Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa, Tears and an Elephant

I had a dream.
Santa came to town and he was a tiny elfin man with a big ass, red suit and always grinning. He said I was a brown-noser because I told him I believed in him and he could see right through me.
Cut to next scene:
Santa has turned into a stuffed elephant. I cry tears that drip onto the elephant and it turns back into Santa.
Then Santa sprinkles blue sparkly dust on my nose and flies away giggling.
What to make of this?
For entertainment I reviewed The Dream Book: Symbols For Self-Understanding by Betty Bethards.
The book had the following as the entries in the Dream Symbol Dictionary:

Santa- A humorous way of saying a gift is being presented to you.

Cry-Release of stress and tension, frustration; if tears of joy may be resolving a problem, working through blocks; or emotional release from appreciation of beauty, integration of life, filling up with wonderment.

Elephant-Powerful part of self which can be gentle, helpful or destructive. Destructive only when frightened, so if elephant is angry, examine fears. Also, keep the positive lessons for growth, forget the negative dross of experience; you do not have to remember everything, even though the elephant never forgets.

It makes perfect sense to me!!!:)

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm In Love With 2 Italian Guys.

Their names are Mario and Luigi.
They're runnin' through my head.
One of them wears green, the other red.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brush with fame.

I have been seeing Twilight at the theater as a form of cheap enjoyable therapy. So I asked some of my friends to join me. Christine has long loved her imaginary boyfriend Brad Pitt and lo and behold there he was at the theater. A mission to acquire the enormous cardboard Pitt head was hatched. I would pull the van up to the side door and Christine would grab it and run down the hall, throw it in the van and we'd be off. Luckily, Christine asked the theater management if she could just lawfully have the Paper Pitt and they said , "YES!"
After the Twilight credits rolled a woman in the front stood up turned around and asked everyone how many times had we seen the movie?
I didn't answer. I hung my head in shame.
She was curious because she is the proud Mama to one of the more prominently featured extras. She pointed to him as he was leaving. Like any good crazy stalker fan I ran after him. When he came out of the restroom we exclaimed! He's the guy who sits behind Bella in Biology and whose locker is right next to hers. We asked if we could have a photo. I managed to bite my tongue and not ask what it was like to be that close to Robert Pattinson. Gah, I embarrass even myself.
Turns out his dad works with my friend Cassie's husband (or some such six-degrees-of-separation-small-town-small-world sort of thing). His name is Tyler Nordby.
To read more about Tyler click here.
To find out if you too could be an extra click here.

Christine, Me, Tyler Nordby and Cassie.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 6: Uzhorod,Ukraine: October 1st--My Birthday

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We started this day with a tour of the Rehabilitation Center.
Then we went to the Chaslivtsi orphanage. T.O.U.C.H. sponsors many of the children who live here. We set up with lots of help.
A courtyard at the orphanage.

T.O.U.C.H. people and students from the orphanage:
The boy in the red shirt told me he loved to sing and we exchanged addresses. He wants to see the U.S.
The children here were disproportionately boys and Roma. They were eager to help. Here they help Igor run the ramp on the back of the van.
Yesterday Chris lost our Lactaid, so Xander had only tea for breakfast. He was also tired and overwhelmed by the orphanage. The look in his eyes says it all.

Afterwords we went back to our hotel to decompress.

Xander, Lisa and XuMei were giggling and wrestling. I think Xander is stealing a kiss!

Logan, Liesl, Ira, Sara and the back of Hailey and Xander at dinner.
Steve, Lisa, XuMei, Chris, Jack's arm and Jolene.
This is NOT Potatoes. It was listed as "bacon bits" on the menu. It is delicious chunks of pig fat. Yum.

Hailey, Vita and Logan ordering drinks at a club we went to to celebrate my Birthday.

Vita translating for the crazy Americanskies.
What the hell did you order for me??!?!?!?!??!
I am supposed to do all these shots in quick succession. The bar tender looks at me and asks, "Are you ready?"
NO! I am not ready to do 14 shots of syrupy pink booze!?!?!?
"Sure." I say.
But I only managed to do 2 before I shook my head.
After that bar we went to another swanker place on the other side of town.

Logan and Vita behold the awesome-ness of the Hookah!
I am laughing at the absurdity of me trying to inhale. Of course, don't be fooled--I know HOW to inhale, the problem is I have a history of getting the pipe and then beginning to tell a long story prompting my college friends to chant, "Puff. Puff. PASS!!!" at me.
Logan shows us how it's done.

Hailey, Liesl and I feeling the delicious effects of the hookah.
Theresa gives Logan a noogie---I hope my kids will be willing to hang with me at a club when they are older.

Before the Hookah.After the Hookah.

A parting shot of the golden dolphin faucet in the ladies room.
(I seem to have a penchant for bathroom photos)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 5: Uzhorod, Ukraine or "Am I on Tour with the Beatles or What?"

We started the day by going to the Pudiun to pickup the instruments. At this point in the trip the culture shock started to wear off and I began to see all the things that reminded me of home. I would look at something and realize I could be back in Oregon under the same fluffy cloud studded blue-ness.
At Public School #14 we set up the marimbas and immediately attracted attention.
The kids in the school had a fair amount of freedom and so they began mulling around excited by the change in the routine.
XuMei and Xander are practicing the piece the Maharimbas were teaching at the Master Class.
The school.
The play equipment was dangerously high and set over concrete.
Notice the blue/gray fence around the back of the grounds. Read more about it here. Or here:


The Corvallis-Uzhgorod Sister Cities Association board recently voted to approve the allocation of $9000 to purchase a new fence at Public School #14 in Uzhgorod. Currently, the playground for the school is unfenced and used as a pathway for the public. This often creates an unsafe environment for the children when some of those public members may be drunk or hostile. The fence will give these children room to play soccer and other sports in a safe location. We thank the C-USCA for this support of Public School #14.
Just on the other side of this gate is a permanent Roma camp.

XuMei and this little girl started smiling at each other and playing games. All without a single word.
Oh it was fun to be able to climb high!
Happy girls.
My monkey boy!
The school administrators invited us in for a tour and to show us their classrooms. Here the students demonstrated their English skills. They told us they used to teach German in the school but switched to English when the T.O.U.C.H. (Take One Ukrainian Child's Hand) Program began funding them.

They danced for us.
This young woman is 16. Her Grandmother sat next to me. She was so proud. Jack (band member) told us he heard that she was betrothed to be married.
When we went back outside to play I noticed these guys smoking on the playground.
I didn't know what they were saying but it seemed like they wanted the little guy to leave and he wouldn't.
When the band started playing the atmosphere changed.
These three cuties caught my eye. They were shy at first.
But soon they warmed up to the fun of the music.
The Maharimbas.
The energy was electric. The music made people move. It dissolved fear and made people smile.
Pretty soon everyone was dancing.
Dr. Rampton and his wife Alice (co-founder of T.O.U.C.H.) did the west coast swing.
More T.O.U.C.H. folks swinging.

XuMei and Vita smiling down on the crowd.
After we played for them they fed us:

This is the Roma camp just outside the gate of the school.
The kids seem to just wander from home to the school whenever they want.
We packed ourselves and the marimbas into a van borrowed from the Rehabilitation Center. The driver, Igor, was always helpful and friendly while trying to corral all of us and our stuff.
Hailey, Jack, Chris and Liesl above. Jolene squished below.
XuMei, Xander, Theresa, Vita, and Ira laughing while Igor navigates the streets of Uzhorod.
Meanwhile back at the Padiun, the walls were covered in student artwork.
While Xander and XuMei grew increasingly comfortable here I perused the art.

The "Master Class".
Sara is showing a rhythm to 3 students while Lisa translates. The music was so infectious that random people who were passing by would begin playing. There were moments when band members weren't sure who had paid to take the class and who hadn't. Logan and Liesl with 5 students on a marimba:

The music had a pull but so did Logan. He began to have a gaggle of girls around most of the time.
Then while the instruments were transported to the next gig we walked along the Uzh.
It looked so much like Corvallis. I could just pretend like I was home. The same flowers, the same trees, the same sky.
The river.
Approaching the park where they will play.
Set up and begin.
This was a restaurant with outdoor seating next to a park with rides. The giant blow-up slide was up and running but all the other rides were closed. We slid and slid, laughing and sweating until XuMei realized she'd rubbed the skin off her ankles!! Time to take a break and listen to the music.
The band was exhausted but Hank managed to ramp up the energy one last time.
They fed us bolgrach and cognac to warm us up and we all had a fabulous time.
Borsht is a very traditional soup and we had plenty of it and it was delicious but I had never heard of Bolgrach and loved it. Also it was hard to find a recipe for it. So here it is:

-- 2 onions, chopped
-- 1/4 cup cooking oil (peanut preferred)
-- 2 Tbs paprika

-- 2 lbs. beef, cubed
-- salt

-- 1 Tbs caraway seed
-- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
-- 3 Tbs warm water

-- 1-2 lbs. potatoes cubed
-- 1 bell pepper, chopped
-- 1 medium tomato, chopped

1. Saute onion in oil until soft, lower heat,
add paprika, stir well and heat 5 min.
2. Add beef, season with salt and cook until meat
takes on color and juices evaporate
3. Add caraway, garlic, ant water, cover, simmer
slowly stirring occasionally, up to 2 hours.
Add water if necessary in small amounts.
5. Add potatoes and simmer 10 min.
6. Add peppers and tomatoes and simmer 5 min.
7. Add just enough water to just cover meat and potatoes,
cook until meat and potatoes done.

Total cooking about 3 hours.

From: "Sabotin Peace Park Cook Book"
(Thanks to Chris, Steve and Jolene)

I don't think they mean "ant water" in step 3. At least, I hope not.

Every night the band would meet in the hotel conference room to go over the next days schedule. Usually the kids and I would just hang in our room but tonight they wanted to see what Daddy did so we went to the meeting.
The band meeting:

Meetings are meetings no matter the country. :)