"The Peace Corps was the most democratic experience I have had of my country and the people who inhabit it. We crossed economic class, education level, age; we were an intensive kind of motley crew. We all had that feeling of, What are we doing here? I tried to have thoughtful conversations, tried to be a good guest and do what I was supposed to do as a presence. For me it was liberating to not be so aggressively climbing. I learned how to be alone. But it is true: the people who went with the best of intentions about helping the world were the ones who quit in the first six months. They didn’t make it because there was nothing to sustain that.

There were moments, yes, that were rude awakenings to what being American is. However liberal our sensibilities to our politics we seem maybe not to learn. I think maybe when you are Peace Corps or a teacher or writer, you continue to see yourself as an exception, and suddenly you realize others aren’t seeing that exception."

The Rumpus Interview With John W. Evans (via therumpus)

(via therumpus)

Moving On

The status has changed again. As of April 14, you may now call me an RPCV: “Returned Peace Corps Volunteer”. I feel like I’m cheating a bit, since I was only in Ukraine for five months. Do I even have the right to call myself “Returned”? Whatever. I’m now scrambling on summer job applications, wading through that horror that is Peace Corps medical AGAIN, and praying like hell that I can get a reassignment and be in a new country by October.

This forty-five day administrative hold has been something of a brutal breakup. I describe it as the classic rom-com situation: I’m in love, I know it’s gotta end, I should probably move my sorry blubbery self on, but I just can’t let go. I’m head over heels.

Inevitably, it’s the little things. Riding the mashrutka with lace curtains and tassels on the windows. Admiring fur coats. Nela, the girl who worked the fruit stand below my apartment. Tea time with the ladies at school, eating salo with dark bread and mustard. Apples from my host family’s tree. Chernihiv’s church domes, always shining. All those hours spent in Café Chashka. Babushkas’ headscarves, and the way they can sell literally anything on the street. Visiting my friend at the music school. Watching out my window at 10pm, as the buses come to take the coal miners to their late work shifts. Ukrainian parties, with vodka and cake and singing. Speaking Russian. Friday nights at Sveta’s. Varenyky, stray dogs, exquisite tapestries, smiles from coworkers, countless hugs from students.

Ukraine, you are an astounding country, and I love you. You are rough, sometimes brutal. Your winters are damn near unbearable. But somehow, you clawed your way under my skin. I think it’s your people that did it – their hospitality, their realism, their complex outlook on life. They may think they are simple and ordinary, but they are not. Ukrainians are remarkable individuals ten times stronger than any Peace Corps Volunteer privileged enough to live among them. And now, everything is changing.

I read news reports every day, quick one-page write-ups about the tension in Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkiv. Americans have no associations with these places, obviously, but it’s a punch in the gut every time I see Lugansk and think: that’s where I spent Christmas. Where we took a school trip to the symphony. Where we crammed into a one-room apartment for three days waiting for a plane to evacuate us to Washington D.C. Lugansk, with its new barricades and gunmen, is only forty minutes from home in Krasnodon.

Regardless of what is seen on the news today, please remember the current situation in Ukraine is not about geopolitics or diplomacy or Putin. This is about lives. These are people’s lives. They are living and working there, going to school, paying the heating bill, scraping together money to buy their kid a costume for the town play, and there’s talk of armies massing on the border just a few kilometers away. It feels so much different when it becomes personal. The emotions are made stronger, of course, by the fact that my time there ended so quickly and unexpectedly. Ukraine my dear, you have much to work through. The years ahead will be difficult, and you will need all the strength of your people. It’s right that I am not there. I have no place in what you are about to achieve. Maybe one day, when you’re ready, I’ll come back. Until then, Я люблю тебя. слава Україні.

"I see that I am a little piece in a big, big universe, and that makes it right."

— Beasts of the Southern Wild

New Blog title, New Blog

I decided to keep the old url for a while because, well, I’m nostalgic and trending towards self-pity, and it makes me feel better.

A few days ago, Volunteers were informed that we will not be returning to Ukraine. Currently dealing with strong emotions, trying to reassign to a new country, and trying to find summer employment. Bear with me.

We’re supposed to keep our blogs clean and non-political, but since my PCV status is about to disappear, lemme just say: United Ukraine forever <3

Tags: ukraine

The impossibly beautiful hills of California. It looks like something from those “happy cows” commercials.

(reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9iiPOaJczE)

My site, Krasnodon, is only 40 miles from Lugansk. It’s where I spent Christmas and weekend afternoons at English club. When we were evacuated we flew out of Donetsk.

The barricades have come to eastern Ukraine, and I pray to god this doesn’t get violent.

"Have the grace to accept a fate that is singular, spectacular, and inexplicable."

— Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka

Wandering San Francisco with a PC friend, we found the city&#8217;s Little Russia district. What happiness! What nostalgia! A couple of signs in Cyrillic, a couple of shops selling salo, and golubtsi and poppyseed rolls for lunch.

Wandering San Francisco with a PC friend, we found the city’s Little Russia district. What happiness! What nostalgia! A couple of signs in Cyrillic, a couple of shops selling salo, and golubtsi and poppyseed rolls for lunch.

"I’m sure it will go smoothly. Why wouldn’t it? It’s history, after all, and history always works itself out."

Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka

Ha. Oh the irony. Ha.

About Peace Corps Ukraine and the evacuation.

"Posh Corps Shorts Episode 4 features two recently evacuated volunteers from Peace Corps Ukraine."

From http://posh-corps.tumblr.com/