Chirpan’s Day

Last Saturday was Unification Day, the day that modern Bulgaria became unified after being split up after their freedom from 500 years of Ottoman rule. Several towns, inculding Chirpan, have their city’s celebration. If I understand correctly, every village and city have a town celebration. If the city is named after a saint or have some sort of relation to saint, the celebration usually falls on the saint’s feast day. (Rila, for example, has their “sabor”, as it’s called in Bulgarian, on the feast day of St. Ivan of Rila).

I didn’t attend the feastival since if you’ve been to one sabor, you’ve pretty much been to them all. Now it looks like I’m not integrating BUT Chirpan had a similar celebration on May Day. Not only did I attend, I danced in a concert. So there.

There was a ceremony by the Unification Day statue intown where the mayor and representatives of the city’s political parties and community leaders placed wreaths.

While I was there, one of my friends found me and invited me back to his house. He was there as part of Bulgaria’s Youth Commandos. From what I understand, the Youth Commandos are like the ROTC, but with out the future military obligation. However, I think it’s more like the Boy Scouts but with much less community service and a lot more ammunition. I went back to his house where he wanted to practice for the following day’s military games. He told me that he was going to compete in the target shooting

and AK 47 loading. Yep, you read that. One of the events is how fast teenagers can load 20 rounds into an AK 47 magazine.

I never would have imagined that I would have learned how to properly load an assault rifle in the Peace Corps! (Note to PC Administration: They were dummy rounds and as per PC policy, I did not fire any firearms).

The following day, I biked out to the field where this would be taking place. I found out that everyone would be taking part in all the events. The other events were the obstacle course (tire run, tunnel and rope climb), ninja star throwing and grenade toss. The day’s events were started with some military type people giving a hokey (and testosterone filled) demonstration on how to take out a “terrorist”.

It was pretty over blown with three guys dressed in sniper gilly suits tackling the dude and then loading him into a hatchback and speeding away. However, it impressed all the youths.

The events started and were really really slow. I lasted about three hours and each team had only completed two of the events. I left early. However what really drove me home was the ridiculousness of it all. I mean, you have about 30 teenage boys all trying to out man each other being overseen by middle age men who were trying to relive their glory days of conscripted military service. Oh, and all the men there had a handgun tucked into their pants. I have no idea if they were real, but it was all pretty exaggerated. It was pretty much one giant pissing contest. There were girls as part of the youth commando teams but it looked like they weren’t allowed to compete, just allowed to hold up the placard representing their team and spending the enter afternoon looking disinterested. I don’t think I missed much. However, it was good to get my face out there and seeing some of the teenage boys that I’ve had a passing interaction with as well as seeing some of the people from the municipality again.



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