Archive for August, 2009

The 305 Bus

Wosa. I took the 305 bus home today from Eagle’s Bridge to Mladost.  It was 5:30 pm.  Holy-smokes. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The bus was so super-duper crowded. And people were fighting to get on the bus. Oh they were also fighting/pushing to get off the bus.

It kind of made me wonder why I thought taking the bus during rush-hour was a good plan.  For the record, I thought it was going to pour and that I’d rather be on the bus than walking to and from the metro.  That turned out to be a tactical error.  A big one.  First it didn’t rain.  At all. And second, well, the bus was a nightmare. (more…)


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I’ll be doing some sightseeing with the other new teachers at the American College.  We’re going to Rila this morning on our way to Melnik and then tomorrow we’re heading to Kovachevitsa. I am looking forward to the trip and to seeing Bulgaria in the late summer. The funny thing is the fact that this will be my third trip to Melnik and my second to Rila.

It’s not a bad thing to go to these places more than once.  In fact many of them are beautiful enough and interesting enough to merit a second visit but what gets me is there are a number of specific cities that are very traditional sightseeing stops in Bulgaria while there are so many interesting cities that are at least as close as some place like Melnik but these smaller cities are often overlooked for the charm of Melnik or the flashiness of a revival town like Koprivshtitsa.

This said, I am totally looking forward to visiting Kovachevitsa.  The Lonely Planet guide for Bulgaria describes Kovachevitsa as “one of southern Bulgaria’s most picturesque villages” but they also say that it’s “one of the most difficult to get to.”  Again according to the Lonely Planet: Kovachevitsa has been declared an architectural and historical reservation by the Bulgarian Government because of its unique building style, which is influenced by Macedonian designs and uses abundant stone rather than wood.  Apparently: there’s little to see or do in the village, except appreciate the fresh air and stunning scenery.

Given my love hate relationship with this guide book, I can hardly wait to see what this little village is all about.  Expect a full report when I am back in Sofia in a couple of days!!

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Five Things

I knew that I wasn’t doing a great job packing when I left Washington State last week for Sofia but I couldn’t get my head around what I needed to bring with me and what I already had in Sofia. I stocked up on books for the year both to teach and for pleasure. I bought a new camera hello Canon Rebel! But somehow in the hubub and rush of getting packed up I brought with me only one pair of dress pants.

A year ago this would have freaked me out. This year I had a good laugh at myself and thought: well, this means that you get to do some shopping. Then I spent some time thinking about what it means that I brought 30 pounds of books with me and only one pair of dress pants. I think it all gets back to my priorities–it’s not like I purposefully only packed one pair of pants–I was just thinking, although obsessing might be a better word, about what I was going to be teaching this year rather than what I was going to wear teaching.

That and Bulgaria has taught me a lot over the last year. After I won my Fulbright to Bulgaria, I worried endlessly about what to pack, how I could get a years worth of things, clothing and mementos in two suitcases. I fretted about what I needed and then I questioned myself about whether my needs were actually needs or wants. I cautioned myself not to bring frivolous things and I endlessly packed and re-packed my suitcases.

Today, I can barely recognize this girl in myself. This time I packed in a couple of hours and brought two suitcases with me–one of books and the other clothes. And as I unpacked in Sofia, I could hardly keep myself from laughing at as I hung an assortment of mismatched clothes up. I packed what I love this time not necessarily what matched.

But today it’s different. I know what to expect. This time around I know at least five important things. (more…)

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I knew that there would be lots of new things in my life this year.  Sure I’ve been here for a year now but as an expat things are never exactly the same from year to year (hell, they never are the same year to year no matter who you are) but living abroad things often seem more transient. People come in and out of your life, the city grows and changes and you move and change as well.

Many of my good friends from last year M. the Fulbrighter has moved back to NYC and is starting a PhD (good luck and I home your summer math class went okay) and D. my Spanish friend and Macedonian travel partner has moved home to start a MA in diplomacy.  I couldn’t be happier for both of them but I kind of wondered where that was going to leave me.  It’s not as if I couldn’t imagine my life in Sofia without them, in fact, I knew I had to. It was just that it was harder seeing as these two are woven into so many of my memories here over the past year.

This said, it’s not as if I am going to find myself friendless in Sofia.  First off, I’ve still got plenty of Bulgarian friends and expat friends.  Secondly, I know that there are lots of 20 and 30 something teachers at the American College and I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know them.  Finally, there’s a whole new group of Fulbrighters in Sofia and I’ve already been in fairly regular touch with two of them.  So already, I feel incredibly lucky to know this many people and to have the opportunity to meet so many new and I assume interesting people in the next few weeks. (more…)

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Back in Bulgaria

I flew into Sofia yesterday. I had the best intentions to write a post that I’d been thinking about on the airplane.  Needless to say jetlag got the best of me and today got away from me.  So, here it is, I can’t really believe that I am back in Bulgaria for a second year.

I am so excited to be back. And this made me realize that there are lots of things that I want to do this second year.

So here it is my short list of things that I want to do this year.

  1. Learn Bulgarian (and find a tutor)!!
  2. Get a Baba (I am still looking for one–even after a great “want ad” in February).
  3. Travel to more of the 100 best places in Bulgaria.
  4. Attend more cultural events in Sofia (opera, theater and other similar events).
  5. Make rakia.

Okay, this is not to say that these are the only things that I want to do this next year.  It’s just a little sample of the things I am looking forward to doing this year.

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Street without a nameThis week my first Amazon.com order came in.  First off, I love Amazon.com.  I mean that they will send me nearly any book I want in a few days…what’s not to love.  And secondly, I love to read.  It was a good start to the week for me.

I ordered Kapka Kassabova’s new book Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria.  I mean, how could I not given the title of the book and the working title of this blog which I’ve always thought of as something like Karolinka: Adventures in and around Bulgaria.  Anyhow, I read reviews of the book online this spring and was dying to get my hands on a copy but the book wasn’t released in the States until July. (Even though I think that the book has been in print in Bulgaria for at least a year) Still a July release was perfect timing if you ask me.  Well, perfect timing for me.  So I put in my Amazon.com order the day before I left Bulgaria and my order got here slightly after I did.

I finished my airplane book (Eat, Pray, Love) yesterday morning and last night after dinner I picked up the Kassabova book.  I started reading and then couldn’t put it down.  5o pages later I found myself thinking: this is exactly the book I wish I could have read before my first year in Bulgaria.  The book is funny and critical, it addresses some of wacky aspects of life in Bulgaria and it’s easy to get into.  In fact, it’s lots easier to get into than many of the dry or poorly translated history books that were recommended to me.

Moreover, I couldn’t get over how many different passages I wanted to read out to my MoM or anyone who was willing to listen.  I think that this is because in the memoir th e narrator has left and returned to Bulgaria and as a result her perspective is different–somehow bigger.  Not necessarily better just bigger–maybe broader is better but she is looks at her country with a more critical eye (one that at the same time is tempered with nostalgia) than many writing about Bulgaria.

This said, I am in love with the book.  And I have a really hard time putting it down.  This said it’s also one of those books that you like so much that you don’t want it to end.  So this will be a short post because I want to get back to reading.  In summary, even though I haven’t finished the book yet–hell, I am not even 100 pages in yet–I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Bulgaria before and after the changes in the 1990s.  Um and even if this doesn’t get you excited you should still find a copy of this book to read because Kassabova is a good writer and story-teller.

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I am getting back into the swing of things in the States.  I haven’t suffered too much culture shock–bits and pieces of things sneak up on me and make me say: really? But for the most part this is the Walla Walla that I’ve grown to know and I haven’t been too shocked by this place, my parents or the culture.

However, what I’ve been the most caught off guard by are sizes.

I asked my MoM to pick up a bottle of shampoo and conditioner at the store.  Obligingly she did.  Only they look like cartoons of what I expected.  The bottles are both close to a liter each.  To be exact, I think they are 750 ml of shampoo and another 750 ml of conditioner.  These bottles are big and unwieldy but more than this they are hard to hold and awkward in the shower.  I said to my MoM: wow these are big bottles. (more…)

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