Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kharkov Assembly

Last night we went to the Kharkov Assembly, a festival of classical music sponsored by the Rotary Clubs in Kharkiv. Since Rotary sponsored it we were able to get in for free and had seats in the third row! I thought it was going to be a bunch of classical music which is why I brought my husband who doesn't speak Russian along. However, like all things in Eastern Europe my expectations and what actually happened were wildly different! The first hour consisted of giving out awards to professors and instructors and thanking the Dean of the musical academy in Kharkiv. Then they finally got down to the music after a hour or so of that and different bands and groups played all sorts of music Ukrainian, Russian, classical, jazz, and even some Wagner. This went on for two and half hours with no break until I was finally ready to leave. Still it was a wonderful night of music made possible by Rotary and I even got to see a balalaika a Russian folk instrument played!

This is a photo of the Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after M.Lysenko, a Ukrainian composer. The exterior and interior were very Soviet!
The sign for the festival.
The welcome to the 95th annual Kharkov Assembly.
The President of the Rotary Mriya Club presenting the Dean of the Musical Academy with a plaque.
This was a group of folk instruments including different kinds of balalaikas and it was my favorite group of the evening. 
The Mirror Stream at night, a monument built in honor of the WWII victory and it is one of the seven wonders of Kharkiv.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First Rotary Club Meeting in Ukraine

Yesterday was a big day because in addition to my class I also went to my first Rotary club meeting in Ukraine. I had been trying for a while to get a host counselor in Kharkiv. First, Rotary International assigned someone in Poland because they didn't realize that District 2230 was made up of three countries Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus. In the US the districts are much smaller because there are so many clubs. For example, Lawrence my town in the US of 100,000 people has four Rotary clubs and Kharkiv my town in Ukraine of 1.7 million has three clubs. Then, Rotary sent a message to all the clubs in Kharkiv and I have been receiving emails from club secretaries ever since.

Last Thursday I received a call in Russian from Igor, a Rotary member asking me how he could help me. This is basically what our host counselors are supposed to do here, help us navigate things and solve any other issues we are facing. Later that day I met him at the university and he got everything sorted out. So what took me four days to accomplish took Igor like 10 minutes. He called people he knew and we got all the paperwork I needed, paid my tuition, and even bought this specific folder I needed to give the registration office at the university to hold my documents. As a result of this, I have learned life here is much better with a Ukrainian to help you out with things! Plus he talked to the people at the university and figured out what I needed and then I could ask him tons of questions about it. I tried to do this with the women who worked in the International Studies Office and they were not happy to have to repeat themselves let alone answer my questions. Now I am well on my way to getting my registration documents and hopefully my residence permit with the help of Igor from Rotary.
So my first meeting yesterday was a lunch meeting at a Poker Club on the outskirts of town. I spoke about myself, my research, Rotary clubs in the US, and it was all in Russian.  They served us a three course meal so it was pretty fancy and included a shot of vodka and cognac with coffee. For dessert we had a classic tort from Kharkiv which is pictured to the right. It was a delicious chocolate waffle cake which has been made in this city since 1896. After my speech they asked me tons of questions! They were very interested in Rotary in the US and couldn't believe that my sponsoring, the Jayhawk Breakfast Club met at 7 am in the morning...I guess Ukrainians are not morning people! They also weren't that familiar with the Ambassadorial Scholarship, which is probably because they don't have many people come to Ukraine on this scholarship. Most of the people go to the US, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand but some also go to Latin America and Asia. There is only one other student in Poland this year so I was able to tell them a bit about my scholarship too. I have an international musical festival that Rotary is sponsoring to go to this weekend and I am speaking at another club meeting next week so things are busy on the Rotary front as well!