November 2011 Report

November was QUITE a month.   At the beginning of the month, I attended a “what to do after the Peace Corps Conference” that some of the volunteers in my group coordinated.

Photos below show Hailey and Amy, two of the younger PCVs that live near me, enjoying our “upper berth train picnic”  .

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When we arrived in Kiev, we had an egg McMuffin breakfast outside in –3 c!!!  (There was no line at the “outside” window!) 2011_1111 Egg McMuffins outdoors -2C

More of my PCV group friends who came to the conference.

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Our conference was very very good!  The real world of work and home will be upon me soon and I have to start preparing!

Once back in Luhanksk, I was asked to give presentations on Inclusion for the Disabled in our Colleges and Universities.   Every time I do research about what we as Americans do for our disabled citizens, I am really amazed at what we do.  What is available for students with special needs who attend colleges, universities, any institution, really is amazing.    At this conference, a professor translated my presentation into Russian.  I read my text in English and some Russian.  Most of the audience could understand English and, as the saying goes, pictures are always worth a thousand words.  My slides were packed with photos!  And of course, Lunch is always a big part of a conference.

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Every Friday, I have English lessons for a variety of young disabled adults.  It is quite a challenge for me as I have students with Downs Syndrome, Aphasia, Austism, HDAD, etc.  All of them are terrific learners.  They come to class every Friday and really love to learn!  The photos below were taken on the Friday, 25 November when a number of my PC volunteer friends came to Luhansk to celebrate Thanksgiving Saturday and to help me with my students on the Friday.  Below, my students are building simple three or four word sentences…. we like pears, we eat carrots, you like bananas, Peter likes carrots.

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Below, my wonderful student Katya, took letters and spelled the word watermelon on her own.  If you can zoom in on the photo, you will see it. 

Her level of English is phenomenal; all she needs is a speech therapist.


The week before our organization’s big talent festival, I coordinated a goodbye party for a wonderful, young PCV, Nazgol Zand  Nazgol was a TEFL PCV and  a super volunteer who finished her two years of service and is now en route to NYC to continue her studies in Film. We had a great time celebrating Nazgol’s two years here in Luhansk. 

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Photo 1:  Nazgol   Photos 2 and 3:  Turkey sandwich buffet supper

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Photo 1:  Luhansk PCVs at the party: Kurt from NY,  Kyle from WIS, Rebecca from MASS, Hailey from CA, Cary from IL, Photo 2:  Cary and Nazgol

Photo 3:  one last vodka shot!


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Goodbye Nazgol!  See you stateside!

And thank you thank you Nazgol, for passing along my new winter coat, affectionately known as the “wookie”.  I am the proud owner this winter of a floor length sheepskin (or some animal skin) coat.  This coat is SO heavy I can wear just a turtle neck with jeans and be really really warm.   The coat also doubles as a great blanket!  When this winter is “history”, I will pass the coat on to another deserving PCV who will then survive winter 2012 in Luhansk.


Thanksgiving week, Our organization sponsored and coordinated the National Talent Festival for the Disabled.   Young Disabled contestants came from L’vov (which is a 39 hour train ride— and none of the trains are disabled friendly), Crimea (an 18 hour train ride), Sumy (an 11 hour train ride), and Kiev (an 18 hour train ride).  The festival was a three day event:  Sunday was the dress rehearsal and welcome dinner party, Monday, November 20, was the official festival, and Tuesday, Nov. 21 was my art activity for all the disabled attendees who needed something to do while waiting to catch trains back to their home cities.    Sunday’s welcome dinner was delightful; I had a great time sitting with seven young children, all orphans and all with various disabilities.  All of them had the best table manners and LOVED every minute of sitting at the “big people’s table”.

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After dinner, we had a DJ and Karaoke and dancing.   The group photo is a few of my office colleagues.

Monday, November 21, Official Festival day was great fun and full of unexpected adventures—namely a fire in the stage footlights!

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What is also fun… note in the right photo, that the LCD projector is balanced on top of a bucket, a computer bag, and then my wooden kitchen cutting board.

The image on the screen was perfect, once the smoke cleared from the stage!

After the little mishap, on to the Festival and what talent was represented.  My photos can only capture some of the wonderful wheelchair dancing, the singing and the dance routines.  GREAT fun for everyone.

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The opening numbers

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The young lad to the right, Maxim, won the Best overall in the competition.   He sang a ballad about the war of 1854; he sang flawlessly and without incident.

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Some of my “dinner partners” performing.

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More of my young dinner partners performing, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.

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Celebration time!

My Tuesday art activity for the children/families was a paint your own Christmas tree ornament or refrigerator magnet.  Just like the holiday cookie decorating parties of my youth, decorating ornaments with paint and glitter and “stuff” is great fun for all ages.   Christmas trees are everywhere here and are really New Year's Trees so making ornaments for a tree was a big success.  I took with me 125 premade forms for Christmas trees, snowmen, gingerbread “people”, stars, and bells.   I returned home with 10 blank unpainted forms!

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My thanksgiving celebration with my friends began in earnest on Friday, Nov. 25 when we started cooking for 23 volunteers who would show up for a Thanksgiving feast on Saturday.  Twelve of us cooked and chopped and prepared on Friday and then had a fun Pre-turkey dinner party.   (Photos below… prep team and dinner… Last photo… living proof that cooking is hard work!)

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Saturday, we celebrated with a football game and then a truly fantastic Thanksgiving feast complete with two turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, salads, cranberry relishes, mushroom casserole, deviled eggs, lots  of beverages, and then three kinds of pie- pumpkin, cherry and apple.

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And we did all of thanks to my PC pals in Luhansk – Amy and Wyoming.  We each have a kitchen which is about 6 x 9 MAX.   Amy and Wyoming transported  a cooked turkey, stuffing, salads and other food for Saturday night on Saturday afternoon on the local buses!!!  You can imagine the stories that are being told about those Americans who carried a cooked turkey on a bus…. where were they going????? 

I am truly thankful for my California kitchen!   AND I am really blessed to have so many fun, wonderful friends here in Luhansk with me.

Bring on the next set of Holidays in December!!!

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