Friday, January 28, 2005

Maidon II

So, we got to the square and it was really cool. Yeah, and the inauguration itself took place in a government building down the road, but they showed it all on big screens at the square. It was actually quite well set up. We could see quite well and my friend Maria translated everything for me. Such a crowd! I've been in big crowds (those who have attended a World Youth Day know what I mean about big crowds!), but let me tell you, you haven't really had the crowd experience until you've been in a crowd of Ukrainians! :) I was literally not holding myself up -- I could lean backwards and I wouldn't go anywhere. The real difficulty was that I had a backpack, which at first I tried to keep in front of me for safety, but then it kept slipping off my shoulders and was realy annoying so I moved it to the back (witha lot of effort in that crowd) but then I felt like someone was getting into my bag so I pulled it back around to the front. It was good of Maria to translate everything for me, but I know it made me a sitting target b/c the English use was so obvious. Thankfully I got home with everything I'd come with.

The actual swearing in was pretty standard, I guess (maybe you saw some of it on TV). They introduced all the heads of state who were there -- mostly Eastern European, but some western, and of course the ubiquitous Colin Powell (there were some weak attempts at cheers from the crowd when they introduced him but he was apparently not a favorite). Yushchenko took his oath on both a Bible and their constitution book and then he received this medallion/necklace thing and a decorative sceptor thing. I assume they were from the old Kievan princes or something. He gave a little speech, promising peace, health, safety, modernization, jobs, etc., and encouraging the people that there was much work yet to do. It was interesting to watch him greet the military. He didn't return their salutes (American presidents do, right, b/c they're Cmdr. in Chief?), and Maria said it was something about if you're not wearing a hat, you can't salute. Anyway, then eventually he made his way down to Maidon and addressed the crowds there. Then the fun began -- concerts, yes, but also the fact that at that point the crowds really began to move -- except no one really knew where they were going (at least we sure didn't) and it seemed like they were moving in ten different directions at once. Visions of the Camp Randall crush photos flashed through my mind as we were buoyed back and forth in the waves of people. Eventually we decided if everyone else could be pushy, so could we, so we fell in behind some people who had a good momentum going and eventually found the rest of our UCU people and broke free of the crowd.

Maria had some friends in Kiev so we went to meet them and had some lunch. Then they showed us (me, really, as Maria had been there before) around town a bit. We saw this old fortress/drawbridge/gate thing that looked like something straight out of Monty Python or Robin Hood, that was cool. It was too late to get into St. Sophia's, the big cathedral there, but we went to this gorgeous Orthodox church (Volodymyr and Olya). At 7 a new round of concerts were to begin, so we made our way back down to Maidon. Coming down the main drag toward the square was so incredible. It was like Carnival or something. Lights strung everywhere, music playing on the public PA, people everywhere. I saw the famous Tent City, where some people were still living, warming their hands over fires in steel barrels. And I had a photo opp with a replica of the infamous "American boots" (so Yanukovych's wife gave this speech knocking all the people protesting at Maidon, saying they were all being brainwashed by America, getting high off drugged oranges, and wearing "American boots"). Since I was, naturally, wearing American boots myself, I couldn't resist.

The scene at Maidon was one big, big party. Around 9 they had fireworks, which were so cool. (Ukrainians are much more liberal in their use of fireworks than we are -- Christmas, New Year's, Inaugurations...Independence Day is just the beginning!). Then we all trekked back to the bus and prepared for our long winter's nap on the way home. Apparently they took a shorter way home so it only took us like 6 hours instead of 10. Maria and I had intended to get off the bus a bit before Lviv to go spend a couple days at this monastery in Univ, but we both slept through to Lviv, she wasn't feeling very well, and we were both so tired that we decided to postpone our trip and I went home and slept til about 3:30 in the afternoon.

So, overall it was an amazing time -- and actually much more organized than I anticipated, both on the Kievan municipal end and on the UCU/trip oraganization end. I still can't appreciate it the same as an actual Ukrainian, but I feel like I have a much better appreciation for it than I did just watching it all happen on the BBC from home.

Work, Apartment, Normal Stuff...

So, I appreciate all the email correspondence you're sending and especially your questions because I don't know what exactly y'all want to hear about, so keep 'em coming!

So I think I described the guest apartment some already and soon I will get some pictures posted of it (Marie Aude and I took a "day in the life" series for y'all to see). We are somewhat actively (vicariously, that is) searching for a more permanent place, since the guest apt is realy supposed to be for short-term guests. Since the semester is kind of starting again there is actually another guest staying in the third room of our place, some professor from Poland who doesn't speak English. He and I say good morning and good evening :). I really want to find another place now that other guests have started arriving. M-A and I looked at a place that was in a great location, but it was set up really better for a family with children or soemthing than for two singles. There are a couple others we have to look at yet. Apparently pricing keep increasing around here, they say b/c of the increasing presence of westerners. We're going to be lucky to get a place for 200 dollars a month (to split b/w us), plus utilities. The thing is, Ukrainians are lucky if they make 200 dollars a month period, so prices for locals would be much less. Maria is also looking for a flat and I would realy like to be able to include her and make it a threesome (she and I have really hit it off and she'd be a built in language tutor:). So, the search continues...

After many investigative conversations around UCU, my job description here is beginning to shape up into a somewhat coherent blur. I am now working at a desk in the Lay Leadership Center. This is one section of a cubicled room which also contains the Center for Non-Profit Management which provides training in the equivalent of an MBA. There are a few Americans working in this center, and actually a lot of their program participants are westerners. There are some Peace Corps workers here, and I went out with them last night to their "Ex-Pat's Happy Hour" at this somewhat Irish Pub-like bar. There were about 10 of them, mostly Peace Corps types, working in and around Lviv. Many are teaching English, others are doing Peace Corps-type things like community organizing to stimulate job growth and training people to organize agricultural cooperatives. It was so trippy to be with so many Americans after three weeks of non-American immersion!! It was a little Twilight zoney because I didn't know what country I was in. There was this guy playing American Christmas songs on trumpet (with cd backup). Then he played the Dire Straits "Walk of Life" and I kind of figured I probably wasn't in the U.S. (I was told sometimes they have a violinist who plays Brittany Spears). I have to say, I think I preferred the non-American company, but maybe it was just all the in-group Peace Corps conversation.

Anyway, work. So at first I had been hanging out with MA in the Ecumenical Studies Institute up on the fourth floor and begging computer use there. Then I spent some time in the Rektorat (where the rectors and president work) at a computer in the Development office. Now I think the LLC will be more my home (and it's warmer -- the building is like many old academic bldgs I've been in at home where every room is a different temperature). Jeffrey has asked me to help significantly in preparing for next summer's English Summer School. So far my main task is teacher recruitment and corresponding with inquirers. All English communication here basically has to channel into Jeffrey (vice rector) or Father Borys (president - Ukrainian from New Jersey), so I'm helping reduce that bottleneck. Monday I will go visit a potential site for the school with two of the Ukrainians who worked on last summer's ESS (Roman Vaskiv and Maryana Nenchuk, for those who know them -- also for those who know, we are visiting a site in Drohobych. So far all the sites they are considering are new to the ESS. One is in the mountains - Yaremcha?) Jeffrey has told me he is already appreciating my presence and helping take some of his load off, so that's nice. I am corresponding with the head of CCMA (Catholic Campus Ministry Assoc.) to try to advertise thru them for teachers. They actually would like to bring campus ministers themselves on a pilgrimage tour to visit the Church in Eastern Europe in Summer 2006, including visiting UCU and ESS -- this would then enable them to go home and better recruit students/graduates to come as ESS teachers. So I have to make a poster and stuff to send out to CCMA people.

In ministry land, there's a couple camps: Maria who works with Evangelization outside of UCU. Last summer she organized mission trips to eastern Ukraine (the main domestic mission area) and will do the same this summer. However her real dream is a School of Evangelization somewhere around Lviv where people could come to both grow in their own faith and be trained to work in parishes, develop their own ministries, etc. The thing here is that parishes are all about liturgy and there aren't non-parish ministries (hospital, military, prison, university, etc.). I heard recently that part of this reason might be the married priests who need money to support their family and so far parishes are the only place that can afford that support. Interesting. So I've been working with Maria to prepare the pre-mission training sessions which will meet weekly beginning in March, supplemented by two retreats, before they go on the actual trips in July.

Then there's the "Spiritual/Pastoral Dept", their campus ministry. The head priest there is Canadian/Ukrainian so he speaks English and I met yesterday with him. There are a variety of issues going on in their ministry efforts, and they are at a point where they woudl like to kind of revamp things. So it's a great time for me to be here. I will make a presentation next Thursday morning (2/3) about my experiences with campus ministry in the U.S. I've asked some folks at St. Paul's to send some materials my way, so hopefully I will have a little Power Point presentation or something to show them. I am not so familiar with working in an actually Catholic institution. It seems more like the Catholic high schools we served at the retreat center I worked at in IL. Sometimes spiritual things become obligatory and then it becomes more difficult to make it real and have the kids really be making choices for themselves. So we'll see what happens with this presentation.

The Lay Leadership Center, the third ministry camp here, teaches people to do those extraneous ministries I mentioned before -- charitable stuff, hospital/nursing home work, youth ministry, etc. They teach leadership skills which would be valuable to any kind of non-profit org worker, plus they show how to use these within the Church context. So it's a great center, and they have a big training session in the summer as well as throughout the year.

more later....

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Where to begin!! We left UCU around 8pm Saturday night, on a very nice coach bus, which promptly got stuck trying to get out of the driveway, so we all got off and watched the guys push and push and push until the bus literally slid sideways and got unstuck. That was the first adventure :). We arrived in Kiev around 6 a.m. I actually slept quite a bit on the bus. It was so cool to come into Kiev in the morning like that. It wasn't even light out yet, and we were driving past all these important and historic buildings and statues...this big statue of St. Volodymyr with the glowing cross extended over the Dnieper River (where he ceremoniously baptized all of Kievan Rus, now Ukraine, in 988), St. Sophia's Cathedral, imposing facades of embassies and international buildings glowing eerily in the pre-dawn twilight. Then, Maidon!! Independence Square, where Ukraine's Orange Revolution was "fought" and won these past few months. We exited the bus and attended a private liturgy in a small church. Then we shared breakfast at a really neat little place that had all kinds of "homecooked" foods in a cafeteria style place. Then, to Maidon! Hoards of people were marching through the streets, singing, waving banners, all covered in orange hats, orange arm bands, orange jackets and scarves. This big building called the Ukrainian House (apparently some kind of lobbyist place or something but was the first building to be "taken" by the Yushchenko camp during the Rev'n) with tall columns was sporting long flowing orange banners between each set of columns. There was a contingent in Hutsul dress (the native mountain people of Ukraine.) We walked with them all and sang (I tried to get the words :) Christmas carols. I interviewed some people from UCU about what they thought about the day, having bought a little tape recorder the day before. I have to listen to it and transcribe it and hopefully I"ll write something about it all. I took lots of pictures, too, but I have to buy a card reader for my camera so I can post them on here for y'all to see.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Slava Ukraini!

So I need to learn the art of blogging, i.e., that you can just write a few thoughts and not develop an entire theme!;) So tonight I will begin practicing! Soon I will board a bus for Kiev, to attend the inauguration of President Yushchenko. Doubtful that we'll be able to actually see very much of the actual inauguration (so y'all will have to watch that broadcast on your satellite TV stations from Ukraine and tell me about it;). But it's supposedly a six hour drive there...however that would put us there about 2 am, so, as they would say here, Bonzai! (as in, who knows what will happen, so let's live it up!;) Okay, gotta go catch the bus!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

You are now entering the Ukrainian Time-Space Continuum. Please mind your stress level.

Hello! Sorry for the silence. My first lesson here in Ukraine is how time works. A day can feel like it is going so slowly, and things can seem to take so long compared to at home. Waiting for people to be ready to go somewhere, waiting for an email to send, then waiting for a reply, "see you in 15 minutes" ends up meaning "see you tomorrow" -- one must have a new sense of patience here! But then, days go by so quickly. I come to the university at 10am and all of a sudden it is 5pm. A strange sense of time here, indeed.

So now I have been here over a week -- yesterday was my "one week anniversary." Saturday Jeffrey will arrive -- for those of you who don't know him, Jeffrey Wills is one of the vice-rectors here at UCU, a former classics professor at UW-Madison, long-time friend and benefactor of St. Paul's, and the reason I am here (mostly;). He was home in the U.S. for Christmas and he will return here Saturday. The reason I mention this is because when I got on the bus to O'Hare to catch my plane to Ukraine last Tuesday, I was in such a hurry that I left my carry-on bag in my dad's trunk. Now think about what is the purpose of carry-on luggage -- so that in case the rest of your luggage is lost, you will at least have what you really really need with you in the, sadly, some of what I really really wanted to have with me is not here (my CDs -- so painstakingly packed by my packing helpers!!;), my contacts, my digital camera (ergo, no pictures on here yet!), my cd player, my cell, c'est la vie (my roommate is 'improving' my French ;), but hopefully Jeffrey will be able to bring the "most important" things with him when he comes (fingers crossed!!;).

So, more adventures. Well, continuing on the Ukrainian time-space continuum bit, Monday morning I had a big lesson. Monday I actually had two appointments of my very own at UCU -- meaning, I was going to meet with people and I wasn't just going to follow Marie-Aude around by the apron strings ;). I was supposed to have a tour of UCU at noon and then meet with the director of the Lay Leadership Center, one of the programs at UCU with which I hope to work, at 1 pm. However, at 10 am Marie-Aude and I were supposed to go on a brief shopping excursion with her friend, Halyna (who is a wonderful girl herself). The goals of the shopping trip were for Halyna to exchange some boots she had bought, and for me to find slippers and a bathrobe. (Everybody wears slippers around the house here. I'm not sure if people do this in the U.S. and I am just too crude to have picked up the practice, or whether it's not such a developed practice in the states, maybe because more people tend to have carpeting there than here.) So we went to what I'm learning is the Ukrainian equivalent of West Towne Mall -- Krakovskij Bazaar. It is an open-air market several blocks long jam-packed with booths selling everything from toothpaste and laundry detergent to fine lingerie and bathrobes to office supplies. It reminded me of the booths they used to have in the lower level of the Coliseum during the Dane County Fair. I was a little stressed, to say the least, shopping in that environment, having to be very careful of my purse, and just the fact that there were so many people all around, so much movement, and here I am supposed to try on a bathrobe and slippers. I was a bit over-stimulated, I guess :). Anyway, of course we didn't actually leave the apt at 10, so by the time we'd gotten to the market (behind the Opera House, for those of you who know L'viv -- and Anna, I still haven't found that place you told me about that sells the liquid chocolate hot chocolate;), it was already after 11 and there was no way I was going to be back at UCU at noon for my tour. SO, whip out the mobile phone and make a little call to my tour guide -- inshij den? tak (another day? yes.) I bought some slippers and a robe, too (purple with lavendar clouds...hmm:), but it wasn't until I found a smashing mauve cap that I started to relax ;). Another phone call...can we make that meeting for 3pm, instead? Great.... Then we had to find the right boot-seller for Halyna's return, then back to the city streets and find another shoe store where a better pair could be found, then there were other errands to be done and...well, the curse of womanhood being uncomfortable shoes, my feet were killing me, and I was hungry and there's nothing that tires me out like shopping, then there was the stress from the American in me that was appalled at the idea of being late for the first meeting with my potential supervisor because I! Needless to say, I was not a happy camper by the time we returned to the apartment, I stuffed some food in me and ran off to my 3:00. (Which ended up being a very nice chat and all was alright in the Ukrainian time-space continuum...) Ukrainskij chas!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Our Lady of the Outhouse

Greetings one and all! Today is Christmas Day here in Ukraine and I recently returned from probably the most "real" Ukrainian Christmas I could have had. It was my first real experience of village life here. Marie-Aude (the French woman who is here volunteering with me) and I went to a nearby village with an UCU student to celebrate Christmas Eve with her family. Her mother and grandmother live in a small house and keep chickens, turkeys, and, until it was slaughtered for our meal, a pig. (Dad left several years ago, sister recently married an American and is living in Michigan -- interestingly enough, I actually met the groom's mother in the Lviv airport when I was returning to the U.S. after my visit this summer.) They have two main buildings, one has four rooms, which have various pieces of furniture in them which make it difficult to label them with traditional room labels. I mean, two of them have dining tables and chairs, one of which also has a TV, but the TV room and a third room have a smattering of couches and chairs which fold out into beds (upon which we all slept), and then there is the front porch-type room. There is another building which has the kitchen and then some outbuilding-type rooms and then the outhouse. We arrived at night, so it wasn't (inside) wall of the outhouse. I'm sure there is some fine incarnational theology to be found somewhere in that, perhaps Anders will work on that one for me ;).

So, Marie-Aude, myself, her friend Halyna (whose house it was), and two students visiting from Crimea in south-eastern Ukraine, trekked out to this village (no we didn't walk the whole way, but the half-mile muddy, rutted driveway in the dark was enough!). The Crimean students were with us because of the celebration of "Christmas Together" (Rizdvo Razom), sponsored by UCU and several other universities in Lviv. It is an effort to fill in the cultural and prejudicial gaps between western and eastern Ukraine (gaps which the recent political events emphasized). When Marie and I stopped by UCU on Thursday, everyone was running around crazy trying to get all the guests to their homestays. This afternoon they were greeted by Cardinal Lyubomyr Husar, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and tonight we will join them shortly for some kind of caroling. Anyway, back to the village...

So I've visited Appalachia and a Native American reservation in South Dakota on service trips, and those have probably been my main direct experiences of rural poverty. This was somewhat like both of those, but different, too. So the road was all rutted and muddy and their yard was mostly a sea of mud as well, criss-crossed by plank bridges. The buildings were mostly brick, undoubtedly hand-built by the owners at some point. I'm trying to figure out what the most striking thing was about the place that made your heart break. They had electricity, at least while we were there, but a well is their only water source. The house is heated by these big brick fireplace/furnace things I'm not sure what was actually inside them creating the heat. The kitchen was mostly taken up by the intricate system of bowls and basins used to heat water and wash food, dishes, and bodies. The seven of us shared the "Holy Supper" Christmas Eve around two small kitchen tables, sitting on small wooden stools (the stools are fairly common here). Part of the shock I think is that things just seem so not maybe the lack of water is really the biggest thing. I was thinking of pre-industrial revolution America, you know, and how people got along then without utilities and such. But the thing is, of course, that that stuff exists now, and they don't have it.

For contrast, in the middle of dinner, a cell phone rings. Of course I'd noticed that just about everyone in Lviv has a cell phone (they run on pre-paid cards here), including the girls I had come with, however this ring was coming from the mother's jacket pocket. So mom goes from fitting the image of little Russian housewife slaving in a small, underdeveloped kitchen, to chatting on her cell phone with her daughter in America! Something about that was just so intriguing! And grandmother sitting there in the picture, too. Man, her face. I had to keep myself from staring at her, there was so much written there, and I could hardly imagine what those eyes have seen in their many years. We took a picture, which I hope to get developed and post, of three generations, grandmother, mother, and daughter. This daughter has spent several years studying theology and philosophy in France, is fluent in French and not bad in English and there she is next to these two women who have had such different lives than what she probably has ahead of her. Just amazing.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I'm here!!

Dobryden! Christos Razhdayetsya! (Hello and Merry Christmas!) I have arrived safely by the grace of God and all is well. It is SO good to be back here, I am still pinching myself! Yesterday (the 5th) I arrived actually on time at the airport in Lviv and was greeted by my host sister from this summer and another woman from the university and they drove me to the guest apartment where I am staying. It is a little suite actually with three bedrooms and a little kitchen. It's actually quite nice. Shortly thereafter, Marie-Aude, the woman from France who taught at camp with me last summer and has been here now volunteering like me for the last three months, arrived back from her holiday in France and it is very great to have her around, both because she is helpful and because I enjoy her. We are at UCU now, I have already run into several people that I know from summer and it is so good to see them all. Everyone is running around crazy here because they have hundreds of students from across teh country coming in to celebrate Christmas here and they are making a huge dinner and arranging homestays and stuff. Marie and I will spend tonight (CHristmas Eve here) with a friend of hers and her family, so we will get the "real" Ukrainian Christmas experience. Hopefully over the next few days tho we will participate in some of the Xmas activities thru the university with the visiting students. I just met a girl from Florida, too, who's visiting for a few weeks here. So, I will post more when I get a chance, but we need to run now and catch a bus for our evening's destination. Blessings and love to you all!:)