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Prints for Sale! Prints to be Redeemed!

25 May

Once again thank you so much for your support with our project.  We know it’s been a while.  Since we last talked, so much has happened.  Christine and Tree both graduated from college and thinking life would get easier after that happened.. we were both proved quite wrong.  Christine has since moved to Chicago and recently smuggled herself into the Middle East to complete a documentary series about nomads.  Tree landed himself a dream job working as a bush pilot in Alaska, traveling across the great unknowns of The North.  Needless to say, neither one of us are good at being “normal”…

 

We are committed to completing this project, though!  Tree has been working with many talented translators to decipher the footage.. a major step to completing the editing process.  However, as the film may be a while before it is finished, we want to get on with the rewards to all those who donated on Kickstarter!  First off on the list, is making sure that you get the prints awarded to all our wonderful backers.  If you donated $35+ dollars (with the exception of the $250 donation) you get a print! Please download the following PDF full of twenty different images you can choose from! (see bottom of the page) So many options!  Pick out your favorite and send the print name-number to info [at] christinearmbruster.com and she will do the rest.  You like two and don’t know what to choose?  Get both!  We will be selling unmatted images for extra money, to help pay these translators we are using just a little bit more.
One of the many prints for sale or to be redeemed.  Image by Christine Armbruster

One of the many prints for sale or to be redeemed. Image by Christine Armbruster

 

Extra print charges:

 

16×20–$100

 

11×14–$50

 

8×10–$25

 

5×7–$20

 

All prices include shipping to U.S.

 

Want two images, but only bought one Kickstarter credit? Buy an extra print for just a little bit more! Image by Tree Gore

Want two images, but only bought one Kickstarter credit? Buy an extra print for just a little bit more! Image by Tree Gore

 

Pick out your images, and if you have any questions, feel free to send an e-mail to info [at] christinearmbruster.com

 

Download the print catalogue here! (PDF)

The UVU Review

14 Sep

Screen shot of UVU's website where you can read the article.

 

Yesterday an article ran in the UVU Review, Utah Valley University’s newspaper about our project.  It’s a great little article, so if you have a moment, check it out on UVU’s website.

Minor note, however, the show at Juice ‘n Java will not be up until next month, despite what the article says.  So don’t go there quite yet looking for work, but we’ll be sure to post more on that later.

Also, our project’s funding officially ended last night, raising us $7,512!  Thank you all who donated.  If you missed it, there will be plenty of opportunities in the near future to buy prints, books, and DVDs as they are released, so just hang tight for a while.

Funding Victory

12 Sep

We did it!  We successfully met our fundraising goal of $7,000 and we still have another day to go.  Thank you all so much for the contributions, support, and spreading the word for us.  We both thank you so very very much.

Kickstarter's list of projects ending soon. Ours included, recently being 100% funded.

One week, $539 to go

6 Sep

Click on the photo to get to the fundraiser page to donate and watch our promo video if you haven't already.

As many of you know, we have been doing a massive fundraiser for the post-production of our project.  This includes color correction, professional sound mixing, the first run of DVDs, prints for a photography exhibit, and many more things.  Not to mention paying for all the wonderful incentives donors receive.  Point being, there are expenses we have coming up and this fundraiser is the only way we can afford it.  The more money we raise, the more we can put into the project and the better it will be.  Thank you to all those who have helped us up to this point, and thank you to all those that will be helping us in the future.  We are so close!  We are 92% funded, and would love all the support we can get.  So, if you have a moment and a few extra dollars, we would love for you to be a part of our project.  Just seven more days till the fundraiser is over.  So, go check it out, watch our promo video (if you haven’t already) and help us out!

A week apart and a week to go

12 Aug

Children capturing jellyfish in a fjord just outside of Stavanger, Norway on what was said to probably be the hottest day they will have all year.

 

Summer always seems to slip past much faster than you can ever plan for.  There is always the relaxing beginning, gradually building up while simultaneously slowing down as the summer progresses on to the dog days.  The hot days filled with nothing.  No plans, no hope for the summer to ever end.  The days where you just wander to kill the time.  They always come close to the end, only to be shaken out of you by a whirlwind of final camping trips and last-minute road trips.  Making up for the things you didn’t do earlier like you said you had wanted to.  The big cramming of everything into the last few weeks of summer.  And then, before you know it, summer has once again slipped past you.  Both inching on and flying past with that magic that only time can seem to master.

 

 

A sailboat slipping into dock past the streets in Old Stavanger.

 

Somehow we only have one week left.  Six days to be exact.  Somehow my three-month mark was yesterday and time once again slipped me by, leaving me on the down slide to going back to the States.

The last week was where the dog days ended and the final push to the end began.  Hoping on a plane to Norway for a week and Tree going to Ufa, we reconvened in Moscow to take a full speed, four hours a day, Russian course starting the morning we flew in.  Since then we have spent our days learning Russian grammar and spending more hours than we had ever wanted commuting from one side of Moscow to the other, relearning the metro routes.

 

 

 

The time I spent in Stavanger was filled with hiking through Baltic mountains, riding bikes from one island to another, and cooking elaborate meals based on whatever the fish market was selling that day.  All leading to a beautiful, yet short trip, with a few days of running off docks into fresh fjord water to heal my shingles.  (Which, for all of you whom I scared, I am all better, so no need to worry about me anymore.)  Spending a few days with an old roommate and her husband, it was that end of summer cram of squeezing in each hike and adventure that was missed.  It was glorious and refreshing, preparing me for the real final cram.  The last week and a half of the project.

Chelsea, trail blazing up a mountain in our vain attempt to the top. Which we didn't realize ended in the sheer cliffs that we couldn't climb to finish our adventure.

View of a fjord from nearly the top of Preikestolen.

Shelling shrimp for dinner.

 

Stavanger is not a small town.  It does not have one industry.  And is not in Russia.  However, due to the stress of leaving and the major part it played in this last months decision, I’m going to post photos anyways.  And Tree will post about his week of roaming around Bashkortostan and the various adventures he had there and all along the way back up to Moscow.  We will soon take off for St. Petersburg region for one last final adventure before buckling down and starting the post-production of our project and our last semester of college.  Six days to complete all those plans we had made at the beginning of the summer, lost in those dog days.

Christine, by a favorite piece of graffiti in the industrial district of Stavanger.

Kamskiye Polyany [Камские Поляны]: the full story

6 Aug

Sometimes it takes a little while to get our thoughts together on some of these towns we have visited.  This can be because of the events that happened, what we saw, or even just the whirlwind state that we experienced everything.  I feel that if any of these towns we have been to that were whirlwind trips, Kamskiye Polyany was one for sure.  I think we did more in the three days we spent there than the whole trip combined.  So, sometimes I exaggerate, but between bee keepers, an amusement park, a zoo, abandoned casinos, a night club, banyas, and an abandoned nuclear reactor, with 10 minute swim trips sprinkled in between each event, it adds up to be a lot really fast.  A lot to experience, a lot to need a breather after, and a lot to sort through and decide which are the best details to blog about.  So, nearly two weeks later: Kamskiye Polyany.

Visiting beehives at dusk just outside of Kamskiye Polyany.

As previously mentioned, we rolled into Kamskiye Polyany by bus one hot afternoon to find a city without an industry.  When asking for a cafe to grab a bit to eat and find someone to interview, a man from the region insisted on showing us where center was and we could find a cafe, resulting in a grim tour of the town.  We walked for a while, asking everybody where we could find a place to eat, only getting laughs and leads to cafes that used to be open, but since have been shut down.  The whole feeling of the area was heavy, heightened by the heat, our heavy bags, and the sound of fighting in nearby apartments.  Eventually we gave up our search and found an indoor market where we bought a few items to make sandwiches and sat at a booth in the nearly empty, open air market.  It seemed as if it would be the most difficult of all towns after that first hour there.  While packing up our lunch and setting off to find a vendor to talk to us, a friendly, open woman by the name of Zofia approached us, willing to interview.  Talking to us for a while she introduced us to others who worked with her, extended family that eventually became the people we stayed with for two nights and the bee keeper that we filmed.  The lovely Tatar family that let us into their homes and showed us Tatar culture, food, and even taught us a few words in Tatar.

 

A man we had met, playing the garmonica for us to record for some possible soundtrack music outside of his home. The garmonica is a classic Tatar instrument which he plays traditional songs at weddings in addition to his construction work.

Side note: Tatar is an entirely different culture within Russia.  Turkic by descent, and numbering about 5 1/2 million in Russia.  They have their own culture, a language, religion, and identify themselves separately.  The majority live in Tatarstan, the region in which Kazan, and Kamskiye Polyany, lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On top of the nuclear reactor, midday.

Kamskiye Polyany is a very interesting story.  Originally built up from a small settlement to be a sister city of Chernobyl, Russia built this town for 140,000 in the 80s.  It looks as if it were built to be a prize city, with the nice buildings and the big parks.  Made to be a nice, beautiful city around a nuclear reactor.  And then the meltdown at Chernobyl happened.  Eventually halting the building of the reactor, leaving roughly 35,000 without jobs and a skeleton of a nuclear reactor.  Many left, some traded apartments with their grandparents who were just living off pensions and got jobs where their grandparents lived.  However, roughly 15,000 stayed whether by their own choices or lack of options.  Trying to come up with a new economy, casinos were built a few years ago, only to be shut down by the government.  Now, still no economy exists, although there is talk of a tourist site to be built on the Kama River.

Our first night, we were set to sleep in an abandoned casino.  We scoped out the casinos, only to find that they were much heavily guarded than we had been told, making access not an option.  We stumbled across a new handful of friends around one of the casinos turned night club, thanks to the young business man, Slavik.  He has the only night club in the area, often bringing people in from the entire region for some of the events he holds.  Besides his club, he showed us to the local amusement park, complete with a small zoo.  That night we joined him at his club and he allowed us to sleep there, not quite as intense as running around old slot machines all night and crashing in an old hotel room, but close enough to count.

 

The following days were spent conducting interviews, meeting people Zofia and her family set us up with, and swimming to combat the heat, and exploring the empty nuclear reactor.

 

Slavik and some of his friends at the local river beach on a hot afternoon.

 

Tree running into a secret swimming spot after a car tour of views of the city and the Kama river in the summer's heat.

Yanina learning how to cut grass by Nicholi out in the field to feed his rabbits.

 

Christine in the middle of a skeleton of a nuclear reactor, taken by Tree while climbing the cement framing.

Being in a town with more buildings than people is an interesting phenomenon.  The monitoring of large buildings is nonexistent, as the owners of the buildings are no longer around (if there are even owners).  Allowing us to wander for hours without being bothered or even seen by anyone.  Walking through streets, we were told of buildings that only had four apartments occupied.  It’s a strange feeling.  We spent most of our time, however, “outside of town”, in the homes that are across the main road from center.  These were all full.  Large gardens bursting with summer harvest and friendly people willing to let you into their lives and tell you everything they know.  Starting off as a rather depressing experience, by the end of our time there we had seen such a positive side that it was almost as if we had been to two completely different towns.  Despite some of the hardest times we have seen yet, the people still managed to be positive and have hope for the future.  Something we had been looking to capture.  Naturally you can’t ignore all the bad and only show the good, but if you only want to see only bad, you might as well watch the evening news.  And that’s why we wanted to focus on not just economy and crisis, but lives and people.  Because, on the surface things can seem really bad, but once you get into it, you realize that things are still good.  Or maybe I’m just a humanist.

Some publicity and other news

2 Aug


Oh, hello front page.

Landing a spot on The Daily Universe’s front page (BYU’s paper), we got ourselves a little bit of publicity to get the week started.  If you are around BYU, go pick one up just about anywhere around campus.  Or, you can pretend to pick one up and get a free PDF of the paper, or just look and read it on-line.

Home page of The Daily Universe, http://newsnet.byu.edu/

 

 

In other news, decisions have been made and revamped for us.

I feel like the last three months have been a whirlwind of emotions, travel, and adventure.  These last 36 hours have been no exception.  Sitting in a cafe in Kazan, we were at a stopping point with no where to go, or, as Tree had put it, everywhere to go.  The decided plan was for me to go to Ukraine, Tree to go to his Ufa.  Train tickets could not be booked on-line for some reason and things were not settling right with my travels.  I went to the bathroom, feeling extremely ill, when I realized that extreme pain I was feeling in my ribs all night and morning had turned into a terrible rash and swelling.  Immediately I rethought my plans, found a cheap flight for Norway and bought the ticket.  Two hours later I was on a train to Moscow, remembering all the signs of breast cancer taught in health class, and realizing I had all of them.  After a sleepless night, I got into Moscow, did more research, and still had all the signs and a plane ticket to Norway in a matter of hours.  After lining up doctors in Norway, I got on a bus to the airport, and a phone call saying that the credit card would not work and so my ticket was cancelled.  Not exactly sure what to do about clearing my visa now, I found the nearest foreign doctors office and got into an appointment.

There are some diseases that have a prime time frame.  If not caught within so many hours, they can be a million times worse than before.  Diseases that had I gone to Ukraine straight away, could have gotten extremely bad.  Had I waited another day until in Norway, could have still been worse.  Shingles is one of them.  Which I believe is what the doctor diagnosed me with.  When I told her I honestly thought I had cancer her response was “Oh, yeah.  I never thought about that, but they do look exactly alike.  I could see where that came from.”   A handful of shots later (all at once too, a skill I believe only Russian women hold) and some prescriptions, and I am ready to go. My only explanation is my young age of chicken pox (2 months old) and recent exposure to someone with them.  Those two are a perfect combination for shingles.  This is, assuming that shingles is what the doctor was trying to have translated to me.

So I am now ready to go.  I even got my credit card company to clear a plane ticket for tomorrow.  So, as long as everything goes as planned, that’s the update!  No cancer, a plane ticket, and a short break to take care of some business in order to finish up the last two weeks with a bang.

To Kazan For Free, Please

27 Jul

Our signs "To Kazan for free, please"

 

Just in case you were curious, this is sometimes how we travel and how we got to Kazan from Kamskiye Polyany yesterday.

Standing in center of town, we made signs and waited for someone who was willing to give us a free ride back to Kazan.  We got many honks and waves from people we had met as well as new humored friends.  We even had someone pull over with a trunk full of half horse heads and say if he didn’t have to go feed some lions he would help us.  After about thirty minutes, we had a nice man pull over in his Lada and offer us a ride, as he was going to Kazan himself.   He drove for a while, telling us about the various rivers we passed and trucks that he worked with, when the heat of the car and the blueness of the rivers became unbearable.  Pulling off the road he found a sandy bank and drove up, stripping down to his underwear and heading towards the water and ordering us to follow suit.  Sometimes we are lucky, other times we are really lucky, but more often than not, you just really need to pull over and go for a quick swim.

Metallurgist Day (День Металлурга)

23 Jul

If I could craft the ideal scene in our film it would involve everybody who we have filmed throughout our time here, all cooking and enjoying a meal. It would be the scene in which everybody and everything comes together. Where they just all sit back and enjoy one anothers company and for those few hours, everything is perfect. Realistically, this could never happen. These handfuls of people live in different parts of the country, few knowing one another, and it would just never happen. If there was a moment, though, where it got close, it was Metallurgy Day in Krasnouralsk.

Crowd members cheering for the musicians on the park stage the night before Metallurgy Day.

 

 

Coming in on an afternoon bus and meeting our lovely translator of the weekend, Svetlana, we began to walk to find some food. As we walked through the seemingly new streets of Krasnouralsk, we noticed not only the new fountain (turned on just days before the big holiday) and the newly painted curbs, but also live music coming from a park. In between two buildings there was a small performance. Walking up, we noticed that it was a band we had filmed our previous time in Kranouralsk). As we stood back up to watch, Vasiliy came up to greet us and the band noticed, then called us towards the humble park stage to announce the arrival of their American friends. From there, looking to the crowd, we saw handfuls of familiar faces singing and dancing along to the local music. It was about as close to my ideal scene as I could ever hope for, and Metallurgy Day hadn’t even begun.

 


We began the holiday early the next morning with Vasiliy taking us mushroom hunting: A Russian goal realized as we tromped through the forest looking for the most delicious, non-poisonous mushrooms we could find. To my surprise, it is a lot more hardcore than I had imagined. You need a knife, an extreme amount of bug spray and protective clothing to fend off mosquitoes. Needless to say, this is a new favorite pastime of mine although I’ve yet to do it since.  I could easily write a whole blog post on just this event, but I feel like that would just be too much excitement, as [ending spoiler!] there are fireworks eventually involved.  So to try to not get you too worked up with excitement, I’ll just post a few pictures and let you imagine how great this was.

 

Tree and Vasiliy picking out the best, non-poisonous mushrooms.

 

Our hardcore National Geographic pictures of us with cameras and knives in the forest. So we were only hunting mushrooms, but it was still a hunt and we still got to carry knives.

Upon our arrival back to Krasnouralsk, the Metallurgy celebrations had truly began.  Brief history lesson: Metallurgy Day started as a Soviet celebration of the metal and rock industry that supports the entire Ural region.  It is a celebration of the work they do, and the biggest holiday of the year.  This year was extra special, as it was simultaneously the 80th anniversary of Krasnouralsk being a town.  Howevver, we are under the impression that every year is this big.

The beginning of the parade, bands and marchers going through the newly painted and washed center of Krasnouralsk. Photo by Tree Gore.

The events kicked off with a parade. Between the bands and people marching in the parade, every person in this town of 30,000 was either involved or spectating. Or the city imported people to participate as the streets were full of people. The parade ended at the stadium, along the way passing the rows of shashleek, cotton candy, and carnival games. The evening progressed into concerts of local bands, pop singers from Moscow, dancers, and ended with, nothing less spectacular fireworks and a laser show. It was the biggest celebration I had ever witnessed and a new favorite. Perhaps it is my new favorite because of how fantastic it was, but I am pretty sure it is more because of the sense of community you could just feel as everybody greeted on another with “Happy Holiday”, “С Праздником.”

 

 

A little girl, dressed up and with a wig to celebrate the holiday.

 

A boy selling balloons among smoke from grills and people waiting in line for carnival games, enjoying one another in the meantime.

 

A handful of old and new friends at the stadium waiting for the evening performances to start.

 

Tree, deciding that it would be great to see how many people we could get to dance with us in front of the camera. This may have lasted a couple of hours.

 

And, of course, it is not a celebration without fireworks.

 

Unfortunatly, we will not be visiting Krasnouralsk anymore on this journey. It has been one of our favorites, with us never grudging to visit it once more. As our project begins to see its end within the next month, we feel like we’re only beginning to see the real Russia. With each person we meet, we begin to realize that we are not having typical Russian tourist experiences, or even adventures many who have lived here their whole lives get to have. Yet we feel too like we are just starting to understand life here, of course as we are forced to plan our departure in the next few weeks. Looks like if we want to understand even more, we’ll just have to move here one day.

Lake Baikal

13 Jul

As a child, a revered adult once told me that what I was seeing across the San Francisco Bay was China. I believed it for many years and even have memories of defending my firm belief that had been so sure in my mind to all my well oriented friends. Their claim was that it was San Francisco, mine was China. Currently, while writing this and looking across Lake Baikal, I am the closest to China that I have ever been. The distanced mountains are still not China, but maybe this time China would not be too much of a stretch.

 

Tree and our translator/guide/friend from Irkutsk walking towards Lake Baikal.

 

We made it out to Baikalsk, unfortunately for this trip, what has become our furthest point east..  132 km from Irkutsk and 785 from China. I had anticipated this town to be the worst off of the ones we have visited.  The only stories I had heard of the town were of pollution and a factory that had closed and reopened multiple times within the last twenty years.  But that is just from the one sided, and unfortunately most publicized point of view.

 

There is an on-going battle here in Baikalsk. The paper mill is the main industry, argued to be a major pollutant of the lake and surrounding environment. The battle has been between the factory and environmentalists for more than 40 years. On one side a protection of the lake is demanded, and on the other jobs to support families are demanded. Some scientists say that the lake, being the biggest (and oldest) in the world, can clean up the pollution itself and is not damaged by the factory at all. However, others are saying that the jobs at the factory are the worst paying and most dangerous in the area.  Only those who do not know any better or do not have any other option work there. However, those are jobs for an entire community.  As a supplemental industry, tourism is currently in the process of being developed.  Ski resorts have opened and promotions of the lake are made to help bring in some extra money.  Nearly everyone we met tried to help us with accommodation or various other aspects of tourism.  One of which ended up being on of the most important and dearest friends we have made this trip.  

Our first night in Baikalsk, we went on a little adventure to see the lake.  We ran into a group of children playing a game involving a cart, a giant mud puddle, and some bottles.  The task was to fill the bottles, make it across the imagined lake, and then pour water from the muddy pit to create a waterfall and fill a hole about 15 meters away.  We played with them for a bit, photographing them as they completed their mission.

 

The big crossing. Kids near the lake trying to get across a much smaller and muddier lake on a cart.

 

Rough waters. Sometimes it is hard to get across a big mud pit, especially when you have precious, water-filled containers.

 

Victory. A boy shortly after accomplishing the task of dumping water into a pit for another victory in their neighborhood game.

 

After playing for a while, the kids packed up to go home, this boy in particular kept showing off how he could skid on his bike. Photo by Tree Gore.

Later in the evening we ran into another group of kids.  We were at a kiosk looking for a map of the small town, to the amusement of the giggly woman working.  The kids approached us, having seen foreigners with cameras.  They insisted on photographs being made and teaching us how to play hand games such as rock/paper/scissors.  The great thing about small towns is, well, how small they are.  Meeting these kids on the street, we became friends with them not just for the 10 minutes we talked to them, but each time we ran into them for the rest of trip.  Many times they would stop us to say hello or shout our names and wave from bicycles across the street.  That is one reason why I think small towns are quite wonderful.  It is easy to get to know everyone there, and once you do make friend with them, you actually see them again.  It makes maintaining friendships a lot easier.

 

Neighborhood friends hanging out around a kiosk one evening in Baikalsk. We ended up being good friends with the one on the left, as we seemed to see him everywhere while there. Photo by Tree Gore.

 

Trying to show us how to play various hand games such as a version of rock/paper/scissors. Photo by Tree Gore.

 

Later on, one of us will write something of a bit more substance regarding the handful of interviews and events that took place in Baikalsk.  In the meantime, I’m going to end here, leaving you to think that all we did in Baikalsk was play with kids in the streets.