Archive for March, 2009

An Atypical Day at Class

26 March, 2009

It started out as any normal day at class. As soon as I walked through the door, I got bombarded with my kids. Aye! Mister! What iz dis? (point to a truck. I swear, my kids speak better English than the 4th grade!) And then it got weird.

There were two teachers talking to each other about something serious. As one of the teachers left, the teacher that sits in with me filled me in with the details. One of my students stole some important documents and they were trying to figure out who. They asked the person who stole the documents to step forward. Not surprisingly, they didn’t. They asked anyone if they had any information. All we got were shrugging shoulders and “ne znam” (I don’t know). And then they called the police. Whoa, wait what?! Yep. They called the police. On seven six year olds. And, in typical Bulgarian fashion, they didn’t call 166. They called a family member. Not that this is a bad thing; it’s very typical. Most work gets done through friendships and family member–back channels. Since I’m friends with one of the mayor’s drivers, I occasionally get a lift around town, one of the teacher’s husbands is the postmaster and I no longer have to pay a fee for packages. I’m sure this is nothing new for any Peace Corps Volunteer integrated into their community. (also, it’s not like I just take, I do give back to these kind people).

Any way, back to the story. The kids, understandably, were quite concerned that the teacher had called the cops on them and were desperate to prove their innocence. They offered to have their bags and pockets searched. They looked under the cubbyholes, desks tables and chairs and implored each other to give up the important documents. Nothing was working. The teacher took one of my favorite kids (and the biggest trouble maker (you can’t really blame him, he’s six and has younger twin brothers a year old at home)) out of the classroom for further questioning. The lunch lady stood by the window, “I just saw a police car drive by…” I was starting to think that this was just a ploy to get the kids to turn over the documents.

With all the drama going on, I really didn’t have a good opportunity to actually teach. It was snack time and I had to fill out the teacher’s log of the lesson I didn’t teach. With the still mystery unsolved, the teacher pulled the massive book off the self (the book like like, 1 foot by 3 feet) and opened it up to the correct day. And that’s where the important documents were. None of the students had stolen them, they were just misplaced by one of the teachers. The kids, understandably were jubilant. Case solved!

Oh, and they were doctor’s notes excusing two students.


A question gone awary

20 March, 2009

Yesterday I had a meeting with the man I’m organizing the football tournament as well as another project. I wanted to know how widespread Chirpan’s TV coverage is. He called the TV station and I scribbled some thoughts/other questions to ask as he spoke with them. “I’m here with my American friend. He’s very nice and speaks Bulgarian very well…” I cracked a smile as I jotted some notes and thought to myself “I think he’s stretching the true a bit”. He put the receiver down, “Jimmy, the coverage is for the city, the surrounding villages and some nearby cities in the region. And you have an interview in 30 minutes.” “Whoa, wait, what!?” “They’ll be coming to your office. This is a good opportunity to talk about the tournament!”

The result is this:

The sound isn’t too good since I recorded it with my camera off my tv. Note the long windedness of my answers. This is a trick I learned early one: if you talk for a long time, you may answer a question that the journalist wants to ask and thus saves you from the embarrassment of not understanding a question. My fifth week in country I was interviewed on TV and it was a horribly long expirience.  Live and learn.


20 March, 2009

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go on vacation to Istanbul, Turkey. Travelling to Turkey seems to be a rite of passage amongst Bulgarian Peace Corps Volunteers; every volunteer I know has gone. I and another volunteer, left from Plovdiv on a midnight bus after going to a very nice Turkish restaurant.

The bus was more or less empty and we hit the road southeast to Turkey. We reached the border around 03:30. As Americans, we had to purchase a 90 day, multiple entry visa for 20 USD. We crossed the border and then had our bags searched (in the most liberal sense).

Four hours later, we woke up at the MASSIVE bus station. Seriously, this bus station is the size of like, two professional football stadiums. According to, you can get anywhere within 1,000 miles of Istanbul.

We then set out to explore the city. A few things came as a surprise to me as I did research: 1) Istanbul is the world’s fourth largest city with over 11 MILLION people. Pretty crazy. 2) It wasn’t officially called “Istanbul” until Attaturk ingloriously renamed the city when organizing the postal system in 1930. That fact made me feel kinda stupid since I thought it was renamed during the middle ages. And 3) “Istanbul” is Turkish for “the city”, which if you just said that, everyone way back when knew what city you were talking about as Istanbul was the wealthiest and most populous city back in the day (I’m being vague since I don’t know the time frame. This is just want i remember from a tour book in the hostel).

Kukeri 2009

19 March, 2009

This is how you ward of the demons (from the beginning of the month). These photos were taken in Shiroka Laka. I was there last year.

From Kukeri 2009

Kukeri 2009