Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


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Saying Goodbye & Moving On

goodbyeBG(did I just call myself a cow with that photo? Meh. It’s a cute cow. I’ll take it!)

Thanks to the magic of post scheduling, as you read this I am on a plane bound for America. My first stop before touching down on U.S. soil–at the ever-lovely and non bird-infested (*note the sarcasm) JFK–is Warsaw, Poland. Oh how I wish I had a loooong layover there so I could go out and explore!

While leaving Bulgaria is hard and a big part of me regrets making the decision, I know that there are so many more adventures ahead for Vince and I. Alaska is amazing and we can’t wait to start our lives there.

I’m not generally a sappy person, so I won’t go on and on. Suffice it to say that this is a difficult thing for us to do but we are happy to be moving forward. We’ll be visiting Bulgaria whenever we get the chance, so BG posts will continue–never fear!

I may no longer be an “official” expat, but I think I’ll always be one at heart!

(If you have no idea what I am talking about, click here)

Thanks for following along with us on this crazy journey of ours! Stick around. There is a lot more to come!

W.

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European Apartment Living

Living in a European apartment comes with its own unique set of positives and negatives. Well…Perhaps negative is the wrong word. I think quirks is a better way to describe it! Add in some uniquely Bulgarian features and it really is quite the experience! Anyone who has moved overseas probably has their own stories of odd living spaces with a list of things that took some getting used to. I’m sure many people also have a long list of things they love (or loved and miss).

We’ve been living in our apartment in the Druzhba neighborhood of Sofia for about 4 months. I’m getting around to this post now because we are actually moving out next week and it was now or never. The specifics around the move are a bit of a long story–one that I will get into in another post soon–but for now I just wanted to show you all the place we called our own for the first time in our marriage. It may have been short lived, but we have really enjoyed it.

So, here we go! A tour of our Sofia apartment; quirks included!

Our apartment enters into a long hallway. Straight ahead is our bedroom. The first door on the left is the laundry/storage room (closet, really), second door on the left is the bathroom, and the door at the end of the hall on the right leads into the living room/kitchen.
DSC_2163_bLooking down the hall towards the kitchen/living roomHall--looking towards entrance

Bulgarian tradition dictates that shoes are removed at the door. Most people have slippers for their guests as well as for themselves. Most Americans do not take their shoes off at the entrance, so this is still something that I struggle with sometimes. Oftentimes I forget and just walk into the apartment and Vince never hesitates to admonish me! We keep most of our shoes in our closet and just those that we wear the most often by the door.

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The Beauty of Bulgaria | Guest Post by Ellis Shuman

My wife and I love to travel. You could say that we’ve been traveling on a life-long journey, as we were both born in the United States and have been living in Israel since we were teenagers. Europe is so close, but getting there, even from Israel, has been expensive. Like most people, we simply couldn’t afford to make all of our travel dreams come true. And then we were offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in Bulgaria for two years.

As Israeli ex-pats we were set up in a comfortable apartment in Sofia and immediately began our daily routine of working in the local support center of an Israeli Internet marketing company. We shopped in a nearby Piccadilly supermarket; bought flowers from a friendly lady on our cobblestone street; and smiled at our elderly doorman, even though we never fully understood what he was saying. We hired a tutor to teach us conversational Bulgarian, but because we worked with English-speaking colleagues, we failed to learn more than a few basic phrases.

And we traveled. Using Sofia as our base, we traveled at every opportunity we could. We took a train north to Vratsa; we went by bus east to Koprivshtitsa; we flew to Varna and later to Burgas on the Black Sea coast; and on many weekends we rented a car, enabling ourselves to get out into the countryside completely on our own.

We fell in love with the beautiful scenery we saw around us. The sculpted rock formations of Belogradchik; the traditional Bulgarian Revival houses of Plovdiv’s Old Town; the striking Rila Monastery; the ancient churches of Nessebar. We quickly came to appreciate Bulgarian history. We visited Shipka Pass, where Russian and Bulgarian troops were able to fight off the might of the Ottoman Empire and liberate the country in 1877-8.

Belogradchik Rocks

Belogradchik Rocks

Traditional Bulgarian architecture in Plovdiv

Traditional Bulgarian architecture in Plovdiv

Church ruins in Nessebar

Church ruins in Nessebar

Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery

We were captivated by Bulgarian culture. We ate in traditional Bulgarian mehanes, enjoyed Shopka Salat; drank rakia with our meals; exchanged martenitsa on March 1st; and watched the spectacular parade during the Festival of Roses in Kazanlak. It was an amazing time, full of adventures and new experiences. We made many friends in Bulgaria, and have many good memories of our time there.

Although we are now back at our permanent home in Israel, close to our family and two young granddaughters, we often think back fondly to our Bulgarian adventures. We experienced a wonderful, beautiful country, and we will always love the beauty of Bulgaria.

Ellis Shuman and his wife, Jodie, lived in Sofia for two years 2009-2010. During that time they maintained a very active blog, Ellis and Jodie’s Bulgarian Adventures, detailing their travels. Ellis is the author of Valley of Thracians, a suspense novel set in Bulgaria.

(Photographs courtesy of Mr. Shuman).


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Fun Times Ahead

Whew! It feels like my mom just left and we already have another guest arriving from the states!

K, my friend/boss (and fellow Utah girl) flies into Sofia tomorrow afternoon. We’ve got some fun things planned for her 2-week visit.

On Saturday Vince, K, and myself are heading down to spend the night in Plovdiv. A group of about 20 Denali peeps are getting together for food, drinks, and good company. I am sure the horo will be danced at some point as well; most likely post-drinks! I haven’t seen everyone since leaving Alaska at the end of September, so it should be a good time.

Then Sunday Vince will head back to Sofia while K. and I catch a night bus (slightly scary prospect) to Istanbul. We’re meeting another friend in the city for 4 days of adventures, including consuming a ridiculous amount of baklava and Turkish coffee! I’ve been to Istanbul before but only for a day on our first Med. cruise. It was actually one of the biggest surprises of the trip; completely different than I had envisioned. And the Grand Bazaar? I am still trying to wrap my mind around it!

I am really excited to be able to see some things I missed last time around; such as the cisterns, spice market, and maybe even a whirling dervish show!

After that it’s exploring Sofia and maybe a weekend trip to Rila or Koprivshtitsa (if we can talk Vince into being our chauffeur!).

It’ll probably be a little quiet around these parts for the next few weeks as I play hostess, but I’ll be back soon enough!

W.

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The Eagle Has Landed… But is Taking Off Again Shortly!

She’s here!

My mom made it to Sofia in one piece.

We’ve just spent the last few hours catching up and unpacking her stuff.

We don’t have much time to relax, however, because we’re all off to Vienna in a few hours to kick off the holidays by wandering Christmas Markets, drinking mulled wine, buying festive gifts, and eating Sacher Torte!

Next week our Bulgarian adventures begin. I can’t wait to show her around my new home and introduce her to the in-laws.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend and are spending it with the ones you love.

W.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service. New York City turned host to the boys in service today and cared for every man in uniform. Underwood and Underwood: ca. 1918

Today Vince and I are celebrating Thanksgiving at sea. We are somewhere between Italy and Greece, soakin’ up the Mediterranean sun.

Well, I’m thinking about celebrating Thanksgiving. Vince doesn’t have a clue what the holiday is (yet), so he’s just providing moral support.

This is the first Thanksgiving that I have ever spent away from my family back home in Utah.

Hmph.

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It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later

The remains of fall
Saying goodbyes are hard for me. I tend to shut down and just rush through them to get it all over with. Thankfully, it’s gotten easier for me over the past few years. I come and go a lot. For all of 2012, I have only been in Utah for 2 months. The rest of the year was spent in Bulgaria and Alaska.

No matter how I cut it, I am always saying goodbye to someone, whether it’s Vince and the in-laws, co-workers and friends in Alaska, or family and friends in Utah…departures are becoming way of life.

One of the hardest people to leave is my cousin, A. I’ve written about her quite a bit so you may be familiar with her already. She just turned 7 and is seriously awesome; I just adore her. I’ve spent a lot of time with her this month but it still never seems like enough. Today we spent one last afternoon hanging out and being silly before my flight on Tuesday.
Toesies

The weather was nice so we played with her bubble gun in the front yard. Bubbles led, to laying on the grass (I asked her to crack my back and all was good until she decided to jump up and down. Little spaz!), taking lots of photos, and decorating our hair with daisies and lavender.
Bubbles galore
Best 'buds' :)

She even modeled for me for a quick minute.
pretty little lady
After painting her nails we headed out to dinner with the rest of the family. I hate to admit it, but I gorged myself on root beer floats, onion rings, and a big, fat patty melt. Apparently I wanted the full American experience before heading back to Europe. Dinners like this will be non-existent a few days from now. I am really looking forward to more veggies (shopska salad!) and fish. Mmm. Bulgarian food is DE-LISH!

Later on it was hugs all around. I won’t see one of my cousin’s until about 2 years from now as she will be leaving on a mission for the LDS church early next year. It totally bums me out that I won’t see her for so long, but it’s definitely for a good reason.

I’ll be back in Utah for a visit in the spring, so it really isn’t goodbye, it’s just see you later!

W.

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