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Archive for November, 2008

Giving-Thanks at Thanksgiving for New Friends

Giving-Thanks at Thanksgiving for New Friends

I had 12 people over for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night.  It’s not a federal holiday here like it is in the states so I went to work taught two 80 minute classes and then hurried home to get started on dinner.

I took chocolates to school with me for the teachers.  It seemed appropriate.  I don’t have a name day nor will I be teaching on my birthday so in the way that other teachers bring chocolates to celebrate these days I decided to bring chocolates to celebrate this very American holiday.  It was great.  I was very glad that I decided to bring the chocolate.  The one funny thing was that there are some teachers at my school that speak only a little bit of English they teach subjects at school that are required to be taught in Bulgarian–Bulgarian Literature, Bulgarian History, Math and PE–all kept wishing me, in Bulgarian, a Happy Birthday!

I got a couple of birthday hugs and then I got to try to explain that it wasn’t my birthday. Usually after stumbling around in Bulgarian for a minute or two some kind teacher would jump in and help me out.  The other thing was that everyone wanted to know what they should say back to me after I told them: Happy Thanksgiving.  They asked me should they say: congratulations, best wishes, or many happy returns? I told them that they could just say “Happy Thanksgiving” back to me.

On my way home from school I stopped by a butchers for some internal organs from a chicken in order to make gravy.  I bought store-roasted chickens for the dinner so there was no bag of internal organs to pull out of the cavity of the chicken to use for gravy.  I had asked one of the teachers at school to write down in Bulgarian what I needed to ask for at the butcher’s shop. (more…)

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Okay seriously, I am wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.

Who knew I’d move to Sofia and get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice.  I’ll be eating turkey tonight and chicken tomorrow for the “real” Thanksgiving.  So I guess that my title today should really be “Two Days of Flightless Birds.” But I guess I shouldn’t complain about–the only thing I am worried about is having appropriate leftovers to make a sandwich on Friday.  Fingers crossed.

I know that right now you are very jealous of the fact that I get to have two Thanksgivings but right now the only thing I can think about are cranberries.  I wonder if the Ambassador has some secret ability to make cranberries appear at our dinner tonight. I haven’t seen this fruit anywhere in Bulgaria and I didn’t realize that I missed it until I was planning for my own Thanksgiving.  The thing is I am not talking the canned kind–what I really, really want is a nice sour cranberry relish with a hint of citrus.

Oh I also want a slice of white meat turkey breast.  I really hope that I don’t get stuck with a leg or a wing.  That would bum me out.  The thing is I don’t know how many other people are going to her dinner–will it be a plated meal? Is it possible that she will actually slice a turkey or will her husband? Then again maybe we’ll skip this fanfare all together.  Also, will she have both pumpkin pie and pecan pie (and how will I pick?!?)? Man, there are so many things to think about.

Anyhow, hopefully this will be a dinner that is more traditional than say the dinner I am hosting tomorrow night this is the “modern-I-am-living-in-a-two-small-apartment-to-actually-cook-a-serious-Thanksgiving-dinner.”  More on my own dinner later.

Thanks again to everyone who reads my blog and encourages me to keep writing.

PS to my family in KY who I spent a couple of Thanksgivings with I woke up this morning (11/27) and realized that I forget to mention you in my giving-thanks for past Thanksgivings.  Sorry about that.

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Me at Tsarevets (the Castle)

Me at Tsarevets (the Castle)

I went to Veliko Tarnovo on Saturday in a snow storm.  I thought it was going to be a pretty low key weekend and it was.  But I never expected that I’d be traveling to the city in the first snow storm of the year.  It’s made a couple of things clear: I need to buy new boots for winter and a better hat.  This will be a priority for the upcoming weekend (which I am spending in Sofia–it’s the first in four weeks).

Snow is a funny thing.  I think it makes people a little bit crazy.  In Washington DC, at the first suggestion of a snow storm people would flood the grocery store and buy up huge amounts of toilet paper and other food staples as if they might never be able to make to the store again.  In Sofia, people seemed more ho-hum about it.  I packed some warmer clothes in my bag and broke out my wool sweater and headed to the bus station. (more…)

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Wow. I woke up this morning to rain.  I got out of bed and thought great it’s not raining any more. Ha, ha.  Turns out, now it’s actually snowing.  This is unexpected.  I am still going to Veliko Turnovo–what’s a little snow?! Luckily it’s not sticking.  Wish me luck, I am going to break out my wool sweater.  Snow.  Wow.

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It’s been an odd week.  I got back from my travels on Tuesday.  The weather had finally changed which was expected but not entirely welcome and then I found myself in the middle of a strange week.

I picked up some groceries and worked on getting settled back into Sofia for a couple of days before going to visit Veliko Turnovo on Saturday for the weekend.  It’s always nice to cook a meal after traveling and being away from home.  I figured that I’d do something easy and straightforward and that dish to me has lentils as a base.  I decided to make a pretty basic three ingredient lentil soup.  Then I burned it.  I don’t think I’ve ever done this before.  The stew turned out to be less stew and more burnt and stuck to the bottom of my pan.  The whole dish was ruined.  I thought that maybe I’d be able to eat a bowl of it but it was burnt through so I ate some bread and cheese.

The next morning I had to teach at 8am–three different classes this it turns out was fine.  That’s not always the case so I was excited about this.  I had a slice of street pizza on the way home and thought about if one should really but sliced hot dogs on pizza.  (And as much as I hate to admit it, I kind of liked it.) (more…)

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I think that winter has come to Sofia. It was rainy yesterday when I landed and today I had to wear my winter coat to school. The air is damp and it’s been a little bit windy making it seem colder than it actually is nonetheless, it’s officially winter coat weather. There was a chance that I was getting spoiled by the extended fall don’t worry–baby, it’s cold outside. And I think it will only get colder. Maybe it’s better this way: fall when I fly out to visit a FISI friend in Brussels and winter when I return.

Grand Place at Night

Grand Place at Night

Anyhow I had a great time in Brussels. The city is beautiful and it was great to see my friend. I thought that I would write about the visit yesterday but I had a hard time getting all of my thoughts in order. The challenge is I think not sounding like a Lonely Planet guidebook. It’s easy to say wow the city is wonderful–in this case, I think it is but it’s hard to know what a place is really like if you only spend a few days there.

So if you want the Brussels highlights go to Lonely Planet or even wikipedia but if you want my impressions well lucky you because I am about to share them. This said I am not a very worldly traveler so I won’t be comparing Brussels to other European capitals or anything.

In a nut shell, Brussels has good energy. The city is lively and even in late fall/early winter there were lots of people out and about. Public transportation was easy to use (well minus the time I was watching the metro doors close and I was in the train and my friend was on the other side of the closing doors but some quick thinking lead me to pull her into the train. phew). The Belgian waffles: yum. It made me think that we could really use a Belgian waffle stand over a new Starbucks here in Sofia. All of this is topped off by really beautiful architecture. The Art Nouveau homes sprinkled throughout the older neighborhoods were also a treat (but not as tasty as the waffles). Oh and the Grand Place was a treat at night, the Belgian beer was better than the Bulgarian beer I’ve been drinking and all sorts of people stopped me on the street to ask me directions in both French and Dutch.

Funny no one ever asks me directions in Sofia. (more…)

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To make copies at school, I’ve got to get the permission of one of the vice principles.  This week was the first time I needed to make copies and I have 210 students so it’s not a small project.  Once you have the form then  you take to the librarian who apparently maintains the books and mans the copy machine.  We had a little back and forth about the copies in “Bulgarian-English” because I wanted the the two pages I was giving her copied on the front and the back.   We got this worked out with the help of some high schoolers who were using one of the two or three computers in the library (which is actually only two large-ish rooms).

I wondered with this many copies if I should offer to come back later or tell her that I didn’t actually need the copies until Wednesday morning.  Then after thinking about how I would ask her this I decided to stick around–that and I figured it was better for me to have the copies today and carry them home with me than to show up to school to teach my 8am class next week and wonder where the copies were.

It turned out to be a rather lengthy project. Our copier looks so old I can’t believe that it actually works.  A Xerox machine it is not.  The poor librarian had to make copies of the first page and then gather these up, put them in the paper tray of the copy machine to run through the machine a second time in order to make double sided copies for me.  Man.  That would get old fast.

Needless to say, this and a paper jam gave me a lot of time to browse through the library.  (That poor woman.) At Georgetown this project would have taken no more than 5 minutes but in this case it was at least 25 minutes.

So while I was killing time in the library, I decided to look at the books.  They have a good selection of English language classics.  The thing that stood out to me was that there wouldn’t be one or two copies of Vanity Fair but 15.  This is clearly so that a class could read the book together.  (more…)

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