Monday, January 25, 2010

New Year's Eve Part 1

Zdraveytey everyone!

So let’s talk about New Year’s week. I wanted to take a bunch of pictures but it turns out I forgot my camera for everyday except the last one. But when you think about it, it’s the day that counts, right? The idea for these next few posts is to put out 3 on consecutive days because each day was pretty packed with stuff. So here’s how it went down starting with the 29th…

December 29

I got up for the first convenient train out of town. I had to pick up the tickets for the ballet we were going to attend. That last sentence requires me to back up a couple weeks I guess.

So the couple weeks leading up to New Years were a bit of a confusing time. I was teaching small children everyday, I had tests from my regular classes to correct, I had to do traveling, I had an injured ankle, and my Christmas plans were suddenly (but understandably) changed… Lots of stuff was happening. That’s why I’m pretty thankful Anna, another volunteer from my group, was able to take the reins on the whole New Years thing. She suggested we hang out in Sofia for a few days and take in the sights. One of those ‘sights’ included the National Bulgarian Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, or, if you’re Bulgarian, Leshnikotroshachkata. (A quick aside, that word sucks to read for the first time. It’s 17 Cyrillic letters and 7 syllables with accents tossed in there seemingly willy-nilly.) It was the Christmas season so we decided that it was all or nothing with the tickets. We bought the 40 leva tickets for 5th row seats. It. Was. Awesome. But more on that in a minute. (Another quick aside: I had McDonalds for the first time in a few months. It was pretty great. Well the fries were. I apparently missed fast food.)

So first I needed to pick up the tickets. After checking in at the hostel, I got directions to go to the ticket vendor, which wasn’t the theatre in case you were wondering. In fact, this place was in the garage area of another building on the other side of the city. It was so on the other side of the city that the tram I was on went up a hill and through a forest. Seeing as Sofia is the most populated and urban city in Bulgaria, you can imagine the confusion of having to go through the woods on the edge of town. I did manage to pick up the tickets rather easily. Once I got there it wasn’t a big problem.

After that, I went back to the hostel to meet up with Anna. Her mom had been visiting for a few days and they were sightseeing and shopping. I was intrigued by the former but definitely wary of the latter. I went with them anyway. Turns out, their “Sightseeing” was closer to “Looking for boots while conveniently turning up in pretty places”. It was a long afternoon. Anyways, after a few hours of… this… I went back to the hostel to change because there’s no way in hell I’m going to the opera’s 5th row and not dress in at least a jacket and tie, especially for the National ballet of an Eastern European country. You may think otherwise, but this is how I show my respect to the dancers/musicians. I’d also expect that my music teachers back at home would cringe at the site of me in blue jeans sitting 5th row, center at a ballet. Regardless, we were early so we had dinner at the restaurant next door. I had the squid ink spaghetti. It was pretty freaking awesome.

The ballet itself was great but I forgot that there were characters conceived as “Chinese Doll” and “Indian Doll”. The costumes quickly reminded me of that. Another quick aside: do we Asians walk around everywhere with one finger in the air? I don’t remember ever doing that but for some reason the choreographers decided that Chinese people stand idly as such. Maybe it’s the symbolize us counting stuff. I have no idea. Back to the topic: the dancing was fantastic. There was a moment at the beginning when I realized I was watching the National Ballet (I will be bringing this point up several times, possibly just to brag) of a foreign country in prime seats. I was pretty psyched about that. The music was great and everything was about as I expected. Except that the nutcracker changed dancers about a third through the program. There was the dancer for the nutcracker doll, and another for the nutcracker person. We could tell because they were different genders. Anna and I both agreed that the reaction was along the lines of “Huh. Those weren’t there before.” But whatever. Two thumbs up for The Nutcracker!

One final quick story before the 30th: walking through the streets of Sofia alone in the dark is marginally scary. I don’t have anything else to say on that manner I think.

This is the Peace Corps and there will be opportunities for awesome!


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