Friday, September 14, 2012

I return to Crimea

The cool weather of autumn has returned to Crimea and so have I. I spent six weeks in America this summer, visiting friends and family, and wrapping up my life there, though in anticipation of what, I am not sure, but certainly a different life than the one I had before the Peace Corps brought me to Crimea.
One of my “wrapping up” projects in America was to sell my home and most of my belongings. I decided to have a fundraising garage sale and donate the proceeds to the library’s Kindness Campaign (see blog post March 16, 2012). I sent out an email to all my friends and acquaintances and to the mailing list of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers organization in Minnesota. It was a great success—a chance to see many of the people in my life and to talk with different RPCV’s from Minnesota. Many people were generous with their purchases when they understood that all the money was going to support my Peace Corps project.  When I returned to Crimea, I was able to present the library with $1100, the proceeds from the sale.
The nephew of Ukraine Peace Corps Director and I pose in front of my house with the sign advertsing my garage sale.
Shortly after my return to Crimea, I had the opportunity to meet with Inci Bowman from the International Committee for Crimea ( who was in Simferopol for a conference. We spent an enjoyable two hours together, discussing the possible collaborations between ICC and the library and other Crimean Tatar organizations in Simferopol. Later, I also met with her in Istanbul where I traveled to see my cousin (see next blog post).
I also had the opportunity to attend a seminar organized by the Information Resource Center of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine at the Honchar Library in Kherson, a city of about 350,000 six hours north of here.  The seminar was titled “Providing Library Access to the Visually Impaired and Blind: Current Capabilities and Experience.”  It was attended by library directors from across Ukraine along with representatives from organizations for the blind and companies providing adaptive equipment and software.  The Gasprinskiy Library was invited to make a presentation about our current Peace Corps sponsored project, “Improving the Lives of the Visually Impaired in Crimea,” which was well received.
Seminar participants in front of the Honchar Library.

Though the seminar was conducted mostly in Ukrainian, and therefore I understood very little, I still appreciated the opportunity to meet with librarians in Ukraine and also to see what technologies are now available to increase the accessibility of visually impaired people to the internet and the other resources of a library. I also met with the Peace Corps Volunteers located in Kherson and learned of their various projects.
The morning after my return I flew to Istanbul to meet with my cousin, American writer Sara Paretsky. I will tell about our adventures in my next post.

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