Saturday, September 29, 2007


Olena, Joshua, and Veronika

When we first came to Bila Tserkva, we were only greeted with stares and suspicion. Even the children avoided the strange looking American boys. So it's nice to finally feel accepted and even more than that, to feel trusted. Parents don't mind if their children are over at our place playing Uno until well after dark and the children outside will often offer to help carry our groceries for us. We regularly trade baked goods and fruits and vegetables with our neighbors. We know that because our building and the buildings around function much like bee hives, nothing we do or say goes unnoticed. It's nice to know that we have somehow managed to give the right impression.

Joshua hosting a picnic
(l. to r.) Zhenya, Olena, Vika, Joshua, Masha, Veronika, and Dasha

Today was unusually nice and sunny so Joshua decided to take advantage of it by hosting a picnic. He took down a deck of Uno cards and threw down a blanket. He barely had his picnic set up before Olena and Veronika joined him. It didn't take long before word got out and Joshua was mobbed by the neighborhood girls. (For some reason none of the boys were out today. Probably for the same reason that Dominic was camped out on the couch. TV and computer games.)

A babusya who asked Dominic to buy bread for her
The little babusya with her bread

Dominic went downstairs to check out Joshua's picnic and he said a strange thing happened to him. He said that a little old woman (babusya) that he didn't know, gave him some money and asked him to buy her some bread from the store. She knew that he was an American so she spoke slow and was patient with him. Dominic bought the bread she wanted and gave it to her. She thanked him and waved good bye as he came back upstairs. He was so surprised that this woman, that he didn't know, trusted him enough to give him money to buy bread. It's such a blessing to know that by all of us doing our best to reflect Christ in how we live we have earned the trust and acceptance of those around us.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chernihiv Conference

This weekend Dominic and I went to the church conference in the small village of Shestovytsya near Chernihiv. It was hosted by the church in Chernihiv that’s pastored by Jake Knotts.

Edna and Joshua stayed behind as Joshua was just getting over an ear infection and Edna was just starting to get a bad cold. Dominic and I had a good time meeting new people and hanging out with people we hadn’t seen in awhile. We met lots of Ukrainians and foreigners from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even our home town of San Luis Obispo. Except for being a little cold, the weather was beautiful and Yura from Kaharlyk kept us well fed.

It was great to be encouraged by all that God is doing here in Ukraine and to have fellowship with others who desire to see God’s Kingdom grow. (It was also cool to see the Napoleon Dynamite skit at the talent show.) We ended our time at the summer camp/conference center by getting a ride from Yura in the yellow Kaharlyk biodiesel van to Kyiv.

You can check out Danny Foote’s blog to see more pictures of the conference.

So Cold
Dominic trying to get warm.

Food Inspector
Dominic inspecting the food.

Drinking Water
Some of the kids fighting over the only source of fresh water, until...

Water Pressure
the water pressure suddenly rose and Conor dashed in to save them.

No conference would be complete without a bonfire.

Maia and Jake
Maia and Jake. Please pray for Maia. She had to go into the hospital that night with a viral infection.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Give a Hoot


Ukraine is a very beautiful country rich in natural splendor and open spaces. That’s why it’s so disheartening to see it spoiled by trash and pollution. Just about everywhere you go around where we live, you see trash littering the ground. The worst places seem to be the most beautiful and the most popular areas to picnic. Plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and bags, and broken glass are scattered everywhere. The river is clogged with floating debris that washes up on its banks as far as you can see. You can try and ignore it and clear a spot to have a picnic, but you can’t really get away from it.


Every time I see a beautiful spot that has been spoiled by people just throwing their trash on the ground or in the river, I’m reminded of the “Crying Indian” in the 1971 public service announcements. Woodsy Owl also comes to mind. I wonder if places in the United States once looked like they do here.

The answer to most of the problem is just getting people to care. Sadly, most people don’t. The catch phrase, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”, couldn’t be more true here. I regularly see people drop wrappers as they open something or just toss their trash within feet of an empty trash can.

Some people do care, but not nearly enough. I was sitting next to a playground that was littered with trash one morning. An old man started picking up the trash and putting it in a pile outside of the playground. I started to help him and together we at least put a dent in the problem. As we were finishing, a woman came up and told us to stop. She said it was a waste of time because there would just be more trash the next day. The man just replied that trash was no good and kept working. The woman again told me to stop and that it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t make a difference. I told her that it made a difference to the man I was helping and I kept gathering up the trash. She told me I should stop and go wash my hands. I ignored her.


There is also the idea that it’s someone else’s problem. One day we decided to go out as a family and cleanup the trash around the playground where we live. A few of the neighborhood kids even helped us, but some neighbors of ours called us over to the bench they were sitting. They wanted to know why we were picking up trash. We said we just wanted to keep the area where we live clean and to teach the kids not to litter. They told us that we should stop because there are people that get paid to pick up the trash. We tried to explain that those people only come once a week and don’t do a good job. The general thinking is, “So what if trash litters the ground? Eventually someone who gets paid will come along and pick up most of it. Why bother?”

Unfortunately, we live at the edge of the city where the preferred method of waste disposal is burning, plastic and all. This brings up yet another issue, air quality. Evening seems to be the magical time when everyone comes out to burn their trash. The smoke usually rises to about just above the roof tops and seems to spread out under an invisible glass ceiling. The first time I saw this effect, I thought it was fog. Some days are so bad that the weather report actually calls for “smoke”. For people like me and Joshua who have allergies, this can be a problem. (I can’t imagine trying to live here with asthma.) Joshua is currently suffering from an ear infection brought on by all the drainage he has been having. The cure is almost worse than the ear infection. Joshua has to endure a week of taking drops, tablets, and a twice a day antibiotic injection that the pharmaceutical company describes as “unusually painful”.

Joshua's treatment plan

I know that people here are concerned about having a factory that belches out black smoke in their backyard and almost everyone has concerns about radiation, but at what point do people start to care on an individual level? What motivates a person not to dump their trash where families picnic and come to enjoy the natural beauty of Ukraine?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to School

School No. 16

School No. 16
School No. 16

Dominic and Joshua spent their first day at school yesterday. They both seemed to like their classes and the kids in their classes. Edna met with their teachers and after school she went to a parent teacher meeting. I spent the day at Baba Hanya’s helping harvest potatoes, but I got home just in time to watch Joshua doing his homework. Oksana, from downstairs, helped Joshua with some of his work. Then Edna helped Oksana with her English homework while Joshua and Dominic helped Maxime with his English homework in their bedroom.

What we like best is that both the boys go to the second session of school. They go to school at 12:30pm and get home between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. This schedule seems to work well so far. We are just excited that the school allowed them in and the teachers are being so nice. The only problem Dominic has is a P.E. teacher who refuses to speak Ukrainian and only speaks Russian (even though it is against school rules). Dominic has two foreign languages classes, Russian and English. He seems to be doing pretty good in English. Joshua is also doing quite well in his English class. He's teaching the kids in his class (as well as his teacher) all kinds of interesting new English phrases.

English Homework

English Homework with Maxime

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I Say Potato, You Say Kartopla


We spent yesterday in a small village about 20 minutes away from where we live. We went with Maria’s father, Fedir, her mother, Vala, her sister, Stacia, and a neighbor, Valeri to help her aunt, Baba Hanya, and her uncle, Serhiy, harvest their potatoes. (Maria’s aunt and uncle are brother and sister. Neither of them ever married so they live together in their old age.) As we got off the bus to walk the couple of miles to the village, it began to rain. It made for a beautiful walk as we descended into the misty valley below. The rain stopped just as we got to Baba Hanya’s place. We had a delicious breakfast and then headed for the potato field.

Edna and Maria before breakfast

Edna and Baba Hanya


I helped the men dig up the potatoes as Edna and the women gathered them in baskets and then into sacks. The sun came out after awhile, but it didn’t get that hot. It turned out to be a beautiful day for harvesting potatoes. Dominic and Joshua had fun with all the animals. Baba Hanya has chickens, pigs, cats, and a dog named Topeek. Joshua especially liked all the Ukrainian songs that Valeri would sing as we worked in the field.

Fedir, Dominic, and Edna

When it was time to go and we were all cleaned up, they made sure we had plenty of fresh vegetables to take home with us and of course some salo (salted pork fat). Needless to say we were all pretty tired by the time we got home. We took some of the freshly harvested potatoes and made Deroony (Ukrainian potato pancakes) for dinner.

Valeri, Joshua, Vala, and Serhiy washing up before lunch

Deroony (potato pancakes)
Deroony (or Deruny) is the word in plural, however it doesn't have a singular form. The last syllable of the word is stressed. Deroony are savoury potato pancakes common for Ukrainian national cuisine. They are eaten both as main course and as a snack, and sometimes even as a starter.

1 kg of potatoes
2 eggs
a bit of black pepper and salt
2 tbsp of oil
sour cream

Grate the peeled potatoes on the grater with small holes. Add eggs, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly (better with wooden spoon). Put with the spoon small pancakes on the warm frying pan with oil. Fry both sides till pancakes are ready. Deroony are served with sour cream. Sometimes they serve as a garnish for the meat dishes.