Saturday, June 23, 2007

118 Days!

118 Days!!! this is the remaining duration of my Peace Corps experience... This week we had the duty of supplying PC with a definate date and I chose that one. We have an "official" close-of-service (COS) date, but there is a 30 day window on either side of that date when we can terminate our service. My date, October 19th, falls just a week after the proposed PC date.

After my COS, I plan on taking a weeklong trip to Germany and Prague. If I have time (read: money) I'd also like to see Cracow and Bosnia (and of course Russia...oh Russia...). In the meantime, I'm going to ITALY next week!! I'm pretty pumped! oh yeah, Mom and Dad...I'm going to don't panic if I don't answer the phone :)

Two other bits of news;
The conductor of the Pernik string orchestra was invited to conduct in Toronto this November!
In PC Georgia, PCVs can't have bikes because its "too dangerous."

write me comments!!! they make me feel important!!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Parental Visit

My parents just came to visit me in the BG, and you can check out all the photos right here!

On June 1st, I woke up extra early to get in a quick run, chat with my coworkers, do a semi-final rehearsal with the orchestra and get my booty to the airport to meet my parents!! It had been nearly a year since we'd seen each other last, and I was excited that they were bringing me stuff from America!!! ohhhh, I mean, I was excited to see THEM! :) After a brief haggling session with the taxi drivers, we went to check our things into the train station's baggage area. The ride to the train station seemed pretty normal to me, but I think my dad was sitting on pins and needles as the car swerved, scooted and skimmed by surrounding vehicles. This would not be the only trip where my dad would question the driver's competency.

Back in Pernik, I did the unthinkable and prepared a meal for my parents. No foreigner has truely arrived in Bulgaria until he's tasted shopska salata, so we dropped our bags in my depressingly empty apartment and headed to the local market place for some Bulgarian tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and cheese. My dad had quite a good time noting the measuring devices, the variety of products and the cats; my mom wanted one of the baba bags woven out of plastic (also famous in US China towns). So after a good dinner of stuffed peppers, shopska and zagorka, everyone went to sleep! My parents had traveled roughly 24 hours to get here, and some rest was in order.

The first weekend was spent in Bulgaria, and we mostly looked around Pernik. We went to my favorite cafes, where I tried to train them in the art of "doing nothing," a skill that I have more than mastered in the past two years. :) We went to the Thracian fortress near my apartment and listened to updates from my dad on what grasses Bulgaria and America have in common (more than you'd think!). My great friend Ogi, who is an investigator for the local police in a nearby town, and her family had a free afternoon, so we had lunch. Her family has taken such great care of me during my time here, that I had to introduce my family to hers! Ogi and I did an admirable job translating for a table full of excited parents, though mostly I think people were just happy to have finally met one another. After lunch we packed our bags for ISTANBUL!!!!

We spent about 4 days in Istanbul, and we did a variety of things ranging from; Turkish baths, sight-seeing, museum hopping, boat cruises, and carpet shopping (I bought a little one!). For Westerners, there is no place imaginable which compares to Istanbul. The second you walk off the train, there is something in the air that tells you something is different. For me, its not just the meeting of the continents, the fact that its a Muslim country, or the historical aspect of this marvelous city- its something more, something that I can never quite put my finger on. You should go see it for yourself! :) My favorite part of Istanbul is seeing all the different mosques. I have some unnatural obsession with houses of worship. There were tons of tourists in the city, but we still found plenty of great places and we were never inconvenienced by long lines or other crazy things. We saw a belly-dancing show, ate lots of duners, had some turkish delight, drank our fair share of tea, bargained our butts off, and I even got to use my Bulgarian with a few of the vendors. I think the parentals were thoroughly impressed :)

After Istanbul, we had the TRUE vacation...the Bulgarian Black Sea!!! I could probably live on the sea. year round, in a bathing suit, during a snow storm. We went to the cities of Burgas, Sozopol, and a little detour to the town of Primorie. Primorie was unplanned. I almost lost my father. I should read signs more often. Anyway, SOZOPOL was fantastic! We played in the water, ate SHARK, saw old Bulgarian houses, met local artists, and saw a Bulgarian folklore performance. We were on the seaside for a very short period of time, but in 2 days i was able to relax relax relax.

By the time we got back to Sofia/Pernik, Mr. GWB was invading Sofia. After the G8 summit, gwb took a little trip around our part of the world. All the peace corps volunteers were invited, but I politely refused. You know that old saying "if you can't something nice, don't say nothin at all?" Well, I couldn't trust myself and decided it would be better if I just abstained from the event. GWB continued to be a pest in my life, however, as we had to deal with monument closures, road closures, and no public transportation. So we decided to head back to Pernik and get ready for their last 4 days in the BG.

I had been cooking up a surprise for my parents since early May, and there was still a bit more work to do. The conductor of the Pernik string orchestra "Orpheus" had asked me to perform with them for their final concert of the season, and it just happened to coincide with my parent's trip!!! i wanted to surprise them though, and when I went to my last few rehearsals, I just made up some story about "having lots of work!" I'm so sneaky. Needless to say, they were thoroughly surprised to see my walk up on stage and sing a few American songs and a Bulgarian folk song! After the concert, the local TV news interviewed them. My parents were baffled that the reporters wanted to talk to them, but were more than happy to gush about their experience in Bulgaria thus far.

Perhaps one of the most fun things we did was a work party. At my job, we celebrate everything. Good weather, birthdays, name days, successful events, fridays, whatever- we celebrate it! My parents had brought some Jack Daniels and chips with salsa, and it was a big hit. I was so impressed with my coworkers too, who despite vocabularies of 200-300 words, some how managed to have my parents' attention for the full 3 hours!

After 13 days, I had to say goodbye to Mom and Dad, but it was a good trip! My parents were crazy enough to give up their seats on the final leg of their trip, and in exchange won free tickets to anywhere in the USA (except Hawaii of course)!!!! I'm glad that they now HAVE to take another vacation!

please stay tuned for youtubes of my performance with Orpheus. Also, if you actually know how to make youtubes, please let me know!! I'm allergic to technology!