Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Summer Camp

I spent the last 10 days on the staff of a summer camp for the Children's Parliament of Stara Zagora. I have been to a number of summer camps over the years in the United States, but was surprised by the Bulgarian style of summer camp. The campers here were very well behaved, though there were some cases of "Mamba" in some of the rooms at night. "Mamba" is when a stealthy camper applies toothpaste to a victim's nose in his or her sleep. The 50 campers ranged from 7 to 19 years old. The younger kids gave their extra food to older kids and the older kids helped the younger ones with washing clothes, keeping rooms clean, etc.

The last night of camp, I stayed up with the older campers to have a bonfire (starting around 2AM). They didn't want to go to sleep, but the director finally came out and told everyone to go to bed. I got to sleep after 4, but was up, packed and eating breakfast by 8:30. I'm still pretty tired from that after a couple of days. Probably the most impressive group activity of the camp was a 8-hour, 15 mile hike up to Rai, the tallest waterfall in Bulgaria. The entire group participated, and the children were surprisingly well behaved. There were very few complaints from the group.

Well, I am pretty tired and not writing especially well, so I'll provide more detail later. Good night, everyone!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Apartment, Birthdays, Pie and Rakiya

After a long day of work and a long walk uphill, I arrived home on Tuesday to a hallful of shouting Bulgarians. I thought, "Geez, somebody riled them up" as I fumbled with my keys. At my door, I heard spraying water and my hair stood on end. I quickly opened my door and the shouting people, who had just seen me, were already there. "Where have you been?!" "What did you leave on in there?" and "The stupid American has flooded the place" were some of the things I heard. I rushed in, saying, "I didn't leave anything on, a pipe must be broken," in my best Bulgarian. The incoming pipe to my boiler (waterheater) had burst and the water shot into the hallway, flooding my kitchen, hall and storage closet. In the corner of the kitchen, the water was over 2 inches deep. I turned off my water and let the neighbors see what had happened. When they saw that it wasn't my fault, the started laughing and patted me on the back. We called my landlord, who rushed over to help me dry my things out and clean up. Rust, lime and sand from the pipelines had been thrown all over, but we cleaned everything up pretty well. In the end, only my cookbook and some Bulgarian homework was damaged. The line was repaired the next morning. No problems now. My bulgarian nieghbors are more friendly now, and they casually wave instead of stare. Big step, I'll tell ya.

The last few days, I've spent test-driving my baking again. My friends Jessie and Larry each had a birthday this last weekend, so we celebrated with a party. I made the desserts. One of the terrific things about Stara Zagora is that seasonal fruits are cheap. I bought peaches for cobbler and Raspberries for pie. The Peaches were 80 stotinki (50 cents) /Kg, and the Raspberries were 3leva ($2)/Kg. I bought a kilogram of Raspberries. Yeah, wow. The Raspberry pie was a great success (about12-in in diameter and 2 inches deep) and the cobbler was delicious. I also brought my host-father's homemade Rakiya, which the group happily drank. Larry made terrific chili and Jessie made the cornbread, which was also great. Everybody was happy, which is important on birthdays.

In other Alex news, I was just granted the title of "Pharaoh" for the first time in my life, and I saw junebugs mating this morning. I'll be off in the mountains next week for the Stara Zagora Children's Parliament summer camp, so I may be out of touch for a bit. I miss all of my friends and Family. Take care, all!