Know My Velocity

My Peace Corps Experience in Ukraine

  • My name is Casey and I'm going to Ukraine with the Peace Corps to help develop non-governmental organizations. This is my adventure, and I'd like you to know my velocity.
  • Flickr Photos

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 15 other followers

  • Advertisements
  • Skype Me

    My Skype name is defyphysics. If you do not have Skype, you can download it here.

  • Disclaimer

    The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Up to week two.

Posted by defyphysics on April 2, 2011

Day Three

Today I got to stay at my host family’s place all day.  Every Sunday will be like this.  I woke up to nobody in the house, and got to reflect on everything for a bit.  It has been a long week, and today was mostly relaxing and hanging out, but it is still a tiring to communicate and be communicated to.  I hope I’m not too much of a stress on the family, as I’m basically a giant useless toddler at the moment.  Given this, I still had a very good day with the family.  Most of the day I hung out with Dima once he got home.  I got out my ipod and we hooked it up to his speakers.   I had him listen to some POS since he likes rap.  Then he picked out AFI, I picked out Crime In Stere and he picked the band All (I think he’s trying everything in alphabetical order).  He really liked the music.  I’m going to give him a bunch of mp3s once I found out everything he likes.   He had a friend come over, Natasha.  She was very shy, but pleasant.  We tried to play cards, but I wasn’t getting it.  We then watched some funny videos online.  Then, two friends of the family, a husband and wife (and evidently Dima’s godparents) showed up and we went to the back yard to have Ukrainian BBQ (sausages).  We cleared some brush and burnt it.  For those in Mr Black’s classes and my friends at High Point Elementary, I’ve impressed my host family multiple times with my knowledge of “fire” (Pozhezha; Пожежа!).  At some point, my host mom showed up and when the sausages were ready we headed in.  Dinner was great, but it is weird just sitting there in silence as everyone carries on a very colorful conversation with laughter and surprises.  I just sit there… staring.  The godfather told Dima to tell me to not be so sheepish, but I was able to crack a joke saying it is hard to have a conversation knowing only the words for spoon, knife, mirror, floor, etc.  I could tell they were great people and I can’t wait to joke around with them.

We played cards after dinner.  I think I finally get the game we were playing.  It took me a while.  It is hard to learn a game without getting clear instructions in English, but Dima did his best to explain.  We had cookies and tea while we played.  After a game, everyone abruptly got up and headed to the door.  I don’t even know if that is the same as we do in the United States, it is just weird when you have no warning because you don’t understand the conversation.  I am often left clueless.

I know it may seem like I am frustrated, and part of me is, but I am also pretty excited.  The more I listen to the language, the more I can pick out words I understand, and the more I can pick out words in general.  I may not know what the words mean, and the ones I do know are far and few between, but it is better than just hearing sound coming out of someone’s mouth.  Each language has a flow to it, and I think I’m starting to get the Ukrainian flow.

Day Four

Today was one of those trying days.  In of its own, it is challenging to communicate, get your point across, and try and understand people.  It is another story when you are feeling sick.  It was also the first day of language class.  Luckily, I did not feel too bad and was able to learn casual and formal greetings.  I still wasn’t feeling 100% though.  Once class was over, we had an assignment to make a map of the community and find out the names of the streets.  We were supposed to ask people on the streets, but most of us did not feel comfortable with our language skills yet.  Maybe after tomorrow, when we have reviewed everything.  We did stop by everyone’s house, and see where our fellow “cluster” mates live.  I did not know Ivanivka was as big as it is.  It’s still a small village, but there is more to it than you can see from the road.  There is no village square or anything, at least not one that I have found.  Once we stopped by my house, we picked up Dima, and he helped us find the places we were looking for.  He told us he would bring us to the clubs in Chernihiv once we know our language better.  Another reason to keep up with our language classes!

Once we found everything, we went to the market and tried our best to understand how our local market works.  I’m glad Dima was there, and I think we now have the hang of it.  After that, we all went our separate ways home.  Once I got home, I started to feel really sick.  I was cold so I put another jacket on, and that still did not keep me from shivering.  My throat was sore, and my head was throbbing.  I told Dima I felt sick, so host mom got out the thermometer.  I have no clue what my temp was because it was in Celcius, and I was too tired to try and convert.  Evidently, no fever though.  I could not tell her I run cold and a 98 for me is a low grade temp.  Oh well, such is life right now!  I told them I was going to take a nap, and I slept the second my head hit the pillow.  I slept for 4 hours, and when I woke up I felt a little better.  I still hadn’t done my homework, and I still wasn’t feeling up to it.  I trudged through it, and now I hope I can get some sleep again.  Here’s to feeling better tomorrow!

Day Five

Today I felt better.  I wasn’t 100%, but after feeling so bad, just to feel pretty ok makes things a lot easier.  Class went well, we took our first trip to the store by ourselves, and I had private tutoring.  The host family and I got along really well tonight.  Dima keeps calling me a sheep, and I think I’m finally feeling more comfortable in their home, as well as with the inability to communicate.  Other than that, when I was walking home today after our classes, I walked by a farmhouse blasting an old Offspring song.  For some reason, knowing punk rock has made it to this small village in Ukraine gave me so much hope.  To me, punk music could change this place more than anything I could do. Not because I can’t do much, but because music that tells you that it’s okay to be angry with your situation, whatever it is, and try and change it for the better could do a lot of good here… or anywhere.  Let’s just hope they get the message the music conveys, instead of listening to it because it is loud and obnoxious to parents everywhere.

The bad American influence of today was watching Jersey Shore in Ukrainian.  You could hear the strain in the voices of the translators that voice-over the show.  I hope nobody thinks that America is all like this!  I’m sure Ukraine has some embarrassing sect of society, and I’m anxious to find out so I can compare embarrassing American culture exports to them.

Friday April 1st

I haven’t written in a few days.  Mostly because the days have been busy and tiring.  I’m starting to get into a routine, starting to understand words here and there in the language, and starting to get used to the culture.  There are subtle things I better write down because at first they were huge differences, but after seeing them the past week are beginning to become normal for me.  I should mention that I live in a small village, and most houses have a decent sized plot of land for farming.  In the streets, often you will see chickens, dogs, cats, horse drawn carriages, and people doing farm-type work.  This is also the season for fires.  When we were first here, we wondered why there were so many fires, but now its easy to understand.  After a long winter, all the plant life is dead, and has been under snow the past 6 months or so.  It is commonplace to rake all the dead material together and light it on fire.  I probably walk past 20 smoldering piles a day.  Today I helped Dima set fire to 15 or so piles in the plot of land behind our place.



4 Responses to “Up to week two.”

  1. Cliff said

    I’m sorry to say, but Jersey Shore is pretty much an institution now. The male cast alone I think makes as much as the GDP of Ukraine. Maybe you guys can bond over that?

  2. Zach!! said

    I am so leaving the first comment on this thing!! 🙂 Sounds like your a little frustrated with the new place. I’m sure you know that is to be expected but it is one thing knowing it and another living it. I think it is awesome that you’ve decided to do this. It takes a lot of guts to give something like this a shot and I’m sure you will learn a ton and have a wonderful time once you start getting the hang of the language and the people. BTW you should so play a prank on your new family next April Fools day!!

  3. Ms. Densler's Class said

    Hello Mr. Magee! We are wondering what your favorite food is in Ukraine? Do they have different kinds of candy? We’re interested to know when we might be able to Skype with you! Thanks for the shout out! How cold has it been? It’s been really hot here! (And very stormy! We had a tornado!) What are some new words you’ve learned?

    Can’t wait to read more!
    Ms. Densler’s class

    • Hi Ms. Densler’s class! My favorite food so far has been the “barbeque” that we had in my host family’s backyard. It was sausages cooked over a wood fire. Everything else has been great though. They eat a lot of potatos, pasta, and bread is served with every meal. I definitely have had my fill of food. The people here love to show their hospitality through a good meal.

      They do have different kinds of candy! The chocolate here tastes less milky than ours, and is sweeter. The village market carries kit kats and snickers, but all the other candy is in the cyrillic alphabet we learned. Sometime I’ll take a picture of the market I go to and post it for everyone to see. It is very different than walmart, that’s for sure!

      When I first got here there was snow on the ground and the rivers were frozen over. Since then we have had very cold mornings in the 30’s, and by the afternoon it gets into the 40’s or 50’s. This weekend its supposed to hit 60. I hope the forecast is right, because I’m going to play soccer (football) with the other volunteers and some kids around town. This last Sunday I played with an 11 year old that was almost as good as me, and I played since I was 5!

      Some important words I’ve learned have been “good night” (nadobranich) “bon apetit” (smachnoho) and “sorry” (vweebatchte). While living with a family that knows barely any English, you have to learn how to fit into their household, and its important to say “goodnight” before you go to bed so they understand not to bother you. It is proper manners to say their version of “bon apetit” before you eat. Most importantly, it is VERY important to learn “I’m sorry”, because I’ve been making many mistakes with my language, trying to fit into their customs, and doing things Ukrainians aren’t supposed to be doing and Americans think is normal. An example is that when you walk in any Ukrainian house, TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES. In every house there are slippers next to the door, so you take your shoes off and put slippers on. Don’t let anyone catch you without slippers in the house or you’ll get scolded in Ukrainian! The other three volunteers in my city have had simliar experiences with the slippers.

      As for skype, I may be able to set it up later in April, but for now my host family is limited on their internet so I don’t want to be rude and use too much traffic. In a week and a half, Peace Corps allows us to leave the village unaccompanied, and the city is a 20 minute bus ride from my village. Once I figure out a good place to setup my laptop, I’ll try and get you all on skype! It will definitely be a challenge with the 7 hour time difference, but I’m going to try my best!

      On Saturday I might be able to upload some pictures so everyone can see my village, my host family, and other Peace Corps Volunteers. I’ll make sure Ms. Densler knows so everyone can see.

      I hope you all did good on your FCAT!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: