Archive for April, 2008

A walk in the woods

30 April, 2008

Last Monday, I went to Kazanlak to visit Anita and another PCV, Natalie. I was invited to go on a hike with them in a small village next to Kazanlak. It was a short, but beautiful hike. There were several wildflowers blooming.

We were hiking up to a pile of rocks that were consctucted to make a Stonehenge like pagan calender. It however, looks nothing like Stonehenge.

On the way down, we ran into Anita’s tutor. She and her husband were on the same hike we just did. They told just to wait from them and they would take us to the nearby reservoir.

From there, they offered to take us to a nearby town called Shipka. Shipka holds a special place in Bulgarian history. During the final days of the Ottoman Empire (called “Turkish Yoke” by Bulgarians), the Russian army came to the aid of Bulgaria. Shipka is situation by a mountain pass and this was where the Ottomans made one of their final pushes.

Several Russian soldiers were killed and the Tsar raised funds to build this magnificent churches:

As you can see, the domes of the church look very Russian, much like St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square.

St. Basil’s Cathedral (The Kremlin) Shipka Memorial Church

There is a fort at Shipka as well but we ran out of time. I’ve got plenty of time to check it out. Anita’s tutor dropped us back of in Kazanlak, where our day had began. The three of us went to get duners and settled down in a cafe for beer. A great end to a great day. I made my way home and slept well.

More photos here:

Kazanlak and Shipka

How to annoy me

29 April, 2008

Talk to me slowly as you write down your response despite my perfectly phrased and pronounced question: “When is the next bus to Stara Zagora?”

How to charm me

29 April, 2008

Call me out by name in a crowed restaurant just to ask me how I’m doing and what I’m up to

My Bulgarian friends treat me well

28 April, 2008

Easter bread, Easter cookies, onions, cucumbers, green onions, mint, hard boiled eggs.

I’m one lucky guy!

Sports day!

25 April, 2008

Спортен ден! The teachers I work with invited me to join them in the sports day between the three elementary schools in Chirpan. It was a blast! It all reminded me of Olympic Day when I was in elementary school. There were chalk drawings

relay races (no pics), football

and a game called “Народна топка” (“people’s ball”)

As far as I can tell, it’s a cross between “dodge ball” and “Sharks and minnows”. The only people that take it more serious than the kids are the male teachers. Sometimes it seemed like over zealous parents at a little league game. Despite the occasional outburst, the kids all had a a great time. Better yet, the kids from my school swept all of the events!

All of the photos can be found here:

Sports day

Photo of the Day

25 April, 2008

“This is not a dung-hill. Violators will be fined”

The people I asked about this sign say it’s “garbage heap”. I think the dictionary defined “dung-hill” is funnier.

Up Next

22 April, 2008

Things after the tournament have slowed down. It feels like my first three months after being sworn-in, looking for my place and direction. This isn’t to say I’m not doing anything. I’m still looking for ways to finance the medical center in Zetevo. However, everything I find is either too small (a few thousand dollars) or too big (upwards of a quarter of a million Euro). I’m starting to think there isn’t much I can do. I’m not being pessimistic; I just think that this isn’t the role of a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’m here to produce sustainable projects. While funding local health care renovation projects are worthy endeavors, I believe that they can better be fulfilled (and are the responsibility) of the Bulgarian Ministry of Health (which has a horribly translated website) and the European Union. I will help them when they need help (like document translation) however, they aren’t giving me much direction with this project. I got the feeling like if I can’t find funding, this project won’t get off the ground. However, they haven’t been hassling me for my results. One thing I have done is email the EEA (European Economic Area. I also emailed the WHO and the World Bank) about the money they’ve earmarked for Bulgaria. If they have another date for a call for proposals, I will strongly urge my colleagues to write a through evaluation of all the village medical centers to be renovated (and perhaps get a new fleet of ambulances).


Deep Thought

22 April, 2008

It doesn’t really matter what language you use, I’m probably not going to go bungee jumping.

Deep Thought

19 April, 2008

I know enough Bulgarian to complain about the entry below to my baba, but not enough to understand why she pinched and kissed my checks while laughing.

Amateur Mistakes

19 April, 2008

I made some rookie mistakes this morning and I’m still a little frustrated about them. Travelling in Bulgaria can be easy if you know what you’re doing and often when you don’t. A prime example is taking the bus. If you’re going to a large city or final destination, you shouldn’t have any problems. However, problems arise when you don’t. Bus drivers don’t like to make stops often. More than once, I’ve been told I can’t go to a city because the bus driver doesn’t want to stop on the side of the freeway to drop me off-even though it was on the way. Sometimes the ticket cashier won’t sell a ticket if you’re not going to the final destination since your seat isn’t getting full fare. All this can be frustrating to say the least.

So my story: Last night I went to Karlovo to support Cindy in the opening of the charity art exhibit she’s been working on. The proceeds from this gallery will go to support a local orphanage. She went to Veliko Turnovo for a tourism meeting about publicizing the ecological center she works with and the mountain huts they operate. Her train was at 6 o’clock this morning. I was wondering what I’d do since she was leaving so early. I decided to visit my good friend and BAMF Barb at her site, Dupnitsa. I planned on meeting her at the Central bus station in Sofia, where she was spending the night. Dupnitisa is only about 45 minutes South. To do this, I planned on catching the 6:30am bus to the capital. I went to the Karlovo bus station with my backpack, looking like I was ready to go somewhere, and went to the ticket window at just after 6am. “Can I have a ticket to Sofia?” “You buy them on the bus” “Ok, thanks”. So I waited until 6:30. No bus. “No worries” I thought, “it’s probably running a little late”. While I was waiting, my heart rose and sank as every bus that pulled into the sector was for Plovdiv. At 20 minutes late, I went back to the window “Do you know where the bus to Sofia is?” “On Saturday, the only direct bus to Sofia is at noon”. I was dumbfounded. It was very clear I was hanging around for the 6:30am bus. Why she didn’t tell me this 20 minutes ago, I have no idea. I’d have to go through Plovdiv if I wanted to go home so I let Barb know about my situation and that I’d tell her if I decided to nix the whole thing.

I boarded the bus and fell asleep. My mind was racing “is it worth going all the way to the Dup if I have to go home tomorrow?” “Do I really want to spend this much money?” I remembered that there is a direct bus from Plovdiv to Dupnitsa. I was pretty sure that it left at 9am and I got into Plovdiv at 8. I went up to ticket window “When is the next bus to Dupnitsa?” “в един чаша” (in one hour). Great! I threw down the 10 leva and went to a cafe to relax. I ordered my coffee and settled down. I re-checked my ticket because I thought I saw something about changing buses in Blagovegrad. That’s when I saw 13:00. Shit. I just bought a ticket for the 1pm bus to Dupnista. I ran back to the ticket counter “Is the next bus leaving for Dupnitsa leaving at nine?” “No, it’s leaving at 1…13:00” Crap. Remember when I bought the ticket she said “в един чаша”? Depending on the stress of “чаша” it can be the number of hours or “o’clock”. Bulgarian can be tricky. “How much is a bus ticket to Sofia?” (the next bus left at 8:30 and it was currently 8:15). “14 Leva” “Can I have my money back for this ticket….it’s too late for me and buy a ticket to Sofia?” “No.” “Really?” “Really.” Dejected, called Barb to tell her that I wasn’t going to be coming to visit; arriving at 4pm and having to leave at 5pm the next day was too short for me. And I certainly wasn’t going to spend 24 Leva, one way, to get to Sofia and then spend more to get to the Dupe. I left with my tail between my legs for not being careful when buying the ticket. I headed to the train station to buy a train ticket home (I wasn’t going to confront the ticket ladies for another ticket for another location in the opposite direction. Plus it’s cheaper to catch the train).

So instead of rocking out with awesome friends doing awesome things, I’m doing laundry and procrastinating cleaning my apartment and going for a run. At least this is a learning experience, right?

On the bright side, Cindy and I bought our plane tickets to Austria last night. We’ll be going to Vienna and Ljubljana, Slovenia in Mid-August for eight days. Exciting!