So I discovered a very interesting fact in my first five months in Ukraine -- One roll of very tight, very compact Ukrainian TP (туалетная бумага) lasts one month. Which means that, if I count the three months of PC training, I can measure my time in Ukraine by 27 rolls of TP . An interesting thought if I were into counting time-- which I am not.
Other interesting and meaningful facts that I have learned in my first five (5) months in the Peace Corps:
1. I have been assigned to a wonderful organization in Lugansk, Ukraine, "The Association for the Young Disabled of East Donbass East". My organization advocates for the rights of the disabled and is an umbrella organization for many smaller groups in our region, that also advocate for the disabled. My counterpart- the work colleague who applied for a PC volunteer for the organization and who is responsible for me-- is a smart, creative, and talented young lady, married, with a cute 6-year old son. Yes, she and her husband are both disabled, victims of spinal cord injuries about 15 years ago. Nothing stops them.
My office is on the first floor of a building in a huge housing complex and across the street from the cultural university and Lugansk's Red Square. The landlord needs to learn about "access for people with special needs"-- but maybe that is one reason why I am here?
My other work colleagues are also very smart, very talented and great fun. I am slowly learning Russian and can converse more and more with them. At the end of September, I begin my English classes for my work colleagues. All of my colleagues have had English in school, but most have never had the opportunity to use it. NOW that I am here, they hope to use their English - especially for their web pages. So.... while learning Russian, I now must brush up on my English Grammar!!
2. Lugansk is a large industrial city in the Eastern part of Ukraine. It is situated 900 km to the east from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. (FYI- that means a 16 HOUR train ride! Oh I LOVE MY KINDLE and my IPOD.) The city traces its history to 1795, when the British industrialist, Charles Gascoigne, founded a metal factory here, a state iron foundry to supply ordnance to Russian Black Sea fleet. Lugansk city grew with the development of Donets Coal Basin in the 1890s.
AND JUST IN CASE YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE: (from Ukraine Guide on-line and Wikipedia) Lugansk achieved the status of city in 1882. Located in the Donets Basin, Lugansk was developed into an important industrial center of the Eastern Europe, particularly a home to the major locomotive-building company. In 1935, the city was renamed Voroshilovgrad (Ворошиловград) in honour of Soviet military commander and politician Kliment Voroshilov. In 1958, with the call of Khrushchev not to give names of living people to cities, the old name was reinstated. In 1970, after Voroshilov died, the name was changed again to Voroshilovgrad. Finally, on May 4, 1990, a decree of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR gave the city back its original name.
|Coal en route to steel mills|
Since independence on August 24, 1991, from the former Soviet Union, Ukraine's economy (and Lugansk's) has been struggling. Sadly many of the factories mentioned above are now dormant and in shambles. Many of the small coal mining and steel producing towns in our region (oblast) have high unemployment.
Lugansk has several universities/institutes dedicated to teacher-training, medical, agricultural, and machine-building studies. I can personally vouch for the excellent teacher-training institutes. My eight student translators who have worked with me since July 1 are excellent translators. Their command of the English language, for never have been with "native" speakers, is terrific. I wish my Russian was equal to their English.
The population of Lugansk is around 700,000 people (2007 est.), it’s total area is 286 sq km. Climate in Luhansk is "temperate continental -- which means summer is HOT, with an average temperature in July 22C (71.6 F) , and winter is COLD with an average temperature" in January – 7C (19 F). THIS SUMMER- 2010- was the hottest on record....... we had 100 to 108 degrees every day for three weeks in late July and August. I can vouch for HOT. What will winter bring!!!
|One of several parks in center of town|
3. Ukrainian men LOVE white, pointy leather shoes. I guess the "no-white-shoes-after-September 1-rule" does not apply here. Ukrainian men also carry "murses".. (men's purse)... just like the Italians. They LOVE to drive fast.
4. Ukrainian women LOVE ANY FORM OF SHOE... but mostly stiletto heels-- gold, plastic, glittery, patent leather -- the higher the better. Now that winter is coming, the stiletto boots are in the stores. I am sticking with my leather flat boots from Shanghai... handmade... yes, flat ....yes, safe... yes, practical... yes, stylish .....???
5. The Internet is readily accessible here. YES. For 100 UAH (about $12 a month), I connect to the Internet. VERY REASONABLE and NO CONTRACT!!! HOWEVER, my download fees for sending and receiving ANY documents average 300 UAH or $38 per month!! So if I don't respond to all the "funny forwards" you know why... I can't afford them!!!
6. Cars in Ukraine are every make and model available anywhere. The majority, however, are LADAs, SKODAs, KIAs, DACIAs, and GEELYs (?). But I also see LOTS of Lexus 470s, BMWs sedans and SUV's, big Mercedes Benzs, Toyota Land Cruisers, Hondas, Nissans and some very expensive sport trucks. I am told the Mafia is big here......
We are not allowed to drive while we are serving in the Peace Corps. Watching people drive here it is a good thing we are not driving. Ninety percent of the population do not wear seat belts. Bus drivers don't, cops don't, truck drivers don't. Even moms and dads driving children don't. Scary.
7. Roads in Ukraine are pretty bad. We all have stories about our USA towns and all the potholes.... Well, Ukraine can top them all. Everyone here comments on how horrible the roads are. Which is why it is faster to take the train!
8. Ukrainians LOVE TO EAT..The vegetables and fruits are fabulous and so fresh. With the change of seasons, the fruits and vegetables for each season are terrific. I know I will miss the variety once winter sets in. Ukrainians love breakfast foods, lunch, dinner, AND BIRTHDAYS. OH MY, Birthdays are a big deal and the birthday boy/girl is responsible for the party... all the food and all the beverages! Serious Food , Serious Beverages, and Serious Toasts!!! Everyone toasts the birthday boy/girl and the birthday boy/girl responds back. I understand why shot glasses are so important here. IF you need a new toast for parties: ТРИ ЧЕТИР ХУЧ! Phonetically it sounds like TREE CHETIR HOOCH. 3-4-Drink!
|The spelling "tells" about the quality|
10. What do I miss? IT IS really WHO I miss..and that's my children, my family, my friends, my Hawaiian house and view, my Encinitas house and view, REALLY GOOD WINE for less than $10 a bottle. BUT with the internet and with SKYPE, my children, my family and my friends are close! And as I still collect beer and wine labels, I am doing my very best to find the best bottles of wine for $10 or less. I am still researching the wine- most of what I have tried is "ОЧЕНЬ ПЛОХА" (Russian for very bad). I have the beer and vodka covered, however!
Back to the "27 rolls on the shelf, take one down, use it, and then there are 26 rolls on the shelf " (my apologies to 100 bottles of beer on the wall), I have been here 5 months, and so my bathroom shelf, now has 22 rolls. I know it will be about time to go home, when I don't have anymore TP on the shelf. Unless of course I have a ton of visitors and I have to go shopping for more.
I HOPE I HAVE A TON OF VISITORS.
MORE interesting facts to come, I am sure.
Caroline L. Mackenzie
Peace Corps Volunteer - Ukraine