Live from Ukraine

There is so much in life you can’t predict, and in the Peace Corps, there is even more. I have been in Ukraine for nearly a month, and I am already starting to look fondly upon the fluid life I’m living. For example, I can buy tomato sauce at the Post Office, but I have to go to the next town to get conditioner. From dodging the family goat on the way to the bathroom to understanding the always-changing bus schedule–Everyday is truly an adventure!

I live in a village of about 5,000 in North Eastern Ukraine. I am really settling in and loving it. I must admit the first few weeks were rough. Adjusting to the cultural differences, a new climate, and the language all at once was a challenge. It’s already funny now looking back at it. I am continually learning so much about Ukraine and the Peace Corps it can be overwhelming, but I am so happy to be here.

I taught my first English class last week with a fellow PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) and enjoyed it immensely. It was awesome. Students are accustomed to a heavy emphasis on grammar translation and were quite thrilled to play hangman and matching games with new vocabulary. It was great to see the look of excitement on their faces as we introduced ourselves and gave our first lesson. Students here are very disciplined and work well with strict instructions. Not exactly the typical American classroom! I am certainly thankful for the controlled atomosphere Ukrainian teachers have established. Next week, I am teaching a 9th grade class on the topic of Great Britain. The topics are assigned by the national curriculmn but we have some latitude on how to cover them. I am going to use the Beatles as main part of the lesson and plan on playing a song for them as a listening activity. I am really looking forward to it!

Besides official training activities, I live with a host family that serves as a continuing classroom. I was able to have a genuine conversation with them this week. After receiving a letter from home and translating it for them with the help of a Ukrainian/English dictionary, they posed a great question: Why did you leave your family and friends and move halfway around the world to teach English in Ukraine? I was only too happy to share that my desire to teach English is just a small part of my motivation for joing the Peace Corps. Truly, it’s about promoting world peace through real relationships and cultural exchange. It’s about understanding people thousands of miles away from home, and helping them understand you, too. I’m not sure how much of that i got across in Ukrainian, but it was the start of a beautiful conversation.

Note: For the next year, I will have a monthly column in the Wacoan. Check out the first one in the November edition!