Sunday, April 28, 2013

Snapshots of Spring

We've been enjoying warm weather and sunshine here in Kharkov lately which has lead to lots of fun times with the friends! Here are even a few photos to prove it!

When we came back from our Kiev/Lvov trip we were met with lovely weather which made for a fun day of playing outside with the kiddos!

Alyona decided to paint my nails

Love these goofy girlies!

Having all successfully passed our economics final, we headed out for a walk with  our dear Nadia.  We walked downtown, along the river,and then all the way home.  It was super!

This Saturday was another one filled with lots of sunshine and laughter with some of my littlest darlings

No time to smile for pictures when there are packages of Disney Princess and Winnie the Pooh stickers to be opened!

On Saturday night we had a party - on the roof!

Big American Smiles with Megan

This kid has been such an awesome friend to me during my time here! I'm going to miss you Vova!

Just a little rooftop jam session

American, Ukrainian, Mexican friends

I wish I had a better picture of the awesome set-up. There were Christmas lights and chairs, and computers to play music - it was pretty impressive!

Church was very pretty for Palm Sunday!

Bogdan's Birthday!

Today I got the best surprise! After church the congregation gave me a present - this traditional Ukrainian shirt! It's so beautiful and I was sooo surprised! Next Sunday is Easter, so, like a true Ukrainian girl, I'll be wearing my вишивка (Ukrainian Embroidery)! :)

Hope you're enjoying the first days of spring, wherever you are!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Януш Корчак (Janusz Korczak)

A few days ago one of the girls with whom I go to the orphanage on Saturdays let me know that there were free tickets available for us to go see a show performed by the children's theatre group  "Тимур" (Timur).  This theatre troupe provides opportunities to at-risk children, orphaned children, and disabled children to take part in theatrical productions.  I went to the show with little knowledge as to what the performance would actually be, but was absolutely blown away by those amazing children! The play tells the story of a kind-hearted pediatrician who was living in Warsaw during World War II and running an orphanage for about 200 children.  He had so much love for children and strongly believed that love was the greatest gift you could give to any child.  When the horrific reality of the Nazi regime came even to his Warsaw safe-haven for children, he refused the opportunity to go free and went with his children to the end of the line - a Nazi concentration camp gas chamber.  The children put all their passion into this play and from the oldest to the youngest understood the power of the story they were retelling.  There were very few dry eyes in that theatre by the end and I myself was wiping many a tear from my cheeks.  All I can say is "Thank you!" Thank you to the directors of Timur children's theatre for everything you teach those children and thank you to all of the children, for touching so many people today with this powerful story! Thank you! Спасибо большое! Дуже дякую! 

The children singing during one of the scenes. 

Monday, April 22, 2013


This little sweetheart is one of the reasons why leaving Ukraine is going to be so hard.  I haven't known her very long, but she already has stolen a very special place in my heart.  Little Alyona, with her light brown hair and wide brown eyes, will proudly tell you that, while she used to be 3, she is now 4 years old and will someday even be 5.  She is happiest when she is dressed in pink and loves all things girly - doing my hair, putting on lipstick, painting nails, necklaces. She loves to be held, even though the caretaker tells her that she's too big for that.  She holds my hand tight when it's time for her group to go in for dinner and I promise her "until next week" with a big hug. The first day we met she started calling me "mama" and begged her caretaker to let her come home with me - "just for a little bit? please!".  It breaks my heart that all the kiddos that we come to play with in that orphanage are growing up without a mama's love, but I am so thankful for that small but loyal group of volunteers who show-up with hugs, smiles, and love each and every week.  So while my time left in Kharkov (for now) is limited, I'm going to love those little sweethearts while I still can! And even when I leave I definitely won't forget them, especially my darling Alyona. :)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Final Hurrah (or our EESA trip to Kiev and Lvov)

Last Friday night we boarded an overnight train from Kharkov to Kiev for the start of our wonderful adventure across Ukraine and back again.  We were pleasantly surprised with koupe (2nd class) tickets.  It was the first time I have ridden second class since 2009 and we were silly with excitement about all of the nifty fancy "extravagance" of riding in something other than 3rd class. We played some silly games and chatted for a few hours until we decided it was time to get some rest.  We arrived early Sunday morning in Kiev, dropped our stuff off at the hostel, and got some breakfast at Puzata Hata.  Our day was spent visiting the Kievo-Pecherska Lavra Cave Monastery(where a monk told me to put a skirt on...) and the area around the Great Patriotic War Museum.  In the evening I met up with Nastia and we hung out for a while and of course ate ice cream :) We had tickets to see a show at the Kiev Theatre of Comedy and Drama.  Our director chose this show because of all the good reviews online, but in short, it was awful! No one was laughing and they were talking so fast that even native speakers had no hope of catching everything.  I felt physically uncomfortable through the hour and a half of the first act, after which we (along with about 2/3 of the other people in the theatre) made the decision to skip-out of watching the second act.  A better decision has never been made!
Kievo-Pecherska Lavra

Kievo-Pecherska Lavra

Kievo-Pecherska Lavra

Kievo-Pecherska Lavra

Kievo-Pecherska Lavra

Motherland Statue


National Museum of the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945

Tanks outside of the museum - there was tiny little kiddo up on top of the yellow one

Monday we took a walking tour of "modern" Kiev, but the weather wasn't ideal.  Most of my pictures from that day show a grey and not so pretty Kiev, but our awesome tour guide made up for it.  After the walking tour we all grabbed something quick to eat from the little kiosks on the main street and then headed out a few stops on the metro to the main offices of JTI (Japanese Tobacco Industry) in Kiev.  We had a discussion with the communications manager about doing business in Ukraine and what that has looked like for their company.  It was interesting and eye-opening for sure! After that I met up with Nastia again. It just so happened that an Israeli friend, Kobi, from my first summer in Kiev, was passing through Kiev on his way to Moscow!! What an awesome surprise!! He didn't have a lot of time, but it was so good to catch up with an old friend, even for just a very short bit! Having friends scattered all over the world can be hard, but those short, random visits in all corners of the world are always fantastic and make my heart happy! It was already rather late by the time I got home from visiting with Nastia and Kobi, so I stayed in at the hostel for the rest of the evening.

Arch of Russian-Ukrainian Friendship

Russian and Ukrainian Men

View from the area near the Arch

There are holes in the toad where people can put coins.  It is said that he who puts in the "last coin" will get all of the money inside.  We all tried our luck, but no one was the luck one ;)
Ironically enough, the toad is the symbol of greed in Ukrainian Folklore

Group shot on the bridge

The first/old stadium of Kiev Dynamo soccer team

Open stage in the park

Building where Pushkin lived and wrote for some years

Executive building of the Ukrainian government

A residence of the president where he hosts his guests and official visitors 

President of Ukraine ;)

Tuesday was our third and final day in Kiev and we awoke to beautiful sunshine and warmer temperatures.  We started out the day visiting St. Sophia Cathedral and St. Michael's Church and Monastery before heading to Andrejskij Descent to look at St. Andrew's Cathedral and have a look at all of the souvies for sale. After lunch we headed out to Pyrohova Folk Architecture Open Air Museum and spent a few hours walking around there.  Back in the center I met Nastia and we all had dinner at Puzata Hata before heading over to Pinchuk modern art gallery to check out the exhibits there.  After some pictures and a sad goodbye for now with my Nastia we bought some snacks for the train to Lvov and chilled out on the main street until it was time to collect our luggage and head to the train station.
St. Sophia

St. Sophia 

group shot at St. Sophia

St. Michael's Cathedral and Monastery


St. Michael's Church

Can you spot the EESA students?

St. Andrew's 

What a nice symmetrical group :) 

With a giant Pysanki (painted egg)

sleepy boys on the metro

American-Ukrainian besties!

And then, one overnight train later, we found ourselves arriving in Lvov bright and early at 6:30 AM.  Our hostel was MUCH better than the one in Kiev and we left our stuff there before going out for breakfast at Puzata Hata. The Puzata Hata in Lvov is one classy place! You would think you were in some super fancy expensive restaurant and not just some national chain where one can get some cheap, tasty Ukrainian food.  It was nice! Thankfully our walking tour was already at 9:00, so we didn't have too much time to kill. Our tour guide had a LOT to say and would have shown us around Lvov all day probably if we would have let him.  He told Megan and I that he studied to be a tour guide, but couldn't get a job as one during the Soviet Union, so now that he's old he is living his dream! So cute!  After the walking tour we went back to the hostel to put our stuff in our rooms and then to the opera to get tickets for the show the next evening.  Our next excursion was to the Lvov Brewery where we took a look through the museum, watched a short film, and were each given two beers to try.  After enjoying some sunshine in the center and some chilling out at the hostel we all headed out for a late dinner together to finish off our first day in Lvov!

Giant clock (not displaying the correct time) in Lvov.  

This was my third trip to Lvov, but the first time with such nice weather.  The city was BEAUTIFUL in the sunshine!

How to protect Ukrainian Language.
9 simple rules.
Ukrainians in Lvov are VERY Ukrainian and really love their Ukrainian language. 

Book market in Lvov

There are A LOT of beautiful churches in Lvov

Lvov Opera Theatre

Lvov Opera Theatre

Group shot at dinner
Our second day in Lvov started out with a trip to the expansive Lychakivske Cemetery.  We spent a couple of hours there and it was nice to have a long, peaceful walk in the sunshine. We were all hungry by the time we left the cemetery and went to get lunch and then hurried to the Clock Tower of the city building to be at the top when the bells rang at the top of the hour.  We were huffing and puffing by the time we ran up ALL THOSE STAIRS, but it was well worth it for the awesome views of Lvov.  It was a clear day, so we could see very far.  It was super! You can't go to Lvov without visiting the chocolate shop, so our next stop was there, where we all bought Lvov chocolate for friends and family.  We looked in a few souvie shops and wandered around enjoying the sunshine for awhile before heading back to relax and get ready for the opera. Megan and I both passed out on the big comfy bed in our room and probably could have slept for a few more hours.  But a cup of coffee helped us wake up enough to be awake and excited for the opera.  The opera was about 3 hours long, but VERY well done.  I enjoyed every bit of it and was very entertained. No visit to Lvov is complete without a trip to Kryjvka restaurant, but this was actually my first time going to this famous Lvov gem.  It is a "nationalist" Ukrainian restaurant of sorts and you must say Слава Україна! (Glory to Ukraine) to the man at the door when you enter.  He will then give everyone in your group a shot of some strong and (in my opinion not very tasty) alcohol before showing you to your table. When your waitress comes she will ask if there are any "Muscovites" (aka Russian speakers) there. "Nope, we're just foreigners", I responded in Ukrainian and got a little smile from our waitress.  Everyone ordered a drink (I got mulled wine yummmmm) and we had a good time all together.  Eventually the group split up, as some wanted to stay and others wanted to go home.  I was in the latter group and headed back to the hostel after a long, fun day in Lvov.
Grave of Ivan Franko


Lvov from the Clock Tower

Lvov from the Clock Tower

Lvov from the Clock Tower

Lvov from the Clock Tower


Inside of the theatre

Inside of the theatre

Lobby of the Opera Theatre

Lobby of the Opera Theatre

Final Scene of "The Magic Flute"

Mulled Wine - I think the cinnamon looks like a smiley face :)

Friday was our final day in Lvov and also our free day.  In the late morning Jason, Albina, and I headed up to the "High Castle" for a nice walk and some more nice views of Lvov.  Back in the center we walked through a big souvenir market and then sat in Market Square for a while before getting some lunch.  After lunch we went back to the hostel to have some tea and coffee. I went for another walk before we needed to be back to get ready to go to the station to catch our train and bought some food for the 18 hour journey home.  The train trip passed quickly enough and we were lucky enough to be able to open some windows and not suffocate and overheat, as often happens in the train.  I slept fairly well on the train and spent the morning looking out the window at the beautiful Ukrainian landscape.  Kharkov greeted us with sunshine and warmth and it was great to be back in home sweet home!
On top of the "High Castle"

On top of the "High Castle"

On top of the "High Castle"

I take a picture with this lion each time I'm in Lvov :)