Greetings to all – we hope
you are all well and enjoying the summer.
It has been busy here, the Director of our Language School
is learning how to take advantage of his “volunteers”, and
we are working until July 13th even though most
of the other teachers were done on June 20th.
But we are okay with that, and are happy to report that
all of our students passed the speaking part of the
complicated English language exam they took in Kiev.
This was the part of the exam that students from the
school had had the most problems with in previous years,
and we are happy they all passed. But we also
suppose this means we get to keep our “jobs” there for
We did decide to use summer
to go visit parts of Ukraine we hadn’t been to yet.
The favorite so far in our recent travels is Odessa.
A beautiful old city, in southern Ukraine on the Black
Sea. This was the city that Catherine the Great
decided should be the playground of the rich and
politically connected of Russia, and Tsar Alexander I
later “hired” Duc Ruchlieu of France to redesign the city.
The opera house alone was worth the visit, and we even saw
Verdi one evening from our own private box.
Then we rode their soviet-era cable car down a steep hill
to the beach (one time was enough for the cable car, next
time we walk!). The beach was crowded but it was a
great day weather-wise, and you can see why it is still a
popular vacation spot. The most interesting
however was probably the “catacombs” – a series of
underground tunnels and passageways in and around Odessa
that began as limestone mines and then became havens for
smugglers, but which then became hideouts and headquarters
for the “partisans” in World War II; basically
locals who took it upon themselves to wage a small but
quite effective guerilla type war against the Nazi
occupation of Odessa. We don’t think we could
live underground like that in limestone mine “tunnels” for
three years with no electricity or plumbing or food or
supplies other than what sympathizers were able to get to
you. But then we have never had to live in the
middle of Nazi occupied territory either. So
it was interesting.
We are now also in the
process of finding a new apartment. Our rent was
fixed for the first year, but now the landlady has decided
“the Americans” should pay a lot more. Actually too
too much more. It would mean about $89 out of our
pocket per month, and this is way over our Peace Corps
budget. So we will let you know. We are
hoping we can find both plumbing and heat for what we can
afford to pay, but since the financial crisis has hit
Ukraine quite hard (not to mention that those in power
have not managed their situation well at all), and rents
are actually coming down, we think we will be okay.
We hear it has been hot in
Fremont – temperatures here have been averaging about 80
degrees, which isn’t too bad. No air
conditioning anywhere of course, but we are getting used
to it. Not much else going on - write
when you have a chance, and hello to all.
Don and Karen