Friday, August 17, 2007

Technopolis Dance Parties and a Giant Cucumber: A Day In My Life

I have decided rather than give you a complete play-by-play of my relatively boring life at this point in the summer, I will take some blog time to share with you some of the small, daily idiosyncratic elements of life here in Bulgaria (from the perspective of a wide-eyed and somewhat crazy American girl).

Food Shopping:

In Bulgaria most people purchase their food at what are called magazines – this means store (it threw me off in the beginning too – and no, they do not usually carry mags). If you are lucky enough to live in a large town there will be a supermarket, which can in no way be compared to the glory I call Ralph’s. Unfortunately and despite its size, Samokov only has one supermarket, but as these things are, Evropa is about a half an hour walk from my home (nothing like the three hour trek in the ghetto over the 110 in downtown LA though crazy Miss Sarah K!). As such, when I make the trip it is comparable to preparing for all the icebergs melting and flooding Bulgaria or the end of the world. I still cannot seem to shake the American food buying habits – perusing the aisles for an hour picking up all the things I could ever possibly need. Shopping in Bulgaria also takes forever because I am constantly lost in translation as I flip through my dictionary for “ginger” or “baking powder”. And since I am on a baking kick, I end up buying like two things you can actually eat and a buggy full of sugar and chocolate. This week I spent about an hour and half with the ipod in dancing through the aisles as I filled the cart with everything needed to bake the entire dessert section of my cookbook. When I checked out I think the whole store came up to witness the American spend 60 lev (outrageous). I then took a taxi home because it was dark and my skeeze/crime fighting skills are not in full form while carrying a giant bag of sugars and raisins. Although embarrassing as my neighbors no doubt chatter about me showing up to my house in a taxi, I am just not ready to use the bike Kevin and I have begun to share. Too many memories of hitting light poles, being run over by Lincoln Navigators and getting stuck in bushes and rose planters on my beach cruiser in the urban jungles of Los Angeles.

More interesting than the supermarket (which lets face it, is not that interesting, but that is how exciting my life is) is the pazar (bazaar). I go to this lovely place about once a week to purchase fruits and vegetables and the occasional bar of soap or toilet paper roll. If my time in Bulgaria has taught me one thing it is this: I reek of American. These people can spot the foreigner a mile away. I would like to believe my Bulgarian is advanced enough to buy potatoes or inquire about a taxi fare with no problems, but the calculator is constantly shoved in my face and numbers consistently gurgled out in broken English as they are convinced without warrant that I am unable to understand. Worse than my opportunities to use Bulgarian being rudely stolen is learning that picking through fruits to find those ripe and without bruises or mold is apparently unacceptable in Bulgaria. While searching the peaches for quality, the vendor tried to stop me and hand me the first five she grabbed. After politely saying I did not want those and continuing my search, she yelled “NE, NE NE, ne moze” (no, no, no you can’t buy them). After cursing her ridiculousness in English under my breath, I found a nicer peach lady. However, this week’s pazar trip was extra amusing because I found scratch-and-sniff toilet paper – daisy scented! Interesting how a fair number of Bulgarians are uninterested with smelling pleasant but one can find scented toilet paper at the pazar. But hey, I’ll take what I can get. I also found the largest cucumber I have ever seen and being that the first word I learned in Bulgarian was krastivitsa (cucumber), I had a special bond with this little (or big) guy. Unfortunately, this little krast and I weren’t getting along as he was too big for the bag he came in and was poking out and swinging all over the place while I was attempting to purchase tomatoes from another vendor. To my delight of course, these people were shamelessly laughing at my awkward and unsuccessful struggle to get the krast in its place. Forced to save face and give up the fight, I shoved that little devil under my arm and made the no doubt reputation-building trek back home.

Electronics Shopping:

Last week a few of the Bobos met up in Blageovgrad for spa day (yes, yes it doesn’t exactly seem PCVish, but they have the cheapest waxes and massages I have ever seen!). Janel is in need of a computer so she can jump on the Skype train and waste hours away chatting with all the other PCVs sitting at home, so after the spa we hiked to Technopolis. In a store reminiscent of Circuit City and coming complete with air-conditioning we basically found heaven in Bulgaria. One would swear we had never seen washing machines and microwaves before given the excitement and awe permeating the air as we petted and gawked at these long-forgotten gems. Because we are English speakers and assumed to have deep pockets, we were constantly approached by super skinny, beautiful, should-be-on-The Price Is Right salespeople thinking we were interested in buying. Obviously we have no money and I do not know that it is normal to just browse in Bulgaria. Despite our disinterest in purchasing, we still garnered the attention of every person in that store as the Janel and Amy Show came to Technopolis. It was like going to Sam’s Club as a kid! No, we did not play hide and go seek in the tire section or pop out of a freezer, but with large aisles and American music loudly blaring from quality speakers, the urge to move could not be resisted. Consequently, an impromptu dance party happened in nearly every aisle. Yes… admittedly we were those annoying girls and no doubt embarrassed the hell out of Andy, the Blagoevgrad PCV who came with (and I have noticed that this seems to be pattern when it comes to song, dance, Amy and any other Bobo). The plasma TV section was the worst and after a moment of quiet time pondering who can actually afford one of these in Bulgaria or has the electrical power necessary for operation, I lost all of my self-respect as a Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance With Somebody meets Nina Sky’s Move Ya Body mash came on. As Meghan P. can attest to, my love for Whitney runs deep an even though I tried to resist, the song and dance came pouring out. Anyway, after many shrieks and gaggles at vacuum cleaners and irons with steam, we left Technopolis with the only purchase being Andy’s camera case.

So aside from shopping, the actual events of this week were attending a Chalga concert with Beckie, Alex and Janel (where again my skeezematism kicked in full gear as the guy next to me downed a 2 liter of beer and took to standing back and staring shamelessly with the occasional whistle at my I-didn’t-think-was-very-scandalous dancing); baking a ton of cookies to take to the sisters and elders in return for graciously inviting me to their language class which I attended and met a 3 day greenie that made me feel better about my own language skills; sitting on the benches in the town center generally manned by the grandpas for hours studying while they inquisitively stared at me the entire time; turning down an offer to be cast in a movie (what the woman does not know is that being from LA, I am wise to these little scams); and running into MamaVanya at the bus station on the way to Sofia. Now this last event was interesting because we had an hour and a half to converse about our lives since my departure, which was great. However, as I knew it would, the moment came where she asked about Foxy and inquired as to whether he calls me. I told her that indeed he does and everyday at that, but I never answer. She got a real big kick out of this, laughing violently and embarking on a rant of “ti si amerikanka i dobra i krasiva y po-dobe ot Daniel (Foxy) i toi e maluk…” (you are American and good and beautiful and better than Foxy and he is small). This was just another repeat of the typical conversation that would occur every morning after some late night Bobo adventure where she would try to keep me away from Bulgarian men because I am “better.” I am not sure where this idea comes from and it saddens me that she would even dare say or think such things. Anyhow, I really didn’t understand what she meant when she said Foxy was small - this led to questions. As I said, I am constantly lost in translation.

In other Bulgarian soap opera news, I finally communicated with Foxy. Last week I got a text from him that said “I look forward with eagerness to your visit to Boboshevo but you are avoiding me and I don’t know why. Correct me if I am wrong. Your friend Foxy can be more than friends if you want.” I told him he called too much, it was too difficult to speak on the phone in Bulgarian and we are only friends, nothing more (Janaina, you are CRAZY and should probably just come here and date Foxy yourself!). I am amazed at the thick-headedness I find here in Bulgaria and feel bad that I turn into some hard-hearted jerk because of it, but Janel gave him props for his sass. I finally answered a phone call that lasted all about 30 seconds where he tells me he has not seen the new training group in Boboshevo yet and then says goodbye. Was this the conversation I avoided for over a month??? I do not understand male/female interactions here in Bulgaria. I doubt I ever will. I am constantly bewildered.

So that is it. Next week should be one for the books as I visit Boboshevo for the first time. Next weekend is also Rock in Rila – the rock festival here in Samokov! AND… a disco was found in Janel’s town so we might have to soon take the show over there!

Miss everyone and WANT MY SKYPE TO RING MORE! Thanks Jen for giving me that red book before I left because it has been my lifesaver here. Sorry Ali for not calling you back but I missed your call by like 2 seconds and went back to bed. And to all, as a reminder, if you still want to contribute to my Bulgarian classroom fund, head over to and send money to Lots of love to everyone!

1 comment:

Steven Williams said...

I bet you wish there was a Ralph's store or how about a Safeway or Fry's. Different parts of the world are evolving at a different pace. While in England in the 70's most homes or flats did not have a refrigerator. You may find yourself shopping every day.
Sounds like most of your time is either shopping, stores or parties (disco's).
Miss you lots -- And try not to be like Little Red Riding Hood ...traipsing through the woods. Every country and woods have their own Wolves. Who would have thought in the little town of Transysania there would be Dracula!