A Musical September

Hello Everyone!
Amazing music in Luhansk!  Luhansk may not be the prettiest city in Ukraine, and the scenery in the surrounding countryside may not be a dramatic or awesome as Western Ukraine, BUT Luhansk has GREAT music schools and a wonderful orchestra that promotes and highlights Ukrainian musicians!   I am so fortunate to be placed in Luhansk as I truly enjoy music and I am getting a wonderful "classical music fix" while working here.

If  opera and the classica are "not your thing", you can skip the videos! The first concert of the Symphony season for the Luhansk Oblast Philharmonia was Sept. 14 and the concert was "A night of Italian opera and music".   It WAS GREAT!  And considering the concert tickets were $5 (40 UAH),  that made the night that much more unbelievable.

The video clip below (from my NEW camera) is an aria from La Boheme.  The soprano is a knockout... not only in voice!

I HAD to take the next video clip.  Having heard "O Sole Mio"  sung in Sicily in the 1970s when I lived there, and again in other parts of Italy, and the Three Tenors recordings, I now add "O Sole Mio" sung in Italian by a Ukrainian tenor to my list.  The entire audience LOVED it, clapping and humming along!!!

The two minute video clip below of the trumpet soloist is also wonderful.  We heard this soloist all last season and he is great.  I took this video, too, because I have many nieces and good friends who play the trumpet.  This video clip is for them!!
The concert encore (I have not seen one encore take place in the last year of concerts) had the four singers performing, Brindisi from La Traviata.  My memory card was full just before the group finished. 

The second concert of the season, last night Sept. 28,  had a young virtuoso violinist, 13 years young.  He performed the Bruch Violin Concerto in G.  Phenomenal young artist - incredible poise and very talented.
Every Sunday in the summer here in Luhansk, the Luhansk Municipal Orchestra (not to be confused with the Oblast Philharmonia) plays in the park across the street from my apartment.  These concerts are similar to Summer Pops concerts in the states.   The most enjoyable part of these concerts is watching the older Ukrainians who come to dance and to enjoy the outdoor entertainment.    The video clip below is from last Sunday's (Sept. 25) concert.  Note that the tree is where all the ladies hang their purses!!!
I have been working in September, not just listening to music!   Every Wednesday, I work with my director's father, who volunteers his time to provide an art activity to a group of mentally disabled young adults (age range 18 to 35).   Several of the young adults have had English lessons, so we try to combine a little English language re-learning with our art activities.

After our Wednesday art activity, I meet the young children who are working with a dance therapy teacher.  The children are preparing a dance for the National Talent Competition which will be held here in Luhansk in mid-November.   The children have a range of different disabilities- some physical, some mental, but ALL have the best time dancing and working together with each other and their instructor.

The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kyril, paid a visit to Luhansk.  From what I understand of the Russian Orthodox church and the hierarchy within the church, Patriarch Kyril's visit was equal to having the Pope visit.   An outdoor stage was set up- just down the street from my house.  Tickets were issued to attend the outdoor service; my organization was lucky to receive tickets, so we all attended.  Fortunately for my colleges, there was a very small area for the disabled.  It was a fascinating morning and it was interesting to see the pomp and circumstance involved with an orthodox service.   The entire service lasted 3+ hours!  

It is definitely fall now.  The leaves are changing color, the nights are cool and the days are pleasant.  It's time to break out the blue jeans and socks.  Photos below capture a bit of Luhansk in the fall.  Also, there is a protest going on in one of the main parks across from the city administration building.  The tents are set up, the protesters have camp kitchens; could be this protest will be around for awhile.  
Stay tuned.

One final fun photo:   
I live about 15 minutes from the main train station.  Last week, while walking to catch the train to Kiev, smack in the middle of the main road stood a bride, a groom, the photographer, the maid of honor and the best man.... for a wedding photo.   I had to ask a friend "Why in the middle of the main road to the train station? "  The answer:  Because there is a good view of the city from that spot!

I LOVE being here!   

I miss everyone, but I am learning so much about another part of our world.

Enjoy October.
A big hug to everyone.


End of Summer 2011

Hello Everyone,
Like home, summer is over, school has started and the weather is a bit cooler, especially at night.  All the schools start on Sept. 1 (First Bell Day)- elementary, high school and universities— it makes it easy for everyone!  The markets have had the school supplies on sale since July – like home.  
Street vendors with school supplies
The students were outside cleaning the school yard three days before  school started.
Young students, dressed in school uniforms, singing for my organization.
I LOVE the pom-poms in the girls' hair!
We had an activity sesson for these students- a beading day.  The children made necklaces, bracelets, rings, ponytail holders, etc.  The boys and the girls all had a blast!  FEEL FREE TO SEND MORE BEADS from MICHAEL'S arts and craft stores!!
Aliona modeling her new necklace!!
My “English classes” for my disabled students have resumed again.  Every Friday I have two, sometimes three groups, of children or young adults who want help with their English.  I have such an appreciation for all the work that Fran does for her students now!  Preparing my “lesson plans” is particularly tough as I have a cross section of disabilities and mental abilities in each group.  But… I am very lucky as one of my young students, Gala, is now a university student and studying to be a translator of English, so Gala helps me with my students!  It is a win-win!
Gala, helping with Roman and Nikita
On Sunday, Sept. 4, the Luhansk cooking club had an end-of-summer barbecue in a park at the edge of a small town of Alexandrovsky, a very small suburb of Luhansk.  Because it is illegal to barbecue and to drink in city parks and in parks around apartment buildings, if Ukrainians want to have an outdoor barbecue party, they go to outside the city to a river or a lake or the woods.  We took a city bus from the center of town and about 30 minutes later arrived at the park.
The small road into the park- just 100 meters from the bus stop.

PCV Cary (green shirt) and Kurt (white shirt) help Vlad light the fire for our shaslhlik!
My Ukrainian friends are very proud of their barbequed meat- similar to our shish-kabobs- but a bit different because for Ukrainians, the ONLY proper meat for barbeque is pork!  I have made barbequed chicken for my Ukrainian friends-which they like- but it ISN’T Barbeque – really!!! Therefore, our Ukrainian friends were in charge of the meat, and the rest of us brought the usual picnic food--- potato salad, brownies, raw veggies, sodas, and other beverages.
Dr. Yuriy, one of the shashlik chefs, supervising
Dr. Yuriy and Dr. Andrew showing off the final, ready-to-eat, shashlik
We had a wonderful time and I must admit that the meat, prepared by our friends, was delicious.  My friends, all young doctors finishing their residencies here in Luhansk, did a wonderful job.  The pork “hunks” were marinated in lemon juice, a bit of vinegar, onions, spices, and KIWIs….. And…no vegetables were allowed on the skewers that had the meat.  And the idea of skewering vegetables was a “bit weird” for my friends!   The pork was fabulous. I am going to try this when I am home!!!
Some of the group ready to enjoy the picnic
After the picnic, we tossed a football around.  We taught Dr. Yuriy and Vlad how to toss the football, too!
PCV Cary (green shirt) showing Dr. Yuriy how to hold the football
PCVs Kurt (white shirt) and Tim (black pants) show Vlad how to throw the football

Dr. Yuriy throwing a football for the first time
While the boys played football, some of the girls walked to the other end of the park, where the old mansion of Alexandrovsky is located.  The park where we had our picnic was once the orchard for the mansion.  While the mansion is now in a very sad state of disrepair, photographically it is very very cool!

 The mansion was built as a country home for a military commander in 1772.  Once built, the commander sold the home.  The home changed hands many times; the Germans occupied the house in WWI.
 After the wars, the home became a hospital for TB patients.  In 2006, the hospital was closed and the insides gutted due to TB contamination.
If you have a spare 20 Million Ukrainian Hryvna (pronounced grevna)/$2.8 million US, you can purchase this estate.  And then have fun restoring it!  But.... please note....
YOU WILL HAVE TO MOVE THE GAS LINE, which sits in the front yard and runs through the entire property........
Above ground gas lines, such as you see above, are everywhere in Ukraine.

The end-of-summer BBQ was great.... not much left over for the poor praying mantis that arrived a bit late to the party.

It is wonderful to start the fall this year and feel so “lost” ; this time last year everything was so new and intimidating. The symphony season starts next week; we start the season with a recital by young singers training for the opera and then a Brahms symphony.  The concert is $8 well spent for terrific music!   

Work, shopping, symphony, trains, cooking,English lessons, – everything is so familiar now!  I have even been stopped on the street and been asked for directions; and I can do it, all in Russian!!!   I guess I am “fitting in”.  

Enjoy your backyard barbecues at home this fall!!! It is such a treat to watch football (or US Open Tennis), have a beer and grill all in your own back yard!!

All the best to everyone.