If you had told me even a year ago that I would be so crazy about a sport/martial art that I would work it into my vacation, I would not have believed you. And yet, this is who I have become.

Self, why are you in Ukraine right now? Well, self, that’s a great question! Plus, I noticed you said “Ukraine” and not “the Ukraine.” I appreciate that! To answer your question, it’s because I was a Peace Corps Volunteer here. It gave me a special bond to this country and to the people. Not every Ukrainian as in this vague feeling of wellness, but about very specific people. I integrated into my community very well. So much so that I am here only 10 months after leaving, because my two close friends got pregnant.
Pregnant Ukrainian friends

I took my Peace Corps goals very seriously. The first goal is essentially doing your Peace Corps job. Mine was teacher training. Teaching my classes meant I was meeting my first goal. The second goal was teaching Ukrainians about Americans, and the third was teaching Americans about Ukrainians. For me, that second goal was a higher priority for me, and I had a very tight-knit group of young teachers that I formed during my stay in Ukraine. I gave them resources and materials and friendship. I argued, hugged, cried, loved, and cherished all of them. We helped shape one another, though my attempts to influence them were extremely intentional.

I’d like some BJJ in my BJJ blog, please! Hold your horses! It’s coming! One way I influenced them was to introduce them to lots of cool, new tv shows! It was my passion! I watched television literally 30-40 hours per week. And before you think “BAD PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!” please understand that a LOT of this was done late at night when no one would be up or out, and a lot was done with Ukrainians. Another way was introducing them to fun American music. In other words, I shared my passions with them.

What would my Peace Corps service have been like had I gone in with the same passion and enthusiasm for BJJ as I do now? Considering that in my two week vacation here I’m planning activities and things with friends to accommodate my doing BJJ, I know my Peace Corps service would have been very different.

Holy crap! Four women in the Krav Maga class!

Three of my Ukrainian girlfriends accompanied me to the Krav Maga class. One is pregnant and just went to watch/offer support. Two came and watched, and I think one may join in a class next week. My passion is infectuous. I would have invited all the gals to join me there, I would have written a Peace Corps grant to get better equipment for Anton Farb, and I would have been even more involved in the community.

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I have a special connection to Ukraine and my Ukrainian friends and community. It’s something so strong that my vision in the future is coming back and doing BJJ seminars when I have my brown or black belt. It’s looking at my strengths and resources and thinking about how I can continue to help Ukraine by helping my Ukrainian friends and helping innovative and influential Ukrainians.

I will be interviewing Anton Farb about Krav Maga and how he introduced it to Ukraine. I am so excited to have met someone like him. He had the passion and the motivation and the drive to make his dream a reality. I had the opportunity to meet his wife tonight, and they’re such wonderful people. It will be my first interview and I’m so thrilled to do it.  Motivated, and self-starting Ukrainians can be difficult to find, but the ones who are are absolutely some of the most inspiring people you will ever meet.

Me after a Krav Maga class

Our ideas and dreams are like wild horses that we long to ride. We all think about riding that beautiful stallion, but so few of us actually get out there and sit in the saddle. Those who do will often get thrown off or kicked, and for some it will be the end. Those who get back on despite the pain and difficulty and hold on for dear life can go far. Some will argue that not everyone can ride that horse just because they want to, but the optimist in me says you just have to keep getting back on and holding on for dear life and you will accomplish that dream. Peace Corps was one of my wild stallions. My Masters degree was one of my wild stallions. My black belt is now one of my wild stallions.

Okay, ending on that. Doing BJJ in the morning. 🙂 I love BJJ.

You DID see this coming, right? 😉