8 мая 2012 г.

Epic Win!

The man in black is Matt Mozingo, probably the all-time favorite leader of Vinnytsia's largest English Club. I'm sincerely grateful to Oleg Yarmak, my former schoolmate, for reminding me of the Club in early spring 2011 and therefore bringing me back into the community — otherwise I'd totally miss out on that welcoming and inspiring world, that "parallel reality", which was (and still is!) only one step away from each inhabitant or guest of my home city...

Today I'm going to share a piece on my earlier adventures, written for a writing contest organized by Matt. Well, I'd even say "the writing contest", since as far as I know it was the one and only endeavor of that kind (club members themselves organized something similar later, but on a smaller scale). The task was to describe one's ideal travelling experience, either an imaginary project or something that has actually happened. And yes, I was among the 2 absolute winners and got a lasting practical present from the US! According to Matt, some parts of my text are unquestionably funny :)

Enough with intros, let's take a look at the text itself!

or My Ideal Travelling Experience

Not long ago at one of our English club’s meetings Matt mentioned, how getting into troubles while travelling can considerably improve a vacation. Most of us readily agreed with this notion, and came up with a dozen of benefits one can get from an unexpected failure: challenge, adventure, finding oneself in unusual surroundings, meeting unexpectedly kind people, and above all, making the best memories. I hope this story will take it to a whole new level. Yes, finding your way out of your own problem can be quite entertaining; but partaking in someone else’s failure can at times become your Ideal Travelling Experience.

The thing took place in summer 2009. The Polish NGO I worked for granted me a vacation. Among other plans, I contemplated visiting my motherland. A short internet search drew my attention to Svirzh 2009, a new open-air festival. Its impressive program, gleaming with well-known names, left me no choice than to go there. In order to spend less money and have more fun, I applied as a volunteer and made online friends with Kate, the Head Volunteer Manager of the festival. At the same time I learned about some Polish festivals, which had failed to provide a huge part of their declared event schedules (keep in mind that the devastating 2008 crisis was still very tangible). Shame on them, I thought, no such thing could ever happen at a Ukrainian festival. Now perhaps you've guessed where I'm heading with this…

Since no one was coming from Vinnytsia to bring my tent, I arranged with Kate that I’d sleep in hers; thus, I unwittingly landed in the best place to witness all the backstage life of the festival in real-time. At the volunteer’s sector, where the tent was set up, I met a group of volunteers who had come there 1 or 2 days before to help organize the campsite. Those brave and energetic people, most of them men, proudly referred to themselves as the Construction Brigade. Amusingly, they where the only volunteers who actually completed their task at that festival.

The first night was marvelous. Having got tired of walking around the huge festival’s territory and shouting cheerful nonsense, amazed by the scope of the forthcoming event, many of us decided to sleep outside the tents, chatting and watching the solemn star-filled sky.

The next morning all the volunteers got T-shirts and caps with the festival’s logo and started to work. Everyone had a different task: selling tickets, meeting and accommodating the performers, assisting in putting up tents, etc. As for me, I was helping to do sound checks at one of the numerous musical stages. The work wasn’t difficult; I even managed to get a brake and, among other things, spent some time near the Literature Stage, where – for the first time in my life – I was able to meet Anna Russ (the famous Russian woman poet) and some well-known Ukrainians. The great evening concert further increased my enjoyment. A rumor came about that the next day there would be no concerts, ‘cause the organizers were out of money. But I didn’t believe that.

The next day the rumors proved true. Performers and security guards were leaving (most of them not paid enough), the stages were dismantled. They still sold tickets, but for one day only. Volcanoes of hate speech were exploding here and there – most of them from people who had bought tickets for the entire festival.

Many of them wanted to talk to Armine, the head organizer of the whole thing, but she was rather
speechless; some of the active members of the Construction Brigade volunteered to help the organizers to keep at least some order and safety. There were no sound checks anymore, so I was free to visit the Literature Stage, explore the Svirzh castle and do anything I wanted.
The head organizer managed to talk some performers into playing for free, and paid the partners to leave one of the stages for one more day. So in the evening there was a sort of improvised concert. Since almost all the electricity generators were already taken away, the concert took place almost in complete darkness. Between the songs some desperate presenter (leader of some band, I suppose) was talking to people with fake enthusiasm. When that theatre of the absurd was still on, some creative minds came up with an effigy representing the festival’s organizers, and – after some ritual procession with dances and torches – burned it.

In the morning another set of presents was waiting for me: someone brought to our tent several boxes of Tshirts, caps, festival CDs and some other trifles of that kind. Each remaining volunteer was encouraged to take several ones, and so I did. In addition, there was a batch of preprinted “Agreements with volunteers”, which we decided to use for kindling the firewood. As the majority of people were leaving, I took a notebook with my poems and went to see, what was going on at the Literature Stage. Of course, there were no actual stage anymore, but the poets didn’t seem to need it in the first place. Luckily, some interesting people were still present, so we had poetic readings and even a slam contest. And – all of a sudden – I won it. The audience liked my humor and a lot of people donated something to reward me. Thus, beside some cash, my “prize” included several candies, apples, condoms, batteries, a bracelet, a lip balm tube, and even half a glass of beer.
Someone joked that I was one of the few people who actually got paid at the festival. The money was immediately spent to buy a funny T-shirt – the Ukrainian inscription on it read “Learn our language, bastards”.
Since I didn’t drink alcohol, the beer was carefully brought to the remnant of the Construction Brigade. I was happy as a sandboy. I won many more contests later in Poland, but am still thankful for that first victory.

I decided not to go home that day, and joined a group of volunteers going to swim in the local lake.
Interestingly, one of them came from Vinnytsia and was a student of the faculty I’d graduated from. Later in the evening, when we collected and inspected the foodstuffs we had, she suddenly transformed into an experienced chef and cooked the most delicious vegetarian dinner I tasted in half a year. The smell was so appetizing that we made quite a lot of new friends that night :) In the background there was another effigy burning of the organizers. Since Kate left in the morning, I had no tent to sleep-in, but a certain well-wisher quickly found me another one.

The camp was woken up by a thunderstorm early in the morning. I packed all my stuff and helped to pack the tent I slept in. Everyone was leaving the camp in haste, often loosing or forgetting things. Since I was one of the last people to leave, I got a bunch of new knives, spoons, forks and a bucket…

P. S. In 2010 the organizers were planning the festival once again, in a different location closer to Kyiv. But this time they failed even to begin it :)
© Dima Kushnir, 2011

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