My weekend

On Friday, I stared out the window, watching the dark, foreboding clouds rolling in. It was 3 in the afternoon and I had the whole weekend in front of me. Not sure what I how I was going to spend 48 hours bliss, I fired off an email to two volunteers in Stara Zagora asking them if they wanted to go to dinner sometime over the weekend. To my delight, I discovered that another PCV, whose birthday was on Friday, would be travelling to Stara for dinner with two other PCVs. As soon as I got out of work, I hopped aboard a train and met up with the birthday girl and our friend. The trip was mostly spent on a troublesome mole eating onions in a vegetable patch and how difficult students can be, especially when they know we have a limited grasp on the language.

The train pulled into the station and we headed to the restaurant where we met one of the PCVs. In total, there were six of us. It was a good meal and we discussed the usual; life and troubles in Bulgaria and politics back home in the US. Fulled with Italian goodness, we contemplated our options. We landed on heading to the local bowling alley. It was by far the nicest alley I’ve ever been to. It looked like trendy night club in LA. We had some more beers, a shot of absinthe and hit the lanes. We were about half way through the game when I turned around and looked into the bar. This bowling alley bar had go go dancers. When are you every going to be able to say that? I went to a bar with go go dancers. Wow. It was a lot of fun bowling again and a little surreal doing that in the Peace Corps. But good nonetheless.

The next day we hiked up to where one of the Stara Zagora PCV works, the mahala, the Roma quarter of town. I was really quite surprised at how segregated they are from the rest of the city. It was horribly run down and was more or less a shanty town. The streets were in horrible repair and the houses were made out of the most basic materials, most were lived in even though they were far from being completed. We passed several where one of the walls was actually a sheet. The conditions were so appalling; at one point we passed an old woman selling fruit and vegetables on the curb and not more than five feet away was a dead dog. Shuan’s blog has photos from his trip (separate occasion). We walked around and met with several people. They were very excited to see Americans. We stopped and chatted with some teenage girls who were eager to talk to us and surprised that we could speak Bulgarian.

We made our way back the PCV’s office. We sat around throwing ideas around that we could do to help her with projects. Most of our ideas revolved around anti-trafficking and sex education. The door to the office was open and people walking by could see in. A man drove passed and called out to the PCV. She came back in laughing as the guy drove off. “They guy asked me for a condom [the NGO she works for gives out condoms] and to get in the car with him to go to “coffee”. I told him that I didn’t have a key to the medical room and couldn’t get him condoms. “That’s ok, just come to coffee with me””.

The Roma situation is a very complicated issue in Bulgaria. They are ostrichized and discriminated against. I would write more about these issues but I feel that this is a touchy subject and I don’t know enough to make an informed opinion. I will leave that for a later post.

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