June 6, 2009

Been awhile

A fair amount has changed since my last post in November of '07. For instance, I left the Peace Corps early due to what the Ukrainian doctors called "epilepsy due to sleep deprivation".

Actually that entire situation was astoundingly bad. Simply because they couldn't find the reason for my body spasms that were due to lack of sleep they saw it as a neurological problem. Which didn't make sense since they tested me and I was fine.

Following that adventure I came home, discovered my dad had prostate cancer, and decided to stick around instead of going back. Yay family.

What else...

Worked for a political campaign...hated it.

Joined the Army...got hurt and sent home.

Joined the AmeriCorps. So that's probably what I'll post about now. I mean it is what I'm doing and it's aimed at helping people.

Oh why I came back to this blog. I was misinterpreted by an individual in their doctorate thesis as bringing a negative light to idealism.

I could say many things to this. Most of them insults at the individual. But that won't help.

Truth is I don't care. The entire process was a learning one. I gained a lot of knowledge about many things. I did it for the right reasons. To help. Write it off as being negative if you wish. At least I'll be honest about it.

November 20, 2007


It's tiring being here. I won't lie. I woke up today and had absolutely no energy. I think I'm sick. That'd explain the headache, no desire to eat, little energy, sleeping for vast amount of time, and the really runny nose. I think Ukraine is trying to kill me.

What else is there to update with? Life is complicated. I'll keep some of this on the down lo' because well it involves more than just me. But things are complicated and yet not. That itself sounds complicated. It all goes back to trying to figure out things.

I've met someone that to put it plainly, makes life interesting. I call them, they call me, and we hang out. It's a good thing. But it's complicated. Wow...my descriptions suck. But hey it all goes back to keeping some form of privacy going until it's okay to be "public". Whatever that really means. It's rough being the nice guy but someone's gotta do it.

I can say that the whole "complicated situation" has made life interesting and kind of fun. That really helps when the winter starts in November and night occurs at 4pm. That's just painful really.

I need a break from this country. I mean all through training I just kept thinking "when do I get a vacation?" It was just day in and day out of training. Yet I've gone every day since the exact same way. It's tiring.

I think tiring is my word of the day. Tiring to be nice, work, and live here. I need a break. Maybe someone will just do something really nice for me and then I'll get a good recharge. Hopefully that's something like "hey you don't have to work tomorrow" or "how about I clean your apartment for you".

I've noticed that people wear me out and sap my happiness from me. That sounds weird to say and yet weirder to notice. I guess its true though. I spend a lot of time trying to get other people to smile or do something and it just slowly drains me of energy. Thus I occassionally get cranky and unwilling to do things. At this moment...feeling like being an ass just because. But I won't...

What else is there...? Going home for sister's birthday and for Christmas. HOLLA! I'm white and I just said that, deal! I look forward to the la-z-boy, American television, and home cooked food.

Oh and there's the possibility of going to Poland when I go back. I've never been, sounds exciting and relatively close. We'll see though. Another volunteer asked to combine our trips into one. So who knows.

That's all I got at the moment. Not too intriguing but there be an update.

September 10, 2007

On with the show

Point for technology

About a month ago my zip drive stopped working. It was due to my technological savvy or the fact that the computer I was on was in Ukrainian. Sure I could look up all the technological words in Ukrainian before I hit up the internet but really I don’t feel like it. At the end of the session I attempt to safely remove my drive. No go. Feeling distressed I just pulled it out. Now, in retrospect, that was a bad thing to do. So now I have the dilemma of having no way of taking in something I wrote to the internet to send stuff out. Or so I thought.

A problem for me is that I own a Mac. I like my Mac. It’s durable, dependable, and user friendly. Only downside is that my iPod only works with the Mac. It’s only formatted FOR Macs. But while staving off boredom I found that I could put notes on my iPod and I can look at my iPod and simply retype the information. Not as easy as just using it as storage but hey, it’s something. So this is my first attempt at doing so.

Fortune favors

These are some things I’m glad I don’t have to deal with:

1. Mass Media. Oh how I hate the celebrity gossip stuff. Who really cares?
2. Fast Food. Sure I miss the easiness of driving to whatever I’m in the mood for and stuffing my face. But you lose weight when you actually have to make your own food.
3. Family issues. Sure I love my family but the pressures of the family suck. I once received an email attempting to bring me into some drama in which I simply replied back “I don’t care. I’m 5,000 miles away from everyone. Give me the decency of not trying to bring me into it”. I got another email, I may have to send something similar again.

Hot wine, shashlick, wenches…oh my!

A week ago I was eating lunch with Ezra and preparing for my unknown work week ahead. As we were getting ready to go our separate ways he told me about a Medieval Fair the coming weekend and asked if I was interested. Knowing I had nothing planned, except maybe some reading and watching movies, I said okay.

The days went by, with a slow pace. An update came, definitely Saturday. I passed along the invite to Adam, Ashley, and even Linda. They were in, except Linda. On the eve before, i.e. Friday, I got a text from Katie asking about my plans for the weekend. I let her know what I was doing and a text message came back 30 minutes later with “I’ll see you tomorrow”. An event for three people, including Ezra’s girlfriend and now included Dayna, turned into 7. Crazy Peace Corps.

The next morning I woke up with the thought of “I should just make up an excuse and not go”. But I relented and continued to get ready. Ezra let me know that he would be late, that Adam, Ashley, Dyana, and Katie would be traveling together, and we’d meet them there. An hour and a half later we were off to only God knows where. It’s a little scary going absolutely nowhere you don’t know. But by God we did it. Eventually we found our second marshruka and waiting for us was none other than the other four. As a group we headed to Tustan in the Carpathians (pronounced Two ston) where the smell of horse crap filled the air. The games began.

After a well-deserved meal of shashlick we were off to watch some dressed up knights beat each other up. That itself was worth the trip. We eventually trekked up the hill to look at the castle’s remnants and enjoyed some good picture taking. Afterwards we headed to look for the stone lake. Alas we never found it.

Through the jokes and the laughs, especially at some girl that kept making out with people, we headed out. We were of course stopped from doing so. Ezra found it first then my eyes caught it. A chance to dress up like a knight in chainmail. Only downside to it all is that the guy that put on the stuff was behind us and therefore ruined a lot of the pictures. We also hit another snag. No transport. Marshruka’s were apparently only going TO the fair and not FROM. So we broke into groups and had to hitchhike back to the main road. Unfortunately for Adam and I is that the girls, who went first, got the last marshruka to his site. We now had to play a game of risk to see if we could make it to my site before the building closes. We didn’t make it. So we had three options: hope that we could stay with another volunteer (the married couple), cough out some dough for the hostel, or stay with an American in town. Fortunately the American was cool with it.

All things considered, a good day. It was cold, fun, full of laughs and walking. I could kill for more shashlick though.

September 5, 2007

Dear Lord...

At some point in training, I forgot where exactly, we all sat down with one of the PC doctors to talk about emotional health. Having scoured the internet for information on Peace Corps before departure I realized that "yes life would suck at some point". So the thought of this part of training was expected. In a nutshell we were told that "yes life will suck at some point".

It seems life hit that mark of suckiness here and there. I was positively ecstatic on Monday. New apartment seemed possible, had a package waiting for me, a new and better tutor (though keeping the old one as well), just in general life seemed positively better. Life likes to take a turn of events. For instance I've learned a very important thing. I do not like Ukrainian laws on post. I'm sure they are protecting themselves, and rightfully so, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

In order to send a package to Ukraine you cannot (CANNOT) have the name AND business organization on the package. Where was that during training? I've seen three packages be sent back to America. Today I got to see what I was not allowed to have. A baseball mitt, two baseballs, my Solio charger, cashews, and beef jerky. All were shown to me then bundled up and sent back to America. What makes it worse is that I had to pay 50 hrvn for it too. It was like torture.

On a brighter bud odd side of events. I don't have a weekend free until October 16th. In fact there are some things going on the exact same time. Not a big fan of that. Do I go cross country to see a pig slaughtered and eat it? Or do I go and help out with a softball program that I want to bring to my site? Do I skip a birthday party in my oblast to head to Kyiv to meet people? No idea. It's good to have things to do on the weekends, but really...no idea what to choose. Atleast this weekend I have a birthday party, Medieval fair, and a trip to Kyiv all lined up.

Ukrainian handshakes

Here are some guidelines to know when dealing with Ukrainian men (women need not worry as this does not affect you):

1) Men do not shake women's hands. You'll get laughed at, like I did.

2) Every time you greet or say good bye you must shake hands.

3) Every man you meet, even if you only know one of them, you must shake their hand.

4) The handshake must be firm otherwise you'll be made fun of, hasn't happened to me yet.

5) Never shake hands under a doorway. It's bad luck. It means a rooster will eat your mother. Actually I've no idea why it's bad luck but don't do it.

6) Never try to shake hands with something on your hands. It's offensive.

7) Don't worry if your hands are dirty. Shake anyway.

These rules are now embedded into my skull. In fact when I meet an American friend we always shake hands.

September 1, 2007

Personal Day

Some days suck. I think that's an easy way to identify off days. The past few days have been off days. These were due to an increase in speculation at my ability to teach ecology in Ukrainian to high school/early college students. I can't teach ecology in English. So naturally I'm freaked.

Add that with other stress factors...I took a personal day(s...two really). What did I do? Watched tv series on my laptop, ate whatever I had in my room, and only left to shower and to use the bathroom. Naturally my room looked...well really bad. I put my phone on lights only, meaning no sound at all, and have only talked with a couple people (by talk I mean two quick text messages). Probably would've been zero if it didn't include someone that's helping me with ecology lessons and the other with an apartment.

The mere realm of what I'm doing here has caught up and it's overwhelming. Plus I feel like the people I'm closest to are nowhere near me, so naturally it feels a bit lonely (that's an understatement). But I keep on trekking.

I think I'll take another "personal day". I mean what good am I to any one if I just want to snap at them. But I think I'm safe. I've only had one person call me in three days and my only emails are from the family.

It's like a sign saying "do nothing...now's a good time to go unnoticed".

On Supermarkets

There are supermarkets located in Ukraine, it is not Africa folks...they have stuff, and I have to argue that I have the best. Not only do they sell peanut butter, only bought to give to someone though, but they also sell random crap. It's like Super Target but smaller. My only wish is that they sold MATCHES! Which is kind of pointless. I bought matches but turns out that the kitchen in my dorm doesn't even work. Fantastic. But back to the point of my fantastic supermarket. They sell everything and make it nearly pointless to go to the food bazaar. Which to be honest I don't enjoy going to anyway because they sell meat in the "indoors" part and frankly I could never buy meat there. It almost drives me to want to be a vegetarian. Not really though.

August 30, 2007

It’s rough

I can’t lie or make it easy for those that read this thinking “what is it really like”. I can’t buff it up to those that are inspired that they have a friend that’s serving. I can’t even entertain the family and friends that read this. Well at the moment I can’t.

I get the feeling I get kicked around a lot in this country. Not on purpose or God’s will. But a general feeling of getting kicked around. Whether it’s trouble locating housing, wanting to get my point across in another language, or just eating food that I want to eat. Two weeks ago…was rough. When I thought that it just couldn’t break down more it did and part of me is still reeling from that. Whether it’s major or minor, still dealing with it. So three days ago I thought I was in heaven.

A good day in the U.S. is hard to find. Some days just melt into the next and seem a bit mediocre. But here you see, you don’t know what you wake up to. You may wake up in with an amazing spirit and the day may go just the way you want. Or you may have to fend off all the bad that attacks you from around the corner in the store, the center, or God forbid the person that walks in on you showering. Then there are bad days where you can’t imagine that the day is getting better or that it is somehow, beyond belief, getting worse.

But three days ago I knew it was a good day. I felt it in my bones. I woke up and I felt enthused. I felt as though there was life to be had. Of course I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my tutor but I had life in me. I had friends in town, I was getting packages, and there was a glimmer of hope that I’d find an apartment. Nothing could ruin the day as soon as I was given two packages. I about cried in front of my director, could barely keep from opening them as well. And it happened. The day went downhill. I fought, I seriously fought off the badness with what I thought was my positive stick. Didn’t work. It was like fighting an army of zombies with a wiffle bat. But that’s how it’s supposed to be right? Challenging?

Complaints and Discussion

I had been told that Peace Corps Volunteers talk about sex, food, and poop. Occasionally all in the same conversation. I can now confirm that yes, yes we do. In fact I should probably check on someone to find out how their poop came along (don’t ask). But in the middle of a conversation with someone I was told the following thing that made me rethink some things. They said that they complain about real things that they can’t change and I complain about things I can. Now this person is right but not fair in the judgment.

I hate having to think about the things I can’t change. I hate talking about the stuff that’s deep inside to people. I’d rather keep it all in and focus on the things that I have control over. And once I fix one of those things I have to have something else. I have to. I have to have that control to not feel so helpless, so powerless. I can’t help that I want to keep those major things in. So yes, I complain about some things I can do to fix my life but for reason.

You’re never really aware of these character flaws of yourself until all you have is time. Lots and lots of time. Time to ponder life, meaning, feelings, and the ineptitude of the U.S. government. So much time to think about who you are and what you want to be or do. It’s a scary thing this time.


I hate traveling. This hasn’t always been the case. I liked the outcome of traveling more than anything. Meeting that final destination and just having a moment to go “yeah…I’m there”. Recently, and I hope not permanently, I have started to hate traveling. The main reason was due to my recent dental work and the six trips on the train. Now Ukrainian trains are not well…great. They are rather cheap and somewhat reliable, I’d say reliable but that four hour trip I took once turned into seven.

But once upon a rather tiring trip back to Kyiv, after having spent 22 hours at my site from a train ride to it, I was attempting sleep at 11:30 pm. Who joins my cabin? A Bulgarian, Lithuanian, and a Ukrainian. To be fair the Ukrainian guy was there only to put his stuff down, for that’s all I saw of him. The other two ladies, being polite now, were wasted. I mean they were gone and apparently spoke English. So when they spoke Russian, which of course I don’t know, and I threw out Ukrainian they naturally figured out I was foreign. Ahhh…English…how I shouldn’t have said anything in it. For the next two hours the two…drunken ladies…wanted to talk in English.

Needless to say I would’ve moved if for one thing didn’t happen, they brought in the conductor to get drunk. I took it like a champ I thought. I attempted sleep while they partied the next couple hours before getting a refreshing 2 hours of sleep.

For the record, I was polite though I was plotting their death for four hours. Still A for effort though right?

August 8, 2007

An old update

Wrote this awhile ago...issues arised...like getting it approved and just waited a bit before now. Here's the old update. Lot more has happened but enjoy:

Explanation of Change

I really wanted to have a well-kept and updated blog for all to see. So people could understand the true nature of being a Peace Corps Trainee/Volunteer. I know by reading through blogs I felt a sense of connection to the individual. I wept when they struggled, I laughed at their jokes. I felt the pain that they experienced just by reading. I wanted that connection to run through with this blog. Sadly it's hard to keep a blog updated when getting to the internet is so rough. Fortunately now that I am at site I know where the internet cafes are. I just have to have them checked before I can really send them off to be viewed by everyone.

So I promise to try and keep life here updated and kept in perspective.

A brief update from the last time I wrote. Life got harder. I think that's an understatement really. Where did I last leave off? Oh! With the Fascist and cheese. After that event I remembered being just…sad. It hit me that I wanted to share the story in person with my friends, to see their faces, and enjoy the humor with them. And it hit me that I felt so disconnected with my group. Three females PCTs, female language instructor, and female technical instructor. I felt more alone at that moment then I have ever experienced in my lifetime. I wanted to quit. I was fully packed. I didn't tell anyone in my group that I was going to leave. All that was left was the phone call after the service that day. What stopped me? A conversation.

I sat down with one of my group mates and let out my frustration. That I indeed felt so by myself and alone. They told me that they were hurt and that I was their best friend there. It put everything into perspective. I had finally cracked and she had put me right. Not by beating me down or giving me a guilt trip. But making me realize that I was a moron and to see life in front of me.

I unpacked.

Time came and went with language, technical, and finally came site placement. A quick description for those that are in the "what is my friend doing here?" realm of thought. Those interested in the Peace Corps will undoubtedly know what I mean. All of Group 32 gathered for lunch and then the waiting game. As we crammed into the conference hall a brief lecture was given that some of us would be instantly crushed by our placements and some would be overjoyed. But that our placement would indeed need us to make things happen. At this point a much simpler version of the accounts: each regional manager gave the title of the work site, the location, and who was invited to it. A poor man's The Price of Right really.

After the event some were all smiles, myself included. And some…not so much. The next day we left for site visits. On return from site we all experienced what I like to call as "too much time in a hole" or a lot of sessions that were far from helpful. Then it was back to the world we knew it, our training site. At this point I can say that training came to a speeding and hurtling end. Language lessons were harder, summer camp took our energy, and the thought of packing and leaving scared us all.

Nothing can really describe what I'm about to say. Only those that have experienced it or will one day experience it will know what I mean. Leaving training site is the most daunting, challenging, and frightful experience you can imagine. It is the process of leaving a newly established comfort zone for the opportunity to wallow in the unknown. The mere thought of leaving is exciting and befuddling. I can seldom count the nights I worried about that day. It was worse than I could imagine.

After several days of unjoyous times in sessions we were off. Off to what we all didn't know. We just knew it was us, by ourselves, that led the way. Being dropped off in the beginning of training was difficult, worrisome, and overall scary. This was worse. We had no English speaker there. No American retelling stories about who they voted for in 2004 or what they used to buy at American Eagle. Nothing awaited us. No back up. No helping hand. Just you. You in a foreign land, foreign food, and two years. It still haunts me.

In America I would drive the 15 minutes to a friends apartment just to hang out for an hour or so. When I heard that a friend was coming up an hour by bus to see my site I walked a good 45 minutes just to see them. My knee and ankle have taken the toll of seeing friends, and its worth it. Tears swell up just hearing an English phrase. Your heart skips a beat when someone knows a bit of English. It's a hardship one can barely imagine. No matter where you live in this country, you feel the loneliness, the boredom, depression, and that deep desire to be wanted and felt for in some way. It's an overwhelming feeling. I read about it, I thought about it, and now I live it.


Home is where the heart is. I heard this before. I never fully understood it. I took stabs at it in college when going to my parent's home for holiday breaks. Here I am. In another country and I've no idea where home is.

Is it in Indiana where my parents live? Is it in Florida where my friend wants me to live? Is it here in the "Florence of the east"? I don't know. But I can tell you that it's not with my host family.

Host families are a special breed in humanity. They take in someone that can't speak their language all that well, helps them, guides them, and watches them grow into some awkward human that slightly understands their culture.

I'm fortunate this time around to see my host father, who attempts to be a Mr. Mom when no female is around. At one interval, last week, I had hurt my knee from an exceptionally large amount of walking in dress shoes. Upon hearing this he came in my room with some cream and rubbed my knee. Most. Awkward. Experience.

With my host sister is the remnants of the 80's in America. I mean this with deep pride in my generation, though it doesn't sound like it. She has the appearance that she will be watching Rainbow Bright on Saturday. I like it. One aspect about where I live is that I am well aware of the luxuries I am allowed to "endure". Their house is far bigger than my parents house, they have a sauna, and a guard dog that I've lovingly nicknamed Harry. Truth be told I can't pronounce the dog's name at all and Harry sounds close, and yes it's a she. Although I have these luxuries available they are also a hindrance. For me to leave the house requires a lot of effort. Someone to unlock the doors, put up the dog, turn off the alarm, and open the gate. So what's the countdown for? An apartment.

It's a coveted thing by PCVs to have their own place. Their own time to eat, what to eat, when to sleep, where to go, etc. I eagerly await such experience.

Human Frogger

I grew up with Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation, etc. But the first gaming system my family had was the Intellivision. Which truth be told had one game I liked, Masters of the Universe. But my best friend's family had an Atari.

One afternoon I was at his house and he had to leave with his mom for some reason. So I sat in his bedroom playing Frogger. People came and went out of the house and I made little to no noise and went unnoticed. Finally he returned, which surprised his dad that I was there, and saw me still playing. The first comment out of my mouth was "I can't get the damn frog across the road".

Why's that story important?

For me to exist in my host site I must play Human Frogger. Unfortunately it's with my life and there are no resets. This is a certain downside to my time here. To go to the center, school, meet someone, etc., I must cross the street that contains cars, trucks, motorbikes, tramvies (think trolleys), mashrukas, autobuses, buses, delivery trucks, etc. It is a hassle that bears down on you on the bad days, like today. It rains, I've no umbrella, and nearly got hit by three vehicles. Normally that'd freak someone out but today was a good day, only three. Other volunteers that experience this when they visit ask me how I deal and my only response is "you just do". Plus other volunteers here have grown quite used to it and know exactly which street to take because it has less traffic. I'm working on that one.