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Archive for July, 2006

Expat Interviews has published its interview with me yesterday. I’ll repost here what we had discussed. Hope it will give you an idea of the ministry work I do here in Ukraine, among other things:

July 5 2006

Sarita’s decision to follow her missionary calling led her to Donetsk, Ukraine. She finds life simple, sweet, and fulfilling in this industrial city where she has made many friends among the local population. Her mindset and her enthusiasm for the life and culture here have helped make her treat Donetsk as “home.”

 – Where were you born?
I was born in Manila, Philippines.

– Are you living alone or with your family?
I live alone.

– In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Donetsk, one of the five big cities in Ukraine.

– How long have you been living there?
4 years

– How old are you?
38

– When did you come up with the idea of living in Ukraine?
I am a volunteer worker here in Ukraine. As a Christian, this is my calling to help and work with the church here, which I believe God called me to be in at this time of my life. It was not just a decision that I made on my own really. I feel that this is where God wants me to be, so I came here. There were some confirmations in the process when I asked God if this is where HE wants me to be. I guess it will be hard for a non-Christian to understand what I mean by that… but let just say this: among Christians there are some who are called to be “missionaries” — those who are called to serve God in different places or nations — and I am one of them.

– Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
It was hard to get a visa to come here to Ukraine, especially my first visa. It’s a former Soviet country that was under a communist government, and for Christians it’s not that easy to get in — just like in other communist countries. It took me seven months to secure my first visa. My passport came back to me after a couple of months without a visa after I sent it to Vietnam (since there is no Ukraine embassy in the Philippines). I had to go through a lot of red tape from the Ukrainian government system when it came to processing my visa.

I renew my visa yearly now in Sweden since it’s easier and closer to Ukraine. It’s cheaper for me to do it here in Europe — and faster.

– How do you make your living in Ukraine? Do you have any type of income generated?
I am working here for free; I get my monthly allowance from the Christian organization I am working with (which is based in the Philippines) and some support from other friends. I have to raise my own funds to keep me here on the field, just like all missionaries or volunteer workers.

– Do you speak Ukrainian and do you think it’s important to speak the local language?
Yes, I speak the language – I have to. Here in Ukraine, people don’t speak English; they speak Russian and Ukrainian. I studied Russian first since Russian is understood everywhere here in Ukraine, especially in the southern/eastern part, where I am. It is also an advantage to speak the local language because it gives more opportunity for friendship and other things. Besides, the local population will appreciate you more for it, especially if they don’t speak any language other than theirs.

I also believe that we should always be mindful of the local customs if we live in another country, respecting their cultures or customs or traditions. In that way we are more likely to make friends with the people. There are ways to avoid being disrespectful to local customs and traditions if we want to live in peace and harmony with the people here. But in my years here in Ukraine I’ve found the customs to be interesting and educational more than anything. I guess the key phrase is “be ready to learn and become educated while living in another country.”

– Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course I do miss home (family and friends) from time to time. We will always miss the place where we were born and grew up. But I believe that to enjoy living in another country we should always be ready to meet new friends and get involved in activities so that we will not feel alone and feel homesick. I believe that unless a person sets their mind to the fact that the country they are living in is “my home” for the time being, then it will be hard for them to adjust and be happy. I believe that “home is where you are at a certain time”; failure to think that way will mean failure to live a happy and peaceful life in the country in which you have chosen to live.

Getting acquainted with your surroundings, people, customs/traditions, will help us to combat homesickness, especially when we get ourselves into activities and friendships. We can’t live in our own “little world” for too long. We have to go out and make friends and do things to help us be “at home” and not to feel homesick.

Most of the time I hang out with local friends, visit their homes and have tea with them — a custom here in Ukraine. I watch films with them. I also get involved in local/community activities, such as visitations. I also enjoy walking, so I do that everyday. I visit museums, watch football games (football is big here) or read if I am staying home; I love to read.

– Do you have other plans for the future?
I plan to get more into teaching English as a second language here and to get involved in community social awareness activities. Specifically, I want to do social awareness seminars about HIV/AIDS, drug/alcohol/etc. dependency.

– What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I am renting a one-bedroom flat. The rental rate of flats here in Ukraine depends on where you want to live. If it will be in the central area then it is expensive (especially for foreigners). But if it is in the outskirts then the rates are reasonable. I live in outskirts, so it is not that expensive. The rent here ranges from $150-$1,000/month, and that depends on the flat itself as well; if it is bigger then it is more expensive. For locals it is not as expensive, as the government gives them the lowest rent – a kind of government subsidy.

– What is the cost of living in Ukraine?
The living standard here in Ukraine is low, unlike in the rest of the European nations. I guess it’s because Ukraine is one of the third world countries here in Eastern Europe. The food is cheap, but electronics, appliances, etc. are very expensive here. Clothes are expensive too (except for winter clothes and shoes, which are cheap). I would say if you earn $500/mo. here in Ukraine then you will live a little bit comfortably.

-What do you think about the Ukrainians?
The people are friendly, or those that I have met so far. They are friendly to foreigners. I’ve heard about racist attitudes to Asians, but I haven’t experienced it so far (thank God for that). I tend to make friends easily, I guess that’s why. Ukrainians are not that open towards foreigners or to people they don’t know, but once you break the barriers then they are very warm. They’re hospitable like Filipinos and hard workers too.

– What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Ukraine?
The negative aspects I would say are:
(1) The language barrier
(2) The need to adjust to the culture/customs/traditions

The positive aspects I would say are:
(1) You learn different cultures/customs/traditions and language
(2) You get to meet new friends
(3) Living in another country makes you realize the things that you take for granted back home.

Either way, there are always negative and positive aspects in living in other countries… but learning how to deal with them is what matters the most. Having a positive attitude helps a lot when you are living in another country. It helps to ease the frustrations, loneliness, and homesickness.

– Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Ukraine?
Just be ready to learn and to be flexible especially with the culture/customs. Most of all learn the local language. This is a non-English-speaking country. If you don’t speak the language then you will have a hard time in your early days or months as everything is written in Ukrainian/Russian Cyrillic, not the English alphabet.

*****

The Expat Interviews site helps readers get a glimpse of how it is to live abroad, far away from home, as an expatriate. It discusses the major aspects of an expat life: from securing that elusive visa to studying a foreign language to counting the cost of living in your adopted country.

Do visit the site and read other stories of people who have left their homeland to live and work abroad. I’m sure you’ll be able to get an insight or two. 

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English Classes for Kids

                       

I teach conversational English to Ukrainian kids here in Donetsk. I love every moment of it because I see how much they enjoy story-telling sessions using picture cards (to practice their oral skills) and the input sessions as well. They also have fun taking the web-based English tests on the BBC website.

Here are some pictures of our English lessons held in my apartment:

    

STORY-TELLING TIME: Students Kostia and Tulek tell their stories based on the Schubi picture set they picked up from the stack of cards randomly.

                       

                     Using the Web to test their English. (Photos by S. Ladios)

We welcome your gifts in kind should you feel touched by the Lord to donate educational materials and tools for English teaching (e-mail address: sladios AT hotmal DOT com). English courseware here is scarce, and the need for up-to-date materials is ever present. Ukrainians, young and old, love to learn English but most of them often don’t have the means to enrol in an English class. I offer these lessons for free — with joy in my heart — and am blessed every time my students smile as they learn something new (a new vocabulary, perhaps). It’s such a privilege to serve the Lord this way!

To view more photos on the English lessons I organize here in my home, click here.

Have a nice week! Thanks and God bless.

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Going to a Ukrainian market is an experience in itself. I thoroughly enjoy it!

At the marketplace, you see vendors selling food products like bread and fruits from trucks. This is a common sight. People come with their plastic shopping bags and examine the products being sold up close before making any purchase. So much like Pinoys going to the “palengke” (wet market).

In this photo set, you see a wide array of bread lined up for consumers to choose from, a lady vendor selling “kvaz,” a popular thirst quencher here in summer; people buying bread from a man who has stacked his bread inside a truck, and shoppers going home after an hour or two of haggling and buying at the market. Trams are a common means of transportation here in Donetsk.

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