A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for December, 2008

My very own yolka!

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She’s little, but she’s still beautiful. As you can see, she’s a Christmas tree, except for the fact that there is no “Christmas” around here as we think of it in the States. New Year’s is Christmas and New Year’s, all rolled into one, but secular (there’s a religious holiday a week later, but really New Year’s is the big deal). Every family gets a yolka, whether Christian, Jewish, or other. I bought mine on Karl Marx Prospect (the main road of Dnepropetrovsk) off a street vendor for 20 grivnas (about $3). She’s really too small to decorate, but she fits nicely in my apartment, and she’s bringing me New Year’s cheer!

Vareniki

Vareniki are Russian dumplings filled with potato, cheese, mushrooms, cabbage, or of course, meat. I made mine with potato and onion.

Vareniki

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Dear Lena,

Your New Year’s plans sound really nice. Family and then friends. What more could you want? Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans yet. New Year’s is a big family holiday here. I thought I was going to go to my friend Lena’s house, since I know her mother and we get along really well, but for various reasons, it seems that I won’t be able to commandeer an invitation. My boss Amir leaves for Israel tomorrow and won’t be back for another few weeks, and although Sharon invited me over to spend New Year’s with her and the kids, she indicated that it won’t be so much fun. Ori is scared of fireworks (and people go crazy lighting their own fireworks here!), so they’ll be hiding indoors all night, and they have to go to sleep early. I’m going to a Shabbaton with Hillel kids this weekend, so we’ll see if any of them are family-less, as well. If not, I’ll think of something fun to do. I’m not the type to sit and mope, and certainly not on the biggest night of the year!

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Packing list for Hillel Shabbaton in Lecnoy

  • coat
  • scarf
  • hat
  • gloves (it’s cold out!!)
  • my badass American snowboots (I’m the only woman in all of Dnepropetrovsk who owns a pair of shoes this ugly, but it’s worth it! This morning, women in skirts and high, high stiletto heels were slipping and sliding in the snow, while I was able to run and jump comfortably through it)
  • jeans
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (although really, I’d only need one. It’s very common to wear the same outfit for many days in a row here. People don’t have that many clothes here, so they wear their Sunday best every day of the week, and if that means that they wear the same two outfits again and again, so be it)
  • sweatshirt (normally, I couldn’t wear something so informal, but this is a group of university kids drinking together in the woods. I think it’ll be fine)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • sports bra
  • long sleeve t-shirt (I plan on going jogging. Through the woods. In the snow. I’ll be the only one, and I’ll probably do it hung over, but I don’t care. There’s only one day a week when I’m not working during daylight hours, and therefore can jog, and I’m not giving up my Saturday run just because I’m in Lecnoy!)
  • toiletries
  • Anna Karenina
  • 2 bottles of vodka (for serious)
  • 1 carton of juice (chaser)

DGU kickoff event in Zaporozhe

December 17, 2008. 11 am. “Cultural Palace,” Zaporozhe.

Press conference

The morning began with a press conference, to which the major television channels, newspapers, and young volunteers of Zaporozhe were invited. I was very excited by the turnout– nearly 40 young people were there, which is quite astonishing, considering how little is known about voluntarism here in Ukraine. The conference lasted a little over an hour, after all was said and done. Inessa, the energetic director of JCC Zaporozhe, who organized most of this event, was our emcee for the morning. We opened with speeches. Anatoli, director of Chessed Zaporozhe, and Amir spoke, among others. Then it was time to unveil the site itself.

Inessa, Sabina, and I explain the site

Above (left to right): Inessa, me, Sabina

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Back in the USSR

The Soviet Union is missed more dearly in Ukraine than one would expect.

USSR Casino

“Things were better during the USSR,” Sveta, my Russian teacher, has told me many a time. “Education was so much better than it is today. The streets were clean. Everyone could get healthcare. People were more respectful.”

More respectful? How do you figure?

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Metsudah

This post dates back to the 17th of November; I just now realized that I never published it! Enjoy this blast from the past…

I had heard so much about the Metsudah program in my short time here, but couldn’t really understand what made it so special. This weekend I had the chance to experience it firsthand.

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