Sunday, September 16, 2012 case you're one of many asking me about living in Norway and attending the University of Tromsø (UiT) in the Arctic Circle for the next couple years, click here to go to my new blog - Peace Studies and Adventures in the Arctic.  You can also see new pictures from Norway, and my summer travels there.

Many thanks to all of you who have been reading and written comments to me.  If you want my new address, send me an e-mail..and, I apologize if I have not responded to comments, e-mails or FB is a little overwhelming getting adjusted to studying and meeting so many new people again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Today is my last day of service with Peace Corps in it makes sense that I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. For instance, when 123 of us volunteers met for a U.S. orientation before leaving from Washington D.C. in May of 2009, and went through a 3-day orientation at Panagurishte (in Bulgaria), followed by 2 months of language, cultural, and safety training – we were taken care of most of the time. Either we had Peace Corps technical trainers or language trainers teaching us or giving us tasks, or my Bulgarian host family took care of me – meaning they cooked, cleaned and washed my was frowned upon by the Bulgarian family when I tried to help out. We were in close contact (daily) with the staff at Peace Corps..

And now, fast forwarded three years later, I see my dependence has significantly changed from the Peace Corps to my good Bulgarian friends. I know that if I have a question or problem, I can always count on one of them to help me, or find someone that can help answer my questions. 

So..through many chats I’ve had with friends here I have a list to write about..but I haven’t had the time to develop the ideas fully..but, here are the bits and pieces..and I still think they’re pretty interesting.

Here is the longest word in Bulgarian..on a hike earlier this year, Emo helped me learn it..and remember it :)

Neprotivokonstitucionstvovatelstvuvaite(Непротивоконституционствувателствувайте) and apparently means ‘not to take actions against the constitution of the country’

..and talking with Asen on the hike, here is a tongue twister

"Три вещици разглеждат три часовника "Суоч". Коя от вещиците кой часовник разглежда?"

А сега на английски!

Three witches watch three swatch watches. Which witch watches which swatch watch?

Втори урок, английски за напреднали:

"Три вещици-трансвеститки разглеждат три бутона на часовници "Суоч".

Коя от вещиците-трансвеститки кой бутон на часовниците "Суоч" разглежда?"

А сега на английски!

Three switched witches watch three Swatch watch switches. Which switched witch watches which Swatch watch switch?

Трети и последен урок, английски за абсолютни професионалисти:

"Три швейцарски вещици-кучки, които имат желание да си сменят пола, разглеждат три бутона на часовници "Суоч". Коя от швейцарските вещици-кучки, които имат желание да си сменят пола, кое бутонче на часовниците "Суоч" разглежда?"

А сега на английски!

Three swiss witch-bitches, which wished to be switched swiss witch-bitches, watch three swiss Swatch watch switches. Which swiss witch-bitch, which wishes to be a switched swiss witch-bitch, wishes to watch which swiss Swatch watch switch?

Oftentimes during conversations here, Bulgarians fall back on old proverbs or are a few of the many, many, many I have heard:

Рано пиле, рано пее – Literally translated, it means ‘The early chicken sings early’ – I relate it to our saying The early bird gets the worm

Стискъм палци – I cross my thumbs – Instead of crossing their fingers, Bulgarians cross their thumb ontop of their finger for good luck

Искаш ли красива бяла птица? Would you like a beautiful white swan?..One of the teacher’s use this with students..students are graded on a scale of 1-6 – with 1 meaning basically an F, and 6, an A. If you see how the teacher's elaborately drawn 2 easily resembles a swan, you'll understand :)

Аз ти показвам плевника, ти му търси вратата – I’ll show you the barn, but you find the door

When crossing paths with fellow hikers – Добра среща – meaning ‘Good meeting’

..and when you go to a café for coffee, they always give you a little rolled was one of mine..they are always difficult to translate:
Един Българин –жайдутин, двама Българии – сговорна дружина, трима българи – чета с предател
..hmm, I forgot the translation of this one

One of my hiking friends Bai-stan:

Един човeк пи от радост

Друг човек пи от мъкост?

И друг пи от сутринта...

Meaning – One person drinks out of joy

One person drinks from sorrow

..and yet, another person drinks from the morning..

In Bulgaria, the women’s traditional dress worn when dancing traditional Bulgarian dances is called a ‘no-siya’ (Носи)..and in every region, the no-si varies..I found the different styles of dresses almost as interesting as the different styles of traditional Bulgarian dance, depending on the region. Here is a map, showing the dresses by region:

..this map comes from

One of my many amazing hiking trips was to Hija Derminka with a large group of friends to celebrate Mira’s birthday. Mira in English, when translated, means Peace..and her aura and presence is always one of peace..Her birthday celebration was one that I will never forget.

We hiked through lots of snow..

we christened her with her hiking name,

we ate, we danced, and she performed beautifully a set of Bulgarian dances in Tradional Bulgarian Dress.

At one part in the evening, the whole group got up to sway to the music from this Bulgarian group ‘Shturtsite’ (meaning Crickets) – The song is translated as ‘The Oath’ is in Bulgarian, but the group based most their songs off the Beatles..and basically, the song is about friendship, and Bulgarians remember it from a Bulgarian movie titled was a very memorable weekend.

Update to Indian post from December 2010

In 2010, I posted how surprised I was at how many people in Europe know so much about the stories of Native American time passed, every once in a while the topic pops up again..and here is the trail of authors that have acquainted Bulgarians with our Wild West history:

Vinatu – the popular Indian movie based on the book by Karl May, that Bulgarians like to watch

James Fenimore Cooper (the popular American who writes about Native American Indians – he wrote the Last of the Mohicans) (1789 – 1851)

From there, we come to the German writer Karl May – a well-known German writer who wrote many popular books about the American wild west, amongst other writings (1842 – 1912)

Which leads us to the author Thomas Mayne Reid– An Irish-American novelist who wrote about the untamed Wild West (1818-1883)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sini Vir and Mt. Rui

Life just doesn’t get much better..2 awesome hikes 2 weekends in a row, hanging out with old friends in the evenings, dancing my final evenings of Bulgarian Traditional dancing, learning a new language all over again, and excited for all of the craziness ahead!

Climbing at Sini Vir in Velkio Turnovo
5 out of our group of 30+ made it to the summit of Mt. Rui that first day..oh, and then later on, Stancho and Penka decided to summit at midnight..crazy Stancho :)

This is part of our group that summitted Mt. Gotse Delchev..another fun, cold, rainy day..fortunately for us, there was a shelter halfway up, and Chomaka stayed behind to light the fire in the stove, so we could warm up again half-way down
So..I posted 3 new Bulgarian songs that a friend sent me that I really like.  You can listen to them (at the top of the page), labeled Bulgarian songs.

I’ve posted and labeled a lot more pictures – you can click here to see them, or scroll to the bottom of the page and click Tricia’s newest pics

I added more videos to the page Ludo Mlado, just click on the link at the top of the page.

I added another page ‘How-to’s in BG’, just click the link at the top of the page.

Friday, May 18, 2012

National Spelling Bee__and Salsa!

This past weekend was I expect every weekend will be until I start the Master’s program ‘Peace and Conflict Transformation’ in Norway!!

The National Spelling Bee was held in Sofia with 20 students from throughout Bulgaria..this followed about 200 students participating in 10 regional spelling bees, and about 4,500 students who participated in local spelling bees.  If you have not seen a spelling bee, (and even if you have) watch the clip below for the two finalists who battled it out, finally winning with the word ‘empahsis’.
My good friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, Felicia did an amazing job coordinating with people on all of these events.  Last year, she had a sidekick that helped establish the first annual spelling bee, and this year she worked more closely with an NGO.  She also had to coordinate with PC staff, the American Embassy, PC volunteers, regional sites, and many other people.  I don’t know of another volunteer with the patience or experience to pull this off so smoothly.

While in Sofia, I got a chance to also say a final farewell to many of the Peace Corps Staff.  This picture is of me, Felicia and my program director, Dimitar.  Dimitar helped me tremendously during my first year here in Bulgaria.

 At half-time of the Spelling Bee, volunteers were invited to the stage to participate in a volunteer spelling bee – where we Americans spelled Bulgarian words – you can see me below.  I spelled many (what I considered =) difficult words – краставица, йод..and then messed up on чадър (meaning = umbrella).  Darn..I guarantee you I will forever remember the correct was a word I have always misspelled.  The two remaining guys battled on for quite some time before they had to call it a draw. 

But..getting back to the National Spelling Bee – these students were impressive.  I could tell they had studied the words, because they went through the entire word list, and still many students remained in the competition.  Even when the announcer began to use words not previously given to the students for studying – they spelled them correctly.  Words such as – hygiene, occurrence, psychiatry..

In addition to seeing old friends, saying good-bye’s, and attending the National Spelling Bee, this weekend was also the weekend of Sofia’s annual Salsa Festival!!  I miss dancing salsa sooooo much!

I saw amazing dancers from Bulgaria, Germany, Lithania, France, USA, Cuba..and the best part was, during the day, there are workshops – taught by these amazing dancers, and then in the evenings after performances you actually get to dance with them!  This clip below is one of the many sequences I learned (kind of)..

In celebration of my acceptance to the University of Tromsø, I’ve added two Norwegian songs to the list of Bulgarian songs that you can listen to above..just click the Play button!

Oh..and lots of new pics..I’m working on getting them all can click here, or scroll down to the bottom and click ‘Tricia’s Newest Pics.  Also, I have added many new blogs, and links..some of the Bulgarian blogs, you may not be able to read because they are in Bulgarian..but take a look at the pictures and videos..awesome

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Learning Bulgarian

For those of you who are curious about the Bulgarian language, here is a blog post that I think does a good job of explaining the basics about the alphabet and sentence structures.  Even after three years of learning, listening, and speaking Bulgaria, the grammar and new words often trip me up.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Life in a village

My normal shop where I buy my chicken was sold out, and I really had been looking forward to, as I was shopping at the shop I buy fruit, I noticed they had fresh marinated chicken for I pointed to the four pieces I looked good.  That was until I got it home, and started to try to cut it into pieces..that’s when I realized just how fresh this chicken wasn’t all nice and clean of fats and tendons?, like it is when I usually buy it frozen. 

..and as I was trying to cut it up into pieces, I was reflecting about all the chores I have helped with in my time in Bulgaria..spending a day at a factory dividing up frozen raspberries so that the bags exported only include the ‘pretty’ raspberries, gathering / picking fruit and making compote, preserving tomatoes, baking and peeling peppers, learning to make rakia, gardening..and it really hit me how much easier my life is than many Bulgarians, even while living here.  Many Bulgarians living in villages and small towns don’t have a garden and a few farm animals because they enjoy is a way for them to support their families on their meager salaries.  Many of them work a full-time job of working at a factory job of manual labor, not even receiving minimum wage of 290 leva – a little under $200 / month (less than $2,400/yr) and oftentimes in down months not receiving their full salary and having to take unpaid vacations; then they come home to garden, and preserve foods, feed the animals, do housework, cook; and many of my friends also help with community events as well.  With all of these chores I start to understand why families are help out.

While I have been allowed a glimpse into their lives, cultures, and traditions..I cannot imagine a life where I make my own yogurt after milking my cow or goat, or have to let my sheep out for the shepherd in the morning and be there in the evening when they return again, or killing, de-plucking and cooking my own chickens, or using a torch to run over the pig’s skin after killing it, to be eaten later, and jarring containers of pig lard, or stuffing it’s intestines.  Not to say it is not tasty..I have eaten many new things in Bulgaria..some bizarre sounding and looking, but most of the dishes are pretty tasty.

And, this is not to say this is how all Bulgarians live, but I just think there are so many many small villages throughout Bulgaria with less than 1000 people, and many of them do live like this..and if they don’t live in a village, oftentimes there parents do.  I have a lot of respect for the work the hard-working people of the older generation, and people living in these smaller towns and villages.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tour of the monasteries..and my birthday

  It is long overdue for a blog update..with almost only two months remaining of my time in Bulgaria, life becomes overwhelming, trying to plan for the future, finish activities and projects here in Bulgaria, and start saying my good-bye’s. 

Recently with Trapezitsa 1902’s hiking club, Paskal and I finished presenting the second half of our monastery tour around Veliko Tarnovo.  For more information and pictures about our tours click the above link labeled ‘Monasteries – Veliko Tarnovo region’. 

A week before Orthodox Easter, Bulgarians celebrate Lazaruv Day.  At Christmas time, young boys go from house to house and businesses, singing and performing..The Lazarki are the female equivalent before Easter.  Here is a clip of their performance when our bus pulled over to greet them.

..and, I was informed that this year 'Luck' would be with me after finding my first 4-leaf clover!

The weather during the hike was beautiful, hot even, but we were cooled off by a brief rainshower when visiting our last monastery.

This weekend also happened to be the weekend of my birthday!  I think I’ve mentioned in prior blogs that in Bulgaria, when it is your birthday, you are required to ‘chirpia’ (treat) others, so I made banitsa for the first time (a Bulgarian staple) and homemade cinnamon rolls..and with the hiking group we always have a festive evening of food, rakia / wine, and dancing

..we had so many things to celebrate that evening..not only was it my birthday..Batko (that’s how they say Big Brother in Bulgarian) Kolyo was also celebrating his upcoming birthday

It was also a holiday in Bulgaria to show Appreciation for Nurses, and we had two nurses with us.

I was touched by the gifts and thoughtful wishes from everyone, and could not have been happier.   

I even gave an impromptu speech of thankfulness for having the opportunity to meet so many great people, and tour so many sites in Bulgaria (in Bulgarian) after being presented with a first place cup and medal (as the most active foreign hiker in the club :)

The following day, April 8th was Easter (for the Catholic church – but this year in Bulgaria, the Orthodox Easter fell on the following weekend, April 16th)..but, Sunday morning I looked outside my window to see this picture (taken by Asen, another hiker)..and thought of the Easter bunny..

..and after getting back from the monastery hike, I had a na gosti (visit) with batko Vasil..we had agreed to celebrate our birthday’s together (our birthday’s are 2 days apart)..That is Vasil on the right, with a huge piece of meat (it is the leg of a pig killed and cured last year).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Epizod - Rock group

I posted a new song in the list to the right (click the Play button under Bulgarian songs).  It is called Последен Марш (Last March).  The group is Epizod.  I have plans to see them perform this weekend in Veliko Tarnovo.  They're a well-known patriotic Bulgarian rock band, and a lot of their songs come from the verses of the famous historical poets Hristo Botev (a famous national revolutionary and poet during the Ottoman rule, and Ivan Vasov (often referred to as the 'Father of Bulgarian literature').

Monday, February 20, 2012

City of Sopot and Hija Dobrila

This weekend was the Birthday of Vasil Levski – a famous revolutionary in Bulgaria. One of the annual trips with the Trapezitsa 1902 association’s hiking group is to Hija (Hut) Dobrila, in the mountains above Sopot, next door to Karlovo (the city where Vasil Levski was born).

Last year, it was an overcast, rain day when we started our hike
This year, we had much snow! And the snow did not stop.

When our minibus couldn’t quite make it up one of the hills, heading towards the lift we would need take to get half-way to the top of the mountain, we turned back to find an alternate, less steep road..but not before trying every possible way to get that bus up the hill - everyone out of the bus; everyone in the bus (to weigh it down); half us out (to push), and half in.

Cars start coming down the hill that we're trying to drive up..we weren’t sure if the lift would be working, with this snow (and a light wind) coming down. Cars are passing by, but no one from our group is asking if the lift is working. The girl’s and I are in the back of the bus, and they’re talking about the guys from our group standing around outside, saying ‘Oh, they’re all too shy, why don’t they stop someone..that’s the problem with men’, and they catch me laughing. I explained to them it’s the same in the USA..  Guys would rather drive in circles than ask someone for directions..

We finally made it to the lift. Last year we were lucky enough that we had enough people join our group at the lift that we could get both lifts working, to get to the top of the mountain.  This year, either we were 1-2 people shy of the 20 needed, or it was the wind..I think it was because of the wind that they wouldn't open the second lift..because as we started hiking up the mountain after the lift, the wind was blowing pretty forcefully, and lots of snow still coming down, spraying back in our faces.

  During the drive, Katia keeps talking about a Rat-trap, or rak-trak that you could ride up to the hija..I couldn’t really understand this Bulgarian word. I thought it was maybe a lift for skiers that you hold onto with your hands, and it drags you to the top..yeah, No..a RAK-TRAK is this - see the pic

We saw the rak-trak, and we passed the rak-trak when it could go no further because of the deep snow. Luckily there were 2 snowshoers that had taken the lift up with us; since there were no tracks to follow..and together, we made a path..oftentimes walking in snow up to my hips. But, really, I don’t think you can imagine how beautiful it was (yes, it was windy and snowy, but not so cold, because of all the energy required to hike through the deep snow)..the tall snow-encapsuled (is that a word?) trees everywhere, with icicles hanging off of some of them.

I guess they got the rak-trak going again, because we all had to swim off in the snow to the side, so it could pass again..but, it actually made it harder to seemed to churn the light fresh snow, instead of packing it down. I found this out quickly as I took my first 2 steps and couldn’t get my legs out of the snow..I tried to drag one leg to the other track that was a little firmer, but it was about 2 feet away – but all I managed to do was fall and roll in the deep snow..Thanks to Albena I was able to get my footing back..It was all soooo much fun! I could write so much more..I wrote more on the pictures you can see by clicking HERE.

We almost passed the hija – it was covered up to the roof in snow – See the pic

Ok..maybe that’s not the pic of the entire hut ;)  Here is the whole hija..

My all-time favorite hikes used to be – in first place (always) Mt. Botev..the adventure was amazing; Second place was tied between Mt. Paskal, and the hike to Hija Dobrila. After this fun-filled adventure, I’d have to say Dobrila holds a solid 2nd place!

This was me at the beginning, middle, and end of the first day hike:

Compare these two pictures, and you can really see the difference from last year:
This was February 2011

And this is February 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hija Paskal..and Hillary Clinton

These winter hikes will always be one of my favorite memories in Bulgaria..and Hija Paskal and Mt. Paskal more than lived up to my expectations of a snow-filled winter adventure! We head up there every year for the hut-keepers birthday celebration. Last year I was christened with my hiking name Kositsa (it’s a small mountain that intersects a lot of larger mountains, including Paskal). To christen me, they removed my shoes and dipped my feet in a tub of water :) Like the picture below..

And, as you may know from previous posts, when it is a person’s birthday, they have to ‘chirpia’ (to treat)..but before we get to that..

The hike was 3-3.5 hours up to the hut from the village Pirdop..with lots of snow, and creeks to cross that were iced over, and an overall sunny day. We were all expecting freezing temperatures and wind, so we were a little overdressed, and even removing many layers of clothing throughout the hike, between the snow and sweat, my clothes were we did a quick clothing change and snack at the hija before 12 of us headed back out for the summit. Now..I don’t know how correct this is, but Bulgarians tell me this is one of the windiest mountains in Bulgaria..and when I’m at the top of this mountain, oh yeah..that’s exactly what it feels like.

Only 3 of us made it to the we had to stay together in tight groups because the fog was so thick..there are many markers, but with the was still difficult to see each..Now Stancho’s got white frost patches covering his exposed face..and Rosi has a few bangs uncovered, they’re completely white and frozen. We have to stand in one place and wait to get a small break from the wind buffeting us around to take a few steps forward, as we walk along the top of the mountain. Finally, as Stancho calls it, and we head back the wind catches him a bit, crashing into us. I could seriously see Rosi walking sideways with her poles planted in the snow. I remember one part on the way up where the snow was so deep, and not quite hard enough that I took a step on what I thought was hardened snow..and the next thing I know, I’m up to my waist in became a little disconcerting when I couldn’t seem to pull myself back onto solid ground..and I look back and see the 3 behind me in the same predicament..then I remembered my friend Daisy telling me about hikers earlier in the day getting caught in the wind at the summit – the wind had been so strong they had to go down the mountain on their hands and knees. So, I started crawling until I reached firmer ground. (This is also where I lost my sunglasses – amazingly saved when another hiker found them later on). But..running/skiing down a mountain with lots of snow..that’s the most fun!

Last year, the ground was frozen solid, and there had been patches that were like ice..this year, the snow was fluffy..I don’t know which was harder..because the ice was especially scary when going down the mountain with the wind blowing so hard..or the fluffy snow that was so difficult to get through on the way up, quickly sapping away my energy. I gotta say – they’re both adrenaline inducing..

The hike gave such a rush, I didn’t even nap afterwards before starting in on the evening festivities of chatting, dancing, and celebrating birthdays. If you click through my newest pictures here, you’ll see a few pics..and the video below is from a fellow hiker Atanas Atanasov. By the time I stumbled to bed at 2 in the morning I slept sooo soundly, even though in the hija we are in rooms with about 10 people and half of them were still celebrating downstairs.

Oh..and about Hillary Clinton. Apparently, she was visiting Bulgaria from February 2nd to 5th after a visit to Germany. The American Embassy was kind enough to invite Peace Corps volunteers to a 15 minute Meet’n’Greet with her. And..lucky me..I was able to catch a ride from my hike to the embassy and attend! Below is a snippet of the speech she gave before coming around to shake our hands!
From Paskal_2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Successful fall project

In Bulgaria, on December 1, I hear from teachers and students in Bulgaria about the condoms passed out for World AIDS Day (in Bulgarian – Световен ден на антиспин)..but it is not very often that I hear about why it is important that they be used.

At the school I work with, we set out to help students understand the importance of protection if / when they are sexually active. This fall, we coordinated efforts on a small project: myself, the school psychologist (Tanya), the art teacher (Desi), the IT teacher (Ani), and the theater club and teacher (Daniela) - to teach students about HIV/AIDS. We created many new resources for the school to use for current and future students.

I feel honored to work with such a talented, innovative, and motivated team of teachers, and would like to present some of our work below. We presented the below play to upper level students in a school in a nearby village (it is in Bulgarian..but there are English subtitles).

Also..we created the below Comic Strip (in English and Bulgarian):

..and created the below colorful and large puzzle:

The below brochure and logo:

On World AIDS Day, all of the above information was presented, and additionally we had a presentation by students from the school’s Red Cross Group, an interactive game presented by the school psychologist, and another by the school nurse, and a wrap-up by the school Director. In the morning, students from the Red Cross group handed out condoms and information pamphlets about HIV/AIDS.

Honestly..this was a successful project. I say this because during our session on World AIDS Day, for over one hour, the students sat quietly, and watched and listened, and participated. I have attended many classrooms here, and it is rarely that I see this in an entire class (much less the 3-4 classes we had)..usually they are talking to their friends, or talking on the phone, or listening to music. So..they listened to our I can only hope it will help guide them to better decisions in their private lives. See a few of the pictures below – These are from both our project and World AIDS Day presentation.

If you would like to see all the pictures from the project, click here
If you would like to see all the pictures from World AIDS Day click here.

I would like to thank the following teachers and students for their help:

Татяна Гърмидолова Tatyana – A super coordinator of the entire project
Десислава Цуцулова Desislava – Art teacher – helped create the logo for the brochure, the scenery and puppets for the play, worked with her student group (Mladi Talanti) to create the puzzle, helped with the drawings in the Comic strip
Анелия Недялкова Anelia – Helped convert everything from paper to electronic for use in presentations and for the school’s online newspaper; helped create the school presentation for World AIDS Day; helped create and print brochures
Даниела Райкова Daniela – worked tirelessly with her theater group to give great performances of the play “Misli s glavata si” (Think with your head)

Млади Таланти The student group Mladi Talanti - (Talented Youth) – Created the colorful puzzle, used during presentations:
* Krasimira Angelova, Stefka Krachunova, Radina Grigorova, Ivelina Guychurova, Veska Daskalova, Hristiana Tomuva, Denislava Grigorova, Dorotea Tsarkova
Театрен група The Theater group
* Rumen Hristov, Viktoria Guynurova, Hristina Chemshirova, Magi Baycheva

Ралица Тачева Ralitsa – translated scripts and comics and co-presented on World AIDS Day
Ивена Бъчварова Ivena – co-presented on World AIDS Day
Дерина, Цветелина, и Поля Derina, Tsevetelina and Polya – They helped hand out brochures and condoms before classes on the morning of December 1, World AIDS Day