·         Wednesday 25 July 2007

Well I am finally feeling at home in my own home again.

House-sitter Jim took a two week vacation up north so Mark and I have had our house to our self for the past ten days.  We have spent our time sorting, discarding, packing and organizing our stuff. 


I rise about 7 and take a morning dog walk around the neighborhood (san-dog – I do miss Miss Zoë, but she did teach me the merits and joys of a morning walk!).  It is the best part of the day.  The air is cool, sky clear and bright and I have time o think and observe.  I return invigorated and eager to stat the day


Days are flying by.


Where does the time go?


The only writing I do these days is in my head…there are so many things that consume my time here in the USA.


I watch too much HGTV.


I miss my Ukrainian friends.  I wonder what other RPCVs in our training group are doing these days…they do not e-mail, but they never did.


·         Saturday, 22 July 2007

More socializing

We take the pick-em-up south to the Army post and load up on groceries at the commissary.  Since it was hot, we packed the cold items into a cooler.  Stocking the pantry- what an event! 


In Ukraine we shopped almost daily and walked to market and back, toting our purchases.


Later we have dinner with our good friends M and P.  It is always a delight to visit their farm – horses, donkeys, cats and chickens…all my favorite stuff!  We stay late and laugh a lot.


We had a good visit.  I am grateful for such good friends.



·         Friday, 21 July 2007

We take Dakota Jack on our first local post PC road trip!

We crank up our red pick-em-up truck and off to see my e-mail pal for lunch.  She lives about 40 miles from here and has invited us to share BBQ prepared by her spouse with her son (an RPCV from Malawi) and another RPCV couple (served in Chad 30 years ago) 


It is a wonderful visit – like spending time with family.  We stay too long, perhaps, but we are happy to be with such warm, engaging people.


We are blessed.



·         Wednesday, 19 July 2007

We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny,

 but what we put into it is ours.

- Dag Hammarskjold



·         Monday, 16 July 2007

Here’s an article the local paper did on our return home…


Peace Corps couple comes home


July 16, 2007

Index-Journal staff writer

Mark and Virginia Pulver, who left Greenwood to spend 27 months in the Ukraine as Peace Corps volunteers, hold plastic letters used to teach language in schools.

In February of 2005, Greenwood residents Virginia and Mark Pulver, both in their 50s, embarked on a 27-month adventure when they joined the Peace Corps and went to a small country in Eastern Europe.

Mark had been teaching at Emerald High School, where he was the computer technician for the high school and taught a class in television production.
Virginia had taught Junior ROTC at Emerald High School, but before going overseas had taken a sabbatical.

“I wanted to think about life and figure out what I wanted to do next,” Virginia said. Joining the Peace Corps, they explained, was something they talked about since they were first married 36 years ago.

“After we first talked about this, things happened,” Mark said. “Virginia joined the Air Force, I had a career and we had kids.”

It wasn’t until the year before they left that three incidents occurred that forced them to reassess their lives.

“First, we went to Africa to visit my brother who lives on a mountain top with no running water,” Virginia said. “We spent about a month there, and it was just a remarkable experience.

A month after we came back was 9/11, and that changed a whole bunch of people’s lives. Then several months later we lost our son in a motorcycle accident. We then started thinking that life is really short and you have to do the things you really want to do.”

Spotting an ad in the paper for a Peace Corps seminar, they went, sent in their application on April Fool’s Day, and were accepted a year later.
Instead of asking the Pulvers where they would like to go, the Peace Corps asked them to list which places they would not like to go.

Among those the Pulvers chose not to go was anywhere on a mountaintop or anywhere on an island.

The Peace Corps then told the Pulvers they were going to Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

Six weeks before they left, they were told they were going to Ukraine, a country in Eastern Europe, which borders Russia to the northeast.

After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Ukraine was absorbed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and became independent again after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

“Everybody who joins the Peace Corps thinks they’re going to Africa so I didn’t know why they were sending us to Ukraine, which I thought was a developed country,” Mark said.” “But it’s not.”

The Peace Corps then told them, in general terms, what they would be expected to do there in their role as non-governmental organization facilitators.

The Peace Corps, the Pulvers said, has three goals.

The first is to go to countries that have asked for our help. The second is to present to the people there what an American is really like. The third goal is to have the volunteers come back to the United States and let Americans know what they did overseas.

“Our role there was to consult and advise,” Virginia said. “You’re not actually there to do the work; you’re there to help people to develop.”

What the Pulvers did was help the library in Kiev develop a computer system, become computer literate and help the people of Kerch gain confidence in themselves. They helped them, the Pulvers explained, not by telling people what to do, but by actually doing it.

For the first three months they were in Ukraine, the Pulvers lived with a host family in a small village to learn the language and customs of the area.

Those customs, the Pulvers discovered, were quite different than living in Greenwood.
“In our village, on a lake, the man went out every day and ice fishes so we had homemade fish soup for breakfast.”

Because their host family spoke no English, the Pulvers soon learned to converse in their host family’s native tongue.

During the first three months, the Pulvers attended Russian language classes and visited schools and businesses.

They also learned the social graces necessary to survive.
“You just can’t walk into a school office and say you’d like to talk to somebody,” Mark said.

“You have to go through the Ministry of Education, then work your way down through the mayor and lower levels because it’s not a direct culture.”

After three months, the Pulvers wound up in the town of Kerch.

“The library there had been around for 150 years, and had almost been almost completely destroyed during World War Two,” Mark said. “When I got there, there were no public access points for anyone to go to the Internet.”

When they left, after building a computer system and conducting classes on how to use the Internet, the residents of Kerch had discovered the joy of e-mail and were using the Internet to search for relatives who had immigrated to other countries.

When they returned in May of this year to Greenwood, the Pulvers once again underwent culture shock.

“Just going to Wal-Mart,” Virginia said, “scares me.”

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·         Sunday, 15 July 2007

Dog Walks, Sans Dog…

By 0630, I am out on the street and well into my morning dog-walk…without a dog. 


I miss having a dog.  Miss Zoë, my Siberian Husky, always took me for two walks each day.  This daily ritual was (is) good for the body and the soul.  These days, I am on my own for this morning and evening ritual, but I have wonderful memories of my sweet canine companion.  I do miss that dog.


After my 2 -plus years’ absence from the old neighborhood, it feels good to be out walking, discovering.  As I step off the back steps I hear the sounds of a stringed bass, as if someone is hosting an all-night party.  I follow the sounds and discover a car parked down by the creek, in the wild area behind our house.  I hear cajunto (sp?) music spilling out of an old station wagon.  One of the neighbors, a recent immigrant from south of the border, seems to be having a private party.


I stride out and enjoy the cool morning air.  Sunny SC is too humid for me, but in the early morning hours this place is at its finest.  Leaving the insistent and contagious Mexican music behind, I hear bird song and watch the sky change from grey to pink as the sun rises. 


I walk past the home of a women I met on one of my dog walks just before we left for the Peace Corps.  The woman was a transplant from New York and chose to live in a tiny cottage in a rather disreputable pat of the neighborhood.  Being an outsider in an insular community as this one is, is not easy.  She and I shared many interesting conversations and she came to my going away party.


I thought about her many times in the past couple years.  As I walked by her home I wondered about how se was faring.  I spied a cat, stopped to coax it closer so I could scratch its head, and was startled when a young man called out to me.  “His name is Rocky,” he said, taking a puff n a cigarette.  His accent tells me, he is clearly not from here.


Within moments, we are deep in conversation.  I discover that my fiend, his mother, died last year.  Some magic words fly back and forth between us – we speak about love, death, animals.  This early morning encounter has an other-worldly feel about it.  It is as if this brief conversation has a meaning I have yet to discern.


As I walk away, he calls out, “Would you like a dog?”  The tenants have abandoned a young black dog. 


“Let me think about it,” I say, pushing my hair back and considering whether this is an omen.  “Maybe,” I say.  I smile.  He smiles.  “Let me think about it.”


We shake hands and I resume my morning dog walk, without a dog.



·         Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Turmoil, Stress, Compromise & Companionship Rule my Life

I just stepped out of the shower and am ensconced in a favorite chair in my very own living room.  My spouse and House-sitter Jim are off getting the truck and Jeep licensed and roadworthy.  House-sitter Jim is also making his weekly ritual lottery ticket purchase.   I am happily wallowing in a couple wonderful hours to myself in my very own home, chaotic as it may be! 


I guess I am a bit of a recluse, but after a couple of year’s way from my own home and the recent re-entry blast of constant companionship and travel, I am very grateful for this blessing.  Actually, it is a bit scary!  I have soooo many things on my mind.  The to-do list pings away, getting longer and longer and longer. As I observed to a friend in my morning e-mail, it is as if there is a mountain to climb and I am in the mood to just curl up in the hammock for a snooze instead.


Well, this will not be a litany of what must be done, but trust me, that list is almost insurmountable.  (This morning I read some advice from Stephen Covey about priorities that helps me keep my wonderful life in perspective.  Actually the simple act of flipping through well-loved books which I have not seen in a couple years and pausing to read a few paragraphs at random is a very soothing exercise!)  I will share an observation though.  I have not driven a vehicle for well over 2 ½ years!  How un-American is that!?  America is the land of automobiles (and shopping, and large size servings in restaurants, but I digress!)


The Peace Corps Transition Blues…

This whole transition back from Peace Corps to life-as-we-knew it is hard.  Of course we are not actually staying in this community and getting back into the yoke.  We are planning a major move.  Life is already stressed and confused so why not just get all the stressful things done in one fell-swoop, before we have a chance to chicken out!


Our Peace Corps experiences leave us changed in ways that one cannot really articulate.  Like Proust says, one learns to see wit new eyes.  The old life is no longer familiar or comfortable.  Who am I?  How do I fit in?  Do I want to fit in?  Can’t life be better, have more purpose?


I have heard that the post-Peace Corps experience can be a real struggle, but many people do not talk about it.  Who would one talk to really?  PCVs are taught to be resourceful, and capable of managing independently.  We go abroad, learn new customs and skills, integrate and build a sense of community there and then we pull up stakes, leaving a big piece of our heart behind.


We are, in many ways, strangers in a strange land.


My galloping thoughts turn to the experiences of service personnel returning from battle…one can only speculate on the conflicting feelings they must have when they return to the USA and view things through a different set of value.


·         Tuesday, 10 July 2007

A No Pet Zone

I really want to get a dog and/or a cat.  The logical side of my brain says this is not the time to take on that responsibility, but my heart is weak and needy.  My soul seems to crave the simple, healing contact of a loving animal. 


Rentals in Santa Fe are not pet friendly and we will be renters (or house sitters) for some time… Sigh…


·         Monday, 9 July 2007

After Twenty-Nine Months, We are Home at Last!

I was out in the garden within minutes of arriving home.


I did not even change my clothes before I found myself deep into a gardening project.  My prolific morning glories needed attention and I was happy to spend a quiet hour tending to their needs.  I wove an intricate web of string for them to twine on and then splashed them with cool water.  Tending them is a small pleasure


I am not really a gardener (though I earned the title of Master Gardener by taking the courses and doing an internship).  I simply enjoy puttering around in the garden.  The next few weeks I will “re-create” by deadheading and pruning, raking and weeding.


Nothing compares with the simple quiet pleasure of being at home.


·         Sunday, 8 July 2007

7,000 Miles and 29 States Later…

Since May Day, we have crossed Europe, flown to the USA via Germany and then racked up about 7,000 miles transiting 29 states from eat coast to west coast and back again.  It will be good to be home again.


Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

When I was a kid, we used to play Rock, Paper, Scissors as we made the long, almost-weekly car treks to my Mom’s hometown.  I was surprised to turn on the TV in the motel to find a Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament being broadcast from Las Vegas!


Yep, with all the pomp and circumstance of any televised sports event, TV personalities interviewed players, whispered about technique and strategy as the events unfolded.  The audience cheered for their favorites.  It was all rather bizarre.


It was, I think, tongue in cheek.


·         Saturday, 7 July 2007

Sailing South in a Rental Car

Kentucky is flying past my window and the sounds of National Public Radio programming fills the rented PT Cruiser that has been our home the last couple days.  We are enroute from the Back Hills of Dakota to our humble home in the Piedmont of sunny South Carolina.


My laptop is plugged into the cigarette lighter – ain’t technology great!


By this time tomorrow we will be at our house, most likely perched on the porch sipping a tall cool drink and sharing tales with House-Sitter Jim.  We’ve been back in the USA since a few days after Mother’s Day and have racked up lots of miles as we criss-crossed America visiting family and friends


On the way west (SC – Reno, NV), we braved the Greyhound Bus and enjoyed the experience for the most part.  Everyone should make such a trip every few years.  It gives one perspective on the kind of American life that many of us never experience and that many live with forever.


We flew south from there to Phoenix and after a few days there, we boarded the bus again and rolled out to the LA area for a good long stay there.  When we started back east across the deserts of AZ and NM, and on to SD, we were chamfered in a well appointed, privately owned vehicle with lots f comforts.


We traveled pretty light the whole trip.


So after about seven weeks on the road here in the USA, we are happy to think of some quiet days at home.  Days when we will wrestle with many issues associated with our impending move to Santa Fe, NM.  Yep, we will be driving west again in just a matter of weeks!  But in the meantime, we will relish our time in sunny SC as we replay our recent adventures here in the USA.


·         Friday, 6 July 2007

Yesterday in the Black Hills, Today in Iowa City

We drove hard, but just could not make it to brother-in-law P’s place yesterday.  We rolled up around midday and had a great visit with P. and Baby T.


Meeting Baby T.

T.is adorable and smart too!


When goose eggs hatch and the small birds emerge, all damp feathers and big beaks, the first creature (usually Mother Goose) they lay eyes on is imprinted on their brain.  This bond is very strong.  The young birds follow their leader anywhere and everywhere. 


Silly goose, brother-in-law Pete has bonded with his baby daughter in just this way


Today we stop to spend a couple hours with Pete and his baby girl.  It is fun to see rough, tough Pete oohing and ahhhing over his daughter.  He is a dedicated father.  Seeing the two together is a delight.


·         Thursday, 5 July 2007

Hummingbirds & Rock Marmots at Breakfast

We breakfasted on the deck and were entertained by the antics of several hummingbirds.  They few away and the second act began.  A family of happy Rock Chucks (Marmots) appeared near the gate and provided quite a show.  We saw a young rabbit too. 

.  There are several beautiful horses corralled across the road and they play nicely and provide quite a show.  Dad shared tales about other animal sightings – elk, deer, a cattle drive.


This lovely Bird’s Nest tucked in a green valley is a great escape from the outside world.  The camp is surrounded by national forest so the views are pristine, free of outside intrusions.  We are grateful for the opportunity to spend some time here, as we transition back to life in the USA.


This is a lovely place to linger, but we must hit the road and head for home. 


·         Wednesday, 4 July 2007 – INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Crazy Horse isn’t the Crazy Man!

The crazy man, Korczak Ziolkowski, is the sculptor blasting out this monument in the Black Hills!


There is a road in Bolivia called the Road of Death.  I have e-mail photos depicting this amazing engineering miracle.  I am reminded of how that curving, improbable, Road of Death (altitude: 12,000 ft!) was built as I view this improbable undertaking.  Crazy Horse Monument is huge and, like cathedrals or the pyramids, will take hundreds of years to complete. 


What a vision, what a dream, what an undertaking!


Crazy Horse, was a Native American.  He is being immortalized as a three dimensional sculpture blasted out of a mountain top near the famous faces on Mt Rushmore.  It is a massive creation.  Crazy Horse monument already dwarfs the heads of the presidents that draw so many people to the national park here in the Black Hills of Dakota.


The final project includes the torso of the warrior Crazy Horse and the head, and body of the horse too. (This picture does not do it justice!)


This is definitely a sight o add to any ”must see” list.  At least visit the web site: http://www.crazyhorse.org/


FYI: it is not sponsored by the government!


We Take the Hill City 1880’s Train & Watch Fireworks!

(E-Mail Extract)

Happy Independence Day!

We are celebrating here at Vogel's cabin on the "backside" of Mt Rushmore.  Last night we rode the 1880's train up into the forest, stopped for a picnic (with champagne!) and watched armed desperados "steal" the cash box and "abduct" a couple women.  It ended in a shoot-out (all staged of course)  We sat under tall pines, strung with twinkling white lights, listened to the music while we watched the choreographed fireworks ($5 million worth!)  exploding over the monument. 


Last time we were in the Black Hills (in 1999), we attended the fireworks at the monument - it was an all day commitment with the Air Force band performing and lots of other performances on stage and of course wonderful fireworks.  Due to traffic on mountain roads, we could not leave the parking lot until almost 2 AM  The activities ended around 10 PM so we just visited and waited...should have had a post-fireworks tailgate party.


We had hail here in SD yesterday - amazing rain storm.  Mark filled a 5 gallon cooler with hailstones from the deck! 


What is 4th of July like where you are?  I am sure Janeen will have wonderful tales of her adventures on this patriotic holiday!  I look forward to hearing all about the day's events!  8-)


FYI: Mark and I head east again on Thursday.  We rented a car (can't make good bus connections from here!) and will make a bee-line to sunny SC.  More on our future plans in another e-mail....gotta get ready to head out now...live fiddle music in Hill City!


Life is good....



From Mt Rushmore on the 4th


·         Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Hail & Rainfall in the Black Hills

A rainstorm moved in and soon peppered the deck with hail the size of moth balls.  The temperature dropped and the area was covered with clouds.  The hailstones accumulated and looked like snowfall.  Mark scooped up hail off the deck and piled it into a 5-gallon cooler. 


The forest has been dry and there was serious talk of canceling the huge Mt Rushmore fireworks display so the rain was welcome.


And timely, since the fireworks are scheduled for tonight.





·         Monday, 2 July 2007

Declining a Great Job!

The decision has been made.  We will move to Santa Fe and carve out a niche for ourselves. 


This means I must turn down the wonderful job opportunity in MinneapolisSt Paul. 


This means I will probably be substitute teaching, house-sitting, dog-walking, and doing temp work in Santa Fe.  I had hoped to find an AmeriCorps/VISTA position, but none are advertised there.


I have always wanted to live in the Minneapolis are and the VISTA position I was offered really appeals to me.  Mark also has a great opportunity there. 


This is a difficult decision, but somehow we have decided to follow our hearts.  I will not miss the humidity and the bugs that are part of life in Minneapolis.


I guess choosing Santa Fe is like a marriage of love and choosing Minneapolis would be a marriage of convenience. 


Where the heart is, there is strength.


Gotta go make that call.


·         Sunday, 1 July 2007

Settling in at the Black Hills Cabin

This settling in process is like a military operation.  The “good” stuff is packed away when the cabin is closed for the season and the “old” stuff comes out.  Hunters and other guests use the cabin during off seasons so the treasures and artwork get stored away.  This means there is a lot of work swapping things out.  It’s a little like Christmas as boxes are opened.  Art pieces and family photos come out, boxes are opened and other boxes are packed up and stashed.


So much stuff!


We sweep, scrub, arrange, and work, work, work for many hours to make things just right.


Later, we sit on the deck and sip tea.  The men play a few tunes on the guitar and banjo. 


There is a full moon and the stars are bright in the Dakota skies.







FYI: If you want to read about our initial Peace Corps adventures, start with January 2005; that’s when we received our invitation (short-notice) to Ukraine!  We returned to the USA in May 2007