A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for October, 2008

A virtual tour of my apartment

I apologize for the long delay. Finally, I can welcome you into my Dnepropetrovsk home! First, I have to let you into the building itself.

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Свадьба Фигаро (The Marriage of Figaro)

I missed the first act, as a matter of fact. I bought my ticket, which seemed to say that the performance would start at 19.00. It was strange, because it looked like there was some kind of smudge on the 9, but there was no mistaking it for any other number. Well, when I showed up at 7 pm, I found everyone at intermission, buying snacks and stretching their legs in the lobby? What happened, you might ask? Upon closer examination of the ticket, it turns out that the smudge I had seen was really a penmark, making a very poor attempt to transform the 9 into an 8 (and considering that this is not very difficult to do, I was rather frustrated at the whole mess). Fortunately, I am very familiar with the opera, and although it would have been nice to see the first act, it was not necessary for my enjoyment of the rest of the performance. Besides, it’s a long show, and I still had two hours worth of opera left.

When I bought my ticket, I thought it was strange that the title of the opera was written in Russian. Carmina Burana had always been written in the original Latin, not even with the Cyrillic alphabet. Why, then, wasn’t the title written in the original Italian?

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Лебедине озеро (Swan Lake)

I am obliged to begin with a disclaimer for all future reviews of performances held in the Opera and Ballet Theater. Here are housed the opera and the ballet companies of Dnepropetrovsk, the third largest city in Ukraine. This is no country performance, this is a major metropolitan production. As such, I am comparing it to the likes of New York, San Francisco, and Madrid (as a side note, I cannot believe that these are the only three cities in which I’ve seen major theatrical performances). If it seems like I’m being harsh, it’s because this is truly excellent company to be compared with and it is hard to live up to such standards. I also want to make known that I was a bit lenient in my review of Carmina Burana. I did not realize the excellent quality of performances here, which I have later experienced first hand, and so I treated it as a B level theater with a B level company.

This understood, I can tell you right of the bat that Swan Lake was not a perfect performance, but it was overall very good. The company was good, but did not move as one. Lead performances were technically sound, but lacked emotion and feeling. The scenery was beautiful without being too distracting, and the costumes were wonderful. The final result was a highly enjoyable performance, visually spectacular, but quite unmoving.

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Massandra Red Muscat Livadia

I have been craving muscat grapes for two weeks straight now, so I could not resist a muscat red when it presented itself so affordably to me in the supermarket the other week. This wine truly lives up to its name. While its scent is merely that of a sweet red, the taste is so much more. It is very sweet and very intense, almost overpowering in its fruitiness. It immediately warms the entire pallate with its almost spicy glow. Although I do not usually like such sweet wines, I am getting used to Crimean reds, and this one is my favorite that I’ve tried. Although it does have an almost sticky sweet aftertaste, it is still pungent and alive with dancing flavor. (This wine is also very alcoholic– 16%, and gave me a happy buzz after the first sip!)

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Yom Kippur

This was one of the best Yom Kippurs I’ve experienced. I spent most of it with my Dnepropetrovsk family (ie: Sharon, Amir, Ido, and Ori Ben-Zvi). Last night, before erev Yom Kippur, I dined with the Ben-Zvis. It was a lot of fun. I showed up at 4:30 pm and played with Ido and Ori for a while. Then we attacked the perfect meal Sharon made us. Sharon’s family has observed the fast forever (whereas this is only Amir’s fourth year), so she has all these tricks to make it easier. Drink a lot, eat a lot of carbs, very little salt, and finish up with a special recipe. We had chicken noodle soup, noodle kugle, and challah with water to drink (usually you drink juice with meals here). To finish it all off, Sharon broke out this special drink: soak bread in water overnight and then sieve the bread out. This bread-water supposedly keeps you from getting thirsty all the next day. For all I know it worked– this was the easiest fast I’ve ever had! Read the rest of this entry »

Zaporozhe and Donetsk

The story: over the past week and a half, I went on two excursions, to Zaporozhe and to Donetsk.

When: I went to Zaporozhe last Thursday. Amir and I left at 3 pm and got back at 9 pm. Amir, Karima (another JDC employee) and I left this Monday at 2 pm, Karina and I arrived in Donetsk at 7 pm, Amir continued to Ludonsk for the night, and we all left Donetsk the next day at 3 pm and arrived in Dnepropetrovsk at 7:30 pm.

The location: Zaporozhe is about one hour south of Dnepropetrovsk, and Donetsk is about four and a half hours west.

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Tashlich in Globa Park

Tashlich is one of the repentance rituals associated with Rosh Hashana. You take some bread and throw it in a body of water– any body will do, including a puddle or even a bathtub. The bread is supposed to represent your sins, and you’re casting them out to start with a clean slate for the new year.

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