Friday, June 22, 2012

Warning: Football fans, you will be very jealous after reading this...

Week Three in Kiev Ukraine:

I am now an official fan of football.
This week, I happened to stumble across a EUROCUP TICKET!
Well, its a bit more complicated.
My boss's friend's cat got sick => she couldn't go ==> was selling ticket ==> my boss told the office ==> I pounced on it.

On tuesday, June 20th I saw Sweden (the Swedes..they're everywhere!) play France at the Kiev Stadium. It.was.AWESOME. Inside, I felt like like loved football all my life, like...that I lived for football. It was great seeing the players warm up and being able to see the entire match in detail was amazing.

In case you did not watch yourself, Sweden won 2-0 but France still goes on to the quarter finals. Why? They had enough points from earlier games whereas Sweden lost their first game...yada yada blah blah (the point system is confusing, its calculus based or something).
Ukraine was playing England at the same time in another city..they lost. England advances.

Here are some pictures from the game!

The Stadium! 
Don't bother me, I'm watching the game. 
See the Swedish? How could you possibly miss all the people in yellow jerseys. And this was just on our side of the stadium...
View of the field from my seat! 

This week at DRC was a busy one for me. With my training and orientation complete, my workload increased. One of my main tasks was to edit and reformat DRC's first quarter report and informational fact sheet for newly arrive refugee and asylum seeking children. It was translated from Russian to English and often enough there are grammer mistakes and awkward sentence structuring. The informational fact sheet is given to children upon their arrival to Ukraine explaining to them, where they are, what their rights are and the next steps in their refugee/asylum application process. This fact sheet has been translated into 4-5 languages- my job was to make ensure that the language used in the English version would make sense to a 12-15 year old. 
My other tasks included creating online brochures inviting peace corp volunteers to teach english/incorporate our youth into their integration programs. 

I also began teaching english this week at an UNHCR integration center. This center is located across the Dnieper River. I had 5 students my first day and more to come later on. Two teenage girls, ages 16 and 18, one 38 year old woman and her two sons ages 8 and 7. Their english knowledge varied. The teen girls spoke very well and were eager to talk to me about their love for Backstreet Boys (I used to love them too..but in 1998) and Selena Gomez whereas the 38 year old woman, Karima was still learning basics like "how are you-im fine, thanks!" 
It was my first time teaching english, or anything technical for that matter but I loved it and I am excited to continue. 

Today is Friday and the office is closing early :) 
I have a fun week ahead of me- this weekend I am exploring a beautiful caves monastery and hydropark and next week I take my first business trip. 

Stay tuned, Poka!


Second Week: UUU-KRAIII-NAA!!

I've been in Kiev just over one full week and the excitement of Eurocup has not disappeared. I work 9-6 and recently, I've been spending most of my evenings watching the soccer games in the official Fan Zone. 
The Swedish lost to Ukraine this week. Being in the fan zone surround by thousand of Swedish fans and even more Ukrainian fans screaming "UUU-KRAIII-HAA" at the top of their lungs can only be described as madness and...well, loud.

These are Ukrainian...or are they Swedish fans? It was hard to tell considering that Sweden and Ukraine's colors are practically identical.

This week at DRC was relaxed. The pressure of the 2013-2015 project proposal had subsided and the EuroVillage passed with success. Our boss went on a business trip to DRC headquarters to Copenhagen  and the office was quieter and more relaxed than my first week. I took this week to complete my required online training courses.
I had to get certified in Rights for Refugee and Asylum Seekers and in Children Refugee Rights. These courses explained in depth refugee and asylum processes. So if you have any questions on refugee rights- for children or adults, please feel free to email me. ;)
I explored a lot of Kiev this week, visiting the Dnieper riverside, St. Andrew's Cathedral and St. Andrew's Decent.

Dnieper River

Fun Fact: St. Andrew's church was
commissioned by Catherine the Great
for her Ukrainian lover in the 18th CE. 

St. Andrew's Decent is a beautiful tourist attraction. Its a long downhill cobblestone road that winds down steeply around Zamkova Hora hill. Souvenir shops selling handmade items are everywhere. The Decent contains the Castle of Richard the Lionheart, St. Andrews Church and Mikhail Bulgakov's house (among other famous Russian writers).

Aside from the random thunderstorms, I had a beautiful and calm week in Kiev. A welcomed relaxation period after the jet-lag and busy schedule of the previous few days.

Poka! (Casual Russian "good-bye", equivalent to "cao!")


Welcome to Kiev: City of...Swedes??

Ukraine is beautiful.
I landed in Kiev's newly designed Boryspil International Airport on a tuesday afternoon. The Danish Refugee Council had arranged for a driver to pick me up. Sasha--the driver, had made a simple, yet clear sign with my name on it. When I came up and introduced myself the first thing he said was, "Wow, you're so young!"
This wont be the first time that someone makes a comment like that to me. Girls in Ukraine dress up (at any given moment they are dressed well enough to meet the president of any country..) and love their make up. At 20, I could easily pass for 17-18 in Ukraine. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

We drove from the outskirts of Kiev into the beautiful center of Kiev. Ukraine, Kiev specifically was the birthplace of the Slavic people and where Orthodox Christianity was introduced to slavic people (during the first tsar, Vladimir's rule). The oldest church in Eastern Europe Orthodoxy, St. Sophia's Cathedral is here. An very conviennently located about 1 block away from my first apartment...

The Danish Refugee Council's office is located in the center of Downtown, right off its its historical Khreschatyk street.
Currently, the Eurocup is being held in Poland-Ukraine. The entire street of Khreschatyk (keep in mind that this is the center's main road) is closed off and a "fan-zone" was created.

Every night, all three huge outdoor screens broadcast the Euro games live. All those who came to Kiev or live in Kiev who dont have tickets come to the fan zone, drink cheap beer (24oz. cup is 20 UAH ~ $2.50), and cheer their team on.
Of the thousands and thousands of foreigners in Kiev, many of them are Swedish. All of Sweden's games are going to be held in Kiev (there are four cities holding games for Eurocup, two in Ukraine and two in Poland). In fact, the Ukrainian government knew that they would be expecting an extremely large amount of Swedish fans that they went above and beyond in accommodating them. Most restaurants in the center not only have english menus and servers who understand basic english, but some even reprinted their menu in Swedish. Also, Swedish fans were given their own camping spot called the "Swedish Island" and their own blocked off area in the official fan zone dubbed the "Swedish Corner."

Needless to say, I've benefited a lot from english signs, metro maps and menus incorporated into Kiev for the Eurocup. So, a big thank you to Sweden and UEFA! 

My first week at work involved an orientation of my city as well as DRC. The DRC office in Ukraine consists of a small eight person staff--and they have been most welcoming. 
During my first week I was swamped with DRC reading-reports, project proposals, brochures--I had to read it all. It was important that I was brought up to speed on DRC activities and current projects. I was also taken around town by my colleagues who showed me where the ATMS, pharmacies and grocery stores were. All these new things-new country, people language feels so exciting! Everyday there lys a possibility for new adventure and opportunity.

My first week at DRC was also one of their most hectic weeks of the year. Their project proposal for the next two years was to be submitted by Friday to the EU and consequently, their exhibition at EuroVillage2012 was set for that Friday and Saturday. 

For those who dont know, DRC arrived in Ukraine in 2007 to provide technical assistance to government asylum authorities and refugee-related civil society. Since 2009, DRC has focused on the protection of asylum seeking and refugee Children. DRC—funded by the EU—works closely with UNHCR, Ukrainian State Committee funds DRC for Nationalities and Religions, Red Cross among others. In February 2009, DRC launched its two-year project, “Legal and Social Protection of Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children. Its main goal is to support the government of Ukraine to fulfill its obligations towards vulnerable asylum seeking and refugee children by increasing the capacity of asylum and child care authorities to better protect and integrate refugees and asylum seeking children. Most refugee and asylum-seeking children in Ukraine are from Afghanistan and Somalia. Their new project proposal would continue to fall within these guidelines. 

Eurovillage2012 is an exhibition funded the EU and Ukraine with the purpose of promoting female health, human rights, environmental awareness, etc.. The Danish Refugee Council was invited to participate and to share information about their work. It was my job to talk to visitors (those who knew english or could bear to stand their and listen to my broken russian&hand gestures) about DRC and our work with refugee and asylum seeking children.

Looks like all that reading paid off after all! :) 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'm almost there.
I am currently sitting in Amsterdam's international airport. I still have a few hours before my flight to Kiev. A rush of excitement is going through me. I am very excited to be in Europe and even more excited to get to my final destination.
I will be blogging weekly this summer, describing my job at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and about my adventures in Kiev. I will be moving around this summer--its just how my housing got settled. I have a number of houses that I will be cat-sitting/house-sitting in exchange for free rent--which to me is a fantastic deal never mind the hassle of moving every few weeks.

Anyways, there will be more to come--stay tuned!