Sunday, December 12, 2010

Painting Eggs, Chopping Wood, World AIDS Day, Kiev-Atlantic Factory and СНЕГОПОД (SNEGAPOD)!

These past few weeks in Ukraine have been really cold. By really cold, I mean that the temperature has dropped to around minus 10 degrees C and it has been snowing off and on all week! My host mom says that this weather is normal for winter, and soon it will be -30 degrees outside. Snegapod (snow fall) is my new favorite Russian word, though I’m not quite sure if it is a real Russian word... We kind of made it up from the word for snow - снег (pronounced sneg) and pod - под (meaning to fall). Over the week, my town has gotten a few more inches of powdery white snow :)

The view of the playground in front of my apartment building from our kitchen window.

You can tell that winter is setting in because the days are getting shorter – the sun sets around 4pm now, and it still rises around 7am. But no worries, life still goes on during the winter and we’ve had a really busy week in our little town.

Heather and I walked to school in the snow with our umbrellas!

Our Technical Facilitator Ludmyla taught us how to paint eggs with wax by hand, in the traditional Ukrainian style! It was very similar to dyeing Easter eggs, except designs drawn in hot wax with the stylus are usually a lot more intricate than the designs drawn in white crayon on eggs.

These eggs are so beautiful – I can’t believe our teacher painted all of these by hand!

Luda was kind enough to let us each take home one of her painted eggs! We were all so excited to get one of her beautifully painted eggs. Luda is really talented at painting the eggs, I can't believe that she painted all of these in just a few short days! They are so detailed and intricate.

Monica and I got matching teal eggs.

First, our teacher poked holes in the eggs and blew out the whites and the yolks. She let them dry at home and brought them to school for us to paint.

Our teacher preparing all the eggs and dye.

Next, we used a small stylus to draw on the egg shells with hot wax. We stenciled on some traditional designs in pencil first, so our eggs weren’t completely drawn freehandedly (can I turn freehand into an adverb?). The places on the egg covered by hot wax were white after the first round of dye. After the first lines were drawn on with wax, the eggs were dropped into the jars of dye for their first coat of color. Luda explained that each egg usually has only 2 or 3 colors – any more than that and the colors kind of just blend into brown.

The eggs soaking in the jars of dye.

After the first coat of color, hot wax was drawn on the egg again. This time, the places on the egg covered by the second round of wax preserve the first color.

Danielle and Heather working on their 2nd coat of wax.

My egg didn’t turn out so well, because I accidentally rubbed off some of the wax between the first and second coat of color. However, Monica’s egg turned out great!

Monica and her hand-painted egg!

In our little town, it is common to have a dacha. A dacha is a second house, usually a summer house with a garden or a farm house. We all went to Jakob’s host family’s dacha and got to saw and chop wood!

Nathan and I with the saw.

Jakob chopping a little chunk of wood.

Inside the dacha, Jakob’s family had an old wood stove. I thought it was interesting to see what a wood stove looks like, for I may be cooking on one when I get to my permanent site soon!
Making tea on the wood stove.

I think Mama Tanya said that this dacha has been in their family for a few generations. She showed us an old photo album with black and white pictures of her and her family from the early 1900s, which was really interesting. They’ve definitely done some renovations, for the house has electricity inside.

Our group inside the dacha with Jakob’s host  mama, Tanya.

Mama Tanya told us that her dog likes to dance in his spare time… and she wasn’t kidding!
Heather and the dancing dog.

Last weekend, Laura cooked pizza and invited us over to her host family’s house for dinner. It was fun to hang out with another host family and practice my Russian. Our Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) is coming up next week, so I can use all the practice that I can get!

Our group at the dinner table with Laura’s host sister.

World AIDS Awareness Day was December 1st. Since Ukraine currently has one of the worlds fastest growing infection rates of HIV/AIDS, our group dressed in red and presented a short Powerpoint presentation at school to the 8-11th form students.

Yes, the only thing red that I brought to Ukraine is my famous Christmas sweater... I'm a hardcore Yellow Jacket :)

We also toured the “Kiev-Atlantic  Ukraine” factory in our town. Kiev-Atlantic is a grain and feed processing plant, they produce feed for livestock and also export sunflower oil to surrounding countries in Eastern Europe. Disclaimer: this part of my blog post is going to sound pretty nerdy. As an Industrial Engineer, I am naturally curious about a factory’s manufacturing operations, quality control process, distribution system and warehousing facilities.
In front of the factory’s short-storage bins, where grain is stored for up to 2 months.

The factory employs around 300 people from our town and churns out about 15-20 truckloads of oil per week. It was really interesting to see what their operations were like, and we were lucky to have a tour in English since the directors of the factory are American.
Monica tasting some soybeans fresh from the production line.

Since our town is located near one of the bigger railway hubs, Kiev-Atlantic takes advantage of the open rail lines to import raw grain and export their products. The founders of the company actually used the railway to import all the machinery and materials to build the factory from the United States.
Rail containers are loaded directly with grain product from the factory.

Walking into the factory’s warehouse made me smile, since the CAT forklifts all look familiar and a lot of the machines have Russian translations taped onto the control switches. Inside the warehouse, finished bags of feed grain are stacked on pallets and stored on vertical pallet racks.
Mike, the director of the factory, showing us a bag of quail feed.

My host family drinks water from the well in front of our apartment building, and I usually draw water from the well every few days. I asked my mom the other day if the water in the well would freeze during the winter. She laughed and told me that the well is deep enough not to freeze. We keep a silver coin on the bottom of the water bucket, apparently silver is a natural purifier. I just noticed the date on the coin the other day, and was astonished at how old it is!
Cranking the water from the well!

Check it out – the silver coin is a ruble (Russian currency) from 1896!
So my apologies - I meant to post this last week, but didn't have time to upload all of the pictures until today. This is my last post from my Training town... I'm headed to Kyiv tomorrow to find out my permanent site! I am thrilled to see everyone in group 40 again that I haven't seen since Staging (and to meet everyone else that staged a week before me). And then our Swearing-In Ceremony will be on Thursday, after that I will officially be a Peace Corps Volunteer!


Anonymous said...

Hi there, awesome site. I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting


Anonymous said...


I am very interested in your blog. My name Declan fitzpatrick from Ireland and i worked on the construction of the factory in 1996.

I am always looking for information or pictures on how everything is going out there.

I would be very grateful if you could send me any info or picture you have.

My email is

I look forward to hearing from you.


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