Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


Adventures in Bulgarian: Beginnings

I am embarrassed to admit it, but the last time I posted about my attempts to learn Bulgarian was in August of 2010.

It was my first month of blogging and I was hell bent on getting serious with my self-study of the language.

That gung-ho attitude lasted all of about 5 seconds.

(Typical Whitney, unfortunately)

Well, I don’t think I can put it off any longer.

In just 3 short months I’ll be back on a plane bound for Bulgaria. No more sitting on my butt hanging out with the hubs in our living room. This time around, we’ll be living in Sofia, working (him for sure, me hopefully), and doing a lot more socializing with friends.

I don’t want to be “that American girl” who doesn’t speak a lick of the language. Not anymore!

In August of 2010 I was simply dating a Bulgarian. Now, nearly two years later, I am married to a Bulgarian and living in Bulgaria. If that’s not enough reason to buckle down and learn the language, I don’t know what is!

I have to say, it’s more than a little shameful to admit to those who ask that I speak little to no Bulgarian. Even after three months living in the country (and with my Bulgarian-speaking in-laws, no less), I only know a few words and phrases. Granted, I understand a lot more than I give myself credit for, but I am nowhere near where I should be after being in a relationship with a Bulgarian for 4 years.

One of my “textbooks”… An activity book for 1st graders!

So, here I am. Starting over. Starting small.

My goal for July is to simply master the Cyrillic alphabet.

(Baby steps to learning Bulgarian…)

Learning my letters

It’s a daunting prospect in and of itself. I have memorized it many times in the past few years, but when it comes to recognizing the letters and their sounds, pssh…I stink!

I think a month is more than enough time to nail it down.If I’m feeling extra studious, I think I’ll throw in some small phrases and greetings. I have most of the colors down as well as the basic formal greetings. Now it’s just recalling them that I need to focus on!

I am surrounded by Bulgarians and hear the language spoken daily. It really shouldn’t be too hard to find someone to practice with. Ventsi and I also talk multiple times a day, so some over-the-phone coaching might be in order as well.

A section in my activity book. Reminded me of the wildlife up here in Alaska!

I’ll be posting on my progress regularly, so stay tuned.

Do any of you bilinguals/multilinguals out there have some advice or tips on how to approach learning a second language? Steps to effective self-study? Please share! ūüôā



Thanks for stopping by Girl Meets Bulgaria. Please ‚Äúlike‚ÄĚ me on Facebook and connect with me on Twitter.


The Legend of Orpheus and Evridika

Statue of Orpheus and Evridika in Smolyan, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains are steeped in legends and mythological tales. In Greek Mythology, the Rhodope Mountains were created when, in a fit of rage, Zeus and Hera turned Rhodope, the Queen of Thrace,¬† into a chain of mountains.

Likely the most famous figure around these parts is Orpheus, believed to have been born somewhere nearby. According to the myth, Orpheus was the son of a nymph named Calliope and the great Apollo. Orpheus was said to play the lyre with such beauty, that all who heard him were completely enchanted. His music was even known to charm wild and savage beasts as well as the very rocks on which he stood and the trees in the forest.

He fell in love with the beautiful Evridika (also known as Eurydice) but, alas, their love (like so many in mythology) was doomed from the start.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

East of the West: On NPR and my Kindle

I recently downloaded the book East of the West: A Country in Stories by Miroslav Penkov. In a weird coincidence, I came across an article on today about the writer and the book: Bulgarian Writer Finds His Voice In English.

(It looks like the story was actually on an All Things Considered broadcast, but since I can’t stream audio or video here, I had to make do with the article!)

Amazon’s summary of the book:

A grandson tries to buy the corpse of Lenin on eBay for his communist grandfather. A failed wunderkind steals a golden cross from an Orthodox church. A boy meets his cousin (the love of his life) once every five years in the river that divides their village into east and west. These are Miroslav Penkov’s strange, unexpectedly moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria, and they are the stories that make up his charming, deeply felt debut collection.

In East of the West, Penkov writes with great empathy of centuries of tumult; his characters mourn the way things were and long for things that will never be. But even as they wrestle with the weight of history, with the debt to family, with the pangs of exile, the stories in East of the West are always light on their feet, animated by Penkov’s unmatched eye for the absurd.

I haven’t started reading it yet, but It seems like it will be a good read.

I’ll let you all know what I think!






DSLR Struggles

(I set this to auto-publish days ago. Guess it didn’t work!)

My new Nikon D90 is fantastic. A little too fantastic.

It (and the lens I bought) has so many buttons, bells and whistles that I don’t have a clue where to start.

I took a film SLR class in high school (yikes, 7 years ago now), and preferred working in the darkroom to taking the photos. My friend and I devised a plan. She took most of the photos and I developed them in the darkroom. It worked out (the teacher never caught on and we passed).

But now I am kicking myself for not paying more attention and mastering the art of the f-stop, aperture, and shutter speed. I literally have 15 library books on digital photography and DSLRs strewn across my bedroom floor as I write this. Clearly going the self-taught route is a messy affair.

I have spent countless hours over the past few weeks surfing the web and watching You Tube videos trying to get a grasp on the basics.¬† Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman website has been a HUGE help. She (and contributor Miz Booshay) are simply fantastic!

I am scheduled to take a 3-hour introductory DSLR workshop from Fotofly next month, but from there I don’t have much in the way of formal lessons planned. As a University of Utah employee I get a 50% discount on Continuing Education classes, and they do offer some photography classes, however, even with the discount they aren’t cheap. Plus, I leave for Alaska in about 4 months , so I don’t have much time to schedule classes.

If anyone has any advice or knows of any websites, blogs, books, DVDs, etc that I should check out, let me know!


Oh, and here’s my coveted next purchase:

The Nifty Fifty



Yesterday, while wandering around (people watching) at the Festival of Trees with my aunt and cousin, I realized something: I enjoy eavesdropping.

It was a complete madhouse so I highly doubt anyone noticed my obvious attempts to listen to their conversations and check out their appearance.

I got to hear how Chase was doing in Argentina. How McCall and her boyfriend were getting along (Grandma doesn’t really care for him). That one mother was going to rent the bubble machine for her kids’ birthday.

I think I have always had a somewhat voyeuristic personality. I remember my Grandma giving me a cordless phone way back in the day when they were new and had a foot-long extendable antenna coming out the top.

After plugging it in I soon realized that I could listen to various neighbors’ phone calls. I am pretty sure I told a neighbor girl about her surprise birthday party. Whoops.

Well, eventually my mom found out about my late-night spying and took the phone away.

In the years since I have used a police scanner, walkie talkies, and even my handy-dandy Talk Girl recorder to listen in on others.

I was a kid, I promise! I haven’t done it in years!

Anyhow, back to the point of my story. While I was sitting there completely engrossed in another tale of a scandalous so-and-so, it suddenly occurred to me that I won’t be able to eavesdrop in Bulgaria.

Sure I can still people watch (which can be pretty amazing there, trust me) but I can’t practice my acquired skill of looking totally involved in my own task whilst really listening to every detail of their conversation.

I know, I know. I can learn Bulgarian. But it’ll take me years before I know enough to really know what is going on.

I have taken it for granted all these years. Never did I imagine that I would have to learn a different language to keep up on my hobby (Kidding. It’s more of a past time than a hobby).

Oh well, guess it’s just another incentive to learn Bulgarian sooner rather than later.








Learning a new language

I am back on the Bulgarian language bandwagon.

My move to Bulgaria is fast approaching and I have finally realized that it’s crunch time when it comes to learning Bulgarian. My future in-laws speak zero English, so I had better speak at least some basic Bulgarian. On top of just getting through normal day-to-day interactions, I would love to be able to learn from my Mother-in-Law. She is an amazing cook and gardener and I am dying to pick her brain.

I am committed to learning as much as I can before I move. So, it’s back to the¬†textbooks, CDs, MP3s, and podcasts for me.¬†My goal is to set¬†aside at least 2 hours twice¬†per week to study. Sadly, I don’t know any Bulgarians¬†here in Utah and the¬†closest¬†university¬†Bulgarian¬†language courses are in California. I’m going to have to do this on my own (with a little help from V., of course).

I have “liked” a few Bulgaria related groups on Facebook, and the other day one of them posted a link to this blog post, “6 ways to stop being shy and learn a foreign language.”

The author, Dan Benson, lists 6 steps to help learning a new language.

  1. Give up control
  2. Talk to strangers
  3. Be confident
  4. Write it down first
  5. Decrease the size of your ego
  6. Get drunk!

I think I’ll remember these in my quest to learn Bulgarian, especially #6! ūüėČ




The Art of Learning the Bulgarian Language

Step 1: Scour the internet in search of learning aids-such as text books, DVD courses, and audio CDs

Step 2: Order some of the above. Wait in anticipation for them to ship so that you can begin mastering a new language (How hard can it really be? You took 7 years of Spanish after all. Oh, but you don’t speak any Spanish after said 7 years of lessons? Well, this time it will be different, you HAVE to learn Bulgarian. You are marrying a Bulgarian!)

Step 3: Open the packages, rush out to the office store to purchase needed organizational supplies (binder, dividers, index cards, index card holder,  fancy pens, post-its, glue stick, lamination, etc. )

Step 4: Create and laminate an elaborate set of Bulgarian alphabet flashcards, with sounds and examples included

Step 5: Admire great craftsmanship and creativity

Step 6: Study flashcards for about an hour before retiring them to the depths of your backpack

Step 7: Download audio files from CD you purchased onto your iPod, or other MP3 device

Step 8: Listen to the first few files before becoming annoyed with the British accents and inane subject manner

Step 9: Peruse the text-book a few times before throwing it next to the flashcards in the aforementioned backpack

Step 10: Flash forward about a year. Write a snarky blog post. In English. Try to assuage nagging boyfriend, convince him that you will be fine conversing in charades with his parents when you move to Bulgaria.

(Maybe I’ll just blame Rosetta Stone. I bet I’d be rather fluent by now if they offered Bulgarian!)