Countdown & Decisions

Well summer has gone…and the first half of our term this year completed. We have just got back from a week’s mid-term break and it is 37 days until we leave for NZ!


Since our building team have left the house progress has continued, but much more slowly. We have been back down to Rzhyshchiv every weekend this term and spent most of our time with paintbrushes in hand. It has been satisfying to see things to start to look like home. All the plumbing and electricity has been completed and most of the paint. Our kitchen has been ordered and we are getting excited about being able to live in our own house (even if it is just for the weekends at this stage – while we have jobs in Kiev). We feel really blessed with the workers God has provided for us, and the quality and attitude with which it has been achieved. It was only a year ago we bought this house…and at times it felt like we would never get it finished!


We have enjoyed starting the new school year with new classes. I am still teaching Year 5, and Jon teaching Year 6. As usual it has been interesting with new students and staff to adjust too, but seems like a very positive feel this year. We have applied for 10 weeks leave (3 weeks xmas holidays ++ 7 weeks extra) for our trip to New Zealand, and although we didn’t think we would be successful the school has been very accommodating and offered us 5 weeks paid leave…which we are seriously considering although we will have to cut our planned time a little shorter. The only other option would be to find 2 teachers to cover our time away (anyone want a 5-6 week stint in Ukraine?)


We have a very close friend here who has an amazing musical gift and a beautiful voice. We have encouraged her to get some training in this area, and she is in the midst of applying for a 1 year course at Excel Performing Arts Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. As you can imagine this is a huge step and big financial undertaking, but an absolute dream-come true. Check her audition out to see for yourself the ability she has. With an average wage here being about $7,000US per year this type of dream is basically unreachable. We are looking for sponsorship in this area, and we would love to see her dream come true and give her an opportunity of a lifetime.


We have been considering our future here and different decisions we have to make. We are now in a different phase of understanding the culture and language, and makes for some good discussions and soul-searching! This is by no means the promised land, but we have made some very good friends, and generally enjoy living here – although we do miss our friends and family in NZ! We are in the midst of applying for permanent residency which should make official documentation much easier for us in the future. The economic situation is looking rather interesting, as all American dollars seemed to have disappeared completely from the country. We are not sure what the future holds, but want to remain positive and just take each step as it comes. Our trip back to NZ will give us another perspective and maybe clarify some things.


During mid-term break we took the train to Budapest, Hungary. We went with my brother Jono, and enjoyed a couple of days in Budapest, and also hired a car for 3 days and enjoyed driving the countryside on great roads, soaking in thermal baths and generally relaxing. We also got new visas for Ukraine while we were there, which was the main reason for the trip. It is great just to be able to pop across the border to check out another European country.

Obviously we are looking forward to our trip home…we leave here on Dec 13th and arrive Auckland, New Zealand 7:35 am on Dec 15th. We will leave NZ on either 18th Jan or Feb… yet to decide. We are looking forward to catching up with everyone…let us know when it suits you best!

Until we meet again…

Ruth & Jon

Summer 2008

Wow! What a busy summer we have had, and very little time to send out any photos or update. So here goes…

The last day of school (27th June) saw us on the overnight train to Lviv where we caught up with friends before we caught the very slow overnight bus across the border to Poland. There we met our friends from New Zealand (Mark & Jacqui) and it was great to see them again. We spent a few days in Poland enjoying Krakow while we waited for necessary visas to travel back into Ukraine.

Once back in Ukraine it was straight into work on the house plus preparation for a camp we were running. I suppose it was then that Mark realised what kind of building project he had agreed to! We knocked down more walls, got sick of the sight of bricks and made a general start on some of the big jobs. In the meantime my brother Jono arrived back from a year in Australia and we then shifted into his house for the rest of the summer.

With our backyard looking more respectable and the grass growing, we hosted a “downunder” summer Christmas, complete with backyard cricket, touch ruby, a BBQ & pavlova. It was a good time to enjoy the fruit of our labours and relax in our backyard.

Camp 120 was the next event. My brother usually runs this but as he was away most of the year, we agreed to take on this responsibility this year. We had about 100 young people on an island for a week, and had a great time. It was interesting to run something like this (which we had done many times in NZ) in a culture that was not our own. I think it went well.

It was then back to the house, with getting the windows put in, bricking in some old windows, starting the gib, and other numerous jobs that kept popping up. Eventually we were starting to see progress and getting excited about what it would be like.

Near the beginning of August we took a week off and with a group of 7 people went to the Crimea (Black Sea). It was a very beautiful place and was great to swim in the sea again (as opposed to the less than ideal river here). It was a nice hot relaxing summer holiday and a place we would love to go back to.

With about a month left of summer the house work started to gain momentum with insulation, vapour barrier and gib all happening at once. Cheryl came and worked hard giving us expert advice on the gib stopping and Jacqui became a professional at that in no time.

Near the end of August, with Jon & I having to go back to Kiev to start school, we left the house in Mark, Jacqui & Cheryl’s capable hands and it was great to go back and see the progress.

September 6th was the date set for an end of summer party/celebration of

the house being mainly completed and coinciding with my 30th birthday. With cold rainy weather the weekend before we thought that summer had finished, but it warmed back up again and we had a wonderful night with friends enjoying our backyard, and big shashlik (bbq meat on a stick). Huge thanks to our awesome building crew who worked extreme hours the week before that to get the house mostly completed. It looks amazing!

We are really stoked with the progress of the house, and it is now starting to feel like our home. For the house before & after photos click here…

The 7th September saw us sadly say goodbye to Mark & Jacqui as they continue on their travels, and with the weather cooling down it seems we have definitely completed a busy, eventful but fantastic summer.

“Cherez tre tezhni rozlabon kozhen den!”

This is the new phrase I have been saying lately…it means, “In 3 weeks relaxing everyday!” We are counting down the weeks now until school finishes as the weather heats up and the summer feel is really kicking in.

Since we last wrote we have seen some great progress on
our house.
Firstly our friends Mark & Jacqui from NZ are
heading this way in 3 weeks to spend the summer with us and do some hard work! (Mark is a builder) We are really looking forward to having them here.
Also one of our friends here Sasha has asked his Dad to work on our house and in the past 2 weeks has completed the first stages of the electricity and is now beginning on the plumbing. He is a very nice,
experienced, honest guy who is good with his hands and is doing a great job. This is a great answer to prayer and it is good to see something happening at last.
We have also spent lots of time in the backyard and really enjoying seeing it take shape. We were even crazy enough to lay a cricket pitch using bricks! (We wondered if our neighbour would think we wanted them to grow!) Mowing the lawns is now a weekly Saturday job, and makes us feel ‘normal’!
We did have an unfortunate weekend a couple of weeks ago when our house was broken into (doesn’t help when we are only back there sometimes on weekends) and most of our tools, stereo & CD
’s were taken. Not very nice, but they left everything else for which we are thankful.

The big piece of news here is that I have managed to learn the Ukrainian alphabet, and I can read most words, just don’t know what I am saying! Jon is continuing to do well and practice what he knows, and I have more desire now to learn. I am hoping to get some lessons during summer.

We have continued with cricket about once a month which has been enjoyable. Just doesn’t seem the same though without the grass!!

Monday nights:
Our dinners have moved outdoors with the lovely weather we have been having lately. It has been great to sp
end time around the fire/bbq.

As soon as school finishes (June 27th) we are on the train to Lviv, and then across the border to Poland. This serves 2 purposes, firstly Jon will renew his visa for the next year, and secondly we will meet Mark & Jacqui there before we bring them back into Ukraine a few days later.
We also plan to visit Crimea th
e first week of August. There is a group of us that have booked cheap flights ($40NZ return) so that should be a heap of fun and be good to explore that part of Ukraine.
We have agreed to direct/run the camp my brother Jono has been running the past 3 summers on an island in the middle of the Dnepr River. We are busy sorting out details for this at the moment, organising tents, water, a speaker & getting Jono’s boat working etc. We pray that this will really be a great encouraging & safe time. It will be from July 14-19th, Jono arrives back just in time on the 9th July.

We know it’s not really the right time of year, but it is definitely the right time of weather for us, so we have decided to have a ‘mid-summer’ downunder Christmas! We have taken the date 6 months on from Ukrainian Christmas and decided to reclaim 7th July as our traditional Christmas day while living here in Ukraine. We have invited our other ‘downunder’ friends, so looking forward to a game of cricket & BBQ together.

A year on…
We have had a good year mostly. It is interesting to be in a culture/country that is undergoing some huge economic changes which is also affecting cultural and social changes. We are learning and growing and feel this is where we should be – at least for now.

Until next time…

Rufus & Jay

Spring 2008 Ukraine

Hope & Growth – these 2 words sum up and describe what spring is like in a climate that has long cold winters. It is also exactly the feelings we have now as we head into the last term of school with the summer holidays in the near future.

This is consuming a lot our time and thoughts at th
e moment. The progress is a lot slower than we would like which at times is very frustrating, but we have come up with an action plan that should see most of the big stuff completed before the end of June when school ends and we need to shift out of our apartment in Kiev. This does rely though on finding good workers, so we are praying & waiting for this. We have done a lot of work inside getting rid of the old walls, bathroom, radiator pipes etc. It is looking very bare! We have also spent a few weekends outside clearing the backyard, sowing grass & generally cleaning up. Although we have struck a few snags along the way, we are enjoying having our own place and know it is a good investment and project to work on.


Things seemed to have settled
down a lot at school, and we are definitely into “last term mentality.” We finish at the end of June & are looking forward to 2 months of summer holidays. We have been offered jobs there next year which we have both accepted (including a pay-rise & bonus)!

Jon’s band is in the process of recording a single which will be the last thing for them as they take a break while the leader has a baby.
Jon is enjoying working at home though recording some of his own work and figuring out how recording all works.

The cricket season started this weekend and our bodies are feeling a little sorry for it. Cricket is a little different here though – I am the only female player (probably in the who
le of Ukraine) and we play on a dirt football field that has a traditional authentic Indian cricket mat in the middle as the pitch. You can see photos & a short video clip of the ground & players at We play/practice every Sat with 2 big tournaments in August with teams from all over Ukraine which should be fun.
This will be the first summer we haven’t played touch rugby!

Out & About:
Winter definitely seems to be a hibernating time here, but we have managed a few trips. The Easter weekend we went north-east by train to Konotop for a wedding of some friends from school. Our receptionist (who is Ukrainian) married one of the teachers (who is from Wales) It was a traditional Ukrainian wedding & a good weekend away.

Growth & Hope:
We are still enjoying living here although it does have its moments, and at times is very confusing and the culture is just plain strange! But we feel like we are growing and learning more about ourselves, and life in another context. We want to enjoy our time here, make the most of the experiences and look back with no regrets.
We are planning & looking forward to a trip back to NZ at the end of this year, it will be great to be back & catch up with everyone.

Until next time…

Happy 2008

Yes this is a frozen river!Well…it has been awhile since we updated you on what we have been doing, which hasn’t really been much, so here’s all the meagre news!


Last time we wrote, the house had just been finalised. Since then, we have had a sewerage pit dug, and water piped from the well into our house. We have also started the job of knocking out the inside walls, and old fireplaces/stove. See our plans for more detail.
We have nearly finished tha
t now, and electrical & plumbing work comes next and also replacing the windows, the building of the new internal walls, and gib-rock all inside.This should make it mostly liveable – we attempted 10 days over the Christmas break of living there, but it was rather depressing! We aim to build an extension in summer which will include the kitchen. Also in the next couple of months we aim to spend some time on the outside, planting stuff, taking down a few trees & hopefully planting some lawn (maybe even a cricket pitch).
We do look forward to making it our home, and having people coming & going like we are used to.
My 30th birthday party in September is a great incentive to have it all finished by then.

Hmmm….school! We both love our jobs and our classes, but the management of the school is creating a few headaches for us. We are not really sure of why – maybe it’s a cultural or personality clash, but it has made it stressful at times. We are trying to ch
oose to be positive and not complain or gossip about stuff, but that is easier said than done at times. The school is run as a money-making business which is rather frustrating at times, but we just need to look at this year in the light of what we can learn & who we can become!


The band Jon is in continues to get asked to play at different places, which is good. We had a trip to the top of the Crimea peninsula in Dec for a weekend youth conference where they played. This was a great time – more info on m
y spiritual journal about this trip. We will also be traveling east in early March for another concert. The traveling we have done has been on overnight trains which are an experience in themselves & great fun. The band is a cool bunch of people and we both enjoy hanging out with them.

We are still really waiting for this awfully cold winter to hit us! We have had a few snowfalls, about a week of temperatures hovering at about minus 15
& the river frozen in Rzhyshchiv, but apart from that it has been rather mild. All buildings are well heated, if not overheated, and you learn to dress warmly when you have to
step outside.

We have a group of friends in Kiev that are over
here from time to time, so we have decided to make Mondays ‘dinner night’ at our place. We have about 10 people here each Mond
ay, and every 2nd week we have a Bible study. This has been really good, we have been missing having people in our home, and being part of a community.
Another thing that Jon is enjoying at the moment is playing around with his new technology (Macbook & Protools – for those who care!) he has bought for
recording purposes. He hopes to start getting good at this & start some recording of one of our good friends who has some original work & an amazing voice!

So that’s really all from us. Until next time…