Saturday, March 24, 2007

Two Weeks in a Coma...not literally

Recent developments: I received the PEPFAR grant. It was my first
Peace Corps grant; second and half all time. These numbers are going
to go up with my Small Project Assistance (SPA) grant and my other
developing projects.

The SPA grant is a partnership between Peace Corps, British American
Tobacco Company – Ukraine (BAT), and the Pryluky City Council. Each
partner is contributing important sections realize a Business
Assistance Center. The Center is going to provide entrepreneurs with
business skills vital to the growth and development of the city. BAT
is going to provide the training that's how they fit into the

So beside the PEPFAR grant, my other active project is starting a
little league in the city where I volunteer. Little league! In
Ukraine! I couldn't believe it either, but Basil Tarasko is a native
New Yorker who dedicates time to starting little leagues around
Ukraine. Thus far, he has had a lot of success. Ukraine is the country
with the most active little leagues in Europe. Hopefully, I can help
Ukraine move further ahead in its lead.

These plans took months plan, I am glad it is moving along.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Reading Tom Ukrainian

I am reading Tom Sawyer in Ukrainian. It's such a slow process because the vocabulary is ridiculously hard, but the good thing is that I am reading outload. I am hoping that after a month of reading Mark Twain outloud I can at least tell a joke and sound coherent.
The challenge has been, and will be for a while, to sound on key. Because no matter how many vocubulary words you know in this language it just doesn't help if you're off key.

Some days yes, some days "maybe"

Obviously, I am in Ukraine and learning the language here is important, but what can I do when I just can't do it. For example, today I wrote on my To Do list that I had to read Ukrainian and write my sentences for homework tomorrow. But I just couldn't do it.
It's a combination of things. First, the pen gets really heavy and I can't lift it from the table. I'm serious. Second, the text in the books get blurry and they only clear up after I stop looking at it. I know it's really weird. I don't know why either. I might have to get my book examined that's not exactly normal. Third, I live in a city where a handful of people speak English. For goodness sakes I have to speak in Ukrainian all the time! I can pick the language up by osmosis.
Not as easy as it sounds. Well, I gotta go and hit the books now. This just never ends.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Crazy Day at Work

"Disorganized," "challenging," "unstructured," "draining": Those are
some of the words that describe my experience working as a Peace Corps
Volunteer.. Some days are more so than others, however, today was not
one of them.

Here's run down. By Wednesday, I have to finish the first draft of my
Small Project Assistant grant. Oksana, my counterpart for the project,
was sick today. We are putting together a Business Center. The BAT
Tobacco company has said that they are willing to pay for trainers and
two consultants for the center. The City Council will provide a
location, pay utilitities, hire and pay a coordinator, and conduct a
marketing plan. Peace Corps will pay for the equipment needed in the

Oksana was sick because there's a rampant flu epidemic in my town and
I know of at least four that are incredibly sick because of it. Since
Oksana is out, I had to ask Deputy Mayor Yeremenko to provide me with
new colleagues...this took about two hours.

Everyone who was there today was suffering from something else: a
state of idleness. And on top of that, Oksana never finished the work
I assigned her. The work for the project the city wants. The work that
we need. So now we are on a two day deadline to finish a bunch writing
a documents that should have been done weeks ago!

I am sure this happens in America...but no matter where I am, I hate
when this happens to me.

The new people I am working with are asking a bunch of legal questions
that I don't have a clue. So we have to plan another meetng with the
deputy mayor and get this cleared up. There go another two hours.

At the end, the Deputy Mayor cleared everything up and by tomorrow all
of the documents will be finished. Let's hope this is the case cause
if it's not...I will really need to think of what to do next.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ahh, the sweet music

I guess I've been holding this back for a while. Why are people still
playing "Can't touch this" like if it just came out yesterday!

Wait, I am in Ukraine. It did come out yesterday. That's why people
are blasting it on the radio when the song comes up.

It's like me friend Rob said, "If they haven't heard it, it's new to them."

Ukraine and the Green Stuff...

Right now, I am riding in a car coming from the city of Slavutich.
Slavutich is the youngest city in Ukraine. The city was built in 1986
after the Chernobyl disaster. Survivors of Chernobyl were moved to
this city and, now, the city developing at a faster pace than any
comparable municipality in Ukraine. And no, there weren't any green
lakes or glowing animals. Everything I saw and everyone I met looked

My visit was work related. The median age in Slavutich is 37. Besides
it being the youngest city in Ukraine, it is also has the youngest
population. Therefore, the youth and newness to it has energized its
population to reach for its potential. The average income in the city
is double the national average, their communal services were reformed,
they have a business center and incubator, and their economy is
strong. Not bad for a city in Ukraine of 25,000 people.

The city has such an unique history that I hope what I learned today
from my meetings will be useful at my site.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Uneventful Event

Just a regular day for me today. I went to the library to help my
interpreter's sister get started on an internship application to work
in the States. I said an internship application because she has
various to choose from. Maryna's english is incredibly good, she works
really hard on her language and it shows. From our conversations, I
can tell that her vocabulary is rich and grammar is punctual. She
would be an asset to any of the internships that she is considering,
which are: Work and Study Program (sponsored by U.S. Embassy -
Ukraine), the Ukrainian Embassy at Washington D.C. (sponsored by The
Washington Group), and CCUSA (a summer camp program).

Last week, I got two really good ideas for projects. I noticed that
the people I work with are diligent but disorganized during their
planning process. Therefore, I am suggesting to first organize a
series of office management and project management seminars for
private and public employees. Second, I am planning on developing a
business based internship program. The internship program will be very
similar to the MAGNET program I attend at James J. Ferris high school
in Jersey City. I want student to learn about economics, the stock
market, and management for a year, and then have the opportunity to do
meaningful work in companies in their city.

I will be proposing two of these ideas this week, I will develop an
outline for them and get moving on them. Developing this idea, in
addition to the projects I already have at hand will be a challenge,
but one I am looking forward to succeed in.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


The President Emergency Plan for Aids Reliefs.

I am one of those people that believe President Bush will be
remembered as one of the worst presidents in history. But I guess
every bad apple had its good day. And PEPFAR is that for Bush.

Tomorrow I am submiting my PEPFAR grant to provide trainings in my
community. I am doing my part to help Ukraine.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why are people so surprised?

Eleven. That's the number of months I have lived in Ukraine. And I can
honestly say that I love this country. But why are other Ukrainians
surprised when I share my enthusiasm?

The youth are scornful and apathetic to their country and countrymen.
The elders believe that the country hit its point of no return a long
time ago, and will never be prosperous. In fact, elders want Communism
to return. They say things were more staible then. And the babies,
well, babies are babies and they laugh at just about everything.

At first glance, Ukrainians appear to have a "tough shell". There is a
hesitance to develop a relationship, especially strangers, but once
the ice is broken everything changes. I love this country because
people are bright and kind. Above all things, I comfortable in Ukraine
in spite of earlier warning that my ethnic background might be a
factor. I discovered that Ukrainians are hospitable and caring. I have
lived with three host families and I never felt uncared for.
Especially, when I fell ill. At work, when I am happy, my colleagues
are engaging. When I am down, they try to cheer me in amusing ways.

I think the spirit of the people says a lot about its future. Even
though apathy might exist, there will be a time when things turn
around. I am a firm believer that good prevails over evil. Especially
over mentalities. And when there are good people that will spread.