taught in English. Many fewer people speak English in Ukraine than in Tanzania. Also, my Pre-Service Training consisted of 11.5 weeks living with a Ukrainian host family in a small village. Forty-six years earlier, Terry was trained in the US — here’s what he says about that:

Our 3-month pre-service training had been in the U.S. (common then, as overseas facilities for most of the nascent programs had not yet been established) – ironically, ours was at Columbia Teachers’ College on the upper West Side of Manhattan, a strange setting, it seemed, to prepare us for two years in Tanzania, yet we were taught well.  Except for two things.  First, that my two weeks of practice teaching at Charles Evans Hughes HS on the lower West Side, with daily fights in the hallways drawing occasional blood and mostly indifferent students were a far cry from the disciplined, if rote, eagerness of the African boys at our school, for whom it was a privilege and honor and pass to a future life of their dreams.   Indeed, the greatest class punishment I could administer (as caning was the Headmaster’s prerogative) was to ask a student to leave class for the day – because they feared that some minor topic I would cover in their absence might appear on the comprehensive O-Level Exams (the British system still held) they would take in their senior (Fourth Form = 12th grade) year far in the future.  Second, our linguistic training comprised some 3-5 hrs of Swahili per week (a paltry amount compared to any program now), justified by telling us that we really wouldn’t need Swahili because we would be too busy teaching, and our servants would be able to take care of all our local needs.   Sadly (for me, as I enjoy learning foreign languages), Columbia was right – I taught between 27 and 35 hours per week in class during most of my two years there, and our students never wanted to speak Swahili with us, as they (correctly) claimed “It is much more important for us to learn English, Sir, than for you to learn Swahili!” 

Interesting, no? I’m fortunate to have been trained in-country, teaching “real” Ukrainian pupils and intensively learning the local language. The other striking difference between Terry’s and my service is the fact that Terry and his PCV roommate, Roger, had two servants:

Though we protested about having [servants] initially, we succumbed to social pressure that it would have been snobbery to deny the employment (the Tanzanians also enjoyed working for Americans more than for other “wazungu” = foreigners), but that we had to limit their wages to $1/day so as to not out-price the market.   We also succumbed to dire necessity, due to teaching load and the competing viscissitudes (sp.?) of our life on the school compound – cooking and hot water depended on stoking up the cast iron “kuni” (wood) stove before 6 am (classes began at 8) with the chopped wood (when would we have done this?), and we were expected to wear freshly cleaned and ironed white cotton shirts and shorts for teaching each day (oh, yes, the washing and pressing?).  Our food, whether tinned or fresh from market (shopping too, and the expected bargaining in Swahili?) was cooked for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with tea ready for our short morning and afternoon teaching breaks, and served promptly and graciously by Amoni; his “shamba boy” helper Edward did the wood chopping, market shopping, other errands and such gardening as our tiny plot would yield in the arid Central District (ann. rainfall ca. 12″).

Did you catch the fact that Terry taught 27-35 hours of class per week? As far as I know, no PCV teaches that much nowadays: in Ukraine, we were told to teach 16-20 hours/week and use the rest of the time to develop extracurricular projects like English clubs, interest groups, and grants in our communities.


So there you go: a brief “then and now” snapshot of my dad’s PC experience in Tanzania (1964-1966) and my experience in Ukraine (2010-2012). It’s amazing how some things are vastly different, yet others have not changed much.

Are you a PCV/RPCV? Do you know anyone who served in the Peace Corps during its early days? How did his/her experience differ from yours?

Peace Corps/Ukraine in status updates

One of my fellow Ukraine (now R)PCVs just posted a great piece on her great blog, borscht and babushkas. The post, “#pcukraine,” is a series of Facebook status updates from PCVs in Ukraine about the ridiculous/funny/amazing/weird experiences they have. Go read Kristen’s post, because the statuses there are extremely clever/witty/absurd.

I liked this idea but, rather than re-blogging others’ experiences, wanted to share some statuses of my own. I’m not a huge Facebook-poster to begin with, so my updates are not as detailed or witty as those in Kristen’s post, but they do show how little things make life good and I hope they give you a slightly different picture of my time in Ukraine than my blog posts. I may have finished my Peace Corps service 9 months ago — time flies — but it is still very much part of me and I think about it a lot. So while this post may seem “late,” it’s really interesting for me to look at after having been an RPCV for a while. Hope you enjoy it, too; this is a sampling of the best and most insightful statuses.

  • 2 Oct 2010: has survived Week 2 of PST. Teaching for the first time next week!
  • 10 Dec 2010: is sitting in her NEW apartment in her NEW town drinking a Starbucks Via & eating oatmeal while enjoying her counterparts WiFi. Life is good.
  • 15 Dec 2010: stove-top bread pudding = success!
    • Note: This is significant because I didn’t have a working oven in my apartment.
  • 5 Jan 2011: braved the pre-Christmas crowds at the bazaar and is now braving the 3*F temperature for a run.
  • 11 Jan 2011: survived her first day of teaching. 2nd Form: cutest kids EVER. 3rd Form: cute too, but ask a lot of questions in Ukrainian that I don’t always understand. 5th Form: nice class. 6th Form: smart, fun group. 11th Form: fun b/c they know enough English to have discussions.
  • 18 Jan 2011: felt like a mother hen this morning while leading the 2nd form up two flights of stairs to her classroom… “Come along, little chickies!”
  • 1 Feb 2011: talked about Romanticism in art with her 11th Form; sang “My Favorite Things” to her 3rd Form; got 3 boxes (spices, COFFEE, etc.); met nice women while running at the stadium who invited me in for tea & to return whenever I want.
  • 4 Mar 2011: It’s official…Women’s Day in Ukraine is AWESOME.
    • Need some details on Women’s Day? Read this.
  • 17 Mar 2011: “Mrs. Wilkins ironed her dog yesterday.” -written by one of my counterpart’s 4th-formers (one sentence was supposed to be “walk the dog” and the next “iron her clothes”).
  • 10 Apr 2011: made her first Ukrainian borshch today — success!
  • 4 May 2011: loves apple discounts from her favorite bazaar apple man, milk discounts from her favorite babusya, and free baby greens from one of her adult English club-goers.
  • 9 May 2011: tried to write a letter in cursive, but her brain/hand kept trying to form Ukrainian cursive letters instead of English ones!
  • 12 May 2011: Today was a good day. New running shoes & summer dresses arrived from home, & spent a wonderful time at the music school playing the clarinet & listening to live classical music for the first time in almost a year.
  • 17 May 2011: found a thermos in her apartment so now she can make French press coffee, drink some before she runs and keep the rest hot for after the run.
  • 18 May 2011: had an awesome time spontaneously playing an hour and a half of basketball w/ three 25-y/o guys from her English club.
  • 30 Aug 2011: just got foto-sessiaed up the wazoo in 100-year-old Ukrainian traditional dress…pics coming soon.
  • 22 Sep 2011: a good day: received some Italian coffee (not instant!) from Ukrainian friends, my counterpart is finally home with her beautiful baby, I got three letters, & I might be inheriting my landlady’s old washing machine!
  • 2 Oct 2011: CP’s baby’s baptism –> 8 hours of eating and drinking and dancing (and still going strong when I left)…welcome to Ukraine!
  • 4 Oct 2011: I now have a working washing machine in my apartment! Peace out, hand-washing (unless the machine breaks).
    • Note: the machine lasted until my very last week at site, when it decided to start making loud clunking noises; I hand-washed my last few loads of laundry.
  • 13 Oct 2011: A supermarket just opened in my town!
  • 21 Oct 2011: Three girls showed up to my sport club in 43F & rain. Here’s to triumphing over Ukrainian beliefs/superstitions of getting sick from rain & cold, one girl at a time!
  • 9 Nov 2011: found out today that I’ll be teaching English to my town’s police in preparation for Euro2012…starting tomorrow.
  • 17 Nov 2011: Today I bought sweet Ukrainian boots & навчилася вишивати!
  • 29 Nov 2011: HIV/AIDS-themed English club was a relative success…except one girl started crying. I’m hoping it was just because the activity was powerful and not because of some deeper reason.
  • 6 Dec 2011: winter, John Legend, Woody Allen, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys, Dave Brubeck, snowflakes. Just a normal day in English club.
  • 14 Dec 2011: Iryna gave me some cheese that her daughter sent from Germany. I ate a cube and it was like heaven in my mouth.
  • 30 Dec 2011: fully embraced Ukrainian circle dancing tonight & it made for an enjoyable time.
  • 5 Jan 2012: I love walking/wandering around Kyiv. Found a sweet supermarket and saw a totally new area of the city on the way to getting my teeth salt-blasted at the dentist.
  • 8 Jan 2012: L’viv: pampushky (edible and live), lots of walking, The Nutcracker for 30 UAH, kolyadky, mulled wine, chocolate/marzipan, vysokyy zamok, pretty churches, great company…AND homemade (Ukrainian-made!) PEANUT BUTTER at the Christmas market…hard to beat this life.
  • 21 Jan 2012: Нарешті, доїхала додому. Home sweet Sniatyn.
  • 29 Jan 2012: I may or may not have just sung & danced around my apartment after being told there’s no school tomorrow due to the cold…
  • 5 Mar 2012: Today the boys were pulled out of my 5th-form lesson so the girls proceeded to interview me about my life and family. Best two questions: “Ms. Tammela, do you have a man?” & “Do you have a baby?”
  • 13 Mar 2012: Amazing cultural exchange moment of the day (@ older pupils’ English club): telling/answering questions about the Peace Corps and being told many new things about Taras Shevchenko. PC Goals 2 & 3? CHECK.
  • 18 Apr 2012: Time for a(n anti-) plagiarism workshop with my 10th form…
  • 29 Apr 2012: In Ukraine the tar melts in the sun.
  • 10 May 2012: My 44-year-old school director died early this morning of a heart attack… A big loss to my school and the Sniatyn community.
  • 15 May 2012: had a wonderful spontaneous evening helping Iryna in her field…and scored some fresh eggs, mint, and rhubarb on the way home.
  • 21 May 2012: Spent a lovely day in Kolychivka, introducing my American parents to my Ukrainian ones and eating delicious, super-fresh homemade pork sausage. (Fresh as in the pig was alive two days ago…)
  • 29 Jun 2012: Today I climbed Mt. Hoverla (2061m) in near-perfect conditions and watched my counterpart’s cousin propose to his girlfriend at the top (she said yes, for the record). All in all, not a bad day.
  • 2 Aug 2012: I am so happy and grateful that, even though my school’s Director (who was most of the muscle behind my grant implementation) died in May, the town administration has upheld their end of the deal and provided the (now-multimedia) English classroom with new desks, chairs, and chalkboard.
  • 21 Sep 2012: Two years ago today I arrived in Ukraine. Seven weeks from today I leave.
  • 10 Oct 2012: After two years in Ukraine I finally see leeks being sold. I show them to Iryna at English club and tell her how excited I am to have found them. She says, “I have those in my garden and in my field!” Ukrained? But in the most wonderful way.
  • 31 Oct 2012: My 8A girls asked me today if they could have English club today at 4pm (they haven’t come all semester) — I said okay, and they surprised me with cookies and a lovely hour of round-table chatting about Halloween and the advantages of speaking UkrEnglish. Adults & older pupils followed that with a great last English club and such generous, heartfelt comments and gifts. Then I was informed that my 11A class will be trick-or-treating at my flat tonight…
  • 4 Nov 2012: Last night in my диван-bed…
  • 4 Nov 2012: Last run in Sniatyn…then packing, cleaning, and final goodbyes. I shall miss this little town and its inhabitants. On the train to Kyiv — one-way — tonight with K for our last few days in Ukraine.
  • 7 Nov 2012: Advanced-Mid Ukrainian YES.
  • 8 Nov 2012: Today I rang the COS bell — yes, there’s now a bell — and became an RPCV (though I haven’t “returned” quite yet). Thanks for an amazing two years, Ukraine.


Quarter Century Birthday Wisdom

Yes, that’s right — today I turn 25. A quarter century! I certainly don’t feel that old.

I spent my previous two birthdays in Ukraine. Two years ago I was actually working at a camp run by a fellow PCV — my “team” gave me a lovely framed picture as a gift, and I believe flowers and cake were also involved. Last year I was at site in Sniatyn and remember having a delicious-as-always pizza lunch at Kapryz with Janira and Natalia; other Natalia gave me a leather wallet from her shop that I’d been eyeing and Ilona gave me a ring/earring/necklace set; it was a Wednesday, so there was English club and my adults gave me some really nice gifts, flowers, and well-wishes.

This year’s birthday finds me in Münster, Germany, where F studied. We’re visiting friends here and, because F’s dad shares my birthday, we’ll go to his parents’ tomorrow for weekend celebrations.

But this post is not to tell you about how I celebrate my birthday; rather, it’s to reflect a bit on the past year and share the traditional birthday wisdom, as I did last year.

this is the most recent photo I have (taken by Anthony) of myself

this is the most recent photo I have of myself (taken by Anthony)

The past year has been one of great changes: I finished my Peace Corps service, having to say goodbye to two years’ worth of accumulated friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and places (not to mention stuff); I moved home to my parents’ for a couple of months, then uprooted again to move to London. Since my last birthday I’ve run one half marathon, a 10k, and a bunch of 5ks (including a PR/PB) — now I’m “aging up” in road racing (darn!), so the competition gets stiffer. I also returned to formal education, earning a CELTA and being accepted to an MA program at University College London beginning this September.

My 25th year has seen lots of new, exciting, and different things. There have been lots of adjustments and adaptations to make. So with that in mind, my birthday wisdom for this year is as follows:

Give yourself time to adapt to change. Don’t be too hard on yourself or expect yourself to immediately feel at home in a new environment or living/working situation. Focus on one thing at a time, living in the moment and addressing each new thing as it arises, and adjustment will eventually come.

I wish you all another year of change and adaptation.

CELTA Course: Week 3

[Missed reading about Week 1 and Week 2? <— Click to catch up!]

Monday: “Easy” day of observing three of my classmates teach. The group of students was quiet and had sort of a strange dynamic…I felt a bit bad for my colleagues, who were trying desperately to engage them. But each person’s lesson segment went well enough and I was impressed with G’s lesson structure and flow.


Tuesday: We observed “real” teachers for an hour before having a session on “teaching listening skills.” Two of my classmates and I observed Jess (an Oxford House College teacher) teaching an upper-intermediate class; they were an energetic group with good English, and though Jess herself seemed a little scattered/flustered, she did some interesting matching activities and got the students talking.

Back with the big group, we learned how not to execute a listening activity and then focused on how to do it correctly. Some important points for teaching listening (as well as reading, the other “receptive skill”):

  • Set up the context for the listening text. This could be through discussion with the class, pre-teaching vocabulary, introducing a few phrases and having students guess what they’re going to listen about…
  • Give the students a clear task to concentrate on while listening to the text. Without a task, the students won’t know what to listen for and will get bogged down in the details or just space out. Like with reading, one can listen for gist, listen for specific information, listen for detail, and listen for inference.
  • After listening, make sure to get feedback and make sure that the students understood the task. If they didn’t, explain the task again and play the listening once more.

Another important part of listening is to use authentic materials. That is, “real life” speech. This could take the form of a radio show, an interview, dialogues, TV or movies, or songs. Bobby (our tutor) introduced us to a really fun “music bingo” activity: we each got a grid of nine words that showed up in the song he would later play. First, we formed small groups and had to guess what the song might be about. Then we listened to the song and if we heard a word that was on our bingo grid, we had to cross it off. The first person (two of us, in this case) to cross off all their words was the winner. (Wish I would’ve known about this activity in Ukraine…my English clubs would’ve loved it!)


Thursday: Teaching 30 minutes to the upper-intermediate students. I was last to teach of three in a grammar lesson on question tags (“You’re from America, aren’t you?“) and I needed my colleagues to teach the class about question tags before my segment, which was about practicing them. Sasha and Denis did a great job familiarizing the students with question tags and teaching them the rules, which made my lesson go smoothly. The students had to do a long activity that included matching the correct question tags to statements, then working with a partner to match the correct answers to the question tag-statements. At the end, I asked each student to write a few questions tag-statements of their own; then we mingled as they asked and answered each other’s questions. I was happy with the entire lesson, except for a small part in which I should’ve done some language or content feedback rather than go over the answers to the exercise. (While I was teaching, I realized how fun it really is for me. I had a blast up there, talking about grammar and chatting with the students. I must be in the right field.) My colleagues and tutor gave me positive feedback and I was again given “above standard” for my lesson — yeah, baby!


SaturdayWe had two main sessions. The first focused on “introducing new language”; that is, teaching a new grammatical or lexical (vocabulary-based) item. The three things that must be covered for any new language are: 1) meaning, 2) form (structure), and 3) pronunciation. After these three things have been introduced and studied, you can move to controlled practice followed by freer use of the language item. There are various ways to teach each segment in new language. The second session was all about lexis. “What is lexis?” you may ask. Well, lexis includes lexical items (fixed units with one meaning), which can be single words, collocations (word combinations that fit together, like “unrequited love”), or idiomatic phrases. We talked about teaching patterns of usage to students; for example, the verb “put” is always followed by a noun and a place (“Put it in the bin“). Looking at patterns — or chunks of language — rather than hard and fast rules will help students integrate their knowledge and intuitively understand how to use certain language patterns.


In sum, it was a decent week of class. Next Thursday I’ll teach another 30-minute lesson and we’ll have a session on teaching grammar. I also need to work on Assignment 1 (more on that later).

[Read on for Week 4…]

From one home to another: Ukraine to the USA

After 26 months outside of the USA, on Monday I returned to my hometown of Rochester, NY as an official Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). Seeing my parents wasn’t so shocking, since we’ve skyped every weekend for two years and we’ve seen each other in person twice over that time.

What first shocked, overwhelmed, and even disgusted me was how much stuff I have here: clothes, bags/purses, miscellaneous bathroom products, shoes… Stuff that I have clearly done without for the past two years. If living in Ukraine taught me anything, it’s that one doesn’t need much in the way of material goods in order to live comfortably and happily. I have already started purging my closet and will donate as much as possible over the next month.


In some ways, it feels like I never left the States. It’s amazing how easily old routines return: the morning after I got home, I got up and went to the athletic club for a yoga class with one of my favorite teachers.

Driving a car for the first time in over two years felt easy, like I’d just done it the day before.

This has led me to ask myself occasionally, “Did Ukraine really happen?”

But it did. Nice messages from my pupils and friends back in Sniatyn remind me of that. Two of my 10th-formers have made it to the third round of FLEX, a program that allows Ukrainian kids to do a high school exchange year here in the States.


Little things remind me that I’m not in Ukraine anymore: yesterday I went to Barnes & Noble and paid in cash; I owed $0.51 and told the cashier that I had exact change. I gave him a quarter and a penny, thinking “that’s perfect!” A minute later he said, “you’ve only given me $0.26.” I quickly realized that I’d thought one quarter was $0.50 because it’s almost the same size as a 50-kopeck piece! “Sorry, I’ve been abroad for two years,” I said sheepishly as I handed over another quarter.


I visited my school the other day and many of my former teachers asked some version of, “how was Ukraine?”

Without going into detail, all I can say is “Awesome. It was a really amazing experience.”

Some people ask me, “what was the best part of living in Ukraine?”

I have too many answers for that question: My English clubs. My pupils at school. My colleagues. Learning another language. Becoming integrated into another community and culture.


Sometimes I feel guilty that the transition back to the States feels too easy. Shouldn’t I miss Sniatyn more?

But transitions are necessary. One of my 11th-formers wrote some wise words to me this week: “Nothing can be eternal. There has to be some changes in our life. We need  them. If we don’t have any changes our life become boring.”

Well said. No matter where I go or what I do, Sniatyn, and Ukraine, will always be with me, in my heart and mind.


Sent Off in Style

**Warning: long post ahead. But if you read it to the end I promise it’ll be worth your time**

My two years in Ukraine have come to an end. You’ve read the final letters my 11th-form pupils wrote to me. My last week in Sniatyn was filled with notes, gifts, and wonderful sendings-off from friends, colleagues, and pupils.

Last Friday, Iryna (my Ukrainian “mom-friend”; she’s in her mid-50s) told me she’d be going on vacation the next day and so she wanted to meet me to say goodbye. She picked me up in the evening and took me to a cafe, where we enjoyed a light meal of cheese, coffee, and apple tart along with nice conversation. It was really lovely and thoughtful of Iryna to do this for me, and she gave me with some leeks and apples from her garden along with this note (original grammar/syntax preserved):

Dear Tammela! Probably I’m not very good your student but I would say some important words in English. I hope our meeting in this big world was interesting and pleasure for both of us. It seems we are too different conserning our age, origin, place of living and I really wonder we are very close about our sight on moral and soul points of life. // And it’s very cool!!! // You became a piece of happy in my life. Thanks for these moments. Thanks you and U.S. for all good deals! // Sometime I’ll be glad receive little note from you. I’ll be waiting… Iryna

My 8A pupils have not come to English club all semester — it has been hard to find a time when the majority of them could come, so I’d resigned myself to just seeing them during lessons. But on Wednesday at school, some of the girls asked if we could have English club that afternoon. “What time?” I asked. They proposed 4pm, which was perfect, an hour before my adult/older pupils’ club. So I showed up and seven of my girls were there, armed with OJ, cookies, and M&Ms, which they professionally portioned out after they pushed two desks together with chairs around them so we could sit in a circle. “Let’s talk about Halloween!” Olha said. So we started with that and progressed into topics such as the practicality of UkrEnglish, pets, siblings, and more. It was a joyful, relaxing hour. Nastia, Nastia, Marta, Marta, Olha, Inna, and Roxolana are some of the pupils who have most brightened my work at school. Smart, intelligent, funny, creative young ladies with excellent English.

Some of my awesome 8A girls, from L: (me), Marta I., Nastia D., Inna, Marta O., Olha, Nastia P., Roxolana

After my 8th formers left, the adults and older kids came in for the last English club. This English club group has been one of the highlights of my time in Sniatyn. It has been wonderful to get to know some of my pupils better and in a different context than English lessons. Some of them have become more like friends than pupils — at least we have a slightly more relaxed relationship than I do with most of my other pupils. And it’s been great to have met such an interesting cross-section of the Sniatyn community in the adults who have attended my club: they said on Wednesday that they wouldn’t have met each other if it hadn’t been for English club. They are all different ages and professions: dentist, epidemiologist, history teacher, piano teacher, gas company worker…It’s so cool that English club brought us all together.

Anyway, we talked about Halloween for a bit and then as we wound down I asked them what some of their favorite memories were from English clubs and got a slew of answers: writing dialogues and stories, playing fun speaking games, competitions, music, films… Andriy astutely pointed out that the second year of English club was more interesting than the first; I agreed. At the beginning I didn’t have any idea of what to do, plus the group had a lot of people come and go. Once a consistent core group formed and I started to get my bearing as a teacher and get to know the attendees, things went more smoothly as I could tailor activities to the group members’ interests and abilities. At the end of English club, I thanked everyone and was then bombarded with gifts:

Gifts from English clubbers

The gifts included two nice notes from my 10th form pupil, Christina, and my 11th form pupil, Oleh. Here’s what they wrote:

Dear Ms. Tammela! Thank you for your being in Snyatyn. Thank’s for English clubs, Sport clubs, for lessons, for preparation for FLEX. Thank you for all! // It was so interesting to communicate with you. You studied me many different and important things. You gave me many beautiful lessons which I will never forget! // This book is about plants and animals in Snyatyn’s region. They all are belong to Red Book of World. // I wish you great health, happiness, many pleasant emotions and positive feelings! You are so beautiful person! Don’t forget me! Christina K. // P.S. I hope we will see in the future!

Dear Tammela // Thank you for your dedication, kindnes and skils // I enjoyed all time wich we spended together // Oleh S.

On the way out of school after English club, I spotted this “information bulletin” made by my 11A class:

My 11A class made a great Halloween-y poster/”information bulletin” that hangs in the entrance to school. You may notice that I’m on the poster, too…

…because they put a lovely “good luck” poem on the poster for me!

The goodbyes continued on Thursday when I had my last lesson with my 4b class — they have also been a favorite class of mine and it has been fun to co-teach them with my colleague, Natalia. I said “good morning” to the class and then Roman came up and opened the sides of the chalkboard, revealing an adorable message (in English!) saying goodbye to me and telling me to return. Then multiple kids came up to me with flowers and gifts and gave little speeches, wishing me well and telling me not to leave (or at least to come back and visit). I received a big doll in Ukrainian national dress and Alina told me (in Ukrainian), “when you come back to visit you must be wearing a costume like this!” A few of them gave me cards, two of which I quote here: 1) “We will Miss you at Miss Temella. Come more” — short and sweet! 2) “Miss Tem!!! Thank you for evereting you do for us. With you was very interesting. I wish you a good travel at home. Taras Beltsyk Form 4-B — I’m pretty sure Taras has a parent who knows at least a little English. If not, I’m even more impressed. Love them.

My awesome 4b pupils sending me off in style (check out the message on the board behind us)

I was prepared for something from the teachers during Friday’s morning faculty meeting. Our school director, Viktoria Liubomyrivna, presented me with flowers and a podyaka (thank-you certificate…Ukrainians love these) and I gave a little thank-you speech as well. Nadia Mykhailivna, widow of our late/former director, gave me a beautiful, real pysanka (painted egg) and rushnyk (embroidered towel) that she and Viktor Mykolaiovych had bought at last spring’s school yarmarok (market) — “na pam’yat’,” she said. “For the memory”).

Me and Nadia Mykhailivna, math/IT teacher and widow of our late school director

More gifts and a “podyaka” from the teachers

My last lesson on Friday was with Nadia Mykhailivna’s class, the 10th form, a hilarious and energetic group of kids. They also presented me with well-wishes and some nice gifts. Poor Katya almost broke down and had to restart her heartfelt word a few times, causing me to tear up as well!

Katya, 10th form, has become like a friend

Even more gifts! How will I get all of these home?

After school, the English teachers (minus two) and I went to the restaurant where we always celebrate after the First and Last Bell ceremonies: Vechirnyy Sniatyn. We shared a few hours of tasty food and conversation; as Diana Dmetrivna said, we have been not only colleagues but have also become friends. These are the people who have made my time in Sniatyn so worthwhile.

Colleagues, from L: Yulia (& sleeping Sophia), Natalia, me, Halyna Nestrivna, Halya, Diana Dmetrivna

We had short lessons on Saturday to make up for Monday’s day off after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections. My 11th form invited me to a concert they organized as a farewell for me! It deserved its own blog post so click here to see photos and videos of my talented pupils.

With school farewells finished, that left Sunday and Monday to say goodbye to Halya and her family as well as Natalia and co. at her shop. I spent a relaxed couple of hours at Halya’s place on Sunday evening, sharing a light meal and champagne with lemon (have you ever had that? It’s actually pretty tasty) with Halya, Oksana (her mom), Yuliana (her aunt/my landlady), Pavlo (Halya’s cousin), Sasha (Halya’s husband), and Mark (their 14-month-old son). Conversation is always interesting with them, and the food is always good. I’ll miss chatting with them in the back yard and celebrating holidays with them.

Yuliana, Mark, Oksana, Halya & me

“Good Bye, Temila”

Also, there was a nice article written about me in the newspaper Sniatyns’ka Vezha (“Sniatyn tower”) this weekend. Tanya, the Sniatyn journalist who wrote an article about me about a week after I arrived in Sniatyn, interviewed me again last week to compose a final piece; I tried to use it to say thank you and goodbye to all the people in Sniatyn who have touched my life. (There are a few wrong facts but overall it’s a nice article.)

Monday morning I got up early in order to have one last run on my favorite road. My early wake-up was rewarded by a gorgeous sunrise as I started my run — I took my camera along to get some final shots of Sniatyn:

Sunrise over the Sniatyn “ratusha” (clock tower). I’ll miss hearing the bells chime every quarter-hour

I love this town

After running (and showering), I headed to Natalia’s shop one last time to have coffee and conversation with Natalia, Ilona, Petro, and Nina. I gave them a bunch of extra things I didn’t need, and they liked the photo albums I’d made for them.

Petro, Ilona, me, Natalia, Nina (no we didn’t plan to stand in order of height)

So that’s it. Someone from Halya’s family will drive me to the train station in a few hours and tonight I’ll be on my way to Kyiv for three more days in Ukraine. If all goes as planned, on Friday I’ll become a Returned PCV (RPCV). Hard to believe and quite bittersweet — I couldn’t have asked for a better service.

N.B.: Click HERE to see more photos of the classes and teachers and English clubbers I’ve worked with for two years. And click HERE to see my “scenic Ukraine” album — the best photos I’ve taken of Ukrainian landscapes and more.

Ukraine: Things I’ll Miss

  • (or already do): Viktor Mykolaiovych and Tetiana Petrivna
  • Coffee and hilarity at Natalia’s shop with her, Ilona, Tanya, Petro, and Nina
  • My pupils at school, especially the 11A, 8A, and 4b classes (yeah I know I’m not supposed to have “favorite” classes or pupils, but I totally do and I’m pretty sure every teacher does. Some are just better at hiding it).
  • My wonderful English-teacher colleagues, who have been great to work in parallel to and teach with: Diana Dmytrivna, Nadia, Natalia Mykhailivna, Halya.
  • Other Ukrainian teachers at my school, who have been so welcoming, kind, patient with my Ukrainian language, and just willing to stop and chat with me once in a while. Especially: Yulia Petrivna, Anya Vasylivna, Nadia Mykhailivna, Natalia Mykhailivna (a different one), Natalia Volodymyrivna, Anatoliy Oleksiyovych, Viktoria Liubomyrivna, Liudmyla Mykhailivna, Valentyna Volodymyrivna…
  • Running along the Prut River/canal. Doing speed workouts at the stadium on the jacked-up 350m asphalt track while the morning walkers walk. Running on my absolute favorite road, atop a hill a mile or so away from the center of town — I think the official name of the street is Hohols’koho, but I call it “the high road” or “up top” in my head.
  • My English clubbers, especially the older pupils and adults who have been attending from the very beginning and who have brought so much energy and have grown so much in creativity and critical thinking: Iryna, Katya, Yulia, Andriy, Oleh K., Oleh S., Tanya, Mykhailo…
  • Weekly food morsel exchanges with Iryna — she or I bring something we’ve picked or made for the other person. The exchange usually happens at the end of English club on Wednesday evenings.
  • Being invited to help Iryna in her garden or field, and/or to join her on an excursion in the spring and summer.
  • Being 2-7 minutes away from pretty much anything I might need to buy.
  • Sniatyn’s fantastic bakery — especially their horishky and trubochky cookies and buying still-warm loaves of bread.
  • My apple (and walnut and pear) man at the bazaar, who always gave me discounts.
  • Watching adorable Ukrainian children recite rhyming “greetings” on holidays.
  • Being able to tune out conversations because they’re in another language and I will only understand if I listen carefully.

…and more. But I also have many things to look forward to, and to paraphrase my friend and fellow PCV Kate, I’m lucky to have had something that makes it so hard to say goodbye.

Desert Island Discs

Yesterday was my third-to-last English club, and it was one of those meetings that made me realize how much I’ll miss my English clubbers when I leave. Recently I’ve combined my older pupils — 10th and 11th formers — with my adults, and yesterday we had a pretty balanced group: five adults and seven pupils. I wanted to make them somehow work together, so I devised two activities that I thought would be fun for everyone; I think it went quite well.

First up: “Desert Island Discs.” I got this idea from a BBC radio show/podcast of the same name. The premise is that you are being sent to a desert island and you are allowed to take seven songs/albums (I lowered it to five for English club) with you. You can also choose one book to take. You don’t know how long you might be on the desert island, so it’s worth it to take some time to come up with a good list of music and reasons why you chose these particular selections. Here’s what each person chose to take to their desert island:

  • TanyaОкеан Елзи (Ukrainian rock group), С.К.А.Й. (Ukrainian rock group), a Sting album, a Yann Tiersen album (he wrote the soundtrack to the film Amelie), and an album by another Ukrainian singer whose name I didn’t recognize. Tanya decided to take a book about “how to survive on a desert island” (smart choice!).
  • Mykhailo: Океан Елзи, The Beatles, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata, a Scorpion album, The Eagles. His book? A Ukrainian-English dictionary!
  • Oleh S.: Heart’s Happiness, Florence and the Machine, an album of greatest club music hits, an album of Ukrainian and Polish folk songs, and all of Bach’s works (how he’ll get that onto one album, I wonder…). Oleh would take The Bible to his desert island.
  • Serhiy: music of Vysotskiy (a Russian singer), an album of a Ukrainian rap singer whose name I didn’t catch, and a few other Ukrainian/Russian singers. Serhiy’s book: Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island.
  • Yulia: the new Three Days Grace album, KORN, Slipknot, Papa Roach, and 30 Seconds to Mars. She’d take Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
  • Vlad: three Nickelback albums, Flo Rida, Pink Funhouse. Vlad would take a Russian trilogy called Absolute Warrior.
  • Iryna: jazz for a light mood, Bach’s organ music (for a sad mood), Mozart symphonies, Romantic piano music, and an album of Impressionist music from composers such as Debussy and Ravel. Iryna would take a book by Yuriy Izdryk, a contemporary Ukrainian writer.
  • Andriy: an album of the greatest R&B songs, an Aventura album, three albums of Ukrainian folk and patriotic music. Andriy would take a book like Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe to teach himself how to survive on the desert island.
  • Christina: Друга Ріка (Ukrainian rock group), Tokio (Russian rock group), an Argentinian band whose name I didn’t catch, Lama (Ukrainian group), and С.К.А.Й. Christina’s book: a big picture-heavy book of Sniatyn!
  • Oleh K.: Вправо Вибору (his own band!), a metal band whose name I missed, TOL (Ukrainian new metal), In Flames, and AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” He’d take a book of European mythology.
  • Marta: С.К.А.Й., Adele, Друга Ріка, Dozen Dreams, Nickelback. She’d take a book called Blood and Milk.
  • Tammela (that’s me! I played selections of each of my choices): Beethoven’s complete symphonies, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Ingrid Michaelson’s greatest hits, and Shaban und Käptn Peng. I’d take the complete works of Shakespeare as my book, because I’d probably have plenty of time on the desert island to make my way through.

Can you guess the ages and/or professions of these people? Who’s a pupil and who’s an adult?

After Desert Island Discs, I put everyone in pairs. I tried to pair pupils with adults because otherwise they wouldn’t work together and I wanted to see what would happen. The task: I introduced five English idioms and the pairs had to compose dialogues and use each idiom at least once. The idioms:

  • “spill the beans”
  • “to lose one’s marbles”
  • “dull as dishwater”
  • “down in the dumps”
  • “by hook or crook”

The pairs worked well together and came up with some good dialogues and really good usages of the idioms. I felt proud. Here are some photos of the pairs working and performing:

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Things Ukrainians Write: Collaborative Stories

Summer English club got a lot more interesting when, halfway through July, I found my classroom without desks or chairs. Luckily, this has happened before (like when the school has been mysteriously locked) and we have a backup space to meet: the будинок школяра (literally “schoolchildren’s building”), to which Oleh can get a key because his band rehearses there. But so much for multimedia clubs and film night…it was back to planning technology-less clubs like I did for the first few months at site.

It turns out that technology-less English clubs are much easier and more fun with a big group, so it’s a good thing that more people have been showing up for the past couple of weeks. About 15 people came yesterday, a great mix of pupils and adults. After a few warm-up activities I had them count off in fives to make groups of three or four people. To loosen up and start speaking, each group had to come up with three non-visible things they had in common, then share them with everyone else. Some examples: “we have all been to the sea”; “we all like Ukraine”; “each of us has one brother but no sister.”

After the groups shared their things in common, I decided to challenge them and test an activity I’d never used before: a collaborative story. Every group had to begin their story with the same sentence. I gave them “Once upon a time, there lived an old man…” Each group had to choose one person to write and then work together to compose a story based on the first sentence.

I was so impressed with the results that I asked to collect their stories (I got all but one) because I wanted to post them here. A year ago, even six to eight months ago, they would not have written such creative stories. I am amazed at how much my club attendees have grown and improved in their creative and critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, and English (of course).

Read the stories below. I’ve not changed anything except for some corrections for clarity in brackets. I have listed the authors and their rough ages to show the distribution; the person who physically wrote the story is listed first. The groups wrote these in about 20 minutes.

  • Once upon a time there lived an old man. And he lived in a magic forest. One day he went fishing. Suddenly he felt [fell] in the lake. He though[t] he will die. But a terrible mermaid saved his life. She said him: “I saved youre life and you must do my 3 wishes: a) you must marry with me…” The old man didn’t listen last 2 wishes and start to run. When he ran he saw a young hot girl it was a red ridding hood [Little Red Riding Hood]. And she said him: “Marry me”. The old man said “Yes”. And then he wake [woke] up and said “I’ll never eat a strange mushrooms”. The end. Written by Oleh (23 years old, history teacher); Ira (~18 y/0, university student); and Lilia (16 y/o, just starting university).
  • Once upon a time there lived an old man, who was lonely. 50 years ago he met his love of all the life. Unfortunately, he lost his sweetheart, because the war had begun. During his life he hasn’t [hadn’t] forgotten his love. And when he was 70 he has already found this woman. She’s as beautiful as 50 years ago and she’s still lonely too! So, he decided to visit their favourite restaurant, where they have [had] met. An [The] old man was surprised when he realized that she work there! It was the amazing meeting! They were speaking all the night and met the sunrise together. Their happiness was so short. An [The] old woman was ill and she knew that she will die in a few days. She must say goodby. And their love was so short like 50 years ago. Written by Yulia (17 y/o, just starting university); Oksana (22 y/o, medical college student); and Marta (~13 y/o, 8th grader).
  • Once upon a time there lived an old man. Who was a spaceman. He saw an alien when he was in his space trip. He fall [fell] off the space ship of an alien flied [flew] in black hole. He found an alien city and met friendly alient [aliens]. The alients showed him their home, city, culture, customs. In the evening he tried enlient [alien] dishes, drive their car, thanked them and invite[d them to] visit our planet. When he came back he began to tell this story [to] his friend, and then this an old man visited a mad house. We jealous of him because he visited alients. We are so sorry that people didn’t believe him. Written by Nastia (~13 y/0, 8th grader); Katya (15 y/o; 10th grader); and Ivan (~20 y/0, university student).
  • Once upon a time there lived an old man. His name was Petro. It was a crazy man, who like to drunk alcohol and then he liked to smells flowers every day. He had a lot of friends and he liked to dance, to sing songs and to say funny stories about his flowers. Their friends were very funny, too and all of them liked flying pigs and vegetables, which could talk to them and there [those] were the most exciting days of their lifes. Also, this boy Petro had a dog and a cat. He hadn’t a good imagination, so he named his pets like Belka and Strelka. His pets were very friendly with him, so every time, when he was very drunk they saved him and pulled him to his home, put him to his bed and sang a lullaby. Also they cooked a meal for him and also they have a friendly mouse that gived [gave] a piece of cheese to cat Strelka and the cat gaved this cheese to the dog, which gaved this cheese to Petro. Petro lived happy all his life. He road [rode] into the rainbow and catch [caught] a squirell that pursued him all his wonderful life. All. Written by Tanya (16 y/o, 11th grader); Ira (15 y/0, just starting college); and Serhiy (~45 y/o, doctor).
  • I wasn’t able to collect the last story, but it was about a man who worked on a community farm and then sold everything and spent all his money on lottery tickets but did not win anything. There was one great sentence that went something like, he held the envelope with shaking handsWritten by Andriy (26 y/o, dentist); Natalia (31 y/o, businesswoman); and Ira (? 18 y/o, university student).

Which story is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

The Parents Visit Ukraine

After hearing about and learning about my first 20 months in Ukraine via Skype, photos, and blog posts, my parents finally got the real-life experience when they visited me in Ukraine for two weeks at the end of May. Here’s a blow-by-blow of Dianne and Terry’s visit:

Days 1-2: Kyiv. D&T arrived on Saturday afternoon. After picking them up at the airport, we settled into Hotel Ibis and then I walked them down to Khreshchatyk for a tasty Indian dinner and stroll along the closed-for-pedestrians-on-weekends street. The next morning we ventured out to Kyiv’s big Botanical Garden. We spent a lovely couple of hours strolling among the just-past-peak lilacs and getting slightly lost in the forest and meadows.

Day 3: Visit to the Host Family in Kolychivka. My parents got the full taste of Ukrainian village life and hospitality when we visited my host family in the village where I trained almost two years ago. Anya, Serhiy, Dianne, & Terry all seemed to get along well and we were lucky enough to arrive just three days after Anya & Serhiy’s pig had been killed. Fresh pork and sausage for all!

Day 4: Kyiv. Back in the city for one more day, we hit up all the churches (St. Sophia’s, St. Michael’s, St. Volodymyr’s, glimpsed St. Andrew’s) and checked out the Pinchuk Art Center, which had a great Anish Kapoor exhibition. An easy overnight train ride — except for the fact that I was sick with a fever and chills — with a whole kupe to ourselves, got us to Sniatyn before 9am on Wednesday morning.

Days 5-12: Sniatyn, Kosiv, Chernivtsi, & the Carpathians. As soon as we arrived in Sniatyn, I thrust my parents into school life. The first day, they accompanied me to school and chatted with my 5th, 8th, and 7th formers as well as my adult English club. D&T were great sports about it (thanks again, guys!) and everyone really seemed to enjoy talking to them. They covered such topics as hobbies, favorite animals, traveling, wearing seat-belts, and even recycling and the environment.

On Friday, my parents accompanied me to the Last Bell ceremony at school — where many words were said about my late school director — and then to lunch with my English-teacher colleagues Diana Dmytrivna, Natalia Mykhailivna, and Yulia Vasylivna. Michelle and Janira arrived on Friday afternoon to meet my parents and hang out for a little while. Michelle stayed overnight because early on Saturday morning we went to the Kosiv Bazaar, which has the best selection (and prices) of traditional Ukrainian crafts: woodworking, embroidered towels & blouses, dolls, whistles, ceramics, maces…

On Sunday we met my friends in Chernivtsi for lunch and a bit of a stroll around the beautiful center of the city. Upon arriving back in Sniatyn, we immediately met up with Natalia, Petro, and Vika to ascend the clock tower (ratusha). The evening was pretty clear so I got some great pictures of Sniatyn from above. On our way down, the man who let us up — who also happens to be the man who is responsible for the clock’s functioning — opened up the clock box and explained how all the mechanics work. We even got to see it strike 7pm.

The next couple of days were quiet and relaxed, with walks around Sniatyn, another English club, and a wonderful shashlik dinner with Halya and her family (my wonderful counterpart/neighbors). D&T even got to experience the unpredictability of Ukrainian life when the entire town’s gas went out for a day!

Wednesday was a full day, as we’d arranged to go on an excursion to the Carpathian Mountains, guided by Mykola from Kolomiya. He was fantastic, and led us on the “Graffiti Stone” hike — complete with a thunderstorm that caused us to walk/run down a shortcut and hide out in a partially-built house until the rain slackened. After the hike, we stopped to see three master crafts(wo)men on the way home. The master weaver in Yavoriv does everything from start to finish: shearing the sheep, washing and brushing the wool, winding it into yarn, weaving the blankets, washing and brushing them. We saw a 5th-generation master ceramicist in Kosiv, who makes and paints all her ceramics in Hutsul style and colors (green, yellow, brown). Lastly, still in Kosiv, we stopped at the house of a master woodcarver; he doesn’t sell his best work because he says they’re like his children. So they hang on one wall of his living room like a small museum — really amazing work. He also collects pysanky (painted eggs).

Day 13: 18-hour train ride to Odesa.

Days 14-15: Odesa. D&T’s last day and a half in Ukraine were spent in Odesa, a city I’d not yet visited. The center is beautiful, especially the architecture. We walked around a lot, hitting the Potemkin Stairs, an art museum, the pedestrian street (Deribasivs’ka), and even catching part of an outdoor performance of Aida in front of the gorgeous Opera & Ballet Theatre after a delicious Georgian food dinner. Part of Saturday was spent sitting outside under an umbrella at a cafe while rain poured down.

Saturday morning we went for a walk before I dropped Dianne and Terry off at the airport. I spent Saturday evening wandering around a bit and enjoying some quiet time before I flew to Germany for a wonderful week with my wonderful boyfriend in Muenster.

Some photos from the parents’ visit:

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Happy Mother’s Day!

To all you mothers and mother-figures out there: Happy Mother’s Day! Mothers are such important people in our lives and society. Good thing we have a day to celebrate them (though really we should celebrate them every day).

In honor of Mother’s Day, this past week in English club everyone (7th formers to adults) made M-Day cards in English to give to their moms/grandmas/daughters who are moms. A slideshow of their creations:

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Darien Book Aid & other updates

A few months ago, I contacted Darien Book Aid to request a shipment of 20 pounds of books for my school here in Ukraine. DBA is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that sends books to Peace Corps Volunteers and others all over the world, free of charge. It seemed silly not to take advantage of this opportunity.

After sending in my request, all I had to do was sit and wait for the books to arrive. I received word last month that my books had been sent on 13 January, and they arrived this week. Twenty pounds of books is a lot of books! They sent me many young adult chapter books, some easy books for young readers (or beginner English-speakers, as the case may be), and two textbooks on health and teaching health in schools. I cannot wait to present all the books to my colleagues at school — it will be quite a surprise for them.

At this point I’m sort of at a loss for how to start incorporating these books into my teaching life. I’ve thought about creating a library in the English classroom, where pupils can check out books to read at home. I may make photo copies of a chapter at a time to read in English clubs. Or maybe I’ll just read them to people as a listening exercise. Any suggestions for how to use chapter books in the ESL/EFL classroom would be greatly appreciated! Please leave a comment or email me if you have ideas.

Below are some pictures of the box’s arrival. Thank you, Darien Book Aid!

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In other news, it’s still really cold here. In case you haven’t been reading any news, it’s been <9°F/-13°C here for the past two weeks. School was cancelled last week because it was too cold for the kiddies to walk to school. Teachers still make an appearance every day. This week the primary schoolers were free and we had short — 30′ — lessons with the 5th-11th forms Monday-Wednesday; no school Thursday or Friday. I’ve still been running, of course, because I’m crazy and addicted like that.

But I would really like it to warm up again soon — anything above 10°F, please! — so I can do a proper long run.

My grant implementation is under way — money’s in the bank and my director and I are going soon to buy the equipment. Thanks to everyone who donated. You can check out picture updates here.

In random “go Ukraine!” news, I just read this interesting BBC article about the origins of European coffee houses — apparently a Ukrainian in the 17th century was one of the first to brew a cup of coffee in a cafe (or something) in Vienna. The Euro-type coffee house has definitely made it’s mark in L’viv, where there are tons of cozy cafes. Read the article for more details.

In other random suggestions, read Byron’s epic/satiric poem, Don Juan. It is absolutely hilarious.

Lastly, if you haven’t heard yet, Oberlin is ranked #3 among small colleges for Peace Corps Volunteers! 24 of us are currently serving as PCVs around the world. Read this article, featuring my fellow Obie and Ukraine (R)PCV, Samantha.