Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adventures at a Bulgarian Supermarket

Seiji speaks Bulgarian very well. I, on the other hand, not a lick. Though I hope to change this through language classes at the Embassy, those lessons have not yet begun and reading in Cyrillic is totally lost on me.

Our previous, and first, trip to the grocery store, Seiji was with us. But, today, I took the boys alone. We did pretty well until we got to the pastry counter (a promise to the boys for behaving - mostly - during the shopping trip). There were these Bulgarian treats that they wanted to try, so why not. The lady behind the counter is looking at us. I look at her and ask "English?" Nodding her head "yes," she says "no." Oh G-d, I'm never going to get this opposite head nod thing down. I try to communicate in the best way I know how. I point to the pastry the boys want and hold up two fingers. She gets a box and starts for the correct pastries - yeah success!!!! There's our two, but she is still going. Uh oh! I say "that's good, no more," shaking my head "no." But, of course, a head nod "no" actually means "yes" here. What am I going to do? I make the "stop" gesture and, thank goodness, she understands. She gives us our box of 5 pastries and I just take it and am happy she stopped at 5. Then the boys ask if we can get pastrami. First of all, I don't even know how to say "pastrami" in Bulgarian and even if I find it and point to it, how can I possibly communicate I only want 500 grams. After seeing the pastry debacle, my oldest actually understands why we need to wait for Dad on this one. We made it out of there with everything we actually came for and five pastries. All in all, it was a successful trip.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day Four in Sofia

Ah, maybe we are in the honeymoon period (probably), but so far I gotta say we are really liking it here. Our home is in an area surrounded by green lucious foothills and it is just breathtaking. It is so wonderful to have such a refuge and to have that refuge be our home.

On our second night in town, our social sponsor (a very nice couple, without kids), took us to out for dinner. The food was awesome. We started off with an appetizer of chopska salad, which included the most yummy tomatoes topped with a soft white cheese, cucumbers, goat cheese, etc. . .. Then, we had yogurt cucumber soup and chicken shish kebab for dinner. There was live traditional music. It felt very much like eating at a traditional Greek Taverna. Our only problem that night was that dinner (as will likely be the case here often) didn't start until 7:30 PM. The kids were loving it, but by about 9 PM, they were done. Oh boy did the melt down begin. So, finally at 10 PM, we left. But, we left in the car we bought from a departing employee, so we had our own wheels on Day 2 in town. And, I got the GPS working, so woohoo!!!

I've now programmed the Embassy, our house, schools, a grocery store and a co-worker's house into the GPS. So I am mobile and it is a great thing. Everyone seems amazed that we are getting around on our own already and got our internet and cable tv set-up so quickly. All I can say is THANK YOU to one Seiji's co-workers who has been a G-dsend in so many ways!!!!!

So, yes, we have a GPS and we are using it. We heard there were three ways to get to the school from our house. So, we drove via the easiest route (until we could get the school programmed into our GPS) to the school. It is a beautiful school. Then, we put in "home" to see what route it would take us. It suggested a different route, but for some reason we thought we needed to get back onto a main road first. Big mistake not listening to "Richard," our GPS navigator. Richard said "go right," followed by the baby repeating "go right, daddy." But, no, we went left back out onto the main road. It re-routed us and boy did it re-route us!!! We took that third route, which was referred to by our neighbor as the "off-road" route. Boy, was it ever. It was more off-road than we ever expereienced in Timor. We did see a section of the mountain we live on that we would never have seen before and, G-d willing, will never see again (talk about getting car sick - yikes). We saw a portion of the Roma community and how they live (quite different from what we've seen in Sofia so far). From what we saw, it is a much more peasant-like experience with more shack-like structures than houses for the Roma (or what we think were Roma). Roma, by the way, are what we always grew up calling "Gypsies."

After FINALLY making it back to a main road, we stopped in the little village that is just a mile or two away from our home. We started off by going to a central part of the village to park, but immediately a drunken man came up demanding money (lev) for parking. There is no charge for parking and we didn't want Seiji taking his wallet out in public. We didn't pay and got back in the car. The guy stuck his body in the door so Seiji couldn't close his door. Eventually we got rid of him and got out of there. He was just a drunken villager, who probably thought, "ooh Americans, an easy mark." Next time we will either keep a few bits of change in our pocket to give or just learn how to deal with this type of thing without the change (we will definitley have to ask our neighbors what they do.) So, we head back toward our house and see a traditional restaurant where we stop. We ordered ice cream sundaes that were quite yummy and this made the adventure all worthwhile to the boys who were getting a little bit tired of "exploring."

Later in the day we drove to the Embassy, so I could get that programmed in before I have to drive there myself this week. All along the way, Richard would give directions and the baby would copy him. It was like we were on repeat. It was quite funny.

And, so, those are our latest adventures for now.

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Impressions

We made it, yay!!!!!

It was a long journey to get here, but we all made it. When we arrived in Sofia, we expected long delays at the airport clearning the dogs. But, it was very quick and easy. The Sofia airport was nothing like we expected. It was rather new looking, clean and not overcrowded at all. We went to baggage claim to pick-up the dogs, expecting to have to see an Ag. Department vet to clear them. Nope, none needed. We just showed their papers to the custom's guy, who said "ok, looks fine." And we were done and out the door.

We were then driven to our new home. And, when I say new, I mean new. It was just completed right before we moved in. It's bright and pretty. We are in a compound that can accomodate about 20 families. We are gated and guarded. Each "house" contains four units. Our place here is every so slightly bigger than our place in VA. But, it has less rooms, so the rooms here are bigger. Not having a room I can use as a play room/bonus room is definitely the biggest disadvantage we've seen of this house. We thought we wouldn't have a private yard, but in fact we do. It's not fenced, but it is ours and it is a much bigger space than what we had in VA. And, we have a two car garage, which we did not have in VA. So, all in all we are happy. The area of Sofia we live in is actually a suburb of Sofia. It is on the mountain and it is a beautiful area. So, we are very happy to not be directly in the city. However, the thing that makes us happiest is that Tak is very happy with it. There are kids everywhere in our compound. In fact, he is playing right now at a friend's house. At our place in VA, I didn't feel safe letting him out to play without my constant supervision. Here, I feel so much safer about it and he is enjoying his new found freedom and SO AM I!!!!

Lastly, the cable guy came today and hooked us up. The hardest thing for me was when I would ask a question and he would nod, "no" while saying, "yes." In Bulgaria, the head nod is exactly the opposite of back home. It will definitely take some getting used to!!!

And that's the update for now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Big Time Rush or Not

Obviously, my boys like a certain Nick show about hockey players who have a band. But, this has nothing to do with that show. No this is about our big time rush and wait, rush and wait, rush and wait. . . .

So, last week I was rushing around trying to put together a birthday/farwell party for the boys. They love LEGO Star Wars, but you cannot find Lego Star Wars decorations, cakes, etc. . .I tried to make some Lego Star Wars plates and we hired a friend, Susannah, to make an absolutely fantastic Star Wars Lego Cake that was the hit of the party. And, of course, because I was in no mood to figure out games for a party, we had it at a swim center. Gotta love built-in entertainment! Of course, I forgot a cake server and matches. My mind is in too many different places I guess. Luckily, our friend Emily had a matchbook from a restaurant and SAVED THE DAY! And, Susannah, who also came to our party, was kind enough to serve the beautiful cake she made using the plastic cutlery we had available. She is amazing!!! But, my biggest reward was when my now seven year old son said, "Mom, that was the best party EVER." Cue a BIG smile on my face hearing that. Now, on to the next thing.

The movers came this week. On Monday, they took our air frieght, so that was done in the morning. We shipped 700 lbs of mostly toys, but included some clothes, linens, and kitchen items (because as much as my boys insist, we cannot actually live off of legos). On Tuesday, the real work began and the guys worked a full day. On Wednesday, they didn't have a driver, so weren't able to come until 1:30 PM, but sent a double crew to get as much done as they could. And, Thursday was a full day and our final day of packing. How in the world did we accumulate so much CRAP. And, every move, we get rid of STUFF, but still. . .Of course, buying a sandbox and BBQ at the last minute probably didn't help. So, anyway, just a tip, if you ever have movers. . .More than anything else, the movers kept telling us how much they appreciated that we kept our house supplied with Coca-Cola and water and NEVER bought them PIZZA for lunch.

We provided lunch on the two full days the movers worked. On their last day, I went to Wegmans (only the greatest grocery store that has ever existed) and ordered a sub-sandwich tray. The tray came with four 14" sub sandwiches, cut-up into quarters. Wegman's, being such a great place, provided a bunch of condiments/extras for free (pickles, peppers, olives, mustard, tomato, lettuce, cheese, etc. . .) and chips. The tray cost $33, but fed 5 moving men, Seiji (who eats like 5 moving men), Kai and me. The movers couldn't stop thanking us for the food. They said they had never been treated so well, all because of a sub-sandwich tray. So, there is your tip. Now, we wait to see how many pounds over we are on our HHE (stuff being shipped by boat from here to Sofia). I shutter to think about the rushing around we will have to do if (more likely when) we find out we are over our 7200 lb. limit.

Today, the contractors came to the house at 8 AM. They have a lot of work to do. They need to patch and paint, replace carpeting on two of the three levels, regrout the bathroom tiles, fix some lights with broken sockets, and a multitude of other odd jobs to get the place fixed up and all this needs to be done by Monday night. The cleaning lady comes on Tuesday to do a final clean and then that afternoon we are supposed to go through the place with the new tenants and our property manager to write a condition report and hand over keys.

Now on to other things. I went to Verizon this morning to cancel phones, but they wouldn't let me as hubby is the "primary." How stupid is that?! I'm on the account, but because he is the primary, I cannot cancel the account. I'm thinking I should be the primary from now on. But, I fear if everything was in my name, they would not allow me to use his government travel orders to cancel without termination fees. Oh well, what can you do. . .

And, so, down time is over.