Monday, September 29, 2008

What do we always say is most important?

I am continually baffled at what passes for breakfast in the country.

Things I do NOT see Bulgarians have for breakfast


Things that I DO see Bulgarians have for breakfast.

*Pizza covered in ketchup and mayonnaise
*Cheese wrapped in fried phylo-dough
*A slab of mystery meat on piece of white bread
*Packaged croissant filled with chocolate
*Whatever was left over from dinner
*A Beer

I didn't realize just how breakfast conscious I was until now. I guess all those food pyramid programs in elementary school actually paid off.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Yesterday, while taking attendance in class, some of the students were laughing at my pronunciation of names such as "Svetsislava" or "Blagoegigiv" ect. I needed to get back at them.

So I decided that because the Bulgarian language has no 'soft G' sound, no 'W' and no "Th" diphthong I promptly wrote the name "Gweneth" on the board and asked them to say it. The result was something along the lines of "GENET." Now it was my turn to laugh.


Here's one straight from the man himself. I like it so much I made it twice this week.

Note to people in Bulgaria (or anyone else really):
I can't find lavender, but I've used parsley, dried thyme and dried rosemary. All have worked really well. And I just used a cheese grater for the shredding.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Just for the record. I wanted to be a community organizer way before it was cool for republicans to make fun of it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saturday in the Park

Yesterday Liz and were walking in the park in Botevgrad, talking about our lives in Bulgaria, our lives back at home, working situations, general feelings of uselessness, you know the usual. But when we turned to the topic of our students I came to a hard realization.

The students Liz had last year in Jackson need so much more help than the ones in Botevgrad. And for that matter, my home city needs so much more help than here. When I walk around Botevgrad I don't see an eviction notice every five house, I don't see bums outside liquor stores, I don't see furniture lining the street, (ok, I do see boarded up windows but most of those are former communist buildings that no one wants anymore.)

Liz's students last year had issues like parents in prison, not enough food on the weekends, no beds to sleep on, and being raised more by pit-bulls than their dads. Our students now have ridiculously expensive cell phones, go shopping in the capital on the weekends, and mostly just act like a bunch of spoiled brats.

It's just hard to justify acting like some great humanitarian when I know that I left somewhere that needs more help. And I have tried just looking at this as "working and living overseas" rather than the expectations I had for Peace Corps, but I didn't come here for that.

But then again, at home I was working in a call center. I guess at least this is something.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


On my walk to school each day I pass a building that has been, and probably will continue to be, perpetually under construction. All summer there has been no one working on this thing. It's just four floors of bricks.

So Friday, as I am walking down the street next to it, a large piece of lumber, maybe a 8 foot long 2x4, flies off the top floor and lands in the middle of the road about 20 feet in front of me. This wouldn't have been so bad if it had not been followed by a giant wooden door. Apparently work has begun, and as we all know, the first rule of construction is to throw large dangerous objects from high places onto the middle of the street.

I wonder how much time I could have gotten off from work if I had been hit. I should have just fallen down and pretended.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Conversations with my counterpart pt. 1

I realized that I really need to start documenting these.

Me: What is the name of the textbook we will be using this year?
Her: There aren't.
Me: Yes, I know. I will go get my own book, but what is the name?
Her: I don't know...Only this.
Me: So there are no books that I can get?
Her: Yes, in the store.
Me: What book can I use?
Her: Tomorrow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's been comin down

Today I learned that the weather is controlled not by God, but by Bulgarian school children. They informed the skies that the first day of school is today and asked to please stretch out summer as long as possible. Saturday was sunny and in the mid 90's. Then, Sunday evening, the first school night of the year, the clouds rolled in, the rain started, and the temperature dropped thirty degrees. Summer ended in all senses.

First day of school and I was lucky enough to receive my schedule and find out what classes I will be teaching. Other volunteers have not been so lucky. I will be teaching all in the morning and only earlier than nine once a week. I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect.

I also have something to go on for a secondary project. A teacher at my school took me to a 3 day seminar/training for Junior Achievement which is a program where students create their own company, are given start-up money, provide an actual product or service, create business plans, administration, give themselves salaries, pay taxes, and buy shares in their company. At the end they can enter their product and business plan in national and international competitions. I wasn't too sure about it at first, but honestly, anything that will get these kids thinking about something other than their cellphones and hair can't hurt.

Also, if you are ever in the Balkins, I highly recommend Plovdiv

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

For The Tames

To James and Theresa: Congrats.
In your honor I am blogging about a meal that I loved, that is vegetarian, and contains only things that James can find in his stupid little village.

Now get ready to forget everything you thought you knew about Stuffed Cabbage.

  • First, saute some onion and garlic in oil in a pot. Once it's cooked a bit add 1 parts lentils & rice and 2 parts stock, broth, or water, let cook.
  • Meanwhile, Core a cabbage and tear off a bunch leaves and steam them. Once they get flexible take them out.
  • When the lentils and rice are cooked lay portions on the cabbage like so.

  • Then wrap them up and put back in the steamer

  • Steam another 10 mins or so, and eat.
Let me know how it turns out, this one might be a good submission to the cookbook. I also made a lemony lentil salad the other day that turned out all right. Last night, Seth was talking about ratatouille, and the eggplants downstairs look really good today. Now if only I could find a decent Bordeaux. Oh well, maybe in two years.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


In Bulgaria each town has it's own town holiday called a Sabor [сабор]. This past weekend I attended the Sabor in Krupnik, the village we trained in for three months. It was my first time back since training and I had a really great time. I drank too much, ate too much, drank too much, danced to much, and slept too little.
Here are a few pictures.
Perin Mountains and rooftops


Folk Dancing
Going back really made me feel better about living in Bulgaria. As nice of a town Botevgrad is, there is still a really big part of me that wishes I was back in a village. It was also really refreshing to see my host family and all the people I became friends with there. Maybe someday I will feel the same way here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

1st of September/Първи Септември

More than the language barrier, more than the cultural differenceс, and more than the general lack of organization, the thing that distracts me most during meetings with my school director is the stereo in his office. It's big. And while I love Rick James, Abba, and that song from Dirty Dancing it makes it a bit difficult to concentrate to anything he is telling me.

I don't feel like I accomplished much on my first day at school, but I did get a free pen. And even though all the teachers were only there for about an hour, and no one seemed to do much of anything, we are all coming back every day for the next two weeks to do it again.