Monday, September 19, 2011

Wow! What a week.

This past week was extremely busy, fun, and very interesting.
On Monday I was moved to a new host family because sadly, my allergies were too bad living with my first family here.

My new host family lives in a different part of town but they are much closer to where I work. They have three kids which is unusual here. The culture of Ukraine is one kid and two if you happen to get twins. It doesn’t matter to me though, I love kids!! My host family has Bogdana—6, Sasha—4, and cute little Yegor—2. I currently teach the oldest, Bogdana at the school here. The kids are so much fun and it is nice to be able to have them around. My host mom is named Nadia and she is a blast! She is just like a little kid and she wants so bad to learn English—it is great. She and I spend hours translating words together. She is helping me learn the language so much better!

On Wednesday after work, a group of us went into central Kiev to experience the night life :)It was crazy! People here are so much different at night than during the day and I love it! We walked by a big crowd at one point so we decided to check it out. In the middle of the circle were 5 crazy break dancers and they were amazing! After the show we took our picture with them and they loved the fact that we were Americans. Most of them spoke English too. 

Then, Thursday night the whole group went to a soccer game here. Now, Kiev is one proud city. They love their soccer and are mighty proud of their team. The stadium is huge and crazy and filled with tons of people, vendors, and at least 300 armed militia men. Anyways, I had bought a team jersey and scarf so I was ready to cheer on Kiev.
The stands and the fans are insane and I just loved the atmosphere more than anything. When some people leading our cheering section saw that we weren’t really cheering (because we couldn’t understand them) someone shouted: “they’re Americans!” and then the leaders of the chant taught just our little section of Americans what the chant meant in English and how to say it in Russian. It was a lot of fun but after that people kept coming up to us and saying “can we make picture with you?” or in some cases, just walk up to you and pull you into their picture. I can most definitely say that I am going back to another soccer game before I leave!

Most of our ILP group at the soccer game!
Then over the weekend, my host mom took me around the little areas around her house and showed me where all the good shops are with the good prices. We went grocery shopping together and I’ve learned how to say all the foods I like :) I also know how to discipline the children in Russian thanks to Nadia. It sure is a ton of fun here. I love Ukraine so much. I cannot wait to learn as much Russian I can.

I also told my host mother that I will try anything once. That included a specialty of fermented tomatoes, grapes, and the spiciest pickle ever. The fermented tomatoes and grapes were absolutely disgusting, but hey, I tried them and that’s what counts! Anyways, I also asked my host mom if she would continue to cook like she normally does for her family because I would like to taste all the national Ukrainian dishes and learn how to make them so I can share them with others when I get back home to good ol’ Idaho. This morning she taught me how to make sernike which is a big breakfast dish here. It’s basically a little pancake with cream cheese in the middle and is delicious with honey. Don’t worry momma, I’ve learned how to make it and I will make it for you when I come home—promise!

This fish was alive when we bought it.... and basically still alive when we ate it. I guess cooked to me = raw to Ukrainians.

On Sunday, my host family took me to one of their favorite museums in Kiev. It is an outdoor museum and is amazing! It has all the old house from villages in and around Kiev from as far back as the 1700s. Being here was definitely the right decision for me. I’ve made some great lifelong friendships and there nothing can replace the experience I am having now with the Ukrainian culture.

This is little Dana and my friend, Jenessa
Oh, I guess I should add this cute little moment. Bogdana, the oldest, adores me. Earlier this week she came into my room, danced with me to Lady Gaga, picked out my outfit for school, and then helped me put on my make up and do my hair. I then did her hair and you should have seen the biggest smile ever on this tiny, cute face. It was a perfect moment.

Also, at the end of the month a group of about 12 of us are going to Poland for our first vacation! SO excited!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Central Kiev

This past weekend all of the ILP group of volunteers went into central Kiev to look around at some of the churches  and experience some more of the culture of Kiev. It was tons of fun and I of course have lots of blisters from how much walking we do but it is fun! The weather in Kiev is still very nice. It is kind of muggy/humid and hot but I am not going to complain because come winter, I'll be begging for some heat!

This was interesting. At the market they have live fish just flopping around and if you want to buy one the man just takes a big ol' wrench and whacks it upon the head and kills it!

St. Michaels

Me, Sarah, and Jenessa at St Michaels
St Michaels

St Sofias. We were able to go inside this church but not allowed to take pictures. It is so beautiful and there are amazing murals and candles everywhere.

At church on Sunday I played with this adorable pup. I wanted to take him home with me because he is just soooooo cute :) I've decided if he is there next Sunday, it's a sign and I WILL be bringing him home to America so mom and dad, be prepared.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Things I Miss

I know it's only week 2 and I am still overjoyed to be here but I'm entitled to be a wuss in a couple ways.

Things I totally took for granted in the United States and miss completely:
  • A warm shower with water pressure. Not a scalding hot shower, not an ice cold shower, just a perfectly in between shower with enough water pressure to actually do something.
  • A twin sized bed. Yes, you read right, a twin sized bed. I've been sleeping on a couch that is much, much smaller than a twin.
  • Speaking of beds, I miss my tempurpedic mattress topper more than anything. 
  • Clean, cold drinking water. They don't believe in ice here and none of the water is really safe to drink and when it is, it most certainly tastes like rust.
  • Drinking fountains.
  • Being able to read signs. I'm getting there--come October I'm pretty confident I will have it.
  • Soft, fluffy toilet paper.
  • Public restrooms. YES, you read that right folks, I said public restrooms. They don't have them here, and if they do you have to pay for them and there's no toilet paper and it's just a good ol' squatter toilet.
  • Having so many members of the church in such a close area. It takes me over an hour to get to church. I have to get on the metro, transfer to another metro line, take a bus, and walk a tiny bit and then I arrive at my branch which consists of two American families, a few others, some missionaries, and that's all. The branch is so happy to have all of us ILP volunteers here to add lots of members to the branch.
  • A car. Public transportation is nice but slow and spendy.
  • Having adequate means to meet my needs. America's middle class is seen as a frivolous lifestyle here in Ukraine.
  • Good roadways! Traffic here is terrible, driving is scary, and the roads are all in rough shape.
  • Cleanliness. It's not as important here. There's trash everywhere on the sides of the streets.
  • Spices and sauces. The food is kinda bland and Laria and I are just dying for some taco bell sauce and ranch or something!
  • Momma's homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Welcome to Kiev!
As of today I have been here exactly one week and I really do love it here already. I've fallen in love with the crazy hustle and bustle of life here and the culture already. I am having a blast learning the language and trying to fit in to their way of life here.

If you walk with a purpose and act like you know where you are headed then no one will bother you. I've almost perfected my Ukraine Scowl.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Russian Language

For some reason I am really great at directions, maps, and figuring out where I am. I've gotten 'lost' multiple times in the meaning of I went the wrong way not lost- as in, holy crap, I'm in a foreign city and I have no idea where I am, I'm going to die- lost.

Today was extra special because last night I stayed up talking to my host mom and writing down important phrases like:

right: vpravo
left: vleva
I'm lost: ya poteryalas
kak proyti k....?: how do I get to....?

So, I had these phrases written down and today we just so happened to get turned around. I knew what metro stop we needed to be at so I walked up to the ticket taker and just started talking! I said: 'Ya poteryalas. Kak proyti k Kharkivska metro?' and she totally and completely understood me and gave me directions and charades in Russian but as luck would have it, I now knew what words right and left are in the Russian language so I actually understood what SHE was saying! CRAZY! It was so cool. What a fun experience. It is such an interesting language and I am enjoying every minute I am here. I LOVE the culture, the customs, their way of life...all of it. I'm like a sponge. I am really enjoying it here and making so many great friends.

Random blurb: I get stared at a lot here. I'm going to say it's safe to assume it is my massive amount of freckles covering my entire face mixed with my height and add in a dose of red curly hair and we have ourselves a big ol' stew of new features.

Side note...I skyped my puppy dogs tonight...just an added bonus to a crazy, great day :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pozniaky School

Yesterday Laria and I met the other 3 teachers that will be at the Pozniaky (poz-nicky) Little America school spent most of the day cleaning, organizing, and decorating our cute little school. We had an absolute blast and seriously loved it a ton!

Today was our first day was interesting because we were just thrown right into it and it was a little bit hectic to start out. But you know me, within no time I was completely in love with all of the kids (even the ones that gave me the biggest headache). It was so much fun and oh so entertaining. I had a 10 year old kid who could literally break dance to techno. He attempted to teach me...

It was a very long and stressful day all in all but I am happy and tired :)

Me, Nikita, Jenessa, and Laria on the first day!

I am also trying my hardest to learn the Russian language. Their alphabet is very confusing and hard at first but once you get a hang of the pronunciations it comes pretty quickly. I am catching on a lot faster than I would have imagined.

I have already fallen so is love with this little 3 year old. She is so adorable!!
My insane boys in the afternoon. 

Day Three

Day 3:
The path to church...behind most of these buil
 Today was an intense journey to church! We woke up and left the house by 8am, hopped aboard the metro for an hour, met up with some other girls from our group, rode the metro for 30 more minutes, got lost and went the wrong way, found our way back,  and then got off the metro in a part of town we didn't know; which at this point is every part! There we met up with the rest of the girls from another part of the city where we attempted to find our bus that we needed to get on. It took 10 minutes to find our bus and even then we had to run across the street a few times dodging traffic to get to the right bus! We rode the crowded bus for about another 20 minutes and were finally greeted by someone from the branch at our bus stop around 10am. She guided us to the room that church was held in and they had politely waited for us to come to start church!

There are about 12 or so members in the branch and with all of the ILP girls and boy added to it, that branch gained 30 members :) It was a beautiful experience--one I will never forget. It is so amazing to see the strength in the testimonies of the Ukrainian people. It was a fast and testimony meeting and I have to say, I have never ever felt the spirit stronger in my life than I did in that small, green room today. I immediately felt welcomed and loved by all the members of the great Kiev International Branch. The sacrament hymn was 'Because I Have Been Given Much'. I bore my testimony on how grateful I am for this experience and that because I have been given much, I too must give. I'm here to help and serve the Ukrainian people in every way I can. It is an amazing misionary preparation experience. We need to recognize when the spirit is guiding us in our lives and to follow its promptings with great care. It was such a beautiful meeting.
On the bus!
The sign outside our church!

After church we met up with more girls that didn't come and our head teachers at a park in uptown Kiev for some training. It is an awesome park!
The Opera House!-----> 

A model and photographer on the streets

We ended training around 6pm and by then none of us had eaten since 7am so we were all famished. We went to a delicious Ukrainian restaurant downtown and after, made our separate ways home.

 The first squatter toilet I experience in the Ukraine. It was at the restaurant.. here you can't flush your toilet paper because it clogs up the toilet paper..the only plus to this toilet is that they have actual white fluffy toilet paper! haha But when you go out in Ukraine you have to be careful and make sure you empty your bladder before you leave your house because you have to pay to use restrooms in the city--and they will always be squatters.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day Two

Day 2:

The first out of a handful of McDonalds I've seen
This is one of the banks that is safe to use.
Kiev 2a and 2b girls at the Central School
We woke up pretty dang early and our host mother showed us the way to the metro from our house. She rode the metro with us until we met up with some of the other girls, the head teachers, and the Ukrainian coordinators here. Together we rode the metro for a while and went to the Central School which is where 5 of the teachers in our group will be. We had a little bit of training and some debriefing, were given cell phones, and went to the ATM to take some money out. The money here is called  hryvnia (pronounced greevna). The exchange rate is 1USD=8 hryvnias...the money though, it looks just like Monopoly money! It's pretty cool :) Then we went back downtown and to go see some shops and the market. I had a DELICIOUS chocolate filled pastry...seriously! My mouth is watering now just thinking about it!! The markets are different and calculating prices in your head gets kind of annoying after a while. We spent a few hours downtown and then road the metro home. We were extremely exhausted and fell right into bed.
Monopoly money!
The super sketch long escalators.

Me, Leera, Misha, and  Laria. They brought us some delicious ice cream!!!

Day One

Day 1:

  • Arrive in Kiev Airport at 3pm.

  • (A)
  • Host mom picked Laria and I up and drove us to her house...which was incredibly scary. Driving here is ridiculous.
  • (A) Came to the 'house?'...more like little apartment thing...and we unpacked our stuff and hung out on our 'beds'=couches. These couches are 5 feet long and I am 6 is super! I am already missing my queen sized tempur-pedic mattress! haha

  • (B) 6-11 Dinner with the neighbors who are also hosting another girl from our group. We were contstantly offered vodka, beer, wine...and still are all the time even after telling them I don't drink..which in Russian basically sounds like "Ya nepew".
  • My host mother is named Natasha, father is Dema, and 12 year old brother is Misha and often another girl, Aleera, age 8 is at the house because our host mother babysits her.


  • (C) We have a guard dog named Roy. I swear he is like a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland. He is possibly missing an ear and definitely is missing most of his tail. He is chained up and can't get off his chain but our host mother informed us that "Roy mean. No touch, he bite!" So, I will not touch that animal. It literally scares me more than anything else in this country so far.
  • We have a house dog named Jack, yes Jack and Jill. He is..I think an Airedale Terrier. Whatever he is though, he is in dire need of a bath and a good haircut which I want to give him so badly. He is super helpful when I don't want to eat some food the mom makes us. He's like my own personal garbage disposal! 


  • (D) And of course the house comes with PLENTY of spiders :(
  • The restroom is interesting. The toilet flushes super weirdly and the toilet paper IS crepe paper for sure. AND you don't flush the toilet paper. You throw it away...
  • The bathroom is a whole different story. There is a...interestingly colored bathtub with a little pull out shower head on it.. Apparently, sometimes it will hit the sweet spot between scalding hot and ice cold but it is quite a rarity. On Day 1 I was still too scared to take a shower so I just went to bed instead.

(Pictures of the house, bathroom, and restroom on their way and trust me, the closest you want to come to experiencing these things is through my pictures! hahh)