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.