Cliff Gardner

Friday, November 24, 2006


I wrote the entry below a few days ago in an e-mail to my mom and I thought I would post it here so you all know what's been going on in my life. However, I've been crying for the last hour and given that fact, it seems very chipper. I just found out about the death of a very good friend, Logan Will. I don't think I can add anything about Logan that hasn't already been said, so I'll just say that he was the best friend, coworker, debater, teammate and guy-always-willing-to-play-catch anyone could have, and he was the best person I've ever known. I miss him beyond words.

I should also congratulate Josh Masagatani on winning the Mahaffey--I've very, very proud of him, although I can't say I'm surprised at all--you're amazingly talented, my friend.

So yea, I've got a lot of emotions right now. OK, here's the entry:

"I miss you all a ton! Sorry I haven't been able to blog lately, I've been away from a computer for a long time. So, I thought I would tell you a little more about my permanent site, a town of 17,000 called Ochakiv. I'm blogging from the Peace Corps Headquarters in Kyiv after spending the last few days in my future town (two ALL NIGHT trains on either end, and let me tell you that was an experience since Ochakiv is 11 hours away via train--I think I'll stay away from Kyiv when I'm down there and just go to Odessa or Micholaive, which are much closer and still really big cities), and let me tell you, the Peace Corps has sent me to heaven on earth! It's RIGHT ON the Black Sea--actually two other rivers feed into it, too, so the water is a nice mixture of lots of clean water that's easy to swim in (assuming you can swim well, which I can't, but still). It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen, and it's going to be really warm.

More about the town--it has a really big market open every morning that sells anything in the world you might want. The streets are lined on either side with hundreds of little shops and cafes that are mostly closed because it's winter and OC is a resort town, but I'm told that the place comes alive every summer. The town has a supermarket (at which I got Pepsi and a twix yesterday!) and a crappy Internet cafe with four computers (w/windows 98)--but still, if slow Internet is the worst thing I can say about my site, my life is pretty sweet for two years. The school is really nice! I like my coordinator a lot--she's an English teacher at the school and is super awesome. Apparently my school had another PCV last year who went home because her dad passed away (that's sad and I'm really sorry for her), so I'm being compared to her pretty much every 30 seconds, but that doesn't bother me because A)the comparisons are mostly good because the last volunteer was from Wisconsin and they had trouble understanding her b/c of the accent, even though everyone agrees that she was really amazing anyway, and B)having a previous PCV makes them experiences and know how to deal with us (for example, they already have a pretty nice apartment waiting for me when I come back in December). I have my own classroom, which is super rare for PCV's, so I plan to decorate it with pictures and drawings from home. Also, I'm one of four male teachers out of 34 total in the school. My lesson (a lecture on Oregon) went really super well too, which is good considering the entire English department and the Vice Principal came to watch. The 9th graders loved it!

My second host family, who I'll be stying with for one month (late December to late January) is this retired couple whom I call Babushka (grandma, she's 76) and dedushka (grandpa, he's 72), mostly because I can't pronounce their actual names--no vowels hurts! Oh, and neither speak any English, so communicating is a lot of work, but it's good because I really need to learn Russian soon. They're also my coordinator's parents, so if we get stuck (which happens about once a night), we call her and get help. I'm just back in Kyiv for a few more days to de-brief my site visit, then I go back to Boguslav for one more month during which time I have my language test (don't worry, I'll be fine, but pray for me anyway!) and we do our big community project at the school (a fall festival celebrating all the American holidays), and then I'm sworn in on December 21st.

I'm very lucky and happy! Life is wonderful!"