Joined September 2017 Message
  • Day18

    29 HOUR DAY

    August 14, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    The delay in Toronto ended up being closer to 3 hours delayed. Something about the plane being delayed due to protests in Hong Kong. Boarding seemed to take a long time too.

    We landed around 1:15 AM and it took until 2 AM to get our luggage. Celeste still kindly picked us up and even brought us some food for the morning.

    By the time we had hung the damp costumes on every imaginable surface in our condo it was about 3 AM. This made the day 29 hours from when we woke up in Lviv to when our heads hit the pillow here.

    It was a wonderful but busy trip; I think both of us felt pretty weary after the prolonged journey home.

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  • Day17

    Delayed in YYZ

    August 13, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    The flight departed from Munich en route to Toronto. Both of us were blogging and it wasn't long before my eyelids were heavy and I slept a bit. Woke up just before drink service. Brooke was in and out of a very unrestful sleep nearly the whole flight apart from waking up to eat and watching an episode and a half of her TV show. I watched two movies (Justice League and The Dark Tower) and had a couple of naps here and there. Found the flight very unrestful and squished. And something totally unheard of, I actually didn't play a single video game the whole flight.

    One side note - while we were waiting at the gate in Munich, they announced that they were offering business class seats for 450 euros each. Our friends Stephanie and Tom immediately took them up on that, largely because they are travelling with their 1 year old. Guess we're not quite at that point in our lives yet.

    When we landed in Toronto, we found a service desk and successfully acquired our boarding passes for the next flight. The unfortunate part was that we are delayed an hour an a half and will get in at midnight. Luckily I remembered that Dad gave us two Air Canada lounge passes at the start of our trip. We were quite excited to use them. Thanks Dad!

    Almost home, it will be great to sleep in our own bed. And neither of us have to work tomorrow.

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  • Day17

    До Побачення Україна

    August 13, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    After a lengthy 3 hour and 45 minute sleep, the alarms woke us up at 7:00 AM. Don't know how we managed to get out of bed this morning because boy were we tired. Continued with the packing process which took us a full hour, we were quite messy and spread across our large hotel room. We also managed to accumulate a large number of souvenirs over the course of the two weeks. Luckily, last night we were able to stuff our boots and costume bags into one of the costume suitcases, so that freed up some volume. Brooke's suitcase was just over the weight limit and we had to move her character shoes into another bag. My checked backpack was half her weight (but that is due to all the alcohol being in her bag).

    Then planned for a quick trip down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. We hit it at the worst possible time as it seems that all dance groups are leaving today and everyone wanted to eat breakfast at 8:00 AM. There was almost nowhere to sit and the line for the buffet was extra long. We grabbed a coffee and utilized the stupidity of everyone waiting in line for the first buffet and snagged some quick food from a buffet spot in the back. Sat in a couple of conference room chairs and had breakfast with a fellow dancer Jesse. Then it was back up to our room to zip up our luggage and head downstairs. We are loaded up with two costume suitcases as well, so it was a challenge to get down to the lobby. My skills with two suitcases (plus 3 backpacks) are better than Brooke's.

    The tour company, Cobblestone Freeway, includes an airport transfer and has it all prearranged. There was a group of about 7 of us all leaving at the same time and we loaded up into two large vans with all of our suitcases. The ride to the airport was about 20 minutes.

    The check-in process seemed terribly inefficient. They only had one desk open for economy class in our airline and she was quite slow. We were checking a total of 4 bags and were expecting to pay for the additional 2. The process to pay involved going over to a separate counter and then bring proof of payment over to the lady at the check-in desk. Weird.

    Once through security we looked around for the traditional paprika chips at the airport. Couldn't find any but did manage to find some interesting flavors. Brooke got cheese chips and I grabbed crab flavour (interesting taste but I must admit I only ate half the bag).

    Our first flight was a 2 hour hop over to Munich. Brooke said we should both blog on this flight. Sounds good. I set off to finish a post from 2 days ago and she proceeded to fall asleep.

    When we landed in Munich we had lunch with Stephanie, Tom, and their 1 year old daughter Incarra. At this point we were discussing how in Lviv the check-in agent wasn't able to print our boarding passes for our YYZ to YYC flight (even though I checked in and selected seats for that flight yesterday). We decided to walk over to the Lufthansa service desk and see if they could. Their response was that "it was technically impossible to do this". Not impressed and slightly concerned. Also tried at a service desk closer to our gate and tried downloading the Luftansa app to see if it could work. It's going to be interesting once we get to Toronto.

    Boarded the plane for a 9 hour flight. My throat is starting to feel kinda funny from the lack of sleep. Hopefully everything works out in Toronto.

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  • Day16

    Once in a Lifetime Performance!

    August 12, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today is the day we get a truly once in a lifetime experience... dancing at the Lviv Opera house. You’ve already seen photos of the exterior which is stunning, but inside it is possibly even more beautiful. But I digress.

    We got up early (again trying to fabricate free time since in reality there hasn’t been any). We decided to skip the mediocre hotel breakfast and went to Lviv Croissants for breakfast - two Americanos and croissants with cheese/ham and egg/salami. It hit the spot and was very fast. Next we decided to see the more local market. They sell everything from food to sneakers and nylons with some souvenirs mixed in. Definitely a market more geared toward locals but it was cool to see. We even had time to pop over to the main market and do a bit of gift shopping. We were quite successful and were pleased with ourselves since we won’t have much time later.

    Back at the hotel, Kristen graciously braided my hair before the time to walk to the theatre for our tech rehearsal. The walk was just two blocks and we were already able to take all of our costumes to the changerooms.

    We had a few minutes to explore the stunning lobby of the theatre. The staircase reminded us of the ballroom in Beauty and the Beast.

    Tech rehearsal on stage was very efficient. It felt strange to set the positions so many hours before the show though. This stage is the first we’ve ever danced on that is on a slant, literally having a downstage and upstage. Very interesting to experience but I was extremely nervous for my solo. Tyler practiced his kozas and then were pretty perfect. Emma and I practiced our circle turns - we do them opposite each other so I needed to make sure that going upstage I would clear her before moving to the side. Spinning uphill is not easy... this made me extra nervous for the show!

    A must do for us in Lviv was to see the Lvivske brewery. We had just over an hour before the group lunch so power walked there through one of the markets. It’s not a brewery tour, more like a museum about the brewery and the history of beer making in Ukraine. The building was beautiful as well... I would have loved to spend a whole afternoon there! Maybe the next time we go to Lviv.

    We decided to Uber to Rynok Square where lunch would be. This was a really good decision as it was swelteringly hot outside and we needed to save our legs for dancing.

    The included lunch today was at the ‘Most Expensive Galician Restaurant.’ Their claim to fame is that they list their prices as thousands of dollars and then quote a ‘discount’ down to a normal price. Their restaurant bathroom was literally a toilet throne... I think we both didn’t find it very appealing though. We started with warm potato salad that had a poached egg on top. It was delicious and quite filling... it felt like a main course. Then came a chicken noodle soup with boiled quails eggs in it. We thought that was a full lunch and started getting ready to go but then a third course of chicken with pasta came out. We asked for it to go as we were full and wanted the time to spend at the market.

    Back in the market, everything was set up and the ladies were embroidering at their stalls. Unfortunately I was not in the biggest shopping mood during the time we had. I wanted another blouse for myself but just wasn’t decisive or sure what I wanted. I did get a simple but quite pretty blouse in the end. We also picked out an item that will be our contribution to the silent auction for Zabava in the fall.

    Before we knew it, we were again at the hotel prepping for a show for the third day in a row. Tyler ate some of our extra lunch and I did my makeup quite quickly. I’ve got those fake eyelashes pretty much down to a science!

    At 5:15 pm we walked as a group back to the theatre for the finale rehearsal. They basically just corralled us into columns on the stage and we learned we’d have to sing the Ukrainian anthem on stage at the end. Uh oh! We took spots further back as we are not that hardcore and can basically just mouth some of the words. The people who knew it fully were in the front.

    Back to the cramped change rooms to get dressed and final preparations for the show. Hopak was the fourth number in the first half and hutsul was in the second half. Another group’s hopak was at the end of the first half so it seemed the adjudicator didn’t like our hopak quite as much (he seemed a bit biased to us overall). However, our hopak felt very energetic and powerful and in our opinion (and I think in reality), we got a bigger cheer. The slanted stage was very difficult but nothing bad really happened, just felt a bit off kilter on our feet I think.

    The Junior Ensemble Lemko dance and Ensemble hutsul was on after intermission. I was finished dancing but of course Tyler still had to do hutsul. He was just soaked in sweat and I think found it hard to keep dry. His face kept getting covered with sweat. I brought my towel to the backstage area to try to help with that.

    At the end of the show, the curtain was closed and Nazar Slavko sang one pop song while we convened on stage for the finale. My feet were very sore so I kept shifting my weight but I was in the third row so I hope it wasn’t noticeable. After the anthem, we grabbed a quick group photo and a few individual shots and just really tried to soak in the experience of dancing in this amazing theatre. Although it’s been a busy few days, it was a really memorable way to end our dance tour.

    We quickly changed and schlepped our costumes back to the hotel. Marta was in the lobby to say goodbye. Marta had luckily been able to get a ticket to the concert. I think the tickets were mostly assigned to the festival organizers and tour groups so our tour guide wasn’t really able to get any extra but I think she came to the theatre and they did manage to get her two tickets - one for her and one for her friend Yolanda. By this point it was nearly 11 pm and we still had to go pack our costumes as a group. We spent a few minutes chatting and she seemed very happy to have seen the show. She wanted to take us to her house in the morning but we explained we were leaving for the airport pretty much first thing and so we said goodbye and hopefully next time.

    We convened ASAP with the other dancers on the fifth floor elevator lobby to pack the last few costumes. Unfortunately some of the lights were out on that floor and we really should have switched to another floor that had better lighting. We sprayed the costumes with a water/vodka solution and got them packed away. I think everyone was rushing a bit more than they should have, but hopefully everything will be ok with the costumes when they’re home. We’ll have a couple suitcases of wet costumes that will need to be hung up immediately at home.

    We got back to our room and started tidying a bit of our own stuff. On the group chat, people were looking for a room to gather in and our room was the perfect choice given its huge suite like size. From about 11:30-3 am people were coming and going to visit and say goodbye. Some people were leaving just after midnight, others at 4 am and us at 9 am. We were starving and needed to eat at midnight even though it was so late. Jesse and I walked a block to a street shawarma vendor and bought a bunch of wraps to go. They really hit the spot!

    By around 2 am I was napping on the floor while others were still chatting and eventually the others left. Tyler and I decided to pack for about 15 minutes before sleeping which took us to a bedtime of 3 am. About a four hour nap and then time to pack and start the near 24 hr journey home!

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  • Day15

    Emotions Starting To Get To Us

    August 11, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    This morning we slept in til just after 8 AM. The schedule for the day involves a parade and then we will be bussed off to our second performance of the festival, so it was good to get some extra sleep. We had breakfast downstairs in the hotel with Emma and then back up to get ready. Again had to be dressed in full costume for this parade, so we were geared up in Hopak along with bringing everything else we needed for the day (separate costume and change of clothes). Luckily we could load up the bus with our extra stuff and then it was a short walk to the start of the parade.

    We congregated in front of the Opera House and then proceeded to wait, in the hot full costume. It is definitely an international dance festival because they have the hurry-up-and-wait part figured out. After about 20 minutes, they lined us into position and then the parade started shortly after. The parade was from the Lviv Opera House to the Taras Shevchenko monument which wasn't really that far, probably less than a km. Once there, all the groups lined up, there was a flower laying ceremony, and some sort of speech. We took a group picture at the end and it looked like it turned out well. Immediately after we loaded up onto the bus to head to Shevchenkivskyi Hai where we would be performing next.

    Shevchenkivskyi Hai is an outdoor old-style Ukrainian village type attraction. Think like the Ukrainian Village east of Edmonton. It is very spread out and rolling walking paths. What that meant is the bus could only go so far and then we had to schlep our costumes all the way in. Plus keep in mind we are still in Hopak costume with boots on. Plus plus - it rained overnight last night and the path in was still wet soil in spots. Wish we had known the length of the walk so we could change our footwear on the bus.

    We get to the stage and change area. The stage is covered and the audience seating is built in and permanent into the hill. Sort of like a mini-Dauphin stage. The change tents were right behind the stage and were a built up wooden floor. This was lucky because all around our tent was grass, which was also wet from the rain and muddy/squishy in some spots. Exactly what you want for dance costumes and boots.

    We changed out of costume and into street clothes so we could go eat lunch. Walked over to the outdoor area where we were going to eat and had to wait another 20 to 30 minutes for everything to get set up. Lots of people were starting to get to the point of crankiness, Brooke especially who was getting hangry about getting her boots a bit wet. Nathan and I being the positive people we tried to cheer everyone up with a song......I don't think it worked, mainly due to the fact that we got told to shut up for being too load.

    We had lunch in a fenced off part of the village. The food was a stew, cabbage salad, bread with salo, and fresh fruit. There was also limited space to eat as there were 4 cocktail tables in a small grassy area and some bench seating on the side. Nathan and I sat in a makeshift yurt (bench under a covered area). I actually really enjoyed lunch, it was quite tasty and the fresh apricots were a welcome addition.

    After lunch we changed back into Hopak, not to perform yet, but to walk further and do a photoshoot. This time we had the good sense to walk in our sandals and change footwear later. We initially lined up for one of the festival photographers who set us up in a very weird way. It didn't make sense what he was doing and apparently the pictures didn't work out at all. Immediately after we ditched that guy, stepped into the sunlight in a grassy area, and then we banged out a great photo with our actual photographer. Afterwards we walked even further to find a nice scenery to take a nice vignette photo with a great backdrop.

    It was then time to get prepared for this show. We were performing Hopak, Hutsul, and one Junior dance. I was legit concerned about having enough space to warm up due to the wet grassy area around us. Luckily the festival laid down some tarps so we could have access to the stage and then we realized that stage right had an actual full stone path. Perfect! Was able to properly warm up as best as can be expected.

    This performance is actually an "adjudicated" show to determine what gets into the gala performance tomorrow at the opera house. I'm not sure if it actually means that some groups won't get in, or more so it determines how many and which dances we perform. I made the joke of whether or not they would have a bell to ding before we go on. Our actual performance went very well, the energy on stage was really strong, and the reaction from the crowd was great. In true fashion, I was last out of the change room again and was just dripping with sweat.

    We then hauled everything back up the path to the bus. Some of the girls used up some coupons for carrying their stuff or a free ice cream, I think Jordan got the worst of it. Once we got on the bus Shane grabbed our attention and let us know that the feedback was very positive and they were very impressed with our performance and our technical skill. Shane then let us know that one Junior dance, Hutsul, and Hopak will be performed in the gala show tomorrow! We get to dance in the Lviv Opera House!

    Once we got back to the hotel we had to fully unload the bus as this was the last time we would see it. Bye bus, we had some good times! Next it was time to do an initial pack of all the costumes we didn't need anymore. We all met up on the 5th floor elevator lobby and then started sorting, rolling, and packing. It didn't take too long and then it was time for a quick shower before dinner.

    We headed out for dinner with Nathan, Audrey, Jordan, Christine, and Joren. My random suggestion was to go to a restaurant where I saw pumpjacks on the outside. Christine started polling the group for what they were hungry for and looked at Google Maps. She found a restaurant that one of guides had suggested and also had sizzling pans of meat. Turns out it was the pumpjack restaurant that I wanted to go to, so bonus!

    The restaurant was called Gas Lamp and has a science / historic oil theme to it. There were hundreds and hundreds of gas lamps as decorations inside and the restaurant had 5 levels with a very narrow staircase throughout. There was even a red light green light system to direct traffic up and down.

    The drink menu had a section called Chemical Experiements, basically their selection of different cocktails. We interpreted that you could actually sample each one and the drinks came in a rack of test tubes! It was fun to try them and not know what to expect for flavor. Some were really good, some we didn't finish. For an appetizer Brooke shared a pickle tray with Audrey that had red cabbage and pickled vegetables and I had spicy meatballs. Dinner I had a spiced pork sausage and Brooke had a braised beef with legit horseradish ice cream.

    After dinner we wandered over to П'яна Вишна (drunk cherry) to have a famous cherry wine. Bought a bottle to share amongst the 7 of us and stood outside on the street and drank it in the provided glass tumblers. Brooke really wanted to bring a bottle home so she purchased one in a decorative hard tube. Packing is going to be fun tomorrow.....

    We then walked back to Rynok Square. A couple of the guys decided to go for a beer at Pravda, local craft beer. The rest of us went shopping to souvenir stores around the square. At one point we got separated and it was Nathan, Brooke, and myself as a small group. We went back into Kryvika (Ukrainian bunker restaurant) to go to the souvenir shop but diverted downstairs to walk it through again. Realized there was a separate section outside where you could climb 5 flights of stairs to the roof where there was an anti-aircraft cannon that you could sit in and fully rotate. Super cool!

    Shortly after, we headed back to the hotel as it was time for bed and we have our last performance tomorrow.

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  • Day14

    Joryj Ktoc....Best Ukrainian Rock Band

    August 10, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ☁️ 27 °C

    We booked it back to the hotel to get ready for our performance. We had left ourself a forty five minutes to finish makeup and get dressed. We had to be in our costumes already as we were walking to Rynok Square (one of the most iconic and picturesque parts of Lviv). It was about a fifteen minute walk to the outdoor performance. The stage was quite elevated compared to the audience and they had tent change rooms set up behind. Shortly after we arrived, I saw Marta in the crowd and beckoned to her. She came over and chatted (she speaks very quickly). Luckily Audrey was nearby and graciously helped to interpret. Marta wanted to take us to her house but we tried to explain it really won’t be possible... just about every minute is planned out until we leave.

    This performance was the first opportunity for all the participating groups to dance together in one show. I particularly enjoyed watching Zabutny from Regina; they had lovely costumes, intricate choreography and beautiful technique. We performed Buko, Trans, and Hutsul. When I was on the stage, it struck me just how beautiful out surroundings were. The stage was pretty hot, much like other sunny performances we’ve done.

    After the performance, we immediately had to go to our hotel to change clothes and go to the Zabava, the main party of the festival. It was held in an interesting setting - an old glass plant turned into a night club. There were hors d’oeuvres and vodka (which we decided to skip) and pretty shortly after we arrived, a band started playing. It was a bit too crowded (venue a bit too small for the number of people) but luckily there was a rooftop patio which was pretty cool. The patio wasn’t private to our group though. Tyler was definitely a bit of a papa bear, making sure no creepy men were hitting on our teenage dancers. The view was gorgeous but eventually we decided to go back to the main event.

    The band changed over to a pop singer. His name was Nazar, and he was a cooler version of Ihor Bohdan. Not bad to listen to but not our dancing style.

    Next was Joryj Ktoc and they were epic! Tyler came to grab me to show me that the band had a lira (Ukrainian instrument we mentioned in a previous post). It was amazing to watch and listen to! They were kind of a rock band but the sound was unique and I’m not sure it does it justice to just say rock band. It was so high energy (we were jumping up and down the whole time they played). It was so much fun! We bought their CD and got all four of the members to sign it. It’s made out to Broke and Tylir... close enough!

    Euphoria from Edmonton was the last band of the night. They were fabulous and we were thrilled to have a couple last polkas. Kolomeyka was at around midnight which was a bit too late. Tyler participated a little bit but I just watched.

    After kolomeyka, our contingent left for the bus. There were about ten of us that had stayed til the end of the party and I’m really glad we did.

    It was such a fun and varied day between a workshop, a performance, and the zabava!

    We are getting pretty exhausted but we have to keep the energy up to make the most of these last busy days in Lviv!

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  • Day14

    Last Workshops of the Tour!

    August 10, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We have a busy festival schedule ahead of us so Tyler and I decided to get up a bit early to try to create a bit of spare time in our day. We had hotel breakfast and took a walk out to the market. The internet says the market opens at 8 AM. We arrived there around 8:45 but it was clear that the set up was just in its early stages. It was clear we couldn’t get any meaningful perusing done so we tottered back to the hotel and bought a lot of water on the way home for the days ahead.

    Before we knew it, it was time to hop on the bus to go to our Poltava workshops. They were run by the Poltava State Ensemble, the same group that performed at the opening ceremonies. We had two separate workshops that were each about one hour. The first workshop was in a basement dance studio. When we arrived, we could hear the tail end of the workshop before us (all the groups in the festival had staggered workshop times). I have no idea what group it was but Shane said the director was saying “pohanu” (terrible) and “uvohu” (be quiet). I was a bit nervous and expected the workshop to be very hard. As it turned out, the choreography we learned was reasonably simple. As a result, it was possible to watch the style of the actual Poltava dancers and really try to copy their body positioning. Another funny thing was that the director did not stand up once during the workshop; his dancers demonstrated and he shouted from a chair on a pedestal at the front. The good thing was he was usually saying “molotsi” (something like wonderful) so I guess we did pretty well.

    In a snap, it was upstairs to the stage for the second workshop. It was run by one of the Poltava ensemble senior dancers who had an epic moustache (see photo). Again the choreography was quite simple. The most interesting and difficult to execute part was this one dance where you had to deliberately sickle your feet. It has been so engrained into me from the age of three not to sickle ... it actually was physically painful to make my lower legs do that. They explained this move is supposed to mimic shaking something gross off your shoe. It was really interesting to try but I don’t think that particular style will be coming to Canadian stages anytime soon.

    The bus shuttled us back to our hotel but we decided not even to go upstairs to save time. We walked to a place called Burger & Meat for a quick lunch. The burgers were really good (I think Drew would have loved them). In keeping with most of this trip, we had just a tiny bit of spare time before needing to prepare for our show. It was ambitious, but Tyler and I decided to make a quick run to the market to look at the art and succeeded in buying a beautiful painting of a Ukrainian cottage that was painted by an artist in Lviv.

    (Rest of the day in a second post)

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  • Day13

    Beautiful Lviv

    August 9, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    This morning we woke up and had to pack up all the costumes and our luggage again. Not going to lie, we went to bed late and didn't get enough sleep, plus I have definitely felt better on other mornings. Brooke was perfectly fine, I think she was faking some of the vodka toasts last night.

    Quick breakfast, checked out, and then loaded up the bus for the last time. Bus call had been pushed back by an hour to give everyone some more rest, but that means it will cut into our market shopping time in Lviv. The bus ride was about 2 1/2 hours, Brooke had a solid nap pretty much the whole time.

    We arrived in Lviv and immediately from just driving around on the bus I could tell that this is a beautiful city. We arrived at Hotel Lviv and had lunch prior to unloading the bus and checking in. The room we have is massive and actually has two single beds pushed together plus an extra bonus bed for some reason! We quickly dumped our bags, freshened up, and headed out to find the market and do some shopping!

    We headed out with some friends and a rough idea of directions. Walked toward the Lviv Opera House which is a beautiful building and one of the main sights to see (and we have the potential of performing there in a few days). The market was just a block away from here.

    This market was more in an open area compared to Yaremcha and it just has all of the vendors sitting in their staked out spot. The vendors range from Ukrainian shirts to art paintings, typical souvenirs, and what looked like random junk people were selling from their basement. We did a lap to get a sense of what was all available and then settled in to look at the handmade Ukrainian shirts/blouses more closely.

    The detailed embroidery of these shirts were stunning. We spent a lot of time looking through what each lady had and ended up finding some great purchases. What was neat was that when these ladies are not trying to sell a shirt, they are all just sitting at their spot and working on the embroidery of their next item. Very cool to stand back and watch for a moment.

    After a while we left the market to go check out a couple of actual shops on the main road. At this point I was starting to get quite hungry and we wouldn't be eating for another 4 hours, so we made an emergency stop at McDonald's. I tried a burger that looked most interesting and that I could point to. Brown bread for the bun and I think the patties were pork, so very successful in trying something new at a foreign McD's.

    Once finished we took another gander at the market for gift ideas but didn't have any luck so we headed back to our hotel to regroup for 20 minutes. I lied down and could have napped hard, but right when I was nearly out, Brooke said it was time to get moving again (tour song should be "I'm In a Hurry to Get Things Done").

    We are actually in Lviv for the International Ukrainian Dance & Culture Festival and today was the opening ceremony. There are lots of other ukrainian dance groups here, lots from Canada and even one from Brazil. We were bussed to a theatre, seated, and waited a while for it to start. There was an opening speech from Vince Reese (founder of Cobblestone Freeway) and then we were treated to an unexpected full performance by the Poltava Ensemble. This was a full show of predominantly Ukrainian singing with a small storyline threaded and a bit of dancing every once in a while. We both really wish we had been able to understand the lyrics and the storyline. I think it had something to do with one family didn't want their daughter to marry the son of another family, but then there was a gift of a horse, everyone was happy and they had a wedding. I was also fighting sleep for part of it due to the dark theatre without air conditioning and staying up the night before.

    When the show was done, we were bussed back to the hotel and then a small group of us set off to find some dinner. We took a recommendation from Kim and Kristen and went to Cosa Nostra for Italian food. Initially we were seated inside and it was incredibly warm and stifling in there. Jordan looked like he was 4 minutes away from a Tyler-type meltdown. Luckily a table opened up on the patio that we were able to fit 5 people into and we were able to enjoy the evening outside and people watch.

    For an appetizer we had a beautifully presented charcuterie platter of cheese, salami, butter coated in poppyseeds, sesame seeds, and chili flakes, and prosciutto wrapped breadsticks all on a turn table that made it extra fun to eat. Dinner we shared a caesar salad and then Brooke had a gnocchi bolognese and I had a rabbit ravioli.

    To finish off the night we went to a must-do bar/restaurant called Kryivka. The restaurant is situated in the basement of a building and is dressed up to look like an old military bunker. You are greeted by an old Ukrainian man at the front door who says "Slava Ukraini" and you respond with "Heroiam Slava", then he says "Death to Russians"and you have to do a shot before going downstairs. There are old-school Ukrainian military advertisements and equipment on all of the walls. We shared a beer with some of the dancers and Shane. It was really cool to experience and I'm glad we were able to fit it in. Afterwards we went back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

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  • Day12

    Ivano-Frankivsk Show Day

    August 8, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    It was a nice treat to sleep in to 8 am and have a fairly relaxed day leading up to our second and final full length performance. Breakfast at Hotel Nadiya was awesome. The restaurant had a lovely outdoor terrace and made our coffee and croissants with Nutella even more enjoyable.

    Our walking tour started at around 10 am. Our guide explained that Ivano-Frankivsk used to be called Stanislav, for the son of the Polish man that once owned the city. It was renamed to honour a Ukrainian poet, Ivan Franko. We learned that this city was really quite multicultural - having Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, and Armenian origins. Some of this diversity was really devastated by World War II and there are just a couple buildings left particularly from the Jewish and Armenian quarters today. Ivano-Frankivsk was also a fortress city but none of the original walls exist anymore.

    Our guide explained that there are now a couple NGOs devoted to improving the city. One to build structures and parks for children, and another to preserve beautiful and historic doors and other building features.

    We visited a beautiful arch that was a gift for 350 years since the city was created and also passed by the city hall and peeked in at a few churches.

    The tour ended at around 11:30 and we had a bit of time to prepare for our show. We got to load our props to the backstage and Kristen braided my hair and I braided Christine’s. The time flew by and it was time to meet for lunch. We walked to a restaurant a few blocks away. We had a cabbage salad, borscht with chicken in it, and the main course was a plate of banosh (corn meal porridge) with mushroom sauce. Tyler thought and I agreed that it was an unusual pre-show meal and not quite what we’d usually gravitate toward before a big dance show.

    We had about half an hour to prep the rest of our stuff (pretty sure I did my makeup on record time) and then it was time to go to the theatre. The theatre was literally across the street which was very convenient. Mikhailo was already outside of the theatre when we were heading there. So Tyler and I said hi for a couple minutes. He had already got tickets for the show. He was with a friend of Natalia’s named Lilia who lives in Ivano-Frankivsk.

    In the theatre we got our stuff set up, in the dark at first before the theatre lights were turned on. The stage was wooden, and quite uneven with metal plates in some places. It was definitely a challenging stage to dance on compared to what we are used to. However the actual grippy-ness of the stage was quite manageable.

    Our tech rehearsal was quick for a few reasons. The lighting was very simple and I don’t think there was much to adjust or decide. Also, as we had recently done the full show it wasn’t that difficult to set spacing again so soon.

    We finished ahead of schedule and had a very comfortable amount of time to get ready for the show. The change rooms each had their own music going and it was a fun upbeat feel in the building.

    The kolach for pryvit was absolutely stunning... it was ornately decorated and even tryzubs on its sides. I decided to get my costume on a little early to get some photos with the bread. I otherwise never get to do that since the bread is at the end of the dance and there’s always a quick change after. Before the show, we had our usual pow wow on stage. It was Jordan’s 300th show!!! Pretty amazing timing given that Christine and Jordan were performing the lead roles for Heroiam Slava.

    The show was again full of energy and emotion. There were a couple hiccups... one of the girls took a fall during the Transcarpathian dance (luckily I think she was ok after). The audience was very supportive of all of the dancing. At the end of the 1st half, a lady ran up onto the stage after the curtain had closed to give flowers to Christine. It was very sweet. At intermission, Josef’s daughter came backstage. I said hello quickly but then needed to head to change.

    After the final bow of hopak, the crowd chanted Molotsi! This is like bravo or saying the show was amazing and felt amazing to hear! After a quick group photo, it was time to find the relatives who had come to the show. Mikhailo and Natalia’s friend Lilia, a couple and their two children (I must admit that I don’t know their names nor relation) were the first we saw. I did recognize the mom in that group and Mikhailo explained she was pregnant the last time I was here in 2013 with her first daughter and now she has three children! The oldest two were at the performance. They brought flowers and other treats.

    We took some photos and then Josef and his daughter Natalia (and her husband Yuri and granddaughter Marta) found us too! They all seemed to have enjoyed the show. I introduced everyone to Tyler and Kim and we took some more photos. Next it was time to go pack up all of our costumes. I did this quite fast... Tyler is always one of the slowest to pack up and especially since we were already behind the others that changed immediately he was the last one out of the theatre.

    I hung up all the costumes in the hotel room and changed my clothes. Then I went downstairs and found the group of family. We went to the hotel restaurant and got settled. Mikhailo’s English is still pretty good, and so it was fairly easy to communicate and he translated back and forth. Tyler joined us just about ten minutes later. We had coffee and tea and apple strudel. At one point, Natalia Melnyk phones from Germany and said she was very sad she couldn’t make it to see us. We showed everyone some pictures of recent family gatherings and of our wedding. It was a really nice visit!! Everyone said we should come back (and bring Halya/Gail and other family) but not on a dance trip so there would be more time to visit! Tyler officially knows more Ukrainian than I do. The relatives could tell that he was understanding more and saying a couple words back a bit more often than I was. Josef’s daughter Natalia said something to this effect.

    The rest of the dancers meanwhile had showered and some had gone for dinner. Some dancers had convened in one hotel room to visit after the show. We had some vodka, pizza and chips and celebrated our last full length show in Ukraine.

    Now we’ll be off to Lviv for the International Dance Festival!!!

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  • Day11

    Found Our Show Poster!

    August 7, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    The bus ride to Ivano-Frankivsk was actually quite short, less than 2 hours. I actually was a bit more reserved on this bus ride, partially because I'm starting to get prepared for our show tomorrow and also to catch up on some blogging.

    We arrived in Ivano-Frankivsk and repeated the check in process once again. The room we have actually has a ton of space and has one main bed for the two of us! This evening we actually have the entire time to ourselves, which has been a rarity! After a moment of chill out in the room, we walked across the street with one of our tour guides to the supermarket to stock up on water and bananas for tomorrow.

    Our hotel is literally right beside the theatre where we are performing tomorrow. While walking out of the hotel we noticed our show poster in the theatre window!! That was super cool to see! Stopped to take a picture and then we headed off to find some dinner.

    Ivano-Frankivsk is really beautiful and super cute. We walked down the main pedestrian drag which is lined with different restaurants, cafes, and storefronts. While walking, we saw our show poster two more times on billboard advertisement walls! It's starting to make us super excited and feels sort of celebrity like. We also heard from other dancers that they spotted some different ones.

    We looked at a couple of menus and nothing really caught our attention. So we leaned on the power of Google Maps and found a pasta restaurant which had good reviews. The restaurant actually turned out to be a Ukrainian farm-to-table type of restaurant. They only use ingredients that are found in Ukraine. We had dinner with Nathan, Audrey, Jordan, Christine, and Joren and we were all in the mindset to fuel up for the show tomorrow.

    The restaurant actually had Ukrainian craft beer, so we ordered something that looked interesting and the menu said it was from the Hutsul region. Brooke and I shared a pasta dish and then each ordered a steak to get some solid protein. Side dishes of fried potatoes and grilled veggies along with a garlic sauce. Christine said her spaghetti bolognese was to die for. It was an excellent meal and we were very impressed with the restaurant!

    We took a meandering pace back to our hotel and then spent the rest of the evening ironing our costumes and getting prepared for tomorrow.

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