Sunday, August 29, 2010

All good things must end

So I'm down to my finals week. Final weekend in Bulgaria, final lesson, final days of school, final trips, final social events. :( It's been really fun. I think that Bulgaria would definitely not be to some people's tastes, but I've really enjoyed it.

Dining out has been fun here. There have been some fantastic translations, like "soup of globule" (?!) and "nervous meatballs" (we've actually seen that one a couple times) and "chilly peppers". But we're grateful when there are English menus. Also, the Bulgarians either seem to come in a fun size (which is to say very small and slim) or absolutely massive. It's a little disconcerting.

Today we took a little trip to Rila monastery in the southern part of Bulgaria. It was lovely, and we couldn't have asked for better weather. The scenery was stunning, cause the monastery is set up in the Rhodope mountains and the architecture is really cool. We enjoyed wandering around as seeing the Orthodox priests in their black and beards wandering around (it's still a functioning monastery).

This past week involved going to a soccer game and some quality wandering time. The soccer game was outstanding, not so much for the actual play but for the ambience. It was fantastic! There was lots of singing and chanting and yelling and booing. It was pretty cool.

So now I'm just wrapping up the course. One last lesson tomorrow and I am pretty well finished. For those who don't know, I will be going to Saudi Arabia to teach at a university for a year. I'll be heading there next month, no I haven't lost my mind, and yes I'm very VERY excited. More adventures!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A little more surreality

So, I only have a week and a half left here in Bulgaria before I'm off to new and different places. I really like Bulgaria. The people are super nice, and Sofia especially is a city of layers. It's kind of run-down appearance is exceptionally deceiving. For every graffitied, crumbly building, there is a lovely old style house and a delicious restaurant. The streets are abandoned by about 10pm on a Friday night, but there are big get-togethers deep in the public parks where there are improvised bars and stage and dance floors. And have I mentioned how much I love how cheap Bulgaria is? It's fantastic! I can easily get dinner and a beer for about 7 leva, which is about $5. :)

This past week in class things calmed down a little bit. It's the eye of the hurricane though, because this next week is going to be CRAZY busy. I teach three times and have a couple essays due. But overall, things are progressing, including the job search. Details will be forthcoming...

This morning I experienced for the first time the British classic beans on toast. Who would've thunk I would have to go to Bulgaria to try it? I'm not sure how I feel about it. Beans for breakfast? I mean, I guess I had ful in Egypt for breakfast, but I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Verdict? I'm glad I tried it, but I think I'll leave it to the Brits. Give me some yogurt and fruit any time!

So, as time is dwindling here in Bulgaria, plans are slowly shaping up for a two week tour of the Balkans before shipping out for parts unknown. It looks like Lauren and I are going to try to hit up about seven countries in a couple weeks!! And there will be passport stamps! :) These things make be very very happy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


So, I'm officially into week two of the program. Holy crap. Things have gotten super intense super fast. I just didn't know!! I taught three times last week, which was interesting, but this next week I only have one assessed lesson, which is nice.

This weekend was lazy, but also crazy. We went out on Friday night to hit the town. :) Then yesterday we saw a movie at the mall. It was so funny, hanging around the mall eating McDonalds. Sometimes I really don't feel like I'm in Bulgaria! Today was work work work. Man.

And then sometimes definitely do feel like I'm in a foreign land. Like when I got on the tram late one evening this week, and it didn't follow it's route. I was like, hmmmm, this doesn't look familiar. Like, at all. Turns out it was going to wherever the trams live at night, cause they were closed. This only became semi-clear to me after pretty much everyone had gotten off the tram after a particularly long announcement which I neither understood nor paid attention to. So I went to the driver and pointed to a map, and asked if we were going there. He started speaking very quickly in Bulgarian, and the only word I understood was taxi. So I said, okay, into a taxi I go. Thank goodness the taxi driver spoke English. When I told him where we were going, he just looked at me and said, "Ohhhhhhh. That's a bad part of town." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because that's where all the gypsies live." That's the second time we've been told that, but honestly, we've had zero trouble (knock on wood), and our neighborhood doesn't seem particularly sketchy.

The pictures were taken from my window and our balcony. Behold, Gypsy Town!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Next stop, Folk Festival

Yesterday was SO COOL!! We (myself, the other American and two Brits) went to a festival that happens only once every five years. It was up in the mountains to the east of Sofia, and it was incredible. There were few English speaking tourists, just lots and lots of people in their traditional dress, cool dancing, and hogs on a spit. :) Delicious.

We hopped on a bus to the town of Koprivshtitsa in the morning, and went on a slow bus ride through the beautiful countryside. We then walked into the town and had some lunch, then headed up the mountain to the festival. We thought it was relatively small at first, but then wandered along a path, and the festival just kept going and going and going! We eventually dubbed it "Folk Idol" because there was a judging booth at each stage. We were loathe to leave, but we had to come back to do our work for classes. *Sigh*. But we were so glad to have gone.

I taught my first class on Friday, and it went well overall. It wasn't too scary once I got up there and actually started teaching, so hopefully the more I do it the less nerve wracking it will be. I've slipped back into all of my bad habits from school, like severe procrastination and constantly munching. Hmmm. That has to stop. I teach again on Tuesday, so I have a lesson plan to do. :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CELTA, and grammar,and teaching, oh my God!!!

So I've just finished my second complete day in Bulgaria, which was also my second day of class. I have to teach my first lesson tomorrow, which is a little...ummmm...sudden. But, it has to be done. This is what I signed up for! We met our students today, and they're super nice, although I think some of them are a little not impressed with me because of my age. I am by far the baby of the group. There are 11 teachers-in-training, 2 Brits, 2 Americans (including myself), a Russian, and the rest are Bulgarians. Everyone is very nice, but we have some seriously crazy characters. The last 24 hours have been a bit surreal, just in the experiences, conversations and encounters, but I'm just trying to go with it. :)

Sofia is pretty grey and decrepit, and very short and flat, which gives it a very small-town feel. Not very many people speak English, but most everyone is very friendly. No, let me qualify that. Most people of my generation (that is to say, those who didn't live very long or at all under the Soviets) speak at least a little English, and are quite friendly once you engage them. But people kind of seem to keep to themselves here.

We've had some serious rain coming through and lost power briefly today, but now it's pretty clear. This weekend a bunch of us are trying to go to a folk festival no one's heard of that apparently only happens once every five years. I'll report back. :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


And I have made it to Sofia. Hooray! After a lovely day of wandering around yesterday, making my way to the Asian side of Istanbul via water taxi and back over to the old city, I hopped on a bus to Bulgaria. The bus itself was very nice, and very crowded. I wasn't a fan of the smoking on the bus, but what can you do? All was well until we got to the border. I had heard stories of the Bulgarian border, but I didn't know. I just didn't know.

I guess all things considered, it wasn't as bad as it could've been. There was lots of get off the bus, get on the bus, get off the bus. Get your passport stamped and walk through across the border to the inbetween land. Get your luggage off the bus. Have it scanned. Get back on the bus. Drive for 100 yards to the duty free shop between borders. Get back on the bus. Cross the the Bulgarian side. Get off the bus. Walk through/get passport stamped. Wait around in the excruciating heat. And continue to wait. And wait some more. Then we were on our way.

The Bulgarian countryside is very beautiful and green. There are fields and fields of sunflowers, and villages with red roofs. I spoke at length with a Bulgarian guy on the bus, and he gave me the lowdown of everything from the sights we were seeing, to world politics, to the Greeks and Gypsies (which he does not like). It was very amusing/informative. There was a guy at the train station to meet me, and after I snuck into the bathroom (you had to pay, and I don't have any levas), we were on our way to my surprisingly plush accomodations. My flatmate is a lunatic British gal who I hope I get along with. I think we lead two very different lifestyles, let me just put it like that.

Sofia is kinda grey and very crumbly, but it has character, which is good. There seem to be lots of open parks, which I'm a fan of. There's a tram stop just out the door, and tomorrow will be day one of classes! It's back to school time...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I was clean, and then I wasn't clean

So, I will be providing a few more updates here in these first few days, just because I have a little bit more time. So on, ummmm (caluculating days), Friday afternoon, I wandered around which was fun. You heard about that. Then I crashed a didn't wake up until ten to two pm Saturday afternoon. My British roommates apparently called me the sleeping girl. But they are nice. More on them later. So when I finally hauled my lazy, sweaty self out of bed, I struck off for more wanderings. I crosses a bride (the Ulikipani, as best as I can tell), and headed north along the main coast-following road. I'm not sure exactly what all I saw, but it was pretty and I liked it. There were lots of religious buildings. Hmmm. And of course I picked yesterday to traipse around in my little sundress, and wandered into one of the more conservative parts of town. Whoops. But no one really seemed to mind that much.

Then I came back and had dinner with another roommate, which was interesting. Then I joined up with the Brits and one of their acquaintances and another random Italian guy to go club hopping. I was, of course wide awake, cause I'd woken up late and it still kind of felt like four pm to me, so I was up for it. We had fun, though there was lots of reggae involved, which is not so much my speed. Came back and crashed, then was up (not too early) this morning to make a pilgrimage to a Turkish bath.

For those who followed my travels around the Middle East, you will, of course, have heard my hamam stories from Yemen and Morocco. This hamam, was very nice, but comes in a close second to the hamam in Morocco, and was still light years ahead of the Yemeni hamam. Its exterior was newer, but then there was the traditional raised marble slab under the sky-lighted dome. I felt a little like a sacrificial lamb, being all scrubbed up for the slaughter. But I got over it, and relaxed and it was very lovely. I think it came in second to Morocco, because it was much more crowded, and much more well lit. This took away from the being-reborn sensation that we had in Marrakesh. The scrubbing was also not quite so thorough as Morocco, but I liked the bubble part. :) On the plus side, the marble slab prevented sitting downstream of other people's sloughed-off skin and nastiness and was lovely and warm to lie on. So, as I said, it came in a VERY close second.

Anyways, the second we stepped outside, all clean benefits were immediately gone, and it was back to being sweaty and gritty. We headed over to the Topoki Palace, which was very lovely and had a GREAT view. There was also lots of Byzantine bling on display, which made me question why it wasn't a little better guarded. Then off I went to see the Hagia Sofiya and the Blue Mosque. They were lovely, though I didn't get to go in the Hagia Sofiya because it was closing time. Then I took the tram back to my side of town, wandered to the hostel and had dinner with/taught backgammon to a girl from New Zealand. And now here I am.

Tomorrow's quest is to buy the elusive bus ticket to Sofia, and walk to Asia. I think this is manageable. I got all the pictures off the camera, but they are being really slow to load. (Weak internet connection.) I'll try again tomorrow.