Santa is Alive and Well in Ukraine

20 December 2010 

Happily Santa Claus and his elves are alive and well in Ukraine.  As you can see from the above photo, Santa's elves are enjoying a brief visit in my "Christmas" garden and admiring my Ukrainian ornaments.

The Christmas tree photo was taken at a local hotel where I attended a conference two weeks ago ( 5 Dec to 10 Dec).  

Just like home, the supermarkets, home supply centers and local bazaars have holiday merchandise for sale.  Even in Ukraine,  I can hear Johnny Mathis and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire  and Bill Haley and the Comets with Jingle Bell Rock.. in English no less!

I took the photos of the Christmas crafts (above) at the Luhansk District Education Office.  All the local elementary students submitted crafts for display in the District Office.  Almost all the projects use "recycled stuff" for materials.

I am now "9"!
December has been a very busy month - starting with my birthday celebration- and in keeping with Ukrainian tradition, I had a dinner party for 15.  We toasted in Ukrainian tradition and I toasted the "absent members" as my family tradition.  I need to market the fireworks birthday candles in the USA.  These candles are spectacular!!

In addition to many parties, I have actually worked quite a lot this December.  I met with many of the local regional educational and rehabilitation services and the superintendent of the Luhansk school district.  The reason:  my organization has been advocating for inclusion of disabled children in the local schools. 

(Please note:  the embarrassing clothespin-
 which keeps the charging unit charging the computer--- 
will be a thing of the past when Santa brings my new laptop to London!)

My role during the last week of  meetings has been to show Ukrainian teachers and district administrators what has happened in American schools as a result of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA)--- inclusion in classrooms, the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and transition services for the disabled to independent living, employment, and community participation.

The television program moderator asked  me 1) if American school age children were afraid of the disabled children in the classroom (NO) and 2) if there actually are disabled children in the classroom (YES). 

I continue to do research for my presentations and  it is amazing what I am learning about our educational system- even with all our budget cuts. The fact that our classrooms are open and include children with special needs is fascinating to my Ukrainian counterparts. Our children in the US are very lucky when you compare our educational system to the educational system here.
Caroline showing off her
18-year old holiday Christmas lights necklace!

Several of my Peace Corps friends and I were asked to come to a University English Class and talk briefly about our American holiday traditions.  The students LOVEd my "December christmas lights necklaces" and my "December holiday socks."  I am very glad I packed a few fun holiday items from home to share.  Even my Santa hat is a big hit!  

My cooking club had an American-style cookie exchange to start the holiday season here.  The idea was a big hit - there were about 20 us, and 20 varieties of cookies.  And of course a Ukrainian toast or two!
Samples of the cookies from the Cookie Exchange.

I have learned that Ukrainians love to toast at family gatherings and special occasions:  The first toast is to family; the second toast is to health and the third toast is to love!  

And to add my family's traditional toast:
To all the absent members- 
to Family and to Friends -
where ever you are who cannot be with me this Christmas - 
May all of you enjoy your Christmas 
and New Year's Holidays with your families and your friends.  
I hope to see many of you in 2011!

Lots of love to everyone.