Innovation on Earth

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Archive for the tag “Music”

Special Thanks and Music

After a long overnight train ride, bumping around a lot, we are back in Kyiv.  The end of our visit in Zaporizhya was really special. The school had a big end of the year concert, and we were honored there. It took place in a big concert hall in Zaporizhya, called Glinka Hall. Carol and I gave speeches thanking the school for hosting us, and I made a balloon bouquet in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.  I presented it to Helen, the school principal.  Carol presented the school with an American flag that she had flown over the Capitol Building in D.C.! There were lots of gifts and hugs and “thank yous.”  We feel very lucky that we were assigned to visit the Classical Lyceum. The people are so kind, and the students and teachers are so talented.  We were made to feel very at home there! Our host teacher, Lydia, was so caring, and the principal, Helen, is also a wonderful person.

It was a beautiful evening, and we were certainly not the only people being honored!  Students also received awards for their accomplishments.  It was like an end of year awards ceremony and concert.  There’s a Ukrainian tradition that people come up on stage and present people with flowers after a performance or award, much more often than we see in the States.  The little flower girls and boys were adorable.

Students sat with their classes, and many of them snuck up on stage to perform without being noticed. The professionalism of the students was impressive. Even the little ones were poised, both while performing and also during the moments between songs.  Only the littlest ones were squirmy in their seats.

We saw all different types of music, from traditional Ukrainian instruments to modern symphonic orchestral music. You can see the talent for yourself in the video.

The Bandura is one of the traditional Ukrainian folk instruments

Special thanks to everyone at Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum for welcoming us and helping make this week so memorial.  I will do my best to bring back your warmth to my school community.  I hope this is the beginning of a relationship between our two schools and not an ending.

Melodies and Delicacies

Last night’s dinner was really wonderful for a few reasons:

That's salo in the back

1) The food: A lot of commenters have asked about the taste of the food. I wish I could post that.  My favorite taste last night was the cherry varenyky dessert. They are like dumplings filled with cherries — not too sweet, but you can dip them in honey.  Yum!  One of the weirdest things I’ve tried is salo — which is basically lard.  It looks like folded meat or bacon, but it’s a white color.  You can see it in the video above. It’s not actually that bad! It tastes smokey, sort of like bacon.

2) The people: We dined with Lydia and several of her co-workers.  Everyone is really sweet.  One of the most fun things about traditional meals here is the toasts.  People usually do many toasts!  It’s traditional that the first toast is to health, and then the second one is to friendship.  Usually after that, the third one is to women, or love, and then sometimes there are many more.  Last night, there were lots of toasts to our new friendship, and the friendship between the U.S. and Ukraine.

3) The music: We got a surprise treat and were serenaded by a wonderful guitar player, Alex Starykowsky. He makes his own musical instruments and has different ones he created from all over the world.  His music was really spectacular and livened up the evening, as you can see in the video. There was a lot of singing along and merriment.


U.S. in Ukraine?

Our agenda today brought our TGC group to three main activities in Kyiv:

Morning: Learning about the Education System in Ukraine

Iryna led “class” and we learned all about schools in Ukraine. In many ways, schools here are similar to in the States — they too have standardized testing, extra curricular activities, and classes like Math, Science, and Social Studies. What was most surprising to me?  More than 99% of schools in Ukraine are public, but they aren’t really free. They’re supposed to be free, but many students need to pay. There’s a lot of corruption here, so schools will force families to “donate” money in order to pass a class, take a final exam, etc. Also, many families need to pay to get into the better schools, or even sometimes they have to pay to get a top grade. This isn’t always true, but it sounds like a big problem in many places. I am interested to see whether or not this is true at my host school.

Afternoon: Visiting the U.S. Embassy

Going to a U.S. Embassy building is like walking onto American soil in another country.  It’s where the United States of America has their headquarters in Ukraine, and we had to go through all sorts of security to get in.  No cameras or cell phones allowed! It’s kind of strange to hear that hundreds of Americans work in Ukraine, but our country wants to make sure that we have a good relationship with other countries, and that Americans who live here are safe.  In fact, this is the 20th anniversary of U.S. Ukrainian diplomatic relations, which means we’ve had a base here since just after Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union. It was very special that we got to go to the embassy, which was because the TGC program is funded by the State Department. So, we got a tour and met with officials from the political and economic departments. Did you know that many American and international companies have branches in Ukraine? Some examples are Coca Cola, Kraft Foods and H.P. So, when Ukraine had really bad problems with their economy in 2009 (worse than most other countries, with a 15% drop in GDP), it affected many Americans too.

Evening: Seeing the Ballet at the Opera House

Tonight, we went to the ballet!  There’s a huge old opera house with what seemed like a dozen balconies and we saw two pieces tonight.  The first one was a famous ballet called Carmen, and the second was a colorful Turkish piece!  Even though it was in Ukraine, the stories of a ballet are told through music and dance, so there’s no language barrier. It felt just like going to the theatre in the United States!  In fact, one of our Ukrainian hosts studied ballet since age five, and hearing her experience made me feel like life here really isn’t so different. They have access to the arts just like us.

I have to admit that some of the real best moments of the day were the “in between” moments: trying to order dinner from a guy who barely speaks English, seeing an interesting red squirrel in a park, yummy raspberry pie in a coffee shop, and finding our way back to the hotel in the pouring rain. I have to pack to go to my host school tomorrow, so I’ll have to post about some of those things another time. In fact, I may not post tomorrow, because I’ll be on an overnight train to Zaporizhia, but I’ll try to work the video of the hopping crow into my next post… somehow.

To close out, here are some photos that some of you might appreciate, proving that the U.S. really does have some influence here:

MacBook Air Ad on a Billboard in front of the Opera House


McDonalds in Kyiv (of course)

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