It’s been a while, world.

It’s been a busy couple of years since last we met.

So what have I been up to… (the greatest hits, if you will)

  • 2013: Found post-PC employment with the Department of State (Civil Service.)
  • 2013: Moved to Minnesota for the above-mentioned position.
  • 2014: Got married to a wonderful guy, Sami. ❤
  • 2015: Became pregnant…with twins!
  • 2016: Welcomed our twins (EJ and EM) into the world. Healthy, happy and a handful. ❤
  • 2016: Took the Foreign Service Officer Test in the hopes of pursing my life long dream of becoming a United States Foreign Service Officer. Passed both the test and the following QEP stage.
  • 2017: I passed the Oral Assessment (OA) on February 21, 2017, with a score of 5.9.
    • (Full disclosure: This was my second attempt at the OA – I was invited to test in 2015, but failed to meet the cutoff score.)

The process of becoming a United States Foreign Service Officer is lengthy, and by its very nature, exceedingly frustrating. This topic has been covered extensively – I do not possess any particular insight that has not already been shared by my fellow FSOs-in-waiting.

Instead of offering my own take on the OA, I suggest you head over to the Little Wonders blog, where the author has a stellar post, one which I personally found quite useful in the weeks leading up to the OA.

My general advice will sound almost impossible – try to relax, and be yourself. Also, be someone that the examiners (all FSOs themselves) would want to work with. (They want to see how you operate under pressure – so show them what you’ve got!) Easier said than done, I know.

My Background:

  • BA in International Affairs (with a minor in Russian Language & Literature)
  • MA in Politics, Security and Integration – thesis on nationalism in the post-Soviet sphere
  • Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine

Books I Recommend:

I did very little formal preparation for any section of the application process. I am a confessed newshound, and wonk – I listen to podcasts across a wide range of topics, but with a strong focus on history, politics, policy and current events. I also listen to a lot of NPR via the excellent NPROne app. For the FSOT specifically, I referred to the Department of State app, which had lots of (completely free) practice questions. I did very little work with the YahooGroup, but did find the two practice Group Exercise sessions useful in test running how I would handle the situation day-of.

That’s it for now – stay tuned.


you know you’re a peace corps volunteer in ukraine when. . .

Pulled from the blog of a fellow PCV 🙂

  1. you realize time is relative, schedules are null, and nothing happens on time.
  2. 6 hour bus rides and 24 hour train rides don’t seem that bad.
  3. you’ve begun to think rhinestones, synthetic fabrics, and denim on denim is stylish.
  4. you have a collection of ‘nice’ plastic bags.
  5. you find yourself dima squatting at a bus stop.
  6. crystal light and starbucks via packets are gold and used as trading tokens between pcvs.
  7. the only cool thing about your black and white cellphone is the game ‘snake’.
  8. you start to spell everything the british way by adding extra ‘u’s.
  9. openly cheating in school doesn’t phase you anymore.
  10. you always carry toilet paper with you. always. Continue reading

Camp Cowboys & Cossacks

This summer, in the beautiful borderlands of Northern Ukraine, a fellow PCV and I have organized a healthy lifestyles summer camp, Camp Cowboys & Cossacks! This will be the first time youth from this region of Ukraine will have the opportunity to attend a Peace Corps operated summer camp.

The camp will be an English-language healthy lifestyles camp which will focus on teaching attendees (ages 12-15) about healthy lifestyle choices, sports and sportsmanship, leadership, and effective decision-making. The campers will get a chance to live for a week in an active and fun community. Each day they will learn new sports, participate in contests and attend healthy lifestyles classes. Campers will also receive HIV/AIDS awareness and tolerance training in their native language (conducted by the youth leadership team from my site!)

It’s going to be amazing, that’s a guarantee, but we can’t do it without your support! Please consider donating towards our project, any amount, no matter how small, is tremendously appreciated!

Campers and counselors from a healthy lifestyles summer camp, summer 2011.

As a bonus, every donor will have access to the Camp Cowboys & Cossacks blog, complete with updates about the project’s progress, and pictures and video from the camp itself, as well as be the recipient of handwritten thank you letters from the camper’s themselves. 🙂

As a bonus, Every donor will have access to a camp blog, complete with updates about the project’s progress, and pictures and video from the camp itself, as well as be the recipient of handwritten thank you letters from the camper’s themselves.

If you build it, they will come. (or: Youth Development Work in Ukraine)

Edit: As of January 30th, 2012, this project has been fully funded by the North Texas Peace Corps Association. Their astounding generosity has left me speechless! Please remember that you don’t have to serve to be part of the Peace Corps legacy – you can help right now by funding (in part or in whole) a Peace Corps Volunteer’s project – all of which you can find here.

Now back to the previously posted entry 🙂 :

As many of you know, in addition to teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am also involved in youth development work in my community, with a focus on healthy lifestyles. In that vein, my Ukrainian counterparts and I have organized and submitted a grant proposal with the intent of providing the local youth sports center with much needed equipment (from sports equipment to heating units.) Please take a look at the project, and if you’re able to, donate! Even if you’re not personally able to donate to the project, please forward the information to anyone and everyone you think would be interested in being part of this undertaking!

(I will be promoting this project endlessly until it’s funded, so be prepared!!)
Continue reading

It’s 10 degrees outside. Time for a swim.

Greetings from the hinterlands! Winter has finally arrived, and it’s in fine form, dumping snow on my little town and temperatures hover around 20 degrees, dipping into the single digits every three days or so. While it is admittedly beautiful, it is also, without a doubt, cold. Not Siberia-cold, mind you, but brr-inducing nonetheless.

The first brave soul got a running start. Pretty impressive for a 60+, pot-bellied, chain-smoking gentleman.

None of this would be particularly remarkable, except for the fact that one of the (in my opinion) strangest holiday traditions occurs every year in Ukraine on January 19th (for those keeping score, that would be yesterday.) Now, the 19th of January, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, is the Feast of Epiphany. This is the last of the Christmas season holidays in Ukraine (of which there are many), and is by far the most bizarre in one respect.  Continue reading

Whatever it is, it’s definitely burning.

When you sign up for the Peace Corps, you are, to some extent, aware of the challenges you’ll face. You have to learn a foreign language, integrate with a community, and live in an unfamiliar and strange (at least at first) environment, to name just a few.

But of course, there are the challenges which Peace Corps doesn’t exactly cover during training. For example: distinguishing between the smell of an electrical fire and burning trash. You’d think that it’d be an easy distinction – but let me tell you, it is not. Probably because both involve burning plastic.   Continue reading

Yeah. It’s dark already.

There is something undeniably breathtaking about a starry sky. Particularly when there’s not a cloud to be seen…oh and the temperature is hovering around 18 degrees and is literally taking away your ability to breathe. (All part and parcel of living in northern Ukraine from roughly November 1 until the very end of March.) Now, granted, it’s not currently that cold here. I have been informed by the sagacious teachers at my school that we are having a worryingly warm November, which can only portend that a wickedly cold winter awaits us come January. Color me… anticipatory.

But I digress. I began this blog entry intending to to write about darkness. In particular, the darkness which descends upon my little town in Ukraine on the last weekend of October, and encroaches upon my daylight hours inexorably until the winter equinox, at which point it begins its glacially slow retreat. Continue reading

the little things (are everything)

Yesterday I woke up at 5:50, sleepily changed into my running gear, and headed out.

The mechanics of my run were normal – I hit my stride and set out, winding through the park, once around the stadium track then out to the forest. But as I ran, watching the sun slowly crawl up over the horizon, I was infused with a sense of place, of the utter certainty that at that moment, I didn’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything else. Continue reading

let there be light…please?

A few weeks ago, in the midst of the general hubbub of summertime, the main overhead light in my bedroom blew out, with a suitably shocking popping sound. I bought replacements for the light bulbs, only to discover that something else was amiss. What? Well, there was no light. No electricity at all running through the central wall in my apartment and into my ceiling. So, in the way of most Peace Corps Volunteers, I made a mental note to get someone to look at it, then promptly forgot about it. Continue reading