About jbheflin

Currently studying at the Monterey Institute of International Studies

New Textbooks Update

We have been using our new English textbooks for 2 months now and they are so amazing. Kids who have never raised their hands in an English class before are now participating and everyone in general is just more excited about learning English. Thank you again for your donation and making change a possibility.


The End is Near

I am in denial. In full denial actually…about leaving. I can’t believe two years has already come and gone. And don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see my family and friends that I have missed so much, but at the same time I am so used to my life here in Ukraine. It is going to be so weird to just wake up in America in about a month as my life in Ukraine comes abruptly to a stop.

I apologize I haven’t updated my blog in so long, I have been really busy with school and finishing up various projects. In August and September Danny and I held American football trainings twice a week before heading to a regional flag football tournament in Chernigov that our friend Patrick had organized through a grant. There were 7 teams total and Konotop took 3rd place. Here is a picture of our group:

The tournament was so much fun, especially for the kids- some of the students that we brought had never even participated in a tournament before!

After the football tournament we Peace Corps volunteers stayed in Chernigov for our Close of Service Conference. All 60 of us from group #39 stayed in a hotel for 3 days and had meetings with Peace Corps staff about paperwork that we need to do, how to list Peace Corps on our resumes, and adjusting to life back in the U.S. We also had a TB skin test done and I am tibb free y’all! Don’t even laugh; I was so happy when I didn’t have it because unfortunately a lot of volunteers here contract it. Every night we would all go out to a bar that was across the street from our hotel and that was a lot of fun too- there were some people there from my group that I hadn’t seen for 2 years! At this conference I also took my final Russian test and placed Advanced-mid. I was pumped about achieving this level, but know that I still have a lot to learn. Like I always discuss with my tutor, “the more of a language you learn, the more you realize how little of it you know.” I hope that when I come back to Texas I will be able to find someone to practice with.

And here is a group photo of all of us on the last day of the conference:

Other than these big events I have just been living life and enjoying every last minute I have here in Konotop with the people that I love.

Some pictures from the Teacher’s Day Holiday that was on October 5, 2012. We celebrated by going to the forest about 20 minutes aways from school:

And here are some pictures of my Russian tutor Valentina, her husband, their friends and I picking mushrooms in the forest this past weekend:


This is by far the strangest blog post of my life. It’s about pee. But I mean everyone does it so it’s fine. Yea, yea, yea I know good luck explaining this one to my future employer. Anyways, while on the Trans Siberian from Moscow to Beijing my friends Madeline and Jason Rife and Garrett Armstrong noticed that I peed a lot. So instead of boring you with my information overload blog about everything I did, ate, slept on and saw I just decided to sum up the trip with the places that I peed. And just for the record on some of the days I peed multiple times at the same place (I’m staying hydrated Grammy don’t worry!) I think it is safe to say that I left my mark…

August 3rd- Moscow

August 4th- Moscow

  • Red Square– “port a potty”
  • Alexandrovsky Gardens in the Kremlin

    Presidential Regiment’s Cavalry

  • Diamond Fund in the Kremlin
  • Ivan the Terrible Dungeon Bar near the Red Square
  • The CubaHostel
  • Coffee House in China Town, Moscow
  • Train from Moscow to St. Petersburg

August 5th- St. Petersburg

August 6th- St. Petersburg

  • Peterhof Palace
  • Subway Restaurant on Nevsky Prospect
  • Train from St. Petersburg to Moscow

August 7th- Moscow

  • Starbucks on Arbat Street
  • Movie Theater at Arabatskay Metro
  • Train from St. Petersburg to Ekaterinburg

August 8th- Ekaterinburg

August 9th- Ekaterinburg

  • Church of All Saints where the Romanov family was executed
  • Uralski Pelmini Restaurant with our amazing tour guides of the city: Dima, Olga and Tanya! Thank you again!

    Olga, Tanya, Garrett, Dima and the Rifes in Ekaterinburg

  • IKEA Mall after seeing the Europe-Asia Continental Divide

August 10/11th- Train

  • 55 hour train from Ekaterinburg to Irkutsk

August 12th- Irkutsk

August 13th- Listvyanka

  • Lake Baikal

    One of the food booths at the local baazar

  • Mountain near lake
  • Port a potties near cafe
  • Administration building of Listvyanka
  • Irkutsk train station

August 14th- Train

  • Train from Irkutsk to Ulaan Baator, Mongolia

    Our train car waiting to be attached to another train that would eventually take us to Ulaan Baatar

  • Mongolian check point

August 15th- Ulaan Baatar

August 16th- Train

  • Train from Ulaan Baatar to Beijing

    Arriving in Beijing. Trans Siberian complete!

August 17th- Beijing

  • Sunrise Hostel
  • Restaurant near Silk Market

    What’s for dinner? Spicy chicken, eggplant, lamb and one of Jason’s pig ears!

August 18th- Beijing

  • Famous restaurant where Jackie Chan once ate

    With pipe broken, you can take piss only please!

  • The Great Wall
  • McDonalds near the Donghuamen Night Market

August 19th- Beijing to Konotop

  • Beijing Airport
  • Flight from Beijing to Kiev
  • Kiev Airport
  • Kiev Train Station
  • Train from Kiev to Konotop

Trans Siberian Photo Book

After Camp EXCITE I went on a trip. A really long trip. A 4,375 mile trip. Words alone can’t do justice to everything that I saw and experienced, it was the trip of a lifetime. Here is the photo book that I made on Shutterfly if you would like to look at some of the highlights.

Click here to view this photo book larger

You’ll love Shutterfly’s award-winning photo books. Try it today.

Camp EXCITE!!!

“Camp EXCITE oh Camp EXCITE… we party rocked all night. Baseball and football were tons of fun, I wish it were never done…” This is the song that I still have in my head. Co-directing the camp this year was a lot of work, but after all of the blood, sweat and tears we put into it, I enjoyed it that much more. The camp was from July 22-26, and our theme this year was America. Some of my highlights from camp include: tie dying t-shirts, playing find the counselor (6 counselors hid and the campers tried to find them), teaching the kids how to play baseball and football, serving chili, having a state fair booth and getting to share Texas with the kids, going to a disco at night with glow stick bracelets, swimming in the river, singing around the campfire and getting to be my crazy self. Below are some pictures and some videos for you to get a better idea of how much fun we had!

Jason, Madeline and I

Danny, Me and Jacque

Teaching the kids how to WHOOP when we had our state fair booths

All of Camp EXCITE 2012… 60 people!

After camp I was home for a total of 5 days, and now I am on the train headed to Moscow for my Trans Siberian trip!!! I can’t believe this day is finally here, we have been talking about this trip for about a year now. It is a crazy summer I am having, but I am loving every minute of it- YOLO (you only live once).

Survivor Camp 2012

A tanned Jeramie has now returned to Konotop after Survivor Camp 2012 in the Carpathian Mountains! I like to refer to this camp as “fat kid camp” though, because I always seem to lose weight during this week. And I would hope so because it took us about 40 minutes to hike up to our campsite on the mountain with all of our gear for the week. That hike was well worth it though because we had a great camp- the weather this year was good; it was hot everyday (as opposed to last year when it rained almost everyday.) Violetta and I ended up taking 7 kids with us to camp this year so we really had our hands full, but everyone seemed to really have a great time so that made all of the extra worrying worth it. One of the days we hiked Pip Ivan a mountain over 2,000 meters high. It took us about 6 hours to get to the top, where we were able to see the remains of a Polish observatory that was built in 1937 and then later taken over by the Soviets in 1938. It was interesting to see, but I spent most of the time lying in the shaded grass trying to let my legs recover some before the hike back down.

Konotop School #3 at Survivor Camp

The camp itself was fun and very relaxing this year. Most days we played with sports with the kids or just sat around talking and listening to people play the guitar. The one day it rained we took the plastic from our tents and made a slip n slide down the hill at our campsite- the kids LOVED it. One night I also spent a couple of hours doing flashlight photography with the campers and counselors. This is when you leave your camera lens open for a long exposure and then use a flashlight to write and or draw things. We got some really good pictures this year!

I walked down the mountain from our campsite a few times during the week- one time to go into the nearby town of Kosiv and the other times to shower in the river that was at the base of the mountain. The water this year was warmer, so maybe that is why I made a couple of trips to get clean in comparison to last year when I showered only once ha. One day when I was in the river with the girls that I brought from my school it started to rain so I told them we had to get out. We decided to wait it out a little while and then once the rain stopped we got back in. 30 minutes later however, it started pouring again so this time we got out of the river for good and started hiking up the mountain back to our campsite. We weren’t sure when the rain would stop that time around so we just kept hiking it was so funny- the girls were not pleased trying to hike up the muddy mountain. But I had forgotten how nice it was just to be in the rain- I loved the feeling of cool drops hitting me as I climbed. The whole week was really just so refreshing; it was a nice reminder of a simpler life without the Internet or cell phones.

Today was cousin Nina’s birthday. We all celebrated at the dacha of course with salads, meat and a cake. Afterwards I spent some time in the garden eating shalkovitsa (aka mulberries!) I was reminded of my old house on Rooth Road in Edinburg where I would eat mulberries from the trees as a kid. Crazy how fast time flies. I can’t even believe that we are already halfway through July. Next week I will be at Camp Excite and then after that I will have one week at home until my trip to Russia. After my trip school will start and then I will leave in 2 months. I can’t even wrap my head around it all; it just makes me sad to think about how quickly my time here is coming to an end. I do want to come home because I miss my family and my friends, but at the same time I love my life here in Ukraine and I hate when good things come to an end.