Archive | April, 2010

“I’m all second chances; save your ammunition”

22 Apr

“Well, at least you’ll be able to say you saw the sun rise over the Carpathians” Kari mumbled groggily as our taxi rolled steadily toward Mukachevo (мукачево).  The four of us drowsily faded in and out of rudimentary conversation for roughly half the trip before slipping into drowsing silence, I believe much to the relief of our driver who was dragged out into the crisp 4 am air.

Whirlwind would be the adequate word for our weekend if all of us had been rested enough to fully appreciate the rich diversity of food, activities, and people flitting around us.  An out and out Monet, it wasn’t until I was sitting restlesly on the early morning train rattling away from beautiful, blooming Beregovo (also known as Berehovo and Beregszasz) that I felt the effects of the heady mixture of the syrupy regional wine, comfortingly heavy dinners, practically tactile perfume of brazenly open flowers, and soothing mixture of lilting Ukrainian and Hungarian.

As it were, our introduction to this vivid town was stepping into a blanket of darkness from the overnight train at 4:30 Friday morning still sweating and gasping for breath from the intensely heated sleeping car.  Eyes half closed, I blindly followed our pack of Americans through the puddle-ridden, silent Ukrainian streets, periodically tugging up my sweatpants sagging from the mud and water weight collecting in the hems.  No one had the energy for pessimism when we found ourselves lost and quickly accumulating mud; in fact, Kate’s outburst of «Hey, remember that time we got lost in Beregovo at 4 am» was met with everything from appreciatory grunts to outrageous laughing fits from those of us drunk with exhaustion.  We thankfully found our way somehow, for I would have blindly followed anyone in circles for hours without much thought. Two and a half hours were spent in a comatose rest on a volunteer’s fouton with Kari in a room where four other volunteers laid scattered over chairs, foutons, and floor space before we hauled ourselves across town to a Hungarian restaurant for breakfast. 

On behalf of fellow volunteer, Matt, I would like to point out you know you’re tired when you use a water bottle as a pillow.

The rest of the weekend passed in a rich blur.  I remember Hungarian and Ukrainian conversation being tossed here and there between acquaintences scattered throughout the Wine Festival tents, but it seems indistinguishable from the thick smell of cooking shashlyk/shish kebabs (шашлик) just as the forgotten luxurious taste of chocolate covered raisins cannot be severed from bonding laughs and discussions shared with a volunteer soon to leave the country, who I’m going to miss dearly.

Forcing myself to stay awake on the train back home Sunday morning because of some Ukrainian teenagers amusing themselves by taking pictures of us sleeping, I savored the intangible feeling of a fulfilling weekend.  Most of my seven months in this country have passed in quite the opposite manner – painfully detailed minute to minute, days seem to drag on well past my energy reserves while hearty sections of my calendar suddenly fill with x’s standing in for days indistinguishable from the ones they followed or preceded.  As painful as that seems to me some days, for the present moment it’s enough that I saw the sun rise gloriously over the Carpathians.

*Music: “Second Chances” -Paper Route


“there’s something good waitin’ down this road”

10 Apr

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If Mary Chapin Carpenter is music that reminds me of mom, Tom Petty is your music, and I’m listening to it all day.  Can’t wait to celebrate your birthday with you (a couple months late) in Sweden this summer.

Love, Bunny

*Music: “Runnin’ Down A Dream” -Tom Petty

“we’re made out of blood and rust, looking for someone to trust”

10 Apr

Some of you know that I’ve been volunteering time at a local NGO here in Drohobych called Caritas.  It’s an amazing organization that tries to help countless groups of people; working out of the same building as a program that works on the rehabilitation of handicapped children, they have programs for, among other groups, victims of domestic violence, children from broken homes, alcoholics, drug-addicts, and victims and families affected by human trafficking.  Volunteering for the last three months has shown me how much the declined grants weigh on you, but I was thankful they shared this with me.  Reposted from – the winner of this competition is a boy from Drohobych who Caritas has worked with before.  His painting is amazing – take a look.

International Children’s Art Highlights Ave Maria Arts Festival

For the next month, seeing life through the eyes of the world’s children will be as easy as looking into the store windows that encircle the town center of Ave Maria.


Those windows now feature more than 150 pieces of art created by children from 15 countries and submitted to Ave Maria’s first International Exhibition of Children’s Art, part of the town’s annual Festival of the Arts March 27-28.

The colorful paintings, drawings, and collages, which are displayed now through April 15, depict scenes as diverse as the countries they come from: snowy winters in Ukraine; Christmas celebrations in Hungary; landscapes in Honduras; a pet cat in Slovakia; and a cowboy serenading an American western sky.

cowboy1a“I was intrigued by the idea of such an exhibit the moment it was suggested,” says Jane Healy, chair of the International Exhibition of Children’s Art Committee.  “Art can be a beautiful way to draw people together, especially art by children of a young age.”

It was sculptor Márton Váró, now working at Ave Maria on one of the world’s largest sculptures of the Virgin Mary, who came up with the idea for the exhibit. He was inspired by a display of pictures from local schools at last year’s Festival of the Arts, which made him recall a similar children’s international art exhibit held in his native village of Debrecen, Hungary in the 1970’s.  

ostap1aaa“It was fantastic!” he enthuses at the memory.  “And I thought such an exhibit would add a new dimension to the kinds of art we’ve been nurturing here at Ave Maria.”

An eight-year old boy from Ukraine, Ostap Chaplya, won the exhibition’s Best in Show award for his painting “Ukrainian Christmas.”  But as Mrs. Healy recalls, the boy’s joyous depiction of children frolicking amidst the snowflakes very nearly didn’t get into the exhibit. 

“I was thrilled with the digital picture that the teacher at Ostap’s orphanage sent me,” says Mrs. Healy.  “But the rules require originals, and she told me the cost of the postage was beyond their means.”

Determined that Ostap should be able to submit his painting, Mrs. Healy contacted a friend who happened to live in the same Ukrainian town.  The friend in turn went to the orphanage, picked up the picture, and handed it off to another friend who was flying to the United States. Eventually the picture was mailed to Ave Maria from Massachusetts, and it was unanimously decided the favorite of the competition’s three judges.

Besides Mr. Váró, those judges included Michael Windfeldt, owner of Galerie du Soleil in downtown Naples, and local artist Sandy Jackoboice.

vertep1aSaying that he was “really blown away by the skill of the kids,” Mr. Windfeldt explained that when it came to judging, “the biggest thing for me is emotional transference. Most of the children’s art was pure emotion and you could tell. ”

For his part, Mr. Váró felt a natural connection with a picture submitted by 12- year-old Oleg Bandrovski of Ukraine entitled “Vertep,” which brought back memories of Christmas celebrations in his homeland.

“Children in rural areas dress up and go house to house – one carries the Bethlehem Star.  They chant songs, very old melodies, and the neighbors give them goodies and money. This painting is really true to tradition, and the child’s fantasy, because you can see he loves taking part in this.”

kitty1aThe Arts Festival features music, dance, drama, poetry and visual arts including paintings, drawings, photography, film and sculpture. It begins Saturday afternoon, March 27, with a free concert at 1 p.m. in the town center by internationally-known recording artist Dana. A fundraising dinner and musical performance will be held Saturday evening and a full day of free events and exhibits will follow on Sunday. (Click here for a previous Ave Herald story on the Saturday night dinner and musical performance Shakespeare in Tune.)

Mr. Váró says he hopes to see another international children’s art exhibit in Ave Maria in 2011.  “The art of children is a true mirror of their innocent, creative souls.  Through their art we see what a fantastic potential is carried by every child.” 

judging1a           judging2a

*Music: “Honey and the Moon” -Joseph Arthur