Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rough Weekend, but Fun and Productive

Last Friday, I cleaned the apartment, went to a graduation, and saw a friend off home. Saturday morning, I got up and went to catch a bus to Veliko Turnovo at 5AM. In VT, I went to a meeting of volunteers working for Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). It is a camp didicated to women's rights and education, teaching girls who will be instrumental in Bulgaria's development in the future. Because girls' groups are generally given fewer resources in this country, activities and organizations like this one are important to addressing educating girls about women's issues.

Actually, the camp is a bit under-funded. If anybody can donate any sum, it would be instrumental in making the camp a success. If you cannot donate, please tell friends who might be able to give a bit (Tax-deductible: see website) to the camp. Here is the contact address (in english):

http://www.campglowbg.org Please at least pass on the link.

After the meeting, I caught a bus to Sofia and met a Mormon missionary that I'd first met in Plovdiv some months ago. She was on her way home with her parents, who were finishing a trip around the world. They are very nice, caring and intelligent people. I had a terrific time talking to them. I arrived in Sofia and finally got to sleep at about 11PM.

On Sunday, I met Peace Corps Volunteers for an annual Softball Game with JICA (the international volunteer corps of Japan). We all had a terrific time (we lost 4-3). I made a fielding error but had some good hits. Our team played well for people who'd been away from baseball for a long time. The Embassy team played like softball pros. They must practice. Ambassador Beyrle had a couple of good hits/plays. Afterwards, I ran into a friend from high school and sat for a drink in the city center next to the Dramatic Theatre. It was really good to see him.

As I came back to Stara Zagora, the bus I was riding on lost a wheel. I helped the driver retrieve it from the fields (those wheels are REALLY heavy) but we had to wait for almost 3 hours for a replacement bus to arrive. When I finally got home, I was dirty, hot, dehydrated and tired. I tried to do some work, but it was too much. My friend Courtney called and asked to crash, so I gladly went home to clean and nap. She came in and I put her up in the kitchen. We crashed after talking a bit.

Thus closed my rather eventful weekend. I'm glad to be back at work. Tomorrow is Kyril and Methodi Day, a holiday celebrating the Cyrilic Alphabet. The Children's Parliament is marching in the parade, and I think I'll be marching with them.

Ciao, da postle! (See you later!)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Back from the Dead.....

Well, I know it has been quite a while since my last post. For that, I'm sorry.

So much has happened in the last month, it is difficult to organize my thoughts into a coherent chronology. Foreign service time is commonly acknowledged to be relative at best. So are the experiences that fill the time.

I threw a birthday party for a friend at my apartment in Stara Zagora a few weeks ago. It was intended to be for a small group, but I love all of my comerades (drugaryoo na Bulgarski) too much not invite them. There were several problems that ensued. My apartment is basically two rooms: a living/bedroom and a kitchen. The weather in Stara Zagora has been volatile as well. Consequently, my heater was turned on the day before the party. The heater (because it is a thermal cinder-block heater) did not cool down before the party. It might have been OK if there had only been the 4 intended people at the party, but in the end about 13 came bringing with them their bulk and body heat. Thus, the twin problems of space and room temperature made it a very close party. Which wasn't necessarily bad....

I wanted to make it a memorable night, with so many of my close friends visiting my home for the first time. I decided to make a delicious dinner. For appetizers I served two kinds of olives, bruschetta, nuts, brie and crackers and fruit. They were well-received, though the brie didn't last. The entree was lasagne served with home-made garlic bread and salad (my friend Jessie brought a delicious salad). For dessert, I served a irthday cake. The cake was filled with a orange/peach sauce that didn't gel properly but which tasted pretty good; the frosting had a strange texture secause powdered sugar is not very fine over here. I also served a dark chocolate fondue with strawberries, apples, banannas and peach (which disappeared immediately). I was told that it was a good dinner.

Last weekend, I took my first international trip since I arrived in Bulgaria. I went to Athens and the Island of Aegina with Susan and Julia. It rained periodically in our first two days in Athens, but the weather didn't diminish the beauty and deep meaning of the city. I walked around in awe as I studied the building I've read about in so many books and seen in so many pictures and films. What does it mean to 'see' a wonder of the world? The Acropolis, Agora and other ruins are magnificent to see; not just because of their size, history or beauty. They are made of stone and continue to stand, though their creators have long since returned to dust. 2,500 years ago, when they were newly built, they must have commanded a certain awe from pilgrims. I kept thinking of a quote from Gladiator when the slaves first see the colosseum, "I did not know that men could build such things."

Aegina is a retreat from the smell and noise of Athens. The island is still a tourist destination, though it is visited by locals as much as foreigners. It is a bucolic pearl sitting in the blue gulf of Corinth. From the temple of Aphaia on a high ridge on the eastern side of the island, one can gaze westward agross the gulf to Salamis, where the combined Greek navy defeated a Persian fleet in one of the most decisive naval battles in the Hellenic world. Eastward, the view of the costline and the Aegean sea hearkens images of triremes and the homecoming of ancient heroes. The air is sweet on Aegina, perfumed by orchards of olive and pistachio trees and mixed with salty sea mist. Pistachios from the island (for which Aegina is known for among the Greeks) are strong but nearly dissolve on the tongue. I wish I'd bought more of them.