Monday, April 27, 2009

Thank You for Your Enthusiasm!

I'm packed and ready to head for home after my four months here in Ukraine. As I've made my rounds, saying good-byes and distributing all the museum books I brought and in teaching my last classes, I've been surprised that people have particularly thanked me for my enthusiasm. I think I've always looked a bit startled, because that's such an easy thing for me to bring to my work with museums. A bit more on that later--but this post is to thank someone else for their enthusiasm.

Via a colleague in the US, I made contact with Irina Leonenko before I arrived--and within two days of my arrival she made sure I experienced a Ukrainian Christmas celebration---by taking me to Pirogivo, the outdoor museum, on a very cold crisp January day. And ever since then, it's been a rare day that we haven't gone to a meeting together, emailed, talked by phone or (in my case very slowly) texted.

Many, many people have made my time here an amazing one, but Irina has been a constant. She has translated (and really translated the unsaid parts I didn't get), brainstormed ideas for projects, nudged museum workers into action, made appointments, photographed me doing all kinds of things, been dragged into my roommate's project and became invaluable, made sure I met all kinds of interesting people, made me laugh and laughed at me, shared her passion for her country and her home town of Donetsk, and, over many many cups of coffee and tea, been an enthusiastic partner in all sorts of conversations about museums, Ukraine, and life in general. She was the first Ukrainian I met here, and the last I had tea with tonight before I headed home to finish packing. And all this despite a busy schedule including planning her wedding in May, with guests arriving from all over the world to celebrate with her and Bas.

So Irina, there's no way I could thank you enough for your unending enthusiasm!

Irina photographing at the Chernobyl exhibit opening
Irina at the opening of Damien Hirst's exhibt at the PinchukArtCentre (that's former heavyweight champ and former mayoral candidate Vitali Klitschko being interviewed in the background)
Irina's feet (and the rest of her) at a workshop at the National Art Gallery

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