Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Experiencing a Revolution

Well, this is certainly a first for me.  The last revolution in Ukraine, the Orange Revolution, happened in 2004 while we were in the States on home service.  This time around things are different.  We are not only in Ukraine but living on the outskirts of Kyiv, the center of all the action. 

Today was the first day that we have been personally effected since the protests started on November 21.  Today our school was canceled. 

Events are changing rapidly and we have no idea what can happen.  I am impressed, however, at the stamina of the Ukrainian people to face freezing temperatures, snow, threats of reprisal, and brutal police attacks.  If ever there was a chance for change in Ukraine, now is it. 

Useful links with information explaining the current events in Ukraine:


This video gives a brief synopsis of the reasons behind the protests. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Normal

It has been an adjustment. Moving to Kiev not only landed us in a new city, a new school, and a new ministry, but a new family dynamic as well.  For the first time since getting married, I am working full-time outside the home - more like 55-60 hours a week to be more accurate.  Our role descriptions have shifted to accommodate the changes.  George does all the grocery shopping and helps the kids with homework.  The kids and I eat our main meal at school by paying for a hot Ukrainian lunch.  I cook something for George which lasts him 2-3 days and in the evening our supper consists of sandwiches, hot dogs, cream of wheat, etc. The kids' chores have increased and they are doing a great job contributing to the family with their hard work.

I LOVE teaching and really enjoy my students.  We just finished up a month long study of World War I which not only I enjoyed, but the students as well.  We made lapbooks and we all learned a lot.

We have had very little time for sightseeing but this weekend our good friends from Budapest visited so we took them to the Pechersk Lavra and thoroughly enjoyed walking through the catacombs and the exhibits (especially the miniature museum and Ukrainian folk museum). 
Kiev from the Lavra
Bell Tower at night
I have enjoyed watching the sunrise over the city from our advantage point on the outskirts of town. Sometimes this makes getting up early worth its while!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Celebrating 6 Years

Unlike most people, September 11 has a good connotation for us.  Six years ago, our Elizabeth Anne was born!  George put it so well on Facebook, "6 years ago today 9/11 changed our lives forever as our incredible little girl, Elizabeth, was born. We have been incredibly blessed by her energetic embracing of life, of her love of mischief and her heart-melting smile. She has brought immeasurable joy to our life and we celebrate her today! We love you Elizabeth!!!"

On the day itself, Elizabeth was able to bring donuts into her classroom.  George spent a couple hours the night before searching for a place that sells donuts.  He found one, finally, under the ground in a metro passageway.  What a special treat!  That afternoon she also got to open her presents from family.  She got what she really wanted - thanks to help from our friends - a Journey Girl doll!
Present topper

Can't wait to open presents

Journey Girl doll, Meredith

The party was on Saturday.  We invited her 5 classmates and our good friends, Sveta, Denis, and their daughter Erika.  Three of her classmates were able to come (one ended up on the other side of town).  See if you can guess the theme.  We played "Pin the Ponytail on Barbie", "Barbie Shoe Drop," "Barbie Scavenger Hunt," and "Dress-up Relay." 

Pin the Tail on Barbie

Scavenger Hunt

Dress-up Relay girls

Reading the card


Yeah, a barbie doll!

Presents are the best part

George was able to find someone to make a Barbie cake. (Thank you, Sveta, for the reference.)  
The cake

It wouldn't be a Ukrainian birthday without a firework candle

Waiting for cake

Sveta and Erika

It was a fun day of celebration!  Happy birthday, Elizabeth!
The birthday girl


Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Day of School

Boy am I tired!  Today was our first day of school at Kiev Christian Academy.  Everything was ready for my first day of teaching, and then last night at 9:30pm I realized I hadn't organized the supplies our kids needed to bring to school.  Backpacks were still filled with toys from the airplane and they were all sleeping soundly in their beds.  So much for being organized! I forgot to organize anything for my own kids!
Ready for the first day of school
 The day started out early.  We caught a ride with another teacher at 7:20am and we got there just about 8:00am.  Kids can come into the rooms at 8:20.  I didn't forget to take attendance and send it to the office.  I was worried I would so I wrote it on my plan for today.  Check!  We had chapel right away and then the rest of the day we got to know each other, played some math games to refresh their addition, subtraction, and multiplication, and took a spelling assessment, etc.  We went over some classroom procedures and jobs.  I had lots of questions surrounding the lunch time routine.  Since most of the students have been there longer than me, they were my wealth of information.  5th grader serve as the lunch monitors and are responsible for bringing all the lunches that need to be warmed up from the elementary classrooms to the cafeteria. 
Snack time

The "bars" at school

The soccer field at recess

Math games

Reviewing mathematical functions

Adding their names to the board in preparation for our class photo

I have a GREAT group of students - 11 in all.  I am really looking forward to the year ahead.  Today was a great start to the year, exhausting, but that's probably not going to change.

5th grade class

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Boxes, Spiderwebs, and Mafia Restaurants

The past 12 days in Ukraine have consisted mostly of unpacking and rigorous house-cleaning.  I have left the house a few times only to find myself on narrow neighborhood streets with blind corners and changing right-of-way.  Upon exiting the neighborhood I am in a maze of traffic.  Lane markings are non-existent or completely ignored.  Parking places are made exactly to the size of a compact car almost as if the forensic team outlined the car in chalk.  The lane between the parking places is likewise no wider than the width of a car. Naturally, this makes getting in and out of a parking spot very challenging and all the more so with a minivan. 

All this while, I've taken refuge in our home and working hard to make it home.  I love the house.  I love the space.  For the first time in our married lives we are living in a single-family home.  The kids each have their own bedrooms and for me the master bathroom is the cherry on top.  We will certainly enjoy this place for the year that we can live here.  I'm not looking forward to packing and unpacking all over again next summer, but for now I am happy to be here.  But where I actually am, I have no idea!

I have made a bit of progress.  I remember the name of our street now -

Бул. Каштанова, 32 (transliterated that's Vulitsa Kashtanova 32)

The name of the district is still a tongue-twister:  Софіївська Борщагівка (Sofievs'ka Borshchahivka).  Try saying that 5 times fast!

With my mom

The highlight of the past 12 days has been having my mom here.  She has been a tremendous help.  I don't know what I would have done without her.  What I do know is that I would still be a long way from having things unpacked and certainly the house wouldn't be nearly as clean.   She vacuumed up the spiderwebs from every room, scrubbed the kitchen and bathrooms, and mopped the floors.  She left today and the house is lonelier without her (and dirtier too - the back door has finger smudges again, Mom :) )

Working, working, working

Having Mom with us was also a good excuse to get away from the mounds of boxes and suitcases and to see a bit of our new city.  We enjoyed lunch at a Soviet-style restaurant - very fun!  
Picking out some new foods to try - a green drink made from tarragon was a hit

Typical Soviet-era foods

Note the newspaper on the ceiling - a common form of "wallpaper" at a time nothing was available

We walked up the long street to St. Andrew's Cathedral.  Matthew's constant complaining reminded me to forget the idea that our kids are ready for a European vacation.  We're still a few years away from museums and historical sites.  
Tourist shopping along the street to St. Andrew's

Matryoshka dolls come in any shape, size, and personality

Soviet antiques anyone?

Almost to the top of the hill

St. Andrew's Cathedral

On the way down - you can see how unhappy Matthew is!

Street musician playing the bandura

On Sunday we walked down the most famous street in Kyiv - Khreshchatyk Street.  On weekends a portion of the road is closed to traffic and you can walk down the center of the street.  We had lunch at a "family restaurant" called Mafia.  Seriously, that is what they describe themselves as on their menus.  I'm still trying to figure out how the two concepts go together.  Sushi is very popular in Kyiv and practically any restaurant and fast-food joint offers it.  George and I ordered a set to split between the two of us but then Matthew and Elizabeth ended up eating half of it.  Who knew we had children with such culinary preferences?  Good thing too since children's menus of mac n cheese and chicken tenders are not to be found here, but there's plenty of sushi!
Walking down Khreshchatyk Street

Independence Square

Back at the house the kids are constantly begging to open another box.  It's like Christmas for them to discover once again their old toys and belongings.  And not unlike Christmas, they prefer to leave their discoveries all over the floor.  

George worked for days to set up the swimming pool left by the missionary family we're house-sitting for.  The kids LOVE the pool.   With temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s (and humidity at 100% this morning), the pool is very refreshing.  

It's good to be here in Kyiv.  It will take some time still to feel at home (and know my address) but we've had a good start.