Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bulgarian Blunders

I have lived in Dimitrovgrad for nearly three solid weeks and have been away from the U.S. for about a month and a half. Though I'm quite settled, learning to live alone- and I don't mean alone like off-campus where you can still hear top 40's blaring from the nearest greek house, or alone like mom is just a car ride or a phone call away alone- has been a difficult transition. Every sound I hear is a groan or a creep with a mysterious and unknown origin, mostly stemming from outdated plumbing and thin walls, and every spoken word in the stairwell drifts into my flat in a language I don't fully understand. I'm not a huge television sitcom or drama fan, but I've taken to "watching" several episodes of various shows a night while checking papers, cooking dinner, or lesson planning. I was ready for many things when I chose to move here, but absolute silence save the occasional creepy water drip sound wasn't on my list of expectations.

In spite of the strangeness of my new accommodations (which, for the record, I have come to love), I have created such a nice little home and routine here. I start out each day with an americano, a trip to the bathroom, and a shower, usually in the same place. 

Yep, I can take care of it all in one place. Check out my cute coffee situation below! I start out the day with energy to do embarrassing things! Also below: I found a lot of old, pretty dishes in my apartment, so I made pleasing little arrangements!

One of the biggest challenges in my town is the market situation. There are plenty of tiny grocery markets, butcher shops, and vegetable stands around town, but being an American, I of course went to the large western- style store, Kaufland, for groceries at first. I needed options, dang it! Here's the problem, though: Kaufland is a twenty minute walk from my apartment. I suppose I could have taken a cab, but I instead chose to roll up a duffle and several cloth totes in my backpack seeing as I am car-less and the bus system here does nothing to help me whatsoever. Toted home all that you see pictured below and then some. I also cried when I got home because my back was useless after carting six giant water bottles and more cleaning supplies than I can hold in my hands in said backpack.

I triumphed, though! My first true housewarming cooking came in the form of candied orange peels, which I'd sampled in Dubrovnik and decided to try my hand at as soon as I was able.

OMNOMNOM. Must dip in chocolate next time! Also fun in Bulgaria is the realization that all your recipes from home call for cups of stuff instead of grams and partial liters, thus making accurate measurement difficult and darn near impossible. Ahhh, Bulgaria. Or ahh, naive little american lady. Always a challenge in the kitchen. Actually, this is funny: So for birthdays, it is a tradition of sorts to supply treats for sharing with one's friends and coworkers. My birthday was the second day of school and I thought it would be the neatest thing to try making buckeye candies for everyone since I'm an Ohio native. Now, I know what you're thinking. Peanut butter is hard to find outside the U.S.! You're right, but I'd seen some at the big grocery in town and decided to try it out anyway, despite the strange consistency of Bulgarian "peanut butter." Big blunder. See below.

Needless to say, I did not supply my new friends with delicious chocolatey, peanut butter goodness. Instead, I made banana bread. Still tasty! However, my forays and occasional fails at the big store convinced me to give the tiny markets a shot. I did, and check out this beautiful (and crazy cheap) produce! This tomatoes cannot be surpassed. Truth.

I keep my produce next to my cat, Kotor. He is super cute, no? He is my only friend in the flat, no judgement.

Moving on. So something else strange here in BG..."chestnuts" are scarily similar to buckeyes! The trees are everywhere! I collect them as I walk home from school and have befriended several squirrels.

I wish there was a graceful way to segway from squirrels and buckeyes to school and amusing student drawings, but...perhaps the best I can come up with is a strange bridge that I'll build between the buckeye, my alma mater's mascot, and the Unipotato, my 9v class's mascot. They're a creative bunch.

Laughter, laughter. For one of their first assignments, I asked my 9th graders to practice using descriptive language for explaining various dishes and types of food. I then had the seasoned describers create a menu for an imaginary restaurant, using only descriptive phrases to list the dishes they would offer (green, tiny circles and skinny, crunchy, orange sticks for peas and carrots). Below is my favorite menu. Worldly children, they are.

School has been an inspiration, a blessing, a torment, a challenge, a blast, a terror, and so many other things. Once my schedule and emotions are a bit more tame, I'll post more extensively on my teaching experience, but for now I'll end with a beautiful little moment. After every class, I am swarmed with students who want nothing more than to ask questions about the U.S., to tell me about their current projects, or to ask my favorite songs and free time activities. Also, hearing them sing camp songs in Bulgarian accents is just about the most amusing thing I can imagine. I adore these kids, the chatty ones and the diligent workers alike. Ciao! (oh, and below is the center of town!)


  1. That picture is GOLD! Pure gold. Save it forever

  2. I think she is referring to the shower picture, which was my personal favorite.

    Also, I love these insights into your life here. Miss you a lot and can't wait to read more. You are amazing and inspiring and basically awesome.

  3. Hilarious as usual! If I could only shower, use the bathroom and brush my teeth at the same time....I'm all about efficiency!

    1. Oh Diddy, you so totally are about efficiency! My bathroom would be your dream :)