(12.12.2009) I experienced my third when passing through Skopje, Macedonia.  It was with a couple that I was going to be staying with during my stay, Elena and Ivica.  Elena was the one who retrieved me from the train station where I had stored my bag for the day.  She took em to the apartment where I met the rest of the family (her husband Ivica and their two cats whose names I have forgotten).

I had an incredible time with the pair.  Because of the train times to Prilep, Macedonia they offered their room to me for another night.  I graciously accepted.  Elena, understanding my somewhat planned (mostly unplanned) future route, lined me up with a surfer in Jerusalem. Continue Reading »


The Ukrainian Health Ministry press service said on Monday (21.12.2009) that “A five-day-long heavy snowfall caused 27 weather-related deaths” (People’s Daily Online)  This news has reiminded me of the cold I experienced during my two year stay in Kramatorsk, a city in Donetska oblast in eastern Ukraine.  I experienced some cold winters in housing that led me to see my breath while lying in bed.  The heating in my apartment and in the apartment of several friends was very limited so we wore sweaters, pants and socks to bed.  I worry even more for the elderly and the young.

I hope only the best for those living in Ukraine now.  It was last week that almost 400 cars were stranded on a highway between Kherson and Nikolayev in western Ukraine (ITAR-TASS).  It has been a tough winter and I hope the best for those living in and visiting Ukraine.

(07.12.2009) Most of the taxis that I’ve ridden in during my stay in Amman have been wonderful.  The drivers have held conversation with me despite the enormous language barriers.  Even with the difficulties they never showed signs of frustration.

Today Thomas (a Swede that I met in Amman), RJ (an American studying in Tunisia) and I grabbed a taxi from the Mecca Mall to the Jet bus station.  Ina nice car he took us to the Jet station so that we could check on tickets to our three different destinations.  He said that he would wait for us as we went inside to gather our tickets and information.

When we returned from the ticket counter he had acquired chocolates and crackers for us to munch on during the remainder of our travel back to the hostel.  On this trip he stopped to pick up some coffee for himself offering each of us a cup.  Thomas and RJ declined while the driver and I sipped our cups.

When we arrived at our destination for the driver rounded the fare down to the dinar.  Needless to say the driver received a pleasant tip while we took his number.  This was just one of the many pleasantries experienced during my stay in Jordan.

During the second week of November I put my belongings into the piles of ‘still mine’ and ‘no longer mine’ piles.  The latter pile found new owners while the other pile went into a couple of bags to join me during my trip home.  The ‘still mine’ pile was then sifted through so that I could select the goods that would be helping me survive my next endeavour.

Through November and December I traveled down through the Balkans and the Middle East.  The trip started with two weeks in former Yugoslavia followed with a couple days in Athens then another two weeks in Jordan and Israel.  I wrote in my journal as I trekked the lands and as I made such wonderful new friends.  Sadly, my camera broke on day three of my travels so the descriptions will be mostly text.  Many of the stories will be added to this blog in the next couple of days.

My three secondary school project co-directors have been beyond impressive in the last few weeks leading up to the final concert which was scheduled for this evening (31 October 2009).  The girls have been able to secure our venue, get six bands committed, acquire various decorations and educational materials, distribute announcements throughout the city, and even get the attention of local forms of mass media.

I had a three day COS (Conclusion of Service) conference last week in Slavske, but with the speed of travel in Ukraine the conference took a week of my time with transportation included.  My time as a Peace Corps volunteer is coming to a close.  The timing of the conference of course was a bit of an obstacle.  Prior to leaving I left the ladies with some important tasks which must be completed during my short leave.  They got everything finished and continued working with their own ideas.  Beautiful!  The project is coming together.

Sadly, a new obstacle has appeared.  There was a death from H1N1 in Ukraine yesterday.  As a result, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has declared this a national emergency, has closed schools and has banned all public events.  This HIV/AIDS project is a public event.  It has been cancelled and there has been no date provided as to when it can be rescheduled.  I only hope it can be before my departure.  After watching their performance, I know that Sonia, Dasha and Anna will be able to run the project without me now, but I still have a grant to close.  Oye, we’re meeting this evening to discuss how to reschedule.  The concert will go on!!!

Yaroslav leading the HIV/AIDS teaching seminar

Yaroslav leading the HIV/AIDS teaching seminar

Yesterday (11 October 2009) we had a PEPFAR HIV/AIDS training seminar at my school.  This training seminar is a major point of the first stage of our project: education.  To my pleasure there were twenty five teachers from more than fifteen schools present at the training seminar which lasted about five hours. Continue Reading »

I have organized an HIV/AIDS project with the main aims of spreading awareness of the global issue in Kramatorsk.  I have recruited three wonderful secondary school students to co-direct the project with me.  Sonia, Dasha and Anna are all eleventh graders who attended Camp HEAL in August 2009.  There they learned much about HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and some other world issues.  They wanted to bring this knowledge to their home town. Continue Reading »