The Winter Update

Time is flying by! It’s hard to believe it is almost mid-February already. I have been negligent in blog updates, so here is a recap of the past two months.

Christmas, My Birthday, New Year’s

The Orthodox Christmas is on January 7th, so December 25th was an ordinary day for most Ukrainians. I took the day off work and celebrated with two other Peace Corps Volunteers. We watched movies, ate unhealthy food, and relaxed. It was nice to have a lazy day.  A Christmas miracle  occurred, and a big box full of Christmas presents arrived on December 24th, 1 hour before I was catching the bus to my friend’s apartment. So, I was able to Skype and open gifts with my immediate family, and later I Skyped in to watch the festivities with my mom’s extended family. It was a real treat, and I felt like I was still part of the celebration, even from thousands of miles away.

On the 26th, I joined my university coworkers for an early New Year’s celebration. I was invited to play the role of “Snegurochka” in a short performance during the celebration. In Ukraine, Santa Claus is “Ded Moroz” (Father Frost), and instead of Mrs. Claus, he is assisted by his granddaughter, “Snegurochka” (The Snow Maiden). It was a fun time, and I have photo evidence to share:

Christmas Party

My debut as the “Snow Maiden,” with my coworker, Sergey, as “Father Frost”

Then, I got a year older! My birthday is on December 30th, which was a Monday. I held my usual English clubs at the university, and then I prepared food to share with a small group of friends. It was an enjoyable multicultural experience – 4 Ukrainians, 1 Chinese person, and 1 American, and we had American-style food, plus drinks that originated in Mexico! It was fun, and I received some wonderful presents. My friends were very generous:


Showing off my new gifts: necklaces, a Chinese ‘good luck’ knot, and the perfect winter hat.

New Year’s is the biggest holiday in Ukraine. I spent it with a small group of Ukrainian friends and had a really fun time. We played games, ate lots and lots of food, and talked. For the midnight toast, we wrote down a wish we had for the coming year, burned the piece of paper, and drank the ash of the paper in a glass of champagne. Hopefully, our wishes will come true! I also surprised myself and managed to stay awake until 7 a.m. It is probably the first time I have stayed up all night since I was at middle school sleepovers.

The First 5 Weeks of 2014

After New Year’s, I took a trip to southern Ukraine to visit one of my closest Peace Corps friends, Celyse. Although it was a long, 18 hour train ride, I was with another friend for most of the trip. I was also able to practice my Russian with a Russian mother and daughter who were visiting Ukraine, and who were excited to talk to me. It was a real confidence booster, to be able to speak to them for nearly 2 hours!

The trip to southern Ukraine was relaxing and fun. We played lots of games (including Cards Against Humanity, which is hilarious, and farkle, a fun dice game), ate delicious cheeseburgers, walked around the city of Kherson, and lounged around reading books. During our walk around Kherson, we came across an interesting piece of playground equipment. I don’t think it was Disney-approved ;)



I nicknamed Celyse’s oblast “The Oblast of Wonders.”  

A very wonderful coincidence occurred during the trip to Kherson. We rented an apartment during the first night of my visit, and the interior decorator was clearly preparing for my arrival. Sometimes, something amazing happens, and your pajamas match your bedsheets…..


Leopard on leopard. No other words needed ;)

A few weeks later, I traveled to Kharkiv to visit two of my friends, Evan and Clarissa, who I studied Russian with. They were being visited by Graham, a Peace Corps Volunteer who is serving in Cameroon. He was passing through Ukraine on his way back to Cameroon after visiting the U.S. It was great to hear about another Peace Corps post, and what is similar/different. It’s also great to share Ukraine with someone who has never been here before.

Graham visitChurch

Me, Graham, and Clarissa visiting Clarissa’s office, and one of the most beautiful churches in Kharkiv.

The end of January and early February have been spent in Sumy. With the political action happening in Kyiv, all volunteers were asked to stay in their cities. (If you haven’t been following the news, please read my prior post here). We are now free to travel again, so I’ll be going to a few places in the near future for different Peace Corps projects.

One of my greatest personal successes has been continuing to run, despite frigid temperatures. We hit some nasty weather a few weeks ago (-20 F, with wind chill), but I tried to stick with my marathon training plan as much as possible. Luckily, it appears that the worst weather is behind us, so I am thankful for that! Spring can’t come soon enough :)

More updates to come in the near future!

Happy to take any comments!
  1. Hi Ashley….fun again to read your blog! Sounds like you are having the same weather as we are here in Michigan. Brrrrrr….going sub-zero here again…..snow piles 7 feet high at the end of our driveway…this Winter sucks! Stay safe…keep writing…enjoy…Dan

  2. Kelli says:

    Great to hear about your adventures! Leopard on Leopard is just what I needed to start my day.

  3. Marina says:

    Leopard on leopard. It’s…just…WOW!!!!!:-)))))))