Monday, September 10, 2012

Date Night

There were so many things going on this weekend- Friday kicked off with a huge village ярмарка (fair) in Freedom Square and a nearby языковая ярмарка (language fair) representing about 10 of the city's language schools. On Saturday D and I spent the day apart; technology and psychology classes for him, a picnic and watching friends paraglide for me. On Sunday we did our big weekly shopping endeavor- buy food at the outdoor market and grocery store, lug it home (uphill!) by foot. I picked up this beautiful bouquet at the market and almost had to leave it trapped in a cubby at the grocery store. While shopping, the key to the cubby detached and got lost somewhere in the store. I wasn't sure if we should approach the security guys about this- surely they'd charge us a fine for losing the key, and the flowers only cost 10 grivna. We ended up telling them what happened. They just shrugged and without a word slowly meandered over to the cubbies and popped the lock. No штраф (fine)!
my flowers, safely at home!
Then we pulled out our nice clothes and got dressed up for one of the few 100% American double dates we've gone on here. I guess we're all truly grown-ups now, because everyone willingly agreed to go to the ballet :p I'd never been to a performance in Kharkov before, despite the many Skyped entreaties of my parents. The Texan husband had picked up tickets for One Thousand and One Nights and we all met on the steps of the mighty Kharkov State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater.

There's always something going on in front of the theater- skateboarding, singing, fire dancing.
The Texans had just been to the theater to watch Swan Lake. Now, three days later, the dancers had already gone on to preform 1001 Nights. In another 5 days it'll be Don Quixote. Either they have a gigantic company of dancers or they learn the moves very, very quickly! However they do it is apparently sustainable; this is the theater's 137th season.

Overall I'm not a die-hard ballet fan, so here's what I'll say: We sat in the front row. Tickets were 60 grivna each. Programs were available for an additional 3 grivna. The first half contained a lot of simulated/actual near nudity. Perhaps because of this, about two dozen young soldiers in uniform were sitting together in the audience :p The costumes became more modest and brilliantly colored in the second part. I enjoyed the show. The orchestra played beautifully and during some of the performance a choir added their notes to the soundtrack.

I was surprised to see people taking pictures of the show. Back home cameras are usually prohibited. I was even more surprised to see them doing it with flash on during the performance!

After the show ended, everyone clapped enthusiastically. Eager little children and awkward under-dressed adults came onto the stage to present flowers to the ballerinas. Then it became a standing ovation and the clapping merged from many individual hands into two giant hands, clapping in unison. It was a little freaky; I had to look around to make sure the audience hadn't suddenly been assimilated by the Borg.
The theater quickly emptying out after the ovation
As imposing as the exterior is, the lobby is elegant and small.
 We wandered out of the theater, into the cool night, and wound up at Tanuki. Tanuki (Тануки) is across the street from the theater. With a giant Japanese sign and burly costumed men usually standing outside the door, it's hard to miss! They say it's one of the best sushi restaurants in town... and priced to match. I had long anticipated the day that we would find ourselves here!!

Tanuki was really cool. The doorstaff rang a gong as we walked in. A roaming waiter poured almost complimentary (2 kopecks?) tea from a large golden teapot with an incredibly long spout. English menus are available. Service was fast. The food? AMAZING. No one ordered sushi- instead there were noodles, spring rolls, soup, and fried tofu. The fried tofu came with an insanely delicious ginger honey sauce. Yummmmmmm..... the kitchen definitely isn't afraid to go the extra mile and experiment with flavors. I'm dreaming of the day that we'll visit this place again. They even tuck pieces of 'Tanuki' chewing gum in with the bill. And if you're worried that diners here are neglecting more traditional Ukrainian cuisine, don't worry- there are several varieties of bacon-wrapped sushi!

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