After a sleepless night in the air over the Atlantic, a few hours in the Frankfurt airport (now branded “Fraport”), and a two-hour Lufthansa flight to Bulgaria, we (and all our luggage) arrived without incident at the Sofia airport. It is a surprisingly small airport for a national capital, and upon passing customs (roll through the ‘green’ lane), we were met by Doriana and Delcho from VEGA-BTD. They had arranged for two vans to take us and our pile of luggage to the city, where the first order of business would be to sign contracts for our new apartments. This took probably an hour, but felt much longer because I was fighting to keep my eyes open due to sleep deprivation. I had been told that in Bulgaria most apartment buildings look dilapidated from the outside while many units are well appointed. This was certainly true in my case; the entrance, stairwell, and elevator were quite shabby, but I was very pleased with my apartment: bright colors, hardwood floors, modern furniture & fixtures—including a big TV, stereo, and air condition. Turns out my fellow Bulgaria-based Corp members were similarly impressed with their apartments; Ryan characterized his with the phrase “pimp my crib.”
I didn’t have much time to unpack or do anything else except go to the ATM and get some Lev. This is a story in itself: I inserted my card, punched in the PIN, and selected the maximum withdrawal of 400 lev. The machine whirred on and on, stopped for a while, and continued several times. I began to worry that I would never see my (only) ATM card again when the door finally opened and a wad of 40 bills were delivered (I have no idea why this machine dispense only 10 lev notes.) As I said, I didn’t have much time because at 6:30pm we were to meet Doriana and Delcho for dinner at a traditional Bulgarian restaurant in order to meet the 2004 Corp—specifically Rich, Maury, and her husband, Andrew (Karen—whose project I will take over in October when she leaves—was unable to attend.) We had some good food and conversation (since they had been through everything we had already done and will do over the next year.) As I had mentioned, I was dead tired and as soon as my head hit the pillow at 9:30pm, I fell asleep.
Tuesday morning I awoke at 9:45 and rushed to take a shower and get dressed because we were supposed to be at the VEGA office by 10:00am. We went through some administrative issues, were issued our cell phones (see schedule & contact page), and went to police station to register our stay—as is common in Europe. That afternoon Doriana led us on a shopping expedition for essentials at the Austria supermarket, Billa. Afterward I fixed myself a little dinner culminating in desert consisting of a Nutella (knockoff) sandwich—I don’t know why I deprive myself of this sweet ambrosia in the states—it is available even in little old Columbia, South Cackelacky. I finally unpacked my suitcase, and now I am catching up on the blog for you!