A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for Dnepropetrovsk

Metsudah

This post dates back to the 17th of November; I just now realized that I never published it! Enjoy this blast from the past…

I had heard so much about the Metsudah program in my short time here, but couldn’t really understand what made it so special. This weekend I had the chance to experience it firsthand.

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So much to be thankful for

This Thanksgiving, while I was at home in NY celebrating with all those people who are dearest to me, the lives of my counterparts in Mumbai were drastically changed. The Chabad Rabbi and his wife, central figures in the small Mumbai Jewish community, were among the 188 victims, and the Jewish center was one of the primary targets during the four days of terror.

The following JTA article shares a little about Gavriel and Rifkah Holtzberg and the welcoming community they created.

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The Nutcracker (Щелкунчик)

I am finding it difficult to relate the full extent of my disappointment with this performance. The choreography was dull and lacked passion; specific director’s choices significantly detracted from the plot and confused the drama; even the usually magnificent orchestra was rather undynamic and featured quite a few sour notes from the horns. Admittedly, I am spoiled by the NY City Ballet (and their larger-than-life tree!), but this performance was more akin to a college troupe at a very artisitc institution than to the company of a major city.

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Дама с камелиями (The Lady of the Camelias)

This is one of the best directed performances I have ever seen. It is a new interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera La Traviatta, which was adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ novel La Dame aux Camélias. You are very familiar with this opera, even if you think you’ve never heard of it. There are scores of representations of this opera (The film Moulin Rouge, for example, is based on La Dame aux Camélias), and the arias are played so often, everyone would recognize them. So what did the Opera and Ballet Theater of Dnepropetrovsk do that made such an impression on me?

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Economic crisis in Ukraine

The worldwide economic crisis has not passed over Ukraine. Every day the grivna (Ukrainian currency) deflates even more. While this is great for me, because I get more bang for my buck, it is really destroying Ukraine, whose economy is based largely on exports. This Kyiv Post article discusses the effect on the steel industry, based in the east (ie: where I live and work!). The article was written in Donetsk, one of the cities I travel to quite often; I just got back from a business trip there yesterday, in fact. Most eastern cities, like Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk, are large industrial centers that run the entire Ukrainian economy, so while the crisis has only begun affecting the east, it will soon spread to the west. Already banks are suffering. I have heard stories of banks and ATM machines running low on cash in the past month. Naturally, investment in gold, like in the US, has greatly increased. JDC is struggling to cut its budget without having to cut services or fire employees. It’s rough. Things are looking up, though. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) finally met after two weeks of being deadlocked to approve legislation for a $16.5 billion loan from the IMF. This should help float the grivna and give banks more liquidity. For more, check out this Business Ukraine article.

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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