Lance & Megan's Blog

English Club Christmas party

January4

Every year we have a Christmas party for English club, every year we have lots of food, every year we have the Christmas gift exchange. Everyone loves to come and have fun. We usually sing some carols, share what we will be doing for the holidays and then have our gift exchange.

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It is always fun to see how people react to the gift exchange. We do the classic “steal” the gift game. This is really hard for people to understand and to accept. Some people just can’t bring themselves to take a gift from someone. (One year, for our staff party we did the gift exchange and the only people who stole a gift were the two Americans…) Somehow our English club has managed to get over the usual hesitation of stealing and they really get into the game.

Group shot

Group shot

Excursions out

January3

Since it has been such a busy year, Lance and I have hardly had a vacation. We managed to squeeze in a few days in mid November to make a trip to Lviv. Lviv is a beautiful city full of sites to see.

Here are a few pictures from on our way to Lviv.

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And a few from in Lviv.

We were there right as fall was ending and winter was starting.

We were there right as fall was ending and winter was starting.

At Lychakiv Cemetery

At Lychakiv Cemetery

The Lychakiv Cemetery is stunning in the fall

The Lychakiv Cemetery is stunning in the fall

We had a great time away resting, and seeing some sights that we had never seen before. Lviv is a city that we often go to since it has the nearest airport. We have seen many of the normal tourist sights but there were a few we have never managed to go to. We also wanted to see a few castles on the way to Lviv but they were closed when we came.

A lovely Ukrainian wedding

October3

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, it had been raining the day before but the clouds took a rest for a bit on Sunday to watch the wedding of Marichka and Sasha.

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Marichka was Megan’s first roommate in Ukraine. They shared a bed for a year in their homey apartment before Marichka moved out for a bit before going to Russia. They went to Ethiopia together and Marichka was also a student in the first English For Missions school.

Lance and I had the privilege to be a part of our first Ukrainian wedding. The ceremony was simple, short and sweet, no extra fluff. Mini sermon, exchange of vows, exchange of rings and the kiss! I was happy to see that they threw candy after Sasha carried Marichka over the threshold of the church! Lance and I were only able to nab one piece each since it was such a free-for-all! IMG_1037

There was some time in between the ceremony and the reception which was at another location. When everyone arrived at the location, Sasha and Marichka greeted their parents by bowing three times before they accepted the gift of bread and salt given by their parents. A sign of blessing. We all filed in and found our places at the tables and sat down to a feast!

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Now many of you may think you have a feast at Thanksgiving or Christmas but I can assure you, you have no idea what a feast is until you come to a Slavik wedding. Lance and I had some idea since attending Ruslan‘s wedding in Moldova. The cold course of the meal consisted of sliced meat and cheese, pickles, salads, various sorts of fish dishes including stuffed herring (where you take out all the insides, blend it, stuff it back in, and cook it. There was rolled eggplant, fried chicken, sliced veggies and of course holodets, (meat jelly.)

The cold course

The cold course

There were hot courses that came out as the evening progressed. There was borscht, stuffed crepes, cabbage rolls, and shashlik with grilled veggies. Everything was so yummy! We really stuffed ourselves before we even had dessert!

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There were many blessings given at the wedding by parents and family. Sasha and Marichka also gave a gift to their parents to honor them for raising them. There was a fun slideshow and a few songs were sung. They evening began to wrap up with a few games. One game was quite simple, it was like mad libs. A few contestants were chosen and asked to write 10 animals, the emcee then came to the first person and said “When Marichka/Sasha wakes up she is like a _______.” They then have to read the first animal that they wrote. Some of them were quite hilarious! The other game was a different story.

This is where Lance and I made our mark. They wonderful newlyweds went around the room and picked married couples to participate in this new game. Lance and I were chosen naturally. The girls lined up on one side of the room and the guys on the other. When some music began to play the first girl had to dance down to her husband, give him a kiss and dance back. The guy then had to do the same thing. This doesn’t sound too bad except for two things. #1 You had to dance solo, completely by yourself in front of a mob of wedding guests who may or may nor know you. #2 You had no idea what the music was going to be, it was different for each person. Sasha and Marichka went first and had some Ukrainian folk song. Then the next couple had Indian music, the next had some kind of Asian sounding music, there was a sort of Gypsy song and then Lance and I were the last ones and we were blessed to dance to the tango. Yes, we danced the tango… solo. Neither of us profess to be dancers but somehow we hammed it up enough that everyone loved us and thought that we knew what we were doing. The photographer at one point while Lance was dancing his way toward me handed him a flower which he promptly put into his mouth and was the perfect prop. We didn’t do a simple kiss but a dip kiss seemed most appropriate for the tango. We were told later that someone wondered if we forgot others were in the room! We had quite a few complements on our apparent dance skills. As much fun as it was faking it, I would not recommend the game to most people.

 

Ukrainian National Anthem

April30

Just thought it would be interesting for some of you to read Ukraine’s national anthem in English. There are many different translations, this is just the one we chose. The lyrics were adapted from a poem written in 1862 by Pavlo Chubynsky, the music is arranged by Mykhailo Verbytsky.

 

Держа́вний гі́мн Украї́ни

The Anthem of Ukraine

Glorious spirit of Ukraine shines and lives forever

Blessed by Fortune and brotherhood will stand up together

Like the dew before the sun, enemies will fade

We will further rule and prosper in our promised land

We will lay our soul and body for the cherished freedom

Cossack blood will raise the nation of the joyous people

For the liberty the folk strives ardently from San to Don

And will let no alien power in our common home

Grandfather Dnieper* and Black Sea rejoice

And Ukraine will see daylight and live by Fortune’s choice

We will lay our soul and body for the cherished freedom

Cossack blood will raise the nation of the joyous people

Passion and hard-working hands prove bright future true

Song of freedom, loud and clear, guides us all the way through

Over mountains and steppes it flows, over ages told

Valorous Ukraine stands strong in a striving world

We will lay our soul and body for the cherished freedom

Cossack blood will raise the nation of the joyous people

*Dnieper is a river that runs through Ukraine.

Painting done by a young girl, displayed in a shopping center.

Painting done by a young girl, displayed in a shopping center.

What Ukraine wants

March2

Things in Ukraine have been changing hourly for the past week or so.  It has been a real emotional roller coaster here.  So to begin, I will take a look at the bigger picture and then get into specifics.  At least from my point of view.

It is hard, sometimes, to listen to commentary about the Ukrainian situation from outside Ukraine.  Most big news organizations portray this unrest in terms of people mad about not being aligned with EU.  Sure that is what started this whole movement, however it was never really about being with EU in the first place. It was more about getting away from Russia.  Being a part of the EU trade circle will not all be pie and diamonds.  It has the potential to be really rough for the country.  However, most Ukrainians see it as better than Russia.

That all said. The current movement does not have much to do with the EU at all.  It is a movement towards freedom from oppression.  A friend of mine did an interview with a US news station and summed that all up quite well.

To really understand why this unrest got to the place it did, you have to look at the demographics of Ukraine as well as the history of the people in power.  The country is mostly split into two major demographics. The ethnic Ukrainian Ukrainian and ethnic Russian Ukrainian. The ethnic Russian population of course has stronger ties to Russia.  This is where the currently former President comes from.  Not only that, he was in prison twice and basically a mobster.  When the Soviet Union fell, a lot of mobsters and corrupt officials became leaders of the country since they had the money.  The region where he came from is strongly influenced by fear, manipulation and corruption.  So you can now see, his presidency has been very much that of fear, manipulation and corruption.  In his side of the country, this has worked well for years but not in Western and Central Ukraine where it is predominantly ethnic Ukrainian.

Ukrainians are fighters.  In the past few hundred years they have had about 80 years of freedom  and only a little over 20 of that being since the Soviet Union fell.  This entire time, they have fought against the oppressor. So a new oppression in the form of a president who was acting more like a dictator/mobster did not do him any favors.  (Just google “Yanukovych palace” and judge for yourself if this president was on his way to joining the dictators club.) He was bold enough to use his tried and true tactics on the nation of Ukraine (such as imprisoning the opposition, putting friends and family in important positions, stealing money from Ukrainians etc.) and it totally backfired. Character has a funny way of coming out no matter who you are and this was the case with the president.  He eventually saw violence as the answer… big mistake.  So now you see a nation taking charge of it’s future and fighting for freedom.  Side note, this is the first time in recent times, people have actually died for freedom.

So, the former president seems to be running things, the protesters want to make sure change happens before they back down and true leadership for the country is uncertain.  The nation really needs prayer during this time. Not every Ukrainian is happy with what is happening.  A lot of the Ethnic Russian population sees this as a loss. Whatever happens, Ukraine is and will be different.  Most Ukrainians want change in a big way, just ask Lenin. His statues are coming down all over the place.  It is the Ukrainian symbolic gesture that screams “we are done with the old and rooted corruption, we want something better for our nation!”  They proved this with their lives.

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