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Archive for January, 2009

This is gasp… my 100th post.  This morning I woke up with the best intentions to write a post about the 100 things I am thankful but I decided against it.  Somehow that seemed like a tedious task and I couldn’t imagine that anyone would actually read all of those.  Rather I’ve decided to do some math and add up everything I am thankful for with the hope of doing my math correctly and eventually reaching a total of 100 things rather than a list of one hundred things.

I am thankful for…

  • my parents, brother and sister (that’s 4 people total) who were nothing if not supportive when I told them I was leaving my job, moving to Bulgaria to teach English, learn the language, travel throughout the country and write about my experience.
  • the 6 months I’ve lived in Bulgaria.
  • the two weeks I spent in Tryavna with the Fulbright attending the Fulbright International Summer Institute (FISI).
  • the 3 packages I’ve picked up at the post office!
  • the 13 sites I’ve visited and gotten stamps for out of the top 100 cultural, political and historical sites in the best of Bulgaria book.
  • the 4 new countries I’ve visited.
  • the 20 stotinki  or .20 leva (which I previously wrote out as studentki… opps) that it takes to get a good coffee from the machine in my kitchen.
  • the 4 times that I’ve been to my landlord’s house for dinner.
  • the 3 weeks of language class that I took in August.
  • the one friend I’ve had visit me thus far.
  • the 7 books I’ve been meaning to read and have finally had the time to read (and counting).
  • the 8 trains, 8 regular buses, 10 minibuses and four airplanes that I’ve been on since arriving in Europe allowing me to see so much of Bulgaria and Europe.
  • the 2 live plants my landlord and his wife gave me to make my apartment feel more like home.
  • my language tutor in Washington DC who taught me the Cyrillic alphabet and my numbers in Bulgarian.
  • Skype.  Oh that’s free.
  • the Fulbright program.

There you have it.  The total is 100.  Sure there are other things I am thankful for (like all of my friends, students and colleagues at school) but I think that this list covers most things, gives you an idea of what I’ve been up to and aside from the serious things I am thankful for in my life–this is just a clever way to celebrate 100 blog posts.  And, hey, that’s not a small achievement.

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I just spent way more time than I would like to admit watching a Bulgarian soap opera.  And I really got a kick out of it.  I’ve found that lots of Bulgarian is modeled after western tv shows or are just western tv shows dubbed into Bulgarian and even one Spanish program just has Bulgarian subtitles.

The programs that are in Bulgarian only are the easiest for me to understand.  They talk slower and the pacing is easier to follow than when the programs are dubbed into Bulgarian.  In these programs, you can always hear the original language being spoken–generally English but also German and Spanish.

The news is still too hard for me to follow.  The subjects being covered on the news require a bigger vocabulary than I have right now–or ever may have.  It’s a little easier for me to follow some of the tv game shows but just like in the states some times it’s too painful to watch these shows. This is why I think Bulgarian soap operas may be my new thing.  (more…)

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I thought I had to teach this morning at 8am. Silly me. It turns out that there are no classes on the last day of the semester. Why would there be classes on the last day of the semester? You might also wonder why no one told me there were no classes on the last day of the semester but that seems to be an unanswerable question

Good thing I worked really hard to finish reading, correcting and responding to student papers and preparing my lesson plans for class today.

When I got to school, there were three students standing outside of our classroom. The hallway lights were dark and the door was locked. This should have been when I thought: hum, what’s going on. But for some reason this was not the case. It was instead the start to a unexpectedly long day. (more…)

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I am taking a regular yoga class again at the Bulgarian Yoga Association.  I started practicing yoga about four years.  It’s one of those things that was pretty regular in Washington DC and then I moved to Sofia with the best intentions of being dedicated to my yoga practice.

Ha, ha.  Somehow, there was always something else to do and I did that instead.  Well one of my Bulgarian friends signed up for a 12 week class and talked me into joining her.  Truthfully it wasn’t too hard.

One of my favorite things is that yoga looks like this in Bulgarian: Йога

What’s been hard is the fact that I don’t understand very much of what’s happening in class.  The first day I expected that the instructor would give the names of the poses in Hindi and then in Bulgarian as the studios I’ve practiced in the states do.   This isn’t the case.

So I spent the first class in the front row… of course… not knowing what’s going and not being able to see easily or discreetly what others are doing.  And for the record, I ended up in the front row by accident.  When I entered the room the mats were all down on the floor with one which seemed clear to me was the mat that the instructor would teach from.  Well, she decided to teach from the other side of the room.  This decision turned the back of the room into the front of the room.  Sweet.  I just hope that no one decided to try to follow me during that first class!  (more…)

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National Gallery of Foreign Art Sofia

National Gallery of Foreign Art Sofia

There’s a Picasso Exhibit open right now at the National Gallery of Foreign Art in Sofia.  It’s called: “АЗ НЕ ТЪРСЯ. АЗ НАМИРАМ: ПАБЛО ПИКАСО” or in English: “I do not seek. I find. Pablo Picasso.”

The exhibit opened in December and a Bulgaria told me recently that they’d read the exhibit had already attracted 20,000 visitors.  These are apparently impressive numbers. I don’t know if these are impressive numbers in a Bulgarian museum/gallery or if these are impressive numbers for a museum in general but I figured that I should visit and check out what the buzz was about.

The museum website is in both Bulgarian and English and is pretty user friendly.  This seemed to be an auspicious start to this adventure.  Also interesting is the fact that the cost of admission is 4 leva/2 leva for students and your ticket is good for two visits within a month.  Oh and the gallery is free on Mondays but I was going with my Walla Walla friend Matt and this was his last weekend in Sofia so we thought it would be better to go on a Sunday.

Just to be up front, I like Picasso.  I think that it take a special kind of person to work at the edge of his field, to push innovation, to face criticism by many in you field and to eventually change the field you work in–and Picasso is one of those of people.  This is of course my own short summary of Picasso’s career but it’s been heavily influenced by Howard Gardner’s book Creating Minds.

This said, I was little disappointed with the Picasso exhibit.  (more…)

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The Sofia Echo ran a short but hard hitting article on poverty in Bulgaria this morning.  The title is a “Quarter of Bulgaria’s households live on verge of poverty.” The numbers are stark.  A new report states that a family of four needs 1895 leva a month to cover basic expenses. They write, “this would roughly make 474 leva a person ” (or in US dollars $310).

The thing that is striking is that at my school beginning teachers only make 350 leva a month.  That’s nearly 125 leva less per month than it is estimated they need.  Moreover, apparently only “15.2 % of Bulgarian families live with more than 450 leva a person monthly allowance.” It’s almost hard to believe that these numbers are correct.

These statistics beg the question: what are the other 85% of the Bulgarian population doing? How are they living?

The answer seems to be not well.  The cost of living has apparently increased over the last year.  Food prices have risen nearly 7%, heating and electricity rates are up 12% and rent/home maintenance costs have also risen by this year by 16%.  These numbers make the situation in Bulgaria look pretty bleak.

As if this weren’t enough inflation also hit the country hard in 2008.  Inflation was apparently 12% last year in Bulgaria.  To put this in perspective, the average inflation rate in the EU was 3.7%.

What was the most eye opening to me was this number: 185 leva.  Apparently this the amount of money that one needs each month to “physically survive.”  Frankly I don’t know what this number is counting but it seems like an impossible task to me.  As of today, the exchange rate would make this $121 US dollars.

I knew that things were bad but this is shocking to me.

The interesting thing is–I am not sure what the solution to this problem is.  And I haven’t been able to get the situation out of my head all day.

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Member of POEM

A month ago my dAd asked me: what size tee shirt do you wear?

Me: medium.

dAd: OK.

That was the end of our conversation.  Then a week ago I got a package.

My membership in POEM is Official Now!

My membership in POEM is Official Now!

I am now a shirt wearing member of POEM… for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym it’s the Professional Organization of English Majors.  Thanks dAd and thanks Garrison Keillor (of Prairie Home Companion fame).  The shirt is apparently a best seller.

Of course you can’t see the back of the t-shirt–sheeish–how am I am supposed to take a picture of that while I am wearing it.  It’s hard enough to get a good one of me and the t-shirt.  You’d be surprised how hard it was for me to take a picture of myself and my t-shirt and to get both in the same picture.  It’s probably a good thing that I am not taking up photo-blogging.

Anyhow the back of the shirt is great (you clever, clever people at NPR) and if you have an English major in your life you really can’t go wrong with this shirt as a gift.  I laugh every time I put it on.  But then again it’s a English major joke so it might not be as funny if you say majored in physics or history.

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