New Year's Update

Trip Start Mar 02, 2003
Trip End Jul 04, 2005

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Flag of Ukraine  ,
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Happy New Year - Old and New for that matter. It's a little difficult for me to fathom that it's 2005 already. I left for Ukraine in 2003 and as of today have less than four months left in my service. February 3-6 is my COS (Close of Service) conference in the Carpathians when Peace Corps will bring all of group 24 together for one last hurrah!

Time certainly has flown by and now is when everyone starts asking, "So, what are your plans for after Peace Corps?" Frankly, I have a couple ideas in mind. 1) Graduate School - Sounds great, but what are the odds of someone actually letting me in to a reputable establishment for another two years? 2) Find a job - Also sounds plausible and tempting after working for $200/month for over two years. It would be nice to be able to afford an expensive, fancy cup of coffee when I get back to the States. And then again, will I ever be satisfied with a mediocre job again? And furthermore in this super economy what are my chances of finding something decent? 3) Forget it all and just keep moving - And what I mean by this is just to go (somewhere). Regardless of the final outcome I will be travelling for a while after I finish this gig. I was thinking Turkey or maybe Kenya and Tanzania. Once that damn bug grabs hold of you, you can kiss your idea of the world goodbye. It's so huge, and your life is so short... you better see as much as you can!

But I digress. Things have settled down here since Yushchenko won the second second round of elections. Sunday was the long-anticipated inauguration. That morning a few of us Kyiv volunteers were invited to the American Ambassador's residence to have a morning meeting/reception with Colin Powell who was in town for the big event. That meeting was slightly dissapointing for several reasons - first, how can you invite people to your home at 8:30 in the morning and not provide tea or coffee?? second, hearing Colin Powell speak for five minutes and then shaking his hand left a bit to be desired. third, as a few of us were leaving we were stopped by the Ambassador's wife's secretary who yelled at us for not knowing protocol regarding honored guests. I guess that no one is supposed to leave before they do. Funny. But it gets better, the Ambassador's wife, just audibly enough for all to hear, commented on our "lack of morals and manners". I guess that the wives of diplomats aren't given training on being diplomatic. Frankly, what the hell did she expect from a bunch of Peace Corps volunteers. I mean we all know that we're just a bunch of animals!! ;)

After the "breakfast" meeting, I met my friend Olena to go to Maidan. Unlike the revolution, this time security was very apparent and all over the square. A few of the major buildings around the square were draped in orange and there were two stages set up. Several TV screens were scattered around Maidan on which the inauguration ceremony at the Parliament was shown live. I don't know how many people were on Maidan on Sunday, but I do know that I was smushed in the center of the crowd near the stage, and although it was -2 Celsius, the body heat all around me kept me toasty warm. The festivities carried on all day with concerts in the afternoon and a spectacular fireworks display in the evening. I'm still of the mind that Ukraine's budget must have a major line in there about fireworks because I've never seen such elaborate displays anywhere.

As for the "Orange Revolution", it has taken on a life of its own. Capitalists are standing all over the center of the city selling various t-shirts, scarves, hats, and other memorbilia commeorating the revolution. I've even see several advertising campaigns (commercials and bill boards) using pictures from Maidan and the revolution to sell their product. I have to give them credit though, I don't know one person that hasn't bought a t-shirt or hat. I bought t-shirts for my cousin's boys in Poland for Christmas, and I myself sometimes sport a flourecent orange cap (ideal for hunting, I'm sure). There is a rumor that one of the history museums in town is going to open a permanent exhibit about the Orange Revolution. Funny how quickly things like that become a historical focal point. Regardless, throughout the course of this whole things - the last two months - have been some of the most interesting and exciting in my whole life. It's going to be difficult to leave this country, my friends and my life here. If I thought this Orange commercialism is bad, what the heck am I going to do back in the States? Perhaps I'll finally understand the meaning of reverse culture shock.

Work is fine. The world of development is quite interesting. But one thing I've learned for sure is that every development organization is different and that some are better than others. I'm not going to comment on the org I currently work with, but I will say that there are two types of people that decide to devote their lives to development work. One type gets into it for the benefit of the people that they're serving. The other type may start out like the first type, but eventually, if not from the very beginning, they're in it for themselves, and don't remember that development happens at the grassroots level, not in some cushy office and high profile meetings. I'm not sure what this means for myself, but at the very least I recognize these differences and am glad that I don't fall into the second category of people. It's just hard to believe that it's time to start wrapping up my projects here. April 27th (my COS date) is just around the corner.
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