Category Archives: video

Summertime Classical Music

Iryna called me up on a hot Friday afternoon and invited me to a concert at the Sniatyn library. Not one to refuse such invitations, I accepted without really knowing what to expect beyond some kind of classical music.

I was in for a treat: 45 minutes of music played by two students of the L’viv National Music Academy.


Dima, on the violin, is from Sniatyn — actually the cousin of two of my pupils. Oleksandra accompanied him — and played some nice solo Chopin — on the piano. Other composers included Sibelius, Elgar, Vivaldi, John Williams, and Sarasate.

This was some of the best classical music I’ve heard in Ukraine. It made me miss live performances. I got some videos of Dima and Oleksandra, so I’ll let you judge for yourself:

A Chopin prelude:


Gorgeous Sibelius:


This just sounds a little silly transcribed for piano and violin, but fun nonetheless:


And a shout-out to the Americans with John Williams!


Mountains & Marriage Proposals

Last week my counterpart, Halya, and her family (they also happen to be my neighbors and adopted Ukrainian family here in Sniatyn) invited me to climb Mt. Hoverla with them. Of course I accepted the invitation. Hoverla is the highest peak in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains — 2,061m (6,762ft). I last climbed it in March 2011 in cold, snowy conditions. We never actually made it to the summit that time because it was too icy and windy.

This time, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions. It was 68-72F in the forest near the bottom. Cooler and a little bit windy at the top, but I was prepared with layers and the sun was shining all day as puffy clouds floated across the blue sky. We started around 9:30am and were at the top before noon. We took the shortest and steepest way up, on a path that clearly became a small river during storms and snow-melt. It took me 1 hour and 35 minuts (active walking time) to reach the summit:

But that wasn’t all. The whole point of this hike was for Misha, my landlady Yuliana’s older son, to propose to his girlfriend, Anya. They had come down from Kyiv with four other friends for a week or so of relaxation and excursions. Yuliana and Misha had everything planned out: confetti flower petals, a bouquet, the ring…We stood in a circle while Halya brought Anya over, and then Misha proposed:

Misha proposing to Anya

In case you missed that, Anya said yes. It was pretty exciting to witness such an event.

After the proposal, we had champagne and chocolates in celebration. The hike down took me 1:12 (active walking time) — I enjoy hiking down better than hiking up because it’s more technical and you have to think ahead about where to step and hop. Also you don’t get as sweaty.

Part of my adopted Sniatyn family atop Mt. Hoverla. From L: Misha; Yuliana (M’s mom/my landlady/Halya’s aunt); Andriy (Halya’s dad); Halya (counterpart); me; Sasha (H’s husband); Nazar (H’s brother) in front

For photos from the hike — as well as other photos I’ve taken in the Carpathians in different seasons — click HERE.




Video Update: Dance, Jazz, Bluegrass, & “Hymn Ukraina”

Janira (center, in full Ukrainian dress) with some of her dance pupils

What a mish-mash post title, you must be thinking to yourself, what do these things have in common?

Well, they were all part of my good friend and neighboring-village-PCV, Janira’s, second annual Dance Competition/Fundraiser at her school here. Janira has a weekly dance club for her pupils and for the second year they prepared dances to put on a performance in order to raise money to buy English textbooks for the school. Like last year, Janira invited a bunch of us PCVs to help her out during the event and put on a little concert after the girls danced.

The girls danced really well — as one of the judges, I can say it was quite hard to choose the winners — and were much improved from last year. The PCV mini-concert was a blast: Ryan played his banjo and sang some classic bluegrass tunes with Abe accompanying on his washboard and a few of us helping out on vocals. Adam had brought his saxophone and so played a couple solo tunes before helping out with the bluegrass numbers.

Here are some videos for your viewing — and sing-along — pleasure:

Janira’s 6th-form pupils doing a traditional Ukrainian dance:

Abe & Ryan jam on their washboard and banjo, respectively:

A classic, “I’ll Fly Away”:

Adam’s jazzy rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”:

One of my favorites — “Country Roads, Take Me Home” — with some sax improv thrown in:

“When the Saints Go Marching In”:

For the final number, Janira surprised us all by appearing in full traditional Ukrainian dress and leading us in the Ukrainian national anthem, Hymn Ukraina or Shche ne vmerla Ukraina (“Ukraine is not dead yet”):

Music School Concert (Video Update)

UPDATE 16 March: I found & uploaded more videos, so scroll down for eight extras!

Sunday afternoon, 3pm. Post-long run and pancakes. What better thing to do than go to a concert? A bunch of my pupils attend Sniatyn’s Music School, and a couple had invited me to the concert.

It was a joy to sit and listen to live music for two hours. At points throughout the concert a silly smile came to my lips; I miss watching and making music.

Most of the music was traditional Ukrainian, but there was some Grieg, Prokofiev, and Saint-Saens as well. The concert had it all: singing, violins, clarinets, ensembles, Ukrainian folk instruments… Kids here memorize all of their music. Below, a selection of short videos of many concert moments.

One of my 7th form pupils, Olha, plays the lower half of the first piano:

My 6th form pupil, Adelia, singing a Ukrainian folk song:

Here is the сопілка (sopilka) ensemble — the sopilka is a traditional Ukrainian instrument reminiscent of a recorder:

This is my talented 7th form pupil, Valya, playing beautifully on the piano. She’s also quite a good figure skater.

Here are Vika (daughter of my friend, Natalia) and Katya (one of my favorite English Clubbers) playing a violin duet:

Next up, two videos from the (seemingly more advanced) girls’ folk choir, featuring a few of my pupils:

This is my 5th form pupil, Taras — so quiet and shy in class, but he has the most natural touch on the violin:

My 8th form pupil, Vika, and a boy playing a transcription of part of Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet”:

(Jun, this one’s for you!) A young clarinet student playing Saint-Saens. Brought back memories of many clarinet recitals:


Adorable boys’ choir:

Teachers’ violin trio:

Teachers’ jazz band (fun!):

Vika from Ustya (a village in the district) — she’s fantastic, and only a middle-schooler:

Guitar ensemble:

Bayan (like the accordion) ensemble:

Christina, one of my 10th form pupils, singing nicely as always:

Wind orchestra:

Video Update: Spring is Coming

Happy International Women’s Day (aka the 8th of March, 8ого березня)! Ukraine celebrates this holiday hardcore; I received many well-wishes, flowers, and chocolates from my pupils yesterday. Also this week: the first “Mister School” competition (won by my 10A pupil, Nazar), and the opening concert for my school’s newly-renovated assembly hall. Videos below from the celebrations:


The following was a new one for me and I loved it — it’s beautiful. Not sure of the actual name of the song, though.


This next one was also new for me. It talks about Ukraine as a homeland & mentions the green Carpathians. Set in sort of a melancholy key, but still beautiful.


I don’t know the proper name of this one, either. The duet is sung by my pupils Iryna (7A) and Iryna (8A).


I’ve previously posted and translated the following song, “Карпати” (“Carpathians”). Here it is again, this time with my 10A pupil, Christina, and a friend of hers.

As if this post weren’t long enough yet, I leave you with a poem for Women’s Day. Because we are phenomenal women:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
-Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman”

Reflections and Resolutions


Ah, 2011, you’ve been a good year. I’ve done and learned many new things. Here’s a non-exhaustive summary, in no particular order:

  • I learned to embroider (cross-stitch) and am working on my first piece: poppies.
  • I traveled quite a bit around Ukraine.
  • Also traveled to Venice and Berlin, in the latter of which I met up with my family and extended European family (Fabian & Colette).
  • I am now able to get around by myself in Ukraine and rarely have problems navigating transport and buying train tickets.
  • The above is because my Ukrainian has improved quite a lot in the past year. I still understand more than I can speak (passive vs. active vocabulary!), but I can speak pretty freely with my limited vocabulary and grammar skills.
  • I’ve sung in a Ukrainian choir and thus learned some Ukrainian national folk/religious songs. I even had a shared solo in said choir.
  • I began my career as a teacher. The first semester was a crap-shoot but now I feel comfortable in the classroom and continue to enjoy teaching.
  • I’ve gathered a small-but-consistent following of English Club attendees, pupils and adults.
  • I trained for and finished a marathon — very slowly.
  • Before I decided to run a marathon, I ran a half marathon PR!
  • I made some Ukrainian friends.
  • I finally embraced Ukrainian circle dancing — as I call it — and began to enjoy it.
  • Maybe I began to make a difference in my Ukrainian school and community.
  • I wrote a grant for my school to get multimedia equipment for the English classroom. We still need a little more money before it’s fully funded!
  • I cooked many tasty dishes.
  • I fell in love with Ukraine, and my town of Sniatyn, a little bit.


Or, as my brother puts it, intentions. I like that better. I’m not usually one to make New Year’s Resolutions — they seem sort of stilted — but this year I will put forth a non-exhaustive list of things I’d like to accomplish in 2012. In no particular order:

  • Read more books. I spend a lot of time reading on the computer — news, blogs — but would like to spend at least an hour a day reading something on paper.
  • Improve my Ukrainian. I am lazy when it comes to studying Ukrainian. But with less than a year left here, I’d like to improve my language skills by continuing to communicate in Ukrainian whenever possible (and maybe sit down once in a while to study some vocabulary).
  • Continue to take advantage of opportunities. When someone invites me to do something, say “YES” whether or not I know exactly what the invitation entails.
  • Apply to graduate school. This also involves taking the Literature and general GREs and revising my Oberlin honors thesis. But it must and will be done, step by step!
  • Run the Prague Half Marathon, hopefully with another PR.
  • [this one may or may not be serious] As some Ukrainians in my English club wrote in their resolutions, “meet my future husband” — or maybe I’ve already met him…?
  • Get my counterpart and English teacher colleagues more involved in learning new teaching methodologies.
  • Continue to travel, within and outside of Ukraine, while I live in such a great location for going to new places.
  • Remain happy and healthy by making time to do the things I enjoy most.
  • Successfully complete my Peace Corps service.

…and so many more things.

What are your New Year’s Intentions?



What are колядки (kolyadky), you may ask? Why, carols! Christmas/New Year carols, to be exact. Ukrainians have many traditional New Year and Christmas carols, some really beautiful. Many sound similar, but maybe that’s because Ukrainians songs use similar harmonies. The school choir sang a few carols to us teachers this morning. I took some video clips to introduce you to Ukrainian holiday greetings and carols:


This next one, “добрий вечір тобі,” (dobryy vechir tobi = “good evening to you”), is a classic. As in I’ve heard it so many times already that I almost know all the words. But I like it.


And this one’s called “Нова радість стала” (nova radeest’ stala = “discover the joy”). Also a popular one.


Happy singing!

Christmas Wishes from Ukrainians

I was really surprised this week when almost all of my classes gave me little Christmas gifts — a stocking, pretty bulbs, cute foam snowmen — and wished me well for “my” Christmas (Ukrainians don’t celebrate XMas until 7 January). Even my school director singled me out at the teacher meeting on Friday morning and all the teachers applauded to wish me a Merry Christmas.

My 6th-formers gave me a card with the following message (original spelling & syntax intact):

Dear Ms. Tamila PlaT! 6-B Congratulate you from Chrismas Jsus God! We wish you a merry holy supper, happy holiday and good presend from Santa Clauses! In Christmas in your will many presemt in the stocking wery Beatyful Christmas tree and in your house will sung many carols! Merry Christmas! your 6B class!

They’re still learning…They also sang “Jingle Bells” to me.

But the highlight came at the beginning of the fifth lesson, my last for the day. My 10th-formers were a little late coming in and I suspected they were preparing something since I glimpsed them whispering together outside the classroom. Lo and behold, they sang me a Christmas song medley of “Last Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Then they gave me a lovely gift. I was beaming ear to ear the entire time, my heart overflowing with happiness and love for these people. Video of 10A singing:

Winter is here

Officially — today’s the winter solstice, or Wintersonnenwende, as a German friend tells me — and unofficially — we had our first sticking snow this week. Bring it on, winter!

I had one of those amazing runs this morning; one of the runs that makes you glad to be alive, that makes you run with a smile on your face, that makes you want to sing out loud but you can’t because you’re running. It was 12°F (“feels like 12°F”) so I bundled up, drank some Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee (thanks, Kate!), and headed out for my hour+ long run around 8:10am. Wow. It was cold but my hip-hop tunes were pumping and I ran one of my favorite routes. Let’s just say that 12 degrees didn’t feel so cold when there was so much beauty around me: a quiet sunrise revealed a cloudless blue sky, and all the trees were fuzzy-white with snow and frost. I ended up running a brisk pace for eight miles and returned home for another cup of coffee and these pancakes as a reward.

Holiday celebrations began in earnest this week at school. Last year I had barely been at site when all of the holiday performances happened, so they all kind of blurred together. This year I know my pupils and their teachers so I get invited to specific performances. Today one of my favorite classes (I know teachers aren’t supposed to pick favorites, but let’s be honest — we totally do it), , had their New Year celebration. As I’ve said before, New Years’ in Ukraine is like a mix of our Christmas and Halloween — kids dress in costumes and go door-to-door caroling. The 3Б celebration had a fairy tale (казка = kazka) theme. I’ll let the videos speak for themselves (pictures in slideshow farther down).

Today was also the District Methodological Cabinet celebration, which also had a fairy tale theme. There were funny skits and they announced the district Teacher of the Year winners in Biology, Ethics, Ukrainian Literature, and English. My colleague, Nadia Yaroslavivna, won for English Teacher of the Year! I was quite pleasantly surprised and really proud of her. She’ll go on to the Oblast’ English teacher competition.

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In true Ukrainian fashion, Я бажаю вам здоров’я, щастя, успіхів та любові (Ya bazhayu vam zdorovia, shchastya, ucpikhiv ta liubovi). I wish you health, happiness, success and love as we enter this new year.

Ukrainian Tunes: “Карпати” (“Carpathians”)

This is one of my favorite Ukrainian national/pop songs (performed, above, by Наталія Бучинська (Natalia Buchyns’ka)). The slash is there because it’s a national song in that it’s about Ukraine — specifically, the beautiful Carpathian Mountains not far from where I live — and a pop song. Beware: it’s super catchy. Below, the Ukrainian lyrics and my rough translation of them (with a little help from Google Translate; sorry the formatting is funky):

Карпати                                                                        Carpathians
Слова і Музика: невідомий; Виконання: Наталія Бучинська // Words & Music: unknown; Performance: Natalia Buchyns’ka

Ой, летять лелеки,                                        Oh, fly stork,

Летять далеко шукати рай.                          Fly far to look for paradise.

Я ж лишаюсь вдома,                                     I am left at home,

Бо тут смереки, бо тут мій край!                For spruce are here, for my land is here!

Тут я рідною мовою,                                    Here I speak the native language,

Наче сни, кольоровою,                                 As colorful dreams,

Розмовляла з дібровами,                              Interviews with oak groves,

Тут мені дала доля два крила!                     It gave me the fortune of two wings!

Приспів:                                                             Refrain:

Я така крилата, бо росла в Карпатах,         I am thus winged, for I grew up in the Carpathians,

Бо росла в Карпатах, де орел літа!  For I grew up in the Carpathians, where there are summer eagles!

В мене очі сині, бо на Україні                      I have blue eyes, because in Ukraine

Сині-сині ночі, небо і вода!                          There are blue, blue nights, skies, and water!

В мене, мов колосся, золоте волосся,          I have golden hair like ears of corn,

Бо на Україні осінь золота!                            For in Ukraine autumn is golden!

Я співаю дзвінко, бо я – українка,                I sing clearly because I am Ukrainian,

Хто мене не любить, тих мені шкода!          I pity those who do not love me!


Ой, летять весною лелеки                              Oh, spring storks fly

Знову у рідний край.                                       Again in their native land.

Ой, летять додому,                                          Oh, they fly home,

Забувши втому, садів розмай.                        Forgetting weariness.

Я зустріну їх піснею                                        I meet them with this song,

Променистою, чистою                                    Radiant, pure

Про той край, де з дитинства я                      About the land where in childhood I

Кожен день пила воду з джерела!                 Drank water from the source every day!

Приспів. (2)                                                Refrain x2

And here’s a clip of a pupil from my district singing the same song. Who do you think sings it better?

Teachers’ Day

Ukraine-style. What does that mean? It’s like American Teacher Appreciation Day on steroids.

Teachers’ Day in Ukraine happens on the first Sunday of October, though schools usually celebrate on the preceding Friday. It might be my new favorite holiday — it certainly rivals Women’s Day. Below, a sampling of what happens on Teachers’ Day:

Highlights of Teachers’ Day Celebrations

  • Singing with the teachers’ choir at the methodological “party” on Thursday. The town administration was there along with many teachers and methodists from all over my region, and the performance went quite well.
  • Walking into the teachers’ room for our weekly Friday meeting to find a balloon with a little poem tied onto each chair.
  • Being wished all the best — through speech and song — by some 1st-4th formers during said teachers’ meeting.
  • CAKE!
  • One of my 7A-ers giving me chocolates from the class and rattling off, “I wish you a health, a long life, and that you don’t leave Ukraine!” 🙂
  • Three of my 5A-ers running after me down the street to give me a box of chocolates as I walked home between lessons — I think they thought I was leaving for the day. So sweet.
  • Watching the 9B (that’s “V”) class’ performance — they recited wonderful words and sang a few songs for us teachers.
  • Following the above performance, champagne, chocolates, & torte in the teachers’ room…at 3pm!
  • Dinner with 25 colleagues at one of the fancier restaurants in town, “Edelweiss.” Delicious food with toasts and dancing interspersed.
  • Getting to know our new young English (and French) colleague, Yulia Viktorivna; we sat together and talked a lot about many different things. It was nice to spend more than 5 minutes between lessons chatting with her.

Follow this link to see pictures from the day.

Some videos from Teachers’ Day festivities:

This boy apparently goes to my school. I was astounded as his voice — really nice tone and vibrato…he could easily be developed into an opera singer.

Little Vika from the village, Ustya, is amazing. Here she is performing the song “Karpaty” (“Carpathians”) at the methodological celebration.

My 9B class singing a song about teachers. Don’t ask me to translate.

1st-formers singing another song about teachers.

20ого День Незалежності України

Date: 24 August 2011. Event: Twentieth Anniversary of Ukrainian Independence. Location: All over Ukraine. Location of Recorded Event: Sniatyn, Ukraine.  Celebration Components: Town parade; embroidered shirts (вишитій сорочці) & other traditional Ukrainian dress (Hutsul [гуцульські], Cossack [козачий], etc); Ukrainian flags (українські прапори); the entire population of Sniatyn plus neighboring villages; Soviet-era rides; big concert with lots of Ukrainian song and dance by different performers (I sang in a teachers’ choir)…

I’ll let the pictures and video speak for themselves:

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And here’s an interesting set of “Twenty Little-Known Facts About Ukraine” from this week’s Kyiv Post.

In other news, I’ve had a week full of PCV visitors in my town: my friend and fellow runner Julia stopped by for a day and night on the way to her COS (Close of Service) conference, and my good friend James from training has been here all week (his first time out west). It’s been fun catching up, walking, and cooking delicious food with friends — a good way to recharge before the school year starts.