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).