Category Archives: PST


This week we gained our “freedom” – now we’re allowed to travel from our training site without any PC staff member. For my cluster, this means we can take the bus to Chernihiv anytime we want! On Thursday we had a “field trip” that our LCF told us to take without her. Our task: go to the Базар (bazaar/market) in Chernihiv and check out food prices, pretending we’d have to shop for a week of food – a simulation of what we’ll have to do once we get to our permanent sites. So off we went! The Chernihiv bazaar is big and wonderful – it would be easy to spend a lot of гривня (UAH) there. Produce, sweets, nuts and dried fruit, tea and coffee, clothing, bags, books, kitchen-wear, toiletries… You can buy pretty much everything you need at the bazaar and never have to set foot in a grocery store – the bazaar is cheaper than the store, too. It was a fun excursion and we now feel prepared to shop successfully at our sites. 

Busy week coming up: team-teaching three English classes (11th, 8th and 7th Forms) and acquiring a different LCF for the next three weeks. More pictures below!
My link! L to R: Philip, Janira, Chris, Michelle, Andrew, me, Andrew, Kate, James, Andrew. Wonderful group.
The golden “entrance” to the fields where I run!
Here are the fields.
Lesson planning!
Excited about this awesome preposition chart.

Ukrainian Food

Okay, I know I keep writing about the food here but a lot of home life revolves around it. My host mom makes me breakfast, and I often help her fix dinner in the evenings after class. Here are some descriptions of recent eating occasions: big Sunday lunch w/ my host family, birthday celebration for Andy, and cluster cooking day. Pictures below, too!
I experienced my first Ukrainian “Sunday Dinner” last weekend. Not sure if it’s tradition or was just for the special occasion (Teachers’ Day, the first Sunday in October) but friends of Anya and Serhiy came over and we proceeded to eat, toast with vodka/wine/juice, and socialize for four hours (2-6pm)! I think I consumed 2-3 meals’ worth of food over those four hours: fried fish (риба); more delicious beet/carrot/potato/onion/pickle salad; fresh farmers’ cheese (сир; SO good!); an excellent egg salad-type dish; boiled and buttered potatoes; varenyky (вареники) filled with cherries or cheese; homemade tomato juice (сік, or сок in Russian); homemade peach-cherry juice (компот); watermelon (кавун); chocolates (шоколад)… It was fun to meet more Ukrainians and show them some photos of my life and family. They all agreed that I look a lot like my dad! This is true. Taught them some new words in English (watermelon!) and learned some new Ukrainian words.
My cluster had our “cooking day” – mandatory for each cluster to do during PST – this Friday. We decided on an “American” dish and a Ukrainian dish, with Andy’s Spanish rice thrown in for flavor (and flavorful it was!). The “American” dish vote was for pizza, so we used Kate’s host mom’s incredible pizza dough to create deep-dish style pizzas – for lack of a baking sheet that fit in Natalya’s oven – with cheese (сир), sausage/pepperoni (ковбаса), peppers (перець), onions (цебуля), and parsley (петрушка). Natalya made Ukrainian пампушки (“pampooshky”), which are like fried dough with chocolate inside. YUM. We declared cooking day a success and decided to try and do one fun thing a week for cluster bonding!
“Sunday dinner” at my host family’s house — salad, varenyky, tomatoes, fish, egg salad stuff, compote, tomato juice…
Birthday food! Cream puffs, caviar/tomato on bread, cookies, apples, grapes…
Cluster cooking day: our recipe for pizza, in Ukrainian!
Cluster on cooking day — yum!

Language Escapades

I taught my first TEFL class this week! 8th Form (grade), by myself for 45 minutes on the climate of Great Britain. Introduced some new words like “rainfall,” “sunshine,” “climate,” “wind,” “humid,” “mild,” “average.” I also tried to teach the pupils about comparatives and superlatives. Parts of the lesson worked – they loved the “word swatter” game – and parts were addressed to complete silence. Overall, it wasn’t too shabby for a first lesson but there is much room for improvement.

In Ukrainian language we’ve moved from the food unit to time and weather. Learning ordinal numerals; how to ask for/tell time; days of the week and months of the year; names for weather phenomena. Friday was a beautiful sunny (сонце) and warm (тепло) day! Also interesting is that in Ukrainian the months are named after things that happen in those months:
January (січень) loosely means “heavy snow”
February (лютий) means “angry month”
March (березень) is the bird month
April (квітень) is the month when flowers come out
May (травень) is when grass is green
June (червень) is when cherries blossom
in July (липень) the linden trees bloom
August (серпень) is harvest month
heather comes out in September (вересень)
October (жовтень) is the “yellow month”
November (листопад) is “falling leaves month”
December (гпудень) is “frozen ground month”
Language class is a fun mix of review from the previous day and new material practiced through games, dialogues, and repetition. As usual, more “daily life in Ukraine” pictures below.
Kate and I unconsciously dressed in opposite color schemes for our first day of teaching!
Beautiful fall day in Chernihiv.
Grapes in the late afternoon. Host dog, Dina, bottom left.
Typical village sighting.

Host Family Life & Teachers’ Day

Funny story: apparently my host family has a second dog, Cesar (Цезар), a big scary-looking German Shepherd who I think acts as the outdoor guard dog. Guard dog to all except one, that is: Dina, the little Dachshund! Dina likes to corner Cesar and boss him around by rushing and barking at him. Cesar, 6 times Dina’s size and strength, flattens his ears and retreats when this happens! Who would’ve thought little Dina would be the alpha-dog?
Here’s a nifty tip: If you want really clean hands/fingernails, wash your clothes by hand! I completed Ukrainian life-skill #1 Friday afternoon with the help of my host mom. She filled one large basin with warm water and detergent (TIDE, just like home!) and another basin with cool, clean water. She then showed me how to submerge a garment and rub it together at the spots most likely to accumulate grime (cuffs, neck). After doing that for a while, you dunk it in the clean water basin a few times and wring it out. Last step: hang clothes on the clothes line. Voila! The whole process only took about half an hour for my 3 shirts, 1 pair of pants, and various undergarments. And it was kind of satisfying to have washed my own clothes.
I’ve been working on letting my host mom know my food preferences… I’ve told her I love fruits & veggies, so pears (груша – from the tree outside!) and bananas (банан) have appeared as well as a delicious salad of cooked & diced beets (буряк), carrots (морква), potatoes (картоплія), onions (цебуля), and pickles. I also told her, “Я не подобаєця жир” (“I don’t like a lot of fat”), b/c she’s been putting about 4 tablespoons of butter on my morning бутерброт… The eggs (яйця) here are delicious, with vibrant yellow-orange yolks – I think they come from my host family’s chickens (кури)! [We’ve been learning food words this week, in case you haven’t noticed.]
We attended “Teachers’ Day” at our training site school this week. It’s a national celebration in Ukraine which occurs every year on the first Friday in October. The students honor their teachers and give them the “day off” – this means a slew of student presentations and performances followed by a day of students teaching classes while teachers relax in the lounge, eat cake, and drink tea. It was great fun to see the performances and the respect the students have for their teachers. We PC Trainees even got to perform – we sang “Old Macdonald” in English after introducing ourselves in Ukrainian. Fun times.
We’re having a cooking day next week with our language teacher – one Ukrainian dish (chocolate-filled donuts) and one American dish (pizza) are on the menu.
More pictures below!
Church in our village.
School in our village — “Children are our future,” says the script above the entrance.
Our language-learning classroom, aka Natalya’s apartment! Lots of diagrams and charts.

End of Week 1.

End of week one – have I only been in Ukraine for 5 days? It feels like yesterday and ages ago at the same time. As I write, my host parents are downstairs watching some Ukrainian TV. I recently heard Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” in Ukrainian/Russian float up the stairs. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto! It’s been a wild week, from Staging in D.C. to my – and 13 others’ – delayed arrival in Ukraine on Tuesday. But here I am, situated in a small village (~1,350 people!) – no bank or police or cafes – outside of Chernihiv, the Chernihiv Oblast center, north of Kyiv.
I have a host mother, Anya, and a host father, Serhiy, and a host long-haired Dachshund-type dog, Dina, who gets to eat left-over people-food for dinner (Dundee would never be allowed to do that! But like Dundee, my host parents intimate that Dina would sit at the table if he could). I have my own room with space for my yoga mat on the floor (yay!). I don’t know much about my host parents yet because I can barely speak or understand any Ukrainian. I do know that Serhiy is an auto-mechanic right now. After dinner on Friday, I followed my host mom across the driveway to what I thought was a second kitchen. Lo and behold, it was! Natalia, my cluster’s language and cross-cultural facilitator, told us that households often have a second kitchen for the summer, where most of the food is stored and prepared. After I saw the other kitchen, Anya showed me around their property. When I say property I really mean dacha (дача), for we are in the country and this is a country house – we have a large and fertile garden; pigs; cats; adorable chickens; and two large rabbits! My host parents are very welcoming and feed me lots of soup (potatoes, carrots, onions, broth, meat/beans/grain, dill) and other tasty things – блінічики (blini), салат (salad), tasty brown bread, and potatoes prepared many different ways – of which I must try not to eat too much.
Language training is fast and intense, but we’re all equally lost so it’s okay. I’ve been placed to learn Ukrainian, and all five of us in my cluster are just out of university. Lots of language-studying – it’s like being back in German 101, but this time it’s Ukrainian-for-survival! There is so much I want to say and so little I can say.
Some interesting Ukraininan-language tidbits:
-There are no articles in Ukrainian – whereas the articles change with case in German, in Ukrainian the word endings change with case.
-There is no “to be” in the present tense – e.g., “I – teacher” – it’s pretty awesome.
-There are SEVEN cases in Ukrainian – and four were tough to keep straight in German!
Here are some of the terms we use in Peace Corps that I will refer to often in my emails and blog posts:
-For PST, I am part of a cluster, which is 5 Trainees (PCTs) grouped according to living preferences, teaching assignment, and language ability. We do all our language training and a good deal of our technical (secondary TEFL) and cross-cultural training with our cluster every day but Sunday. Our cluster is led by an LCF (Language & Cross-Cultural Facilitator).
-Every Saturday we join with another cluster to form a link – our link cluster is in Chernihiv, also learning Ukrainian, but teaching higher education TEFL. We do a bit of technical (TEFL) and cross-cultural training with our link cluster. Link sessions are led largely by our TCF (Technical & X-Cultural Facilitator).
This first week in Ukraine has been overwhelming, but good. Probably won’t have much internet during PST since there’s none in my town, but below are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Peace, T. 
My room in my host family’s house.
Gorgeous Ukrainian sunset on Day 1.

"’The time has come,’ / The Walrus said…"

to pack up many things! Things for the next 27 months — not ships or sealing-wax or kings, and I will get plenty of cabbage at my destination, but definitely shoes. (Full text of Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and The Carpenter.”)

When I started trying to put things in suitcases: DISASTER. I thought weight would be the issue, but it’s actually space — I want to bring too many things! So I acquired two vacuum-pack bags from my dad and took out some clothes for my parents to send once I get to my site at the end of December.

I leave on Friday. Unbelievable. I just ran my first half marathon, and now that that’s done, the next thing on the list is the Peace Corps! The scariest thing about leaving on Friday is how much I don’t know about what happens in the next three months: what language will I be learning? Who will be in my cluster? Where will I be located during training? Will I have internet access? What will my host family be like? Will I be able to exercise? Where will I end up being placed in December? And so many more.

I can think of two ways to reconcile these unknowns to my schedule- and routine-oriented brain. First, the following quotation, which I can hear Meryl Streep-as-Karen Blixen reciting in her Danish accent in the 1985 film, Out of Africa, adapted from Isak Dinesin’s memoir of the same title: “Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.” A simple explanation, yes, but it resonates with me as I start my journey with the Peace Corps.

Second, I had coffee this morning with a former English teacher who remains a mentor, friend, and kindred spirit in the discussion of books, literature, and life. I recommended he read Dave Eggers’ novel, What is the What, and was describing the basic premise of the book. Astutely, Mr. D asked, “so, what is the what?” I explained that, in the book, the boy’s father tells a story where God offers men a choice between cattle — i.e., security and prosperity — and “the What” — variously interpretable as the unknown, the mysterious, or just plain chance. “Oh,” said Mr. D, “so you’re about to enter the What.” “Yeah, I kind of am, I guess,” I replied.

So, off I go to Ukraine and the What, not seeing too far down the road but prepared for anything. Stay in touch!

Some random updates

Sorry for the posting lapse, but I’ve been luxuriating on Cape Cod with my family and good friend Amanda for the past week.

A few updates, with more detailed posts coming soon:

  • I just started reading Anna Reid’s Borderland: A Journey into the History of Ukraine, and it’s pretty fascinating. I’m only one chapter in, but have already learned about the whole early history of Ukraine. The only downside to the book is that it was published in 1997, only 5 years after Ukrainian independence, so the current stuff she talks about isn’t all that current.
  • Peace Corps/Ukraine emailed us — Groups 39 and 40, departing in September — a list of current TEFL Volunteers in Ukraine. I’ve started contacting some of them with my crazy questions about packing, teaching English for the first time, being a woman in Ukraine, and more. One of the women I emailed directed me to the next exciting bullet point…
  • …a Facebook group entitled: “Peace Corps Ukraine – Groups 39 & 40.” Perfect! I’ve joined the group and am starting to “meet” some fellow Group 39-ers. Very exciting — everyone has such different and interesting backgrounds and I can’t wait to meet them all in person.

Okay, now back to vacationing and reading my TEFL Home Prep Manual so I can take a test on it before Pre-Service Training. More later!

[Countdown to Departure: 42 days]

T-minus 2 months!

Two months from tomorrow I depart for my staging — a couple days in the US to get acquainted with my group and take care of last-minute stuff — and then for Ukraine on September 19th with my fellow Ukraine Groupe 39-ers! Wowzers. I started studying Ukrainian today and it’s tough! I think once I learn the Cyrillic alphabet (abetka) it will get easier.

So I thought you might be curious as to what I will be doing in Ukraine for 27 months — this post will reveal what I know so far:

My job title is Secondary Education TEFL Teacher. The Peace Corps TEFL program was launched in September 1993, with the goal of expanding and improving the quality of English instruction in schools and at teacher-training institutions. So this means I’ll be teaching English — conversational, communicative methodology, U.S. history/culture, American/British literature — to students ages 8-17. I will teach a minimum of 18 hours/week, made up of 6-9 classes with 12-28 students each. In addition to my teaching duties, I may be involved in developing English teaching materials and curriculum for my school, leading workshops on approaches to language teaching, and assisting with English development among my (Ukrainian) colleagues.

But those are just in-school activities… Secondary to my school-teaching will be work on community projects. These may include workshops on any number of things: healthy lifestyles, HIV/AIDS awareness, drug/alcohol prevention, multicultural awareness, ecology, journalism. I may lead English conversation clubs or educational activities at orphanages. The options seem endless! The most important thing that my assignment materials remind me of is that I will be part of a long-term development project. There won’t be quick fixes. But success often comes from a series of small changes.

So are they just going to throw me into a classroom right off the bat, you may ask? Nope — that’s where Pre-Service Training (PST) comes in. We — Ukraine Group 39, I think we’re all incoming TEFL teachers — will spend the first three months in and around Kyiv with host families, taking part in intense training, of which there are five components: technical training, language training, cross-cultural training, health training, and safety/security training. We will work in our communities to apply/develop our skills and experience, learn about Ukraine (economy, politics, education), study Ukrainian or Russian, and learn preventative health maintenance and safety measures. Halfway through PST we will get our site assignments — the place/project we will be with for the next 24 months! It could be anywhere in the country. Exciting times are ahead…

As a parting thought I leave you this video (below) showcasing the sights of Kyiv, with a pretty rockin’ soundtrack. Enjoy!

(Information courtesy of my Peace Corps/Ukraine Welcome Book and Peace Corps Assignment pamphlet. Video courtesy of YouTube.)