April Adventures

Hello Everyone!
Lots of photos to share as the last two weeks of April webusy!

April 15-16, 2011
The Peace Corps Senior group (over 50 crowd) had a meeting in Simferopol on April 15.  The "over 50 crowd"meets three times a year and we talk about our successful projects with each other, solve problems, and  "meet".  We do understand that any meeting longer than 60 minutes is too long- even if it takes an 18 hour train ride to get to the meeting.  However, we have our meetings in interesting sites across Ukraine and so the tours and the visits which last at least 8 hours are definitely worth the 18 hour train ride and extremely memorable for two reasons:  seeing PC friends and visiting sites in Crimea.

Below are photos of the visit to the Khan's palace in the town of Bakhchisaray (Бахчисарай), best known as the former capital of the Crimean Khanate.   The palace is lovely; the gardens are gorgeous, too.  I hope to revisit the palace when all the grape arbors and roses are in bloom.  

Khan's palace in the town of Bakhchisaray
Behind the town of Bakhchisaray- from the Khan palace wall
Entrance to the Khan's palace in the town of Bakhchisaray

Interior courtyard of the Khan's palace- faces central garden and walkway

Interior courtyard of the Khan's palace- other side facing central garden and walkway

Door on one of buildings facing interior courtyard.

Another door on one of buildings in the Khan's palace

Detail of door in above photo

Detail of area above the door in above photo

One of many interior rooms in the palace

Entrance to the harem "building"

One of the rooms in the harem

Ceiling in the harem

Detail of interior door

Limestone rocks and the park behind the Khan's palace

Limestone rocks and the park in the town, just beyond the Khan's palace

Warning sign in the restaurant

Beginning of a hike in the park
-hiking to the monastery built into the rocks

The monastery built into the rocks

Small Monks "cell" built into the rocks  -
 if you look closely you can see the electric line on the rock!
Hiking in the park behind the monastery

Our Peace Corps Country Director enjoying the caves in the rocks!

View from the top of f the park

Caves carved in the rocks

Hiking back down- the view back to the top

Hiking back down- the view back to the top

April Full Moon as seen from the train
crossing from Crimea back to mainland Ukraine
April 23-24
Easter weekend!  After returning from Crimea, I began my Easter preparations.  Just like home, Easter is a major church/religious holiday.  On "Sad Friday", Ukrainians clean their houses from top to bottom and prepare foods for Easter Sunday.  On Easter Saturday, Ukrainians are not supposed to work, but pray.  Easter Vigil begins Easter Saturday night and ends at 4:30 a.m..  The very religious are in church for the entire vigil.  Beginning at 4:30 in the morning, the faithful come to church with their baskets of prepared foods - hard boiled eggs, salt, Easter Bread (Paska), meats, wines, and other foods that will be consumed on Easter Sunday.  The orthodox priests bless the foods from 4:30 in the morning until 12 Noon (or so).  

I took my little Easter basket of prepared foods- my  Easter bread, salt, my decorated eggs, and beverages to be blessed, too!  See below.

The weather on Easter weekend was definitely spring!  We had 70 degrees and a bit of sun.  My PCV friend, Amy Woodstock and I took a two hour walk around Luhansk- and the photos below are from our Easter Sunday walk.
Children in the park behind my building playing/exercising on "jumping shoes?"

An older "electric train" station- remnants of the old Soviet era

The Cowboy Hair Salon and Beauty Parlor

One of Luhank's major orthodox churches

I love the "sunshine" hat.

an older basketball court in an older park...
April 29, 2011
My colleagues at work had arranged for a visit to the Amber Church, a newer orthodox church under construction in a small town,  Dmitrovka, just north of Luhansk.  The money for the church was donated by a member of the Charitable Cossack Foundation.  You can read about the group on this website: http://cossacks-uan.net/en/novosti/   (Yes, this site has an English language option!)

The photos below are from our visit to the church. We had a small blessing ceremony before we entered the building.  The Amber Icons are all in the basement of this new church.  Interestingly, there is no access for the disabled.  BUT my colleagues, two in wheelchairs, all managed to get to the basement to view the icons and the amber altar piece.  We were allowed to take photos.  

The exterior of the  Amber Church in Dmitrovka, just north of Luhansk.
The monastery farm is in the background.

The main entrance to the  Amber Church
The convent and monastery across the street from the church.
The icon of patron saint of the church-
the icon is made entirely of Amber - big pieces and crushed pieces

The icon of the Blessed Mother-
the icon is made entirely of Amber - big pieces and crushed pieces

Another Icon - made entirely of Amber - big pieces and crushed pieces

Detail of one of the Amber pieces in the icon in the above photo

The icon of Michael the the Arch Angel-
made entirely of Amber - big pieces and crushed pieces

Detail of the Angel Michael's skirt... all crushed amber

Mother and Child icon

Detail of the crushed amber and the LARGE amber pieces in the Madonna icon

The Amber Altar piece
Detail photos- the LARGE pieces of amber in the Amber Altar piece
Detail photos- the LARGE pieces of amber in the Amber Altar piece

Detail photos- the LARGE pieces of amber in the Amber Altar piece

Detail photos- the LARGE pieces of amber in the Amber Altar piece
 After our visit to the church, we had to stop and have a picnic.  We found a spot along the Siversky-Donetsk river.  Photos below show the wild apricot trees are now really blooming.  
Our picnic site, building the fire to roast "hot dogs"

Roasting hot dogs

Tailgate picnic preparation

Tailgate picnic - Ukrainian style
my work colleagues:  Marina, Lena, Alosha, Irina, Natalia, Christina, Irina's daughter and Marina's mother

The local dogs enjoyed our leftovers

We found wild tulips growing in the area so we picked a few.
Photo is Christina, daughter of my colleague Irina.
 And then on April 30, all the Peace Corps volunteers in the region gathered in Luhansk to celebrate the  Peace Corps 50th Anniversary.  The celebration included 16 Peace Corps volunteers, families and children belonging to my organization, my work colleagues, our Luhansk English Club, and other organizations who have Peace Corps volunteers.  The celebration was wonderful and everyone had a great time.  The first ever Luhansk Easter Egg hunt was a HUGE hit.  While no photos exist to prove the Egg hunt was a huge hit, we will have an egg hunt next year and we will take photos!!
The 50th anniversary banner under construction in my living room
The banner artists, Caroline and Amy Woodstock, hard at work.
Caroline and her counterpart, Tatyana Barantsova at the 50th Celebration

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.
Our friends and colleagues in Luhansk, Ukraine
Today is a holiday - May Day.  Yesterday, Sunday May 1 was the first of a two day celebration for May Day, and Sunday started  off with an OUTDOOR CONCERT at 7:30 IN THE MORNING in front of my apartment. I wasn't quite expecting May to begin with such a bang!  We have had fireworks and more concerts.  Today, Monday, May 2 is also a holiday.  Next weekend the Ukrainians will celebrate Victory Day, which commemorates the end of the "Great Patriotic War" (WWII to us).  

Happy May to everyone!   More adventures and more photos, I am sure.

All the best to everyone.


  1. I hope this message gets to you.

  2. OK, I see that it works. I will be 60 when my wife and I try to join the PC. We will be at the end of our long federal gov career and the last 2 years in PC will count as fed service, so we´re told. Can you offer any insite to the application process? Was the medical part very brutal? And thank you for your pictures and articles. I find them fascinating.