Where do I even begin? So much has happened since my tearful goodbye to Music City on the morning of August 11th. I’ve been in Ukraine for over a month now, and have felt so secure that this is where I’m meant to be. It was kismet.
from day 1
When I first got to D.C. for staging, I knew there was an adventure ahead, but I didn’t realize how amazing the people would be that are going through this with me. My experience has been made by my fellow PCVs (or I guess technically PCTs — Peace Corps Trainees). I am fortunate to have made such great friends here, and I know I’m in the right place in life at this moment.
Since August 11th, we flew halfway around the world to get to Ukraine, and then were whisked away to the arrival retreat at a hotel in Irpin, a small city just outside of Kiev. We were introduced the goals of our sector projects, started language class, signed a lot of documents, and bonded over pushing past the jet lag to get through work every day.
Towards the end of the arrival retreat, Peace Corps staff announced our training sites. I found out that the community development volunteers would be training in Zhytomyr, a small city about two hours west of Kiev. We met our host families after taking a bus to the downtown area of Zhytomyr. I live with two host parents, their daughter, and teenage grandson. They are such phenomenal people that I don’t want to think about moving out of their home in a few weeks. *Cue big ‘ol alligator tears*
what i do all day long
My days throughout pre-service training are long, but worthwhile. We usually start the day with Ukrainian language class for four hours with a break in the middle, then we work with a partner governmental organization or NGO after lunch. Our partner government office is an animal shelter, where they have the fullest hearts and cutest (formerly) stray pups. They make our Mondays just a little lighter.
Getting to and from work involves usually a trolley bus, the cheapest form of public transportation in Zhytomyr. They are buses attached to power lines, and cost 3 hyrvnias (roughly 11 cents) per way. I usually take this mode of transport in the mornings, and walk home from my language teacher’s apartment.
Another option of transport is the marshrutka, a bus that is slightly larger than a minivan with rows of seats and some standing room. It is common for people to pass up their transport fare (5 hyrvnias for the marshrutka) and a chain of passengers will make sure it gets to the driver. Sometimes people even pass up a larger amount than the cost and their change somehow gets back to them. It’s quite the honor system!
when it’s time to relax
The weekends are long-anticipated and much too short, just like in any other job or school week. I usually meet up with Peace Corps friends and explore the city, try a new restaurant, or visit a museum. I also spend time with my host family, watching my host mom cook and making my weekly lunches as we’re in the kitchen together.
Food is such a universal language that we can communicate so much without a spoken word in the air. I’ll carry the things my host mom, Olha, has shown me with cooking through the next two years and beyond. Peace Corps has given me the opportunity to open up myself to experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise. Every time I think about the journey of getting to Peace Corps Ukraine, I’m so grateful that I ended up serving here.
That’s it for this update! What do you want to know about my experience in Ukraine? Let me know and I’ll be sure to answer your questions. До побачення for now!
Edit: Click here to read more about my Peace Corps experience!