Monday, March 23, 2009

Portrait #78: highlights from bulgaria

- snowstorm on the way to Macedonia. I was in the front row of the bus but still hadn't a clue what was going on. We moved 100 metres in 2 hours. And the bus driver chatted with other drivers, with a cop who stopped by (I still can't get over how their uniforms have big writing in English on them), with the passengers, etc... about the back up. And during the 2 hours the three cars in front of us gave up and turned around. I never found out the problem, but discovered that my impatience was much less than usual when I have no hope of knowing what's going on around me because I don't understand the language.

- saying "Do you speak Macedonian?" It felt very biblical.

- The farm in the middle of nowhere in 3-foot snow. This was our rest stop, just a couple of miles from the Bulgarian-Macedonian border. The door was locked so I could go pee in the snow. I didn't, but I did wander around a bit. How could I resist wandering in 3-feet of snow on a farm by the 2-lane highway at 4:30 in the morning at the end of a huge snowstorm, right near the Macedonian-Bulgarian border?

- Discovering a Dunkin Donuts

- Where the three world religions actually meet! You can stand happily centred between a church, mosque and synagogue. All big, gorgeous and old.

- Sofia had three daughters: Faith Hope and Love. Trying to figure out which daughter my Babci did not have, since she was Sofia and had two daughters. (btw, Sofia is pronounced SOfia, not SofEEa)

- the Yellow Brick Road - built in the late 1800s and it's still there and still in good shape.

- the strangest mausoleum I've ever seen: I think it was intentionally that it looked abandoned. And there was a lamp that looked like a candle illuminating melted wax scattered around the floor. And a cross in the back of the cave.

- I didn't get to hear the bells - 100 tons of church bells!!!!! They are only played on Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings and Church holidays. I must return to Sofia just to hear these bells.

- Starbucks - twice. Hooking my friend on coffee in the process. It really didn't take much convincing. But when we got to Starbucks, I realised that going from Kosovo to Bulgaria was not unlike the good old days when we'd go from Syria to Lebanon and always stop at the first McDonalds after the border (even though we never ate McD's anyway, then Starbucks as soon as we got to Beirut, and always Dunkin Donuts on my way back to Syria).

- Changing socks five times in a day because of all the snow and slush and my lack of clothes made for snow and slush

- the Wheat drink that starts with a B (apparently most foreigners are not adventurous enough to try it). Strange it was, but not in a freaky way. Nothing like eating bugs.

- McDonalds Happy Meal. Just to be able to tell people in Kosovo - who get all dreamy-eyed when talking about McDonalds - that I did.

- Looking for the tram schedule. Written in Cyrillic. On a sign leaned up against a shack, really high up. So I got up on a pole to read it - or, rather, to look for the pattern of figures described to me by my friend standing below. I found it but it didn't make a lot of sense, so she was inspired to get up and stand on the pole to read it for herself. At which point a man came up and asked if we needed help. The good: he had the answer to our question. The bad: in exchange he wanted "a relationship." He said he was Russian, so it would be OK.

- The weird guy who was desperate to give me chocolates in the bus station, no idea why.

- The university professor from Macedonia who wouldn't let me sleep on the bus home because he decided I could be his personal spiritual guru. I tried to stay awake, because he seemed like a fascinating combination of in-love-with-learning and overworked-and-miserable. He said he hasn't opened a Bible yet because he doesn't feel ready - he has to know everything first. And he expects he'll be ready in 5 or 6 years.

- The gorgeous Macedonian man who sold me all my tickets - going in both directions - and answered every question I could come up with about bus schedules.

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