Normally I have no patience to do posts like this, but this year I felt like doing it. This year was very difficult for me. I had a lot of disappointments, rejections and doubts, but, at the same time, I had a few really great accomplishments I’m really proud of. So yeah, difficult, but very important. I wish there was a way to grow and learn in a less painful way, but that’s just life, I guess.
January on Sicily started with a wonderful snowstorm – first in more than 30 years. The days were quiet cold and sad – people from my project were leaving. I was happy I was staying, but we started this wonderful adventure all together, and saying goodbye is always hard for me.
On January 6th (which is my Christmas Eve) I went on a day trip to Isola delle Femmine – a small town one hour away from Palermo – and made this photo, which became one of my favorites.
It became a part of my first photo exhibition “Sicily is…” that opened in Palermo in the end of January. Also we hold the last art exhibition for a project Sunia Geel 2 (against domestic violence in marginalized communities) in which I was involved for 10 months and that in the long run gave me inspiration for my PhD research project.
In February the new group of volunteers came, I got a new amazing roommate (I’m very lucky – I only had two, and they both are absolutely great), got involved in new course of workshops and took photos during the Arabic cultural night.
The official end of winter we celebrated with a great sunny trip to Monte Pellegrino - a beautiful hill facing Palermo with the sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of the city. I love this place so much I’ve been there more than 10 times (two of them hiking). Even looking at this photo makes me emotional – what a great memory to have!
In March I finally did the thing normal people do during their first days on Sicily - went to Agrigento. Yes, I know, after whole 11 months! It was a one day trip and we managed to see only The Valley of the Temples (a great monument of Greek culture and art), but it was amazing.
I will for sure go back there next summer – to see the city itself and to finally go to Scala dei Turchi.
Later in March I had two more short trips: to Sferacavallo – to enjoy a bit of spring sun and eat delicious fresh seafood dishes…
… and to Santa Flavia, where we wanted to visit the rests of the old Greek temples, but never found it (these things happen to me more and more often). Instead we had a really great day in the sun – walking around, seeing the town and sharing a beer while waiting for a train back.
Also in March we worked a lot on the course of workshops for young migrants. We were speaking about Italian job market, creating a CV, soft skills needed for a successful job interview etc. This is the job I really love to do and I was very happy to co-create something that was interesting and useful for all of us.
And the most important part – in April we started working on Saathi, our project on responsible tourism!
You can check our website here and become our friends on our Facebook page. It’s still very much a work in progress, but we hope to have our first trip to Nepal in spring!
This I remember very clearly because of two significant events – Easter week and Nepal earthquake.
The week of Easter always was very important for me, and it is especially important now – I haven’t been home for Easter for three years. In 2013 I spent it in Chiang Mai, in 2014-2015 – in Palermo. And I really love the way I spent it last year – with rooftop barbeques at friend’s apartment, hanging out with friends and going for long trips around the city.
For example this one, to the most serene place in Palermo – villa Malfitano.
And the earthquake was also a very important thing for me. It’s always difficult to see things like this happening, but it’s even more difficult when it can touch something important to you. We planned to start Saathi trips with a trip to Nepal for many, many wonderful reasons. But after this tragedy, instead of working on promotion, we, of course, started conceptualizing a fundraiser to help rebuild schools in distant regions of Nepal. Unfortunately in the end I was only able to help with some poster design – I had to return to Ukraine in May.
Prayer for Nepal in the Temple of Ganesh in Palermo
May started with one more amazing rooftop barbeque (1st of May tradition) and continued with lots of walks and gelato parties.
Until one of the most difficult days of my life, when I had to say goodbye to Palermo.
We took a night train to Catania and spent the night in the airport, because I had to take a very early flight to Istanbul, and then, after 10 hours of waiting, one more – to Kyiv. I will never forget Ataturk airport and the hours I spent there, crying over the edition of “The Island” by Victoria Hislop (of course, not because of the book). But yeah, things like this eventually make you stronger.
Back in Kyiv I went on many lovely events, trying to distract myself from the fact that I was no longer where I wanted to be.
Preparations for Kyiv’s birthday
In June my friend from Vilnius came to Kyiv, so we had a really great time all together. We were taking long walks and having countless cups of coffee, and it was amazing. In free time I was writing and sending out tons of applications in hope that someone will finally respond.
In July I came back to Palermo for two weeks as atrainer in an Erasmus+ TC Can&Do. It was an absolutely great experience and I had the time of my life. But coming back home was even more difficult than before…
August was once again full of applications for different projects. I was also writing a research project for my PhD application, gathering all the documents, as well as taking the TOEFL test and going for interviews for Humphrey fellowship. In the end I wasn’t accepted for the fellowship without any feedback, which is sad, because I would really love to know what I need to work on. But I’m not sad about not being accepted – right now I am where I’m supposed to be.
In between the applications and translation of quiet a long book I went on a few nice road trips and picnics with friends, but the month in general was difficult, chaotic and sad (because one person can only this many rejections).
In the end of August I was finally rewarded for being persistent – I was invited to the seminar in Armenia. It was a perfect match – the subject was very interesting and useful for me, and I knew I have a lot to contribute, because I had a lot of experience in this field. So I bought a ticket and my work-filled life started becoming a bit more interesting.
In September I went to Armenia and it was one of the best projects and one of the best trips in my life.
The seminar was great, people were amazing, and I really LOVED Armenia. We worked a lot and learned a lot, but we also had a lot of fun – taking trips to Yerevan, discovering the city, visiting Echmiadzin, having great traditional food, hiking in the mountains (we lived one hour away from Yerevan in a mountain resort).
I also got to see my lovely friend whom I’ve met last year on a study session in Budapest. My tip for traveling to places you’ve never been before – local people can show you the place through their own eyes in just two hours. I will never forget this bar with super delicious wine. Thank you, Susanna!
October was very long. I had interviews for my PhD scholarships and I got both of them, which is still surreal for me. I turned 31. I spend a lot of time with my mom and with my friends. I also watched a lot of Friends on TV. It was both happy and unhappy month, which I would love to remember only as this lovely sunny day, full of walking, talking and being happy.
In November I was collecting documents for my visa, buying tickets, checking every little thing one million times, because visa restrictions are ridiculous these days. Fortunately I had no problems, and, after sad goodbyes (very, very, VERY sad, I hate doing this!) I came back to Palermo.
So now, for the first time in my life, I’m living in a student dormitory (which is quiet nice, I must say, nothing like the ones I saw in Ukraine – even the memory of those hallways give me shivers), working on my research and visiting interesting seminars.
I also fulfilled my promise to myself (and to Santa Rosalia)) and went up Monte Pellergino again, this time by myself. It was actually okay, not as difficult or as long as I remembered from the first time. But anyways I’m happy with myself!
Last month of the year was really intense, in the best possible way. Rooftop lunches, reuniting with parts of our last year’s gang and having beers with volunteers from other projects, that also plan to come back here, having a great time at Parco d’Orleans, cooking delicious food, studying, celebrating and enjoying the most wonderful pink Sicilian sunsets… In my humble opinion, this was the perfect ending to 2015.
Thank you, 2015, for everything you taught me and gave me. And hello, 2016. I’m very excited to meet you and already have HUGE plans for you! Let’s roll.