Upon arriving in Bulgaria, I had somehow decided in my mind that I would be safe, both physically and emotionally. I was going to Europe, and no matter how many stories I had previously heard, I believed that because I was an hour’s flight away from Vienna, my experience could not possibly be emotionally disturbing. As soon as I arrived in Sofia and got a glimpse of my surroundings, I knew I was...
Instead of going out for dinner, our host parents decided to throw one of their famous dinner parties during our last week there. Tonka, the orphanage director, made her famous bread and helped me make banitsa, my favorite Bulgarian dish. Kerlampi, their Greek friend, brought some of his homemade Greek wine and Georgi grilled pork chops and shish kabobs. There was a ton of food and too many toasts...
Malea and Toshko’s arm wrestling competition.
Last Day at Vidrare
We went to Vidrare one last time before we left Razliv for Sofia. This time I made sure to take more pictures of the kids, despite the fact that we’re not really supposed to photograph them. Some of the pictures are difficult to look at, but it’s the reality of the lives of these kids, and surprisingly, they are a lot better off than many other children who are institutionalized here in...
Yesterday was our last day in Razliv. Since there are a lot of boys in Razliv, we thought it would be a good idea to bring in a few guys to play with them. Luckily, Elena got in contact with some LDS missionaries and they came to play with the kids for the afternoon. It was a great end to our time here in Razliv. The boys got to play soccer with the missionaries, and they all loved having strong...
Some Minor Changes
Since we definitely cannot control all of the kids at Razliv, we decided that it would be better to split them up into groups for the remaining two weeks of our time here. Not only are they rowdy, but we noticed that a lot of them want individual attention that we cannot give them when they are all together. Elena, who speaks Bulgarian, talks about how a lot of the kids just want to talk....
The kids talking to two little boys who live in the neighborhood and whom they met during our walk. So adorable.
The Walking Cherry Branch
Yesterday was hilarious. We decided to take a walk with six of the kids, and during our walk, we met a lady who decided to give the kids cherries. We said okay, not knowing that she was going to bring a ladder and cut a branch off her cherry tree for the kids. So for the rest of our walk, the kids carried a huge branch of cherries to the orphanage. The lady who gave us the cherries had...
Dancing in Vidrare
Last Thursday, the kids in Vidrare decided to put on a show for us as a way to thank us for coming to visit them. They sang and danced for us, and then we joined them for one dance. It was too cute. I also got to spend some quality time with Teddy, my favorite baby boy. He is really calm and when I hold him he usually just looks me in the eyes the whole time and touches my hands. I think...
Greek Guy: There has been a change of plans. Instead of you all taking us out to...– Me trying to convince our host family and their Greek friend to join us for dinner at a restaurant. These three are in the late 50’s and I’m sure they think we’re super lame.
I have been jogging around the village...
for the past few days and everyone knows it. I think that they find it really weird. Every time we go somewhere, someone tells me or Elena and Malea that they’ve seen me. But I still love running past the fields and saying ”Zdraveyte” to the old lady who has a herd of cows in a nearby pasture. Yesterday, it looked like it was going to rain and an old man stopped by me on the road...
Introducing Sasha! Here he talks about his two sisters in Sofia and his love of skateboarding and janke.
Meet Emil, my little Indian boy (I always tell him he looks Indian, even though he is not). He talks about how he likes to go for walks and eat janke (some sort of Bulgarian fruit that looks and tastes like a sour plum).
O, those songs, that smiling face. Whose voice will call and sing of me? My...– Excerpt from To My First Love by Hristo Botev
Weekend on the Black Sea
I finally went to the Black Sea coast this past weekend, and it was quite an experience. I ate bad seafood, had my first European beach experience (even old grandmas were topless), and dressed up in a Bulgarian peasant costume. Varna did not have much to do besides the beach and some cool Roman ruins, but it was just what I needed.
A fortress surrenders from within.– Bulgarian Proverb
Another Thursday in Vidrare
Last Thursday, we spent the day in the orphanage for disabled children in Vidrare as usual. We wish we could go there more often, but it is quite far from our house, and getting there every day would be a challenge. I’d say working in Vidrare is just as difficult, if not more, than working at Razliv. Here, it is easier to control the kids and take care of them, but it is emotionally draining...
Bulgarian Culture Night in Razliv
About a week or two ago, our tiny little village hosted a Bulgarian culture night to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their library (I think), and we got to see some folk dancing and singing, which was pretty cool. There were about 100 people there, aka the whole town, and the performances were great. Three of the kids from the orphanage performed a song, and it was nice to see them getting...
Taking care of kids is hard work. Now that the kids at the orphanage feel more comfortable with us, they have no problem throwing fits and making almost everything impossible. We’ve gotten kicked, bitten, peed on, spit at, our clothes pulled, and nearly thrown up on. But that’s not even the hardest part of the work we’re doing. The most difficult part for me is seeing the...
I needed a can opener to open a can of corn...
and my host mother came in, took a butcher knife and opened the can faster than I or any man I know could have opened it with a can opener. It was pure skill, and I felt like I needed to share that.
The City of Tsars
Some pictures from our day trip to Veliko Tarnovo. We visited the Tsarevets castle, walked through Arbanassi (a tourist village), and got pulled over for speeding on our way there (nice cop = no bribe necessary!). It was a successful trip overall. I tried rakia for the first time, and let’s just say that my souvenir rakia jug will not be used for rakia.
Elena: So customs has your package with your glasses and medicine. But they...– The things you have to do to have stuff shipped to Bulgaria…
In sorrow youth passes, in sorrows and pains, Angrily boils the blood in the...– Excerpt from The Struggle by Hristo Botev
Head Shakes, Name Days, and Other Crazy Things
Some things about Bulgarian culture that are way different from what I’m used to: * Bulgarians shake their head for yes and nod for no. Even if you’ve been here for a while, it’s tricky. When I ask a taxi to give me a ride and the driver shakes his head, I always start walking away. * Beer costs the same as bottled water. *I feel like I’ve stepped back in time about 20...
The Roma Slums
Elena is friends with a Romani family in Sofia, so we went to visit them before coming to Razliv. Unfortunately they weren’t home, but I kind of got an idea of how they live.
Russian Red Army Monument Vandalized in Sofia and... →
The monument celebrated the Russian “liberation” of Bulgaria after WWII, and the caption graffitied below the vandalized monument reads, “Moving with the times.”