June 26, 2009

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 another year.  

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




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