Saturday, October 2, 2010

Weekend of Culture

Last Saturday my friends Morgan and Kristina mentioned that Swan Lake was playing at the Opera House. I really wanted to go, since it is a Tchaikovsky ballet, and luckily Rachel, Alyssa and Jon also were interested. Morgan secured six tickets and we set off on our maiden voyage to the Kiev Opera House. We had all walked past the outside many times, but never entered. While on the metro, Morgan filled us in on the Swan Lake story. (I slightly remembered it, the basics anyway, because of a ballet book I received when I was 9 years old. I wonder what happened to that book?) The main character, Odette, is a girl transformed by an evil sorcerer, into a swan. The sorcerer transformed all the girls in Odette's village into swans and a lake was formed by their tears. The only way for the swans to become girls again is for someone to fall in love with Odette. Meanwhile, a young prince, sets off on a hunting expedition, only to encounter Swan Lake and to fall madly in love with Odette, the swan girl. The prince returns home and the evil sorcerer, in order to maintain his company of swans, enchants the prince and tricks him into falling in love with another girl who is disguised as Odette. The prince soon realizes that the girl is not Odette, when Odette flies into the palace. She retreats to Swan Lake and.... The ending was a mystery. Kristina had seen a production where Odette is killed through the heart by the prince's crossbow. Morgan said that sometimes the prince kills the sorcerer and the spell is lifted, or that the two star-crossed lovers drown themselves in the lake and their spirits ascend like swans.
It was the coldest night of the school year, so far. But, I've made a decision. Thick boots are not fashionable with a fancy dress and I absolutely must look for boots like Kristina's. They lace up in back and are very stylish, unlike my sturdy sensible boots.

Alyssa, Jon, Rachel and I sat in box seats like these. I felt a bit like I should be watching my back and Jon made it worse by saying that someone was shot in a political dispute back in the early 1900s. Every theater needs a good haunting! The opening dance, with all the members of the prince's court, was absolutely gorgeous. The music, surprisingly, had a strong, om,pa,pa, theme to it. That's not a sound I normally associate with ballet. I had one of those moments as I sat listening and watching on the edge of my seat (the chairs were slightly sloped forward) that made me think, "My goodness. This is my reality for the next year. I am in a beautiful Eastern European capital with world class entertainment opportunities to be enjoyed with fabulous new friends." That's when I started to cry.
The first intermission was rather long and we spent it eating chocolate in the lobby. We returned five minutes before the second act was beginning. I looked over the edge of the balcony and saw a little girl in the lower box seat, completely alone, pretending to be a swan. She was oblivious to the rest of the audience as she became a ballet of one. All through the second act, she danced along with the ballet company, quietly and serenely. We all enjoyed her performance as much as the professional dance company performance!

During last intermission, we began debating how the ballet was going to end. Rachel predicted that everyone would take a shot of vodka and would get along, I was feeling tragic and determined that Odette would die with an arrow through her heart, and Alyssa predicted that true love would conquer all. I'm very glad to report that, in this version, Alyssa was correct. The prince managed to defeat the sorcerer and Odette turned back into a girl. And they all lived happily ever after! (Though, wouldn't you think Odette might have developed some odd habits spending so much of her life as a bird?)

Today, a large group of us from school, left the city and went to an ethnographic museum, Savka House, just outside of Kiev. It's a family run museum, dedicated to teaching Ukrainians and foreigners how Ukrainians lived a century ago. The family lives off what they produce and their income comes from the tours and demonstrations they give. The great-grandfather and grandfather were both history teachers, and the family has a soft spot for that profession. (It was Ukrainian Day of the Teacher yesterday, so I think that is why we went today.... Yesterday, the school gave every teacher a huge box of chocolates. Danger!)
Roman is another first grade teacher. He and his wife, Pat, are Canadians of Ukrainian decent. They speak fluent Ukrainian and Russian. They acted as translators today and did a fabulous job retelling stories. The boy is the youngest member of the Savka family and spoke the most English. Rachel and I were trying to guess his age. I think he's about 17.
We were shown how the farmers produced the grain and flour from their wheat and how the wheat was harvested. Grinding the grain was much more of a challenge than I anticipated! Bev loaned me a scarf, since she had an extra, and it came rather close to getting stuck in the stone. I wonder if there were ever any bread-making related deaths 100 years ago?
Alyssa was also surprised by the weight of the stone!
The papa demonstrated how the iron forge worked and pulled Adam in for a tutoring session. Adam, the high school guidance councilor, now has another connection for career day.
I had no idea, even after reading The Secret Life of Bees, how sacred bee keeping is. We were given a lengthy bee keeping lesson. Since this museum is geared toward children, there are no bees on site.
We were ushered inside for a hearty, delicious traditional Ukrainian meal. Everything, including the tasty bread, was made from the resources the family has. The borsch was by far the best I've tasted. I even tried the pig salo, which I can honestly say I hope to never try again. It was spongy. The baby cradle was actually occupied! Tim and Allison had their baby twins girls along and they took a nap in the cradle. The babushkas were so sweet with them, rocking and cooing over the girls. Sadly, the musicians scheduled to perform, were unable to make it today, so we didn't get to hear the traditional Ukrainian songs. Next time!
There is so much to learn, see and do here. Cultural opportunities are everywhere and I truly want to experience all that Ukraine has to offer.


Jody said...

Wow Holly, that sounds amazing. You really are blessed with many opportunities to experience the cultures of others. I love reading about your adventures.

KIT said...

Great stories.... what a fabulous looking opera house -made me drool! Isn't your life just amazing?! Blessings on your Fall (and travels).

Kentus said...

nice description. You must see Maramures or Sighisoara in Romania!
With Best Regards,

Where in the World is Barbara Bradford? said...

It sounds like you're beginning to think of Kiev as "home...."