• Saturday, 27 May 2005

I am not discouraged, because

every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.

- Thomas Edison

The wall of windows here on the 8th floor provides a panoramic view of the area.  The wind gusts, trees bow down, leaves rustle and the sky is a steely blue-grey.  We just made it home in time to enjoy the impending thunder storm from the comfort of our hotel room. 


The sky was grey when we set out this morning so Mark brought along the tall red umbrella we purchased from a street vendor last week when we were caught in a sudden downpour.  As we walked along, the sky got clearer and brighter and soon it was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. 


We spend the morning browsing through the treasures at the flea market and then strolled farther afield and discovered a couple retail stores we enjoy: Crate and Barrel, The Container Store, Barnes & Noble, and Pottery Barn are all within walking distance of the hotel.  I purchase a couple colorful napkins and some small gifts.  Mark finds a computer store and indulges in a few techno-geek purchases.


We stop at a local coffee shop and enjoy feeding cookie crumbs to small birds while we linger over lattes.  Dog owners are out in force.  I take the opportunity to pet as many dogs as I can.  Of course I must first make small talk with the owners, but it is clear my real motive is the tactile pleasure of animal fur and sloppy puppy kisses.  Most owners indulge people like me.


I miss Mss Zoë and Mr. Bubba.   


There are motorcycles everywhere today since it is Memorial Day weekend and the annual Rolling Thunder rally is gearing up.  Tomorrow we will head to the mall and visit the Vietnam Memorial.  The motorcycle riders will be there at noon.  Estimates are there are 200,000 motorcycles here for this event.  It is hard to imagine that many bikes in one place. 


The magic umbrella seems to fend off the storm and the sunshine is bright until we head back to the hotel.  The wind picks up as we cross the pedestrian bridge and it appears there will be some rain following all this wind.  I open the windows in our room to hear the rain and smell that sweet, sweet smell.


Our evening agenda is yet to be outlined.  If the weather cooperates, I may put on my dress (the one I purchased last year to wear to my Peace Corps induction ceremony) and then walk over to a local club to listen to music.


  • Friday, 26 May 2005

When we do the best we can,

we never know what miracle is wrought in our life,

or in the life of another.

- Helen Keller

A Pajama Day for me…

I awakened to bright sunlight pouring across the bed.  Like a cat, I stretched a bit, then rolled over to sleep a bit longer.  The NPR station pours out news and local driving conditions as I nap and intermittently open my eyes. 


I spend part of the day reading the paper and doing some research on Memorial Day weekend plans.  


At 6PM I am still in my white linen pajamas.  The sniffles have disappeared, but my chest still feels heavy.  I take a hot shower and finally dress for a quick trip to the local grocery store to stock up on supplies.


Tonight we will have an all American favorite: pancakes.



  • Thursday, 25 May 2005

Touring National Public Radio’s Headquarters in DC…

I keep running into people who speak Russian or are from Ukraine.  Today is no exception. 


As Mark and I left the hotel, we met with another PCV just outside the front door.  We chatted a few moments and ended up comparing notes on medical facilities in our respective host countries.  I described my adventures in medicine in Ukraine.  One of the businessmen who were standing nearby approached us and asked about the Ukrainian flag pin Mark wears on his jacket. 


In a matter of moments we were in an animated conversation with this group of Ukrainian law enforcement professionals who are touring several cities here in the USA.  I managed to speak a few phrases of Russian before reverting to English.


Today we toured National Public Radio (NPR) offices at 635 Massachusetts Avenue. 


One of the other tourists is actually a new staff member: the head librarian.  There are two interns along for the tour too.  We listen to details about NPR management, equipment, goals and funding as we wander through studios and soak up the ambience.  There are about 500 employees in this huge organization.  The organization makes wonderful use of technology.


NPR provides the soundtrack for my life.  I usually wake to Morning Edition and tune in throughout the day to hear various programs.  My book choices and music selections are shaped by recommendations by NPR folks.  Many days our mealtime conversation involves excerpts from stories we have heard on NPR. 


Not only are we enthusiastic listeners, we also have volunteered to man phone lines during fundraising season at various NPR stations around the nation.  We have amusing stories to share about studios in San Francisco, San Antonio, Boston and the isolated town of Marquette, MI.


The tour was pleasant, but I was distracted by the onset of what appears to be either a bad cold or a severe allergy.  My left eye is scratchy and tearing.  I cannot relax and follow the tour because I keep sneezing and blowing my nose.


Following the tour, and despite my sneezing and nose-blowing, we stop for lunch at a Spanish restaurant which features delightful tapas for lunch.  The restaurant is in Chinatown so the signs outside are written in Chinese as well as English. 


Enroute home, we stop at the medical facility where I must meet again with the plastic surgeon regarding my decisions for upcoming surgery.  To my surprise, I ended up posing for several pre-surgery photos of my upper body.   These will be in my file as the “before” shots.  I continue to wheeze and sneeze and sniffle like a young child.


We arrive home and I ensconce myself on the couch with a box of tissue clutched in my hands for the remainder of the day.  In fact, I waken around 3 AM and find myself still on the couch. 


I spend a few moments admiring the waning full moon outside and finally break down and take an antihistamine before I slide between the sheets to continue sleeping off this cold or allergy.


  • Wednesday, 24 May 2005 

Ukraine Group 28 Inducted Today!

The only way to live is to

accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.

- Margaret Storm Jameson


Far, far away on a beautiful spring day in Kiev, the Ukraine Group 28 trainees are being inducted today. 


I am happy for them, but I really did want to be part of that very special, meaningful ceremony.  I do not let myself become sad or bitter about this.


In my e-mail I read an article about the ceremony (see below).  The ambassador attends and brass bands play.  This is quite a celebration and a wonderful occasion.  The trainees worked hard to earn this moment and Peace Corps does a good job of recognizing them.   


Later this week there will probably be photos and more extensive articles...  

Today we just relax, catch up on computer projects and paperwork, and discuss our future plans.  Next week I will have the surgery and hopefully will begin the 4-6 weeks of recovery.  Sooo, my "spring break" will morph into summer....




Peace Corps Ukraine is largest U.S. Peace Corps program in the world


UNIAN, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2005


KYIV - On Wednesday, May 25, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. a ceremony will take place

at the historic Ukrainian Teacher's House, 57 Volodymyrska Street in Kyiv at which U.S. Ambassador John Herbst will administer the oath of service to

forty new Volunteers.


The new Volunteers will solemnly promise to promote Peace Corps' principles

of respect and friendship across national and cultural boundaries as they

serve in institutions across the country.


Peace Corps Ukraine is the largest Peace Corps Country Program of more than seventy Country Programs worldwide. Media wishing to receive accreditation are requested to call (044) 247-6840, contact person: Valentyna Pyrozhko.


Peace Corps was established in Ukraine based on a Bilateral Agreement signed in May 1992 by Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and American President George Bush. The Peace Corps Ukraine Program offers practical language and management skills education to Ukrainian people in support of the Ukrainian Government's goals of entry into the global economic community and accession to the European Union.


The new group of Volunteers will be working in the framework of two

projects - Youth Development and Economic Development.   23 Volunteers

to be sworn in under the Youth Development Project will teach youth between the ages of 12 and 18 civic responsibility, healthy lifestyles, leadership, computers and Internet technology, basic business skills, and good environmental practices. They will work in rural and economically

disadvantaged areas in 9 oblasts of Ukraine.


17 Economic Development Volunteers will work in local universities, NGOs,

and municipalities teaching management skills and economics, facilitating

community development, strengthening participation in civil society by

teaching critical thinking, strategic planning, leadership, project design

and implementation, gender education, and other subjects.


Over the past thirteen years Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine have taught,

worked alongside and otherwise impacted more than one million Ukrainians. At present 298 Peace Corps Volunteers are working in more than 160 Ukrainian villages, towns and cities in 24 oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.


The ceremony will feature speeches by U.S. Ambassador Herbst and

dignitaries from the Ukrainian National and Regional Governments, including

representatives of the Ministry of Economy and European Integration, the

Ministry of Education and Science, and the Ministry for Youth and Sports.

Peace Corps is funded by American taxpayers.


The organization promotes peace and friendship among peoples of different

nationalities and cultures. During over four decades, Peace Corps has worked

in more than 120 countries. In Ukraine Peace Corps sponsors three main

program activities: Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Economic

Development, and Youth Development.  -30-



  • Tuesday, 24 May 2005

The Plastic Surgeon…

I could acquire a very nice set of breasts! 


I am a good candidate for implants.  This could be fun, but the logical part of me rules this decision out: implants can be pretty high maintenance, so I elect for another reconstruction technique.  


The whole discussion seems surreal as we consider the other options.  I do not have much fat on my body.  Fat is necessary to build a breast.  So much for the advantage of being slender and fit!


This conversation just seems strange.  I just want to get this business over and move on with my life.


  • Monday, 23 May 2005

Mark arrives

Mark arrives today and my heart is light. 


I have missed his calm presence.  With him by my side I can relax and put down my guard a bit.  It takes so much energy to manage my life alone during all the recent medical adventures.  Mark pampers me.


He arrives with heavy bags, filled with surprises, including several gifts from my friends in Ukraine.  The living room is quickly cluttered with tissue paper and gifts as I ohh and ahh over things. 


With Mark here, this apartment feels more like home.


  • Sunday, 22 May 2005

Some time to breathe

I sleep in a bit today.  My roommate and I spend a lazy day with the TV and the computer.  Late in the day I make a short trip to Pentagon City Mall and then return home with my purchases.  I am too restless to accomplish anything – the anticipation of Mark’s arrival tomorrow keeps me stirred up.


  • Saturday, 21 May 2005

Flower power…

A beautiful bouquet arrived at my door this morning.  One of my favorite delights is to receive flowers.  The surprise was even more delightful because the beautiful flowers are a gift from a very dear friend.  I smile and smile and smile.  Fresh flowers make a house a home.  (Thank you Marty!)


Sister-in-law Kris arrives early and we set off on the Metro to the eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood on this bright Spring Saturday.  We spent a leisurely day strolling along and talking as we stopped at several yard sales.  We also enjoyed perusing the arts and crafts at a local show.  I made several bulky purchases (books) and found a bright red and black scarf I had to own (a fifty cent investment!).  I was also given a pair of coffee mugs.  Kris found some lovely earrings. 


We had a leisurely late lunch at an outdoor Thai restaurant.  Most of the local restaurants are closed because the water main is broken.  Restaurants cannot allow patrons inside due to health regulations so those with outdoor seating are doing big business.   


Later in the day we strolled over to the Iwo Jima monument near the hotel.   There are several Marines and other military personnel in the vicinity so we anticipated some kind of Armed Forces Day ceremony.   It turned out to be a promotion ceremony as a young Marine Corps NCO’s family pinned on “butter bars”.


 After a long day and with tired, aching feet, we opted for a lazy evening on the couch in front of the TV with an extra large pizza to dine on.     Kris flies home at 6 AM so we wanted o make it an early night. 



  • Friday, 20 May, 2005

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

 -John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Mark swears in as PCV - “first in his class”…

In Ukraine Mark is at the American Embassy for his private swearing in ceremony.  I am so grateful this ceremony is taking place.  Earlier in the week it looked like he would be rushed here on an airplane to be at my side for my surgery.  Our training Group 28 is scheduled to swear in on Wednesday. 


I was beside myself that Mark would come so close to swearing in and then be denied the honor and privilege that he earned for all his hard work.  My heart is lightened by the news that he will, indeed, be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  And, he will be “first” in his class!  8-)


The big news though is this: Mark will arrive here in DC on Monday afternoon!


I spend some time with my PC nurse this morning.  We visit and enjoy a less stressful time together.  Earlier in the week we seemed to clash heads a bit – the stress level is lower and despite the sad destination this path is going, I can enjoy the scenery and find some joy in new options.


When Kris and I leave the PC building rain pummels us.  We are drenched when we finally make it to the Metro stop.  The temperature drops.  We arrive at the Holocaust Museum drenched and shivering.


This museum is amazing.  We spend a long time in the gift shop as we wait for our time slot in the actual museum.  The shop has many wonderful educational materials, books and inspirational materials. 


I engage in conversation with several students who, upon discovering I am a Peace Corps Trainee, pepper me with questions.  They bring over several friends who say they dream of being a PCV someday. 


The museum is designed to be very effective.  When I left, rather than depressed or disturbed, I found myself grateful and in awe of how resilient and strong the human spirit is.  The survivors are amazing individuals who despite the odds, lived to share the story of the heinous crimes and atrocities committed during the Nazi regime. 



  • Thursday, 19 May 2005

There are two ways to live. 

You can live as if nothing is a miracle

or you can live as if everything is a miracle.

- Albert Einstein


An early morning phone call and the sun shines in my heart…

Since the visit to the oncologist on Tuesday I have felt like I am caught in a tsunami.  I have been trying to remain calm and rationale, but every plan or decision that is outlined seems to be rescinded or morphed into something entirely different.  The past few days have been very stressful.


I was relieved to hear from Mark and know that he will swear in.  His early morning call lightened my heart and helped me cope with the ambiguity of everything else. 


My sister-in-law Kris arrived today and accompanied me on my visit to Dr. E’s office to discuss the nature of the upcoming surgery.  Kris takes detailed notes and introduces a few questions to consider while I simply try to absorb all the facts and keep my wits about me.  We manage to laugh despite the serious nature of the discussion.  Dr. E will coordinate with the plastic surgeon to schedule my surgery for next week. 


Kris and I elect to walk back to the hotel from Dr. E’s office on the other side of Georgetown.  There are many delightful shops to wander through so we walk and talk.  We stop for dinner and continue our leisurely walk back to the hotel.


  • Wednesday, 18 May 2005

I ride the shuttle van to Peace Corps office today.  At noon I see my nurse.  She puts on the breaks (her expression) concerning surgery.   My husband must be here for this even she says.  I respond that no, he must finish his training and graduate with his class.  We glare at one another – two strong personalities going head to head.


Eventually we come to terms, but not before I find myself snapping a bit – “I need a hug!  You are a health professional – you ought to know when a person needs a hug!” 


I got a hug and a laugh too.  I also got some telephone time with Mark. 


I shared my sad news with him.  I also encouraged him to take a stand for me – I want him to be sworn in.  He has completed all the requirements and if they fly him home this weekend he will miss this significant event.  He deserves the recognition and the moment to celebrate the achievement. 


Mark talks to me about local polices and some of the options we may have.  Our future is definitely in limbo.  It is hard to stay calm. 


We could both be unemployed in just a matter of days.   


I cling to faith…I find things to be grateful for. 


Surgery is postponed, Mark will fly in, we will somehow move forward…


  • Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Just as you can choose between possible futures, you can choose between possible pasts. Your past is not a fixed reality; it is what you choose by focus and interpretation. Interpret your past through the eyes of appreciation, and it will become only a blessing.   - Alan Cohen

The other shoe drops – the pathology report…

The oncologist’s office is across town in a beautiful part of the city where everything is green and fresh.  I am reminded of the Chestnut Hill area in Boston as the cab driver wends his vehicle through the residential area.


Somehow I have no idea there will be bad news as I walk into the office.  Soon I learn that despite a second excisional surgery, I still have abnormal cells in my breast.  The next step, the best choice for me, is mastectomy.  


All I can think about is my dying dream – it is becoming clear to me I will probably never get to swear-in as a Peace Corps volunteer now.  I try to focus on the medical issues, but I spill out my story to the good doctor.  She understands.  I am grateful to have someone who will listen.


All I can think of is completing the surgery as quickly as possible so perhaps I can actually return to Ukraine and resume my life there.  My 45-day window is running out quickly, but there is a chance I can complete surgery and be cleared by the physicians and perhaps by Peace Corps medical staff too.  Dr. G gets on the phone and tentatively scheduled me for surgery on Thursday morning.


By the time my 3 PM appointment is over, it is rush hour in the city and it takes a while to get a cab.  I cannot focus and I am emotionally a bit raw so the effort of calling for a cab seems far more challenging than it should be.  I dial wrong numbers, I call cabs from the wrong community, finally I get it right. 


The cab pulls up; I slide across the seat, almost in tears and regretting that I will be trapped in this vehicle for at least 40 minutes.  I am ready to be alone.  I want to cry and pound my pillow and vent all the anger and fear inside me.  I need to purge myself so I can move forward with some race.


Caught up in my own world, I barely realize my driver has spoken to me in Russian.  I do a double take and respond with a suitable Russian greeting and give him a puzzled look.  He shoots back another Russian phrase and I spill out another polite Russian phrase.  I laugh as I look at the black man driving my cab and ask him how he comes to speak Russian. 


My angel cab-driver tells me a tale of being a young man in Nigeria and having the opportunity to attend university in Kiev.  His adventure began in the 70’s when he was barely more than a boy.  He spoke of his amazement at seeing snow for the first time.  He spoke of familiar sites in Kiev, he shared stories about local customs and he made me smile at his wonderful memories.  What could have been a very long, uncomfortable trip became one of happy reminiscing. 


I managed to stay composed and engaged and weathered the ride with my dignity intact.


Thursday – surgery…


·        Monday, 16 May 2005

Grateful living: an alchemic operation of

converting "disgraceful" things into grateful events.

-          Raimundo Panikkar


I do find much to be grateful for, but sometimes my initial response is not so gracious.  Today I had a battle with fears.  It is better to find something proactive rather than to give in to the fears that sometimes abduct me and drain my energy and kill my hopes.


This bump in the road is just that, a small bump, not a change of course.  After my initial meeting with the nurse today, I was all focused on fear related issues.  I found myself caught up in the idea that in just a few weeks we would both be back in our house in SC, un-employed and I would be receiving radiation treatments and trying to find a new dream to believe in as well as a way to make a living.  My dreams and my future seemed to be slam dunked following that short hour in the nurse’s office. 


I spent a difficult afternoon walking around the city pondering the direction to follow…I fought back tears.  The medical situation is not on my mind; it is our future, our dreams, our life.  We have wanted this PCV experience and to have it cut short so abruptly devastates me. 


When I returned to the medivac lounge I met other volunteers who allowed me to share my fears.  They were able to quickly provide me with several strategies and options that I would never have garnered from anyone in an official capacity.  I left the office feeling optimistic and with new hope that we can make this future in Ukraine a reality. 


Perspective is amazing. 


Once again, I found the phone to be a wonderful tool for venting my anxiety and fears as I spoke to friends and family and turned the vents of the day into humorous incidents.


I want to serve in Ukraine and I want to be back home with my husband.  This ambiguous situation is difficult, but I know that my meeting with the oncologist tomorrow will provide me insight into what my future will be.  I may have extended treatment, but perhaps it will be something I can manage from my site in Ukraine.  That is where I want to be for the next two years.  I resent his delay, this break from training, this diversion from what I want to pursue.  I cannot let this go…It all seemed so right and I do not want to give this up without a fight.  We have so much to give. 


I have never been concerned about medical matters.  My background as a Christian Scientist has distanced me from these concerns.  I completed a dynamic military career and did not have to deal with medical issues and I find it odd that the PC hierarchy demands such compliance with medical procedures.  One would think that an organization serving such diverse cultures would have a more liberal view on what comprises proper care.  Amazing – the military seems more enlightened than the PC. 


I accommodate other people (in this case PC) by permitting them to dictate medical procedures as a part of my employment contract.  Now I am wondering if I should have allowed myself to accept their medical model.  That model, may cost them and me in many ways that neither of us should have to deal with. 


This situation reinforces my earlier training.  This medical model is not very effective.  It limits us to a mortal concept of life rather than incorporating our true spiritual basis.  This limitation costs us all in the long run. 


I am off on a tangent, but I feel grounded and ready to deal with the next few days of this adventure. 



·        Sunday, 15 May 2005

Life is good, just kind of confusing at times…

 It seems to me that these seeming set-backs and challenges are actually opportunities to find joy in our daily lives and blessings.  We get so busy sometimes and take things too seriously - we should sing, dance, give praise and thanks for the abundance in our lives. 


This comes from my heart - it is not mere rhetoric.  I am glad I learned this lesson, or at least studied it, in the past so I can cope more gracefully with the challenges I have faced in more recent years.  Of course others also face challenges and that should make a stronger bond between those individuals shouldn't it.  Life IS good.  8-)


I got a note from the nurse practitioner at PC back in Ukraine... need to know estrogen receptor sensitivity, have a bone scan, liver scan and studies and chest x ray, probably you have done all that….sounds like I may be in for quite a barrage of tests here in DC before I can think about going anywhere...of course they may not recommend all this stuff...I guess I will know when I know... I may be camped here a while.  Well, I did not face war during my AF career, but I guess this may be my version...just picking my way through this mental-mine-field. 


I read a funny e-mail in the unofficial PC news group.  It was about how song lyrics pop up to guide you through things sometimes.  (I will extract, with permission, some of her note below)  Keep reading to get to her note, but a few of my remarks first…


I plan to adopt/steal the group motto mentioned in the note you are abut to read…it is so appropriate for me since I constantly use the expression but always in English.  It takes on a bit of sophistication when stated I Latin! 


My routine response to stuff almost always is "It was fun..." as if fun is the actual purpose behind an activity...for me it matters though.  Life is made for singing, dancing, giving thanks and in my opinion, if you can't find a way to make it an occasion for joy, you are probably doing something wrong!  8-)


My son used to be a diehard Dr. Demento fan and we are NPR/PBS folks so it is only natural that this popped to mind when the writer below mentioned being a Fishhead...I'll think of her when I hear this silly tune..   


...Fish heads, fish heads,

Roly-poly fish heads,

Eat them up,



(FYI: at my host family's home we eat fish soup almost every morning - when you see that black tail hanging over the side of the bowl when you walk into the kitchen you can say a little prayer of gratitude - someone else got the head!)


Here’s the initial note (THANKS PAULA!) that got me rolling on this topic:


Date: Sat, 14 May 2005 15:17:03 -0000     From: "rpcv.geo"?


For some reason, song titles and verses always used to run through my head. For example:


"Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny. But NOW..." (from Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita".)




"Momma said there'd be days like this. There'd be days like this, my momma said."


And for some reason, when I was riding through the marche on my belle moto once, the Boss floated to the surface again: "Had a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. went out for a ride and I never went back. Like a river that don't know where it's flowin', I took a wrong turn, baby, and I just kept goin'." Since I don't particularly like that song, I took that as a subconscious hint that I'd been at post too long and needed to take a little trip somewhere.


For annoying HCNs, a friend of mine had a good one: "I'll be thinking of you when I'm home driving my car." You have to think it, though. Definitely don't say it. It's rude and the person you're most likely to think of it about would not appreciate the sentiment. But it's a nice little thought and puts a smile on your face, which generally puzzles whichever jerk is bugging you at that moment.


Walking through the marche in Africa, of course, it's not uncommon to find, "YES, we have no bananas! We have no bananas today!" (and so on) running through your head. This can be entertaining or worrying, depending on your mood and how much of the song you can remember (or how much you love or hate bananas). Somebody once did a hilarious set of verses about Cameroon set to The Banana Boat song for an in-country PCV mag once that got stuck in my head for the rest of service, too.


A verse from David Alan Coe's "perfect Country&Western song", which had to have something about Momma, trains, trucks, prison, rain and gettin' drunk to be perfect, always worked really well when crossing through crowded taxi parks: "I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison. And I went to pick her up in the rain. But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, she got run over by a damned old train..."


And finally, our fishhead training group's unofficial motto (the official one was

"Piscor ergo sum"), spoken deadpan, was, "It was fun. I learned a lot."


Needless to say, the above all indicates that a sense of humour is essential for

Peace Corps--and being a little nuts doesn't hurt, either.


- Paula

Cameroon, '91-'94


PS:  Oh yeah – the toilet is fixed and the toe nails painted.  8-)

Piscor, ergo sum.


(Actually I think it really means: I fish, therefore I am…)



·        Saturday, 14 May 2005

Fulfilled life is possible in spite of unfulfilled wishes.

-          Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Good news - I got a call from Mark this morning - just hearing his sweet voice is a tonic for me!  


He uploaded more to his journal and included a piece of experimental video which may or may not work well on your individual computer, but have a look at it and do let him know how it plays so he can make revisions on it and can figure out how to use future videos too. The video is of our cluster group getting our assignments - as you probably know the Pulver's are going to be living on the Black Sea on the tip of the Crimean Peninsula in the fair city of Kerch.  (Psssst - In the video, I'm the one in the pink shirt!)  Mark's new journal update has some info about VE Day memorials in our host family's village and there are photos too.  


On another note, I FINALLY managed my "dream trip" to Target and bought some tee-shirts and more nail polish. 


The Target Store is at the second-to-the-last stop on the Red line so I had to hike to the local metro and then make a change and then sit through about ten more stops then hike up a stalled escalator of over 175-steps (yes I counted and I was breathing hard and passing less fit people who may have needed CPR) and then walk a half-mile to the mall.  (Later I found out this escalator is the world’s 2nd longest and here I am hiking it just a couple days after my 2nd surgery!)  Good thing I had all that military training!  I refreshed by indulging myself with a caloric-ridden, high caffeine, triple-latte grande at S-Bucks.  What a splurge!


After some successful shopping, I realized my feet were soooooo sore so I made and emergency stop at Payless and bought a pair of tacky  $10 red flip-flops so I could hobble home again.  While I was at the mall, the fire alarm went off and they had to evacuate the place...pretty interesting experience actually. 


Now I am "home" (at the hotel) and found the toilet is grossly backed up...it is scary backed-up!  Too much information huh?!!!   Too bad...   I don’t want to report it to the desk ‘cuz I will be embarrassed to have the plumber come up and have to deal with this disgusting situation.  Let me assure you I did NOT use excessive amounts of TP, but I am sure they will have their own opinions regardless of the truth.  I am a delicate princess and do not cope well with these mundane situations...One more challenge to deal with!  8-) 


A thunderstorm has rolled in while I sat here typing…I hear the rolling thunder and the sunny sky is not steely-grey.  I opened my window to allow the sounds and smells of the rain storm fill my room.  What a pleasure.


So much for my adventures for the day.



·        Friday, 13 May 2005

It IS Friday the 13th

I guess it is all catching up with me.  I seem to have a case of the intermittent blues.  I wish Mark were here to help me put things in perspective, but he is not and cannot be. 

My emotional bank account is overdrawn I guess.

I woke up feeling great actually.  It is amazing how resilient the human body and spirit are.  Aside from a little tenderness and aching I am unaware of the stitches and swelling left by my multiple surgeries.  Just yesterday morning I was still unable to raise my arm above shoulder level. 

The pharmacy called about the override required for my prescription.  Apparently the paperwork I picked up at Peace Corps and delivered is not adequate for their needs. The pharmacy has to order the prescription so it requires a couple days to coordinate the whole thing – I started the “project” on 5 May and still haven’t been able to complete the transaction.  I am not up to it (emotionally) today. 

This is all compounded by the fact I have a different health coordinator now.  As of Tuesday my old coordinator was no longer assigned to me (she is leaving PC and embarking on a new life).  My new coordinator is a bit more structured and works on an appointment basis.  I was told she would be available on Thursday.  I left messages yesterday and e-mailed her a pleasant note giving her an update on the plot twists that ensued following my Appointment Tuesday (the unexpected diagnosis and surgery).   I also filled her in on my medical appointment schedule for next week.  I am sure she will get back to me when she is available.    

There is some residual frustration because when I came out of surgery Wednesday I did not have a good point of contact at PC to confirm my travel arrangements for the cab ride home from the hospital.  I sat in the wheel chair in recovery dialing various offices and speaking to answering machines about my situation.  (Now I know everyone was at the Wednesday meeting!)  Eventually someone responded and a PCV was dispatched to ride with me in the cab so I could negotiate my way home to bed safely. 

Not major inconveniences or dilemmas to be sure, but challenges none-the-less and my resistance is low just now.  I feel like a whiny kid!  8-) 

I have lots of angel friends and just when I slumped emotionally the phone would ring and a friend would bring me back up.  Thank goodness for friends.  


·        Thursday, 12 May 2005

A wasted day…


More sleeping and some time to myself to heal and rest. 


My goal today was to go to the market and purchase some rocky road ice cream.  Mission accomplished.



·        Wednesday, 11 May 2005 

Surgery Number Two

My second surgery in less than a week.


Someone died in the operating room this morning.  I heard the animal sounds the mother made when she learned of her son’s death. 


My own surgery went well.  I remained alert throughout most of it.


The anesthesia seemed to have a delayed effect.  When I arrived home (a PCV rode with me in a cab to get me to the hotel) I just curled up on the couch munching ginger snaps and watching Oprah.



·        Tuesday, 10 May 2005

An encore presentation in surgery…

My window is open to the spring breezes.  The sheer curtains catch the breeze and dance behind me and as I write I hear the sound of taps playing somewhere in the darkness.  I started my day in this same chair enjoying the morning sun and my coffee and was rewarded with the sounds of the Army band playing near the Iwo Jima Memorial. 

It is about 11 PM.  I am waiting till midnight to give Mark a call.  In Ukraine it will be 7 AM and he will be starting his day.  I am sorry to spoil his morning with the unexpected news that I will go into surgery in the morning.  When I went to the doctor’s office earlier today, I was quite certain it was merely a matter of clearing me so I could make my trip back to Ukraine.  I was wrong.

I thought mostly of Mark as the surgeon detailed what my options are.  I could have radiation treatment, but cancer cells might still remain.  Another option is r-excision to remove more tissue and provide clear margins.  Radiation treatments may or may not be necessary following this surgery.  The advantage is the cells will be removed and it is less likely there will be future problems.  Of course the doctor said “we were lucky we caught this early.” 


·        Monday, 9 May 2005

Panda, pasta and playing…

Yesterday proved to be a delight.  Cousin C is so much fun and she brought along her neighbor and good friend to add o the fun too. 


We visited the Eastern Market area and found our way into a couple great vintage clothing stores where I was parted with some money.  My two traveling companions encouraged me to splurge a bit on a beautiful poppy-red, slim skirt that will be a wonderful work skirt back in Ukraine.  They also found a fun suit jacket that has a bit of dash and flash about it.


The clothes are a good cure for me – I have been feeling pretty frumpy lately.  This getting older business takes a toll on people or at least on me.  I am in this kind of in-between stage (not young, but not old yet) where I find it tough to know how to dress and how to adjust to the changes in my life – grey hair, trifocals, etc… 


Who is that mature woman in the mirror and why doesn’t she dress better and do something with that hair?  (If I knew what to do with the hair and makeup I would do it!)  In Ukraine when women reach a certain age they have a uniform to fall back on – they can become babushkas and don a scarf and comfortable clothes and just relish the gift of age and comfort.


We had a nice dinner or a really late lunch actually.  It was a tapa restaurant and turned out to be mostly Turkish food.  It was fun to be a bit adventurous so we had some delightful food and have no idea what some of it really was!


We stayed up very late talking and sipping wine then this morning we headed out to the zoo!   One of my favorite places to while away some time!  Enroute, we dined at an outdoor Italian trattoria.  It was perfect weather to be outdoors.


They flew back to the Midwest in the late afternoon.


I laughed so much in the last 24 hours!


  • Sunday, 8 May 2005

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.  I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.                 -Louisa May Alcott

Here I sit in a sun-filled 600-square foot suite in Washington DC.  Outside the window, the pool glitters in the morning sun. Across the street is the Iwo Jima Memorial and in the distance the Potomac winds through the city.   I listen to NPR and sip coffee. 

This is hardly how I imagined my Peace Corps adventure to be.

The past few weeks have been almost surreal.  Before arriving here in DC, I spent several days at the Peace Corps office in beautiful Kiev where I had the opportunity to explore a bit.  While Ukraine may be in need of economic development, Kiev is hardly an example of a city in need.  It is stunning with its contrasts of old and new.  With spring in the air the city is alive and vital.  I even managed to spend an evening at the opera the night before I left.  It is privilege to be in Kiev and I am grateful for the opportunity, if not for the situation I am in.    

Next I am “forced” to spend several weeks in my own nation’s capital.  I will be in Washington DC for a few weeks.  I have taken to referring to this adventure as my “spring break” and in many ways it is.

Things will change when I am finally allowed to return to my husband and Ukraine.  Soon we will go to our site, far from Kiev, on the very tip of the Crimean Peninsula.  It will be good to have memories of Kiev and Washington DC since we will be somewhat isolated in our new home.  The 23-hour train trip to Kiev will be daunting and probably will be a challenge which we may not be eager to repeat very often.  We will also be living on our Peace Corps money rather than the comparative luxury afforded by per diem.  Our life style will be more humble.       

While here, I have also been blessed by many visits from friends and family.  It has been delightful and though I may not always be so gracious (I have been stressed and tired and a little bit afraid), I am sincere when I say I am grateful for these wonderful people.  People are what matters and my life is filled with warm, caring individuals who have taught me how to live and how to find joy and gratitude. 

My cousin will arrive soon.  She works for a major airline and one of the perks is travel opportunities.  It will be a whirlwind visit since she will depart tomorrow. 

I have many cousins that I know and love and have spent time with, but this cousin and I, though very much alike, have not had chances to be together.  With the introduction of e-mail to our lives, we have become friends.  Technology affords us so many wonderful gifts. 

The plans are casual and loose.  We will take the metro to the flea market and talk as we examine treasures and bargain for deals.  Tomorrow I hope we will make our way to the zoo.  We are both great lovers of animals. 

I am fine today; just a bit tender and achy, but invigorated by my anticipation for the day. 

It is Mother’s Day…my first without my own mother.  I miss her. 

I am blessed with two mother-in-laws who each have added much to my life.  I think about how each of these women has influenced me and I am grateful for the memories I have.  

On Mother’s Day I also think of my own children and say a quick prayer of gratitude that they have been part of my life.  I cannot imagine who I would be without the joys and sorrows that have come because of them.  They have had a profound effect on my ability to find joy and to live a fuller, richer life.  They helped me overcome fear.   I have been so blessed.

Mark is the father of my children and the man who shares my heart and my life.  I wish he could be here to share this special day with me, but far away in Ukraine, he is going through the experiences I long to share.  He e-mailed me today and told me to buy flowers for myself on his behalf.  He cannot manage this task in his remote village, but he knows how much I love flowers.  Maybe he will meet me at the airport with a bouquet in a few days… 8-)


  • Saturday, 7 May 2005

Eastern Market, Knit Shop, Time to myself…

Today the sky is blue and the air is crisp – a beautiful day for an adventure.  I am happily on my own.

I did my homework and figured out how to Metro to the Eastern Market where vendors spread their arts and crafts and the fruit, vegetable and flower vendors entice everyone with their wares.  There are huge bundles of lilacs - the scent fills the air. 


After managing to keep my wallet in my pocket I found my way to a knitter’s paradise and spent too much money on some yarn and needles.  These toys will make a pleasant diversion for me since I cannot seem to concentrate enough to write or study or even read a book.


I will be so far behind in my Russian studies.  I did get a chance to practice on a vendor at the market today.  I also tuned into the Russian TV channel and watched a strange sort of fantasy movie where the entire dialog was Russian.



  • Friday, 6 May 2005

No More Room Mate …

My room mate moved out last night.  The gift of privacy and quiet is invaluable.  I appreciate this unexpected gift of time and space to relax and recover from my surgery. 


After an early take out dinner last night, Nurse Jim advised me to call it a night.  Since my day started long before dawn and involved a significant assault on my body, I agreed with his idea.  He departed and I settled in for the night.


Jim left just after breakfast this morning so he can make it home in time for a movie airing on TV tonight.    



  • Thursday. 5 May 205

Under the Knife at 6 AM..

I am home from the hospital and feeling a bit tender and sore, but this pain means I am one step closer to going home to my husband and our life in Ukraine.  Surgery went well.  The small lump in my breast is gone. 


The staff at GWU Hospital seems to enjoy their work and is warm, caring individuals.  They made me feel comfortable.  They also seem to listen well.     


The procedure itself was a blur since I was under anesthesia.  When I opened my eyes I felt refreshed.  I had dreams about being under a beautiful blue and yellow quilt in an airy, bright room.  I could hear the medical staff talking, but it was as though I was somewhere else.  I even dreamed about the Mediterranean beaches…a little vacation during the surgery! 


Jim stopped enroute to my hotel-home so I could reward myself with a Grande Latte from the neighborhood Starbucks.  Between the after effects of the anesthesia and the caffeine and sugar in my double shot espresso drink, I really was feeling light-headed.


Tomorrow I will call my doctor and set up a follow-up appointment for next week.  If all goes well, I hope I can wing my way home next weekend.  Somehow though I think my return may be delayed due to the bureaucratic nature of things. 


Today is Cinco de Mayo.  Friend Jim and I plan to dine on Mexican food this evening.  I guess I will have to forgo the traditional margaritas tonight. 


With most of the medical details behind me, I look forward to some fun next week.  I plan to visit the Eastern Market this weekend.  Also under consideration are visits to the DC zoo…I love animals and seldom miss a chance to observe them.  I would love to visit the NPR studios and of course the Smithsonian appeals to me as well as the Natural History Museum.  I would also like to ferret out some local resale/thrift shops to find some good quality work clothes.   But most of all I would like to hear the appropriate authorities say “Pack your bags and head back to Ukraine.” 



  •  Wednesday, 4 May 2005

Today I had some much-needed down time.  Nothing on the agenda really… a real break…


Mark Called before I am even out of bed – what a wonderful way to wake up.  We only speak for a few minutes since it is very pricey to call from Ukraine.  Our Country Director arranged for Mark to use the PC phone so the connection is good. 


I am sorry to miss my one-on-one interview with our wonderful Country Director.  I had looked forward to a chance to get acquainted…He seems like an amazing individual.  He has quite a reputation as a leader and motivator.  He is also very personable and clearly loves his job!


Friend Jim arrives to play nurse and chauffeur for me tomorrow when I go under the knife.  What a good friend he is.  I am so blessed with friends and family and people who show how much they care! 


I do count my blessings.



  • Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Today I had an OB/GYN visit – the doctor did a biopsy on a small lesion.  Not too bad, but when the local wore off I knew I had a couple stitches there.  Yikes!


I spent a little time at a big bookstore and picked up a couple gift items and some Russian grammar books.


The telephone keeps ringing and I talk to many friends and family – no time to get lonely or restless! 


Hmmm, my favorite old jeans seem to have shrunk – they are too short to wear now…must have been the dryer in the suburbs.  Sigh…


My roommate has guests too so the suite is often full of people. 



  • Monday, 2 May 2005

I awoke at the home of Janeen’s friends in the suburbs south of my temporary home in DC.  They had thoughtfully washed my few clothes for me.


I am eager to get back to the hotel and relax a bit.  I seem to need down time alone more than some people do.  I have enjoyed the visit, but I do feel over-extended since it has been go, go, go since I arrived stateside.  It is good to have friends and family taking care of me and being so supportive.


I downed a wonderful breakfast and then had the chance to visit the local Target store for a quick look at some much-needed clothes.  Unfortunately I did not find anything there – I am wearing size 4 clothes now and they are even ill-fitting.  I did find a pair of great jeans at the local Sears (they fit well and cost only $5 – a perk of wearing an odd size!) and I bought a Lands End blouse too.  Now I can change clothes a bi more often and since I may be in DC a while, this is becoming more important.


I finally make it home late in the day and am glad to collapse into bed.  I am dreaming away the night when Janeen boards a military HOP and flies via Lear Jet back to her Midwestern home.  It was great to see her!  



  • Sunday, 1 May 2005

The Barrier Islands and the Wild Ponies…

After a delightful breakfast we piled into the car and headed south. 


Destination: Chincoteague 

Purpose: Visit the famed   Chincoteague Ponies


Legend says these diminutive wild ponies are descendents of mustangs being transported in a 16th century galleon that crashed during a fateful storm.  The brave horses swam ashore and for 300 years have continued to live on the island.  Marguerite Henry's children's book, Misty of Chincoteague is a good read for horse-loving readers. 


Chincoteague Pony site:  http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/chinco.html


Sister Janeen and friends planned a picnic on the beach and we had a delightful day wandering around on this Outer Banks Island about 4 hours south of the DC area. 


The horses are amazing – fat and small.  I would love to see the cowboy events in July when the horses swim to shore.


We returned home late at night and I saw many deer along the roads.  After a late night stop for pizza (where all the folks over 60 were actually carded when they ordered beer!) we headed back to our host and hostess’ house for a good night’s sleep.


I must admit, I had a little problem with all the dolls staring at me.  Janeen’s friends have a large collection (hundreds and hundreds!) of stuffed bears and dolls.  I love the stuffies, but the dolls make me a bit uncomfortable.  Scary…