Rain in the Ukraine

While the first week here was ridiculously hot and humid, it's turned to cold weather and rain for the last 5-6 days. Unfortunately this postponed the Global Village that we were supposed to run yesterday, but hopefully we will get to do it tomorrow.

Staying in hasn't been a bad time though, as we've gotten a chance to get to know eachother and all the news interns that are arriving. I arrived with 5 others here and then there was only me and one other for a few days...but now we have 9 currently living here and more on the way. Hopefully we will get the chance to show them the beautiful center of Kyiv instead of the cold Soviet architecture that surrounds our apartment.

Today I hope to get a chance to see a statue of a lady that is taller than the statue of liberty. Pictures to follow hopefully)

Ukraine vs. Saskatoon

What I love about Ukraine:

-Pazata Hata
-beautiful architecture
-everything is cheap
-meeting new random people everyday
-people not speaking english
-easy public transport
-beer sold on almost every corner and in supermarkets
-McDonalds and McFoxy
-words that sound the same in Russian as in English but take me minutes to figure out ("Soooo.....perrr.....marrr.....kat......oh it's a supermarket")

What I don't like about Ukraine:

-the bread is dry
-milk and milk products are not very good
-public transport ends at 11:30
-the humidity
-sometimes things just don't work
-that I have to leave

What I miss about Saskatoon:

-pizza (good pizza)
-talking to people in english
-getting places quickly

What I don't miss about Saskatoon:

-unhealthy food is so easy to get
-easy to get anywhere, don't have to walk
-pop culture everywhere
-people complaining about life
-bitching about news/politics
-everybody is busy, have to get places on time, have to be doing something all the time

Dream Teen Camp

I got the opportunity to work with a summer camp within Kyiv for the last couple days. The kids in this camp ranged from about 5 to 13 years old. When I first got there it was funny and cute how polite they all were. Each of them would come up to me and say 'Hello my name is _______' and would extend their hand for a handshake. It was obvious that they practiced these exact words and were told to shake my hand as that is how westerners greet eachother, as opposed to the hug or kiss on the cheek that I usually see here. I have noticed this with much of the aiesecers as well, perhaps hugs are only for good friends but I think a lot of people shake my hand around here and it almost makes me feel impersonal in comparison.

Getting back to the camp though, the first day I gave a presentation about Canada and let them tell me what they know about Canada and let them ask me questions. It was quite interesting because there was a wide range of english ability among the students....some who couldn't speak any and some who acted as translators for me. I also taught them an aiesec dance and some canadian games.

On my second day at the camp we made a field trip out to a horse stable where the kids got to learn about horses and got a short lesson on horse-riding. I myself got onto a horse for about ten minutes, unfortunately no pictures....but I have more respect for people who can ride horses, that was more difficult than I thought it would be.

Overall, it was good preparation for my camp in L'viv because I got a short introduction to working with Ukrainian children. The language barrier is always tough. Even the kids who know english are not keen on speaking it and it's hard for me to talk with the children. So, I'll need to come up with a plan if I face the same thing in L'viv.

I've been experiencing this since I got here though. Not just the language barrier for stuff like using public transport and buying food...but even when hanging out with aiesecers who speak english. They much prefer to speak russian/ukrainian and it's really easy for me to just stand by myself and not get involved with conversations. Thankfully there are always friendly people who usually come up and start talking to me, but it's something I'd like to work on as well. It's hard to meet new people because I'm never really sure how much english they speak, and I have conversations that end really quickly because we don't understand eachother. I think this will be a good experience as I have issues with starting conversations back home, even when people speak native english...so hopefully dealing with this will help me back home as well.

Ask me about Ukraine

So, I've been in Ukraine for about a week now and I'm really starting to learn and adjust. There are some quirkly things about this city, like how that black hand rail on escalators moves just a little bit faster than the stairs, or how packs of stray dogs roam on sidewalks but are completely friendly (so far)

....but what do you want to know?

Ask me questions. If I don't know (probably won't for a lot of them) then I'll go figure it out. My aim here is to find things to do that will help me explore Kyiv and Ukraine.

If you just have something to add to my To Do List, then just go ahead and add it on as a comment here on the Facebook link I'm sure to post after writing this.

I look forward to suggestions/questions!

OPS and Photo Walk

It was been an exhausting two days, and it all started two evenings ago when some members of AIESEC Kyiv came over to the intern apartment to hang out with us. The plan was to not drink and have everyone gone by 10:00....not really doing much, just chillin. So, naturally, we were up til 4:00 AM. 2 hours later I was woken up because we had to go head out to AIESEC Kyiv's Outgoing Preparation Seminar, where I got the opportunity to be a faci.

The 2 hours of sleep made me dead tired all day but overall it was a great experience! I got the chance to talk about how my experience was going so far, made some recommendations to the EPs who were about to leave, played some AIESEC games (learned some new ones from Kyiv that I'll be teaching my team when I get back), and also got to meet and talk to some AIESEC members, including a member of VPOGX of AIESEC Ukraine's MC, and the LCP, VP COM, VP OGX...and I've already met Kyiv's VP ICX, VP ER (my EP buddy actually), and VP TM....so I've met most of the Kyiv EB :)

I also got a free AIESEC t-shirt out of the day....success!

Today I had the day free so I decided go for a bit of a stroll. Now, I could have taken the metro to the main attractions but I decided to walk over and see some of the non-touristy areas. I got to see a lot more than I intended to as I ended up getting lost pretty easily. There are no street signs at intersections in Kyiv, which makes it very difficult...only the occassional address on a building to go off of.

I was trying to make it a pitstop at the University between the Train Station and the Center (where most of the attractions are). I saw a bunch of young people with backpacks and laptop bags, so I followed them thinking it would take me to the University. There are lots of small universities in Kyiv though....so an hour later I finally admitted to being lost and asked someone if they could point out on my map where I was. (I always ask young people because education has changed in Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, and that's the barrier for when people are likely to have learned english in school) turns out, I wasn't even on my map anymore. So, I walked some more and got lost but ended up finding the train that I had started at. Based on where I had ended up, I headed out in the direction that was sure to be where the Center was. I got lost again and ended up pretty close to where I had gone to before, but luckily this time there was a single road that I could follow to where I wanted to go.

I got to the area but ended up leaving the main road to attempt to find the Sofia Cathedral, which is one of the most famous sites in Kyiv. I found a cathedral, thinking it was the Sofia, and was quite disappointed and thought it was different than I had seen in pictures. Turns out it was because I was in a completely different area of town, which I didn't know at the time.

I got lost for a 4th time and finally found a man who was walking towards Maidan and just followed him there. He didn't speak much Russian and obviously neither do I. But I didn't speak any Ukrainian and he didn't speak any English. We tried to communicate, and were sort of able to. At this point I picked up one of the other interns, Syaza from Malaysia, and attempted to find the Sofia again. I thought we did too, it looked a lot like it...but I just found I was wrong again, so I need to go back.

We eventually wandered through the extremely beautiful west river side and went home. Very long day, very tired.

The next two days I will be going to a school to teach children about Canada and play some games with them.

A Bad Day To Forget The Camera

My day started fairly early today and I expected that I would only be leaving the apartment for a couple hours to go to talk to the organization that runs the camp that I will be at. I was quite proud at myself for being able to meet the other AIESECer, who would join me in the meeting, at the subway station where it was at. I can know read the cyrillic alphabet quite well. I don't know what any of the words mean, but reading comes in handy for names and some signs....like subway stations and transfers.

At this meeting I found out that my camp will be starting July 8th and will be in L'viv, which is a long train ride away so I won't be coming back to Kyiv until my internship is over on Aug 9th. The camp looks really great and I'm really excited to be there, but this changes my plans for travelling and seeing Ukraine. I'll have to do that in the next couple weeks before I go instead of after. Chernobyl is on the hitlist but apparently it is an expensive tour. Will also have a couple day break during the camp in L'viv, so might wander across to Budapest.

However, this was all the boring part of my day. After finishing the meeting the OCP of the Summer Camp project took me on a meander through a couple parks in the historic side of town. Along the way she told me a lot of interesting facts about the city, but we also got to see:

-A bridge with a lot of locks on it, each lock with a couple's name, symbolizing that they would be together forever
-a big arch with statues that represented the friendship betwen nations
-a beautiful view of the city, showing the river and constrasting historical west side and modern/soviet east side
-a palace where important people have lived throughout the years
-the government ministry building, which is gorgeous
-a Red Bull party/rally
-random marathon and dance music
-memorial for fallen soldiers of WW2, celebrating the victory and strength of the Soviet Union
-Holodomor memorial (right beside the soviet memorial if you can believe that)

...and no pictures, except for one that someone else took of the Holodomor memorial. Oh well, still a great day. Legs are tired but got to see lots of Ukraine.

First 2 Days

After 24 hours of travel and no sleep I finally arrived in Kyiv and the intern apartment where I was going to be living only for a few days before I take a train out to the camp where I would be teaching. I was only able to take a 2 hour nap before I headed out into the city with the interns from Britain, Mexico, India, and Macedonia (x2).

I was told that it might not be too hard for me to find away around with only English, but I soon found out that this would not be true. Thankfully, for our first day out our Macedonian frriends helped us communicate and find our way about. We made our way through a few markets and finally to the Center (AKA the Independence Square, AKA Maidan), which was stunningly beautiful.

I haven't eaten much since I got here and yet I'm not hungry. The only thing I ate on the first day was some eggs, which I found funny because I poured syrup on my eggs, the Macedonian ha ketchup, and the Mexican ate his with friend because he lacked tortilla shells. We all thought eachother were weird, but these types of conversations about eachother countries have been the norm since I got here. The others were quite surprised when I told them about Saskatchewan's weather. Here's what I ate for lunch this morning:
I also bought some perogies and something involving pancakes and apples, but I was too full to finish the pancakes. I'm not sure why I was full.

Beer is about as costly as water is here and is sold at every corner store at the market. I rate their beer slightly better than ours, at least the cheap stuff. Cheap vodka costs about $3 for a 40 oz. Everything is very cheap but doesn't seem like it because most thing cost 5-15rfn, which is only $2 at the most. I bought a cell phone for 250rfn and thought I was spending a lot of money, but it only turned out to be $40, which is still more than I'd like to be spending at this point. Public transport costs about $0.10.

Speaking of public transport, after going off my own to see a friend of mine, Daria, I tried to get home using the tram which I had used a few times already. It is night and I could not see very well. I thought I was getting off at my stop but when I walked around I noticed I wasn't. I walked for 5 more stops, which is probably 3 km and started to get worried. Oddly enough, I started feeling more at ease than I thought I would be lost in a strange city with no one speaking english. It was a dirty neighbourhood but seemed safe. Eventually I got to a station, called a Ukrainian friend to talk to the officer at the station, and he eventually said I was one station away and walked me home. He didn't speak English and I dont know what I would've done if I hadn't of bought my phone only a couple hours earlier.

Now I've found out that I'll be staying in Kyiv to teach children how to make videos. I don't know how old these kids are, how long I'm at the camp, or how far the place is away from my apartment...so that should be fun. I'm also going to help AIESEC Kyiv this weekend and be a faci for a conference for their outgoing EPs, which I'm really looking forward to. I'll also get to stay in the apartment which means I'll get to meet most of the 30 other interns that are coming to the city.

Oh ya, one more thing....
Bacon chips.

My Apartment

This is the building I'l be living on on weekends (I'm sleeping on the floor under the window):

This picture captures some of quality of the building:
And there's a clothes washing machine in the kitchen under the sink:
But at least we have a balcony:

En Route to Kyiv

Leaving Saskatoon: 

My first international flight also got me my first random security check. Since there were only about 4 young males on the flight and 2 were picked for both of the random security checks, I can assume this will not be the last time that I get picked for a random inspection.
Upon boarding the plane, I discovered why these tickets were the cheapest available. I got to my seat, looked forward, and no TV screen. While I was disappointed with this (always look forward to watching movies) it didn’t ruin my flight. In fact, I found myself randomly smiling throughout the flight. I’m going to Ukraine for 2 months! People have been asking me through this last week if I’m exciting. My response was always a casual: “Of course I’m exciting’”…but now it’s actually happening and that excitement has certainly stepped up a notch. The 2 hour flight to Minneapolis was also filled with turbulence for almost the entire trip. Oddly enough, this didn’t bother me. It actually relaxed me. The bumps felt like driving down a Saskatchewan highway, it felt like a road trip.
As I type this, I’m sitting in the Minneapolis airport with no access to WiFi and 3.5 hours til my flight. Time to go walk around and people watch I suppose. 

Part Two: Amsterdam
8 hours wasn't so bad of a flight. Twice as long as I've ever taken before, but the only bad things were the crying baby, bickering family next to me, and the large African woman next to me who had no sense of personal space. At least I had movies, and got to finish watching Harry Potter.

I've run into a bit of a problem though. Delta only put my bags through to Amsterdam and not all the way to Kyiv, so the whereabouts of my checked bag are uncertain right now. I've been assured that my bag will probably end up in Kyiv.....eventually.

Oh well, next stop, KYIV!

P.S. The Amsterdam airport is way cooler than Minneapolis, Toronto, or Ottawa (only other major airports I've been to). I didn't know that green GTFO logo was an actual thing. It made my day to see those all over the place.

Packing Paranoia

I'm packing my bags and I've gotten to that point where I've packed everything on my list and I'm pretty confident that I have everything...but I'm still walking around and worried that I've forgotten something. What about this box of crayons? This nerf gun? What if I get over there and find out I actually need them, this would be the moment of regret.

Nah...I'm pretty sure I'm good. I only have one bag and a backpack and there's still room for more stuff though, which makes me think I'm not taking enough.

There are currently two things that I'm fearing for this trip. The first is that I'll get lost at an airport. I don't asking for help and I don't like looking like I need help, so I usually just take a guess and hope that I'm right. Let's hope that doesn't get me into any trouble. The second thing is that I'll get robbed while I'm there or otherwise lose my money or luggage.

I bought some cheap decoy wallets that I'm currently filling with religious quotes about stealing....translated into Ukrainian of course. I hope a pickpocket takes one.

After this I'm going to spend the rest of my time here playing video games and listening to my language tapes which I have regretfully set aside for way too long....and watch the hockey game.

I do not plan on sleeping tonight as I have to be at the airport by 4:00 AM. Hopefully I will be so tired that I sleep for most of my flight over the Atlantic. If there are movies on the plane, then I'll be spending tomorrow like a typical day off, sleeping and watching movies.

I'm (sort of) Prepared!

Okay, that title is a lie. I'm barely prepared. This week is going to be crazy as I do some last minute preparations.

I don't have luggage yet.
I know very little Ukrainian/Russian. VERY little.
For my global village, I have my Team Canada hockey jersey, and that's about it.

So this week I need to read through my lesson plans and make sure I'm prepared, plan some games/fun activities for the kids, pack, find out what I even need to pack, get some Canadian souvenirs for my new Ukrainian friends, buy some random supplies, make sure I have enough money...

...and while I'm doing this I need to help my OGX team prepare for while I'm gone by training my proxy, training the team, finishing up some work I told them I'd do (sorry team for being late on a few of these things) AND help AIESEC Saskatoon with a recruitment drive that was my idea to do (why?)

AND say good bye to everyone and hang out with them before I leave for two months

and finally, with a shoutout to Carson Kolberg from Laurier right now, who is in India right now (http://carsonkolbergindia.blogspot.com), I want to create a JFDI list similar to the one his LC made for him. For him this includes stuff like learning a new word everyday, getting AIESEC members to spell AIESEC with their hands, driving a rickshaw, and other random stuff. I think this a great way to push for a greater experience and get the most out of an internship. So....SUGGESTIONS!...Help me make a JFDI list for Ukraine!

My Program Material

With a week to go before I leave for Kyiv I have received my program outline for what I'll be teaching the children in Ukraine:

-English (20 hours)
-Ecology (20 hours)
-Team Building (20 hours)
-Anti Smoking/Drinking/Drugs (6 hours)
-Leadership (6 hours)
-Goal Setting/Time Management (6 hours)
-Cultural Development (20 hours)
-Self-Development (6 hours)
-Communication (6 hours)
-Physical Training (20 hours)

I'm really excited because this is making it that much more real for me. I know it sounds odd, but even though I'm leaving in a week and I've been preparing for over a month now I still can't believe this is happening. I'm excited to teach a lot of these classes, I've received some course outlines but I also think I have a lot of my own material I can provide.

The courses I'm kind of nervous about are the English and Communication classes. I don't know how good their english skills are and I'm not 100% sure how I'll react if it becomes frustrating....and while I have a pretty good grasp of the english language I've never been the best with pronunciation and energy while speaking. I just hope the english that they learn from me isn't all mumbles.

P.S. For the physical training part they recommended that I teach AIESEC dances. I may have to learn one or two before I go...

What Am I Doing In Ukraine?

So, I'm to Kyiv on a developmental internship with AIESEC. That's great, but what exactly does that mean? What exactly is my job when I get there?

These are good questions, and to be honest, I'm still not 100% sure. Here's what I do know:

-I'm teaching at a Summer Camp approximately half-hour outside of Kyiv
-I'll be teaching youth, most likely in the 13-16 year old range
-I'll be teaching about Canada
-The kids will also be learning about time management skills, global issues, communication skills, cultural sensitivity and leadership
-The kids that I'm teaching will 'kind-of' know English, but I'm also meant to help them with that
-I'll be organizing games, discussion circles, and other activities
-On June 29th I'll be participating in a Global Village with all the interns who will be coming to the project

....and that's about all I know at this point.

Speaking of the other interns, these are the other interns that are coming to Kyiv for this project this summer:

Syaza from Malaysia, Gurashish from India, Armando from Colombia, Nadalina from Macedonia, Prince from China, Adriana from Romania, Trevor from Hong Kong, Ana from Macedonia, Piotr from Poland, Ashley from China, Changsung from South Korea, Alisja from Poland, Flora from China, Mario from Mexico, Mehmet from Turkey, Anita from Poland, Yvette from Singapore, Shaza from Sudan, Sofia from Greece, Soner from Turkey and Me!

That's 21 interns from 15 different countries!

From what I gather, we'll be working in different camps but will most likely have a few other interns with me at the camp that I'm working at. We also have weekends off and have an apartment rented for us in Kyiv so I'm really looking forward to meeting up with everyone and discovering Ukraine! I've already been talking with a few of these people on Facebook.

I've also been graced with an AMAZING ICX team at AIESEC Kyiv! They've been really helpful with keeping us updated and giving us information about Ukraine and Kyiv. I can't wait to meet up with Kvitka, Ira, Tatiana, Alina, and the rest of AIESEC Kyiv!

One last note, I also might have a chance to make an appearance at LDS Ukraine, which is their AIESEC national leadership conference. Unfortunately it's in Russian and Ukrainian so there's not much point in me being a delegate, but I'm hoping to show up and meet a lot of people and party with AIESEC Ukraine.

12 more days!!!