Edith's Bulgarian Newsletter

June 2002 Archives

June 3, 2002 News from Bulgaria

How frustrating! I haven't been able to buy newsprint chart sheets today for my quilting class because the store hasn't been open when I've stopped to buy it. At 8:30 this morning (an hour earlier than she usually opens), I saw the salesclerk standing in front of the store. But since I was on my way to school, I didn't stop. Instead, about 11 am, when my classes were over, I went to the store - but she was closed. When Rel came home at 11:30, he brought some paper that he had just bought from the same store. Since most stores are closed over lunch, I waited until 3 pm to try again - she was closed again! I asked Peter next door where she might be and he said, "Coffee?" At 5 pm, Rel brought home the paper I wanted - he bought it at the same store on his way home! There seems to be no "rhyme or reason" - it's just the way it is.

I had my first official quilting class tonight. Eleven people had signed up and ten came. Many were fellow teachers, another was a retired teacher, and then several younger women. I had worked my tail off all weekend to prepare chart sheets. I illustrated each step of the process with pictures. For those who know, the pattern I'm teaching is the "Dresden Plate," called the "Friendship Quilt." I thought it was quite fitting for a first project, just for the name itself. We are making a 14" block. We got as far as cutting and sewing the pieces together. Next week, I'll teach them to sew the appliqué onto the block itself. And I'll do it again through pictures on a chart sheet. It's exhausting but a really fun challenge. (A photo of Lenin sits on a shelf and observes all that we do!!)

I enjoy being with a women's group again. They laugh and talk. The retired teacher wanted to know if she should use a double thread when sewing the pieces together because she kicks her covers in bed and wants the pieces to stay together. (If they want to keep working and making more blocks, I'll help them do it.) With Naska and Rosie helping (and Naska also creating her own block), it was a nice size, fun group.

Another frustration! (I hate to list them one right after the other but that's just the way some days are…) I just don't understand that, when there's such a shortage of funds, some buildings are in better shape than others. I'm referring to our school compared to the Municipality for example. Last winter I compared the heating of both buildings. Small space heaters are used in offices to help them stay relatively warm (there is NO place that is REALLY warm here in the winter). A space heater does not go far in classrooms when the windows are broken and heat goes out as fast as it comes in - and fuel is also scarce enough that school is called off because of it. Now it's the bathrooms.

Granted the Municipality isn't as large a building nor does it house as many people in a working/school day. But it DOES have a bathroom where the door is all in one piece, there is piping that extends from the sink down through the floor and takes the water out and there is some privacy. All of this is rare at our school. Our school building is not more than 15 years old but there seems to be little maintenance put into it since it was first built. Although the Municipality building is older, it at least seems to have regular maintenance done because I don't see any broken windows in the offices (that I've been in) and all the doors seem to be in one piece.

School funding comes through the Municipality, and they receive it from the government. Maybe there's just not enough to go around for all the buildings but I also think our school gets short shrift (at least when it comes to maintenance). If just one bathroom were tackled each year or even if people scrounged around to find used piping, progress could be made a little at a time. As it is, with each year that goes by and no maintenance is done, the school will fall down around everyone's ears!!! On our floor, the boys' restroom (next door to the girls') no longer has a sink so that everyone must come into our restroom to get water. That's not a big problem since our door is open all the time anyway and, if it were shut, there would be no privacy because a big hole has been punched out right through the middle. There are several working stalls but only one with a door. It's a Turkish toilet (as most are here and I've gotten much more used to them) and not very sanitary at times when the previous use can't be flushed. That's about the time I almost go out of my mind!!

Respect for property is hard to come by among students. We have cleaned our desks several times but it hasn't sunk in yet that desks are not there to write on (some students sit there unconsciously writing on the desks). At times in America, I would find some students doing the same thing. When I'd ask them if they did this at home, they would inevitably say no. The next question was , Then why do you do it here? It could be the same mentality working here in Bulgaria. We spent time around Earth Day picking up trash both in and out of the school, but it will take more than that to make real change. Punching in doors (like our classroom door and the bathroom) is another problem and it doesn't seem to have any repercussions (that I know of). Once there's damage done, it stays.

Rel reminds me that the Municipality provides money for the school budget and that it is up to the Director on how to spend it (much like schools in the States, in fact). It may be that with very limited funds, Valentina has chosen to spend it on things like paying teachers (without them, there would be no school). So I can't judge results since I don't walk in her shoes. But I still get frustrated at times!!

Last Sunday, June 2, was the Day of Heroes. It's similar to our Memorial Day, remembering the dead in the wars. At noon, the fire siren went off several times in celebration. It was also Hristo Botev Day. Botev lived during the mid- to latter part of the 1800's (1848-1876) and was a strong participant in the preparation for a national uprising (from the Turks). From a young age, his goal was to see total freedom - after 500 years under the Turkish yoke. He preached that Bulgarians didn't need help from the outside, that they were capable of saving themselves. His influence was felt through his poetry, his teaching, and through several newspapers he created. "Truth is sacred" was the motto of one of them. While in Rumania living with a friend, a fellow revolutionary Vasil Levsky, he wrote home about the abject poverty in which they lived. Every several days, they might find bread to eat. He also had a poetry reading coming up and was concerned that he had only rags to wear. He died in battle in the Balkan range after leading a rebel group into Bulgaria when the uprising broke out in April 1876. He was a champion of democracy and revolution through his journalistic work. He is a much-loved historical figure in Bulgaria.

Later this month, Rel will be going to help with some training of the new volunteers. I can see why now that cockiness is one of the problems with one-year volunteers when they work with the new trainees. I feel so proud that we have made it through one year that it's easy to "lord it over" the really green ones just coming into the country. Six of the new TEFL's (those trainees who will be teachers) are coming to visit our school and class on June 25, their second day of training. Although our classes finish this week, we'll ask some students to come back for that one class. I think they'll look forward to seeing some other YOUNGER Americans. We'll get to show off our new Resource Room with all our new books! And show other additional teaching aids that have been sent from America.

My little washing machine has gone on the "blink." I knew there was a problem because it had been getting noisier and noisier with each load. The person who fixes small motors like this one is the same person who worked on our heater last winter. Because it took him two weeks then to come, I knew we could have the same problem again. So I started a week ago to ask Rel to get Ditchko to call his friend, the repairman. Rel reached him on Saturday morning and he said he'd come over Saturday evening. No show. We couldn't reach him Sunday. Today (Monday) both Ditchko and Rosie will call for him to come this evening. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Meanwhile, I have about two basketfuls of laundry waiting to be washed. If nothing happens this week, I'll have to start washing everything by hand. Oh, joy!!

As with most schools in America, these last several weeks before the school year ends are really difficult. The students are ready to be finished and so are the teachers! This has been true during this time of giving term tests (given at the end of each semester). It's so crazy because things seem turned around. When I want the students to help each other during group work, many hide their work from their team partners. And when I want them to do individual work (as in term tests), they spend a lot of time trying to see their neighbors' papers rather than just working alone. I told the students that that isn't the only thing turned around. The other is that Bulgaria is the only country I know of in the world where people nod their heads up and down to say "No," and shake it back and forth to say "Yes!" They laugh, and agree that, yes, that's just te way it is….More later, Edith

June 13, 2002

Today was the last day of school for me - but not for the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades. They have two more weeks. Across the country, grades 1 and 12 were finished on May 24; grades 2, 3 and 4 finished on May 30; and grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 finished today. All classes begin on Sept 15 of every year but end on different dates. It would seem to be more difficult to keep track of who gets paid for how long when the ending dates are scattered like that. I will probably be teaching 9th grade next year so will have to teach the extra two weeks then.

The 8th grade received their diplomas on Wednesday and I think that was the signal for everyone else that the year was over (term tests were given on specified dates several weeks ago). Although we were to have informal classes yesterday and today, I haven't had any students show up. Students were wandering the hallways and, as I worked in the classroom, several brought me some flowers - a traditional way of showing appreciation to teachers, or to anyone else for that matter. On my way to school yesterday, a pensioner called to me from near her gate and handed me a bouquet of her home-grown flowers. I wonder if our tradition in the States of flower-giving on special occasions (like Mother's Day) began with Europeans - or if it's an older, world-wide tradition…

Although teachers do not have individual lesson plan books, we are expected to write our plans in the "Materialna Kniga," a large book located in the formal teachers' meeting room on the second floor. (We sign in every morning by writing our names in that book and teacher absences are also recorded here.) I usually fill in my plans either before or after classes and thought I was pretty much up to date. However, Rosie grabbed me yesterday morning as I walked into school and said we had to record my SIP class lesson plans in the book. Unbeknownst to both of us (she's never taught a SIP class), I was supposed to be recording my lesson topics every week throughout the year. So on this next to last day of school, we found out that we would have to go back through the whole book and record my lessons (wonder why nobody caught this before now!). With her help, it didn't take that long, thankfully. But what I'm learning is that, although the Bulgarian school system may seem somewhat "laid-back" compared to America, keeping documentation is very important. And even though it may wait until the last minute, it still must be done. (Most of it is written by hand into books and notebooks. If multiple copies are needed, carbon paper is used; there's no such thing as multiple-carbon pads.)

On my way to school, there were three cows being herded by a woman in a vacant lot. One of the cows began mooing as I approached and, when I looked down the street, I understood why. The cowherd was coming, which meant these three would join them on their way out of town. It's so interesting watching the animals; they can be so much like human beings at times. Several days ago there was a herd of sheep and goats waiting at a corner across from our "bloc." I wasn't sure why the herdsman kept them there until I saw a neighbor shooing three goats out of the courtyard and down towards the herd. On the cross street, another man hurried his sheep out of another courtyard and chased them towards the herd as well. Seeing that all the "kids" were there, the herdsman began moving again. I can't get over how much it reminds me of parents/teachers with their kids/students (getting kids off to school). The head herdsman walks in front and has a whistle along with his walking stick. Every little while, he blows the whistle and checks behind to see that the animals are following - much like a parent or teacher would do with a bunch of kids on a field trip for example. The herdsman at the rear goes after those animals that wander too far. One goat got a little further ahead, had his front feet up on a fence, and was munching leaves off a tree. Others wandered down into the high grass along the channelized creek. So the rear herdsman walks from one side to the other keeping them all "in line" - again much as a parent or teacher would do. I wonder if this similarity between animals and kids is why we call baby goats "kids" - or maybe it's the other way around!

The change in seasons has brought some change with the animals. All the sheep have been sheared now. Several weeks ago, a man in his courtyard was sitting atop a sheep lying on its side, bending over shearing the sheep with scissors. I don't know if part of the shearing was done with clippers (I didn't hear any); it was a pretty close cut. But if all the shearing is done with scissors, it must be a long, difficult job. A good-looking horse was pulling a wagon down the street the other day, with a pensioner at the reins. The horse had a round, filled-out body with a healthy, shiny coat and was pulling the wagon with an easy, steady gait. The horse looked like it felt good and had lots of energy. The even clip-clopping made clear that it also had four shoes on its feet - a well taken care of animal. I heard another horse and wagon coming up behind me the other day. It sounded almost like winter because the horse had bells around its neck and the bells rang reminding me of "Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin? In the lane, snow is glistenin" - but this was noon on a warm, sunny day. Once in a long while, I will see two horses pulling one wagon. But usually it's one burro or horse doing all the work (wagons can be filled with people, hay, sticks, or bags of grapes picked in the fall). And at this time of year, the colt or filly is usually running alongside the mother, sometimes tied and sometimes not. Horses aren't the only ones pulling wagons, however. The other day, it was a man pulling his two-wheel cart filled with what looked like bamboo sticks. Fences, parts of buildings are sometimes made with this material.

There's a certain kind of luxury sitting on a train and watching the world go by. On our return from Sofia last week, I got to observe all the goings-on in the country as we passed through. A man was out in his hayfield turning the hay by hand - with a wooden pitchfork, more than likely. In another field, men with very wide wooden rakes raked the hay into piles. And in another, the horse patiently waited with the wagon while the men worked. It isn't only men out in the fields however. Men and women of all ages (many of them pensioners) were out weeding in the fields. Besides hay, there are other fields that are bright yellow in color. It could be coriander Dobie said, but really bright yellow fields that we had seen on our trip to Veliko Turnovo Rosie said was something called "rafe" seed. It produces an oil that can be used for both cooking and industry. She tried it once for cooking and although it tasted O.K., it had so much of a strong fish smell while she was cooking that she has not used it since.

Other plants are interesting as well. In the mountains, there seemed to be a very common tree since there were many of them. It had yellow-green leaves that looked like ferns. The blossoms themselves looked like white lilacs only they hung upside down like bunches of grapes on a grapevine. There were many, many red poppies growing wild all along our route and even just outside Straldja. They reminded me of the artificial ones we used to sell each year on Veteran's Day when I was a kid. Is that done any more? Maybe it's just as well if it isn't. Dobie told us that, since the color red was the symbol of the Communist Party, the bright red poppy also became their symbol. Don't think that would go over too well with veterans!

All along our route and in Straldja, everything looked lush and green with the rain that we've had. The grapevines covering terraces are growing like crazy. They sprout their new yellow-green leaves straight up into the air; and as they get longer, they begin to drape over the wood frame and make these wonderfully natural and cool areas of shade for the hot summer. Roses are very common here and in Bulgaria as a whole. The oil-yielding rose was brought to Bulgaria from India via Persia, Syria and Turkey. It is said that the Bulgarian rose oil has the highest quality in the world. Kazanluk (where we visited the Thracian tomb and the center for rose fields) has a rose festival every year about this time. The roses come in all shades of color. On my way home from school recently, I stopped to smell some variegated colored ones, salmon and gold. As I turned to continue down the street, the woman of the house came running out with a knife. No, not to scare me - but to cut a bunch of the roses for me to take!

There have been some surprises on these trips to Sofia. Last time, Rel discovered some ruins located behind the Sheraton Hotel in the center of Sofia and took me over to see it this time. Part of the ruins include a church called St. George's that is still being used today (it is the oldest structure in Sofia). It dates from the 4th century when it was first built as a Roman temple. It was in the 6th century that it began serving as a church. Behind it, are partial walls that were dug up as part of an excavation (the tops of the walls are covered with concrete to prevent further deterioration). These are part of more buildings because we could see that the walls continue underground (this is all at a lower level) into areas not excavated (all the current buildings seem to have been built up around this area). We are told that these foundation remnants were from an octagonal-shaped Roman public building. There are also remains of a medieval Bulgarian dwelling. There are even some flat paving stones set three to six meters wide that made up a Roman street.

About a thousand yards from this site was the Maya Hotel, the one we stayed in. To kill time before our train departure, we started on a walk and lo and behold, in the very next block, we ran into another area of ruins! This large area looked like a vacant lot in New York City left after a previous building was torn down. It was a large hole in the ground only it was covered with grass. There were partly constructed old walls left over from Roman times - and some of these walls as well continued into the ground under the nearby street. There were several pieces of stone covered with Greek writings - and they were just lying there in the grass as if they had been discarded. Part of a metal fence serves as some protection from the street but even pieces of that have been taken away. Since there was a long earth ramp down into the lot, we walked down in and examined the reliefs. It's amazing that something with this much historical value is wide open to anyone and everyone. It's also true, however, that there seem to be many samples of reliefs such as this. We haven't been inside the Archeological Museum yet (next trip) but there are more such samples setting out in the yard and leaning up against the building - and are open to all kinds of weather. Limited funds are probably another reason that more care isn't given to these historical artifacts.

We got a new washing machine - for the equivalent of $80 (our repair person showed up after we bought this one but it's just as well because he thinks the other cannot be fixed). It's more heavy duty than our little plastic tub with the side motor. This motor is in the bottom and the round tub is affixed to the top. The same type of mechanism (almost like a circular fan in the bottom) moves the water and therefore rotates the clothes. I still have to wring, rinse, wring again but I don't have to lean over as far and this tub holds more clothes (it also gets the clothes cleaner). It has a hose to release the water - which means we no longer have to lift it to throw the dirty water down the toilet. Now the only thing that limits the amount of laundry I do is my clothesline on the terrace. Luckily, clothes dry here so quickly that, if I wanted, I could do laundry in the morning which would mostly dry by evening, then do another several loads in the evening that would be dry by noon the next day. But I'm almost caught up so no need to get carried away! More later…Edith

June 18, 2002 News from Bulgaria

I stand corrected. At least two people (one of whom is himself a veteran) have reminded me of the history of red poppies when it comes to our veterans, and what is continuing to be done for veterans today. (My sister-in-law referred me to the website - - where there was more information.) Poppies may have been a symbol of the Communist party but the poppy has its own meaning for our country. It's obvious I had forgotten what we learned in elementary school. Captain McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" was the impetus for our tradition:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
That marks our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch -- Be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is true that red poppies are still very much a part of our Memorial Day and Veterans' Day. "They are made by handicapped veterans in Veterans Hospitals and Rest Homes and help to fund entertainment and supplies not furnished by the government for these confined veterans." (George Siehl)

Another note about the last newsletter: The tree we saw in the mountains, with the white lilac-type blossoms, could be the locust tree, according to Nilsa in North Carolina. Bees that feed on these blossoms produce a very tasty honey…


I KNEW this would happen. I knew that, at some point along this journey in coming to Bulgaria, it would finally hit - and today was the big day. It's finally dawned on me that I'm learning much more than I'm teaching (even about my own country!), that I'm getting much more than I'm giving. And it's all so exciting - maybe even worth all the frustrations and homesickness that have gone on before! (It is, after all, one full year this week since we arrived in Bulgaria.)

The first thing that happened was the quilting class. Because the group was smaller for this third class, I could observe more and ask questions. It seems that "whole-cloth" quilting has been part of Bulgarian history but mainly in small villages - a "country" skill, as it has traditionally been in our own country. (Magazine articles have said that "whole-cloth" quilting began in Great Britain in the 1700's and was done primarily by professional quilters for the wealthy. It was after the Industrial Revolution that quilting was taken up by the masses. But, previous to that, I now wonder if quilting didn't start as part of a greater European tradition.) It has not been done much here any more because people can buy it easier than they can make it - kind of like us also.

What is totally new for this group is the "patchwork" part of the quilting. And hiding the knots. What I learned in return was that most Bulgarian handicrafters don't use a thimble! Only tailors use them. (The previous session I had asked them to bring their thimbles because they would need them. Thimbles were also part of the illustrations I prepared for this class -- little did I know.) You might ask how they could quilt without a thimble?! They put the needle through the cloth up or away from their body, using the thumb on the left of the needle and the next three fingers on the right. They sew up the cloth (one of the most difficult things for me to do) rather than down or to the left. This way, they don't need to push the end of the needle where a thimble would normally be used.

The class was also creative when it came to "knotting." One very competent participant (she not only paints on silk cloth but also makes Bulgarian costumes) used her own method of sewing back and forth several times to suffice for knotting. They were also very fast - not just with their sewing but with their understanding and follow-through of what they'd been shown. In fact, at the end of this next class (our fourth one), we will have finished what I had planned for the six weeks.

I think there is interest in continuing because Naska said she'd like to learn some new "models" next Fall. That could mean that they may stop now (gardening takes up so much of the daylight hours) and may want to continue as the weather gets colder (handicrafts may be more of a cold weather activity). Rel had a good idea that I will present to them that may encourage them to continue whether we meet or not. Our last two weeks of class could be spent in learning other "models" (patterns) so that participants could choose a favorite. Over the summer months, they could make at least one block, bring it back in the Fall, and we could sew them together for a "Straldja" quilt. It could be hung in the Municipality as a matter of pride or it could be auctioned off, possibly even through the internet. The proceeds could go towards purchasing more fabric and equipment they will need, encouraging creativity in becoming a self-sustaining group. Another possibility is to look for grants that can provide such "seed" money. I may be getting a little ahead of myself here, however; it really all depends on them and their interest. Our next session will be the deciding factor.

This last group was small because several of the teachers were helping set up for the 8th grade "ball" that evening (Naska, however, took the initiative of showing our missing group members at school how to complete the steps they missed). It was not a traditional ball that you and I might think of, although there certainly was dance music, both boys and girls were dressed in their "Sunday best" (girls with traditionally tight pants rather than long dresses and with their hair done). It also took place in the dining room of the hotel, the main gathering place for such celebrations. What was so interesting is that parts of the "program" were totally unexpected. It began with some 8th grade boys asking their female teachers for the first dance (courageous for both students and teachers and Director who was also asked to dance). A program was presented by students, after which Valentina, School Director, called them forward for their diplomas (this "ball" seemed to serve the two functions of formal presentations we would normally have at school with partying). During the program, a video was shown of their first day in the first grade when they looked so innocent and so scared (although some on the tape had left for schools in Yambol or Sliven, many were still here) and a video when they were in the fourth grade. This video-taping is a tradition so it is done every year for the new first graders, and then shown when they graduate from the 8th grade. This would be totally ineffective in other schools (like in the States?) where many or most of the students started school elsewhere.

I think I hadn't expected in all of one day to feel so involved with, and accepted by, two different groups (quilting and 8th grade). I also feel grateful to Straldja for allowing me the opportunity to really learn and experience something new. I'm feeling much more part of the community and almost feel that I've gone through my own personal "graduation ceremony" - into a full-fledged member of Straldja.

Help! Can anyone send me instructions on (1) how to make "new" cakes of soap from bits and pieces of old cakes so that the "new" cake hangs together, (2) sewing together already quilted blocks into one large quilt (the backing has to be bigger but I don't remember the technique for sewing the backing together).

More later…Edith

June 24, 2002 News from Bulgaria

Today is "Enyov den," the name day or celebration for people whose names are Enyo, Yana or Yanyo (Rel says that this is another name for Midsummer's but it occurs on the 23rd instead of the 21st, which is of course the longest day of the year). Rosie tells me that, because the position of the sun on this day is different, any herbs that we pick today are good for us. People gather 40 herbs and make them into a bunch. People walk barefoot on the grass early in the morning, when there is some dew on the grass. At this time, legends say, young people give their bunch of herbs to each other and cast spells for love.

Rosie tells me that June 29 and 30 are also name days. June 29 is St. Peter's day (called "Petrov Den") and on this day, the first chicken is slaughtered. Everybody cooks and eats chicken and the chicken is called "Petrovsko Pile" (Pee'-lay). June 30 is St. Pavel's Day and on this day, no one does any household work. If they do, they will be punished by having some fire, or God will send a bonfire.

Along with "name days," this seems to be a time of being out and about. It's been very warm until the last several days and people have been out of doors not only working their gardens but also spending time talking with friends. In the evenings particularly when Rel and I take a walk, we see many people sitting out along their courtyard fences conversing, young mothers with their babies, men gathered in a group at the corner, two men cleaning up from working on a house, a group of older and younger people sitting on a bench behind the Internet Club. Groups of Roma walk the streets together. Always the "baba's" sit talking on the benches near our bloc. And when we start up the steps to our apartment, residents are sitting there talking together.

As we walk down some streets, we can smell the fragrance from the Lipa (Lee-pah') tree. The blossoms are small and pale-yellow in color. Many families pick the blossoms and dry them, to be used for tea. On one street, not only was there grass (and hay) drying along the side of the road, but also many blossoms (several bushels at least) from the Lipa tree. We can see many flowers in bloom, including the big, white "snowballs" as we call them at home; many courtyards are just filled with large varieties of flowers growing in the ground as well as in pots along steps and on porch railings. I even saw a mimosa tree the other day, something I hadn't seen since living in Kentucky many years ago.

Recently Rel and I rode our bikes over to a nearby village, this one called Atolovo. This time I remembered my camera since previously we had seen an interesting old church there. When we stopped to take a photo of it, an older man who was shepherding his turkeys along the side of the road, pointed out that the church had been built by a Scotsman by the name of Lord Atol (he also I believe had a position of responsibility in the British government). Not only had he built the church but had also started the village in the 1920's - hence the name. We found out later that Lord Atol had also built many of the homes in the village. As we talked and took pictures, several more people gathered including one of my 8th grade students who lives there. It was also on this trip that I saw at the edge of town a hay baler for the first time. Three or four men were raking the hay by hand into windrows while the man on the tractor made the hay bales which then dropped to the ground.

Dobie, Rel's colleague, has told us that Lord Atol built Atolovo when he was here in the early 1900's during one of the Balkan wars. He saw refugees that had fled Greece and Macedonia where the fighting was; they had come here for safety. Since they had nowhere to live and were destitute, he built the village to provide them such a place. Many of those villagers today have relatives who live in Greece and Macedonia.

Dobie is taking her vacation days over the next several weeks and will be taking driving lessons. She is almost 24, her brother just turned 20 and their father had bought a car several years ago to drive. But up to now, neither of them has taken time to learn. It is very easy to get around in Bulgaria with both trains and buses that it really isn't necessary to drive. She promises us that she will take us around to see more places, once she gets her license (I hope she'll drive more slowly than most drivers here!).

Rel and I took the train yesterday over to Burgas to check out some tourist agencies and pick up some groceries at the Billa store. This was the first Saturday since school has been out for ALL students and it was very obvious by the numbers of them on the train - all headed it would seem for the beach. I'm always a little taken aback with the independence that young people show here in their traveling by train and by bus. Somehow I always expect to see them accompanied by an adult, particularly elementary-age. If they are teen-agers like this group yesterday, in the States they would be traveling mainly by car. I remember traveling by bus last winter over to Yambol and seeing a young brother and sister sitting alone. After watching a "baba" put her grandchild on the bus in one of the villages, we figured that most young people travel back and forth to their grandparents by bus. Bus travel between towns here is just so much more common than in the States.

Six of the new teacher volunteers have been here and gone and, as a result, I've learned some things - more about me than about them in fact. Was I all that naïve when I first arrived in Bulgaria?? This was only their second day of training and their sixth day in Bulgaria, so they were very green, still in culture shock when they got here to observe two of our classes. Some questions they asked the students were thoughtful but others, like some they had for Rosie about spies and the police, she thought were pretty stupid. But more than that, they just reflected no understanding of a different culture. At least several of the younger people (one man was older) had traveled some before coming here and one had even been through Peace Corps training in Bangladesh (and later evacuated) but it didn't seem to make them immune from culture shock. (Nor does it determine longevity in Bulgaria for the full two years.)

Their visit helped me to see through their eyes what I must have been like when we first arrived. And how far I've come since (our visit home last February helped a lot with my adjustment here). This trainee visit also helped me to appreciate what we have accomplished this year at school, particularly when it came to the resources that have been accumulated and sent here from America - within just nine months. The trainees were positively goggle-eyed at all the books and supplies that we have. And I believe them! It really is amazing to have been given that much support from so many people in the States.

An hour after the trainees left, we had our last class for quilting this spring. The group has decided that they want to continue in the fall. They are considering the idea of a "Straldja quilt" and seemed to warm to the idea of hanging it in the Muncipality building. They laughed when I suggested that maybe, if we sold it, the money could be used for more supplies; Rosie said we could use the proceeds for a party instead! Taking time to celebrate family and friends "in the present" is much more valued here than planning a more long-term project for "the future." In fact, our last session this week is a party. Everybody will bring something to share and Nadya, our cable broadcaster, will come to record the results of the "combining of two cultures" as she calls it, and show it on TV. I guess if we do nothing else (I believe though that we will start up again in the fall), just this much was a great learning experience for them - and for me.

We received a special invitation by phone Saturday evening to attend the Assembly of God Church, the evangelical church in town and the only other church besides the Eastern Orthodox. Whereas the Eastern Orthodox building seemed strange when we entered (obviously if I had been Catholic, it would not have felt so strange), the arrangement of this church was more familiar. What was once a home had been remodeled into a small entryway that led into a large sanctuary. There were tall windows on one side and a windowed room on the other side, which was where mothers sat with their children but could still see and hear all that went on. Wooden pews and wooden pulpit up front all seemed familiar. There was even an overhead projector that displayed words to the songs on the front wall. That's where the similarity ended however. The music seemed strange, the familiar odors of the church building that I expected were not there, and of course the language was not the same - although I could pick up some words. One word, "Gospodeen," was used at the beginning of each prayer. It can translate to "Lord" but since I learned it as the title for addressing a man, I kept thinking "Mr." every time I heard it used - and THAT didn't sound right.

As Rel noted, this is the only place in town where we've seen a mix of both Bulgarians and Roma. People were very friendly and seemed to be so pleased that we came (we were asked afterwards if we planned to come all the time). There was much singing, spontaneously begun by some women toward the front. And later accompanied only by drums played by Roma, who are well known for this skill. I could pretty well guess the order of service. During one prayer, many of the people in front of us held up their hands, as in supplication. When the young man to the left didn't raise his hands, the older woman down the pew from him whispered something and he raised them. When his arms went down, I was tickled to see the older woman this time slip over to his side, whisper something more in his ear, and his hands were raised one more time. I did not need to understand the language to figure that one out! "Straighten up young man in front of our visitors!"

Despite all the windows (and even smaller ones at the top) and the wonderful breeze outside, none of the windows were open. It was stuffy and hot inside when we arrived and continued until midway through the service when someone opened a door. Ah-h, fresh air! (And also flies.) I love the breezes but in most places here, they are not permitted to blow through the rooms. If the windows are open, the door is shut. Just like it was at school for our PC volunteers' visit. I made sure two windows were open in our classroom because it was so hot that day. When Rosie taught, she closed the door - it was just automatic - so there was no breeze passing through. When I taught, I left it open (although I don't think it helped to alleviate the heat). I did the same thing in our planning room several days later and wished I hadn't. I opened the window and opened the door and there was such a great breeze coming through. Rosie and I were looking over the grant we'd written. Valentina came in and as she left, she asked about closing the door and Rosie told her to leave it open. In the next few minutes, a strong breeze came through, slammed the window shut - and broke the window! It cracked and a small piece of glass fell out. Now I'm afraid that this room will be colder this winter than it already was last winter. Oh well, Naska says "nyma problem." (No problem). More later…Edith