Salt in the Match Box

September 19, 2010

Hello Friends!

Salt for the train picnic
A new interesting fact.... 
Ukrainains put salt in a match box as part of their train picnic packet.  I find out this is really true... not just because my office mates do this, but all my Ukrainian colleagues do this. Everyone I have asked about this tradition said " YES, It's a Ukrainian Tradition."   Photo to prove it..   Please note the hardboiled eggs, too- also traditional train picnic food.

Train Picnic
I learned this new fact when I traveled with my organization from Lugansk on the 4:45 p.m. overnight train to Kiev.  Once organized in our "coupe" rooms that had four  benches--two high, two low--  mattresses, sheets, pillows, towels that we had to arrange on each bench--  we all gathered in the ONE "handicap access" coupe room for our picnic supper.  The picnic supper photos are attached and will prove that I am assigned to an organization that works hard and also has TONS of fun together.

Work colleagues on the train
I must admire my colleagues who are in wheelchairs.  The one special train car that is  the "special needs/ disabled access" car has only ONE coupe room out of 15 that is accessible for the disabled.  My counterpart and I shared the one accessible room.   While her bunk was the lower bunk, I cannot imagine how a disabled person could leave a wheelchair and climb up to the higher bunk!  

Train picnic with work colleagues
My two other colleagues in wheelchairs had to be carried to their rooms as their wheelchairs were too wide for the train corridor.   The Ukrainian train system provides a wheel chair to transport the disabled down the corridor, but even this "special wheelchair" is too wide for the corridor."  

In  all of the Ukraine train system there are ONLY 10 special needs access train cars... and each of these cars has only ONE room available for a disabled person with ONE accessible bunk.
One of the steel mills outside Lugansk

Looking out the train window as we left Lugansk, I had a flashback to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and the steel mills.   

Once we arrived in Kiev, our organization was busy preparing for the Right to Work for the Disabled Conference.  My organization was the recipient of a two-year grant (along with several other organizations for the disabled in Ukraine) and the conference was a progress report on the  seminars and programs established to help disabled Ukrainians seek employment.    I was one of the speakers at the conference; my topic was the ADA and what the ADA means for the disabled Americans as well as for American businesses.  I was very honored to be on the speakers list!

Young dancers in talent contest
I have also had the pleasure to be a judge in a regional talent contest.  The participants were all disabled youths between 10 and 18 and the categories were dancing, singing, poetry reading and one piano soloist.    The seven finalists we picked will move on to the national talent contest for disabled youths.  That contest will take place in Lugansk in mid-October.    The photo I attached has 10 year old dancers, performing a waltz.

Gymastics at the picnic
The Saturday afternoon Lugansk English Club is a wonderful example of a sustaining Peace Corps project.  Yesterday, Saturday, Sept. 18 we had 41 attendees.  We had a wonderful discussion on voluntarism and what it means in the US and what it means in Ukraine.    Our English Club had a group picnic and 35 of us hiked out to an older park near the fringe of an old air base, no longer in use.  Soccer, badminton, frisbee, football and "gymnastics"  -- Great fun!

What is also fun is that I have started a Cooking club as a small "offshoot" of the English club".  We have 15 very interested participants and our plan is to cook one Ukrainian dish and one "other country" dish at each session.  Most of group are Ukrainians and their interest is learning what we do with cabbage and potatoes and soup and meats --- Do we have a barbecue?  What do we do when we barbecue?   And of course the few Americans in the group want to know how to make a proper borsht and a proper perogie.  I know we will have fun together.  Right now my small flat is "cooking central" as my small flat is larger than everyone else's!!  Our first cooking adventure will be Friday Oct. 1!  Can't wait.

Bill's salsa in Ukraine
And speaking of cooking, I have had a lot of fun practicing various dishes in the hopes that I could get a cooking club "off the ground" and into a kitchen.  I am very fortunate that my first huge success is fresh salsa.   Fresh tomatoes (помидори) , fresh cilantro (кинза), fresh garlic (чеслок), fresh lime (лаим), green onions (лук зелони) are readily available.  I owe my fresh salsa success to my friend Bill Bauer in San Diego, who is famous for his fresh salsa!

And of course with every success, there is failure.  I have found corn meal in Ukraine,  and while corn meal isn't for tortillas, I thought I had also found corn flour which IS great for corn tortillas.  What I discovered was I had purchase CREAM OF WHEAT FLOUR which does not make tortillas in any way shape or form.  So back to the Russian studies and relearning the words for corn flour.

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