Monday, August 14, 2006

Lisa Romashka in Crimea

Who is Neznajka?

In keeping with the rules of American foreign policy, I
had meant to preemptively answer the above question. Somehow, though, I never did. So here it is.

Neznajka (Незнайка) is a character from a series of Russian children's books: The Adventures of Neznajka and His Friends; Neznajka in Sunshine City; and Neznajka on the Moon. In Russian, his name basically means "know-nothing" as in "he's a know-nothing." My girlfriend before leaving for Ukraine, Zhenya (Jane), recommended that I try to read Neznajka on the Moon. What I ended up reading were a number of chapters from the first book with my first Russian tutor, Larisa, though I do own both. Neznajka's defining characteristics are his curiousity, ineptitude, and inability to maintain focus and interest in the things he had apparently found so interesting. Also, he tends to irritate the hell out of everyone around him.

I chose Neznajka as the name for my blog for several reasons. Sometimes my friend, Lisa, and her mother, Lana, would call me Neznajka because they knew I was reading it; so it was a term of endearment. I openly admit that I am ignorant on many subjects, still I would sometimes ask why I couldn't be any of the other characters, one of the more respectable ones. In any case, in my life, I hope to try to hold on to some kind of child-like curiousity about the world, to learn more about things that are new to me, and to do my best not to irritate my friends and neighbors. Вот я не незайка, но немножка похож на него. (So, I'm not Neznajka, but do resemble him a bit.)

Young and Old in Lviv

I found this picture while looking for an image of a restaurant in Chicago called Old Lviv. This picture really does exemplify two very seemingly contradictory Ukrainian lifestyles. The truth is, aside from the fact that the girl and old woman aren't talking to each other, there's really no reason why they couldn't be related. This picture is very much like those recently (several months ago) published in National Geographic in that my immediate response is, "Oh my God! That is Ukraine!" Seriously, I think this picture could have been taken on any bus in any Ukrainian city, town or village.

Incidentally, seeing that babushka (grandmother/old woman) reminds of some advice we received during training from our Peace Corps Medical Officer, Linda. If you ever feel a bit unsure of your surroundings while traveling by train, don't hesitate to find the nearest, oldest babushka, sit down next to her and become her best friend. Chances are, not one man on that train would dare cross her path.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Мелiтополь / Melitopol

Ukrainian Student in Orlando! / Украинский ученик в Орландо!

I'm very excitid to announce that my parents will be hosting a Ukrainian student in their home during the 2006-07 school year. His name is Sasha and he's from Melitopol', in the Zaporizhzhya oblast, in southeastern Ukraine, along the Azov Sea.

This all came about from a forward I received from another former volunteer, asking for help in finding host families for FLEX students. FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) is an American Councils exchange program for high school-age students from former Soviet republics. This, of course, includes Ukraine. To make a long story short, my parents applied to become host parents with Dyadya Vanya serving as the coordinator and possibly Andy Minear as the contact at Winter Park High School, my old stomping grounds back in the mid-90's. :-) Just as a reminder, Dyadya Vanya (Mr. Sheehan) was my brother's Russian teacher in high school. He's retired now and has served as my Russian tutor when I've been in Orlando. For more than a year now, he's worked with my mom on learning Russian. Andy Minear was a classmate of mine in high school and is now the director of choirs at Winter Park. He also studied Russian with Mr. Sheehan.

So, next Friday, I think, Sasha will arrive. My mom told me a little about the process of choosing a student. She and my dad were given three names. The first was a girl with pet allergies, so obviously she wouldn't want to live with Max and Merlin. The second was a boy who said he likes playing sports. Then, the third boy writes that he enjoys singing, playing the piano and reading books such as Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. After telling me all of this, my mom asks, "So, Brian, can you guess who we decided on?" The answer, by the way, was obvious.

I hope I'll be able to fly home in the not-too-distant future. Maybe at the end of September when my current assignment through the temp agency will come to an end. My other incentive for flying down there on that weekend is that the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will be giving a concert in Orlando that Saturday night.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Когда я умирал / As I lay dying

Тост / Toast

Высоко в горах умирал аксакал и рассуждал о своей жизни, вдруг в дверь раздается стук: "Ты кто?" - спрашивает аксакал, "Я богатство твоё!". "Не надо мне богатства, всё у меня есть, ступай себе с Богом!". Вдруг раздается опять стук в дверь: "Ты кто?" - спросил аксакал. "Я Любовь твоя!" - ответили за дверью, аксакал отвечает: "Ступай себе с Богом! Я любил и меня любили", опять раздается стук в дверь, "Кто там?" - спрашивает аксакал, "Я Здоровье твоё!" - ответили за дверью, "Не надо мне здоровья, я своё отжил! Ступай себе с Богом!" - сказал аксакал, но тут опять стук в дверь: "Кто ещё там ?!" - спросил он, а за дверью отвечают: "Я Дружба твоя!", "А вот ты заходи " - крикнул аксакал, а вместе с ней зашли и богатство, и любовь, и здоровье! Так выпьем же за ДРУЖБУ!!!

High up in the mountains, a man was dying and contemplating his life, when suddenly there was a knock at the door: "Who are you?" asked the man.
"I'm Wealth," was the answer from behind the door.
"I don't need wealth. I already have everything I need. Go with God."
Again, a knock was heard at the door.
"Who's there?" asked the man.
"I'm Love," was the answer from behind the door.
"Go with God. I've loved and been loved," and again came a knock at the door.
"Who's there?" asked the man.
"Health," was the answer from behind the door.
"I don't need health. I've already lived out mine. Go with God," said the man, but, again, a knock was heard at the door.
"Who else is there?" he asked, and from behind the door came an answer.
"I am Friendship."
"Well, then, you, come on in!" hollered the old man, and together with friendship came wealth, health and love. So we drink to friendship!!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Europe will be free!

This is for you, Robin.

More Do Do Jin Ming

Behind My Eyes, Second Movement, Plate X, 2003