I don't quite know how to describe my first day in a Bulgarian school other than as an experience. For starters, I have a very temperamental alarm clock and, you guessed it, I woke up about half an hour later than I planned. After a speedy breakfast and shower (and surprise skype call from mom wishing me luck on my first day), I did what I do best...I ran to school to arrive on time. Sigh, some things will never change. Surprise, the starting ceremony was to begin a half hour later than I'd thought. Sweaty, anxious me enjoyed some banitsa (salty bread stuffed with cheese) while I calmed myself and prepared something brief to say to in front of the school when announced.
I'm not sure what the typical first day of school is across the U.S., but I know for my high school the day usually consisted of a rule-heavy assembly, classroom expectations, and schedules. Not so in Bulgaria! Here, every school in the country begins on the same day with what can only be called a celebration of the new year. Student after student bestowed their teachers with beautiful flowers in every color and variety. A cameraman was present, as were the mayor and a dj. That's right, a dj. At half past ten, the whole student body gathered in the school yard for a festive ceremony led by two upperclassmen. Students, teachers, and important municipality persons gave speeches (bulgarian bulgarian bulgarian *applause* bulgarian bulgarian *laughter* bulgarian bulgarian ciao!) and shared brief performances. Flags were raised, the anthem was sung, the school's history was read.
I was introduced as well and asked to say a few words, which I did very nervously. I also threw in some Bulgarian words much to the students' amusement. One of the students sung an English song to welcome me, which was awesome. It was a pop song and I'm pretty sure it was about a relationship, but whatever, still cool. The overall atmosphere of the ceremony was lively and all the speeches were shared over a gentle hum of chatter and laughter.
My favorite parts of the morning were learning some of the traditions of my school. For example, some of the older students welcomed the 8th graders (the youngest students in the school) in an absolutely baffling way. Apparently 8th graders are referred to as 'rabbits' because they are so timid and skittish. The tradition is that older students bring a basket of carrots and cabbage to the microphone and inquire of the 'rabbits,' "What is this?" in English and German, expecting the new kiddos to answer in both languages. Then, all are given carrots and cabbage. I was also given a carrot and cabbage because I am a apparently a rabbit, too! After the ceremony, various teachers explained to me what was said during all the speeches and I was encouraged to eat and eat and eat. These were the happenings of my first day as a teacher in Bulgaria. I'll meet the other teachers for dinner tonight and will begin real classes tomorrow morning!