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Archive for October, 2008

Bittersweet Halloween

Happy Halloween!  It’s kind of an anticlimactic day here in Sofia.  I was out and about today and I saw a couple of teenagers kind of dressed up–one wearing a mask and the other a black pointy witch’s hat.  And frankly, this was more than I expected seeing as this is a country that doesn’t celebrate Halloween. More or less, it’s a day just like all of the days that have come before it.

The thing is I don’t really miss Halloween.  It’s a lot of pressure to figure out what you are going to be for Halloween; not to mention the time you spend actually worrying about a costume, putting the costume together and then hoping that you can pull it off.

What I do miss is celebrating Halloween in DC.  It wasn’t until today that I realized the big thing I am going to miss is 1324-o-ween. (more…)

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Dear Barack,

I want you to win the upcoming election.  Yesterday I got three different emails from you and your staff–one for last minute fund raising, another for Washington State and the third from & for women.

The email that really got me thinking was titled “Have you done everything you can for Barack?”  Really, do you need to send me emails like this? I’ve made a campaign donation (not a lot but I don’t make a lot), I wear my Barack Obama t-shirt around town, I talk you up to all of my friends, I blog about you and I voted for you and I mailed in my absentee ballot two weeks ago from an ancient post office in Sofia.

This said, I think that I have done everything that I can for you, Barack.

But because of your rather strange email, here I am doing more. I thought I was done writing about you but it turns out that’s not the case.

Your wrote to me visa vie the Washington State Field Director the following email:

Carolyn —

The second most common reason that people don’t vote is because they don’t know how.

The top reason: No one asks them to.

This is the last week before Election Day, November 4th, and we’re executing the largest get out the vote (GOTV) effort in Washington’s history. We’ve filled 82 percent of our GOTV shifts, but we have to fill every last slot this week.

The conversations you have with friends, family, and voters across Washington right now will make a real difference in whether they stay home or make their voices heard on November 4th.

Imagine how you’ll feel if you wake up on November 5th — facing four more years of the same Bush-McCain economic policies — and realize that you didn’t do all you could to make sure Barack Obama is the next president.

I know that’s not a feeling I could live with.

Volunteer to get out the vote between now and Election Day and win this election for Barack and Democrats up and down the ticket.

Thanks, Chelsea

Chelsea Waliser
Field Director
Washington Campaign for Change

Well, here’s the thing: I had to read the email about three times to understand what the email was asking me to do.  The first two lines seem to be scaring me.  Reminding me how stupid people are that the top two reasons they don’t vote are because no one told them to or because they don’t know how.  Really!?

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Okay, this isn’t going to be a very long post but I went out this afternoon to buy a notebook and came home with these awesome things:

  • an orange notebook with purple lined paper (it’s French!),
  • a copy of Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” (a book I think all English majors should have read and I never did.  And, it’s racy–there’s seduction–but of course it’s also a tragedy.  It is Hardy after all),
  • three pairs of socks (two are knee high and one pair is striped.  I am wearing the striped ones right now.  Wow!),
  • a pair of earrings (which I’m wearing) and
  • these great sparkly red-pink bobby pins (which I am also now wearing).

I am really pumped up about everything I bought. I guess maybe that goes without saying seeing as I am currently wearing half of the things I purchased today.

The other amazing part: I bought everything for less than 20 Leva  and given the exchange rate between the Lev and the Dollar I feel like these things are almost free–okay not free exactly but much, much too cheap.

I seriously don’t understand this country sometimes because on my afternoon of shopping I also stopped in a store where nearly all of the clothing was 52.99 Leva.  For starters, why such a weird price?  It doesn’t make sense to me.  It would seem much cheaper to me at 49.99 Leva because it was still under 50 Leva but given the fact that the price is over 50 Leva why not bump it up to 54.99 Leva.  I mean, the store could be making an extra 2 Leva on every sale this way.

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25 year old Bulgarian Revolutionary

25 year old Bulgarian Revolutionary

I’ve been to this great little town Koprivshtitsa twice: once in August with my language school and then I went again this month with the Fulbright. It was great. Both times. The town is known for a series of historic homes from the Bulgarian National Revival period.  The village has been well preserved because it was named a town museum in 1952 and then in 1971 it became a historical reserve.

I think that the village is worth visiting for the architecture and the the beauty of the seasons.  But I think that most visitors are interested in the history of the place.  This is after all the town that Todor Kableshkov announced the the national uprising against the Ottoman Empire–on April 20th, 1876.  We now know this event as the April Uprising.

What was pointed out to me during this trip, was that Kableshkov was only 25 years old when he died.  It seems that he knew what he wanted; he was motivated by his ideals.  He not only fought for the revolution but it seems that he started it–firing a gun from a bridge not far from his home.

Maybe he was caught up in the furor of a revolution, it certainly must have been an exciting time, but he did what few of us would do today.  He fought for something that he believed deeply in and he died for it. He seemed to believe that political change was possible.  Even after a 1000 years of Ottoman foreign domination, he thought: we’ve got something here, we’re a people and we can rule ourselves.  (Either that or he was having mother issues and it was easier to fight the Turks than to take it up with her.)

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Me at the Vlaikova

Me at the Vlaikova

This weekend I went to see a film with one of my new Bulgarian friends.  We went to coffee last weekended and decided to see a movie this weekend.  After some back and forth–do you want to see this movie?–oh you’ve seen it already–how about this one?–well what about this? and finally we settled on the film “Two Days in Paris.” It was pretty good.  Nothing to write home about but definitely blog-able.

Really, however, I am writing about the movie theater.  It turns out this theater Vlaikova is amazing.  Well, maybe amazingly bad. I am not sure how old the theater is but it’s pretty clear that it hasn’t been renovated, updated or refurbished in the last twenty years.

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I am not an economist.  In fact, I’ve never even taken a course on micro or macro-economics.  I am an avid reader, a coffee connoisseur, occasionally a cultural critic–my background, for pete’s sake, is in British and American literature.  This probably means that I shouldn’t be writing on the economy but I am going to any way.  Because really, when someone like Allen Greenspan admits he has made a mistake and has put too much faith in the free-market system–then I think that I too can write about the economy.

Here’s the thing.  When the economic crisis hit a number of weeks ago, I got nervous.  I am living in Sofia, Bulgaria on a Fulbright fellowship.  It’s generous but I am not going to get rich off of the monthly stipend which by the way I receive in dollars. I wondered are things going to get really tight?

When I arrived in Bulgaria in August the dollar was already pretty weak and I thought how much worse can it get?  My fear was that the American dollar and the Bulgarian Lev would begin to reach parity–already it seemed to me headed that way as I watched the exchange rates come closer and closer together over the summer leading up to my departure.

On the first week of August, the exchange rate was 1 US dollar to 1.25 Bulgarian leva.  Yeikes! The Iraq war and our inept president aside–it wasn’t looking like a great time to be an American abroad: the dollar was incredibly week and less than a month later it is confirmed that yes indeed our country is being run by yahoos.

Now here comes the part that I never imagined I would write.

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Atwood on Life and Debt

Margaret Atwood has long been one of my favorite writers.  She has a great imagination, a keen sense of what drives people to make the decisions that they do and she’s got a serious way with words.  She writes with power, sincerity and cuts to the heart of things.

The first book of hers that I read was The Handmaid’s Tale followed by a number of other novels and later in college I read her haunting short story “Giving Birth”–this is one of the few short stories that I’ve read and thought: oh my god, she’s got it right and was then terrified by her description.

Anyhow, last night I was browsing through the NYT online and started reading an op-ed on “A Matter of Life and Debt.” I didn’t pay attention to the author when I started reading.  Then I couldn’t stop and when the piece was finished I wanted more and that’s when I noticed in italics at then end of the article Margaret Atwood’s credentials. I thought to myself: of course this piece was written by Margaret Atwood and then I promptly reread it.

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