Friday, September 16, 2005

Back in Septemvri

I've been kept quite busy here in Bulgaria for the past week.

On Friday the 9th, I visited an orphanage in Bratsigovo. Younger children are roomed in dormitories of approximately 7-10 children, and teens are accomodated in rooms with one roomate. The staff provided banitza (pastry filled with salty cheese) and soda for their guests, served by the friendly children. I was immediately surprised how homey the building was, how friendly and cheerful the children were, and how lovingly they regarded the director and orphanage staff. When I separated from the group, a boy perhaps 7 years old asked if I wanted to be shown to reception. I said yes and he grabbed my hand. I spoke to him in Bulgarian, asking how he was, and he said, "very well" and smiled at me. When we got to the reception room, he called me 'botko' (Big Brother). All of the children were similarly charming.

On Saturday and Sunday I was in Plovdiv to learn about EU accession, programmes, and funding. It was a friend's birthday, so we celebrated it there.

On Monday and Tuesday, I was in Pazardjik learning about banking, programming, life in Bulgaria, and my permanent placement for the next 2 years. I will be centered in Stara Zagora (CTAPA ZAĐ“OPA), working on programs in the local municipality and surrounding area involving youth organizations, health matters including AIDS/HIV prevention, ecologic and archaeologic study and preservation, and other tasks.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I was introduced to Stara Zagora municipal leadership, the local youth parliament, and the city's wide range of resources. Earlier today (Friday), I attended a clinical psychology conference on the positive influence of art therapy in treatment of schizophrenia. The conference was held at a mental hospital in Radnevo, approximately 35 miles from Ctara Zagora. Very interesting.

I will move to Stara Zagora on the 27th of October.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


This is a nice town. The population has hovered around 9,000 for nearly a century. I live in a soviet-era concrete apartment that is ugly like a pitted, stained sidewalk on the outside and clean as a hospital on the inside. Cows are driven by wy window in the morning on the way to grazing, and I fall asleep each night to a Bulgarian chorus of fighting dogs and flies hitting my window screen.

Horse-drawn carts are common along the main street, Boulevard Bulgaria, and in front of the apartment block. I go running along the fields outside town and along the railroad tracks (far from the rails, never fear Mom). I sprint in a small futbol field near my apartment where shepherds and farmers graze their sheep and horses. The horses don't mind me, but the sheep run away when I sprint towards them, return when I sprint away, then run when I sprint towards them, return..... and it amuses me.

Septemvri has it's problems, too. So many cattle, horses, sheep, dogs, cats, people...means that the streets have a fecal problem. Also, a fifty-foot section of the sidewalk has been under construction for months. Since I have ben in Septemvri (3 weeks), about 15 feet has been completed. I walk by the lounging workers every day on my way to and from school. On the whole, however, a nice place.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Still alive and doing well in Bulgaria!

I'm ending my third week in Bulgaria. I've now been to a cultural festival where we barbequed and I was fed Rikia, a wedding where I was fed a lot of food and Rikia, and many NaGosti's (informal dinner parties) where I have been fed a lot of Rikia. I drink the Rikia very slowly, but it is part of the culture here, and an integral part of the experience. Last night, my group of PC Volunteers had an American NaGosti, and the low-fat rice and vegetable dished we cooked were a welcome break from the usual high-fat Bulgarian Cuisine.

I had a discussion about Bulgarian history with a family friend (host-family) a few nights ago. He told me that Bulgarians like to avoid warfare when possible and have often submitted to foreign rule to avoid armed conflict and to be able to simply live in peace. However, they insist on certain liberties for everday life. An example he used was the attitude of Bulgarians towards native Jewish communities before and during World War II. The Bulgarians were able to avoid a haulocost by claiming the Jewish population as native Bulgarians and exempt from Nazi extermination. The mixture of pride and disgust Bulgarians harbor about their history is interesting.