Счастливого Рождества и Нового Года

7 January 2011
Hello Everyone!

Ukraine follows the orthodox religious calendar so today is Christmas Day.  Lucky me as I have had two Christmases this season- December 25 in London and now today, January 7 in Luhansk.

To celebrate, I was asked to come to the local Swim and Diving Club Christmas celebration this morning.  One of my Peace Corps pals here in Luhansk has started an English Club with the young diving team and so the diving team members asked us to join in the holiday celebration.  I hope you enjoy the photos below- This was a very fun morning, the synchronized swimming was interesting, the divers were great, and the "relay races" for entertainment were hilarious.
Here is Grandfather Frost (дедушка мороз) and his grand daughter (the blue coat).  Grandfather Frost goes everywhere with his granddaughter.    The pair welcomed all the families and friends to the festivities.
The Municipal Swimming pool- to the right- was decorated for the holidays.  The tree was decorated with garlands and hanging from the ceiling!
The Synchronized Swimming team began the festivities.  

I loved the Spider"girl" suits.  And just like home, there were lots of young cheerleaders "cheering" on the participants and the spectators.

 The Diving team performed several fun "numbers".  Grandfather Frost's elves did acrobatics on the platform diving boards.   

And then the synchronized divers performed from the lower "springboards" and also from the three high platforms.  

Then, the the diving team positioned themselves around the deep end of the pool and across the diving platforms and dressed as Pirates and Captain Hook,  and did a synchronized "dive in" or "A walk the plank"  to the "Chicken Dance".  For those of you who do not know the Chicken Dance, it is a group dance- with silly antics and then Dosey-Doing ala Square Dancing.  It was good fun to watch the children diving in "rhythm"!

And the grand finale had swimmers with candles and then fireworks!  

 Below are a few of the young divers!

And it would not be a party without a Champagne Toast!  

Other items of GREAT INTEREST......
Q1.  Mom-- do you really braid your hair now?????
A2.  Yes-- I can braid my hair now -  I have to in order to keep it in place.  

Q2.  Is it really cold over here?  
A2.  Yes, it's cold NOW - -10 Celsius (14 Farenheit).   I now sleep with my window closed. And the last time I wore this many clothes, I was skiing in Utah.

Q3.  Is there lots of snow in Luhansk?
A3.  No, we do not have lots of snow in Luhansk.  I think my family in Boston and in New York have more snow that I do.  BUT as I type it is snowing.

Q4.  Is it hard to walk around in winter?
A4.  YES.  We had rain last week, and sleet-- about +1 C (33 F) and then at night the rain turned to ice.  I have a new dance I will patent when I come home.. "The Ice Shuffle".  Thanks goodness I have Yak Trax (studded chains -- Like snow tires for shoes) and my walking stick.  See photo of the sidewalks in front of my flat.

Q5.  When do I return to work- considering I have been celebrating the Holidays since Dec. 23 when I left for London?  
A5.  I will be back at work on Monday, Jan. 10.  

On the note of work, my organization wrote an article about having a Peace Corps Volunteer and what it means for them.  I am attaching the link so that you can read it. 
I am very flattered and very honored.  

We have lots of work to do together for 2011.  If you read the article from my organization's web page, you will see why English and especially, business and communication English are requested everywhere in Ukraine.  Students must take two foreign languages in school; most choose German and English.  Classes are not taught by "native speakers"  whih explains why so many "TOEFL"  - Teachers of English as a Foreign Language" are here in Ukraine.

I start English classes with my organization on Monday, Jan. 10 when I return to work!

All the best to everyone.  I hope that 2011 is a wonderful year for all of us.  

Come visit.