seeing as I have a final tomorrow... I'm posting.

I have just one day left as a student at THNPU. All that is left of my life as a Ukrainian university student is our final exam tomorrow morning, which is made up of a two hour written test as well as an oral interview with our professor Laryssa. Obviously, I should be cramming for this. Which is why I felt the need to update my blog... as always, I would rather do anything but study.

Consider this just a brief update on the past few days:

- a day trip to Кам Янець Подільский (Kamyanets Podilsky) I posted a few photos the other day, but they hardly do the scenery any justice.

- Class until 11:30, and spent my afternoon between a doctor's office and a Ukrainian hospital. I had hurt my ankle last week and kept walking on it... didn't think that it was anything to worry about. Turns out it was sprained. (This, of course, is the edited version of a much longer story! Which may or may not be posted later...)

- Took the train from Ternopil to Lviv to meet Miri, another student from UW who will be working with Jessica and I at the Internat until August.

- An average day at the універсітат - classes, another test, tutorials, and another hour of Пусанка! Afterwards Alison and I bought bus tickets for our upcoming excursion to Івано-Франківськ (Ivano-Frankivsk).

- Laryssa prepped us for our final tomorrow... I'm nervous...! Ira and I took the bus downtown to check in with the doctor who had assessed my ankle on Monday. I came home and had a gloriously long nap, ate dinner, and had a surprise call from my mom (Slava's reaction was priceless). Jessica just walked in the door, I'm assuming she is here to make me study for tomorrow... or at least procrastinate with me.

Thanks for reading! *


overwhelmed, to say the least.

Truthfully, I should not be posting anything right now - I should be studying for my Ukrainian test tomorrow morning. But since I'm being truthful and all, I'll admit that I am having an incredibly difficult time focusing on vocabulary and verb conjugation. My head is still spinning, in a variety of ways, from our first Internat experience.

Jessica and I boarded the bus to a small village just outside of Ternopil. Our tutor Oksana (an amazing help!) accompanied us, acting as a translator/mediator between the two of us, Irina (the fourth or fifth Irina that I have met in my two weeks in Ukraine!), and the girls who swarmed around us constantly.

Several girls immediately latched onto the two of us, before we even walked into the courtyard. As we were given an introductory tour, both Jess and I had at least one girl holding our hand or clinging onto one of our arms the entire time. We will be returning tomorrow morning (after we write our tests) for a 'concertka' that they are hosting. We have one final week left of classes at THNPU and will be working at the Internat daily beginning in June.


a closer look at... the facilities.

Here is a quick "life lesson" for you today... It is amazing what kind of conditions you are able to adapt to in a rather short amount of time. As you can see here, these are the restroom facilities that we visit on a daily basis at the 'universitat.' The toilets on campus are merely holes in the floor.
After being initially grossed out... we dealt with it. I was impressed with our ability to suck it up (and squat! ha ha).



purple писанка fingers.

Our hosts at the 'universitat' have been amazingly gracious thus far, going above and beyond in order for us Canadians to fully experience everything that Ukrainian culture has to offer.
The generousity of our host families is obviously communicated (especially through FOOD!), our tutors have made learning a foreign alphabet and new language much easier, and each afternoon, activities are arranged for us once tutorials are completed.
So far, our afternoon activities have included Monday's boat ride and initial tour of the city, Tuesday's aerobics class and physical training (it was bizarre, hilarious, and grueling), Wednesday's pysanka - писанка - instructions, and Thursday's "mystery" concert (of which I will post pictures and video clips later... if I have the patience to load them!).

писанка (pysanka) is a Ukrainian tradition of painting eggs with beeswax, and there are distinctive traditions within each of the regions ('oblasts') throughout Ukraine. On Wednesday afternoon, a local pysanky artist (pysankist?!) came to the universitat to explain and teach us about this craft. I was fascinated by the deeper meanings behind the colourful designs, and am looking forward to this form of arts&crafts each Wednesday this month.

The process of drawing on eggs is extremely delicate, done with beeswax using a bobby pin or other small surface... very time consuming. I don't usually enjoy things that will consume large amounts of my time; I have a tendency to buzz about and accomplish a few different things at once, probably in an order that would not seem logical to anyone else but me.

So - in this typical 'Jen' fashion - I thought it would be much more 'efficient' (read:faster) if I used my finger in aiding the spoon to scoop my little egg out of the jar of dye. Key word there being DYE. It just so happened to be the purple pysanka dye, the darkest of all the dyes. I dyed my pointer finger писанка purple!

Our pysanka instructor thought I was ridiculous... she kept asking me questions (probably along the lines of, 'What were you thinking, you impatient little Canadian?!') but eventually gave up, laughing. I'll just have to slow it down next week and take my sweet time... 'patience is a virtue.'
(Note: Slava also laughed at me. But then she pulled out these magical lemon ('lay-mohn') salts, scrubbing my hands, and all that is still left of the purple pysanka dye is along the edges of my fingernail.) Also, Jessica had her camera... when I'm able, I'll add pictures of our писанка creations as well as my dyed finger.
PaPa! (bye)


late 'nich' adventures with Slava.

Slava has a sister.
And her sister (I have yet to learn and/or remember her name yet! Terrible, I know... but in my defense, I have had an awful lot to learn in the last four days!) has a grandson, Nazarycik.
Nazarycik has a love for the telephone, and Slava usually gets a call from Nazary (nickname) once or twice a day. She has put me on the phone with him a few times, especially since our eventful afternoon of soccer and my 'tato,' Mr. Rogers. Last night (8:30ish?), she gave me the phone with Nazary excitedly questioning me. Slava then got out our trusty Ukrainian/English dictionary, pointing to a question: 'I would like to extend to you an invitation to my home.'
Laughing, I say "Nich?" (Nich = night). Slava is taking off her apron by this point, putting on her sweater, ready to head out the door. I say "Pa pa" (bye bye) to Nazary... we are off for a visit. Igor (pronounced 'Eehorr') picks us up near the bus stop and off we go, ready to enjoy an evening of fine company.

By the time we get to Nazary's apartment, it is about 9:00. Slava's sister has been cooking (Ukrainians are ALWAYS cooking!) and Ollah, Nazary's mother, has just gotten home from work by the looks of it. Nazary greets me with a handshake, a hug, and broken English - "Hallll ooohhhh Jenneeeeeee furrrrah!" Meanwhile his Grandmother (for simplicity's sake, I'm going to refer to her as 'Babushha' until I discover her name).

Babushka has prepared us a feast. Ollah brings out a bottle of wine ('vah NOH') and five little glasses, about twice the size of a standard Canadian shot glass. Yes, this does include one for little Nazary... after we clink our glasses together in a toast (which happens multiple times over the course of this evening), he sips his little portion of wine, wrinkling his face as if it were poison (yet of course, still begging for more when we are poured another glass!).

We ate bread (slathered in butter and healthy helpings of cheese), a mystery meat (quite delicious, whatever it was), what appeared to be macaroni salad, a salad made up of mixed greens, potatoes (I think I've had potatoes at least twice a day since Sunday), kielbassa, and tort (aka... cake!).
"Yiste, yiste, yiste!" Everytime I paused, Babushka and Slava insisted that I "yiste" (EAT!) much more, no matter what kind of actions I made to portray that I was absolutely, ridiculously STUFFED from "yisting" so much.

Nazary and I played, despite my sleepiness after consuming so much food (and just being wiped out from the daily events, generally speaking). Not surprisingly, he had a mini foosball set, soccer style which kept us entertained. I scored one goal for every six (not exaggerating this!) that he scored on me. I was trying very hard, and was getting embarassed at my inadequacy... We also worked intently on a puzzle, and he helped me practice my Ukrainian alphabet - an excellent little tutor he was.

Before long, it was nearly midnight - and Slava and I needed to walk back to her apartment. I trusted Slava, assuming that we would be safe tramping through the dark streets of Ternopil at this time of night. I offered my arm to her like a gentlman would (please, no laughter) and off we went. We passed many iffy-looking characters, I prayed for our safety. We were back at the apartment within half an hour, and enjoyed our little adventure through the neighbourhood (although Mom, I promise I will not make that journey by my self anytime soon!). Slava had chatted my ear off, and I interjected with one of my 12 Ukrainian words whenever possible. A beautiful friendship is blooming :)


glimpse of Ternopil, just for you.

Ternopil, day III.

Pryvit! (Prih VEET!)
This is Ukrainian for "hi," and we have officially started our language classes at Ternopil's Pedagogical University.

Yesterday, Ira (Iryna) met me at Slava's in order to help me out with Ternopil's bus system... she is a professor at the university, so it was convenient for her to show me the ropes. The ride to the university (or 'universitat') is about 25 minutes, and to ride any bus it costs H 1, 50 (one and a half hrivnya... equal to about 30 cents or so Canadian?).

At 12, we met with the rest of the professors and staff who are involved with us Canadians, as well as our tutors. After announcements and orientation, we had a larrrrrge lunch in the cafeteria and our tutors spent the rest of the afternoon with us, showing us the sights of Ternopil.

One highlight was a boat ride around Ternopil's man made lake... it was H 6 (6 hrivnya, or about a buck Cdn!)... If any of you know the Lonely Island hit song, "I'm On A Boat" well, I was enjoying myself... wearing my flippie floppies while you all be flippin' copies. Haha (Carly, I know you're reading this). We also went downtown, where there are plenty of shops, bars, cafes, etc. as well as a theater. The churches here are incredibly beautiful, from what I've seen so far - it is quite a different landscape than those back home.

Olga, one of our tutors, took the bus home with us and helped us find our apartments (they all look the same!). Ira had written my address down for me, but as my luck would have it, I left it at home. In my room. On my dresser. Thankfully, she had been on the bus already earlier that morning so she remembered where I had gotten on... and I arrived home to Slava with no problems at all, along with Jessica.

Slava's sister was visiting with her grandson, I think that his name is Nazarycik (they each called him something different... so it's kinda hard to play the name game just yet). He's four, and we're buddies now... He looooves soccer, and found a small toy soccer ball that I had packed, which provided us with a solid two or three hours of entertainment.
Another favourite of his was my note for the day (aka the 96 Notes Project). Today I opened a card from Trevor, and it featured Mr. Rogers... Nazarycik kept asking "Tato? Tato?" From what I've gathered this far, 'Tato' is the Ukrainian word for father. I pressed the buttons on the outside of the card, and Mr. Rogers says things like "If you are a human being, you are fancy too" and "Where ever you are in the world, know that you are very special."
Nazarycik runs to get his grandmother and Slava, and all three of them admire the card of my 'tato' ... Mr. Rogers.
I tried to explain that no, this was not my tato! But gave up after they seemed to like this idea, and that I couldn't argue in Ukrainian yet anyways.

Anyways - I must sign off, it is about 2:10 here in Ternopil and we are supposed to meet our tutors at 2:15. I will post more as I am able... again, thanks for your thoughts and prayers, they are hugely appreciated. Much love!


arrived alive!

Hi all - this is a quick update... I have arrived safe and sound in Ternopil, Ukraine and am exhausted. I am unsure as to how reliable the Internet is here in my apartment, so blogs and updates will most likely come in random spurts (just a heads up!).

Jessica and I survived a nine hour flight from Toronto to Vienna, and managed to reunite with Ruby at the airport before our departure! We also spent the first half hour or so unpacking and repacking our baggage, until it was under 23 kgs (I fully believed that I was packing pretty lightly for three months. Nope.). Anyways, we managed to survive the parental goodbyes, I was too excited to be all that sentimental (I mean that in the best possible way, Mom & Dad!) Turns out the girl beside me on my flight (Kristina) was born and raised in Odessa, Ukraine - she was friendly and gave me good advice about who/what to watch out for.

We had a few hours in Vienna before flying on to Lviv, but sadly didn't manage to get out of the airport... The plane to Lviv was tiny and only about half full, giving us plenty of sleeping room (hallelujah! - it was much needed rest).
I was nervous about going through customs in Lviv, mainly because all of the security gaurds/officers were scary, stern, solemn Soviet fellows (kinda intimidating). Turns out it wasn't a problem at all; as soon as we collected our baggage we were met by Olena, who will be our language professor as of tomorrow, along with two of her students (who spoke wonderful English - a relief by that point).

Originally we were supposed to be taking a train from Lviv the rest of the way into Ternopil, but Olena had managed to rent a bus as she was collecting some students from Saskatchewan as well. It was dead silent the entire trip - all 8 (I think) of us were passed out, sound asleep. Our host families then met us at a central station in Ternopil.

I'm living with an older woman named Slava - who speaks absolutely NO English... I guess this just means I'll have to work harder at learning Ukrainian?! I was picked up by her son Igor (? not entirely sure if that is actually his name) and his wife Ira, who teaches at the pedagogical university where our language classes will be held. It was a relief/comfort to be able to speak English with Ira... she acted as translator between Slava and I, and as overwhelmed as I am right now, that aid in the language barrier is something that I am incredibly thankful for.

Not going to lie - I lost it once I started unpacking here... Just started bawling. I can't communicate with Slava, I'm thirsty, I can't call home just yet, and I have no idea where I am or how to figure out this language as the alphabet is entirely new/foreign to me. And, I already missed Jessica... I'm thankful that we have our own host families, as we will each have our own individual, unique experiences over the next few months - but I just needed a hug at that point, and I'm pretty sure that I would have scared Slava and company if I had asked for one. I cannot WAIT to shower and sleep, I'm a dirtbag after all this travel and am smart enough to realize the beauty of sleep... Good night!


Side note #1: I am now 7 hours ahead of y'all back in Ontario ... and will probably be getting a phone in the next few days. Will keep you posted.

Side note #2: I managed to collect more than 96 notes... more than one note per day that I'm abroad. Yes, Jesse, the 'Jump Rope for Heart theory' came through... thanks to Steve Boesveld on having faith in my notes. Ha.

Side note #3: Your thoughts and prayers are INCREDIBLY, undeniably, overwhelmingly appreciated! I am grateful and blessed to have so many awesome people encouraging me in this crazy adventure. You all mean the world to me, thanks for the support this far!


'your mountain is waiting.'

In a few hours, I'll FINALLY be en route to Ternopil, Ukraine.
Rather than try and sort out all of my mixed up feelings and overwhelming sense of excitement right at this very moment (which would be nearly impossible), I'm sharing the wise words of a wise man... Dr. Seuss. Fitting, no?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Dr. Seuss

Congratulations! Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets, Look ‘em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
You’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.

Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t... Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true and hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters?
Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind?

Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…… for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to goor a bus to come, or a plane to goor the mail to come,
or the rain to goor the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!

There are points to be scored.
There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.

Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win 'cause you’ll play against you.
All Alone!

Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go, though the weather be foul
On you will go, though your enemies prowl
On you will go, though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems, whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.
with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby
or Brayor Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!


it's the final countdown.

As always - I've been procrastinating. I haven't had a problem keeping up with this blog until recently... between finishing exams, submitting overdue assignments, working at the bistro, moving back to Caledonia from Waterloo, and finalizing Ukraine details, I've hardly had time to breathe, let alone blog.

So this is me checking in... I'm taking it day by day - of which there are only four until D-Day --- DEPARTURE!

Despite all my running around, that to do list of mine is still far too overwhelming. Somehow I know it will all fall into place in the nick of time. At this point, I'm not even worried... I'm beyond excited and am thinking back to a conversation I had with Joanne, about being a ball of restless, impatient energy. As if I'm on the edge of something bigger than I can understand right now, on the cusp of some major (yet positive) changes. I have high expectations for the unexpected, for what is to come in the days and weeks ahead!

I'm ready.