Thursday, August 25, 2011

my thoughts..

As a Peace Corps volunteer I think that I am living like a Bulgarian..and oftentimes I am frustrated by my lack of money, like many Bulgarians are..but the truth is..I will never have to face many of the decisions they face on a regular basis. The below is a compilation of many situations I hear from Bulgarians, told in first person.

What if one day I woke up in my block apartment that is owned by my parents, that had been passed down from their parents and so on, and realize I have to go to work again at the factory..which I am not very motivated to do; especially since I haven’t been paid for my last month’s work..and knowing when I do get paid that it is less than 400 лв (~$350) / month. It is disheartening to know that the surrounding countries and other ex-Eastern bloc countries are faring better, and the constituents are receiving a higher level of pay. My husband makes more money working in England picking strawberries than he does working as a chief engineer here in Bulgaria..and he receives his paychecks regularly, whereas if the company I work for does not make enough money, I may not see my next paycheck for the next 3 months..maybe receiving partial checks, until the company is flush again..I start to wonder..should I leave our child with her grandparents and work overseas with him? We can make more money together, and send it back for her to have a better life? But is it a better life for my child to live without her parents, or for her to be able to have a bike, and new clothes, and food on the table.

My mother and father who are retired receive a monthly pension of about 150 лв (~$115) / month..that’s why they continue to keep the village house, (that is falling to pieces, and the roof caving in) with the garden. During the summer I help with the gardening and preserving when I can; but my long hours and sometimes 7 day work weeks keep me from helping as much as I’d like to. But I know if we don’t get these fruits and vegetables preserved for winter time, they won’t have enough food to survive the winter.

During the summer it is difficult to plan a vacation (which I haven’t taken in 7 years), because I am called in on a day-to-day basis at work, and because of the animals I have to take care of before and after work. I feed the chickens, turkeys, pigs, and goats..collect the milk and eggs..start the process to make the yogurt and cheese from the goats milk, and of course cook and do the laundry.

I know there are loans available through the bank, but my parents once had a bank account where they kept their life savings..and then one day they woke up, and the banks said there was no longer any money in the accounts (hyperinflation after the fall of communism). I don’t trust banks. I keep most of my money hidden..the only reason I use the bank is that my work requires I have an account for Direct Deposit..so the first of every month I stand in line with the others to withdraw the money. Even if I did begin to trust the bank again, there is no way that I could possibly get a loan. I have been working this factory job for the last 10 years..but my pay is not consistent enough. I can’t be sure of when my next paycheck will be,so more than likely I would default on the loan. But, my daughter graduates this year, and I know she will be going to University next year. I am so proud of her, but where am I going to come up with this money to put her through university?

But I am proud. I am proud to be a Bulgarian. Our country is small, yes, but to see our beautiful nature..the mountains (Rila, Pirin, Rhodope’s, Stara Planina), the Black Sea, our lengthy history dating back to Thracian times in 681 a.d.; the summer outdoor kitchens and patios with ceilings made by grape vines, used to make our very own wines and spirits. There are natural herbs and fruits that grow in abundance in the wild for use in fresh teas. It was Bulgarian monks who created the first Cyrillic alphabet, which we still use, in part to this day. We have managed to maintain our traditions through 70+ years of communism under the USSR, and 500 years under the Turkish yoke.

New Pics posted under Tricia's newest pics link at the bottom of the page..and listen to the new BG song (upper left) called Kolko mi lipsvash (How much I miss you).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mazalat_Sokolovo Hike

This last hike rates right up there with the winter 2010 hike on Mt. Botev..so many pleasant surprises along the way. Our first hike on Friday was actually at night..under a full moon; which also just happened to be the evening of the Perseids meteor shower. We started the hike around 8pm, munching on blueberries and raspberries from the trees along the paths..yummy! We all had our headlamps, but once we made it out of the forest, the moon shined brightly enough..we turned off our lights and continued. The weather was cool, but not cold, with a nice gentle breeze, and a beautiful view of the cities below with the sunset turning the sky from red to orange.

I didn’t take pics this first day, since I’ve done this hike before. I did get some great pictures of the 12-hour hike on Saturday from the hut Mazalat, hiking six mountains, along the ridge-line (and petting wild horses that came right up to us!!), and then headed off with a smaller group to a side mountain that was looking pretty challenging. Needless to say, we were all pretty tired by that evening, and most of us retired to bed after a shower and eating. Oh..and Valentin, he speaks French a little..so while hiking we came upon a French couple..so it turns out they have been hiking for 4 months!! From France..now they were in the Stara Planina in Bulgaria, and they were headed to Istanbul. We all agreed..that is Extreme..

We really had amazing luck with clear views and beautiful weather everyday. Our last day was a ligher hike..with Kreme and I showing each other the different Horo’s (Bulgarian traditional dances) we had learned..and eating plump, bright reddish-pink raspberries given to us as we passed a farm, and picking delicious red and yellow plums from the trees, to eat along the way. There's a new set of pictures I have posted..which you can see by scrolling to the bottom of the page..and under Tricia’s links, click Tricia’s newest pics..the pics are from the hike. Oh..and I changed the Bulgarian song at the top of the blog – just click the Play button to hear a Bulgarian Rock song ‘Dai mi Vreme (Give me time). Here is my video from a new Harvest festival celebrated in one of my favorite villages I used to work in..
video

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