I’ve been here…47 days now. 9 more to go.

I slept for 10 hours last night and when I woke up I didn’t feel any more rested.  I haven’t had a real conversation with anyone from back home or back in Kyiv for over 3 days. It’s cold and wet outside.

What do you want me to say? Do you want me to say that I’m having an amazing experience and I’m really discovering myself out here? Well, I am…nothing has changed there….but I feel burned out, I feel like I’m finished.

I almost feel like I’m ready to go home. I’m only here 8 weeks and I have over a week left. That’s a large chunk, enough for a lot more thinking and more new experiences.
…but I’m almost looking beyond it at this point.

I want sushi, not the kind in Ukraine, but the type from in Saskatoon. I want scrambled eggs and chocolate milk. I want to go to the theatre. I want to play football again.

I’ve done so much and slept so little since I got here that I’ve been plenty tired the last 6-7 weeks, but for the first time I feel truly exhausted.

9 more days…

New Camp, New Challenges

After a short hiatus in Odessa, I have returned to my home in the mountains and begun my second camp. Same location, but all new kids….which means all kinds of new challenges

My first camp was a leadership camp and language development for teens with an intermediate level of English. I got the opportunity to teach entrepreneurship and public speaking. It wasn’t long that I was back in camp before I figured out that this would no longer be the case. My new group consists largely of younger kids who do not speak English very well. My new lessons….teach English in a formal, almost classroom-like setting. 

Six weeks ago this might have been my biggest fear. I don’t have much teaching experience, how can I teach a language to kids who can’t speak the same language as me? I was prepared for the possibility and embraced the challenge, but hoped that it would not come to fruition.

Now, after six weeks of being here, my mindset is different. How was I supposed to find my way through Kyiv’s public transport? How was I going to learn to read the alphabet? How can I buy anything at a store when I don’t speak Russian, I can’t read the labels, and I can’t talk to anyone? Well, I did it…and much more. So, teach kids who I can’t really talk to? No problem. I’m not really sure how I’ll do it, but I’ll figure out a way.

…and with that positive outlook I have to say that things have started pretty well. On my first evening with the kids, we played futbol, I taught them some card games, we played a few games of mafia, and I showed them some of my music. They seem to took to my music, Kasabian and Black Keys in particular. 

Unfortunately they like to listen to more hard rock, and so I usually have that playing when they are around. I like this music (it is on my iPod after all) but I have to say I’m in the middle of a John Lennon, Beatles, Philip Glass binge right now. It kind of kills my mood.

…but the good thing is that they are hanging around with me. Not that I would feel lonely without them, but they struggle through English when they hang around me, which means that they are learning.

I have also picked a little translator named Gleb. His brother went to the first camp I taught and he speaks good enough English to translate, so he ends up knocking on my door with another camper saying: ‘He has question for you’.

Overall, so far…so good.

After my first day of lessons, I think I will need to find a way to make it more exciting…but thankfully I have some material given to me by AIESEC Kyiv and also know other interns who have been doing the same work so I’m confident I will find solutions.

Behind all this, in the back of my mind a countdown has begun. 10 Days left.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

What Is Happiness?

….and how do I get some of that?

This is one of the main questions I brought with me to Ukraine. I wanted to use this time to figure out how I can live my life so that I can enjoy my time, do what I want to do, accomplish many things, and still be happy and satisfied.

I thought I had this figured out. I believed that the key for this was to find a small group of people who I really wanted to share my experiences with, and then constantly go through life finding new challenges and new experiences. I believed this because I had that in Kyiv and I was happy. Then, I came to my camp and although I very much enjoyed it I still felt that there was something big missing, and that something was the people to share it with.

…and then I went to Odessa, and I saw my friends I enjoyed my time very much. However, it was not the same. People had already changed. Some people for the better…others, not for the worse, but just not the same. If my intern friends are reading this and wondering if I hate them now, think not. I do not dislike any of you, and I did not have a bad time….but there was a certain realization and a peace of mind that I thought I had that has left me now.

On the way returning to my camp I developed a new peace of mind brought to me by my solitude…but this same solitude brought me loneliness before, and is sure to bring it again. This made me very confused, but fortunately for me when I got off my train in the town of Skole I had to walk for an hour to get to my camp. After getting lost, this turned into a 3 hour walk and a 100 grivna cab ride – err….I mean, I didn’t get lost, I was just taking the scenic route through the mountains. I never get lost. I’m good with directions.

So these 3 hours got the thought process going and another 10 or so hours at camp developed it more, and now I think I’m a little less confused than I was before. There are 4 things that I need to balance in order to find happiness, and even this is only one part of how I need to live.

The first is to find those people that I can share my experiences with. I need to find people who I enjoy spending time and talking with, both so that I can hear their experiences and so that I can tell them mine. These people will not be the same, and are likely to change many times throughout my life…but I need to be able to share my feelings with them and be able to relate to them as they also relate to me. This is so that I can understand myself internally and have opinions on this outside of my own. Currently, I only have a very small grasp on this.

The second thing is to seek new challenges, new experiences, meet random people, and to develop and grow. This is a pretty wide-open category. This internship meets almost every requirement here, but sometimes it is simply doing something I’ve never done before…..saying yes when I really want to say no…..saying hello when I’d rather keep to myself….living by the ‘Do Everything Once’ philosophy.

The third aspect is to find the solitude that I currently have, to ground myself in my own reality and make sure that my morals, my attitudes, my opinions, and my feelings are truly my own. I am very much in respect of the Ubermensch philosophy because it says for me to live as a unique individual and to find my freedom in my individuality. I do not think I will ever have too much a problem with this aspect as I have dedicated much of the last two years to developing this. Ask me why I think murder is not wrong and you’ll find out, but be prepared to have a lengthy discussion (if you don’t disagree with my reasoning it could be a very short conversation, but I would also be disappointed by this). I think my challenge is to not get to wrapped up with this aspect that it consumes the others. I am already comfortable with my own individuality and will always have time to develop it further.

The last item here….well, in the process of writing this I have deciding to trim it down to only three and combine the 4th item into the second and third. Originally, the second aspect was to seek new challenges and do everything, while the third was mainly to live by own morals. The fourth and final aspect was then to meet as many new people as possible, and while considering and learning their viewpoints, to not let them affect myself too much. Not that I don’t care about their viewpoints, but that I don’t need to seek their approval and overall do not act so as to prove myself and my worth to others. I feel that I have merged these 4 into 3 but wanted to write this so that I will remember my thought process when I reread this, and because I like to ramble on instead of going back and editing.

To conclude this entry, my emotions and feelings are still very confused for a few reasons. I have learned something and my mind has been a very busy place for the last 30 hours. The people involved with my making my mind go haywire will probably not understand as I do not yet understand it myself…but I look forward to thinking about things I had never considered before my internship. So once again, Ukraine I thank you.

A Trip to Odessa, and A Short Return to Kyiv

After two weeks in my camp I got the opportunity to see my old friends from Kyiv in Odessa and relax for a week. As much I could expect these few days to be a crazy, drunken good time, they ended up being a relaxing few days of just hanging out.

The beaches of Odessa weren’t great, but it was still good to be on a beach, and although there was a lot of seaweed and I ended up bloodying my feet on the rocks, I still enjoyed them. Odessa was not as grand as Kyiv or Lviv, but it was a very nice city. I found it to be tourist-friendly and I could use more English here than in Kyiv or Lviv.

The rest of my time was spent doing things like walking through the rainy streets, watching horror films late at night, throwing nuts at our roommates while drinking vodka, and eating hot dogs at midnight. One particular memory that will stand out is a short confrontation with the police. Before going to a beach club, we planned to drink on the beach for a little bit, which I knew would have got us a fine but everyone was drinking on the beach so I figured it to be okay.

Unfortunately, as we were speaking English the cops became somewhat interested in us and chose 4 of us at random and brought to the police station. I happened to be one of these four. They search through our wallets and were particularly interested in our ID and our money. Afterwards, they spoke to us one on one. Unfortunately, I had a lot of money on me at the time, and while the other were asked for 400 grivna fines, they asked me for $1000 USD. I later found out the proper fine was 150 grivna, and I did work them down to $150 USD. Without any documentation or info on the officers, I am unable to file a complaint with my embassy.

We decided not to go to the club afterwards, as we had already spent enough money. My slight anger was quickly reversed after a round of go-karts. After all, it is only money. Our night continued with some sandwiches, beer, and hookah, and ended with one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. This night will live on as a good memory for me. (By the way, I want those pictures for whoever has them…Kristjian? Ada?)

Afterwards, I came back to Kyiv to hang out for a few more days. I had to ride 3rd class back, which made me enjoy train travel in Ukraine a little less.

Kyiv was spent wandering around a lot as it is tough to organize 10-15 interns, but it was still time well spent. I almost had a chance to watch a football match before I left back to my camp, but unfortunately there were no tickets and we didn’t want to pay double to the scalper.
I got to see a few more areas of Kyiv that I hadn’t seen before which I think helps me to further develop my perception of Ukraine.

At the end of my stay it was time to start saying goodbye. Instead of saying goodbye as they went to their camp (and would eventually return) I started saying goodbye for the last time as they would leave the country soon or before I get back. It’s tough, but between that time, the train travel back to my camp, and my first half-day back at camp…my mind has been going at a million miles an hour in every direction. I’ll share that on my next blog though…


Part of this has to do with being inspired by some of the great people I have met during this internship, part of this was decided during the very interesting conversations I've had with some of these people, and part of it has to do with all the free time I've had to think by myself. Maybe the greatest part comes in that I set the expectation for myself before coming here that I had things in my life I needed to figure out and that I wanted to use this trip as a way of figuring it all out.

Regardless, it has become clear to me that my life needs to change. It's not about changing my current mindset, it's about changing my actions so that I can live according to my views instead of as the person other people want me to be, the person they think that I am.

Yesterday in the camp here I was teaching quotes to the children, and we accidentally had a theme that related to taking control of life, which first meant discovering who you were as an individual and then living as that person. I'd feel like a hell of a hypocrite if I didn't do exactly. It's always something I have placed in high importance but I don't think I've ever achieved,

I dont know exactly how to do this yet, but one step to me is clear....and that is my health. I've been eating fairly healthy here (except for all the chocolate and vodka) and this is something I need to make part of my life when I get back,

So, no fast food, no chocolates or sweets, no coke, no eating late unnecessarily, small portions of food, and the two biggest ones: no alcohol and no meat.

Me and alcohol have had a lot of great times together, but its time for me to put that one on the shelf. I think this will be very tough, especially trying to hang out with friends who are drinking...but the person I am when I drink is the not the person I want to be. Alcohol is unhealthy, and it's an excuse...an excuse to live to an ideal of being out of control. I want parts of my life to be out of control, I find the idea quite Romantic, but while everything is spinning out of control I want myself to be 100% in control....and so, no alcohol. I am also hoping this will force further changes from me.

As for no meat, it's something I've wanted to try for a while. I'm not committed to sticking to this in the long run, but I will give my best shot and see how it goes.

I hate overconsumption and consumerism. I hate the waste of our society, and its time to align my actions to those beliefs. No more food than is necessary, and no more shopping for things I don't need. Question every purchase, only take what I need....live minimal.

This all comes into effect the second I step off the plane in Saskatoon. I'm posting here to keep myself accountable. Really, I should start right now...but I have 4 days in Odessa with good friends and 2 more days in Kyiv. My hope is that those days will act as a goodbye tour was the Carson that was, and a welcoming for the Carson that will be.

It would be oh-so-easy for me to delete this post and change my mind....but in my first blog entry I put a quote from Banksy saying that we should we should get out of the house before we find something worth staying in for. It's easy to stay in the house, and it's easy to go with a flow....it's more difficult to get out there and be who you want to be, but I believe that I will be free because of it.

This is step one....step two is decided but I shall not share. More changes to come later...


I have been taking tons of pictures. Unfortunately, my internet sucks so I can't upload them (not easily at least). Hopefully I'll get to chance to post them soon. This place is beautiful!

My Lessons

I've started teaching lessons to the children of the camp. For my lessons, each kid creates a business idea which they will develop for the next week and a half...and importantly, will be presenting ideas to the group (I teach 3 groups of 8-10 kids each) to work on their public speaking skills.

I expected, and told them, to come up with silly ideas that they could have fun with. Instead, I was surprised by how they came up with ideas to make souveniers shops to sell local artists work, open an AIDS clinic, open a food mall with restaurants from around the world, and solve the problem of lack of connectivity in the mountains.

My favourite moment was when one girl justified why AIDS needed to be treated after one of the other kids called her on it. She simply replies: 'Freddie Mercury, need I say more?'

Today I'm getting each of them to give a 5-minute presentation on whatever topic they choose. One of the main goals of the camp is to improve the kids english language abilities. Despite having an English Only rule in the camp, most kids speak Russian which is trouble for me, especially at night when I have to get them into their rooms by 11:00.

I also help out with a lot of games to help their english, and team building activities. Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised at how these kids want to have fun but also are here to learn. I still feel weird being a counselor and having to enforce rules, but I also feel like I'm contributing to the growth of these kids and at the end of the day I'm really glad I came here.

Camp Life In Skole

After 3 long, but exciting, weeks in Kyiv, I've finally begun my camp in a small town called Grebeniv, which if you can't find on a map, is near Skole.

The camp is set on the edge of the Carpathian mountains in Western Ukraine. The mountains aren't that big, but still enough to be surrounded by natural beauty 24 hours a day. A nearby creek gives the camp the constant sound of flowing water that only the screams of the children and the occasional passing train disrupts.

I spent almost all day outdoors, except for when it rains. When it rains, it's even more beautiful here. The lightning lights up the entire sky and the thunder is amazing as well. A couple nights ago, there was a thunderstorm at sunset. When it cleared up I went out and stood in the middle of the camp. To the left, there was a huge rainbow in the mountains surrounded by a purple and red sky. To my right, the sun set behind the mountains and gave off a bright yellow glow. All around me was the smell of trees and fresh rain. It was genuine moment of beauty and I thank Ukraine for letting me experience that.

The next most amazing part of this camp is the food. I get three meals a day of the best, healthiest food I've ever. Even when it looks gross it turns out to be delicious. I've stopped eating fast food, drinking coke or alcohol, or eating too much for that matter...except when I run to the store and buy chocolates :)

There are about 30 kids in the camp, ranging from about 10-16 years old, all with at least a basic understanding of english. There were two american interns here (one has left) and three ukrainian camp directors.

There are only two things I don't like about this place. The first is that I really have no one to talk to. Only one American is left, and although he is a good guy, we don't share much of the same interests. The rest are either children or camp directors. I love when I get a phone call from someone in Kyiv, it's just nice to talk with someone. The second thing is my internet. I went to L'viv one day and bought a mobile internet stick for $25. It kinda works, when I go sit in a field...but sometimes it works long enough in my room for me to talk with someone back home....or make a blog entry.

Speaking of L'viv, I got a day off to explore the city with the 2 Americans. It was amazing. Even more beautiful than Kyiv and much more Ukrainian, as opposed to the Russian-Ukrainian metropolis that it Kyiv. I hope to get tbe chance to go back for another day or two.

Also, found out I get to go back to Kyiv for 2 days before I fly back to Canada. Yay!

My Experience With Culture Shock

Before coming to Ukraine I taught about culture shock to other exchange participants in AIESEC and I have heard about their experiences with it as well. Still, my experience with culture shock is still limited but I think I’ve learned a bit more with this internship.
The language barrier was always going to be a shock and I knew this. Despite not learning the language I think I navigated my way through Kyiv fairly effectively. Learning the alphabet was key to getting around but the language barrier makes the simple things difficult at first. Going to the supermarket, ordering food, asking for directions….these are all things I’ve managed to do, but they are always an event rather than just something I do. It makes life difficult when simple things require effort. I got used to it though, and even though I don’t know what the cashier is asking, a simple ‘nyet’ gets me through it.
A longing for home never really hit me too hard, but I think a big part of it was because I got the opportunity to meet so many new people and it was all very exciting. In a week or so, I lost stable internet connections and even though I didn’t long for home, I just want to have random, simple conversations back home. Conversations with new people are always good conversations, and I learn a lot, but sometimes I just want to have a simple mindless conversation as well. It’s also difficult associated with people when they are not going through the same experience. The other interns here are doing the same exchange, but they are coming from different countries and arrive at different times, so they are at a different stage than I am. The people who came at the same time as me left quickly to their camps, so I find myself constantly reliving the first stage of culture shock/exchange through and with others and find it harder to share my own current feelings with others.
I can’t tell much about coping methods, other than that I just constantly hang out with others and try to buy myself some free time to think and listen to music. The key for me has been to find that balance. I like talking to the other interns, but I need alone time as well.
Walking through the city, I don’t speak much. When I do, people look at me, but when I don’t speak I don’t think they notice that I’m a foreigner. This helps, because I can just enjoy the city…but overall I feel that Kyiv is very comfortable for foreigners to be. There has only been one incident where a drunk yelled at us to speak Ukrainian because we were in Ukraine.
As I type this, I’ve moved from city life in Kyiv to camp life in Skole, which I expect will bring new culture shock. Not only do I have Saskatoon to miss, but I have Kyiv to miss as well. I have made some good friends…I don’t know if I should feel bad about this, but right now I miss them more than I miss my family and friends back home.