Archive for the ‘Notes from Sofia’ Category

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. (more…)


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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. (more…)

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On the way home today, I found myself thinking about the metro project. The last metro on the line closest to my house is Mladost 1.

I live in Mladost 1A.

So, I’ve been thinking about the giant hole fondly as Metro: Mladost 1A.

Wow. Right?!

That’s how clever I am. Or not.

Nope, I didn’t give the hole a great name. Nope. Every time, I’ve walked by I’ve called Mladost 1A.

But for some reason, tonight was the night that I realized how ridiculous it would be to actually name the stop Mladost 1A.

First, it doesn’t roll off the tongue and second, it’s a pretty lack luster. Oh and what’s the difference really between Mladost 1 and Mladost 1a?!

Thus my question: does the soon-to-be-new-stop have a name? What is it?

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This Saturday (June 26th) at 4:30pm I’ll be at the at Lovers’ Bridge just across the National Palace of Culture in order to show my support for the 3rd Annual Sofia Pride Parade. And I’d encourage you to join me.

So, why I am doing this? Well for a lot of different reasons.  At this point, I guess that many of my American readers are thinking, so what? And Bulgarian readers are thinking thinking something a long the lines of, really?

I guess that some of you may be thinking:  Carolyn, this isn’t is your fight. You’re a single white middle class American who self identifies as straight. Let this one go.

Or you may be thinking: Carolyn, it isn’t safe. Two years ago at the first Pride Parade 60 protesters were arrested after inciting violence.

Then again maybe you’re thinking: Carolyn, what’s the point? One person won’t make a difference.

But that’s the thing, if I allow myself to be silenced, limited and contained before even getting out there those who have lobbied so heavily (and angrily) against homosexuality have won. If they stop me in my tracks before I’ve even left my house, they get exactly what they want.  Theirs is a rhetoric of hate, violence, fear and shame. A rhetoric that I  believe has no place in the 21st century. A rhetoric that I cannot let shape my decisions or my actions.

By not going, by not speaking out, I let hate control me.  So I’ll be at the parade because I refuse to be controlled, manipulated, limited or silenced by this kind of hate. Luckily a parade isn’t just about resisting hate. It’s about much more than this. (more…)

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There are a lot of things I obsessed with but about two years ago when I’d just won my Fulbright and realized I was moving to Eastern Europe and more specifically to Bulgaria. One of these things was what to pack. I could take two suitcases and a carry on.  The big question was what did I did I need and what did I want?

This obsession and questions are still with me today. Maybe they always will given the fact that I am living abroad and trying to be mindful when it comes to consumerism but two years ago this all came to a head in the fact that I was moving to a country I’d never been too and I’d never lived abroad.

In preparation, I made an extensive list. Obsessing of over even the act of making the list. I checked my list. I made friends who had lived abroad look over my list. I gathered all of things I thought I’d need and realized quickly that it was too much. So I made piles. I cut my things in half. Then I worried some more.

The three questions haunted me: What did I need? What could I live without? And, what could I get in Bulgaria? (more…)

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I’ve been thinking about this for sometime now and here it is. I am starting a regular “column” on my blog titled “Notes from Sofia.”  The idea is this: every week or so I invite/ask/beg/steal/cajole/borrow a Bulgarian or expat living in Bulgaria to write a guest post about some aspect of their life in the city. This is the first installment.

I asked one of my regular followers if she was interested in writing. She has a Bulgarian blog that I look at from time to time.  Most of the time I have no idea what she’s writing about but she always makes such thoughtful comments on my blog I thought: ask Helen. So that’s exactly what I did.  Luckily, she said yes and what you’re about to read is her guest post:

Carolyn has asked me to write a guest post for her new column in the blog. This is because I am a renowned expert on two things:

a) taxi drivers

b) public transportation

I am flattered by this possibility to express my thoughts in front of her fans but bear in mind that this is me speaking; it is not Carolyn. Oh, and, Carolyn, I insist to call you Carolyn because you see Karolina or Karolinka it is not really a common name in Bulgaria. (more…)

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