On Wednesday morning, Mika gave us directions to the "Palace of Hot Cabbage" for the dancers' final performance. The directions basically consisted of "Just walk down Jksjhknzdfls Street for a while, and ask somebody for this theater." Great. It's difficult to ask for directions when you don't speak the language.
But, like always, our International Language of Charades came through and we hesitantly walked into a crowded theater packed with dancers and their teachers/coaches. We weren't sure if we had to pay admission, so we just wandered through the halls until one of our dancers spotted us and dragged us over to sit with their chaperons. I think that they didn't actually expect us to deliver on our promise of attending, because they were ecstatic to see us.
Most of the people in the audience were the dancers themselves, waiting for their turn to compete, and their families. We were definitely the only non-Ukrainians there. Sitting through three hours of dancing is survivable. What almost killed us was the hour-long awards ceremony immediately afterward.
When everybody finally started to leave, our group of dancers excitedly dragged us onto the stage so we could take pictures with them.
After we said goodbye and promised to see them at the hostel before they caught the night train home, the three of us went off to Puzata Hata to recuperate. We stopped by a mini-market on the way home to pick up strawberry ice-cream. In Ukraine, ice-cream does not come in a cardboard box, but in a big plastic tube, like frozen ground beef.
We spent the evening packed into the living room with all the dancers, teaching each other card games and watching Ukraine's soccer team, Dynamo, on tv. They LOVED the game "Spoons," and Mika had to keep hushing us so the neighbors wouldn't complain of the noise. They tried to teach us a game that roughly translated to "Stupid Boy," but they had a really hard time explaining it. They wanted to show us their costumes that they hadn't worn at the recital, so they put them on, just for us. Their chaperons, who speak no English, were just beaming.
On the front row is the hostel owner Mika, me, Camille, and Jessica.
They took photos with us on their camera phones, and as they said goodbye, Olga and Jenya presented us each with a souvenir Lviv magnet. They invited us to visit them in their little town, and we made them promise to let us know if they were ever in Kiev or America. We hugged all the girls on their way out, and then hugged a very squirrely Vlad. The two boys in their group, Vladimir and Ivan, had stayed in the same dorm-room as us, and despite a total lack of language on either side, we had managed to tease them plenty. There is a certain thrill in giving 13-year-old boys a hard time. When he managed to get away from us, Vlad swaggered out the door and without turning around, shouted over his shoulder the only English we ever heard from him: "Goodbye America!"
Miguel and the three of us were the only guests left in the hostel, so Mika gave us a key to the hostel and went home. It was strange, but not uncomfortable, being alone in the hostel. Miguel stayed in the living room until late at night, so the three of us went into the dorm room and shut the door.
Jessica and Camille taught me the art of Deaf Karaoke: You put in earbuds, turn your iPod up until it's so loud that you can't hear your own voice, and then sing along at the top of your lungs. It's called Deaf Karaoke for two reasons:
1) You can't hear anything but the song
2) To the rest of the people in the room who can only hear your singing, not the song itself, you sound like a howling deaf person.
The three of us sat on the top bunk and took turns rupturing each others' ear drums. My deaf rendition of "Come On, Eileen" was so loud and awful that Miguel came in to check on us and give us a hard time for sounding so bad while fully sober:
"I am thinking somebody kill you. You have one glass of vodka and the building fall down! I am thinking you are hiding bottles. Or maybe you take drugs or something?"
Please imagine that in a very thick Spanish accent, with Miguel fully decked out in his Jewish outfit, except with a wife-beater on instead of a shirt.