Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas..A little different in Bulgaria

Yes, it is a little different, but very special.  My host family really makes me feel like part of the family.  Especially when I'm trying to catch the train home and find out there's a problem with the train tracks..
For Christmas..they put up a tree and decorated it.  They made pitka..which tells you your fortune for the next year.  Mine was 'you will travel abroad'!  They set off some beautiful fireworks.  We listened to the Koladeri sing a Christmas song; we opened gifts..I got a great book that I've heard all Bulgarians read, 'To Chicago and Back'.  We ate great food, drank home-made wine, and on Christmas Day went to the Ledenika caves..I also saw Nina and Ken and Pepe.

I made it back to my apartment and spent many hours talking to my family on Skype for Christmas Day!..and left for Chiflik shortly after that.  Chiflik was interesting..on the way, we stopped to see the Shipka monument called the 'Monument of Freedom'.  This was where one of the great battles of the Russian Turkish wars was fought.  Several thousand Bulgarian volunteer soldiers helped the Russians defeat the Turkish here.  We also saw the church in Shipka, a gift given by the Russians to commemorate the soldiers who died during the war.  It is built in the traditional style of a Russian church in the 17th century.  In the same day we also entered one of the recently discovered Thracian tombs. 

Chiflik was great with its mineral springs (if only we had snow!).  I think this was one of the most International experiences I've had.  My friend Katya and her brother's family are Bulgarian, and her Bulgarian friends live in England, and her cousin's (half-Russian) husband is from Spain, and my other friend is from Germany, and of course me..the American.  We also visited Beklemeto, and a huge monument there shaped like this 'П'.  The views on the drive up were amazing, until we hit the snow and fog..lots of fog.  We walked up the last part because of too much snow blocking the road.  It was worth the walk!  On the last day we also stopped at the Troyanski Monastery.

I posted new pictures if you want to see some of these places.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!


I won’t have access to my computer over Christmas, as I am going back to visit my host family and their family. I am excited to experience a Bulgarian Christmas..and spend it with my family away from home.

I’m hoping I’ll get my White Christmas for my first Christmas here in Bulgaria! It’s been snowing on and off here, and it looks like a whole different place covered in snow.

I posted some new pictures on my link at the bottom the blog labeled Tricia’s pics.

For our English class (my youngest students) the other day, I sang a Christmas song in English, and the kids sang me a Christmas song in Bulgarian..they’re so cute; they all sang so loudly.

And this weekend I went to Turkey for a quick visit with the teachers of the High School here. We saw one of the world’s oldest and largest mosques in Edirne Turkey, called Selimiye Mosque. It was a little unnerving at first, because when you are in the courtyard, babas and kids swirl around you trying to get you to buy their trinkets for the mosque..and they don’t take no, and they don’t let you be..but it is a very beautiful place. My pictures can’t do it justice. Once you get inside it is quiet. You have to take your shoes off before entering. There is an interesting story that goes with the building of the mosque, but I don’t remember it very clearly..only that there was a woman who wouldn’t sell the land, until someone (maybe the sultan?) had a vision that that was to be the location of the mosque. The woman finally consented, as she was also concerned about this vision, but only..only if they would put a tulip inside the mosque. I guess flowers and faces are not allowed in mosques, so it was very carefully hidden in one of the marble columns..barely visible today, but everyone tried to take pictures of it.

Hah..I can’t forget to talk about my first presentation experience here in Bulgaria. It was for my city, showing what I have accomplished in my time here so far. I am every so lucky to have two people in my life here. One is my best friend Katya, who also speaks English; and the other is my Bulgarian teacher, Petya. Katya helped me translate and practice my front of friends at a restaurant, while standing. They both helped me clean up my speech with words I could pronounce better, and..I got a big round of applause at the end. The best part was that even my colleague who speaks no English whatsoever, said she understood my whole presentation. That made me feel relieved.

Now if only I can only get rid of this Bronchitis..I’ve had it since before Thanksgiving and just can’t seem to shake it. Very annoying, it is.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

week ending Dec12th

I don’t think life is ever going to be slow or boring for me in Bulgaria..but that’s a good thing, because I have just been having so much fun. There’s always new foods to taste, new places to visit, new people to meet, new holidays to celebrate, and good friends to hang out with.

First, I just have to say I love Xora classes. These are Bulgarian traditional dances, and they are crazy good workouts (especially when you do them for 2 hours), and they are as fun to dance as Salsa..and if you know me, you know I love to salsa dance. I have to take a clip on my camera some time so you can see. These are some really complicated steps. When you participate in a don’t ‘dance’ a Xora, you ‘play’ a when I got there, I think it’s kind of funny they ask играйш ли? (Meaning do you want to play?).

Then, I recently had an interesting invite ‘na gosti’ to celebrate a ‘Свински празник’ – that is Pig Holiday. Yep, the lucky pig was slaughtered. If you look in my pictures, you’ll see a picture of the pig’s butt and also the pot where the pigs head was boiling..sounds tasty right. Luckily I was teaching this morning and did not watch the slaughtering of the pig. This celebration is similar to others including lots of new foods and lots of alcohol with good friends.

And today, oh lucky me, I have a kids party to go to. Hmm..I think I forgot I am supposed to be attempting to make a pumpkin pie from pumpkin. Oops.

Oh..the best thing though to happen is the snow! It finally snowed here and it is beautiful out. I think I’m going to have to breakdown and join the gym here since I don’t think I will be able to run at the stadium in the snow..but that’s completely okay..I love the snow!!

One last thing..before I go, during our Pre-service training we had to learn a couple of phrases to say if we attract unwanted attention and I have to say that I am very glad they make us practice these phrases..because for the first time I had to use one of the phrases, and I knew what to say..and you know what, it worked. So, a big thanks to Peace Corps for this training.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Village visits, and also Nikolov Den

I really like these visits I get to make to the village with my friends. It is a whole different way of life than in America. This is the way I understand it..when a person reaches retirement age here, they don’t retire to a nursing home..instead they move to the village from the city for two main reasons. First the pension they receive is usually a pretty small amount, so they have bountiful gardens full of fruits and vegetables, and many times animals like goats, sheep, cows, horses, and dogs and cats. This helps offset the lack of funds during retirement. And then second reason I often hear from my friends is, “What are they going to do, sit around and drink coffee all day..”. So, they enjoy tending the garden and animals. It keeps them active and oftentimes their children come to visit on the weekends. This is where I come in. I have visited a couple villages where my friends parents live, and I just have to say it is soo relaxing in the village. There is yummy food always cooked by the mom, and there are naps, and interesting conversations, sometimes a long hike..and no computer.

This Sunday was the Name Day, I got to see first-hand how this is celebrated. This is the name day for a Saint who watches over the fisherman and sailors, so on Sunday everyone eats fish, and there is a special way they sometimes prepare it stuffed with rice, walnuts, raisins, and I forget what else. For some people here, the celebration of their their Name Day is bigger than the celebration for their Birthday..but not always. So, on this Name Day, everyone who is named Nikola, Nikolai, Niki, Kolyo, Neno, Nena, and Nenka celebrate their Name Day