December 30th, 2008 – Altynivka. The concert.
At about 5:30, after having relaxed and chatted over tea, Jess and I left the house for Larissaâ€™s. I finally had the opportunity to meet the rest of the Jessâ€™s host family in Altynivka.
Larissa is the mom. Sheâ€™s absurdly kind and motherly. She was always quick to put food in front of me and often criticized the thinness of my winter coat. Pretty much everything youâ€™d expect from a mom.
Volodimir is the dad. Heâ€™s got huge hands and endlessly broad shoulders. Heâ€™s an extremely attractive dude in that rustic, intense, â€œI just killed a pigâ€ sort of way. In fact, heâ€™d been absent earlier that day for that exact reason.
Andriâ€™s the son. Heâ€™s 19 and works as a bouncer in Kiev. He speaks English pretty well, though he was hesitant about using it. At one point, however, I made a snide comment at Jess in English and she retorted sharply in Ukrainian. Andri, who had been sitting by idly for the entire conversation, unexpectedly turned to me and said in his thick Ukrainian accent â€œshe said â€˜Shut your mouthâ€™.â€ It was hilarious.
Viraâ€™s the daughter. Sheâ€™s 15 and if it isnâ€™t too weird to say it, sheâ€™s pretty dang attractive. Viraâ€™s English wasnâ€™t quite as good as her brother’s, but she was still able to communicate pretty well. On the day I left she told me that she had heard I had two sisters and that she had hand crafted two beaded necklaces â€“ one for each of them. How extraordinarily kind! It was really touching.
I ate a lot of food on that first night at Larissaâ€™s. The mashed potatoes were expected but additionally there were little cutlets of meat, pickles, â€˜saloâ€™ or pig skin/fat, and cherry compote. It was all pretty good food. After we ate, we socialized for a bit and then went to the concert.
The concert was remarkable. Act after act came on stage. There were tons of skits, dances, songs, and even a movie. The dances were the best I think. The girls were zoom around the stage pretty speedily. Jess and I had a great vantage point because right when we first walked in, we were whisked to the front for prime seating.
As the first act started the town mayor came up behind us and asked me if Iâ€™d be willing to give a speech during the event. Sure enough, after five or six more acts I heard â€œU.S.A.â€ and found myself being ushered onto the stage. I said a few words thanking all the people of the town for welcoming me, and voiced my hopes that Ukraine and America will be friendly for the new year and beyond. Jess translated. The people applauded and just as quickly as we were ushered up, we were ushered back to our seats for the rest of the concert.
Little kids dancing
The rest of the concert was decent. Interestingly, they had a pretty substantial raffle. They must have raffled off 200-300 items. Most of the prizes were simple useable household items – nothing too extravagant or excessive. There were packets of markers, shampoos, toothpaste, cologne, Tide, sponges, things like that. The concert went until about 1:30am. Jess and I walked back home afterwards and went straight to bed.