Friday, December 24, 2010

(english – si vede avanti l’italiano) 17.12.10 (happy birthday Kathleen Bridget O’Sullivan!)

Sofìevka, Ukraine - news from a friendly man in  a little snow covered village
in Ukraine

you might say i’m a friendly man. I have a gift  for putting people at ease. I
sometimes do this while playing music, or  photographing, or cooking, or serving
food and drink but I see that it’s not  these activities directly that succeed
in creating the state of ease. it could  be instead the unassuming smile that
says, ‘don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.’,  but most likely the real effect is
something entirely unseen working on the  level of feeling. be that as it may,
my identity as a musician, photographer,  cook, servant, etc. is surely an
illusion indicating little of who I really am  or the true nature of my life
purpose. from the other side, however, I usually  don’t give much thought as to
my own state of ease until a very uncomfortable  situation arises  - intense
negative  energy, anger, conflict, etc. it’s then I realize that this state of
ease, or  condition of peace, is fundamental to all else and essential for
healthy  existence.

here in Ukraine my time passes almost devoid of  this precious ease. to have met
Katya and Sasha and pass time with them is a  relief – a haven for the ease I so
rarely find here. Valentina has known them  for some time as they are close
friends of Roman, one of Valentina’s dear  friends from childhood. Roman gave
them the link to our blog which they read in  its entirety prior to our arrival
in Ukraine. we had brief chance meetings a  few times but only recently we began
seeing them on a regular basis – to eat  meals together (both are vegetarians
and Katya is an exceptionally good cook),  trade films, speak English, and for
thai massage (thanks to Valentina). Sasha  is an ardent cyclist and has a
beautiful Italian bike. he’s a very calm,  generous and smiling man. in fact, I
can’t recall his face devoid of a smile.  he’s the owner of a furniture shop
where he designs and builds modern furniture  in the Japanese style. he used to
be a painter and as a teenager carved  traditional Ukrainian wooden toys and
painted them in an extraordinary manner.  Katya worked for ten years as an
attorney until one day three years ago, during  a stressful case in which she
was required to tell too many lies, a rash broke  out on her arms. Sasha told
her that she must quit that work. she followed her  husbands advise and now
teaches English and bakes and sells cakes from her  home. she seems very happy.
they say that whatever she does, she does to  perfection – readily apparent in
her cooking and her approach to studying and  teaching English.

Katya has arranged three English students for  me to teach. one is her fifteen
year old niece, Gala, who has studied English  since kindergarten. she’s the
daughter of Katya’s sister, Irena, a very calm  and gentle woman. Katya’s
English teacher, Marina, a Russian woman from the  region near Lev Tolstoy’s
home of Yasnaya Polyana, is a dear, intelligent woman  about my age who’s very
devoted to her students. she has two students, Sonya  and Alisa, who like Gala,
have studied English for many years but want to  practice with a mother-tongue
English speaker. this is the first chance they’ve  had to do so as English
speakers so rarely visit this part of the country.

I’m very happy and grateful for these new  friendships and for the opportunity
to interact with pure and positive people.  this may prove to be my saving grace
during the long, cold winter.

more good news is that Valentina’s daughter  Maria will arrive here soon from
Sardegna. her flight from Venezia to Kiev  arrives at 11pm tonight (17.12.10).
she will renew her passport in Kiev before  coming here for a visit. we are
extremely happy to be seeing her again and it  will be great for me to have
another Italian speaker here for a while.

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