Monday, September 14, 2009

Bulgarian Birthday Blog... Bost?

Zdraveytey everyone!

(Sorry about that last title word. I so wanted an alliteration.)

So as many of you know, last Friday was my birthday. Because of that, I’ve decided that this post will be about my birthday and Bulgarian birthdays in general. But first, I’d like to say that Jill said that there would be a chair lift. More on that in a few minutes.

So in Bulgaria, there is a bit of a reversal of roles. Instead of everyone giving the birthday person presents, the birthday person gives away things. I spent that day walking around my school in Town #2 handing out little pieces of chocolate from a box I had purchased that morning. It’s a much more fulfilling experience, actually. It’s like Christmas-lite. There’s also the potential of a nice dinner at your home with friends or out at a restaurant. But if you go to a restaurant, be ready to pay for all of the meals there. Finally, one other thing of note about a Bulgarian birthday is that they don’t fuck around with their birthday candles. I don’t know if it’s regional (as in Bulgarian or Eastern European or just European) but the candles are literally stationary fireworks set into a cake. It’s like two fountains of sparks erupting out of a couple sticks. So in Bulgaria, you light use Roman candles instead of those piddly little wax ones in America.

As for my own birthday, that Friday was pretty uneventful compared to my Saturday. On Friday, I went to work, gave out chocolates and came back to my apartment. That evening, my counterpart in Town #1 invited me over to her house for dinner. I played with her 3-year old daughter who also had a birthday that week. My counterpart gave me a nice photo album and a picture frame as a gift. I’m currently in the process of figuring out which photos I want to put in them.

Saturday, however, was a much different story. I would go as far as calling it a cross-cultural adventure at risk of sounding particularly corny. So the idea was to visit Sofia and take a trip to the Vitosha mountains. When it was suggested, I thought it was a pretty good idea and Jill mentioned something about a chair lift to the top. So when I arrived in Sofia, Jill, Carolyn, Whitney and I started on a long series of tram rides to the base of the mountain. During the tram rides, we met a small child who after watching and listening to us jabber along in English shouted to us, “You’re American and I’m American too!” As it turns out, his mother is Bulgarian but she had a job in Los Angeles for some time where her son was born. We all had a good laugh and exchanged phone numbers. It took another 10 minutes to reach what we didn’t know was our stop but we realized after the tram a 180 degree turn. After a short climb to a restaurant, we discovered that there was no chair lift that Jill had previously mentioned. Instead, we decided to attempt to make the long trek to the top. I would like to mention at this point that I am very out of shape. A decently long gentle slope is enough to send me packing. Thankfully, after I generously estimated about 20 minutes of climbing we found a small campsite with benches that had a used campfire pit. I called it a day and I decided to stop. Whitney also made the wise decision that the climb was beyond her power and together we set up a base camp for our troupe. Before they left, we made sure to mention that we’d have joined them if there had been a chair lift. Some 10-15 minutes later, a group of 3 high school students from Sofia came down the path and met us at the camp site. We spoke a little and they asked if they could start a fire. It seemed to be the appropriate thing to do as we were not utilizing the given resources. We helped them gather some dry branches and sticks and what have you and after we got a fire going, they pulled out some pork steaks. To cook them, they found a big flat rock a little further into the forest and used that as their makeshift frying pan. They didn’t even wash it. After they were finally set up, they began to offer us their extra food. They had some potato salad-esque side dish, a large baguette and an extra steak that Whitney and I split. We spent the next 2 hours chatting with these kids as we waited for Jill and Carolyn to descend. That it actually took 2 hours makes me really really glad that I didn’t go. The kids spoke really great English. They mentioned that they were part of some kind of summer camp in England outside of London. Anyways, after the girls had come back, the boys literally skulked off the path and into the forest. I don’t know if I was the only one that noticed that, but it certainly freaked me out just a little on the inside. After that, we wandered around Sofia trying to find a restaurant. We eventually decided on the restaurant Olive’s. It’s an American themed restaurant with retro posters on the walls. The food went from cheap to expensive but the service was super fast. I would recommend it if you find it.

Anyways. That was my day: a failed attempt at hiking directly followed by an impromptu barbecue on a rock followed by a double veal burger. Good deal.

This is the Peace Corps and your birthday will always be an unexpected adventure.



  1. I like this birthday tradition.

  2. :D Three cheers for unexpected adventures!

  3. Pork steak, unwashed makeshift fying pan....
    no wonder you've been sick!
    ...the adventure that won't stop! LOL

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