I must admit that my life as a Peace Corps volunteer is anything but dull!   When you say yes, you never know what will happen.

Tuesday, Oct. 11, my organization took me to a a small school in the town of Kremnna- about 75 KM north east of Luhansk.  The school is a boarding school, exclusively for children with disabilities, and the students were competing in a song and dance festival.  I was asked to be a judge.  Photos below are some of the children singing and dancing.

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Photo 1:  School sign     Photo 2:  Students posing for photos       Photo 3:  Two students dancing

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Photo 1:  Young lady in Ukrainian dress, sang a very patriot song 

Photo 2:  Two students performing gymnastics, including the balls 

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Photo 3: Guitarist who has won many competitions

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Photo 1:  The pair dancing were very cute; both have walking disabilities 

Photo 2:  Young student sang a sentimental song  

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Photo 3:The entire group

When we drove back from the festival, we drove through forest areas just north of Ukraine.  These forests are great for mushroom hunting.  As my work colleagues LOVE mushrooms, and also enjoy the Ukraine custom of hunting for mushrooms, we stopped along the road so we could mushroom hunt.  This was my very first mushroom hunt.  Fascinating!  I admit that I will probably never be a “pro” at this, but I did manage to find three good mushrooms, in a sea of thousands of “bad” ones.

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Photo 1:  Mushroom hunting         Photo 2:  These are BAD MUSHROOMS  

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                 Photo 3:  THIS is a GOOD mushroom

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Photo 1:  A lovely “good mushroom   Photo 2:  Another good mushroom 

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Photo 3 & 4:  Caroline extracting the mushroom

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Photo 1:  Our small “haul”  Photo 2:  Wild mushrooms for sale on the road side

After mushroom hunting, I returned home to pick up my suitcase and left for a conference in Limassol, Cyprus.  My organization had applied to send someone to the “Forum on the Future of Democracy: the Interdependency of Democracy and Social Cohesion.”  Our representative had a change of plans, and so my organization asked me to go instead!  LUCKY ME!   Travel time to Limassol, Cyprus from Luhansk, Ukraine was almost two days (18 hours on a train to Kiev , 4 hours of transfer time, and then 8 hours of flying Kiev – Prague – Larnaca)  BUT  the conference and the venue, Cyprus, were definitely worth the trip. 

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Map of Cyprus from the Old fortress in Limassol

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Photo 1:  Opening address from the President of the Republic of Cyprus

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Photo 3: Opening address from Secretary General of the Council of Europe and

Chair of Norwegian Nobel Prize committee

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Opening remarks: Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ukraine

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Lenia Samuel, Deputy Director, Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, EU

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Andreas Christou,  Mayor of Limassol

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Closing remarks:  Photo 1:   Joao Mota Amaral, Portugal, Member of Parliament

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Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, MInister of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus

The conference had very important conference speakers and panelists and I did learn a lot and I met many very interesting participants from governments, academia, and NGOs (non-government organizations).  To relate how small the world is:  the Director  General for Social Cohesion, a committee of the Council of Europe, is a Russian and we struck up several fun conversations.  First, the Director General wanted to know WHY I was attending the conference, and then WHY was I in Luhansk and then WHAT did I do with my organization!  AND then, when he found out I lived in San Diego, he told me his daughter lives there.  She and her Ukrainian husband emigrated to San Diego and work in the bio tech field.  The Director and his wife have never been to CA and it’s a dream for them.  We will stay in touch!

And yes, the conference site was lovely, especially so now that it is cold and grey in Ukraine.  It was wonderful to see orange trees, plumeria, bougainvillea, the Mediterranean, eat fresh mussels, drink lovely white and red wines, and be in 78 degree weather. 

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All six photos are of the conference facilities – Le Meridien at Limassol, Cyprus.  No complaints from Caroline!!

The conference organizers provided a nice four hour excursion of the area near Limassol.  We had to see something of the island before we all departed for home!

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 Greek ruins… along the main road to and from the conference site  

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Beach villas now available to own… on the Mediterranean

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Photo 1:  the walkway all along the coast.        Photo 2 : The walkway passes an archeological dig.

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Four photos above:  An archeological dig site- an ancient house with gardens, and mosaics (below) and the view to the sea from the site (on a hill top).

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The amphitheater at the site and one of the column capitols being restored

After we visited the archeological site, we visited the remains of an old fortress near the Limassol harbor.  Also very interesting.

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And for those of you who know my DeSimone pottery collection from Sicily, I found these designs on the old Cypriot pottery fascinating.  The designs on my DeSimone plates are very similar!

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I hope all of you are well and enjoying life at home.  

All the best to everyone! 


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Photos: The two blips are my feet in the Med!   The full Moon over the Med in Cyprus.