It’s hard to believe that as I type, I have three days left in Luhansk, which means my worthwhile adventure is coming to an end!
Since my last posting, the weather has taken a full turn to summer! The trees are green, the tulips have bloomed, the lilacs are in full bloom everywhere and the temperature is a warm 82F.
And what better way to celebrate the summer-like weather than to have a barbecue. Shashlik (Americanization of шашлик) is THE word for barbecue here and so my cooking club and our English Talk Club had one last cooking adventure before my departure! We had excellent food and super weather. But the best time was provided by my Peace Corps friend, Cary Bolnik, who introduced an American Water Balloon toss to our Ukrainian and Iraqi friends. VERY SUCCESSFUL!
1 and 2) Cary giving directions about the Water Balloon toss 3) My partner Artiom- the tall guy!
The teams “tossing” and the last two two teams standing (and dry)
Shashlik and the cooks: Andrew, Alexey and Yuri
Enjoying the Shashlik!
1) A little bit of home with the Shashlik: KC Barbecue sauce and a Bears Football. 2) Caroline and Crystal taste testing!
The Shashlik Gang!
I have been busy at work: two more seminars about American Public Service Announcements! We presented to groups of journalists (TV and print) from our Oblast and other cities and also to Journalism students.
1) Alexey – blind lawyer from Kharkiv talking about responsibility of the media 2) CLM in the audience 3) CLM and the Panel of speakers
1) CLM and her translator 2) my presentation on the screen
I had my final tutor session with my young adult students- wonderful group.
Anton, CLM, Sasha, Olga and Katya
And then I had one last visit to Sister Olga at her new orphanage. I had donations to take to her and I wanted to see her new orphanage, which is about a kilometer from the Russian border. Sr. Olga takes care of five orphans (all with different levels of disabilities) and now she has plenty of space and many rooms to house, to teach and to feed her children. Yes, I have lots of information about how to help Sr. Olga when I am back home in the USA.
Sr. Olga showing me the “boys room – to be” and Aloysha and Dim building the new donated bunk beds for the children
1) Sophie, Sasha, and Tanya showing me the young girls room 2) Volya and Tanya 3) Volya and Sr. Olga
The finished chapel and the huge kitchen area- still being remodeled
1) Sr. Olga with Misha (blind) 2) Sophie ready for naptime 3) the garden planted by the children
And between work seminars, I traveled to see other Peace Corps volunteers in the area. I went to visit my friend Amy Woodstock in the town of Staribelsk (Старибелскь) and help Amy with a one day girls’ leadership camp.
The one-day campers
My friend Amy – in action!
I also visited my Peace Corps friend, Hailey Spencer, in the town of Molodogvardeyst- ( ) a coal mining town south of Luhansk. We had a great walk around her the outskirts of her town; the objective of our walk was the “Black Lake”… which really is black!
1) The town of Molodogvardeyst and 2) the road leave “Molo” for the next town. 3) Looking toward the Black Lake and "air pollution”
The Cemetery for the next town and a picnic table at a gravesite. Ukrainians visit their deceased relatives on the Sunday after Easter.
1) A sink hole along our walking route 2) Wild Flowers – wild poppies 3) A view of our destination- The Black Lake
The Black Lake and the shore line of the Black Lake
1 and 2) Hailey and CLM posing for the camera– something Ukrainians do for all photos! 3) the source of the black sludge….
1) The Blue Lake on the left, the Black Lake on the Right 2) The Blue Lake
On Saturday May 5, Kentucky Derby Day, my friend Amy Quick, her Ukrainian friend Yuri and his mother asked me to join them on a day long adventure. We visited a church that was built on the site of a very famous spring, about an hour from Luhansk city center.
1) Yuri’s mom, Yuri and Amy at our picnic stop 2) American Gothic Ukrainian style
1) The road and the sign for the church 2) The church in the woods famous for the water in the spring
(I was not supposed to take pictures of the site!)
After visiting the spring and collecting four liters of the special spring water, we drove on to the horse farm built by Catherine the Great in the later 1780’s. Absolutely fabulous site, sadly in need of lots of love (and money), but historically interesting and the current administrator and his wife are delightful people. They gave our small group a terrific tour of the facilities.
1) The entrance to the horse farm 2) An old oak tree and old fountain
Two views of the Administrator’s house/office – built during Catherine the Great’s reign when the farm was built
A small cottage that now houses a small museum of trophies and photos of the horses from the turn of the century 1890/1900.
1) An invitation for one of famous horses in 1960 to compete in the Washington, DC International
2) The current administrator autographing a book he wrote about the history of the horse farm.
I will be able to practice my Russian!
1) A model of the farm- the buildings are in the shape E I I – for Ekaterina (Russian for Catherine) II
2 and 3) the base and outside of the “E” – main stables. The horse farm once housed 1000 horses!
1) A view down the long part of the “E” corridor with stalls on both sides. 2) My friend Amy meeting a resident.
1) The center of the “E”- the auction and sales hall. 2) The top end of the “E” building.
Looking at the interior courtyard—the inside area of the “E” building
1) More residents enjoying the outside sunshine 2) the first of the “I” buildings- which houses the brood mares and foals
Moms and foals (all one month old) in the three photos above
1) A two-month old foal 2) an orphan. Too bad my suitcase is too small. He is cute!
The exhibition and training hall. (the “.” in the EII model). The building is the original wood, from trees in Siberia. Very cool structure.
The central core supports the entire roof. Reminds me of the shaft of an umbrella!
Looking back at the base and mid-point of the “E” building
1) A small snack after our tour 2) Oops—forgot the vodka..which was hiding in the model of the church
1) Our hosts, the administrator and his wife 2) Amy is so happy as she has an autographed book, too!
After our wonderful tour, the administrator took us out to the countryside… literally driving in the fields…. to go Marmot hunting and wildflower hunting.
1) We found LOTS of marmots in the field. 2) And even a lizard living in a marmot hole
1) The car – turning around in the fields after the marmot hunt and the flower hunt. 2) The tractor track that we drove on!
The wildflowers and a bouquet for Yuri’s mom.
Tomorrow is a holiday- VE day in Europe, Victory Day here- when the Russians beat the Germans in WWII. It’s a huge holiday- parades, festivals, concerts- the works. Thursday, I do my final packing and cleaning as a new Peace Corps volunteer will be moving into my apartment. Friday is my last day at work. Saturday, May 12, I take my last overnight train from Luhansk to Kiev.
It will be very hard to say good bye to my colleagues and friends. BUT I know it isn’t really good bye, it is just “until we meet again.”
My Ukrainian work colleagues—really my Ukrainian family
My next blog will be from CAROLINE – RETURN PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!!! (RPCV)
Thank you all for everything you have done to help me with this adventure!
Lots of love to everyone.