Monday, November 27, 2006

Dusty's Birthday

My 27th birthday was November 12th. We had a dinner with our housemates and then invited neighbors over for cake. Gordon made a chocolate cake similar to the one that he won 1st prize for at the Polk County Fair when he was 11 years old!
It was delicious and very chocolatey!


Our house hosted a Halloween Party on October 31st, 2006. We dressed up as the Wizard of Oz cast. Gordon was the Lion, I was Dorothy, Greg was the Tin Man, Aaron was the Scare Crow, and Ebru was the Good Witch. We all had to teach on Tuesday and the party began at 5pm. We had sausages and plenty of snacks, two kegs of beer and lots of liquor and wine. Almost all the booze were gone by 3am, when we kicked everyone out.

We did a haunted house in the WWII bunkers, going into the ground about 40 feet below ground level and about 1,000 feet in length. We borrowed a super sound system from one of our students and people danced all night long. It was a blast, we sent out some super invitations and probably had about 100 people here at some point in time throughout the evening. My post character even showed up, Judy Garland!


There are several Canadians that work with us here at the American College of Sofia. So, we celebrate Thanksgiving twice here. Once on the first Monday in October and the other on the third weekend of November. We hosted a potluck style Canadian Thanksgiving at our house for the international teachers only (about 30 people). The American Thanksgiving will be hosted by the international teachers for all of the ACS faculty and their families on December 2nd. I am in charge of decorations and Gordon will be peeling apples and making pies with a friend, Aaron. Pictures will follow shortly, check again after December 3rd!

Rila National Park

The second weekend in October we used the school van, a 1980 blue old beater that the international teachers get to use on nights and weekends, to go on a hiking adventure up into the Rila Mountains. These are located in the southwestern parts of the country. The participating persons were Gordon, Greg, Aaron, Vinci, Kazaka, Martin, Vlado and I. We drove up on Friday afternoon and returned on Sunday evening. It was a 2 hour drive and 1 hour hike in the dark up to a large rectangular cement building in the middle of nowhere with the moto "Tuka e Taka" which means "If you dont like it, you can leave". Needless to say, the management had the attidues to match and we spent as little time as possible at the lodging. We hiked for about 7 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. It was a drippy weekend and foggy, but we got to do some exploring in the beautiful country side. We used peanut butter as fodder to feed wild bulgarians we encountered.

Veliko Tarnovo

Teaching abroad at an American school is so wonderful because you get to observe the American and the national holidays! So, for Bulgaria's Independence Day- September 22nd, 2006 we (Gordon, Jonathan, and I) went to Veliko Tarnovo. This is a city of about 75,000 people and is the old capital city of Bulgaria. It is in the northern central part of the country. VT is the location where their Constitution was written in 1878 and has evidence of human settlement dating back to 5,000 years ago!

We traveled 3 hours by train from Sofia. Unfortunately, there was standing room only because of the national holiday. We spent our days roaming around the city streets, visiting the Anthropoligical Museum and an ancient Byzantine Castle. About 30 minutes after arriving a local elderly woman offered us rooms in her house. So, for about $12 USD each we stayed at her apartment, the second picture above is a view from her balcony, nice!

During THE Independence Day celebration we were lucky enough to endure a super patriotic speech by the Vice President of the country, of which we understood about 6 works, for example "holiday" and "independence". The marching band was nearly gunned down by overzealous soldiers firing heavy duty artillery. We even witnessed 5 army personnel pass out from standing at attention for so long... such patriotism! The speeches were concluded with a spectacular light show over the Tsarevets Castle, mostly built in 1185.

And thus concludes our Bulgarian Independence Day experience. Where do we go next?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

around Sofia, Bulgaria

Above is a picture of our house, set back in the forest, about 1000 feet from the main administration building of the campus. It is a cozy little place with the names of Last House, the Love Shack, and building #11.
Gordon and I spend most of our Saturday afternoons walking about Sofia and the historical downtown district. We like to window shop and talk to the locals. We eat at restaurants and shop at the wonderful second hand clothing stores, accumulating "stuff" for the four seasons and decorating our home. The modern structures are built around the historic. You can find a Nike or high end Italian clothing store next to a church built in 900 AD.

coming to Sofia, Bulgaria

We arrived to Sofia, Bulgaria on August 26th, 2006. We are here to inspire and mold the young minds of Bulgarian and International students from all around the world while gaining an insightful and personal experience of the the foreign environment that surrounds us.

We live on campus in a cozy little house set off to the back side of the campus from the school buildings. We have two house mates, Greg and Ebru, who are from British Columbia and Turkey respectively. Greg teaches 10th grade Chemistry and 11th and 12th grade IB Chemistry. Ebru was born in the USA and lived there until she was 13 years old, when her parents finally moved back to Turkey. She teaches 8th grade English/ ESL. We all share a kitchen downstairs. Gordon and I live upstairs and have 1 and 1/2 bathrooms, a large office, a bedroom with queen size bed, a large storage room, and two walk in closets. There is a wood fireplace downstairs and there is radiator heating throughout the house. Most of the floors are wood and there are many beautiful carpets throughout the house.
Gordon teaches 10th grade American Literature and 12th grade IB English A2 SL and HL. I teach 11th and 12th grade IB Economics, IB Math Studies, IB Mathematics SL and IB Mathematics HL.
There are 7 school buldings, about 4 floors each with about 15 classrooms on each floor. There are about 700 students and 100 faculty. About 10% of the students and 30% of the faculty are foreigners, aka "Internationals". The International students are from Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, England, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Germany, India, Australia, Canada, and the United States. The Bulgarian students are very smart and have to pass a rigorous exam to attend the school, before their 8th grade school year. All Bulgarian students must pass this exam before attending the school and they can only begin attendance in their 8th grade year.

We spent our first week here traveling around the southern parts of Bulgaria visiting to popular tourist scenes, such as the Rila Monastary pictured below, and to Greece to obtain a Bulgarian work visa in the city of Thessaloniki. So, we were able to travel with the other 14 new hire international teachers and get to know them during the 6 hour rides in a van and lounging on Olympus Beach.

The first day of school was on Friday, September 15th, 2006. Everyone had a smile on their faces and all of the students seemed very anxious to meet up with their friends and meet the new students and teachers. There was a lot of good energy going around. It was a nice introduction to the school and our new environment for the next 2 years!

Our History

We met in Portland, Oregon in January 2003. We lived in Quito, Ecuador from August 2004 until July 2006. We were married in Fenway Park on the Green Monster on February 13th, 2006 and moved to Sofia, Bulgaria in August. We are living and teaching on campus at the American College of Sofia. It has a lot of character and history,

Istanbul, Turkey

Gordon and I just returned from our Thanksgiving holiday where we went to Istanbul, Turkey for 3 days. We traveled with two friends, Greg, from British Columbia (on the right), and Aaron, from Washington (on the left). It was a 10 hour bus ride from 9pm on Wednesday night until 7am on Thursday morning.
We had an excellent time going to museums and bazaars and roaming the streets buying stuff;s rugs, tea, a backgammon board set, dunars (chicken or lamb burrito wrap), tee shirts, jeans, purses, etc. We visited many interesting sights, including structures more than 2000 years old, some created during the Justinian era. While Gordon studied about the Dead Sea scrolls, I decided to go to a Reggae show with Aaron and Greg. Istanbul has a great music scene.
We explored the Archeological Museum of Istanbul on Saturday. We saw the oldest love poem in the world, written on clay around 2037 BC. There were tombs of famous Roam Emperors and Sultans. The museums were packed with marauting young children who surrounded and bantered us with questions. It is said that the longest turkish word is "whereareyoufrom"!

The city was beautiful. There were people fishing 24/7 off of the bridges around the city. They had huge long poles with about 5 hooks on each line to catch little tiny fish. I think the reason they have such big poles is because they are hopeful fisherman?

Istanbul has about 1 garbage can per 5 city blocks, thus it is very dirty. But, everynight there are crews of cleaners and garbage trucks that sweep about the city, so it is mostly clean in the morning and repeating the cycle everyday. There are about 937 cats per person, they are very friendly and well fed and everywhere!

About 3 out of 5 people that we encountered spoke English. They are very friendly in general, and happy. Istanbul is a touristy area that is very appealing to those interested in ancient cultures and history.

Overall, it was a lovely trip and we had a wonderful time! It was nice to have a break from teaching. We hope to visit Western Europe during Christmas Holiday, including Slovenia and Austria.