Last weekend, following the championship game in which Obukhiv defeated Ukrainka to take home the crown, I did an interview with Yuriy Apostol, editor of the hyperlocal news site Obukhiv.org. What I couldn’t explain in detail in Russian, I emailed to him in English. He then translated the text. The published version is in Russian, and you can take a look at it here.
For those unable to read the interview in Russian (which, is probably most of you), I’ll post an English version below.
Yuriy: How old are you and where are you from?
Chris: I am 26 years old and was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest United States.
Y: What sort of education do you have? Where and in what position did you worked in the U.S.?
C: I graduated from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon in 2008, with a degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Journalism and Professional Writing. Before joining Peace Corps and moving to Ukraine, I was a journalist and web editor for a number of media outlets in Oregon. I spent a year as a business reporter and web editor with Oregon Business Magazine. I was the business editor and sports editor at the Molalla Pioneer. I was the web editor for the Ashland Daily Tidings, and was also a reporter for the Portland Sentinel.
Y: Why did you decide to join Peace Corps and live in Ukraine?
C: Since I was a young boy, I have wanted to travel the world and experience different cultures through immersion. While attending university, I became interested in the idea of working abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer and helping people less fortunate than myself. I knew about the program because my uncle had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador in the late 1990s. When I signed up to be a Peace Corps Volunteer, I had no idea where I would end up. Peace Corps chooses the country and location for you, so it was simply by chance that I ended up here in Ukraine. But I couldn’t be happier with my placement.
Y: What sort of work did you do during your Peace Corps training here in Obukhiv?
C: In Obukhiv, along with five other American volunteers, I taught lessons about healthy lifestyles, career planning, leadership, civic rights and responsibilities, journalism and volunteerism to children at School 5. I also participated in an English club meant to help develop children’s English-speaking abilities. Our culminating project was a summer camp and sports and recreation day for the students, which was meant to celebrate Children’s Day while also promoting healthy and active lifestyles. While here in Obukhiv, I also began learning Russian, a task that will continue during my service here in Ukraine and perhaps beyond.
Y: What will you do during your two years in Ukraine?
C: Over the course of the next two years, I will help bridge the gap that exists between Ukraine’s smaller towns and villages and its larger cities. It is the goal of Peace Corps Ukraine to educate the country’s youth. My role, specifically, in this task is to teach young men and women about healthy lifestyles, career planning, leadership, civic rights and responsibilities, journalism and volunteerism.
Y: What were you most afraid of before the trip to Ukraine?
C: I don’t know if I am afraid of anything here in Ukraine. But I will say that I have had some anxieties about assimilating into the culture. I think everyone, anywhere that lives abroad has thoughts like that. Also, I have only studied Russian for two months, so that, too, has caused some stress. But I am confident that I will succeed here and contribute a great deal to the mission of Peace Corps Ukraine.
Y: What surprised you most when you came to Ukraine?
C: I wasn’t too surprised about most things. I’ve traveled through Europe before and so I had some idea of what to expect. But one thing that surprises me still, is the amount of food Ukrainians can eat, and the generosity of the people. Never before in my life have I been offered so much or been treated with such kindness. Ukrainians really do know how to take care of their family and friends.
Y: What did you like or not like about our town? What would you change here, if you lived here permanently?
C: I think Obukhiv is a great place to live. I enjoyed teaching at School 5 and living with my wonderful host family. The people here are very friendly. And I think there is a great sense of community here. That said, I don’t know if I would change anything, but rather I think I would help improve on those positive things. I could see my role here as a sort of community organizer, teacher and active citizen. One thing I would hope to do anywhere is to teach about the importance of volunteerism and being an active citizen. Any city could do well with more of that.