Hitchhiking

In response to a request, I am posting a crazy story.

Though I would have never hitchhiked in the US, I’ve done it several times in Bulgaria. It is a way a life for several Bulgarians who live in remote places with little regular, if any, transportation. In fact, the Lonely Planet guide book waives it’s universal rule against hitchhiking to make an exception for Bulgaria! So, as the the title of the post and the introduction suggest, this is an amusing story about hitchhiking.

I was going to Plovdiv, the second largest city about an hour west of Chirpan. I was watching for a bus at the bus stop. It is common practice in Bulgaria for people to come up and offer a ride to people waiting to earn some extra cash for driving to their destination. They usually charge the average bus ticket price. (so…I was a little misleading with the title. I didn’t actually search for a car, it just fell into my lap).

So I’m waiting with a bunch of other people: a few older women with what appears to be a nation-wide edict top have either maroon or electric blue dyed hair, and a super drunk dude wearing camo with a a giant bag of empty yogurt containers. Under normal circumstances, (ie, my life before Peace Corps) this would be an unusual collection of people. However, this is Bulgaria. You become somewhat immune to these situations. Anywho, the dude, Mishu (short for Dimitar), offered me a ride. I accepted since it would get me to Plovdiv faster than the bus.

I got into the front seat of the car and the drunk dude got into the car with me. Mishu started to ask me questions, mistaking me for a Bulgarian at first. After it became evident that I was a foreigner, we moved onto my work here and the Bulgarian language. The drunk dude, grabbed that back of my seat to pull himself closer to me. He spoke into my left ear: “Boy…where were you 7 o’clock last night?” “What?” “7 o’clock. Last night. Where were you?” “I was at the Chitalishte (cultural center). Mishu looks at me with a smile and puts his thumb to his mouth like a bottle; the universal gesture for drunk. The dude seats back into his seat.

A short while latter, we reach his village. He struggles to get out of the car. He gets out and reaches back in for his giant bag of used yogurt cups. Mishu and I roll down the windows to get rid of the alcohlic stench. We continue to talk about my work and languages. He starts to speak to me in French. I don’t know a single sentence in French but for some reason, he is convinced I do. We then reach the invevitable topic of the Bulgarian economy. I’ve heard this same woeful story several times about the lack of work, the stagnet wages and the inflating costs. It turns out that Mishu is a barber and offered to give me a hair cut the next time I need one. I already have a hairdresser and I like her a lot so I politely declined. He started to talk about his son, who is a body guard. Now that looks intense but in English, that translates two ways: body guard and security guard. He then offers for me to hire his son as my personal body guard. Why I would need such a service is beyond me, though I’m sure I’d be the only Peace Corps Volunteer in the world with one! I, once again, decline his offer. At this point, we arrive in Plovdiv. I pay him and thank him for the lift. (I have since gotten a ride with him again).

To recap: I was offered a ride with a barber who spoke to me in French and offered me a haircut and his son for personal protect with a drunk vet in the back seat with a trash bag full of yogurt containers who asked me about my whereabouts the night before.

….just another day as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bulgaria…

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3 Responses to “Hitchhiking”

  1. thomas Says:

    great story. See if you can combine he and his son’s professions into some sort of “personal haircut guard”.

  2. joe Says:

    “nation-wide edict … either maroon or electric blue dyed hair”
    I’ve seen this so many times… it’s amazing indeed. So universal.

  3. joe Says:

    Also:
    Mishu (short for Dimitar)
    It is either Mitio (pronounced ” ‘mit – yo “) or, if it IS Mishu, it’s the short for Michail.

    That with the bodyguard was _hilarious_ lol : ))

    And that part about the economy etc… Well – you prolly heard that already, but: with prices being (just about) the same as in the US, and average monthly income being 200-300 USD for a full-time employed person … you get the idea. Frankly, I have no idea whatsoever how 70-80 % of my countrimen/women ever manage to get by!

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