About two months ago, Vika (my now former counterpart) told me about a photo contest/exhibit that was to be held in Kirovograd (where I live). She encouraged me to submit some photos to it, as she had seen some of them, and knew that photography is a hobby of mine (which I wish could be my profession!). So with her assistance, I submitted five photos to the contest.
When I was informed that two of my photos were chosen, I was pretty excited – I mean, I have never submitted my photos to any contest before now. So I got the photos printed and brought them over to the coordinator’s office. That was a few weeks ago, and since then, the location of the exhibition was moved – ironically, to the library, where I have been working. So yesterday, while I was writing about the snow that was falling in earnest, I looked at my watch and realized that it was 2:00 – time for the exhibit to open. Whoops! Luckily, I did not have far to go to join the opening – out the door and up the stairs, to join the other people who were there.
It is a strange feeling to see my photos included in this exhibit, with all of these very talented photographers, who do this for a living. I mean, I feel like overall I am pretty good at it, for a hobby, but I feel honored to have my photos included with these people. Although it is not a large exhibition, there is a lot of talent on display.
Because it is Ukraine, where they likes them some certificates (and there is nothing wrong with that! I hope to start my own collection), we each were called up to receive a certificate, along with a DVD of all the photos in the exhibit. Then came what I believe was the best part – the opened up the champagne! And even better, they also had chocolate! Well, at that point my day was made. So I began to wander around and look at the different photos. I tend to be a bit shy at these events because of my lack of confidence in holding an extended conversation with anyone. So I was on my own, looking at the photos.
Well, the organizer did not want that to happen, so he started to introduce me to people, and then someone from the local television channel came and asked me if she could interview me. I demurred – I mean, again, language. I am really trying to speak only Russian now (not Ukrainian) since that is what is spoken here. But she persisted – perhaps because I am the only American who has photos in the exhibition, perhaps because she was interviewing all of the artists involved (I hestitate to call myself that). So…I did an interview. And I stumbled. A lot. I seriously hope she did not show said interview, but if she did, it was at a time when I was not near the television (last night).
I was pleased at how readily the other photographers accepted me into their group, and considered me as part of this group. They invited me to a second exhibit, then on to someone’s house (dacha, as it turns out) for dinner last night. Well, as I am always up for an opportunity to integrate further into the community, of course I accepted the invite. In doing so, I realized that the one person who spoke English “the best” there still had a rather limited capability – basically, I was on my own, with no safety net of someone to translate for me.
So we went to the second exhibit, had a bit more champagne, then off we went to the dacha, where we had a real Ukrainian dinner, and I amused everyone by not eating salo and by making a kir royale (NOW I finally remember the name of it and last night I could not for the life of me). Sure, I did not understand much of what was being said, but I don’t remember the last time I was so relaxed in the company of people I don’t know, and laughed so hard. And I had my photo taken, a lot.
I was thinking of how nice it was that these people just accepted me, invited me along, and now consider me part of this group. They just accepted me, flat out, right away. I hope to see them more, as not only are they talented and wonderful people, but they offered me an opportunity to really push myself in terms of my language. I have to admit, it is so much easier to speak English with people, especially since so many people here can speak English and WANT to do so. But of late, I have been more motivated to learn, and an evening like I had last night provides me with a lot of motivation.
Below are the two photos that are part of the exhibition. If anyone would like to come to Kirovograd, Ukraine to see it, you are welcome!