Training Wrap Up
The last weeks were quite hectic, but fun. Eric and I decided that we just can't help ourselves and started cooking whenever we get the chance. We made quiche for our cluster and link-mates last Saturday for breakfast, and for Natasha the next day in honor of Mother's Day. Although it is not actually celebrated here, she had heard of it and was thrilled to have a morning off from cooking. Quiche is like no Ukranian dish we've had, especially the pastry crust, but it was well received by the family. As pie pans are not common shaped baking dishes here, we had to resort to cooking them in frying pans, a technique first successfully attempted with banana bread a few weeks ago. Saturday afternoon, we continued our baking odessy with an apple pie-making lesson for a fellow PC Trainee's host mother. Once again, there was no pie pan, so this time we ended up with a rectangular pie. The flavors were right anyway, and it was delicious with ice cream. And most importantly, they now know the dish behind the saying "As American as Apple Pie." (Note: A little know fact is that all PCVs should always promote apple pie to host-country nationals as it encourages peace and democracy.)
Last Sunday was a rainy day, but we went to Kyiv in the evening to the ballet Romeo and Juliet at the National Opera House. The theatre was spectacular, the ballet beautiful and Juliet was one of the best dancers I've seen - she was absolutely stunning. As we were sitting in the 10th row ($6 tickets) listening to the orchestra warm up, we decided that life would have definitely been different if we had actually gone to Africa as Peace Corps originally wanted. Instead, I am inspired to take ballet classes in Vinnitsia.
This week we focused on wrapping up new language material in our Russian class, and next week will be mostly review. And as we've moved closer to swearing in, Ukraine Group 28 has lost several Volunteers. Two went home for personal reasons, one for disciplinary, and two received medical discharges. On top of this, the female half of the older married couple in our group was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and medivac'ed to Washington DC. Until PC is sure of her status, her husband has remained in-country which is really difficult for him and sad for all of us. So our group, which started at 46, is down to 40 Trainees in-country.
Today was a beautiful day- the first sunny day in a week. It is finally in the 60s/70s during the day, which was a welcome respite after the temps of 50s with rain the past few weeks. After a three-hour Strategic Planning Workshop (for those who think we aren't working!), the entire group plus PC Staff headed to Pirogova Heritage Park - a huge open-air museum outside of Kyiv. Eric and I brought a double batch of Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies , made with chopped up Euro-chocolate to replace the chips. Eric looked like the pied piper when he opened the container and 30 adults went running down the road after them - it was quite humorous. Needless to say, the cookies didn't last long. The park has many historical homes, windmills and other buildings that were brought from villages around Ukraine, as well as lots of open green space, areas for picnicing, and walking paths. An enjoyable day all around.
This week will will go to Kyiv several times for wrap up meetings, cook a last enening meal with our cluster-mates and language/technical facilitators, see another ballet (Giselle - $4 balcony seats!), go to a Ukranika farewell party with our host families, pack up all of our stuff (Christy - we need you!), and head back to Prolisock center for our close of training conference and swearing in. So needless to say, I think we will be keeping busy.
A quick note on letters and packages: our address and phone number will change when we get to Vinnitsia. As soon as we have a post office box, I'll post hte new address and home phone (at that point anyone inspired to send Vanilla and Maple Extract is welcome to do so!). And despite some reservations- mainly that we are in the Peace Corps for god's sake - we'll probably be getting a cell phone in the near future that can send and receive text messages and receive incoming calls from the US at no cost to us. Believe it or not, we are one of the last holdouts in Group 28 who do not have a mobile.
That's it for now. I hope everyone is happy and healthy at home and please know you are all in our thoughts.
Hugs from Ukraine,