Archive for January, 2008

One of those days

30 January, 2008

Where everything seems to go well. I didn’t get much done with my projects. However, it was a good day in terms of integrating. Last night I had my site mate and her Bulgarian boyfriend over for dinner. In order to prepare for the meal, I stopped by my baba’s for some onions and tomatoes. When I made chili over the weekend, I saved some and a little corn bread for her and her husband. She loved and thanked me profusely.

That evening I pretty much spoke Bulgarian until my vocabulary had been exhausted. We made chicken fajitas, probably the most flavorful meal I’ve had while in Bulgaria. While we ate, her boyfriend told us stories of what it was like living under Communism. He and other men from his village would sneak across the border into Greece to find work. It took them two days-by foot-to get there. Once they were there, they spent three months earning wages they could bring back home. It was quite an interesting and resilient story. He currently works construction in Sofia. Back to today:

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And Everything Else

28 January, 2008

On Friday, I went to Stara Zagora to have dinner with two PCVs who live there. I planned on taking the 21:30 bus back.  However the bus station was closed so I headed back and met up with them again. We stayed at a bar until my train at 1am. There was a cover band there that was really good. His English while singing was excellent but I don’t know if he could speak much. When he sang a British song, he got an English accent and when he sang Lynard Skynard, he got a Southern accent. The packed with drunk Brits. Like, they couldn’t stand up, they were so drunk.

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Bulgarian Birthdays

24 January, 2008

Written 27/01/08

I was sick on my birthday, but this is how a Bulgarian birthday is supposed to go.

In Bulgaria, birthday’s a reversed. The person celebrating their birthday is the one who is supposed to treat their friends to a meal or something. It is also customary to give co-workers bon boni (chocolates). As I was unable to do this, I will be giving my colleagues at work some chocolate chip cookies I baked today (Sunday).

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Athlete’s Dinner, etc

21 January, 2008

Written on 27/01/08

Sorry I haven’t been posting on my blog recently. I’ve been out sick. It came out of nowhere and kept me in my apartment for most of the week. But without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to (sans sickness)

The athlete’s dinner was a chance for the city to recognize the best student athletes in the municipality as well as their coaches. The evening was full of student musical performances and awarding athletes. All the athletes who were recognized received a gift bag. Some of them had a football (soccer ball) in them. When they returned to their table, all of the other kids enviously gazed at their friend’s new possession.

The whole ceremony lasted about an hour and a half. At the end, all the students left accompanied by their parents. I sat at my table wondering what was going on. Cake and soda were provided on each of the tables and I thought it was a bit odd that I would be leaving a social event without sitting around for long hours and offered alcohol.

I must be integrating well because as I stood up to leave, my friend, the “sports minister” called out to me “Jimmy! Come sit over here, next to me”. We sat at a large table, with just men. They talked about sports and I just listened. They passed around two bottles of whiskey. I told the SM that I was thankful he plugged the charity tournament. He told me we have a date now, April 12th. After chatting with him and some of the other men around the table, I left.

90 days

21 January, 2008

As of the 18th of January, I have been a Peace Corps Volunteer for three months and have been living in Bulgaria for six. I cannot believe how fast time has flown by.  It’s had it’s ups and downs but I feel like I’m starting to get things accomplished. Joining the Peace Corps is one of the best things I’ve done. The medical survey is now finished and the coverletter printed with the municipality’s crest. It should be sent out very soon. I hope to get a good idea what problems these medical centers face so the department I work with, the Department of External Resources, can write more informed grants.

Coming into work today, I was greeted by several people. All asking how my weekend was and reminding me that the athlete’s dinner is tonight. It felt good having people wanting to know how I’m doing and trying to include me in important events. I feel that if this is my situation in only three months, I cannot imagine how attached I will be to my town by the end of my service. Chirpan is a wonderful town and I work with magnificent people.

The weather has gotten warmer and the snow is starting to melt. This of course means I have water running down my kitchen walls again. However, this also means I don’t have to run the heater in the night and I don’t have the serious risk of slipping on the ice on the way to work. AND the sun is out! I haven’t seen it in about a month. It’s supposed to get up to 50 F (10 C) tomorrow. I can’t wait! Hopefully it stays like this.

 That’s more or less it for now. I’ll post about my dinner tonight as well as photos.

Weekend Travelling

19 January, 2008

This weekend I met up with several other PCVs.  On Friday, Barb had a Peace Corps meeting in Sofia. She took a bus and got to Chirpan four hours later than we expected (the meeting ran late). We ate dinner at the local pizza restaurant. The next morning, we went to Plovdiv. We met up with two other PCVs on the train. We got to Plovdiv and wondered about the city. We settled in a cafe on the walking strip and waited for another PCV to show up. While we were drinking coffee, a drunk Bulgarian man sitting near us occasionally stuck up a conversation with us. His English was broken but easy to understand. He asked us where we were from what what we were doing here. He must not have had the best memory, because despite telling him several times, he thought we were tourists. After he would finished talking to us, he would salute and say “I wish you great time in my country”. This happened about three times. Eventually, he wished us well, and left.

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Stats and whatnot

16 January, 2008

I was doing some work on the medical center survey today and found some statistics. What I found most concering is the imbalance of age in the villages surrounding Chirpan. The most “balanced” village had a break down of 26% (0-18); 48% (18-65); 26% (over 65). First of all, I see the mistakes in the way they’re catagorized. 18 to 65 is a huge gap. However I think the are interested in seeing the numbers of “working age” (though I’m not really sure why they counted 18 twice). The town (and the little hamlets that surround it) that worries me the most has a break down has a break down of 5% (120); 6% (150); and 89% (2304) respectively. I’m staggered how lopsided it is! This little village is literally dying.

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Project Update, etc

15 January, 2008

The survey is generating a lot of interest and input. They want to include dental care. This is great and I hope to get them sent out by the end of the week. The cover letter is also coming along well however my Bulgarian translations need some work…

There has been a lady who comes into the office frequently to use our phone (don’t know why). She was in here for a long time and I could hear her talking about my survey, though we have never been properly introduced. When she came in today to use the phone, I offered her a ginger snap from a package I got from my mom today. We then had a long chat, mostly about how hard Bulgarian is and the weather in St. Louis. She was impressed that I could could speak as well as I did and laughed when I said the hardest part about Bulgarian was shaking your head for “yes”.

Shortly after she left, another woman came into the office. She came specifically to invite me to a dinner next Monday. Word has gotten out that I’m putting together this charity football tournament. I think the dinner is to honor the graduating students from a sports school. Though I’m not really sure. At the very least, it will be a dinner honoring students at a sports academy. It’s one of the hold overs from Communism. There are still several sports academies around the country where students practice their chosen sport and have academics around it.

Anyway, I had no idea who the woman was but she clearly knew me. Feeling that this would be a great opportunity to advertise my football tournament, I needed to have another meeting with the “sports minister” (it’s not his full time job, but everyone talks to him about sport related ideas). That meeting was very impromptu but I got the dates narrowed down. The tournament will be on either the 5th or the 12th of April (depending on the schedule of the field). The BIG news however, is the municipality to fund the whole thing! I’m so excited! We’re going to get professional referees and actual medals! It will be 4 on 4 with teams of 5. More details will follow once I get things hammered out. (If you’re interested in coming, just drop me a line at Wall.JamesL (at) gmail (dot) com)

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Peyo Yavorov’s Birthday

14 January, 2008

Peyo Yavorov is a famous poet from Chirpan who turned 130 today. There was a ceremony in the park in front of his statue. There were several soldiers, a military brass band and lots of reporters. I snapped a few shots:

The mayor giving a speech
Lighting the fire

More pictures can be found here

Irrelevant ramblings

12 January, 2008

None of what lies below is related to service. Just irrelevant ramblings.

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