17 December 2009

snow day

my first official snow/ice day as a teacher, and i think i spent it well:

1 outing to razgrad with a family from the village
1 hour in the cafe and free drinks from a dyado
1 haircut, also free of charge (because now i should come back every month!)
40 minutes of intense piano practice in preparation for our Christmas Program (12.24.09!)
20 minutes trying to light the stove
2 episodes of the office
1 grilled kashkaval made ON the fire
1 overdue shower

and now it's 9 o'clock, it must be almost bed time.


22 November 2009

there's no place like home for the holidays: an homage to the Evans Family

(A young Erin, flanked by little Anna and little Kyler, Evans Thanksgiving circa 1992. Photo courtesy of not pictured Tierney)
Home is where the heart is, is it not?

In four days it will be Thanksgiving, a wonderful and most importantly American holiday, and for the first time in my life, I will be without a single family member. I've been trying to explain the significance of this holiday to my community, and the best that I've gotten out is
"We eat, a lot. We get together with our families, think about what we are thankful for, and we eat turkey. We eat a lot of turkey, watch football, and then everyone falls asleep."

But, that's nowhere near the true meaning of Thanksgiving for me. Perhaps trying to pinpoint the emotional significance is about as trite as the ritual that comes about this time of year: droning off what we are Thankful for; things that have been said so many times that they lose their specialness, their value is depleted by their popularity, the words fall into a chasm of holidays past and of things that we so often take for granted.

The Evans do not sit in a circle and rattle off their Thanksgivings, maybe because we realize that often they are better left unsaid. Instead, we simply enjoy each other's company, we eat, we talk. A Thanksgiving comes to mind when we were blessed by the presence of my late Uncle Aug, my grandmother's brother, who regaled us with stories of our great-grandfather, growing up in Baltimore, feigned connections to the mafia, and even had the audacity to call my grandmother, the matriarch of the gathering, a spoiled brat, to her face.

Evans family holidays are when we all gather around many tables, because we are too big to fit at one, and everyone prays the Catholic grace before we eat, and we think about those members of the family who are no longer with us, and we make small talk and eat too much, we try to decide who will host Christmas, we sing Happy Birthday to my cousin Ryan, we take turns listening to Mom-mom while simultaneously trying to get attention from any family member under the age of 7-- currently, Reagan, Paige, and the newest addition, Francesco.

Evans family holidays are small opportunities to make up for all the time I haven't spent with my cousins that year: upon seeing Amy, only 9 months older than me, the goofy switch turns on and we are back to being 7 and 8 years old again, dressing up dogs in her basement. Erin, my Godmother, always finds the perfect balance between serious conversation and fart jokes. Kyler and Tierney are always up for some antics, including but not limited to last Christmas, when I made all of the cousins watch YouTube videos in Kyler's room and then formed the Great Alliance with Tierney. Thanksgiving is when it takes an hour to walk around the house and say hello everyone, and then another hour when it's time to leave, trying to say goodbye and give hugs and kisses and say, "Wull seeya at Christmas!"

To all the Evans-es who may read this, I love you all so much and will be so terribly sad to miss the chance to be with you this week. You have all been so supportive of me and your love has carried me through the past six months. My heart is full of memories like these, and for that I am as thankful as one person can be.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and have a warm and blessed holiday!

10 November 2009

2nd graders

As a young, first year teacher keeping things under control in the classroom has been challenging, at best. I seem to have the most trouble with 2nd grade, who I see twice a week. I've tried songs, exercises, threats, stickers, candy, pretty much everything you can think of in order to get them to chill out, but still every day I leave the class feeling, well, defeated. That was, until I received these two letters, penned by two students in that class. They read (in BG but translated for your enjoyment):
"Gospozho (Mrs., with a masculine and/or diminutive ending), I love you very much and wish you health and happiness. From, Berko."

here's number two, from a little girl in the class.
When I opened it I honestly thought that she had just scribbled words and somehow written my name at the top, but after close inspection I was able to discern a few phrases:
"Mila Anna (Sweetie Anna), ...obicha mnogo ti krasivo... (someone) loves your beauty (?)...mnogo hubava kosa... very beautiful hair....nai-krasivo osho.... most beautiful eyes(?).... ti si mnogo krasiva... you are very beautiful. From Nevin"


04 November 2009

in general

oh baby. last week the aunties from school installed my brand new stove, and since then we have been building a truly affectionate relationship. luckily i was quick on the learning curve and usually have no problem getting a fire started, so i have moved on to a more important lesson: how to never let the fire go out. it's warm and cozy in this one room, and so i, like most of the other people in the village, are settling in for the long winter with cords of stacked wood and a lot of television watching.
swine flu has reached us, finally, throwing the country into a weird psuedo-epidemic. regions are being shut down, meaning schools are closed for several days on end. every morning our director carefully counts the absences, and everyone seems to be bracing for it to hit our area next. some of the smarter kids are already picking up on this panic, feigning illness in order to get out of school and do, i don't know, what they please, i guess. is it really any fun to be free when everyone else is busy? anyway, here's a map of where svinski grip (H1N1) has hit so far:
we are in the northeastern quadrant and while our area is not highlighted, we are surrounded on THREE SIDES (Силистра, Шумен and Търговищe) with the dreaded sneezes. today a teacher remarked, "why do we have to be so healthy?" indeed. anyway, i broke open a care package this morning and offered the hand sanitizer my mom had sent me, explaining that every teacher in America has a legitimate supply of it anyway. THANKS MOM!

in other, less topical news, our chitalishte Ivan Vasov is submitting its proposal for 2010 and a budget request. as a paid member of the chitalishte, i attended the meeting, and it's a good thing i did since only 5 other people bothered to show. anyway, the plan includes more piano lessons, enlgish classes, movie nights and halloween/other holiday discotechs for the kiddies. they are once again asking for money for a very desperately needed renovation, but as we discussed the other night, chances of getting funding are slim to none.

happy november everyone! i hope that halloween was swell for all of you and that you are now preparing your bellies for the feast that is thanksgiving. keep the swine flu in check and talk to you soon!

24 October 2009

happy halloween!

well, it's almost the end of october, and the village has entered into a no-holds-barred lovely autumn. mornings are frigid, the kids have all adjusted themselves back into the routine of the school year, and coffee breaks have become necessary as opposed to simply social.

to me, and to many americans, autumn has a pretty specific culmination-- Halloween Night. while the actual holiday and origins have proven difficult to explain-- So then the kids go door to door and ask for candy. Why? I, don't really know-- the traditions that are dear to me translate very well. Here are some clips from pumpkin/watermelon carving yesterday, and there are more photos here. all the kids were really good at it, especially those who carved the featured watermelon, which fell and cracked and was then sewn back together with twine.
stay tuned for our Halloween Ball pictures- the dance is on next friday.

11 October 2009


around 2pm today sevdye, resident food provider to yours truly, rolled up to my house and popped her hatch-back to gift me this beautiful, seriously 2.5 kilo monster of a cabbage, while exclaiming "it's sweet! it's sweet! it's from my garden".  
fast-forward to 5:30pm and i stroll into her store, and she asks, "what did you make with the cabbage? manga? soup?"
i sortof pause and think for a minute, then reply, "i haven't made anything with it yet".
sevdye: "why?"
me: "well, i don't know what to make with it."
sevdye:"why, do you not have cabbage there (in the us)?"
me: "um, we do, i just never cooked it before"
sevdye: (laughs, incredulously)

03 October 2009

it's less self-discovery, more self-explanation

living alone and maintaining running dialogues in my head (because my head is a sanctuary of english language) means that i have become  acutely aware of not only my emotions and physical state of being (normal), but also the top 5 lists of: most craved/most eaten foods, songs played internally and how often, and the personality traits/behavioral habits which i think are starting to define me.

blame it on the generation maybe but i've got some mental ipod thing going on, almost constantly.  when i'm strolling the celo with the kiddies it's usually cindy lauper's girls just wanna have fun.  when at home on non-busy afternoons it's either the rainbow connection sung by kermit the frog or these days by nico.  and the other day in 5th grade as i gazed out the 2nd story window into our idyllic scenery, it was the luckiest by ben folds.

1. pre-cooked kebabches can be bought at the store and only take like 20 seconds in the microwave to make STEAMY AND DELICIOUS.   meeeeeeat. it's usually what's for dinner.
2. 3for1 nescafe.  like i need more caffeine.  three times a day.
3. rice with kashkaval.
4. sunflower seeds: more of a habit than a food choice.  sort of gives you something to do while waiting, walking, sitting, pretty much the top three activities of village life.

i want to go everywhere and do everything and will make as many accommodations as possible to do so.  ex: in college, i could be expected to show up to any party i was invited to, no matter the time overlap or distance challenges.  i make it work like tim gunn.

i speak better bulgarian when i'm yelling at kids.

01 October 2009


yesterday i was chilling bulgarian style in our center, literally standing in the middle of the road, talking to the mother of one of my students who lives only about 50 meters away from the chitalishte (read: in plain view of where we were standing).  one of my most attentive kids was also there with me, "regulating" as i like to call it.  as we slowly moved out of the way of an oncoming car we noticed a dyado rolling down this lady's street in a cart filled with corn.  
then an amazing phenomenon happened:
although the horse cart could not have been going more than 25 mph, we seemed to watch in slow motion as both the horse and cart side swiped the very nice Audi that this lady has parked outside her house.  i happen to know how much they love this car because only a few hours earlier i had seen the whole family washing it together.  the lady exploded into a fit or rage and started chasing after the dyado, who DID NOT STOP until he realized he was being yelled at.  as i watched the two argue with each other in turkish, the little girl with us threw her arms around me and said, "I'M SCARED!"
and then i started to laugh, and couldn't really stop laughing at what had just happened.

16 September 2009

school started

chestit pervi ucheven den!
wait, i can't do this.
i know i'm supposed to be reporting on how magical it is that all the little kiddies are in school now, screaming their heads off-- BUT

have you ever really considered the balkan peninsula?  i mean really, really? let me give you a moment:  THE BALKAN PENINSULA. IS A PLACE. THAT EXISTS.
as a high schooler a favorite and previously mentioned history teacher would ask us to name the countries on the peninsula and I always cheated and started at the south with Greece since I didn't know where the top of the darn thing actually was. here's a quick geo lesson:

the mountains at the top, they're the BALKAN mountains and if you want to learn some quick bulgarian language, here's a word: BALKAN. it means MOUNTAIN.  eeeeeasy, huh?  and now you can see, as i was never explicitly shown, the two bodies of water on either side, the adriatic sea which connects to the black sea on the eastern side via the mediterranean and aegean seas and finally through the bosporus and dardanelles straits, which have their own stories involving russia, turkey, warm water ports, and a whole 1,000 more years of history and blog posts.  so there's us, chilling near asia, kindof, not technically although the EU won't let Turkey in.  that's us, the END of EUROPE over here.  
and not that i'm adopting any bulgarian nationalism or anything but just to let you know, the HIGHEST PEAK in the BALKANS belongs within our borders. 

13 September 2009


in an email from my chilean host mother:

"Espero tengas una agradable estadía en Bulgaria y aprovecha de vivir en esa paz de pueblo, que pocas veces en la vida la tendrás"

I hope you have a nice stay in Bulgaria and take advantage of living in the peace of the village, which few times in your life you will have.

It was just so eloquently put in Spanish, complete with my favorite verb - aprovechar - to take advantage.  What a nice reminder.

11 September 2009

zalata e gotova

today a nice 16 year old young man joined me on the steps of the chitalishte as i waited in vain for my piano students to arrive.  we chatted a little, we sat in awkward silence as he drank out of a glass coke bottle, he left to "play basketball" and returned 8 minutes later, not explaining why.  finally i said "can you teach me bulgarian?" and he replied, "no, but i can teach you turkish".
he then taught me a phrase i have since forgotten, which meant "we're going".
after i repeated it three times he finally said (in bg) "haide- let's go then."
me: where?
him: to the gym. it's open.
me: who did you ask?
him: the aunties (the ladies who clean the school)
me: are you sure?
him: (turkish phrase meaning let's go)

so we stroll over to school, after he offers me his bike to ride, and i walk into the teachers room and ask for the keys and all the ladies look at me and say, "NE, directora kazva NE".  my mind flashes back 5 days, 5 separate days in which i've heard that phrase.  what happened is, they did in fact ask if they could play in the gym, but the answer was not yes.

recently (actually all summer) our school gym has been renovated by the ministry of natural disasters (not lying) and as of monday it was officially "finished".  aforementioned child knocked on my window monday night in the middle of a rain storm to ask if we could play in it, and the next day we went only to be told "it's not ready, it needs to be cleaned."  in my naievete, the boys asked me every single day since then, each time saying, "it's ready now".  somewhere between the translation and my willingness to trust i never quite clarified if it was in fact ready, and on all of these days it was not.  it was not until today that i realized how silly it was of me to let them drag me back and forth to this gym which they are dying to get into, and how much of a nice distraction it has been.  if they ask tomorrow, i'll probably go again.

07 September 2009

rainy days and mondays always get me down

last night i rolled into the po-dunk train station around 8:45pm, waiting for my ride in the rain.  it was my counterpart/boss' husband, and as i awkwardly got into his car (which i didn't recognize as she usually sends her son to pick me up) he looked at me and said "summer's over now".  i'm not sure on what level he really meant it-- i assume he was referring to the cold and damp weather, but my mind quickly wandered to thoughts of school starting next week, no more quick trips to varna, no more laying on the beach and spending the afternoon in a cafe.  as a summer person, these facts sadden me greatly.

the weather today turned very chilly and wet, which is not how i prefer my fall.  chilly i can handle, but wet is another story.  it rained all day and i holed up in my house as much as i could, taking respite from the storm and trying to mentally prepare myself for the next 9 months ahead.  this morning, while still at school, two of my girls rolled in with down vests and a busted umbrella.  i had meant to excuse them from our daily english lesson but had forgotten, and so since they had already walked to school we went into the classroom and they recounted their weekend to me.  watching them from where i sat at the teacher's desk, i realized that soon the hallways would be filled, the desks would have more students with more stories and more excitement, and that soon i would become a fixture in their lives.  

somehow i have been blessed with a very detailed and emotional memory, and the past few days in school have reminded me of the time i spent in my elementary school.  i remember the fluorescent lighting, the orange/brown carpets, the name of every teach i had, the location of each classroom, the "media center" (why couldn't they just call it a library?) the place on the bookshelves where i started reading books with chapters.  i remember all the teachers, they were all women, standing in the hallways, smiling, making sure we behaved and listening to our stories and always working hard and never showing any effort.  and now that's me.  or at least, it's supposed to be me.
part of me feels like the kids will see right through me, that they know i've never taught in a classroom and that i don't know the proper structure of a lesson plan or teaching theory and that i honestly do not understand the bulgarian education system.  what if they find me out? not really left with a choice; i've just got to fake it until i make it.  i just wonder if in 18 years some little girl will remember me, standing in the hall, the youngest teacher, the american girl who was only slightly out of place, a face in a memory of someone who was always smiling.

30 August 2009


two stories on this topic:
1. i was 11, i think, the first time i took an airplane ride.  it was to west virginia. had you asked the 11 year old me how frequent a habit this would become, i would have guessed infrequent at best.  alas, sisters move to california, you decide to find yourself all over south america, the next thing you know you've spent more time on planes than you have in the bank or church or both combined, annually of course.  you forget your life pre-plane.
but here, hardly anyone has been on a plane.  the questions usually go like this: How did you get here?  On a plane.  Is it really scary? It's so high? No, it's not. You can't really see the ground.  Are you really close to the sun?  No. You're not...? 
Are you really close to the sun?  What a statement to knock me back to real-life.  How can you describe being on a plane?  You just really can't.

2. i had a favorite history teacher in high school whose intro to philosophy was positing that the earth was flat.  no one could prove him wrong; no one had proof, until one day i started an argument with him about flight patterns from london to the united states.  he insisted it flies over scotland, i demanded that this was due north and the path should be going west.  he replied, "it has to do with the curvature....of the flat earth..." and quickly changed the subject.

26 August 2009


why do i love you?
as a former roommate recently told me, "I remember you saying sophomore year that you wanted your post-college life to include holding babies".  i don't remember saying this, but i'm sure i did.  i said so many ridiculous things living in that suite.  and not just me.  once in a fit of frustration katherine turned on oprah and started to paddle-ball, then looked directly at me and said "LOOK AT ME! I'M PADDLE-BALLING AND WALKING!" but, i digress.

seriously, since setting this goal about three years ago i've been more successful than i could have guessed (especially since i forgot it was a goal).  here are some highlights:

i held this baby:

i held this baby:

and this baby:
and i held this baby:
and this one:
i held this baby:
and this one:

24 August 2009

i hate foodie blogs and how eating in is the new going out

a lot of peeps have been asking,"anna, what's the food like there?" well, friends, i have two separate answers for you. one is pre-living alone, and one is post. had you asked me during my celo banitsa life i would have remarked on all of the following:
  1. mekitzi: fresh doughnuts, most often found on sunday and most often made by hand by baba herself. if i was lucky enough to barge in on albin's sunday brunch, there were always fresh mekitzi with honey and wine to drink (!).
  2. lamb: the sacrificial meat. for any important occaision, count on a nice helping of freshly slaughtered lamb and several days worth of meals to come featuring every organ you can think of in soups and out of them. one day baba insisted "yash! yash!" (eat, eat!) as she handed me cleaned intestines. they were actually tasty.
  3. shopska salata/tarator: the first is simply tomato, cucumber, sometimes onion, oil, vinegar, salt, and homemade cirene on top. most often enjoyed with some rakia. tarator: cold yogurt soup with cucumber, garlic and dill. summer at its finest.
  4. DUNERS: did partake of the best of these inventions in Byala Slatina. think gyro with french fries INSIDE.
  5. mousaka: meat, potatoes, egg bake on top. only slightly improved my dislike of cassarole dishes. not bad though.
highly recommendable cuisine. but here we come to the part where i am forced out into the cold world alone and must somehow nourish myself. no more lamb, because i don't have lambs, no more mekitzi, because i never woke up early enough to learn how to make them. at first i was discouraged, but as if by divine intervention, babas in my new village started showing up at my
door with bags of produce: tomatoes, cucmbers, peppers, eggs, onions, garlic, watermelons. "zimi-si, yash!" (take it, eat!) harkening back to those years of the benediction during mass: take this, eat, this my body which has been given up for you....

suddenly the question wasn't what am i going to eat, it was what am i going to cook to use all this food? as ideas came to me so did the recipes (by the miracle of epicurious.com and the like), and meal after meal became more and more delicious, and day after day i became more and more proud of my cooking abilities.

YET, i have tried to avoid writing about it until now because i just despise those blogs all about cooking because: 1. you can't actually taste the food. 2. the food looks really good and when you make it it never tastes like the picture. 3. the blog is about all the mistakes the blogger made during baking, which only serves to worry me more about screwing up what i'm baking. 4. i hate to catalog what i've eaten because, if no one knows you ate the cookie then maybe you just really didn't eat it.

BUT, i cannot deprive you of description any longer. the following are all homemade and were constructed of almost entirely homegrown (free) things (which were given to me). and THEY WERE DELICIOUS.
  1. stuffed peppers: keep for several days, easy peasy, and deliver a great protein/veggie 1-2 punch.
  2. gazpacho/ good-spacho: what else can you make when you have 4 kilos of tomatoes? labor intensive but WORTH IT. with every batch i buy a fresh loaf of bread and eat to my heart's content.
  1. Quiche: for the times your neighbor gives you 14 eggs. homemade crust, the only thing i bought for it was ham (even the cheese was homemade and given to me!!)

20 August 2009

yo soy la hermanita

two stories:
1. when we were little we had a coffee mug with a ceramic frog at the bottom; when you finished drinking it was sitting there like a little surprise. i remember the day that my mom got tired of trying to clean around the frog and threw the mug away. i protested. i'm pretty sure i even said "who cares if it's clean".
2. when i was living in orange county with my sister we went to color me mine in huntington beach and picked out things to paint for each other. not surprisingly, we both picked coffee mugs. i managed to get mine all the way to my village without injury, and now every morning i enjoy the western novelty known as early grey tea as i sip from it. here's the best part:

a portrait of our 44th, barack obama, waits for me at the bottom so that, in bonny's words, i don't forget who the president is.

17 August 2009

the sunday night feature

last night we transformed the chitalishte into our own little movie theatre. by the time the lights went out and the film started to roll (Air Bud 2. is. what. they. picked. ??!) the first several rows were filled with kids and popcorn (in bg, pookankee) was being passed. we laughed, we cried, they chatted through most of the movie, and, i couldn't help but be distracted by the 10 year old boys running around in the balcony. when the credits rolled and the lights came up i noticed several young people i've never met before, even a couple canoodling in the back. this was the most salient sign of success: teenagers making out in a darkened theatre. looks like i am starting to serve a purpose here after all.

but in all seriousness, next time i'm using my executive power on the movie choice.

13 August 2009

and summer, and summer

from the picnic last week

11 August 2009

useful information for your everyday life

i often have little random bursts of blog inspiration but it's never enough to actually make me go to the good old puter and write it down. here i will try to remember these little bursts and compile them in a way that is helpful to you:

...my toilet paper smells like not just paper... it's fruity... my toilet paper smells like peaches

...the internet has enabled me to do three important things today: unlock my phone that i brought from the states, catch the stupid mouse in the kitchen using only a trashcan, a tp roll and some of my precious jif pb, and interpret the lyrics to the decemberists' newest album "hazards of love"

...my landlord looks so much like angelica houston except she has a golden front tooth and is in full baba garb

....the toilet seriously just almost fell off the wall! and now the pipe is cracked and it's leaking! how important is this emergency? i'm going to say not that much. i will, however, type a constructive phrase into google translator and write it down so as to be able to express this event to my boss. instead of trying to say it i'll just hand her the piece of paper saying "my toilet is broken but it's only slowly dripping water"

....altan, why didn't you come to english class yesterday? "i had war". (me, hysterical) you had a war? "no, i had waaaaark"

....i leave the house to go to the chitalishte and here comes the lady from the store. she stops the car, gets out and pretty much herds me into the back of her cargo van-esque vehicle the way an ostrich might have been rounded up. she also summons my student gamze and she drives us to the mosque, where she sits me down and feeds me soup with fresh lamb in it and several glasses of soda. i've never been in a mosque before and i feel pretty unwordly and then pretty amused that my first time happens to be in bg with all the kids in the village eating lamb soup and messing with each other.

....we are in varna for the weekend and we somehow choose the club which has no ceiling and pretty much no dance floor. lucky for us we are the only ones who really want to dance and we promptly take over the dance space, until some burly looking dudes decide they like our idea and edge us out of our dancing spots so they can do weird half poses ala madonna's vogue video.

....making stuffed peppers, my kitchen smells like my grandmother's house...

...one of my banitsa friends calls me for our weekly chat and the conversation deteriorates into him not listening to me and passing around the phone to people i don't really know. at 7:30, he is drunk.


10 August 2009


28 July 2009

a funny thing happened on the way to my permanent site...

hey-o! so, i've made it all the way out here to northeastern bulgaria, left my host family behind in a trail of tears and banitsa (i'll get to that later) and am now the proud occupier of a quaint stand alone house with a huge garden, and am soon to be english language teacher.
on friday i officially became a volunteer in the united states peace corps. our ceremony was in vratsa, and i was accompanied by my host mother and brother in law, gencho, who knows that he is one of my favorite members of the family. it was already 90 degrees by 10:30 when the event started, and all sixty-some of us sat on stage of the municipal concert hall fanning ourselves with the programs and listening as the proceedings went on in english and bulgarian. emmy had smartly packed a pocket sized coleman fan, and every time applause started she would turn it on and try to cool off those around her.
while i couldn't help but feel like i was at graduation (somewhat bittersweet considering my choice to not walk at my own this past may), i also felt that this experience was distinctly different. we sat facing the audience, which was full of our staff and our host families, and when it came time to thank them we gave a standing ovation. the friendships we made there are indellible, i should hope, and i personally already have plans to make it back to my village for my first christmas here.
the speeches from our country director, the mayor, and the lady from the embassy were all great, but boy if we weren't blown out of the water by our fellow volunteers whom we'd elected to speak for us at the end. the first was surprisingly simplistic but wholly funny; his thesis played off of the common love of bulgarian homemade cheese that americans and bulgarians share. this kid's timing was perfect, and he even managed to work in some pretty briliant inside jokes that rippled through the crowd of volunteers so much so that he had to stop 30 seconds after the delivery because we were all laughing so hard. the second speech was slightly more serious, and struck a perfect balance between poignancy and eloquence and hope. when he was done speaking, we all looked around at each other without saying a word, letting his sink into our hearts and ruminate there.
after the ceremony people were milling about, running around, eating fingerfoods and catching trains, we all hurriedly said goodbye and promised to write and call and visit. that night back in my village i went na gosti to a neighbors and we chatted about nothing, about gossip, about my mother and the village where i'd be moving the next day. i had sat at that the table the first week i was there, my head hurting from not understanding a word, and then there i was again, full circle, laughing and joking as if i had always understood these women, their lives.
the next day i woke up with a sour stomach and a headache, a direct result of the actions of the night before, and i still had to pack in again what felt like 80 degrees by 730. each article of clothes was shoved into whatever bag was closest, i started to cry as i looked at the empty room. i went into the kitchen to get some water and i noticed the table cleared except for a snapshot of me and my american mother smiling on her birthday, on disply as if in memoriam. baba was sitting next to it crying. i sat with her until it was time to go, relunctantly accepting the last fatty, greasy and delicious banitchka that i will eat in a long time, and the hugs and kisses of a family i will never forget.
the bus ride to rasgrad would have been a nightmare if not for my fellow travel companion, kari. we laughed together through the front right axel of the bus having problems, relieving ourselves behind trees while we were stuck on the side of the road for 40 minutes, another 40 minute stop at a gas station, a change of busses (unscheduled), the weirest pitstop ever in velicko tarnovo, getting stopped by the police for 15 minutes (during which we see the busdrivers bringing the police officers two cold bottles of iced tea, and then they let us go) and finally arriving two hours later than expected.

now we are all settling into the life we will have for the next two years. there is no more directed bulgarian language, just self study, no one making me go hang out in the community, just my own conscience, and no one cooking for me anymore (or at least, not on a regular basis). i'm an adult now. jeez. wish me luck.

with love from the bg,

20 July 2009

among other things, i don't like chalga

i figure it's time for a pop culture update. bg is a pretty small country, so it makes sense that the variety of music that i've found on tv and on the radio is somewhat lacking. most of it is centered around a newer pop-folk sound called chalga, which uses some standard melodies of traditional bg songs, the sounds of reed instrments like clarinets and oboes, and mixes them with synthesized beats and a touch too much silicone for me. here is one song which i hear frequently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHTRIf8CRCI
i'll be the first to admit that when i moved to chile i hated reggeaton and now i can't get enough of it, but i'm just not sure i'll get used to this. on rare occaisions my ears have been pleased to hear some older songs with a lot less techno and a lot more brass, which remind me of a scene in the film "everything is illuminated" in which the characters drive through the sunflower fields of ukraine and that style of music plays in the background. theres something more traditional about it, something a little bit more honest.
then there's every once in a while when my ears get a real treat: american pop music. just for posterity, whenever "jai ho" comes on the tv i make a point to turn it up in honor of drew rosensweig.

cherish your musical choices folks, not all of us are so lucky.

10 July 2009

the two week countdown begins. on the 24th of this month i'll be sworn in as an official peace corps volunteer and will head off to the northeast quadrant to start my new life as english teacher/ american cultural attache to bulgaria.
also, my sister just sent me a new pair of rainbow flipflops and i am besides myself with excitement. i still remember the first pair i ever had, when i was still in high school, and how before i had them i used to try to steal hers because they were so darn comfortable. yesterday another volunteer asked me if my sister liked me, and i just laughed and said pretty assertively, "SHE LOVES ME". and i love her, so much. thanks little baby bonny, thanks for making my life a little brighter each and every day.

01 July 2009

since i've been gone

today is july 1st, i'm posting from my school. i just finished skyping with mom, which happened in spite of the fact that i couldn't figure out the day difference, and asked her to skype me on wednesday. well, it's wednesday here but there it is still just tuesday. i guess i have two years to get used to that.
in the past few weeks a lot of things have happened; i found out my permanent site will be on the other side of bulgaria, a lot closer to the black sea but very far from sofia, from my host family, from all the things to which i am accustomed now. the village is mostly turkish bulgarians, which is something that i had not anticipated. the first night during my visit there i heard a muslim call to prayer for the first time. it was beautiful, and i was informed that it was being sung live, which is unusual. i felt sort of upset with myself for my ignorance of this part of the country, of this culture, but grateful at the same time to have the opportunity to learn more about this particular slice of the population.
the village is not so different than my own, except that by the end of this thing i will probably be speaking a bulgarian dialect that includes a lot of turkish words. here's the first one i learned: ana in turkish means mother.

once i returned i realized how much i had missed my little village, my baba and her facial expressions that i still can't decipher, my host father's jokes and my host mother's compassion. of the four volunteers in my current site, we were all pretty much placed at extremes within the country, as far as distance from each other goes. if bulgaria was pennsylvania, we were placed (by permanenet sites, i mean) in philadelphia, gettysburg, eerie and scranton (that's me, of course, my life references to The Office never end). i have to keep reminding myself of the relativity of it all; one can cross pennsylvania in less than a day.

there are so many small pleasures that i see every day that escape my usual summaries, but here are a few: we now have 27 baby birds. 13 are turkeys for sure, but the rest are too little for me to distinguish. they look like chicken biddies to me, but what do i know? i grew up driving next to chicken trucks and had friends with chicken houses, but still can't tell the difference at all. we are sponsoring a model school for english this week, and the barman at our local cafe hung up our large and brightly colored poster without a minute of hesitation. yesterday 24 students showed up to participate, we were blown away by their enthusiasm.
there's an election coming up, on the fifth, and all the political propaganda is entertaining and interesting. my family supports the gerb, a newer democratic party, and every time they're on the tv everyone gets quiet and listens attentively. i'm still looking up words on the screen in the dictionary, the one i looked up yesterday translated to "withdrawal", as in
"USA Withdrawals from Iraq". is this true? the whole world around me seems to have stopped spinning, the news trickles down slowly and i never really know what's going on back in the states.

all the best to you, and happy fourth of july.

15 June 2009

my life as a gossip, or how i am destined to become a baba

people talk in a small town, they say, and oh do they talk here. i guess i've always grown up being slightly ashamed of my affinity for gossip, though it has provided me with many good friends who also enjoy it. i suppose i just didn't expect that my finely honed skills of listening, observing, and then talking would be so useful in such a provincial setting, but it is. even without understanding everything, i get the jist of who people are talking about, and sometimes, even what they are doing and what everyone thinks about it. nothing escapes the gaze of the people in this town, or at least, the babas generally make sure that it doesn't go unnoticed. i love this sense of interconnectedness, but more honestly, i just love the gossip. in bulgarian it's "bloo bloo bloo" (blah blah blah), or, the sound that chickens make. amazing; even in bulgaria i'm still a biddy.

06 June 2009

i can finally dance like a white girl

you might be able to guess that even after a few weeks my communication skills are more than lacking. my most effective tactic has become repeating what the person says, and generally agreeing. sometimes this means that i end up on long field trips, often to places i don't know and with people i've never met. more than a week ago i thought i was going to bed but instead ended up a large family/friend gathering across the street at the chitalishte (community center). the daughter of a family had finished high school and now was her time to celebrate her accomplishment, semi- 1980's prom style.

the dj was a friend of my host sister from Vratsa and it didn't take long til i was up dancing the Horo with everyone in the room (a good thing that they covered this subject in the first days of traning). after the traditional music was turned off i thought i'd be off the hook, but oh no. some pop/electronica came on and once again was roused to dance. generally i try to look cool while dancing, slightly dissinterested maybe but definetly rhythmic and smooth. what a surprise, as i looked around i found that none of these attributes were expected of me! ladies and men were slowly bopping to the music, dancing as we might call it in the US, like white people. finally! i don't have to pretend to be a good dancer anymore.

pop beats from the streets,

25 May 2009

a quick hi from vratsa!

hello! so, i've been in bulgaria for almost one full week now. our group of 62 volunteers spent the last few days in a mountain retreat learning about what we would be doing for the next 27 months. yesterday i moved in with my host family near Vratsa, which is north of Sofia. i have a mother and father who when they are not at work, manage a rather full garden and several goats, sheep and chickens. i didn't see a rooster, but there was one who definitely woke me up at 5 am! i also have a baba (grandmother) who is 85 and insists that i am tired, cold, or hungry, or all three. my first cultural faux pas was to put my bags on the floor, which goes against very strong bulgarian superstition. they didn't kick me out, so i guess i'm going ok.

bulgaria is great so far! i miss everyone in the states!

pieces from the peace corps...

14 May 2009

the countdown continues

hi. this is anna, reporting from ocean city. it's sunny here, the weather has finally reached perfection. here are the things i did today to prepare for monday, the day i officially report to the peace corps:
1. got my check from work, went to the bank, changed in my change, signed up for internet banking
2. returned several items to several different stores to avoid leaving my mother with a bedroom full of crap
3. got the code to unlock my cellphone (after 20 minutes. did you know that if you hang up on at&t, they might just call you back? seriously)
4. had dinner with mom at ruby tuesday = mom time is the utmost importance
5. helped mom download skype. taught mom how to spell skype.

bonny is coming tomorrow, there is a family potluck on sunday... so much to do in so little time!