Wednesday, February 12, 2014

27 months - my experience as the Mom of a Peace Corps Volunteer - the second six months of my daughter's service

Hi all,

So this is blog post #3 about my experiences with my daughter in the Peace Corps.  When I left off in the last blog, I had just visited Lviv Ukraine and got to see my beautiful daughter live and in person.

She headed back to her village and worked.  She worked hard all spring into summer and then she was so happy when school let out for the summer.  Her work as a Peace Corps volunteer continued year round, but her responsibilities shifted dramatically when school was not in session.

She focused her time and energy on writing grants to get resources for the classroom.  She also participated in several 'English camps' throughout the region.  That meant visiting other communities and working with other seasoned PCV's on hosting a week long camp for school aged children focused on improving their English language skills.

But before all that work started, she had an opportunity to travel in Europe on a vacation.  She had met a young man, I'll call him Mike (to protect his identity) while still in the U.S. with Peace Corps and they got along well.  They had decided to travel together for 10 days to see Europe.  They intended to have several PCV's join them and at various cities, they did meet up with other PCV's but they were the only two PCV's in Ukraine to travel to all three cities.  They took the train, stayed in youth hostels and tried to do it on the cheap.

They visited Prague in Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary and Vienna, Austria before heading back to Ukraine.

Sarah had not had Starbuck's coffee in almost a year, so she was very excited to get a latte while on her trip.  They also got to enjoy some favorite familiar foods like Mexican food!

I remember one story that I'm very happy had a positive ending.  Mike and Sarah arrived in Budapest and started visiting all the great tourist destinations.  While visiting one of the beautiful churches they watched a few men playing a game called shells.  The guys put a rock (or something like that) under one of three shells and then shuffled the shells all around and the person had to guess which shell had the rock.  Have you all heard of this?  I certainly had, but somehow Mike from Texas  was  not aware of this game.  He watched for a while and felt really confident that he had a good eye and could easily find which shell had the rock underneath it, when the guy playing the game was an idiot and never able to spot it.  So he placed a bet.  I think it started at $10.00.  And, of course, he lost.  He then had an 'opportunity' to double down to place another bet to get his money back.  When he had eaten through his $100.00 or so of cash, he continued to bet on money he didn't have on his person, assuring the man hosting the game that he could get cash from the ATM machine nearby.  Sarah kept trying to talk him out of further bets and move on.  But something, maybe American pride kept him going.  When he was about $250.00 in, the gig was up.  The host insisted he pay up and several men accompanied Mike to the cash machine.  Well, Mike was a smart guy.  He decided before the trip that he would only keep one cities worth of money in his checking account so he wouldn't overspend his budget in any one city.  But this meant he could not access the full amount of money these guys needed at the ATM.  So, with 2 (maybe 3) brutish looking Hungarians standing by, Mike drains his checking account and is still $75.00 bucks short.  Things were not looking pretty.  Mike then asks his traveling companion (my darling DAUGHTER) to use her ATM card and loan him the $75.00 so he could not get beat up.  As a mom, I was FREAKING OUT.  Thankfully I heard this story well after it happened, but in hindsight I'm thinking - You Fool!  You put yourself and my daughter in danger - for what?  A stupid shell betting game!  Arggh.  Lucky for the two of them, the scam artists were happy with the $250.00, but I was afraid they would ask them for all the money in their ATM accounts.

At this point, Sarah really wondered about the maturity of her traveling companion, but they had one more city to hit before home.    Mike also had spent all his trip so hostel accommodations got less fancy and food options were even lower budget.  Yes, be careful people who you choose to travel through life with.  Your partners choices (good or bad) absolutely have an impact on you and your life!!!  Life lesson learned the hard way, luckily it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

The last city was a little subdued, partly because they were tired and partly because they were tired of each other.    Overall, Sarah has fond memories of that trip, but we never wondered if she and Mike would get together as a couple after that.  They remained friendly via Skype and messaging but if you've ever traveled for 10 days with someone (like a Mike) you can understand how the friendship simmered to luke-warm after that.

Once in her village again, Sarah had something else to look forward to that summer - her dad and I were visiting!  We arrived in late July and met her in Budapest (yup, a city, she was familiar with) and she traveled with us to her village.  While in Hungary (again) she was treated to 5 star accommodations.  Let me tell you people, if you want to travel to Europe but need to stay on a budget - GO TO BUDAPEST.  It was VERY affordable.  We stayed at 5 star accommodations for like $60.00 a night.  Dinners out (3 courses, wine) totaled $40.00 USD and it is BEAUTIFUL.  Everyone speaks English, the hot spa's are fabulous and the sights are really amazing.  What an awesome experience that was.  If you want to read the details of the trip, check out these blog posts I did after our visit.  Below are a few photo's to whet your appetite.  One word of caution if you do go.... be careful of being overcharged for taxi's but otherwise very clean and safe city for foreigners.

Blog posts from trip to visit Sarah

During our trip we got to meet her boyfriend (Ivan) her host family, her friends and her principal.  It was a great trip and I am so thankful we got to go.

Around this time, Sarah posted an update on her blog to clarify 'the boyfriend' situation.  All her friends and loved ones were curious (and concerned) about the man she was dating and she attempted to satisfy their curiosity with her own words.  You can read it here.

The boyfriend blog

And yes, among all this boyfriend time and visiting from family and trips to Europe, Sarah was busy working.  She had decided about her long-term service project.  Each PCV is asked to do something that will outlast their time in the village.  It must be something that will benefit the community and be related to the work they are doing.  Sarah had finalized her idea and met with her principal and started to put together all the details.  Her idea?  Develop a first rate resource room at the school for the English Teachers to use.  Stock the room with books and curriculum to help the teachers.  So as her summer came to a close and as the new school year approached, she was feeling more prepared for her classroom time and excited about project.

She also worked with several other PCV's in other villages to host English Camps.  Sarah had fun teaching the kids about american camp things - she found GIMP and showed them how to make GIMP bracelets and taught them American games like 'Mother May I' and 'Red Rover, Red Rover.'

Oh and one other thing Sarah discovered while in Ukraine.  She learned that there actually is a reason for the expression 'till the cows come home.'  Being a suburban girl, she never knew that many areas of the world really do have cows that leave and 'come home.'

Too funny the things you have to go half way around the world to discover!!

Well that wraps up the third blog entry in the series.  Come back again for the next blog post which chronicles Fall of 2012-Spring of 2013

1 comment:

Karen said...

Love reading your memories about Sarah's time in the Peace Corps. Be sure to save them somehow to pass on to her children someday!