Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Catching Up

For some reason I need to be in the mood to write anything these days. Usually I can blog about anything...what I'm thinking, what I'm doing....whatever. Today is a good day to write though...it's raining cats and dogs and there isn't any other way I'd rather spend an afternoon on the couch.

Utmost in my thoughts is Ukraine, as usual. That won't change until things are settled. My Ukrainian friends are worried about everything that is going on in the east where they live. They are confused, above all, because Russia has always been a good neighbor. Everyone has family in Russia and vice-versa. They watch Russian TV and this confuses them further, because of all the conflicting news coming from there. Moscow propaganda has been hitting hard day and night, confusing everyone. So, Putin has hit a bulls-eye, it seems.

Here in America I'm happy to report that Ukraine has not been forgotten. The news is fresh every evening about what is happening there. This us unusual, as Americans tend to have the attention span of fleas. In one ear, out the other. So, I'm relieved that NPR news is keeping Ukraine in its thoughts.

I've been unusually busy these days. I have decided to rip up my bathroom floor(s). After I got down to the base level I discovered that there were beautiful oak hardwoods underneath all those layers! My brother Dave helped me out a lot by removing the sink and toilet, and by replacing 5 rotted boards but I did the rest. I am as proud as can be!  Next I'll refinish the molding and paint the walls.
After ripping up 2 previous layers to reveal this BIG red linoleum floor

Staining the boards

TA DA! Finished! After the second coat of Polyurethane
Thanks to my friend Manette, I've been working a bit. First thing I did was some light carpentry in her parents house which had been gutted. That lasted a few months, and now she set me up with another friend of hers that needed help with her elderly mom. Every day I ride the bus to Providence and spend 3 hours with Betty, making her lunch, cleaning and shopping and cooking and other things as needed. It's a good gig and Betty is a sweetheart and I look forward to spending time with her. Thank God for Manette! Having a bit of money in my pocket is pretty sweet.

My next venture could be back into the world of art. A friend of mine has offered me a show in a gallery in downtown Pawtucket. It feels a bit strange because I haven't made any new work for a while so I'll be showing only 1 or 2 news things. Thinking on it, however, I never really had a big showing of my Tea Work. I'm proud of this work and want to share it with a bigger audience but it's doubtful that I'll get the audience I really need in order to sell. I need some eclectic collectors or museum folks coming in to buy because I'm not one to make "couch art". Conceptual objects and performance are hard sells, but I'll do my best.
In other news, I was nominated to serve in Indonesia and am slated to leave next March. I'll be working as a Teacher-Trainer. I got this news back in February but the news from Ukraine has pretty much overshadowed everything. I'm looking forward to serving in Indonesia and was disappointed about the time frame. An entire year has to pass before I can leave the States. Oh well...I'll don my Peace Corps hat and be patient, flexible and go with the flow.
Before I go I want to mention that Spring has finally arrived...kicking and screaming, yes, but it's here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On-going Drama: Ukraine

It has been a while since I posted and I have no excuse except to say that my thoughts have been completely occupied by the terrible situation in Ukraine and Crimea and I haven't been able to write about it. I am in touch with other RPCV's with whom I served, and one young man who I had the privilege of becoming friends with who is still there. (He married a Ukrainian girl while in the Peace Corps and is still waiting for the paperwork to come through so he can take his new wife to his home in the US). I am also in touch with my friends and family from Novomoskovsk and I have to tell you they are very worried and very scared. No one wants to return to the bosom of Russian...NO ONE. They live in the east where, according to the Russian propaganda machine, everyone is pro-Russian. This is a complete fabrication. Most folks want Ukraine to be left alone. They consider Russia's presence in the Crimea a military invasion.These photographs were sent to me by my friend Yaroslav. It's a small pro-Ukrainian rally in the town where I lived. The sign says "No Russian Occupation". I am praying for my friends...for Ukraine.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On Ukraine...

I can't think of a way to write about what is happening in my adoptive country right now. I've been upset with the news of all the bloody battles taking place in the Maidan and elsewhere and just can't imagine these lovely people having to fear their own government! There is one thing I need to express, however...and that is anger.

Last summer when President Yanukovitch decided to begin talks with the EU for better trade relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin closed Russia's borders and blocked all trade from coming in and going out of Ukraine. This trade sanction on Ukraine really hurt the economy, as Russian is its biggest trading partner.

This is what started Maidan my friends. It goes all the way back to last summer and Putin is who started the whole mess. Not the people of Ukraine, not the EU and not the Americans. Putin. I wish the whole world would sanction him.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In Ukraine

I am keeping a close watch on the news in Ukraine these past few months and today is the first sign that the president is backing off, if just a wee bit. After sneakily passing some controversial new laws through parliament, the once-peaceful protesters became violent...and with good reason. Can you imagine if our president decided that there could be no more freedom of speech?

Today the news was good for the first time...although the concession was small. The Ukrainian government has lifted the ban on free speech, thereby making it no longer illegal to protest, slander a public official, or wear a disguise while doing so. However, this is not yet over...not by a long shot. The opposition wants early elections...and I believe with all my heart that this is more than fair for the wonderful people of Ukraine. They are standing up to tyranny and I applaud them mightily.

Note the caption on the stick "Power to the People"

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Life is Calling"...Again

In the process of "changing the world" during my Peace Corps service, it appears that I am the one who has changed. When my service was ending I was excited to come home and begin the new process of finding meaningful employment...a job that would be as satisfactory as the ones I had in Ukraine. I had also decided to one day return to the Peace Corps, although when that time would happen was anybody's guess.

I've been home for 8 months now and I am no longer satisfied with the mundane tasks of the everyday. I swim in the morning and spend many hours on the computer looking for my "last" job. I continue to practice my Russian and take free courses online. ANYTHING to keep busy, and to keep my mind from going into places I'd rather not discuss.

Well, after all this searching for work, it turns out that I am too old to intern and not qualified for the jobs I really want. I thought there would be an abundance of "Community Outreach and Education" jobs but they are few and far-between. The really great ones I apply for but know I don't have the experience they ask for. I do have 2 years experience from serving in Peace Corps and I do have more enthusiasm and passion for this work than anyone I've ever encountered or read about but nobody is hiring based on my assurances.

I was swimming on Thursday with my pool pal Barbara and she said something that snapped me out of my musings about where my life is (not) leading me. She said why don't you just go back into the Peace Corps? Suddenly the proverbial light bulb came on inside my head.

It had been in the back of my mind for months now and I was afraid to take it out and look at it.
There were reasons...the main one being that I was worried about leaving my mom again, who is turning 86 in a few weeks. She told me when I came home that she hoped I wouldn't leave her for so long again...not as far away, in any case. She even mentioned it again last Wednesday. I felt like a shit. Could I really be that selfish? Could I just pick up and go again? What about her? On the other end of things, I know that I am a burden to her. I have no income and we live on her Social Security, which is a pittance. As well, I have been so unhappy and I know this makes her unhappy too. Could I leave...again?

Well, I think...yes because I began the application process to return to the Peace Corps on Thursday and finished it yesterday. I talked to my mom and she isn't happy about the possibility of my leaving again, but she is also aware of the fact that in the Peace Corps I found my calling....that I won't be happy unless I am exploring the world on my own terms and living the life I was meant to live. That if in changing the lives of the people I encounter, I can also change my own and perhaps only then can I truly "find my place in the world".

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow Day!

Had a big nor'easter yesterday and today. There are a lot of 8" drifts on the south side of the house but the north side has a mere 2". The snow has finally stopped but the winds are making it extremely cold. Right now it's 9 degrees but with a wind chill of -9 and later tonight temperatures are expected to drop even more  A good day to stay in and stay warm!
The shed in our backyard

Bird Houses

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas with the Luongos

Christmas has come and gone with the speed of light. Thankfully. Not that we do a lot of fussing and visiting and Christmas-like things but we're all agreed that the retail industry makes us want to puke. What ever happened to what the season is really all about? I found myself refusing to watch television...even the news...because I was tired of hearing how well or bad the retail industry was faring. Huh.  Call me Scroogette. In my family we give joke gifts, dollar store junk or hand-made silly stuff. It's all good for a laugh and then afterward we donate most of it to the Salvation Army. I'm happy to report that there were no shortages of "chicken" gifts again.

The Luongo Family

Brother Dave with his dollar store "bling" teeth

I love this! A gift from my brother

A gift from my Nephew Matt. He bought a kids puzzle at the dollar store and did his own masterpiece on the reverse side...brilliant!
My "power" ring. Catwoman and I made quite a team, along with brother Dave, to win this year's Trivial Pursuit game.
Matt having a bit of fun with the detached hand I gave him.