Kara Filius

Heading for the Ukraine in February 2002.

Kara is both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/ .

Kara's page on Deforestation in Siberia.

Oleh Baran's Ukraine Web Page.

The CIA Factbook on the Ukraine.

10 February 2002

Well, here I am, in the Ukraine!!!! I'm in Zhytomyr which is a 3 hour bus ride west of Kyiv (Kiev). Tomorrow we start training and all we're going to be doing is learning Ukrainian and recieving shots, fun, fun, fun. This morning, the whole group went for a walk around town. It's a pretty big city. We went to this neat "little" park and there is a huge suspension bridge over the river and on the other side is all woods where people go camping and have picnics. It started raining this afternoon, but I could sure wear shorts right now! I think I'd really stick out, though. Well, I bought juice today on my own. Wow, can I butcher Ukrainian!!!!!! The trainers are like, yup, you learned Russian in Russia because I pronounce Ukrainian with a really bad Russian accent. I'll learn. They speak Russian and Ukrainain all at once and I don't have a clue when it is one or the other. At least, this keyboard is in English. Well, that's about it for now. I just wanted to let you know that I'm alive and well. Oh, one last thing, I have seen mistletoe-the real thing!!!! It is everywhere and it grows on oak, box elder, and some other trees I haven't quite identified yet.

20 February 2002

I did receive my national park placement and I'd love to give you the name, but I don't have a clue how to pronounce it let alone spell it (it is the biggest one in eastern Europe)! I'll be working with the youth nature center in the town mainly and doing GIS work for the national park. My RM said that it was actually 2 placements so I have to budget my time accord lying. It sounds like it will be fun. I have a sweet cluster, though. I will be doing my internship with the Dovbysh (Doe-bish) Forestry. It's the area forest service and I'll be helping with management issues, maintenance, hunting licenses, and poaching. I think it'll be cool! The village I'm in has (according to rumors) no water or sewer systems. The lady who's in my group is supposed to be working on that. I told her I have my outhouse book with me.

1 March 2002

I have an awesome host family and a cool house! My internship was not very encouraging the first day. I was pulled out of a meeting with the head foresters by the other 4 females that work in the office to drink "tea". I was not a happy camper to say the least! My teaching gig went okay, but the Vice Principal doesn't like the idea of Katrina and me having to teach ten lessons apiece and taking up all of the teacher's time. Oh well. We'll deal. My town is 5000 and my family has one of 3 computers in town. There is no internet access and no central heating or water in town. Only a few houses/apartment buildings have heat and water. Here is the web page for the national park I'll be working at. http://kp.km.ua/tovtry/ I haven't checked out the page yet, so I don't know what's on it. Well, I just wanted you to know that I'm alive and fustrated over not being fluent in Urus (my version of Ukrainian and Russian).

10 March 2002

Well, my life has become very interesting. My internship is on hold at the moment because it seems that the director of the forestry was canned on Monday. So now, from what I'm gathering, my host dad, who's the director of the forest down the street, wants me to come work for him. I could handle that. Tuesday, he took me out 2-trackin' for the afternoon and I had a blast! It was on official business of course. I learned goo-gobs of stuff about forest management and how they view trees and especially animals. I can't even begin to tell you everything that I learned. But I do want you to know that they make a road (using very lose terms for make) and when it becomes impassable, they just drive through a different part of the forest and plant trees in the old road. They seem to drive where ever there is room between the trees for a road. Also, they have a huge population of wild boars and encourage them.

Ready to go two-trackin'.

I taught 2 classes this week-one in 8th form and one in 10th form. It is very hard to tie environmental issues in with American teens and American cities, but I think I managed. I did learn at what stage my students are at as far as the environment is concerned. They could not think/or know where items that they use everyday come from.

I've met both sets of host grandparents and my host dad's brother and his family and friends. Everybody is wonderful! They live about an hour south west of Dovbysh and they live in the regional center. It is really a different world and I like it (not for the long term, however).

17 March 2002

Our training is taking place in Zhytomy, which is about 2 hours west of Kyiv. The city has a population of about 300,000 - 500,000. It is a pretty "rough" city by Ukrainian standards. The people are not use to dealing with foreigners and the service in the shops and cafes reflect that. Everyone in town knows where we are staying and having class. The first weekend in town, 2 of the guys in our group were robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the day, right outside the main department store in town. Then, a week ago, one of the same guys and another guy from our group were harassed at a disco club. Other than that, we have not had any problems.

Training consisted of 2 weeks of classes in Zhytomy and then we were sent to our clusters. We are the second group in Ukraine to do CBT (community-based training). During these 2 weeks, we received a packet of booklets on each site in our field, then we talked to each RM (regional manager) and the Environmental Lead Specialist about the sites we were interested in. Then we had interviews and had to sell ourselves for the site(s) we wanted. I had a great interview, because I covered all of the information they wanted in my little into spiel, so we just chatted about things. Then we had classes for a couple of more days before we were told where we were placed. The same day we were told our placements, we found out what our cluster would be. We received our placements so early in training, because our placement determines which language (Russian or Ukrainian) that we learn in cluster and also what/where our internships would be.
My cluster is Dovbysh and I am learning Ukrainian even though I was told by my RM that I would be learning Russian too in order to function outside of the schools. Training at clusters consists of 3 hours of language every morning and then either teaching a class in the afternoon (English class) or taking walks in the woods and observing forestry practices.

24 April 2002.

Well, I made it! I swore in yesterday, I am now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer (PVC).

The past couple of weeks has been quite interesting. I went Red Book flower hunting with my host family the last weekend I was there. That was soooo exciting! Then Tuesday, when I was waiting to leave my cluster, my host dad came home with 2 huge moose antlers mounted on hand carved wood mounts with inlaid wood and 2 light shades made out of one piece of carved wood. Needless to say, we laughed over how I was going to take them to KP (my site). So, they are going to keep them for me until I leave for the States. That should give me enough time to figure out how to finagle them through customs. I've already figured out that my brother (thank you ahead of time for agreeing to this) can build me a crate out of his scrap lumber and somebody can (Mom and Dad?) can bring it over with them so I can take them home with me.

I've been in Kyiv since Sunday and have spent too much money! I've have Irish, Mexican, and Indian food along with a McDonald's cherry pie. I tried to buy tickets to Sunday's Symphony concert, but it was sold out and I didn't know if my host family was going to show up at swearing in, so I didn't buy any for last night's concert. Oh well, I have 2 years to see them. Kyiv reminds me alot of a mix between Moscow and Helsinki. I'm glad I wasn't posted here. It isn't to my taste.

27 April 2002

What a learning experience. My divan didn't fold into a couch like it was suppose to, my toilet is broken, I needed a new lock on my door, and my door to the balcony didn't shut. So the guys discussed and discussed and I know how to fix the stuff, but I had no tools. Finally, the divan works (sort of), the balcony door shuts right, and I have a new lock on my door. Now, I have to deal with them plus some other guy on Monday when they are going to fix my toilet and kolunka. However, I'm going to add to the headache, because when I was doing my dishes this afternoon, I realized that I was flooding the floor (and probably the downstairs neighbor's). I have a hole in one pipe and who knows what's wrong with the rest of the pipes under the cabinets.

Needless to say, I really feel like crying at the moment. I don't really like my apartment because it is all brown and yellow and it seems like I'm having one problem after another and I have no rugs on the floors, and the kitchen reeks of fried cabbage and old butter. There, that helped! I also don't like the silence. I need a radio or tv or something for noise.

So, now that I have that out of my system, Julie, the other PCV in town, and myself have decided I have the best view in the country from my windows. I am slowly adding things to make my apartment more comfortable and I will differently be in a better frame of mind once I have some work to do. I decided instead of sitting in my apartment by myself this evening and wondering what the heck I've gotten myself into, that I'd find the internet place and buy some juice.

13 May 2002

Well, life has certainly been interesting! I've survived my first 2 weeks at site and still have my sanity (sort of)!

For your information, my toilet still isn't fixed or my kolunka (and probably will not be for the next 2 years) and now, I've discovered that I have cockroaches in my kitchen, hmm, not very surprising! Oh well, at least my apartment is feeling a little more welcoming.

Kara in front of the park office.

So, now, I have a little work for the national park. I have a bunch of books to read on management practices and identification books. They want me to create and publish an identification book for the flora (plants) of the park, assist with new management plans, participate in an international conference with the world Historic society (I think that's the right name) on making the old town and canyon a world cultural historic site, do some research in the park and publish it, and rumor has it, develop ecotourism for the city and park. I'm not holding my breath with any of this, but it would all be cool!

17 June 2002

Lots has happened in the past few weeks. First of all, A bunch of PCVs came to K-P and we went caving (once was enough) and then I attended a couple of seminars with the national park and my workthere is taking off. Then, my kolonka was fixed because my Regional Manager (RM) told the center that she was staying in K-P until it was fixed-simply amazing how fast something can be fixed in this country when the incentive is there!

This past week, I've had meetings with the US-Ukraine Foundation for working with them, the city administration, and the national park on tourism. I think I at least showed them that they have to have the park involved from the beginning. We'll see this coming week, how things go, since the US delegation will be in K-P. I now have Project Learning Tree and Project Wet certification. I had a very nice b-day. They bought me a cake at the afternoon break at the conference and then almost all of the people from my group that were at the conference took me out to supper at Friday's (yes the Friday's from the state), then we were invited over to the office manager's apartment, so we went over there for a while, and then we went back to the center and watched American Pie 2. I got a flower id book for southern europe and a can of macadamia nuts from Hawaii.

Later in June.


National Park
I have had a meeting with Ludmilo, my coordinator for that site, and we have discussed what she would like to work on. She wants me to write/design an identification book on the flora of the park. Ludmilo gave me different books to read on different types of management in Europe, since she wants me to help the park with their management plans. The books are very interesting and informative. I have been reading those, taking notes, and writing down questions. There is going to be an international conference with UNESCO in June and Ludmilo along with the director of the pack, wants me to participate. This conference is about making the old town and canyon a world heritage site. They want me to connect the ecology center more with the park through field trips. I am also supposed to compare US and Ukrainian national parks and offer up suggestions on how to improve the parks here. She also wants me to think of some projects of my own that I would like to do with the park. The last item that she wants me to work on is learning the language.

Logging Safety in the Ukraine.
I have worked this past week with the park and everyone is receptive to me being there and the director has expressed his desire for me to help in any way I can. He has also approached me about helping with the GIS program. I have expressed interest and am in the process of setting up a meeting with him to further discuss the project.

Ecotourism Project:

I was approached by the US-Ukrainian Foundation, which is a branch of USAID, to help with the ecotourism initiative their partnership program has created between Athens, GA, and Kamyanets-Podilski. At the time, I mentioned that I was interested. I have talked with Julie, the other PCV in town and she has been in contact with the gentleman who is the local tourism bureau. I have done some preliminary research and the park and the community seem to be open to the idea. I need to confirm that the project is okay with the park.

People from Athens will be in town on June 15-24 and I am supposed to meet with them and the city leaders to discuss how Julie and I can help them and how they can help us. I think this may be a good secondary project and there may also be a thesis in there. However, it is too early to tell what is going to happen. I will be meeting with the deputy director of the foundation and the person organizing the meetings next week for a preliminary meeting.

Caving and Locks.

We went to this cave an hour south of town to go caving. It began by climbing up this cliff to reach the cave entrance. By climbing I mean no harness, wedge your toes into rocks and pull yourself up a rope. Once inside the cave, we spent the majority of the time on our stomachs wriggling through little tunnels. Yes, more than one of us (myself included) would become stuck and have to be pulled out. At one point, on the way back out, we had to climb up this slippery cliff by having people hang on to our arms and pull us up while we tried to find foot holds. Several times, the thought that I just might die crossed my mind. The scary thing (after the fact) was that we were in there with no map and two Ukrainians we did not know and the only person who knew we were there was the mini-van driver who did not know when we were coming back out.

Atlantis Cave.

Needless to say, we all made it out alive and had fun. I will be adding it to my "once is enough list".

Colin stayed with me that weekend, so I took him to the bus station the next morning. When I arrived back home, I could not open my top lock on my door. My neighbor lady tried and she could not open it either, so she called her husband out. He also could not open it. He, then, disappeared for a bit and reappeared with a hammer and a chisel. He proceeded to tear off the outside of my door frame and then shoulder his way through my door. So here I am, in Ukraine, but myself, with enough stress as it si, with my neighbor breaking into my apartment right in front of me! I wanted to cry and go home! Then, he fixed my lock, thank you Colin for playing with the wrong part of the lock! - and then nailed my door back together. I think they knew I was ready to flip so they invited me over for breakfast. I spent over an hour with them.

The Fortress in Kara's town.

I now know how to break into my apartment and I have neighbors that are very nice (and also know how to break into my apartment). Hmm….the things one experiences in PC!!

22 July 2002

I am working full time with the national park and having a blast!!! I am learning a lot and making a lot of friends. They are all very nice. This is not to say that I have not ran into any cultural/work differences, because I have, but we have and are working through them and they are not a big deal.

I have spent the past 2 weeks on the other side of the country (remember, it is the size of Texas). It took me 30 hours on the train with a 16 hour lay-over in Kyiv to arrive in Donetsk Oblast (state, in our terms). My longest train ride was over 18 hours and it was on a Russian train. Needless to say, I did not enjoy the ride due to the cockroaches crawling all over me for the whole time and sitting in a puddle of my own sweat (I am NOT kidding!!!!!). Upon arrival, I was informed by the PCV's (Tim) girlfriend (Kelly) that I would have to wait another 4 hours for water. Which, for your information, never did come on even though the city fountain across the street worked the whole time. Hmmm... Anyways, we left for camp in the Holy Mountains National Park with 13 ninth graders for 8 days and had a great time. I taught 2 lessons on forestry (how to identify trees using identification books and how to measure trees along with a brief introduction to insects and fungi), 2 lessons on GPS (Geographical Positioning System), and assisted Tim and Kelly with their lessons on insects and birds. The area is very beautiful, however the forests are in desperate need of help. People are cutting down all of the regeneration, so the forests are not growing back and there are high levels of infestation and disease due to the hacking off of tree limbs for camp fires and digging holes to go to the bathroom in. Then I had a shorter (and nicer) train ride home with a shorter lay-over in Kyiv.

When I arrived home this past Wednesday, I found my bathroom covered in an inch of water. My toilet had decided to leak while I was away. How nice of it!!!! At least it did not go through to my neighbors below me. So, I have been limiting my water use. Theoretically, it should be fixed tomorrow evening and my apartment should have new wall paper and other little things fixed in it. Wow, my new RM is coming on Saturday to see where I live and work, so my coordinator told my landlady and she is going to fix everything. I am not holding my breath, however. Once again, it is simply amazing what happens when the right incentive is there!

I was very industrious this weekend, I have screens over my windows and a new fan. I also spent time with PCVs who had lay-overs in K-P and ate lots of pizza.

So, my plans are to be here for a few weeks and then maybe head over to Lviv, Ushgorod, and Kosiv in the Carpathians for a while with Kelly, Sarah, and Holly. Then it's back to Kyiv for my language refresher. I love trains! ;)

18 October 2002

I've been super buisy between going to Kyiv in August for language classes, hanging out in the town south of me (once), going to Kyiv for a GIS training seminar for the park, going to work, going to language lessons, and attempting to work on the internet.

I did do a day of sight-seeing in Kyiv, but only managed to see one church and some gardens and the palace. It was very nice. The weekend I spent in Chernivtsy was spend mostly at the bazaar with Colin and another PCV while they picked out a cat. Then my training thing was fun and I had a baked potato with butter, cheese, and a flat meatball. Very good! Now, I need pizza-hopefully next weekend when Colin and Cindy come! Cindy is COSing next week and Colin is who had my stuff when I first came to site. Oh, I almost forgot the 2 highlights- first, I met the ambassador this past Sunday. This was a disatster, but I survived and now everyone in town thinks I'm a lonely PCV who needs a boyfriend (not that they didn't think that I needed a boyfriend before, but now they have their reasons). All because the ambassador's interpeter called the wrong number. The joys of a different language and culture! I also went to hear Vuila(?) play at the Polish church. The church has one of the best organs in Europe and it was a very nice organ concert. So nice, that I am going to see if I can meet with the music school people next week and go play the piano!

Other than that, it has been kind of gray here. Everyone began burning their fields, gardens, and yards at the end of July until the rains came in September. The smoke was so bad that I could not see the next apartment building down the hill and the sun set 2 hours early. Yesterday was the first day without rain, in I don't remember how long. It is suppose to be nice all weekend-I want to go to the forest sooo bad, but there is no public transportation, so instead, I'm going to go dig up the park next to my place. I need to plant some house plants and that is the only place where I can find soil.

I did go to my teacher's dacha a couple of weekends ago for the day. It was very nice. I picked some raspberries and she sent them home with me, so I made a small container of jam out of them. I'm becoming pretty good at whipping up a batch of freezer jam, if I do say so myself!

Early October 2002 - Excerpts from Quarterly Report.

National Park:
My main site has been switched to the park, after talking with my RM and the Environmental Lead Specialist. This happened at the Environmental Sector Conference in the middle of June. By the end of June, I was officially switched. The director and my coordinator were especially happy, along with the rest of the staff. I have continued reading and taking notes on the European Management books and attended the UNESCO conference which was actually a summary of research findings that was funded by a group from UNESCO.

Ukrainian Lessons:
I have lessons for 1.5-2 hours 2-3 times a week and the past month I feel as if it is beginning to sink in. My tutor has taken me to her datcha twice, on walks around the canyon for day lessons on the environment. We discuss land use, farming practices, environmental issues, and even a lesson on which mushrooms are edible, among other items. She does not speak any English.

Environmental Education:
I taught 2 lessons in forestry to 9, 10, 11 form (grade) students in the Holy Mountains National Nature Park in Dontsk oblast as part of all the Environmental Careers Camp. My first lesson focused on tree identification, different habitats, and why trees grow where they do. My second lesson was on measuring the DBH and height (with homemade clinometers), then I discussed insects and fungi and their roles in the forest. I also assisted with the GPS class (took half of each group of students our and taught them how to use the units and discussed how they worked.) I also assisted the entomology classes by helping set up insect traps and discussing the different insects we found in them. I assisted the Naturalist class by helping students identify birds and what I knew of their lives. One night, all 5 of us PCU's took the students on a night hike where we pointed our night birds, discussed night vision, had a scent jar game, and I discussed how to tell the difference between stars and satellites and further explained why GPS units worked better at different hours depending on where the satellites were in the sky. The students seemed to better understand the concepts when they could see them moving and how they would be close together and then none. This type of teaching is better than dealing with a school or center, but it is still not my cup of tea.

GIS Project:
I have met with the staff at the Ukrainian Land and Resource Management Center (ULRMC). We discussed a partnership with them and the park. They are interested and so is the park. The park has a to-do list of items from the meeting and things I have observed at the park or read about. I have obtained a copy of ArcView 2.0 for training purposes for the park and am in the process of contacting possible funding sources. The director wanted immediate results, but he has since realized that this is a long term project. However, I have inadvertently landed myself in a competition with the governmental department people who are working on the park's current GIS project. They are using the Ukrainian program DIGITALS and swear it is better than any Western program.

Sign Project:
The director has asked me to find funding for the signs in the city center about the park. They need to be updated and expanded. The city is going to take them away, if the park does not do something and then charge the park for new ones to be put up. I, personally, believe this would be a great community relations project. However, I have not talked directly with the director yet, so I have not worked alot on this.

18 December 2002

I have had some exciting things happen to me, like my outlet catching on fire (it's now fixed and my apartment is fine) and just last week, my kolunka exploded with fire and a loud boom that shook everything (I'm fine and so is my apartment, though, I think it will be fake showers until I leave).

That's the exciting things. Other than that, I've been going to Ukrainian lessons, checking my email once a week, and sitting at the park wondering what is up. My lessons are keeping me sane and I have lunch at least once a week at my tutor's and she makes sure I'm fed and I have homemade food. This week's food was apricot preserves and cherry raspberry juice. Yum! I have found out that all of the information that I have been working on for the park's database was already in the computer. It is even in a spreadsheet. This was nice news, since I had been working on it since August and then when I found out it was already created, I had a headache. What even made it worse was that all 9 pages of the information was entered into one row, none of the columns match up, and the file is so big and the computer is so old that it takes 5 minutes for the computer to just move a line down. So, I'm not sure what to do with that.

Colin and his expat friend, Frank came up to my place for Thanksgiving weekend. We went to a new little village and ate a lot of food! I had a good time and I'm glad that they came.

Well, I was in Gorlivka (where I had camp this past summer) for Thursday-Sunday. I rode platzcar there. 20 hours on a bunk that had 2 feet of space above it before the shelf. That was not fun. Then Tim and Kelly picked me up in Donetsk and we went straight to McDonald's. First time since September! I had a McChicken meal, cherry pie, and a chocolate shake. My stomach was very happy!!! Then we caught the minivan to Tim's. He lives in the dorms now. Cockroaches and all! So I stayed in this other PCV's dorm room-he was gone for the month. We then watched 2 movies and went to bed. Then, on Saturday, we took bucket baths (no hot water), watched 3 movies, went grocery shopping, made chili, tacos, spaghetti, and pizzas. I was a very happy camper! Then on Sunday, we went to the ecology center and had our little party and they presented the bread and towel to us. That was very cool! Then we went back to Tim's and grabbed our stuff and jumped on a minivan to Donetsk. First it was to McDonald's and then Tim and I dropped Kelly off at the bus station and then we met Eric (another PCV) and he took us to this cafe were we chatted for a couple of hours and then we walked around town for a bit. We ended up at his place were we crashed for the night. The next day, all of us felt sick, so they missed their lessons and later, I took a taxi to the train station and caught the train to Kyiv. I think the guy on the train has TB. He smelled like he was dieing and sounded like it, too. So, if I test positive for it, I know where I got it from! Then, I went book shopping yesterday and had fried chicken for lunch. I spent the night at the hotel and today I've been catching up on email and learning a lot of inside info. So, I have to catch the train tonight for KP.

Then, I'll be there for a couple of days and then I'm off to see Colin, since he's having a bunch of people over and then we are leaving for L'viv on the day train for X-mas. After xmas, I'm off to my host family until after orthodox xmas. I'm going to work with my host dad. YEA!!!

Late January 2003

I went to Gorlivka in Donetsk Oblast where I was at camp this past summer. I was there for a little gathering and the students presented Tim, Kelly, and I with the traditional bread ceremony. That was really great (all 3 of us cried). Then Tim and I saw Kelly off in Donetsk and we met up with Eric (another PCV) and spent the night at his place and they saw me off the following day. Then, I spent 2 days at my place doing laundary and X-mas shopping. Then I took a taxi to Chernivtsy and spent 2 days there with Colin and Lisa and Gregg from Donetsk. We walked around and watched movies and just hung out. It was great. Then the four of us plus Frank (an expat) hopped on the day train to L'viv and we were there in 6 hours. It was a beautiful ride!!! It is very humid here, so when it is around zero, the frost builds on the trees and they are all white. We had a walking tour of the city which was good, but it could have been a tad bit warmer. I think when my parents come this summer, we'll do that. Then, I made beef veggie soup and Jen's garlic bread for X-mas eve supper for 20 people. That evening I spent in the kitchen making bar cookies and fudge. The next day I just hung out and we opened presents. I received a 2003 mug, 2 candles and a holder, and one of those glass musical balls with snow in it. Only this one, when you turn on the music, the windmill in it starts up and santa is in the middle of a snow storm. It's cool. Everyone just hung out all day. Then, the next day, I said bye to people and then after almost everyone had left, Emily, Rosanette, and I went to the arts and craft bazar. I bought some easter eggs. They orginated in Ukraine. Then, I went to the bus station and almost missed my bus. I stood there and a bus pulled in. I stood there some more and then decided I'd go ask what platform I was suppose to be at. The lady told me the one next to this bus. Well, I went back down there and waited some more. Then, when the bus went to pull out, I realized that my ticket was to the airport in Kyiv and that it was my bus. So I ran up to it yelling and the driver had to stop and put my pack under it. I was shown my seat by the attendant (this is a private bus company and it is very nice). The guy I was sitting next to was very drunk and decided that he had to talk to me in his 5 words of English. I tried to ignore him and after an hour he finally figured it out. He also kept trying to put his jacket on me telling me that I was cold. The bus was very hot. Needless to say, I was happy when he fell asleep.

I arrived in Zhytomyr a 5 am and had to wait until 9 for the bus to my host family's. When I arrived in Dovbysh, I went to Mama's work and she called Papa who came and picked us up. We had lunch and I found out that my brother had his appendix removed 2 weeks earlier and that Papa was the new director of the forestry that I was suppose to intership at during training. I basically slept 12 hours a day and was sick. I thought to myself, yup, I'm home! (That's all I do when I'm in the States on break from school.) We went to Mama's parents one evening because they were celebrating the slaughter of a pig and we had fresh meat. That was interesting and tasty. I also met Mama's brother and brother-in-law. We went 2-tracking one day and saw another forestry's deer farm. They have one European deer (someone poached the other) and 26 little deer (I don't know what they're called). We also checked for wild boar tracks and deer tracks at the feeding stations. Then, we spent 3 days in Kyiv at Mama's brother's. This was for New Year's. I met my cousins, aunt, and her mother. That was fun. I received a hand painted candle globe holder from Grandfather Frost. Then I had a chat with Papa one day and he told me that I had to do my research with him, so he called up one of the foresters and we went on a 3 hour hay ride and talked shop. It was wonderful. We then went and spent a couple of days at Mama's parents because her brother and his family along with one of my other cousins was there for Orthodox X-mas (January 7). Babushka gave me 6 china plates that match the 2 cups she had given me earlier. We also spent several hours with Papa's parents and then went to his brother's family for the evening. Then we went back home. I left a couple of days later.

I spent 2 weeks at my place and my tutor and I went for a walk through the dendropark in town. There were dead gracks (big, black birds) everywhere. I think they froze to death. This past Sunday, we went to this other part of town-the Polish region and Tanya was bitten by a dog. They have a saying that if a girl is bitten by a dog, that she will marry soon. So, I spent all week teasing her about that.

Spring 2003 - Kara changes sites.

I'm alive and doing well. I've moved and will not be settled in for quite awhile.

I'm living in Khmelnetski, which is 2.5 hours north of where I was and is my oblast's capital. I'm working with the city's Ecology Department and the Nature House, a NGO that holds programs about the environment. I'll be teaching 2 classes at Nature House and the majority of my time will be with the ecology department, working with the other PCV there. I'll be doing an inventory of all of the trees in all of the city's parks. However, right now, I'm assessing 4 parks to figure out what species of trees to plant and where for Earth Day on April 19. I have to write a proposal for this and have it approved by the Mayor and other people. I'm also the other PCV's interpeter! So far, it's been fun.

7 May 2003 - Easter Break Trip.

Then we did end up going to Crimea! Scotty, Linda, and I ended up on the last train out of Kyiv that still had tickets available. It was the slow train to Simferopol-22 hours (only runs for summer and Easter). The fast train does it in 16. So, we ended up paying 60 greevs each for a triple room at the PC hotel in Kyiv for Friday night, since we didn't speak to our RM fast enough, other wise, he would have paid for it. Oh well. I also did not end up sending in my grant application because the computer ate it Friday afternoon and I did not find out until Saturday morning, 4 hours before the train left. So, needless to say, I was a very upset little girl! We loaded our stuff on the train and found out that we had a commander in the military for a compartment mate. The ride was very long, because the guy had never been able to talk to Americans before, so he wanted to talk about everything! My poor head hurt so badly from trying to follow him and Scotty and Linda basically do not speak any Ukrainian, so I was their interpreter for the whole trip! I kept telling him my Ukrainian was better than my Russian, but he didn't remember any Ukrainian, so he kept talking in Russian, very fast and not enunciating on top of it. Then, we had to discuss everything from what we eat-they all think we go to the store for every meal and buy microwave meals or go to McDonalds and that none of us know how to cook-to cars and car parts. Well, at one point, I got up in the middle of his sentence and walked out on him. I know this was rude, but I just couldn't handle it anymore. I needed some breathing time!

So, we arrived in Simferopol on Sunday morning, which was Orthodox Easter. The PCV who was suppose to meet us, wasn't there, so we bought tickets for the electric train to Sevastopol and hung out at McDonalds' patio until it left. That was a beautiful 3-hour ride through the Crimean Mountains! We passed lots of really neat things! Then we found Tom's place and we dropped our stuff and went downtown to the boardwalk for the rest of the day. We had our one-year at site celebration at this very expensive restaurant. It was very good food!

Monday was sightseeing with Tom around town ferris wheel and ferry rides across the bay, I even went wading in the Black Sea! Tuesday, we went to Balaklava and hiked up the mountains! Also, there is the mountain that the submarines hide inside of, so we saw where they go in and out. That was cool!! We went with Tom and his girlfriend. We spent all day there. We also saw lots of jellyfish along the harbor wall that had four circles on their backs. Wednesday, Tom had a hike with his class to 2 different cave cities in the mountains, so I went with him. That was an all day thing and it was really awesome! It was a little too hot for dress shoes, jeans, and a long sleeved shirt, so I was doing my usual I'm going to die thing! We saw salamanders, endemic and endangered flowers, and sweet places that people use to live in the caves. I had a great time! Then, on Thursday, us three ladies decided to do Yalta by ourselves. We arrived there fine. We went to the botanical gardens in a neighboring city. Then went back to Yalta and walked around a bit, went on a sky lift ride over the city (at several points, we could touch trees, roofs, and electrical lines), and managed to buy tickets on the last bus out for the night. It was so good there, that we decided to go back on Friday. So, we left early and finished walking around the city and then went to the next town to the palace and walked around there and went on a tour of the palace. Then we found our way back to Yalta. We thought we would take the ferry ride down the coast to a city about half-way back, however they were all sold out, so then we went to the bus station only to find out that there was not a bus ticket left to anywhere. So we started talking to taxi drivers, but they wanted $25 or more, and we told them they where rip-offs! So, we ended up on a minibus to the town just past where the ferry would have dropped us off. We figured that the minibus would drop us off on the highway at the top of the mountains, where the buses go and we could flag one of the last 2 or 3 buses to Sevastopol. You would think that 3 adults that have lived in this country for a year would know by now that nothing is ever THAT easy here!!!!!

Presidents Kuchma (Ukraine) and Putin (Russia) were staying in Yalta for the Easter holidays. So, we spent an hour in a road checkpoint to get out of the city. The military was checking everybody-everyone on public transport and in private cars. I told the ladies that the bus driver had better figure out a way to get out of it or we'd be stuck here all night and have to pay a ton of money to leave the city, if they found out they had 3 Americans. The bus driver screamed at them that he was behind schedule and drove right through it. We all breathed easier after that. Then, he dumped us off on the side of the highway and we tried to hail the buses, but since they were so far behind because of the checkpoint, they wouldn't stop, even if they were half-full or empty. We waited in the dark for a half hour after the last bus went past trying to hitch hike (this is common over here, so we were not that worried and if we didn't like what we saw when they stopped, we ignored them). We had no luck, so we decided to walk down the mountain to the town on the shore. We accomplished this with only one tumble-it was in the total dark with no lighting on a pot hole filled road with no curbs or walls between the edge of the road and the edge of the mountain. We arrived at the town, but then had no idea where the one hotel was, so we were walking behind this couple and they stopped to let us pass and I saw that they were an older couple, so I stopped them and asked for directions. They were kind enough to walk us to the hotel. By this time, I was ready for bed! However, there was one taxi outside the hotel and I put on my little tired girl face and asked him to take us to Sevastopol. He took mercy on us and took us for less than what we should have paid! We managed to end up at Tom's 6 hours after we had first tried to leave Yalta! We then left Saturday morning on the only train out of Crimea that we could buy tickets for, which went straight to our city. It was a 24-hour train ride, but we didn't have a compartment mate, so it was a very pleasant ride. The moral of all of this-don't travel on the Easter holidays!

1 June 2003

I’m moved into my new apartment. We spent a week
cleaning it and doing some basic remodeling-tearing
down cockroach infested wallpaper and painting. They
have some cool stuff here that is a type of plaster
that if you water it down a little it works like a
whitewash, but it becomes really hard, so we used that
on the kitchen walls and covered up the roach poop and
dead roaches. We also painted the kitchen floor
bright sky blue! We were at the bazaar and couldn’t
agree on a color of green we both liked, so we settled
for the blue instead. The kitchen is very bright and
cheery now!! Then, Scotty painted the hallway a dark
chocolate brown. We had to hire a truck to move us.
Scotty and I sat in the back on our stuff while going
down the road. We both decided that this whole thing
wouldn’t fly in the States.

Anyway, thank goodness that ordeal is over with! I’m
living with Scotty in a 2-room apartment. This means
that we have a kitchen, bathroom, hallway, and 2
rooms. So, we each have our own room. I like mine,
but I don’t have any drawers, so I have to figure
something out. That’ll be tomorrow at the bazaar.
Our phone has been doing weird things here and we
found out, yesterday, that we have a party line.

I’m trying to cat proof my door and it has
turned into more than I bargained for because the cats
walked right through the screening I had up, so that’s
something else I will have to work on.

whew! I just took my slippers off, and boy, do they
smell!!!!! I’ll have to unbury the baking soda next,
I guess!!!!! Well, things are going along. I gave 5
tours of Nature House (the place where I work)
yesterday and the last group was 25 first graders.
101 more reasons I will never be a teacher! Starting
on Monday, I will be giving tours of the House and
then taking the students over to Dendropark (Tree Park
in layman’s terms) for a nature trail I’ve thought up.
I’ve thought about maybe turning it into a permanent
trail, since I’m working for the department in charge
of the parks in the city. I’ll discuss it with my
coordinator and see what she thinks first. Oh, my
water is ready for my next load of dishes (we broke
the kolunka when we were cleaning, so I’m back to
heating water on the stove!).

1 August 2003

I'm a happy camper today-found a store that has noodle side dish mixes (cheap) and one kilo boxes of chocolate milk mix!!!!!!!!!! Life is looking good!

5 August 2003 (though the whole story actually takes place before the 1 August entry above)

Well, I suppose I should start at the beginning, which is Kyiv with my parents arriving for 2 weeks. They came, late, with lots of problems (that's their part of the story!). I found out the next morning that they were at the airport (after I had been there the day before when they were also suppose to be there), so they had the lovely experience of staying there for 24 hours. (Don't ask why they didn't call PC or the embassy!!!) So, I chatted with my RM who set us up with an apartment a block or so away from the dead center of Kyiv and it was cheaper than the first one we were in and we stayed an extra day. We saw a couple of churches, they were able to see a mass, and the arts and crafts street. Then, the next morning we spent searching for the one and only bank in the country that would exchange Dad's traveler's checks. Then it was off to the bus station to wait for the bus that never showed, so when the following bus came, I told them to not talk and do what I said. I walked up to the driver, asked if we could put our stuff in the back of the mini van and did, flashed our tickets, and climbed on. He never questioned us and we arrived in Zhytomyr in time to buy tickets on the last bus to Dovbysh. Now, this is where they began to experience slight culture shock, which, I must say, I had been anticipating since they said they were coming. The bus to Dovbysh pulls in (think very old) and the mob (literally) congregates. Dad says we're not getting on that bus and I said yes we are, it's the last bus! I told Mom to get in front of me and don't let anyone on in front of her. I'm proud of her, she made it to the middle of the bus! Dad and I were stuck at the front of the bus. Then, a lady starts talking about some chicks that need to go somewhere and another lady volunteers her daughters lap, so this box of baby chickens was passed to the girl next to Mom. The look on Dad's face was worth millions!!!!! Peeping chicks, squished like sardines, old bus, smelly things….

Needless to say, they stood for the 3 hours to Dovbysh (I was lucky and one of the village ladies, who knew me, had her son move and let me sit for the last 13 km). Papa and Denise met us at the bus stop and took us home. We spent 3 whole days there. I took them around the village and the forest and we went 2-tracking twice. Papa took us to this other deer farm in a different forestry, where they have the middle size deer. I had thought that they were extinct, but guess my info was bad. Wow, my head hurt from the time there because I had to translate everything and some of the conversations were really stretching my language abilities. We chatted about hunting, live styles, and other sorts of things. Then, one afternoon, I was highjacked by Papa and we had a several hour long conversation about how the US forest system is set up and regeneration methods and chain of custody, and who's responsible for equipment and who's job is who's. That was deep. It rained off and on the whole time, so my host family was upset because they wanted to do more things with us. Also, Papa had the final review of his annual inventory that weekend, so he was working all the time (they passed with good marks). I did realize Sunday night that I was doing the Ukrainian thing of not telling my parents about things that are normal to me or that I understand, but that they don't. Dad was becoming very agitated at not knowing when the bus left and when we were going to buy tickets and all of this other stuff, while I knew that it left in the early morning and that Papa would make sure we were up and on the bus. I tried to keep them more informed after that, but it was very hard for me to figure out what to explain and what not to. It was also very hard for me to remember that they didn't speak the language just because I'm so use to them understanding things from living with them for so many years. I now have a greater tolerance for non-communication from people that I'm working with. However, my host family gave my Mom a compote set from the local china factory and Dad 2 of Papa's beer mugs from his china set. I think it was great that they were able to meet eachother.

Okay, we got on the bus and the ride to Zhytomyr was not nearly as exciting as the ride from. However, while we were waiting for the bus to Khmelnitsky, I saw 2 Americans and one of them was Colin. He had been visiting his host family with his family and they were on the same bus as us. We also ended up siting right in front of them, so we played musical chairs and chatted about things. It only took us 4.5 hours to get to town, so we took the trolley bus home and chatted with Tolik, who showed up to feed the cats, and had left over birthday dinner (from my b-day, it was in the freezer) and went to bed.

The next day we went to the 2 places where I work and met my one coordinator, rode the ferris wheel, took them through the food bazaar, and had supper with Karen and Linda at the jail bar (the bar attached to the jail). Then went home and crashed. We were up early the next morning and bought our tickets to L'viv. They didn't have any seats left, so we got "beg/bribe the conductor" tickets and then I had this idea that we should take the electric train to K-P. A nice lady told us were to change trains and we had a very nice ride to K-P. I got a hold of Nina (translator number 1) and she met us at the bus station and we went to chilantano's for lunch and then she gave a quick tour of the old town. I was upset that we didn't get to spend more time there because I really wanted them to see it, but at least they got to see the inside of the church and the garden where I went for quite time. They met my K-P Mom and she yelled at me for not writing (you thought I wouldn't remember, Lena, but I do!). Then we took the bus back to the bazaar and I bought a set of enamel wear to send the china home in and caught our mini van home. That was a nice ride home, Dad was bug-eyed and white fingered the whole way! We sat right behind the driver, so Dad could see true Ukrainian driving. Personally, I thought this was one of the better drivers.

The next morning we caught the train (ended up with the head conductor's coupe all to ourselves without paying) and Rosanette met us at the train station and we waited for a couple of hours trying to buy tickets to Krakow, Poland. Finally, we had those and then we went to lunch at a Ma and Pa joint and then to Rosanette's place. We spent the afternoon sight seeing and then went to PCV Happy Hour for supper. Then next day, we spent the morning at Rosanette's English camp where Mom even gave a little blah, blah talk to the kids. Then we had lunch with this Scottish guy who is trying to find a teaching position in L'viv. Afterwards, we went to the pharmacy museum. That was cool!!!!!!! You definitely have to see this if you're in L'viv! We took a walk in the evening to Rosenatte's park, where she works, for sunset.

We were off in the morning for the train to Krakow. That was a nice ride and the border crossing wasn't very hard. They gave Mom and Dad a bit of a hassle for not having any documents, but I started explaining their problems with the airport in my bad Ukrainian (they were speaking only Russian) and they gave up. It was very interesting- we had armed guards at each end of the train to make sure you didn't get off between the border check points. There were also 2 sets of tracks, one inside of the other. They lifted each car up on 4 huge jacks and the wheels fell off. They rolled those away and the new set was rolled under, then the car was let back down on top of the new wheels. They did this because the Soviets made the gage (the distance between the two tracks) different than the rest of the world so that no one could invade them. I liked the Polish cars better than the Ukrainian ones. 3 people to a coupe, sheets were free, I could sit on the toilet and it had paper, too, and we even received a croissant with our tea. Talk about being pampered!!!!!

We walked to the hotel after buying my return ticket to L'viv and checked in. Then we headed to the old town for supper and a lovely evening stroll through the gardens and around the castle. It was simply amazing! I had hot water every time I turned on the faucet, no trash on the streets, people didn't spit on the streets or cut me off in line… I don't think that I could live there, though. Not even for PC. However, they are not quite totally Americanized, yet…McDonald's doesn't have breakfast!

The following day was spent sight seeing and drinking ice tea on the main market square. What a lovely Italian dinner we had, even if it was a bit skimpy. That was a very nice day and we ended it with hot showers and a heated game of Uno!

The next morning, we were up and I left for the train station and they left for the airport. I had a coupe all to myself on the way back and chatted with the conductor for a while. The ride back lasted 12.5 hours. I'm not quite sure why it only takes 4 hours to get there and 12.5 to get back. We sat on the tracks at the Polish border for 4 hours, when the checks only took 45 minutes. The Ukrainians gave me a bit of a hassle about why I was only in Poland for 2 days and about some little slip of paper that I filled out saying where I was staying when I first entered the country. Then they checked my compartment twice. I started waving around my diplomatic card and they became much more friendlier and all of a sudden they told me to have a nice trip and left. I wonder if their heads hurt as much as mine after our little conversation?! I thought I was going to have to hunt down Rosanette when I arrived in L'viv, but she had checked with the train station and knew that I was arriving a lot later than what I had told her, so she was there. Gregg from our group was also staying with her. We hung out the next day and went sight seeing and then I left the following afternoon for home.

I arrived in Khmelnitsky to the latest ordeal that finally, I hope and pray, ended this week. We had a PCV who finally flipped this past weekend and PC pulled the person on Monday. I didn't realize how much they were affecting me until I received the call saying they were gone. A downside of being a PCV.

Well, as if that wasn't enough last weekend, I went to the bazaar with Scotty on Saturday morning (I was out of bed by 7 and we were gone by 9!). A lovely little bee decided to fly up my sandal while I was walking and it stung me! So, I put sting-eaze on it and we grabbed a cab and went straight home. I took 3 Benadryl (they were expired, Mom) and slept all day and night. I thought I was a goner for sure and so did Scotty. I told her to just make sure I was still breathing. The poor lady was scared, but she kept her cool. Afterwards, she said that she was thinking about asking if we could stop and get some cat litter on the way, but then thought better of it. My foot was so swollen that I didn't go to work until Wednesday because I couldn't get my shoe on. Other than that, I'm good to go. My poor little toe is still huge, but it is getting better. It must have been a little (and hopefully dead) bugger.

So, that's it for excitement in my life at the moment. Well, that is if we overlook the fact that Pete (the cat that urinates on things other than his litter) used Scotty's jacket and bag as his box last night. She happens to be gone to Russia for 2 weeks, so that stuff is out on the balcony now. Not my cat, not my problem!

Photos that arrived in September 2003.

High school graduates dress up as kindergartners on their last day in school.

After a caving expedition (Kara on far right).

Frost on the trees, L'Viv.

Coal slag next to the road near Gorlivka.

Tree hug on a 600 year old oak tree. Environmental careers camp in Holy Mountains NP.

Traditional Ceremonial Bread.

The drunken church in Chernivtsky.

19 September 2003

The trees are starting to change. Yea! Winter will be here soon! Good-bye smelly hot trolleybusses!!!

23 October 2003.

I finished off the summer spending time with Tanya, translator #1/2, since she has returned from Germany. I went with her to her family's dacha and had a wonderful day there! I ate fresh wax beans and white plums. Yum!!!

I also spent a lot of time working on my park project. I thought I had one park finished, but then my head coordinator said it was not what she was looking for, so I am still in the process of redoing it. However, things are going much better the second time around, even though it is very tedious and time consuming.

About the middle of September, we had the Peace Corps Environmental Conference and I gave a presentation there. Scotty assisted me with the map sections of the presentation. I was a little upset about the whole thing, because we had a virus on the computer that decided to eat the whole presentation the day before we left for Kyiv. I ended up spending hours redoing it. Have to love technology!!! The presentation went ok, but we didn't finish because the interpreter spoke Russian and everything had to be Ukrainian and English for the conference because it was an official conference. So, she had serious problems with interpreting what I said and she didn't know a lot of the words, either (this also may have something to do with the fact that a lot of the words do not exist in Ukrainian!). It went painfully slow. The second day, she was allowed to speak in Russian and things speeded up so fast it was unbelievable! While there, I bought 2 of those huge babushka scarves that have the flowers and fringe on them. They are wool and hand woven-wonderful!

Then I came home and was sick before the evening was out. I ended up spending the whole week in bed with a very serious cold.

That weekend, I was feeling better and went to K-P for an all weekend language lesson. Well, I finally broke down and did it-I bought a fur coat! Tanya and I were out for a walk since it was K-P City Days and the wholesaler was having a fall sale. I've been seriously wanting a fur since I can remember and I looked at them last year, but didn't find one that I liked and fitted me. This one that I purchased is a deep burgundy wine color, mid-length with a hood. It is rabbit (from a farm) and don't worry, they use the whole rabbit for various things here, so it was not bred just for the coat. Then we went to the fortress and saw the trick horse riders and a choir sing traditional songs. Then, when we were coming back, the hot air balloons were being sent up from the middle of the old town. I was about 20 feet from one while it was filling with hot air. The evening ended with bedtime Ukrainian stories (my homework) and fireworks. Cool!!!

I came home. Then, a couple of days later, Linda, Scotty, and I boarded a train for Lugansk (35km from the Russian border on the opposite side of the country). This was a 22-hour ride there. However the train ended in Debalseev. If you come this way, I highly suggest you do not go to this little hole in the wall town! They have one pay phone in the place and it doesn't work! Plus, there is nothing there!!!!!!! It is a mining town on its way to a horrible slow death. We were the center of attention that's for sure! Anyway, we bought tickets for Lugansk (another 2 hours) and on the train ride there, some kids threw a rock through the window across from where we were sitting. I now know why they have those annoying curtains in the windows! If the curtains hadn't been there, the guy sitting at the window would have lost part of his head. He was fine, though and the train people told us that this is normal. We stayed at a guy's place from our group, along with 3 other guys from our group. So, why did we go to this wonderfully large mining town? Adam was marrying a Ukrainian girl. He is also in our group and since we didn't make it to Jason's wedding, we decided that we had to go to Adam's. It was a traditional wedding-had to buy the bride from the neighbors and relatives, the ceremony was in the Marriage Palace, and there was tons of traditional food and games. I had a great time and even helped my "harem and sultan" win the dance competition (I had a belly dancing lesson one evening a month or so ago at an all girls dinner). Needless to say, I do not see making money in the future with my belly dancing abilities (or lack there of)! Now, the most interesting part of the trip-the return… Saturday morning at 8, the three of us ladies met the taxi driver who had been arranged to drive us back to Debalseev to catch our return train. There was a guy standing next to the taxi and the driver called him a taxi. We pulled out and the guy jumped on top of the car and wouldn't let go. The driver got out and pulled him off. We tried again to leave and the guy climbed back on top of the car, so the driver again pulled him off and this time added a couple of blows to the guy and shoved him around on the ground. So then while the driver's returning to the car, the guy tried to open the doors on the passenger's side (Linda and I had locked them when he climbed on top the first time). We drove off without him. Then, when we were half way there, this lady decided to run in front of us to catch a minibus. She was about 6 inches from the side of the car after the driver swerved to miss her-he didn't even have enough time to honk the horn. By this time, the driver was having a serious cigarette attack and he was pretty well on his way to chewing the one he had to mush! Then we finally made it to the town and he looks at me and asks, "Do you know where the train station is?" No, I don't. So he asked several people, who could not agree to where it was. Finally, we came to a T intersection and the driver fishes out a coin and flips it and told me to call it… We made it to the station and made our train. On the train, this guy tried to pick me up, so I told him we were coming from a wedding and he took it as we were coming from my wedding (thank goodness my language isn't perfect!) and left us alone for the rest of the 23-hour trip.

December 2003. Excerpts from December Quarterly Report.

I gave my presentation on inventories at the Third Annual Peace Corps Environmental Sector Conference. The presentation was on PowerPoint. It went okay, if the fact that I did not finish is overlooked. I had an hour for the presentation. I had a half-hour's worth of material, which left a half-hour for the translation. Based on previous experiences, this should have been plenty of time to finish the presentation. However, the interpreter was not allowed to speak Russian, only Ukrainian and English. Ukrainian is not the common academic language spoken in the country, so it was very hard for the interpreter to speak it. This coupled with the fact that Ukrainian does not have many of the environmental terms that are commonly used in English and Russian left the interpreter stumbling, translating wrong, and simply just not translating what I was saying. I tried to use layman's terms where possible and to simply define terminology, but it was very hard for the interpreter and the other bilingual speakers in the audience to understand because they did not have a background in forestry so they did not know how to translate the words. Everyone commented on what a nice job I did and that they learned a lot from it.

Heaven has improved-I now have cottage cheese (too dry, but beggars cannot be choosers!), salad dressing, cheese hotdogs (the real deal), and enough pumpkin to keep me in pies until I go home!!!!! Plus, a pizza by the slice joint with FOUNTAIN pop!!!!! In theory we are suppose to be receiving a McDonald's by spring, but I would rather off the city did not have one.

16 December 2003

This past weekend, the tire I was sitting over blew out on the mini bus and we pulled over and it was fixed in under 10 minutes. The best part was that a grandma told all of us women to stay in the bus and the men to get out and fix it. I had to laugh, she was very funny telling us that this was men's work and that we had no need to go out in that weather-it was misting lightly.

Scotty and I have planned a "Grand Tour of Europe". I feel like one of those kids from way back when that their parents sent them on a tour of Europe to help educate them. We leave this coming Monday and are going to the following places (pending PC approval):
Brataslava, Solvakia
Vienna (for Christmas Eve and Day)
Gyor, Hungary
Some mystery place (haven't made up our minds yet) for
2 days in Hungary
Budapest for New Years
Brasov, Romania (Dracula's Castle)
Sighisoara, Romania
Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Iasi, Romania (if the train connections to Moldova
don't work out)
Chisinau, Moldova
Then home.

Photos which arrived in February 2004


Castle, bridges, and ramparts


The infamous kolunka and the counter which later fell apart (dry rot).

Looking north from the top of Khmelnitsky ferris wheel, 500 Year Park in the foreground


500-Year Park


Podillya Dendropark.

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Page created: 4 July 2001.

most recent update: 3 March 2004.