Hello once again from
Vinnitsa, Ukraine!

I know you all have been anxiously anticipating this email to find out whether I survived the winter or not. Not only do you get an email, but also some pictures to prove it. Ok so the winter wasnít really that bad. They say that this was a very abnormally warm winter. The pictures of winter are available for your viewing pleasure right here on my site!


I think Iíll start where I stopped with the last email. Christmas and New Years were full of excitement. My family celebrated Christmas on December 25th, like any other American family. We opened presents in the morning, had a big meal, and then watched movies the rest of the day. Sound pretty normal? Ukrainianís, as I mentioned before, celebrate New Years as their big holiday instead of Christmas. They set up and decorate New Years trees and give presents on New Years. December 28 was the big kick off in Vinnitsa. Most of Ukraine closes down for about a week and a half for the holidays. That evening they had a concert in the center of town. During the concert, both local artists and artists from Russia performed many styles of music. There was a classical singer singing to tracks, a gypsy band, a Russian Rock band, a Russian pop star, and several other performers. The evening concluded with the ceremonial lighting of the Townís New Years tree and a fireworks display.

Next came New Years Eve. I celebrated New Years 7 hours before the East Coast at our American friendsí house. We played games, ate food, and watched the President of Ukraine address the nation. I donít know what he said, but everyone was very interested in what he had to say. At Midnight, I walked outside to hear and hopefully see the fireworks that were going off somewhere in the city. However, to my surprise, it felt more like a war zone than a fire works display. I wasnít able to see the town fireworks, but fireworks were exploding at nearly every house in our neighborhood. The fireworks continued, continued and continued. It felt like what I imagine a war to feel like except without the fear. Explosions coming from everywhere, never being able to predict where the next explosion will come from. I stood outside for 30 min. and listened and watched until they started to explode less frequently. I went back inside and played more games. Around 2:30 am, I walked home still listening to fireworks coming from around the neighborhood.

Winter was cold, but we had only a little snow compared to normal. The temperature hung around 0 degrees F many days. We had snow on the ground for awhile, but never more than a foot. Actually, it sounds like Pennsylvania had more snow, than this supposedly 7-months of winter Country. We did make an igloo big enough in which 4 people could sit. The river was frozen most of the winter, so I had the chance to walk more than a mile down the river. I took pictures, so check them out. During my walk, I saw people ice fishing, ice skating, and playing hockey. Most interestingly, though was a motorcycle with 2 people on it cruising down the river pulling 2 sleds behind it with people on them. The river is not all fun and games though. Every year people lose their lives on it because they pay no heed to the melting ice. Cutting across the river that runs through the middle of the city can save a lot of time, but unfortunately is very dangerous when it is warm. Ice fishers also continue to walk on the ice long after they should. My walk down the river was safe. At least, after I saw the motorcycle on the ice, I was fairly certain of that.

The remainder of the winter mostly involved me staying inside and working in the studio. Some weeks, I only went outside once or twice. My entire world consisted of walking from the basement where I sleep, to the 3rd floor where the studio is located.

I visited 2 places of interest since my last email. First was a studio in Kiev, and second was a Messianic Jewish concert/program here in Vinnitsa. The studio in Kiev is said to be the largest orchestral recording room in Europe. I donít know if that is true or not, but it was quite an impressive room. I put some pictures of it on my Site. Let me know if you have seen a bigger recording room;). The room has not seen much use since Ukraineís Independence. The room has a reverb time of around 2.5 seconds, and was used to make Orchestral recordings with all ambience recorded directly from the room. Although still in use as a practice room, it is seldom used for recording. Their mic collection remains, but most of their analog gear is warn out. Our interest was in bringing in a Protools rig, and using the Ukrainian Orchestra to play strings or whatever else the project might require. The facility also has a much smaller room, but still with 1.2 seconds of reverb time. The control room for that room is mostly up-to-date and functioning with a 16-track analog tape machine. The engineer we met with was working at the studio over 10 years ago when the studio was in use regularly. However, now he finds most of his work in other countries. For all those of you in the industry, the cost of studio time for this enormous room is $200 for a 4 hours session, and I think that includes an engineer.

The Jewish concert wasnít as impressive, but very entertaining. The event was to celebrate the life of Esther. The program, of course, was in Russian, but I enjoyed it just the same. They had music, dance, and a drama about Estherís life. Surprisingly, the room was packed with around 500 people. Somehow, we were saved seats in the front, and we happened to arrive after the place was full. So we as the only Americans there, walked down to the front, across the front, and then to our seats. I am now quite accustomed to walking around in Ukraine as an American, however, it was a little weird that the place was packed, and we walked in and sat down in our reserved seats. Unlike the US, Ukraine is not diverse. Very few people come to live in Ukraine, and it is hard for Ukrainianís to leave. The last sign written in English, I saw in the Airport in Kiev, and finding someone who speaks English is almost like finding a needle in a haystack, so a tourist would have to be very adventurous to Visit Ukraine if they donít know Russian.

Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday cards. It was a wonderful day! My birthday was normal until I went shoe shopping with Jon and one of his sons. We stopped a few places for shoes, but didnít find any. To my surprise we walked into a shoe store and 25 people I know were all standing there. Ok! Ok! It wasnít a shoe store, but how should I knowÖ I canít read. The evening was fantastic, with all the food prepared in Ukrainian ways. It is the Ukrainianís style to fill every available inch on the table with dishes of food. I tried one of everything, and even had some seconds!

It is now spring and the grass is growing again! The valley is full of fires as Ukrainianís burn whatever they find as they clean up their properties. They are busy planting their gardens and starting new construction projects. In the city, they use plain dirt to help with traction in the winter, so the entire city needs washed from head to toe in the spring. On windy days it is very dusty because of all the dry dirt covering the sidewalks and streets. The weather has been nice. It is not t-shirts and shorts weather yet, but I did go out without a wearing jacket several days.

The Passion of the Christ came out on DVD in Vinnitsa about 3 weeks ago. Ukraine definitely lives up to its reputation as being the Pirate Capitol of the world. The DVD came with a guy in the first scene walking in front of the screen to get to his seat in the theater. The movie does end abruptly with Christís resurrection, but without credits on the end we were left wondering if it had indeed ended. We had to call someone in the US to find out if we had seen the entire movie. In this country, it is hard to find movies, music, and software that are not pirated copies. Almost any software CD is available for about $3. The biggest copyright infringement I have found so far is a $4 CD with over $3000 of software on it. That reminds me of when I saw that CD. We were in Kiev at the Bazaar, and the guy manning the DVD booth we were at, got a call on his cell phone. It was someone tipping him off that some police were coming to the bazaar. He immediately closed his booth, as did maybe a quarter of the merchants at the bazaar. So much for finding Movies.

Working in the Studio has been going well! Pasha, the guy that I teach, continues to learn both in the studio and learn English! Language is still a barrier between us, even though we have become good friends. He wonít be able to learn everything about recording while I am here, but he should have a good foundation by the time I leave. We recently completed a Pan Flute project for a guy that was originally from Bolivia. He has lived in Ukraine for over ten years, and travels to Sweden every summer to perform. I found out that I remember more Spanish words from High School, than I know in Russian. We recorded him playing his pan flute to arrangements of Hymns, most of which I knew. The current project we are working on is with the Jewish band that played at the concert that I talked about previously. Their songs are in Hebrew and Russian.

Here is your Russian Language lesson for the week. Chicki Picki and Yolki Palki could possibly be the first 2 Russian words you will learn. I do not know how they are spelled, but I tried to write the words in English according to how they sound. Chicki Picki means everything is fine and dandy. Yolki Palki literally translates to mean ĎChristmas tree sticks.í It is used as an exclamation of frustration. Maybe even like fiddlesticks, except with more frustration. For example, you are working on a computer for an hour, the system crashes and you lost all your work, then you should use the word Yolki Palki. Emphatically.

I guess the only thing that I havenít written in this letter isÖ when will I return home?Ö The middle of July is my best guess. I donít know what my plans are, but that is my plan. J

Thanks for all your prayers and support while I am here. So far it has been a wonderful year!
I miss you all, but Iíll be back before you know it!
Happy Easter,

Darrell :)


Be sure to check out my Web Site throughout the spring for more frequent picture updates.