Thursday, August 28, 2008

Горе, На Там!

Yesterday Liz and I had to go into Sofia for a pre-school-year meeting with the Education staff. So we got up early, I made omelets, and we headed out.

Note about Omelets.

Omelets are way underrated. This was a zucchini and kashkaval omelet that only took about as long as the toast. I've started making them for lunches too. They really are perfect when you want something delicious, filling, and really quick. Also, in America most places use at least three eggs which I think is complete overkill. Two eggs is more than enough to cover any number of toppings.

So we catch the bus into Sofia, catch the tram to the other side of town and had our meeting. It was a bit boring, but we got some really good info and gradebooks/schedules that will come in really handy. All though this meeting quelled some of my fears about teaching, it also intensified others. Apparently it's really common for the first month or so of school to not know what hours you are teaching until the day of. The first day for teachers is this Monday but no one from my school has called me or let me know I should come in. I have no idea what grades I'm teaching, what books we are using, or even how many classes, and apparently I won't know these things for some time.

After the meeting a few friends met us near the historic end of Sofia and we took a mini tour. We saw the oldest Mosque in Europe, a giant cathedral, the main government buildings and monuments and had a drink at this ridiculously expensive cafe. (My fault guys, I will never trust the NYT about Bulgaria again.)

After that Liz and I went back to our bus station only to find out that there is a problem with the 7:00 bus and we would have to wait an extra hour for the next one. This leaves plenty of time to make up for the expensive cafe by drinking really cheap rakia at the bus station. By the time we got home, exhaustion took hold. But we felt pretty accomplished. До После. Чaу.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Basketball Jones

One thing I really like about Botevgrad is that people here love basketball. Throughout most of Bularia (and the rest of the world) basketball takes a back seat to soccer, and often other sports. But for some reason our town is different. The B-Ball players get far more attention than the soccer team, and there are several outdoor courts to play on.

So in the evenings I've been going and playing. There's usually a gathering at about 7pm, which is perfect for august because it's way to hot to play during the day. It's been a good way for me to meet people, especially younger guys. Most of the guys I play with are quite nice and don't really fit they chalga-loving-ultra-egotistical stereotype of bulgarian youth.

However, the guys here play a bit differently. First off, they don't play nearly as physical as we do in the states. And because I always played power forward, I'm used to posting up a lot, this is something that is also rarely done. I think this probably comes from people more or less teaching themselves how to play, rather than getting training from coaches. These things are not so bad.

The only thing that really bugs me about the games here is that they are ALWAYS half court, not matter how many people are playing, and they don't use the rule of having to clear the ball (past the key) after getting a steal or defensive rebound. So the person on offense can work their ass off to get open, get the ball, and get into position to take a shot, but if they happen to miss the guy who has been playing lazy defense and just standing under the basket gets an easy layup without having to do anything. And then they play make-it-take-it, so not only do they get an easy bucket, but they get the ball again too. At first I thought this would be something I would just get used to, but every time I play it bothers me more and more.

I have often felt like trying to tell them that they are playing all wrong, but I think it might be a bit early for that. I'll wait for the perfect moment, right after I knock down the game winning fade-away-three-pointer (nothing but net of course) and say in perfect bulgarian "Now let me show you how we do it in the land of the free."

Until then I'll just keep posting up and wait for someone to figure out what the hell I'm doing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Once we finished training there hasn't really been a lot going on. Because it's summer and we don't really have a ton of friends here yet, usually the most exiting thing I do during a day is cook. So I've decided to start blogging a bit about that.

The other night a couple of friends came over for dinner and so I made some fresh pasta with a garlic & olive oil sauce with walnuts & basil, along with some french bread. The baguettes turned out to be some of the best I have been able to make in our tiny oven that only reaches 250F. I also think I'm getting better at making pasta, this batch wasn't too sticky or too floury. The sauce was good and simple and the walnuts added a heartiness that vegetarian meals can often lack. I was overall pretty happy with the outcome.

Last night we had some people over and I made pasta again, but this time with an uncooked tomato & basil sauce, bread, carrot salad with a orange & cumin dressing, and cauliflower with buerre noisette.

Volunteers here put together a cookbook for Bulgaria and I think I will be adding a few recipes to the next edition. Right now there are a lot of recipes in there that are full of things you can't find here, in any season, and some of the stuff just doesn't make any sense. One recipe is called spicy mexican hummus without tahini. I don't know how that qualifies as hummus and not Spicy Bean Dip.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pool Harvest

One main difference I have noticed between America and Bulgaria is entitlement. Today Liz and decided to go to our town's pool, we get our swim gear on, buy some lunch, and head out to the edge of town. When we arrive there is a sign that says "On Tuesday Pool No Work." Resigned to a day without swimming headed home.

The pool looked perfectly fine, there was a guy working there and yet still there seemed to be no need to give a reason for "Pool No Work." A sign like that in the states would say something like "We apologize for the inconvenience but due to _______ the pool will be closed until ______. It will reopen tomorrow at _____. And as an American I felt entitled to be given a reason. Bulgarians don't seem to have quite that same sense. Rather than entitlement, the overall feeling seems to be more resignation.


I can't stop listening to Neil Young's Harvest right now. Every time I put it on as background music it ends up taking over and I can't concentrate on anything else. I have learned to not even try to read while listening to it. I just end up staring into space like and idiot... Like just there. I took a good two minute break from typing because I can't get over the chorus in Alabama. In fact I'm just going to stop blogging now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Way of the World

So a new book just came out called The Way of the World by investigative journalist Ron Suskind. It makes several claims that seem like old news at this point. The Bush administration went to war on false pretenses, they knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, and a lot of other things we already know. BUT this is the first time someone has real evidence of it. Granted there was the Downing Street Memo's showing the White House and Blair's administration planned to go to war no matter what the evidence, and the whole Joe Wilson/Valarie Plame incident, but while those were evidence that they probably knew there were now WMDs, Suskind's book shows that they actually knew.

In addition, he also lays out how the White House ordered the CIA to forge a letter connecting Al Quieda to Iraq after we invaded and everyone was starting to realize they had been duped. This is where things could get interesting as far as impeachment hearings go... or not.

So far the New York Times and other major papers haven't covered the allegations in the book, and while Suskind has done interviews here and there, the book doesn't seem to be getting the kind of press it should. And even though Rep. John Conyers says he's leading and investigation, we'll see if it materializes. I don't really think Nancy Pelosi or the other Democrats in congress want to start that whole process now. It would make them look partisan, when really it's a long over due examination.

Also the main article in the last Newsweek we got by Fareed Zarkaria was a bunch of bullshit, but I won't go into that. He's been disappointing me lately.

Friday, August 15, 2008

you think what?

I never considered myself a superstitious person, and I've always rolled my eyes a bit at people who are. This is something I need to stop doing if I want Bulgarians to not hate me.

Most of the the superstitions here are pretty harmless. Things like women shouldn't leave their purses on the floor because they will lose their money, make sure you make eye contact when toasting drinks, ect. But then there is the techaynea.

The basic idea is that if you are inside you cannot have two doors/windows open at once because if you do you could get very sick. This would seem to make sense if it were the dead of winter, but not when you are on a packed public bus in august. Or anywhere in august. We asked our language trainer about this.

Us: So why are people superstitious about the techanynea?
Her: It's not a superstition.
Us: Oh.

Us: So a draft through the house makes you sick. Does the wind outside make you sick?
Her: No.
Us: Oh.

from there it proceeded to get awkward.

And apparently this death draft only effects Bulgarians. We have been told that the reason is because they have another superstition that for the first six months after a baby is born it isn't supposed to go outside or come into contact with people other than the family. This somehow is the reason that moving air makes sickness. Therefore Americans are immune.

It is also unclear whether the draft causes you to get sick or whether it is the sickness itself. Another volunteer worked with a woman who had a stroke on a bus. When he asked his coworkers, they told him that the doctor said she had the techaynea. Apparently she fell asleep on the bus, and then someone opened a window. In her sleeping state she was unable to fight off the draft. He asked "so the techaynea caused her to have a stroke?" they replied "no, she HAS the techaynea."

All I know is, it's 96 degrees out today. I'm throwing a techaynea party.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Life is a horrid thing to do to someone you love,
and hope a wretched thing to give to another man.

I hope to God I find life.