Thursday, December 9, 2010


Did you know:

This morning I was in a café with two of my good friends Kiril and Hrisa..the topic of the morning was in American Indians. Now..if you don’t know where Bulgaria is and you are this blog..look on a map. It’s Eastern Europe. It was really odd to me that both of them (Hrisa and Kiril) liked to read books and watch films about the Indians in the United States ,long ago when they were kids..I mean, it is just odd to me that Eastern Europe 30 to 40-some odd years ago was watching films about American was an interesting conversation..including that after WWII, these books and films were banned because the author was known to be a favorite of Hitler?!...(remember now..this is my translation of what I understood..the conversation was in Bulgarian)

Last year, I headed back to my host family’s place for Christmas. This year, I am a being a bit of Scrooge and staying home (to chat with family on Skype)..but, since I am around my city and villages I work in, there is so much going on..I’m happy that I’m sticking around. I was recently invited to one of my good friends oil painting exhibition. Here is the link to her work, Irena Lutinskaite (she is from Lithuania, but lives here in Bulgaria)
..but I have to say, the pictures barely do her work justice..she is a very talented artist, and I plan to buy one of her pieces before I leave. And back to that small world again..turns out my hiking friends know my artist friend, and one of my English teacher friends..I don’t why, but it still surprises me when all of my Bulgarian friends know each other..In the United States all of my different groups of friends were very separate and different persons..but here in Bulgaria, I feel like all the good people know each other.

Another great friend of mine, Stella, is a great photographer; and if you would like to see some beautiful pictures of Bulgaria, check out her link at:

I really need to get some pictures of my new classes I am soon as I get my new camera I will be posting pics again..i’ve got my fingers crossed to have it before Christmas..there’s so many invites and activities I want to get pictures and video clips of to remember; my kindergartners are adorable..they know how to ask a persons name, and answer..they know their number 1-6, (because they are 6 years old)..they know words of the alphabet up to P (for Pumpkin), they know Head shoulders knees and toes, and they know walking, running, hopping, and sit down (this for some reason is their favorite word)..I could write plenty about all of my classes, because I really like my students.

I don’t know if you’all have noticed, but I have noticed that the longer I am in Bulgaria, the worse my spelling and grammar have gotten when I am typing out these posts..

Monday, December 6, 2010


Hija Gramadliva – hiking with my tourism group

Good people, good friends
Warm-patches of wind
Dew covered eyelashes
Trees w/o sickness, koledari, Bai-Stan
Rakia, red wine, dancing
Pictures..lots of pictures, Katia
Huge water puddles
Muddy trails..very muddy trails
Karma, Life, Daisy
Map-making; Dec 1 tales; Didka
Snow touched trees and leaves
Freezing cold..side of the road
A ride home, Planimir
No waiting at a busstop!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hija Buzludja

Hija Buzludja

I am finally getting a moment to write about my great hike to the Hija and monument of Buzludja in the ‘Stara Planina’ (old mountains). We really lucked out with the weather.. It was 65-70 degrees for both days of the hike, and this was in the mountains, in November.

Another great surprise was seeing Daisy, an old Bulgarian friend from a nearby city, who I haven’t seen since the 4th of July. Yeah..I was waiting for the tourism group (as we were travelling by train to our hike), and out of nowhere comes Daisy. It turns out she’s taking the same train. She’s also an avid hiker, and decides to join our group for an upcoming hike. And you know how I like to say ‘everything happens for a reason’..well, I learned a lot about my hiking group through Daisy, as she speaks English fluently. I learned that a much anticipated hike date had been changed to Thanksgiving weekend..a weekend I am unavailable  We also talked about Mt. Olympus in Greece..a place I think I want to climb.

One of the best things about these hikes, other than the outdoors and the magnificent views is the people. Everyone hikes at their own, when I feel like pushing myself, I stay at the front of the pack with the leader Stancho (he ran a BG mountain race; 100km in 24 hours)..and when I feel like taking it easy, there’s always people to fall back with and chat with. They were all a little intrigued by my camelpack.

Mitko and I were talking..and he’s trying to tell me these jokes..but they didn’t quite sound like jokes. I heard ‘baby’, ‘baby carriage’, ‘thumbtacks’, and another time ‘teacher’, ‘students’, and thumbtacks’ have to remember, I don’t always understand every word of Bulgarian..but I can usually figure out the context with key words..finally he sees my confused look and says ‘черно хумор’, black humor, and things start to make a little more sense.

So, the last 2 hours of the hike on our first day, our leader decides not to stop and wait for all the groups to catch up anymore..and there was a turn where I figured others might not be aware me. So, Mitko and I wait for everyone to more or less catch up..and none of us are all that sure where the Hija is, which led to a very interesting hike with two others going down the side of the mountain. I asked him if he was sure if there was a path..because I didn’t see it..and eventually neither did he..after a couple tumbles down the mountain on all the leaves, we eventually did find a pretty neat path, and finally the hija as well.

It turned out to be Stella’s birthday as that evening was very festive. After the DJ tired of dedicating songs to Stella, he decided to start in with dedications to me ‘the American’..every English speaking song was dedicated to ‘the American’..but, as always, I had fun.

There’s more information that I wrote on the pics about the hike. Follow the link at the bottom of the page labeled Tricia’s new pics – then Buzludja.

Училищни Хроники – The School Chronicles

Училищни Хроники – The School Chronicles

It feels so good to get the first issue of our new online school newspaper out. I know the school editors worked hard (after school in the computer lab, and Skype meetings in the evening)..and we will continue improving the website with future editions. If you haven’s seen the newspaper yet, you can view it at the following link.,bulgaria/mr_507

Because it is primarily in Bulgarian..these are the links I believe will be of the most interest to the English speakers reading: The English corner (from me); Галерия ( on them once to make them bigger..and click again to make it smaller); Репортерите питат (video clips of interviews with the first graders).

8th grade girls

My camera broke on my last hike to Buzludja..I had been thinking, what a great camera I’s lasted so long, even with me being the klutz that I am and dropping it often..and then it just quit, you won’t see any pictures for a while

So last week, I was given the opportunity to meet with the 8th grade girls in the school I work with. I had this crazy idea that maybe they would be interested in an exchange of ideas with some American girls. It was a bit disappointing from the translator didn’t show up..and after finding another student to help, the girls were interested in hearing the Americans responses..but not so interested in answering the questions themselves.

There were a few discussions, and difference of opinions – as to how old they want to be when they get married. A few said ‘in their early 20’s’, the majority said ‘mid 20’s’, and 2 said ‘in their 30’s’.

They quickly indicated that their lives wold be different from their mother’s lives..and they all wanted to get married and have kids. The majority didn’t think men and women paid equal in Bulgaria..but they think that girls their age in Bulgaria have no problems.

So..what I did learn, was when I meet with the 9th grade girls I need to use methods other than only a discussion to work with the girls.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween in Bulgaria

Halloween for me in Bulgaria is officially finished!! There were times when I thought it would never be done with..but the 5th-7th grade students really seemed to enjoy it. Unfortunately, like all well planned activities in Bulgaria, there was a challenging, very challenging (for me) catch. I pretty much expected around 50 or so kids; but, upon arriving, there is a hall full of even younger kids. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers seemed to think it would be a good idea to bring their students, right..NOOOO

But anyways, the 2 hours passed by so fast..all of the teachers that never showed up to help the prior week (after they had specifically mentioned they would be there)..miraculously appeared, thinking that I would desert the kids to chat with them and try to explain what was going on.. Sorry, no more venting.

Here are the highlights from last Friday and today. Last week we decorated the gym. The students worked hard at making masks, decorations, spiders, spiderwebs, posters, and giant crossword puzzles for a competition between the classes. They also learned the password to enter the party – Trick or Treat. Later, we went to the school’s home ec kitchen and made the dough for chocolate chip cookies (this was a first for everyone but me :) to a lack of teachers helping, the day ended badly..I will leave it at that.

Today..we had no music, since everyone I asked indicated that they, and the school, have no speakers we could use..and let’s face it..with as many kids as there were, we wouldn’t have been able to hear it anyways. However, to continue..we did have many wonderfully carved pumpkins. I was really impressed. We also had a Halloween crossword puzzle competition (in English of course) between each of the classes. The 5th graders won!! I’m pretty sure the 7th graders were a little more into taking pictures of all the fabulous costumes. We had a fun time at apple which I took part of :)

We also decorated pumpkins that were not carved, with pieces of vegetables to make funny faces. We had a box to vote for everyone’s favorite mask (we had made masks the prior week, and they were labeled and posted on the wall)..we had a costume contest..but my favorite part was the scary story contest. At first, all but one girl said they didn’t have a scary story to tell..but we still went to a dark corner with a lit jack-o-lantern..and, it went so well, that after the party, we went back to the corner to tell more scary stories.

So..what did I learn from this Halloween..well, I guess one factor never changes’s hard to find dependable adults. Without fail, the children showed up. I can only hope they continue in this pattern as they grow be dependable. Also, I learned a lot about the students themselves. I saw their creative sides come out. Just check out some of my newly posted pics on the link at the bottom of this page. They were creative in making their masks, and all the decorations. They stayed after to help clean up..many even stayed to help calm me of my little melt-down on Friday.

It’s good to have Halloween it’s just that deadline looming for the online paper. It’s definitely getting there. The student writers really liked the press passes I made up and laminated for them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that two days a week I work in villages, and on those mornings I have to be at the bus stop by 7am..this is the hardest thing for me, being on time for these busses. But the hospitality in these villages make up for having to get up so early. At my Tuesday village there are two café’s..only one is open this I’ve been getting to know the villagers since I drink coffee there every Tuesday while waiting for the cultural center secretary. It’s funny, if one of them dares to start talking to me, the others will pipe in with questions every time..and I put up posters to recruit students for English of course, I’m gonna talk about it at the café. When I suggested English classes there, they all said no one would come..well, we started this week with enough students for at least 3 groups..older and let’s see if I can retain them :)

So..this morning, when Veselina arrives, I’m thinking we’re going to the cultural center..but, surprise for me..this is a holiday for St. Ivan Rilski (he is remembered as a miracle worker..and founded the well-known Rila Monastery in Bulgaria). There is a small monastery in this village, and many of the villagers, that means me and Veselina, and the mayor, and assistant mayor as well. And then..I had a great surprise this evening as well. A bunch of my friends were getting together to see a dance production by Neshka Robeva..I was not quite sure what to expect. In a way, it kinda reminded me of my favorite dance show I ever saw in Boston ‘Burn the floor’It was had some really cute parts that I wish I had video of..i loved the music. I wish it was like in the USA..where they market everything..I really want the music. So, as we’re getting ready to leave, I hear ‘Tricia’ behind me..and as luck would have it, a friend from Lyaskovets had been directly behind need to pay 10 BGN for a cab..Sometimes Bulgaria is sooo very small..but in a good way

I heard from one of my colleagues in school (since I wasn’t there today)..that the school is overflowing with pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns brought in by students for the big Halloween party Monday!

Monday, October 18, 2010

halloween, online newspaper, life

Today was mask-making day in Maxim Raykovich..I’m helping the 5th-7th graders pull together a Halloween party. It’s great to see the creativity of the students. We are having 2 for the best mask (scariest, prettiest, and unique), and the 2nd is the scariest story (which they will tell in the gym, with the lights turned out and Jack-o-lanterns lit). I have seriously been visiting English classes all week long to have discussions about Halloween in the USA..all the teachers have a short history of Halloween (in English) with quizzes for the students. Everyone has started bringing in all kinds of materials for Halloween (of course including carved jack-o-lanterns..I’m impressed with their participation. This Friday, we’re going to bake chocolate chip cookies in the cooking room downstairs..i’m thinking I might have to limit the participants..i got a little overwhelmed with the number of kids who showed up for making masks. We also made a bunch of spiders out of construction we just need the spiderweb, and one group made some awesome glow-in-the-dark bats. But I have to admit..I’ll be happy to be done. Even with the help of the teachers and students, it’s a lot of preparation.

..and unfortunately, my online newspaper team is slightly behind schedule for our first issue to be up on November 1st. I have a motivated team to work with to develop Maxim Raykovich’s first-ever online school newspaper. We have found a site to host us. We have stories, video clips, essays, a poll, a photo gallery..and our first issue will come out November 1st (hopefully). I will post the link to my website when it’s up. The majority of the paper will be in Bulgarian..however there will be a section from me..strictly in English, and many interesting pics in the photo gallery.

..and my Business English class and Junior Achievement started this week. I am really excited about the Junior Achievement class..but the students seem to be more excited about the Business English class. We’ll see, as the weeks progress.

..and most of all, I am looking forward to my reward to myself for working so hard to get everything up and running with the new organizations. Halloween weekend, I’m headed to Croatia. I’ve got my fingers crossed for good weather, and a relaxing trip..even though I know when I travel with Bulgarians they talk, they drink (rakia), they dance, they shop, they go, and go, and go. I’m sure it will be a fun trip.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bulgarians and Americans often ask me, ‘Do you like Bulgaria’, or ‘Why do you like Bulgaria’. This past weekend is a perfect example of what I really like about living here. Hiking, visiting interesting historical places, meeting new hiking friends and chatting, seeing wild pigs, eating, drinking, and dancing till early morning. I understand very well that Bulgaria has many problems..but I also like to them to recognize how rich they are because of their beautiful nature, and close knit families.

I headed with one of my favorite hiking groups to Byalarusse where we saw the ‘Medieval’ town of Cherven..this town was a thriving center, including many types of craftsmanship before before being conquered by the Turks. If you look through my recent pictures, you’ll see only the remnants of the city. We also went to see the Ivanovo Monastery in the Rocks..long ago it was a functioning church, built right into the rocks..many of the wall paintings were still there (my camera didn’t take very good pics..I only kept one), but you can see many other pictures at this site:

Then, we went to a functioning monastery in the rocks, Barsarbovo Monastery, very pretty. But, one of my favorite parts is always the festive evenings. Everyone brings a little food to the Hija (hut), and it turns into a feast of food, drinking, and dancing. No one is standoffish like many of the social functions I’ve been to in Boston. Everyone sings. I wish I had taken a video clip, but I was having too much fun.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

School, Horo dancing,'s good to be busy starting again means the cities and villages seem to wake up, and I am excited to be overwhelmingly busy again so quickly. The first day of school was September 15th. I don’t remember that our first day of school in the USA is quite like it is here. The students come to the playground, where a presentation is given, with speeches, and introductions (especially to the new first-graders, who sing, and the 12th graders are behind them)..on this first day, there are only shortened forms of the classes(maybe 15 minutes), and then all the teachers meet in the teachers lounge to receive a blessing and greeting from the noontime, we’re all at a banquet, happily eating, drinking, and feet hurt so much by the end of the day. After the banquet was Horo dancing class..seriously I danced like 5 hours that day.

On Friday, we (me and my great team) from a nearby village finished our HIV/AIDS training..the second part..the sports day, which our team will be doing a local radio interview about tomorrow morning.

There are 5 villages in the local municipality..I had been to 3 of those before this past weekend, and ended seeing both of the other villages, completely unplanned this weekend. There was a very interesting fundraiser by a group of English was nice to hear everyone speaking English around’s been a while. The fundraiser had some interesting ways to raise money..unfortunately I did not bring my camera. For instance, there were 5 shirtless guys (some of them quite hairy)..and they offered to the highest bidder, the opportunity to place 4 wax strips anywhere on the hairiest guy..I have to give it to the emcee, he got people to bid way more than I expected.

After the fundraiser, was a banquet for our Horo (traditional Bulgarian dance) group’s 1 year anniversary! I again, didn’t bring my camera..but, it was a fun evening filled with food, drinks, and always dancing..

The other village I visited this weekend was a surprise from my Bulgarian teacher, Petia. This time, I did remember the camera, and you can check out the new photos at the new pictures link at the bottom of the blog. We visited an artists’ house and was amazing..the house, the workshop, their dogs (that look like mini lions)..the whole place just oozed creativity. And the woman that was the owner had won an International contest about 15 years ago in Japan. They have had visitors from all over the world. This is the website for Nadia Alexandrova’s workshop..I really like the second link, showing their house and workshop

So, every week, I have 2 villages I visit. One on Monday, and another on Thursday..or at least I’m working on getting it down to only that. But being there only one day a week also means a lot of work on that one day. For the first village, today we spent the day writing out our Q&A for a local radio broadcast about our recent HIV/AIDS events (training and a sports day), put together pictures and a synopsis for the newpaper, and finalized all the receipts and paperwork..along with meeting many new great people in the village. Both the secretary of the cultural center and I were drained of energy by the end of the day..she is a hard worker, which I can see by the respect all the people in village give to her, and by all her help in completing this project.

Oh..and if I haven’t responded to e-mails lately, I’m trying this weekend.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Training completed..I would have say today was a success! And from what I heard from our training team, they also agree. Today, we successfully held a training on HIV/AIDS for youth, by using interactive games. Our team, me, Veselina (Director of the cultural center), and 2 youth have worked closely the last 3-4 weeks to present our information. Today was the harder of the 2 days..the learning. Next week, we will have a sports day, that will include an invitation to the spectators during a half hour break to play condom volleyball. This was a great game idea from another PC volunteer. It becomes quite interesting, as it brings out discussions on facts and myths about HIV/AIDS.

Today was a bit long, as there was a session in the morning for the younger kids (13-16), and then a second session for the older kids (17-26). Surprisingly, it was the older group that was quieter. We were expecting the younger group to be shy, and laugh..but they did really well. Everyone was laughing at one point or another..but learning as well. If you want, you can take a look at some of the new pictures on the link at the bottom of the blog..and it’ll give you a bit more of a description of today’s events.

I have to say..I am also very proud of our training team: The director of the cultural center in the village, two youth, and myself.

I heard that there has been a bit of small earthquake activity in the Sofia area, the capital of Bulgaria recently..please don’t worry. I was nowhere near it.

September 6 - Bulgarian Holiday

..sometimes, I think I need to write a little more here about Bulgaria, and thanks to my new counterpart (my Bulgarian tutor and good friend, Petia) I can understand and explain these important dates in Bulgaria. This was all brought on by the recent September 6th holiday here in Bulgaria.

March 3 (1878) – This date celebrates the removal of the Turkish yoke..after 500 years, Bulgaria is finally freed with the signing of the San Stefano Treaty..that is, until the Berlin Congress separates Bulgaria. Control of the southern part of Bulgaria is returned to the Ottoman empire.

September 6 (1885) – Bulgaria had been split in two..for a long time – half was under Ottoman rule, and the other half was with Russia. September 6 is the day celebrating the reunification of northern and southern Bulgaria.

September 22 (1908) – This is Bulgaria’s Independence day (1908), from the ottoman our 4th of July

We had an long Bulgarian conversation about communism..because I am always so curious what it was like. I mean, I know what I heard growing up in the USA, and I studied a little during college, but it’s so much more interesting hearing it from my teacher..I mean, she had already been a teacher for 20+ years when communism was crumbling here. She has seen the changes, taught during the changes, and adapted with the times. If I thought my writing skills were good enough I’d write about it more..but for now, I try to make notes to myself about our discussions

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Laptop - yes, Internet - yes, refrigerator - NO

Well..the summer is quickly passing, which is good since I’m not a fan of hot weather (unless, of course I'm riding a motorcycle or scuba diving).

Yeah! I got my computer back, and internet..2 months later; and now my refrigerator broke down..sometimes, I have to admit, I get a little frustrated. Always something doesn’t work, fuses get blown, windows crack and break, there’s no water..there’s just always something that doesn’t work or needs fixed.

On the good side, I really enjoyed the Black Sea and the waves..not quite like the ocean back home, but I had fun. I’m finishing up a small project with a cultural center next week...and I really like the new organizations I’m working with.

I posted a few new pictures under the ‘Tricia’s new pics’ link at the bottom of this blog.

Also, if you currently have my address..please DO NOT USE THIS ADDRESS (that address is for the municipality). I will forward you my new address :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Still no computer..'s hard to post often, when I've been without a computer since the first of June..and it's amazing what can happen without one. Clean apartment, many fresh ideas for projects have been fleshed out more, I have a lot more contact with friends. I also got a chance to see some great dancers at the International Folk Dancing festival (I cheered loudest for Mexico!)..all the countries had amazing dancers. Portugal really surprised me..very happy music and light on their feet..I also replaced my volunteer work at the Municipality with some great new organizations..I finally made it to the Black Sea (which by the way was a blast..jumping in the waves and diving under them)..but getting a bad virus after wasn't so fun.

I'm excited for the upcoming year here in Bulgaria..many, many new ideas from residents here. It's odd to me, seeing myself progressing from a trainee who found it difficult to say 'Thank you' in the Bulgarian language, and feeling like a frightened schoolkid (never having left the USA before), to now, a comfortable mid-term Peace Corps Volunteer..and yes, I can hold up my end of a conversation in Bulgarian :)

Two more weeks..only two more weeks, and I should have my computer back and running, and I'll be heading back to the Black Sea with a school camp.

Monday, July 12, 2010

LESS THAN ONE YEAR TO GO!!! case you aren’t on my Skype list, you may not have heard that I lost my laptop in a storm..messed up the, I was originally okay with this, until the very next day, the municipality I work for decided to change their mind about allowing me to go on a hike. Yep, the day before I have to leave, they decide that my work is ‘unsatisfactory’ (apparently I don’t bring in enough $ for projects) now, I don’t have a laptop (my connection to the outside world) and I am not going on a hike I’ve had planned for some time. If it weren’t for our MidService Conference with all the other volunteers in my group, I might have lost my mind. But..don’t worry; as I always say, everything happens for a reason. I usually tend to focus more on my Bulgarian friends, but this time, I really needed the break to connect with other volunteers. It seemed to me like a lot of other volunteers also were having difficulties, but I also heard a lot of great ideas and completed projects. As for the laptop that got fried during a storm, well..maybe I had been spending a little too much time on it. I have had a growing list of subjects I want to study (fixing motorcycles and Dive master for scuba diving) well as things around the apartment that need cleaned, and organizing the time I finish with the ‘to do’ list, I should be getting the fixed laptop back. And for the cancelled hiking program director is coming for a visit to review what Peace Corps is all about with my new counterparts, and what my goals are as a volunteer. The municipality and I seem to be on two very different pages and we have difficulty connecting, even though the residents of the city are open to these ideas..since they don’t bring in money, but instead promote community development.

4TH of July and Mom’s visit

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first..I think my computer’s dead. I came home from my 4th of July party dead tired, and climbed into be awakened a couple of hours later by a huge thunder and lightning storm. People are always saying to unplug your computer during these storms I got up and unplugged it. In the process of doing this I happened to see my clothes on the drying line outside flapping all around..and once again getting wet. So..I run out and grab then as quickly as I can..still getting completely soaked. This morning I woke up, plugged the computer in, tried to turn it on..and..nothing.
So..let me backup to some happier moments on the 4th of July. I had a 4th of July gathering in the city I teach English. We had paper airplane contests, tossed water balloons (my good friend who wasn’t so keen on playing got drenched)..sorry about that Hrisa, had a drawing contest, listened to good American music, ate and had a relaxing day. And to top it off, a good Bulgarian friend of mine, Daisy, that I haven’t seen since almost a year ago showed up! I’m glad that I celebrated the 4th of July here! Many of my neighbors remembered the holiday as well and offered me ‘chestit praznik’ (happy holiday) as I was leaving in the morning.
Okay..and my favorite, favorite visit was from my mom. Just like when I left for the Peace Corps, this was my moms first time leaving the USA. I tried to prepare her before she left, to give her some idea of what to expect. She met many of my good friends and ate lots of Bulgarian food. We talked, and walked and laughed..a lot. I think she saw some of the more trying issues I deal with here. I am very happy and proud of her for coming. The only thing is..I really miss her and America since she’s been gone.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I can’t believe it’s June already..

I don’t often post about the projects or work, besides teaching that I do here in Bulgaria; so I thought I’d give a synopsis of one of the projects I’d like to complete this year.

I cannot repeat enough times how great it is to have a helpful counter-part. We are working together on a playground for a village primarily comprised of the Roma population. They are heavily discriminated against, and the primary school in their village is being shut down this year. There is not a single playground in the entire village, even though many children live there.

I recently contacted a company in the USA that helps build ‘community built’ playgrounds. I was so excited after reviewing their site..and they want to talk over ideas. The idea of the project is to gather the volunteers and they work 5-7’s intense work, but the entire community really pitches in to create some pretty amazing designs. So..that has been what I have been working on this week, while Niki has been contacting organizations that specialize in Environmental talks for youth and locating a local firm that we might be able to obtain the wood to create the park..and every day we talk over our ideas.

Niki is a great counter-part on many levels. She wants to learn English, so every day we speak a little English. She is one of the few Bulgarians that I have met that really seems to get ‘brainstorming’ and working together as a team. She corrects my Bulgarian, so that is slowly improving. She likes hiking, and introduced me to the hiking group that I will be doing an 8-day hike in the mountains with.

I didn’t mention also..I went on vacation with another volunteer, Felicia. We visited Amsterdam and Belgium (Brussels, Brugge, Antwerp). Oh, it was great. We walked a lot..and saw thousands of bicyclists in Amsterdam, ate great food, drank great beer, toured museums, shopped. I have to say the Belgian waffles in Belgium taste nothing like ours..they were so very yummy. And..i seemed to bring all the bad weather with me. It was chilly, overcast or rainy most of the time we were on vacation. Everyone kept telling us the week before had been beautiful weather. Oh well..I’m used to it. This was my first trip outside Bulgaria, without other Bulgarians. I was concerned with directions, but had no need for concern. Felicia was an excellent tour guide. Just give her a map and she can find her way around pretty much any town. I told her we’d make a good team for Amazing Race..I posted some pictures on the links at the bottom.

I can hardly believe that this Saturday is my last scheduled class to teach English for this school year! Do you have any idea what this means?! This means I have my weekends free!!! I can actually go and visit other friends and volunteers in Bulgaria.

And the best news of mom’s coming to visit. In less that 2 weeks, she will be here in Bulgaria!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

random ramblings in May

This month..much like last month has gone by way too quickly..but, on the good side, there are lots of projects and ideas on the table, and I have a great Bulgarian colleague to work with. This month, I finished teaching the younger students English..yeah! I loved teaching them, but it’s one less stressor, so that I focus more on projects. Next month I finish teaching the high school business class..yeah again! And the adult class on Saturday (this is my favorite group..but I really am excited to have entire weekends off at a time!)..we’ve already talked about meeting during the week, I just need a place to sleep since the bus doesn’t run from the village in the evenings

So..this has been a month of na gosti’s..many, many interesting visits. They are always different. We discuss European history (going back to the Roman and Byzantine empires)..minorities within Bulgaria, the environment, Bulgarian, European and American politics, etc.. And time and again, it amazes me that we can have these discussions in Bulgarian language..they are very patient helping me understand their language. They are also very honest about their thoughts on politics and am I.
Some of the events that took place this month: A sports holiday for kids, where the students from the villages in the Municipality were invited to a day of sports. We had a relay race, na rodna topka (the closest thing we have to this is Dodgeball), treats, and awards. There’re a few pictures from this event on the new link at the bottom of this page.
Also..yesterday was a big day in a nearby village where I teach. First, it was a national holiday celebrating the creation of the Cyrillic’s actually a 2-da y holiday for all the schools. But, it was also a town holiday for one of the villages I visit. These celebrations always consist of lots and lots of food, and rakia. I saw my first cooked head of a lamb. I’ve heard many volunteers talk about this, but this was my first..and I basically visited people around the village eating and drinking the entire day..that might be why I’m a little tired today. They had games and rides and a bazaar set up in the center of town.

I have a feeling this summer is going to fly by just as quickly, but also hopefully it will be very productive.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The mountains in SW Bulgaria

What a difference a long weekend and a new counterpart can make.

Because of a holiday last week, we had a 4-day weekend. So I headed to the mountains in SW Bulgaria, near the bordering countries of Macedonia and Greece. In fact, after the first day of our 8-hr hike to the summit of Mt. Ruen, we were stopped by the border control police on our way back down the mountain, and had to hive them our names and EIN numbers.

Now, let me tell you..Bulgarians, are very different when they go hiking from when they take a stroll through town. I mean they move..and fast up those mountains. Most of the time I was in the middle to back of the pack, walking a good pace, chatting with other members and taking pictures. I tell you, they only took one real break at the summit the entire 8 hours..and they eat and drink so little when they hike, and afterwards they don’t appear nearly as tired as I did. And..after every hike, we pack up and head to a new city to see for an hour or two..then head to the next hija (hut) for the night and leave at 5:30 the next morning for a 10-hr hike..of course, this is always after a fun-filled evening of eating, drinking (home-made rakia and/or wine), and dancing. So, all in all they did one 8-hr hike (Mt. Ruen and Mt Shapka), and two 10-hr hikes (Mt. Radomir and Mt. Slavyanka); visited the cities Kyustendil, Petrich, Melnik, and 2 others I can’t remember; and visited 2 monasteris (Zemen and Rupite – a temple to Baba Vanga, a clairvoyant). I say they went on these hikes, because (I never thought this before, but I guess I’m a wimp), after the first 8-hr hike, I didn’t do the next two 10-hr hikes.

Bulgarians are honestly the friendliest people I have met, and the ones on this hiking trip only enforced these thoughts. I spoke pretty much Bulgarian the entire 4-day weekend..and they patiently listened and taught me much about the Bulgarian language, culture, and people.

So..since I was so tired after the first hike, I woke up a little later and went with a second group I had chatted with the day was only a 5-hr hike, with lots of jokes, lots of talking and very relaxed. So..I swore I was going to hike the final day..but woke up at 4:30 a.m. to lightening and pouring rain. I turned to my counterpart across the room and said I wasn’t going. Turns out, all the rain stopped before they left and it was a beautiful day..but that’s ok, because again, we gathered a smaller group and finished another 5-hr hike.

I’ve posted a new link for pictures at the bottom of the web page..because the old location had reached capacity; you should check out the pics.

Oh, and did I mention my new counterpart ( counterpart!!) was there as well. She has only been my counterpart for a week and already we have made more progress together in the first week than I did in the previous 9 months with the other ?**. It feels nice to have an actual counter-part to work with!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ups and downs..they said when we arrived here, that our lives would be a series of ups and downs, and that’s exactly how I feel. As you may or may not know, I don’t exactly get along that well with my counter-part here..and last weeks intense conversation I am of the belief that this is soon to change (my fingers are crossed). After having a rough two weeks, I am feeling ready to try again..that is, to get my ideas heard.
Last week had a nice start. I went back to visit my host family (Spas and Petra) in the small village and also visited friends in Vratsa. I like going to the village (for only visits) is very relaxed there, and I am well taken care of..and for a change I could understand most of what they talked about..and it was lots and lots of gossip. While I was there we had guests visit for dinner who work in Cypress.
Earth Day – helped with an NGO to have Earth Day celebration in the Center of the park. The children used many recyclable mateials to make purses, vases, flowers, pictures..and decorated the park very prettily.
I had a surprisingly decent week teaching all my classes last week..the week before last was torture; no one wanted to learn or listen last week (they had just gotten back from spring break). This week we covered new material and they were ready to learn and practice. I did have to set some ground rules before the class. And we had a fun walk to the river this week to test the water was very with this group of 17 kids, but they seemed to enjoy the outing
I have a few favorite restaurants in the city..and living in Bulgaria, I meet many types of peope; from Erasmus college students in other countries, many babas, many friends my own age, people all ages who like to dance Horo’s and Salsa, people interested in sports, or interested in speaking English, and over the last couple weeks I’ve been chatting with a group of construction workers that work in a nearby they finally finished there job there, and invited me to their farewell dinner. I tell you, I don’t think you will find construction workers in America doing the many exciting traditional dances that these guys were doing. It started out with them buying lamb (I think it was)..but anyways, the lamb gets slaughtered and a delicious soup was made and the meat cooked in a large outdoor oven..was absolutely delicious. So the owner of the hotel-restaurant complex is a good guy, and actually brings a small band (3 guys – 1 plays the clarinet and sings, 1 plays the accordion, and 1 plays the drum) to wish them farewell also. These guys definitely have personality, and they were pretty amazing dancers to top it off.
I also had a fun couple weekends with my older English students from the village. Last weekend we had a yummy grilled meal outside at my friends house..her house and garden overlook part of the city and she has a large, large garden with so many vegetables and fruit trees and flowers. So we grilled there and carried it with us up to the hilly fields where the pretty flowers had all bloomed. I forgot my camera..but the views from up there are quite beautiful..there are so many colors in different fields from a distance, and we watched the cows being was nice relax after having that rough week at work. And then, we made ‘Korabi’..a Bulgarian form of cookies this week. We made ones with sugar on the outside slightly resembling peaches
I learn so much about myself in of the things I have been learning is about the many foods I never thought I would eat, that I actually kinda like; such as: radishes (raw, right after washing), garlic (also fresh from the garden), tripe soup, chicken drops (sounds appetizing right), chicken livers with onions.
Anyways..I haven’t posted much this month because it was just a difficult month, and it may be a while before I get the chance to post again..May and June are pretty busy months. But—thank goodness, a break from teaching after June. The months nowadays are so packed with events, that time flies by..but at the same time it’s odd because I look at the calendar and feel like I’ve already lived here longer than a year.
My friends reminded me, it was this time last year that I was riding cross country on my motorcycle saying my final good-byes to my friends and family before leaving for the Peace Corps!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 7th - My Birthday trip and Easter is my Birthday! I’ve had many pleasant surprises. But first, let me tell you a little about my trip. I went with a few of the local high school teachers and the Director on a visit to the capital cities of Serbia (Belgrade), Hungary (Budapest), and Austria (Vienna). I want to go back and visit all of these was a great debate – which city is more beautiful, Budapest or Vienna..with the beautiful architecture of the buildings, the Parliament, the Opera House, the churches, the statues, museums, and the running and biking paths!

In Hungary we went for a traditional Hungarian dinner with dancing and singing. If you look through the pics, you’ll see one where a server with a long thermometer-like bottle is spurting red wine across the table into a man’s mouth. I was one of the first people to try this. They put a bib on you..and let’s just say, it’s a good thing. I showed everyone what ‘not’ to do, by basically spilling most of it. It was a fun evening with two other groups there, one from Greece and one from Turkey.

So..I was in Vienna for Easter..and missed a few of the Easter traditions here in Bulgaria..but my new Bulgarian and Lithuanian friends made sure we wished each other the traditional Easter greetings of Христос Воскресе (Christ has risen) and Войстина Воскресе (It is true, he has risen?). And Mirena provided beautifully decorated eggs (and of course, rakia  which we cracked against other eggs. Their were six of us..the person with the least cracked or last unbroken egg is known as the most successful, happy, and lucky person for the rest of the year. It wasn’t me. I was out from almost the beginning. day started with many greetings and shout-outs from my good friends in USA. It’s good to know y’all still remember and think of me  I bought my chocolates to ‘чирпя’ everyone. You’re supposed to offer everyone chocolates for your Birthday. The night before, my Bulgarian teacher and good friend, Petia surprised me with beautiful picture books of Bulgaria. Every time I see her, she’s got a Bulgarian proverb for me to learn about..I told her I’m going to have to start recording them in a notebook..they’re very different, but interesting. I got some nice gifts from my co-workers to remember my time here, and got a shout out on the radio, and they played a Xora (traditional Buglarian song) for me..everyone wishes you many greetings for your birthday here in Bulgaria..such as I wish you Joy, Luck, Love, Success, and many others that I can’t understand.

Everyone’s been asking..what will I be doing for my Birthday? My gift to myself was my trip! I also plan to have yummy delicious brownies..thanks to a mix sent by my favorite bikers! And of course, one of my favorite things to do in Bulgaria..Dance Xora’s!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This has been a rough month..passing by too quickly with too many events and happenings. I haven’t really been able to enjoy the events as much as I like, since I’m always preparing or rushing off to the next thing. I have so much information that I’ve learned from workshops..and I’m excited to maybe have the time in April to start applying it to some of the NGO’s I work with.

The bad of my best friends from back home is really sick..with cancer. It sucks that such bad things happen to such good people. It is also a little difficult now being away from home and hearing about all the changes in friends and families lives. While I have great new friends here in Bulgaria, it is my friends back home that really know me. I remember when I used to attend Brownies (this is the troop before you are old enough for Girl Scouts)we used to sing this song ‘Make new friends, but keep the is silver and the others gold’. I couldn’t agree with that more. A good friend I met here in Bulgaria is from Germany..she just finished her assignment here and is returning back to Germany. I hope we can stay in touch. She’s a very good person.

The good news..the ideas just keep coming, and a few of them are finally coming to fruition. We are starting to receive responses to projects and they seem to be positive for the most part.

I had a great class the other day..on Wednesdays I teach English to students in a local village from 3-6th grade. It always surprises me which games they like to play (as well as the ones they don’t like). Yesterday we played ‘Mother (Miss T) May I, and Red light / Green light. Other times we play Simon Says, Twister (with chalk, Uno cards, and a hat with slips to tell them left/right hand/foot)..they also love this game called People to People. One that they really like is a simple Word Search..they had never done this before..and this clapping game Double, Double This That.

Oh..I’ve been asked a lot lately if I’m okay since I haven’t been online much. Yep..I’m fine, all’s well. I’ve just had so much to do I haven’t had time to chat lately. I’m looking forward to a break..maybe this summer..just a little

Before I forget..Saturday is Earth Hour. Make sure to turn out your lights at 8:30 p.m. for one hour on Saturday April 27th for Earth Hour. Take a look at this link to see what everyone is doing in Bulgaria for this (not sure if the link will work..) EarthHour. My business class will be discussing marketing of this event today.

Oh..and thank you Rene and Jay for the great packages! Very nice surprises!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March is quickly passing by..

March is a busy month in Bulgaria..full of holidays and celebrations..I’ll try to talk to a few of them..but there are just too many. I partly attribute this busy month to the fact that in Bulgaria all the other months are known to be ‘Male’ months..March is the only ‘Female’ month here. makes sense to me that it would take a female to get things started again. So, here in Bulgaria that female is known as Baba Marta. The common belief is that by wearing the red and white colours of the martenitsa people ask Baba Marta for mercy. They hope that it will make winter pass faster and bring spring..I’m not sure that will happen this year, since we just a nice beautiful snowfall over the last 2 days. We celebrated this holiday on March 1st..and everyone exchanges Martenitsa’s (some look like red and white friendship bracelets). If you look at the pictures on my pictures link at the bottom of the blog, you will see pictures of Baba Marta and also Martenitsa’s., other holidays in Bulgaria this month include their Independence Day on March 3rd..a few of the other volunteers blogs have good information about this can check them out on the left side of my blog.

I spent the weekend in the village I teach in..the woman’s club there put together a wonderful celebration at their discotheque there. They had a great turnout. One of my English students made me promise to write about this important day in Bulgaria..that day is March 8th – Women’s Day. Nope..not Mother’s Day, Women’s Day.

This is also the month the local High School celebrates their anniversary..I’m going to see a concert and go to their banquet this evening.

Next week is the 130th birthday of my city. This is a little confusing..but, before my city was a city, it was a town..and this is a celebration for that..Not to be confused with the annual city celebration at the end of June.

Two other interesting things on the agenda for this week..I start teaching Salsa..and a Business course. Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes okay 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Beautiful Bulgaria

I can't wait until my schedule frees up a little to really start enjoying the beauty of Bulgaria again. For now, looking at the pictures on these links will have to do.

I love this link my friend sent me. The pictures show how stunning Bulgaria's nature is:

Other pictures showing the beauty of Bulgaria on this link:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Busy is good

Today has been a productive day..and it's only noontime. I met with some prospective new students for my Business class starting in March, I spoke with the Director of the COY (High School) about our History presentation together next week, I made a down payment on my exciting trip coming up, and I met with the first of many NGO's to learn more extensively how I can help them..and I have a meeting with another NGO in an hour..

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happenings in February

A lot of fun and interesting things have been going on these couple weeks. For one, there was a holiday called ЕРГЕНСКА ВАРТОЛОМЕЕВА СВАТБА, which translates into something like a Bachelor’s wedding..all the single men in town have to dress up like a woman for the day. They’ve had this tradition for many years..since 1930’s. There is a reception and a parade of them around town. I guess the point of the holiday is to humiliate the men into getting married. So..I saw these pics online of the holiday from last year..very interesting. Check out this link to see just what single men have to go through in this village

But, the day before this holiday, there is another holiday All Souls Day..where you commemorate a person who was close to you that passed away within the last 3 years. I kept making the mistake of saying ‘Thank you’ as people in the village kept giving little bags filled with breads and treats. You’re not supposed to say thank you..because this is their way of acknowledging the soul of the person that passed is believed that the souls of the these people come back on All Souls Day and stand by their own graveside. Relatives give food to other people to satiate the Departed’s hunger..and according to online resources..they also light a candle ‘to illuminate the Departed's road so that they do not get lost in the dark’. of the schools I work with participated in the 2nd annual regional tournament for English. Each class put together a short play or song in English. I have to say, it was quite an experience to watch them all perform. First off, I was one of only a few people who understood what each of the groups was saying when they were performing (in English) could tell by the looks on their faces that some of the groups had no idea what they were saying..a lot of the groups simply played a song and sang and danced with it, for example one group sang and danced the entire Katie Perry song ‘Hot and Cold’..and then three other songs also. And then the older groups performances were a little inappropriate for the age groups that were there..their plays were about infidelity, rape, and death..i know the students didn’t understand the words, but the action said plenty. But..I have to say, I was very proud of my group..they took first prize for their age group! I thought their pronunciation in the play ‘The Turnip’ was by far the best of all the groups. They were so excited and screaming and jumping up and down. It was a good day. But on the flip side..I didn’t realize that all the local schools from my city were participating. It made for an uncomfortable meet, since it is difficult to find time to visit all the schools often.

This weekend was spent with some good friends skiing and hiking in the Stara Planina..Gramadliva was the location,  and it was just breathtakingly beautiful. While the snow had begun to melt in most places, there was plenty here for playing in. We went to go sledding and skiing..the snow was a little too mushy for me to ski, but Elena and Angel tried it out..and we all went sledding down the mountainside..that was fun. The guide at the hut was great and you could tell he really enjoyed being a host. We had such a great time we went back the next day..and I know for sure I will be going back again. And I really have to say thanks again to my dear friends from home who sent the Brownie mix..I whipped up a batch to take with us and oh were they tasty..i’m saving the other pack for my Birthday 

The hiking was quite a workout..sometimes you were able to walk on top of the deep snow, and other times (most of the time) my foot would fall through up past my knee with each step. We saw lots of footprints for wild boar..but never actually saw a boar. There were so many differently shaped trees..i tried to capture some of it in my pictures, but they do not do them justice. One of the ones that I liked the most was the one that was struck by lightening..the center of it is hollowed out with some really interesting designs inside. Look at my pictures and maybe it will give you a bit of an idea.

I probably say this often, but Bulgaria is a beautiful country.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Любимка на спорта

This weekend was the big Kukeri festival in Bulgaria and I was really planning to go..but remember, I teach every Saturday. Bummer, I tell you..I was really looking forward to seeing some other volunteers..but, you know what. I had an awesome weekend..we still had snow, so I got in a nice hike in the snow (one path was so slippery I just slid on my butt the whole way down!) with good friends, after another absolutely delicious meal with my best friends and their family.

But the highlight was going to the village where I teach for a holiday they started to celebrate again this year after not celebrating it for 10+ years called ‘Lyoubimka na sporta (Любимка на спорта)..meaning either ‘my favorite sport’ or the sport of love’..not real sure on the translation. This village has about 2100 ppl living there, and they had a great turnout. Basically everyone arrives, and buys a ticket and flowers..throughout the evening everyone is supposed to dance and then they have a raffle..AND then, as the dancing continues people are supposed to give their flower to the most beautiful or best dancer or their favorite or a combination of that..and at the end of the evening..someone is crowned (the person with the most roses. But there was a one was dancing. No one at all. Everyone was sitting or standing and waiting. Finally a few woman started dancing a Hora (traditional Bulgarian dance done in a circle) and I joined in. I love these dances..and they were only doing the easy ones. But even then it took a while for only some people to come out. I was telling the woman I commuted there with that I considered it a success because by the time they started the raffle, people were talking and smiling (and I don’t see that a lot in Bulgaria) I am assuming that they were having a good time.

It was amazing to me just how many people I knew there..and they really treated me very special, like an honored guest..they introduced me as one of the special guests to the crowd, and I met so many more that spoke English and translated the speech at the beginning.. and I got to see and chat with my students. I think the mayor was trying to set me up to win..he always has a mischievous look..but thanks to a good new friend she alerted me to the plot. You see, if you are chosen as the ‘Love of the year’, then a man has to come up and put a shawl around you..and you are destined to be married.

There was only one disappointment..that I had to leave early, before the end so I didn’t get to see who was crowned

I think I’ve reached a point here in Bulgaria where I’ve soaked up a lot of learning. I’m ready to start teaching, and I’ve got a plan..always gotta have a plan. I had a great meeting with another village today that I really wish I’d had the opportunity to visit earlier because there is a lot of work that needs to be done there..and more meetings are lined up for next week with some fairly new NGO’s. Today, I finally had to say I have to do this my way..the more American way. I’ve taken in the Bulgarian way, listened, learned and little has been now need to start working on some changes. I also think that I’ve been here long enough now to take a step back and see the bigger picture. When I first came to my site, it was so overwhelming. You’ve got information coming at you from Peace Corps, new Bulgarian friends, disks to research, online research, meetings galore to get yourself known and learn about the city and villages I would be working with in my time here..and I really just had to throw myself into this big vortex. And after the first 6 months I kind of felt like I needed to get a focus because it was so easy to get lost in I try to organize, sort through, and narrow down my ideas..or at least put them on a timeline..still a lot of information coming in, but slowly a bigger picture is starting to emerge.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nothing New

Soo..not too much happening lately. I think I had to slow down a bit after all the holiday events. This has been such a low-key month! A much needed break.

Tonight I was leaving my Bulgarian / English class. The class is actually an English class, but they like having me there to practice their English and I like coming to practice my Bulgarian. So..the students always leave before me, and then I walk out with my teacher and chat on the walk back; however, tonight the students came back and Petia, our teacher, had to talk with another instructor and wasn’t there..if only you could hear our conversation, and after another, after another. They come back and say Petia blah blah something something zaklychvane. So..I’m thinking they’re saying that Petia has to lock up after us, so grab my stuff and come with them..but no; they shake their heads saying I they try again. This time, I’m thinking they’re telling me to close the door to the classroom, so I start to close the door on them..again, they stop me and say I misunderstood again. I can tell they’re starting to get frusterated, and I can’t figure out what they’re trying to say..when miraculously somehow we get it all figured out. The downstairs door was locked and they couldn’t get out and had to wait for Petia to unlock it. I practice, but sometimes I swear, I’m never going to be able to understand Bulgarian..we all got a laugh out of it though, when Petia finally made it back and confirmed what we were trying to say to each other.

And..we finally got the snow I’ve been waiting for!!! It’s been snowing lightly for like 3 days now and it is just beautiful outside. The only downside is I’m getting in little running. But I recently found a pool I can swim in to help offset it.

Oh..and before I forget.  I can actually bake really good chocolate chip cookies here!  There are no chocolate chips, so I have to chop up chocolate bars, but it's hard to believe that they don't have cookies, like we have at chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, snickerdoodles.