Tuesday, August 31, 2010

6 Weeks In

Ok, so it’s been awhile since my last posting, so sorry for the few of you out there who actually read this thing. . .We've been here almost 6 weeks now and here's what we've been up to. . .

We took the boys on a hike up Vitosha Mountain - just from the top of the Gondola ride to close to the top of the "walking trail," more like climbing trail in spots. Yes, it was a little more challenging than we expected. Lessons learned: do not take a 3-year old on that hike! Don't wear your Trim Step shoes for such a hike. And, for goodness sakes, don't let the kids wear Crocs when hiking!

My 2nd grader had his first week of school last week and I have never seen so many parent orientation meetings as I have at his new school. I will say, so far from what we've seen, it seems like a good program in a good facility with a good teacher. They even had a welcome back barbeque. The school provided all the food, live music and free drinks (including beer). I guess if you charge university level tuition, you can afford to give free beer to all the suckers (I mean parents).

We are now on our second week and homework has started - about 20 minutes/day of written work and 20 minutes/day of reading. The school even has a website, with each teacher having their own page. Whenever Tak has a new assignment, I go to his class webpage and get all the information about what they are working on and what they are expecting from the kids. It also includes a month-by-month overview of the lesson plans for the year. It is awesome!!!!

Our preschooler started going to the Embassy preschool/daycare a few mornings/week. So, I now have a little bit of time to do shopping, errands, exercise, etc . . . . Some mornings he's happily on his way and other mornings, he cries "I stay home with Mamma." It just breaks my heart, but he seems to have such fun at school and is always happy when I pick him up. He needs the time with kids his own age and I need the time to myself every now and again, especially for exercising (though here I am finally catching up on this blog).

Speaking of exercise, my neighbor showed me some walking trails that are really walking trails, as opposed to climbing trails. And, we've been walking about 3 times/week. Though the weather is turning cold, so I don't know how much longer that will last. At some point, I need to start doing gym workouts again and HOPEFULLY find a pool where I can do some laps. I miss swimming!!!!

And, in our biggest news, all of our stuff arrives tomorrow. We are getting the house ready to TRY to fit everything. And, of course, I need to be putting the "Welcome Kit" back together to return to the Embassy. The Welcome Kit is a crate of basic necessities that we borrow until all our stuff arrives. But, seeing as we have 6,000 lbs of stuff arriving, I need to get everything that doesn't belong out of here ASAP. And, with that, I should go and finally get this thing posted. Hopefully, after all of our stuff is unpacked, I will be better about the blog. Keep in touch everyone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Always The Little Things That Get Ya!

So, we have this spot in our yard where you plug in a garden hose. Only, it's not a spicket, but rather a hole in the yard, under a cover, with a snap on plug. Apparently, you are supposed to just snap on your hose to the plug and the water will start flowing. There is no on/off mechanism, just when you pull off the hose, the water will stop. So, I tried to hook-up our hose to the plug, but I couldn't get it to work. Stupidly, I twisted the plug that was in the ground. The plug popped off and the water started gushing, it was like a mini-geyser. I tried my best to screw the plug back on, but the water pressure was too great and I just couldn't do it. I'm soaking wet, with no way to stop the water, trying my best to hold the plug on, so that water doesn't go everywhere (feeling a little bit like BP here). Luckily, Seiji was home and was able to find the complex handyman to come and save the day. He called somebody who turned off the water supply, screwed the plug back on and then showed me how to snap the hose onto the plug. It's always the little things that get ya!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Old and New and Not Much In Between

So, last night, we went out to dinner in downtown Sofia, my first time to the old downtown section. There were some beautiful OLD buildings there, including government buildings, churches, a mosque and a synagogue. I also found out we are actually only a 6 hour drive from Istanbul, a 6 hour drive from Dracula's castle and a 5 hour drive to the Sani Beach Resort in Greece. Hmmm, the wheels are turning. . . .

Sofia is a funny place. They recently joined the EU and so now have an INFLUX of money. With all the EU money and international companies opening up shop here, they are building like crazy (e.g., new homes, new apartment buildings, beautiful new malls, etc . . .). However, there are still many old buildings. Yes, a few are historically old. In general, however, I mean old in terms of dingy, dilapidated, gray soviet era buildings. Add to that the Roma, who are a visible presence here, and it’s all just such a strange mix.

The Roma live in very simple structures and still use horse and buggy to get around. It is not uncommon to see their horse and buggies turning onto busy roads traveling right along with the cars on the same road. It's not just the Roma. The older generation of Bulgarians grew up under Communism and you can see a definite break between the young and the old. It's like third world country and first world country co-existing (not melding, but co-existing).

Of course, you have young and old Bulgarians playing this techno-music (think Sprockets from SNL)in their restaurants, taxis, etc . . . . It’s a whole other weird mix. And, yes, there is A LOT of German influence here for some reason. They must have some kind of special trade agreement with Germany, or something????

UPDATE: Oops, we are a 6 hour drive to the gateway to Dracula's castle, which is then another 9 OR SO hours beyond. At least, to the one that was discussed in the PBS special about Vlad the Impaler. There may be closer ones, as apparently many places claim that they are the location to Dracula's Castle.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oh Richard, I Forgive you.

Today, after my language lesson, we headed home. However, the only route I know how to use was blocked by construction. Dare, I trust Richard (our GPS)? Hmmm???? Well, what choice do I have? Wouldn't you know it, today he worked. No weird small rocky roads, yeah! Richard led me to another main road a few miles away and then I was home. Richard, you are redeemed in my eyes (for now, so don't push your luck).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who The Heck was Cyril and What the Heck Was He Thinking?

So, today I had my first introduction to Cyrilic. Here's the gist of what I got today.

A, E, O, K and some M are the only letters that are what they seem.

M with points are M, but any M written with rounded top are T.
B is V
H is N.
X is H (or more like a gargle)
C is S
P is R
U or a mirror image of N are both I
U with an accent on top is Y
3 is Z
Cursive N is P
4 is Ch
W is Sh

And, those are the easy ones! Hmmm, this is going to take some time to figure out. I curse you Cyril!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Richard, You Let Me Down! :(

Today, I took the boys for a visit to the school. It is beautiful, albeit warm (they don't have A/C). I guess in Bulgaria, you really don't need A/C all that much, so. . .

Anyway, on the way home, I went the route I know well. However, I let Richard (that's the name of our GPS voice, hence the name of our GPS) chime in with his suggestions as well. I knew there was a short-cut coming up that is well paved and thought perhaps Richard might point it out. So, when he told me to turn left very near to the spot I thought would be correct, I followed his instructions.

Oh my goodness, what a HUGE mistake. At first, all seemed well. But, then the roads became narrower and narrower, less and less paved and finally just rocky, etc. . .At this point, I decided it was time to turn around, which I did.

On my way back, a car decided to stop in the middle of the "road" and park. I was stuck and had no idea when the person would be returning. Adding to my frustration, there was a truck on the other side of the parked car wanting to get through in the opposite direction. I tried backing out of the road to see if I could find another way. It was either that or wait to see if the driver of the parked car returned. I knew the road too rough and narrow to turn around. I understood that I really did not share Richard's idea of a suitable route. I was quite aware that I did not speak a lick of Bulgarian to ask "how the hell do I get out of here." I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. But, I told myself to "suck it up" and try to get me and the boys home. While I was backing out, I backed into some kind of pole and smashed the rear driver side tail light of the car we just purchased. I was so upset at this point. Damn Richard!!!! You know, it's all his fault, right?! I got out and picked up what pieces I could of the broken plastic tail light and of my bruised and battered ego. And, just as I got back in my car, the woman who parked in the middle of the narrow road returned and moved her car. Perhaps she heard my big BANG and decided she should move??? Then the truck backed-up and let me through.

I decided to not drive anymore today. And, I will only follow Richard if he takes me on fully paved, real roads. Otherwise, I will trust him far less than I can throw him. And, believe me, I was tempted to throw him out the window today. But, I didn't do that and he still lives for another day, another adventure.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oh No He Didn't!

We had the most beautiful, freakin awesome day today (mostly). We had heard there was a gondola that goes up to the ski resort, not too far from our house. So, today, we set out to find it. It is not only close to our house, it is just two miles away. We have NEVER lived two miles away from a ski lift. We take the gondola up. It is a LONG way up, but so beautiful. We see some very twisty, narrow roads pass underneath us and are pretty dang happy right now that we can get to the ski lodge without having to drive those roads. It was about a 30 minute ride from the entrance of the Gondola up to the top. I imagine by road it would be hours. Once there, we got out and explored the beautiful scenery. On our way back, the boys were tired and so we agreed for a rest/snack stop.

As we are finishing up our snack, a restaurant worker (hoping he was NOT the cook) comes out and starts going through the GARBAGE. He pulls out two pieces of not fully eaten bread and takes them back inside. Hubby and I look at each other in astonishment, did he really just do that. OMG!!! Ok, we are not eating here ever again. Luckily we only ordered bottled water and some prewrapped ice cream treats this time. And, no, I don't think there will be a next time eating at this place. Just hoping the other eating options up there are a little more appealing come ski season. Even with Garbage Collector Cook, it was still a beautiful day and we are excited to ski, ski, ski. . . .