My first 10 weeks in Ukraine were spent training in a town named Baryshivka. Baryshivka is in Kievskiya Oblast, slightly east of Kiev. I was in a training group with Alex and 3 other volunteers: Ben, David, and Julieann. Peace Corps wanted us to learn Russian, so every week day we had language class for 3 hours. I also had one hour of tutoring with my teacher every week. Natasha was an excellent teacher - very kind and patient. I learned a lot of Russian in just 10 weeks, although I still have a lot more to learn!
Our group also had a great technical teacher, Lena, to help us practice things we will be doing at our work sites. As youth development volunteers, for example, we will be teaching classes in Ukrainian schools. Lena helped us learn more about the school system, and she gave us a lot of advice when we were planning and teaching classes. I co-taught five classes about healthy lifestyles and civics in a 7th grade class at Baryshivka School #1. Our group also planned an after-school activity – an English club – and we taught 10th graders new vocabulary while learning the words to Katy Perry’s song Hot N Cold. Even the boys had fun!
Also during training, we planned and conducted a small summer camp for a group of 6th graders. I taught a couple of lessons about leadership and gender issues, and we played a lot of fun games. Finally, we wrote a small grant and conducted a community project with the money we received. On 1st of June, International Children’s Protection Day, we helped the town with their annual event. Before and after the concert, we led games with the children, painted their faces, and helped them make friendship bracelets. It was fun to play with the kids, and we learned how to organize a community project.
Another thing we did during training was learn about some cultural differences between Ukrainians and Americans. For example, in America, a lot of people are very friendly and smile, or wave, or say hello to strangers when they walk down the street. In Ukraine, people usually don’t smile at strangers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. That was a good thing for me to learn, because otherwise I might think someone was mad, or mean, or didn’t like me if they didn’t smile! We also learned about the history of Ukraine, which helps explain more about Ukrainian culture and customs.
During training, Alex and I lived with a host family in Baryshivka. We lived with a 47-year-old woman, Natasha, and her mother, Babushka. Natasha’s 25-year-old daughter, Yana, lived with us also. They were a great family. Natasha was very patient when Alex and I tried to speak Russian. She listened carefully, and she spoke slowly and clearly. We learned a lot from her! Babushka cooked a lot of delicious food for us. My favorite Ukrainian foods are borsch, blini, and golopsi. The only problem was that we ate too much food every day!
I think training was very helpful, especially while trying to learn Russian. But, after 10 weeks, we were ready to move on to Sofiyivka. I will miss our friends, teachers, and host family, but I’m happy to be finished and working on my own again!