Vitosha Clean-up

Yesterday I helped clean up Mt. Vitosha. I picked up more than 100 cigarette butts! (That’s a personal record I’ll have you know.)

I also picked up plastic bags, beer bottle lids, bits and pieces of glass bottles, crumpled up aluminum foil, what had been at one point a sweatshirt and tons of unidentifiable pieces of paper.

Why would I spend my Saturday doing this? Well, I volunteered to be a chaperone so that ACS faculty and students could participate in a Bulgaria-wide volunteer day, sponsored in part by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria (“AmCham”). The project we picked to participate in was cleaning-up Mt. Vitosha.

Basically, we chose to devote a Saturday to picking up other people’s garbage. To cleaning up the Nature.

Yep, you read that correctly: the Nature. I know, I know. Grammatically, it’s incorrect to say “the nature” you don’t need the article the because we always speak generally about nature in English. This said my students and widely speaking Bulgarians regularly make this mistake and add the to nature. Making it “the nature” that they are speaking about.  This mistake makes the English teacher in me grimace but yesterday it really did feel like we were cleaning up the Nature. Vitosha was incredibly beautiful. Continue Reading »


I just plowed through the novel/collection of short stories entitled: Cold Snap by Cynthia Morrison Phoel.  I bought it via amazon.com this summer in hard copy–there’s no kindle version available. This said, it’s nice to read a book like this, to smell the paper to turn the pages to feel the weight of the book in your hands to see how much you’ve got left to read.

I wrote about this book the first time in June/July but I didn’t finish reading it until September and I haven’t made time to write a serious post about the book until now. It’s fitting considering winter is around the corner.

First off, this is a great book. Buy a copy of it. Read it. Love it or hate it. But read it.

Second, I can shake the feeling of burr after reading the book and thinking about this post. The book reminds me of my first winter in Sofia three years ago when I lived downtown in an older building without central heat. I spent the whole winter cold. Then in January it got even colder with the natural gas crisis. Thinking about it, I am not sure that I was really warm, warm between the November and March.  In comparison, last winter was a lot better.  And these days my classroom at ACS feels downright balmy.

Three years ago, I didn’t know that I was having a quintessential Bulgarian experience. But that’s how things like this always work. In hindsight, it’s clear at the time however, I was just cold. At the time, I couldn’t imagine that this was an experience that I would latter connect to other than to trade frustrated, humps with my teacher colleagues at the First English Language School.

Anyhow, back to the book, it’s a collection of interrelated short stories set in an imaginary town outside of Sofia.

Cynthia Morrison Phoel was a Peace Corps volunteer during the early years of the program shortly after the country opened up–post communism. From what I’ve read about her, when she was here in Sofia, she was a teacher in Pravetz.  Want to know more about her? There’s a great interview/discussion with Cynthia and Petya from the blog How to Marry a Bulgarian. (It turns out that Cynthia taught Petya English here in Bulgaria. How wonderful is that? The the foreign teacher in me loves it. The world it seems is a very, very small place.)

This said, the world that Cynthia created is stark and drab. Continue Reading »

I just met a twitter follower for tea at Chai House, a Bulgarian who’s been living in the States for the last nine or so years. It was great fun. We talked about Bulgaria and the States, about college, about work, about visas (I’ve got it pretty easy in comparison), the internet, restaurants and food and a range of other things that people talk about but who share the sense of confusion and dislocation of living into different cultures. .

One of the first questions I was asked was about Bulgaria–something to the effect of did I really like it here? Um, yes. Then I went on for a bit about what I like.

This is however actually a hard question to answer. Most of the time, I like Bulgaria. Only thing is when I don’t like it, I really don’t like it.  But I guess frankly, that’s life anywhere.

We joked around about shopska salad. Yeah, I am not even sure that shopska salad jokes are funny but when you’ve eaten as many shopska salads as I have. These things happen. Continue Reading »

Earlier this week, I posted about buying pumpkin jam in Koprivshtitsa. I’d never seen or heard of such a thing. The jar is a beautiful orange color.

I’d been thinking about eating the jam on toast or with yogurt–but then one of my readers suggested crepe/Bulgarian style pancakes. I read the comment and thought I can do that.

Crepes Step One

I meant to do it Sunday night. But I ran out of time. Monday and Tuesday were busy, busy. So Wednesday it was.

The good news is that I like pumpkin and I like jam. So I thought: perfect! (I also like the color orange but I think that might be beside the point.) Anyhow, I thought this is the perfect combination. Continue Reading »

Tired and then some

Well, it’s only Wednesday but I am tired. As one of my students said today: Wednesday is the new Monday. I know, I know. Wednesday is the middle of the week and I should be glad that the week is half over.

I am. Don’t get me wrong. I am also just much more tired than I normally am by Wednesday.

A lot of different factors seem to have collided this week and the result is that I’d be more than happy to curl up in bed with a good book than grade the stack of papers I can’t seem to make a dent in and have become impossible to ignore.  Continue Reading »

Mladost in Photos

Mladost Supermarket

On my way to my Bulgarian lesson today, I snapped a bunch of photos of Mladost.

It’s officially fall here.

Mladost this Weekend

There are a few more photos after the jump and nearly two-dozen in Flickr. Check them out, okay!? Continue Reading »

Last Saturday, on my weekend out of Sofia, I bought lots of homemade jam in Koprivshtitsa.

Why? Well, I don’t have the time, the energy or the interest necessary to make my own jam.  I am much happier buying it from little old women who’ve set-up a cardboard tables of jam.

Homemade Jam

Because what’s better than homemade jam?

I got home four jars–two jars of strawberry, one blueberry and a jar of pumpkin and walnut. The strawberry and blueberry are pretty standard issue. Tiny berries, hand picked, beautiful color.

But the pumpkin and walnut jam, that’s another story. Continue Reading »

Busy Blog Bumble Bee

I’ve been working seriously on my blog this weekend.

Basically, here’s what is happening: I making a jump from wordpress.com to self-hosting my blog using wordpress.org.

So I am obsessing over colors, fonts and style rather than actually writing a new blog post.

I expect that the new site will be up running within a week. I mean, if all goes well.

Fingers crossed.


Rainy Day in 10

It’s been raining all week. So much so that yesterday in my Bulgarian lesson I learned: дано да не вали (something like: hopefully it wont rain). But learning this did little to change the weather patterns.

Yes, it’s still raining. I guess it’s officially fall in Sofia. Normally, I’d say that I like and dislike rain in equal parts. Today, I am not so sure.

  1. On my walk to the bus stop the 305, 306 and 76 buses all try their best to swamp me with a tidal wave of run-off rain water. I manage to dodge all attempts.
  2. Only to be done in by a loose sidewalk tile. I step on it, it tilts and the water collecting under it splashed up, out and over the tile onto my foot.
  3. Now I have one wet foot. I hate wet shoes.  Why didn’t I put my rain boots on? Because they didn’t go with my out fit. Why am I so silly and vain?! Continue Reading »

Two mornings ago I noticed that the Billa sing/bag was lying on its side on the ground in Mladost.

The Billa Shopping Bag

This surprised me for two reasons. First, I had no idea how big the bag actually was. It’s big. Second, I couldn’t tell if it had fallen or if it had been taken down. By the time I saw it, it was propped up on some packing flats of plywood but I wasn’t sure if it was an attempt to keep the sign out of the muddy grass.

It’s been rainy lately.