Monday, December 18, 2006

Home for the Holidays

It has been quite a busy month since my last post. I've been up to my neck in work, moving, cleaning and socializing. Some more of my friends have left for greener pastures in work and life, and my social circles have changed a bit. My new apartment is small but decent. I've put a fair amount of elbow-grease and work into making it homey. Little paint here and there, little linoleum over the concrete, little bit of cleaner and plaster, and it has been transformed into my new digs.

The weather has not cooled as much as I expected. By this time last year it snowed several times and was in the negatives until March. Thick fog invaded the city for a week earlier this month. Walking through the streets was eerie, especially as the concrete blocks emerge from the fog here and there, dripping condensation like in James Bond films. Speaking of 007, I walked to the train station one night to catch a midnight train to Varna. Passing through the park reminded me of the statue garden level in the original 007/James Bond Nintendo game. Angular, communist-era concrete statues emerged right and left from the fog as I made my way, my footsteps speaking in muffled echoes in the dense, quiet night. I walked by a man who was standing with his hands in his pockets looking like a covert contact; that was the guy who would get the knife in the back before 007 would be captured.

I've been working with several development projects in Stara Zagora and advise on others throughout Bulgaria. It is heartening to see how people are happily working to improve their communities and provide opportunity to their neighbors, especially children. One of the projects was an improvement for an archaeological museum and simply requested a media set of a camera/scanner/computer for database purposes. Simple low-cost requests like these can help preserve or even save artifacts from destruction by overhandling or poor storage, though until now funds were unavailable in a developing country like Bulgaria.

I joined friends in Vratsa on November 24th for Thanksgiving. We all pitched in and made a terrific dinner. Our group included a mix of Bulgarians and Americans. One of my friends there, Bojan, is an artist/potter from whom I bought most of my Christmas gifts this year. He was trained in Sweden and is quite skilled. I am a bit concerned about transpoting them back to the USA; we'll see if I can get most it back undamaged. With that said, I will visit the homeland for two weeks and return to Bulgarland on the 4th of January. I'm sure I'll miss her.