Wednesday, January 31, 2007

nutrition in bulgaria

"What do you mean Americans like to eat sandwiches?" commented my host mom while cooking chicken in a vat of oil, "That's not very healthy!"

Somewhere along the way, many Bulgarians have not been properly introduced to the ideas of fitness and nutrition. Sick? its because the door was cracked open at lunch. Coughing? its NOT because of your pack-a-day habit. Fat? Only tea and fruit for the next 14 days.

As I fondly recall my early morning runs in late summer, I can clearly picture the other people in the park. First, they would stare at me as though my head was on fire. Next, they'd form a fan club to cheer me on with each lap. But in the end, my head freshly afire, they would yell at me to cease running and take a breather. Okay, yes this was marathon training and sometimes the running seemed a bit excessive to the average onlooker...but morning runs in the park rarely accounted for more than 15 minutes of my run! What person in their right mind would exercise for 15 minutes, and then go home?

I was speaking with another PCV about his idea to create a "fitness" room at his orphanage. While he's advocating the purchase of free weights and other such things, his coworkers would really prefer a bike. When the PCV mentions that 20 minutes would be needed for each child to get a workout, his coworkers explain that 3 minutes on the highest setting replace the other 17 minutes...

i just keep coming back to the sandwich. In a country where people eat 2-3 pieces of bread with each meal, put mayonnaise on their pizza, and douse garden fresh vegetables with on earth could a sandwich be bad???

okay, enough on that subject. I recently joined another choir in pernik, and this one promises to be more fun. The director works in sofia at the Musical Theater of his favorite songs is "Memory" from Cats, and he loves to make reference to Cabaret whenever possible. Clearly this is my kinda guy! My sitemate Jim also joined the choir, which makes it more fun. Now I have 5 scheduled rehearsals a week!!! I am also going to start working with a private english school in Pernik. They've offered to compensate for this (PCVs can't make money, so the pay would go directly to my organization) which I hope to use to create more youth projects.

I'm still suffering from plantar fascities, but I'm hoping it will pass in the next couple of months. I've got a half marathon to run in vienna, afterall!!

the only other news is that it still isn't too cold in bulgaria. today was high 30s and it might finally snow this weekend. okay all...stay warm and I'll try to find a cool topic to write about next time!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Holidays, MySpace, etc

Za mnogo godini!!!! Neka neshtat na koito se mechtiesh da stanat!! In other words, here's to hoping that your wishes for the new year come true!

My resolution? To spend more time on!! No, seriously! As media takes new forms and pushes boundaries, I decided its only fair to drag my organization from one side of the borders to the other. At the palace of culture, our most outstanding asset is the talent of our orchestras. So, we're embracing the 21st century,reaching out to new communities, and creating myspace accounts! Please check out my first victim, the folk music orchestra. Make them your friends!!!!!! this is not a request, its a demand!

My holidays were wonderful! I spent Christmas eve with my counterpart, Desi, and her family. Desi and her mother had prepared a HUGE meal, which of course was meatless. Orthodox Christians celebrate the night before the birth of Christ a little bit differently than we do, and it always shocks Bulgarians when I tell them my family always enjoys a bit of ham and turkey on the 24th! Among the many things you find on the table include; honey, beans, rice&spice stuffed peppers and cabbage leaves, walnuts, rakia (of course!), banitsa with pumpkin, bread w/o eggs or milk, a sweet soup made from re-hydrated fruits, and a special bread called "pitka s kusmeti"- or- bread with luck(s).
Before the meal begins, the oldest person at the table breaks the lucky bread into several pieces. The first piece is for God, the next piece is for Mary/Jesus, and then the rest is distributed among the family members and guests. Then, after many years of your mom telling you to sit up straight and stop playing with your start digging through your piece of bread!!! inside are a variety of lucky pieces- little twigs, coins, buttons, fruits. Whatever you find in your bread determines your fate for the year. This year I found the piece of fruit.

Christmas Day was spent with the lovely Andrea and Boudreaux in Sofia! We watched Jimmy Stewart remind us that life is indeed a bit wonderful afterall, ate some home-made mexican, shared our families' traditions on Christmas, and wore fantastic jingly reindeer antleers. This was a great day for sure!

New years was in LONDON!!! Every employer gives their employees some time of christmas bonus...our was "free" vacation days to travel about! With our three extra days, I made a trip with my fearless companions Emily & Christin to see what the Brits are all about. We had fantastic weather, great food (oh the indian food...), stayed in an awesome location, rang in the new year and even saw Carmen at the Royal Opera!!!

Of course, one of the most important thing in London to see in Big Ben!!!!! When Emily and I were waiting at Customs in the Luton airport, the dude asked us what we were doing in London. "Seeing Big Ben!" I blurted out. Hey, it was about 8am our time and we'd been up since midnight dealing with crazy neighboors. Anyway, Big Ben will never fail to remind me of the time Pictionary was banned as a Schneider family game. How the heck Lee, at the age of like 8, knew about Big Ben, I'll never know! This picture is for you Lee!!

we spent New Years a bit closer to Big Ben, and the fireworks were amazing! check out my photo link at the end of this post to get a glimpse!

We also went to a multitude of parks and awed at things such as Brits out for jogs, horse trots, inter-racial couples, etc. London seemed like a deam come true! on our first day we saw buckingham palace which was a bit underwhelming. Infact, we debated a bit before decided the big grey building was, infact, the palace! Emily 1, Toni 0.

The museums in London are also worth seeing. We went to the imperial war museum, the tate modern art museum and the British history museum. All of them were free, and each of the fantastic. I highly recommend them.

The most frustrating part of our trip was that none of the Brits understood me! I was asked to repeat myself MORE times in England than I ever have been in Bulgaria while speaking Bulgarian! I swear! haha.

OH the Tube! The Tube was great and amazing and sooo user-friendly. i am a bit obsessed.

I'll leave you with a picture of me at tower bridge in london...think of it as a teaser for the pictures link that will follow!!