31 August 2006

Fall is here

This week has been characterized by a distinct turn toward autumn. Starting with last Saturday’s hike in the mountains near Sliven, I have begun to notice that the leaves in certain trees are already turning colors and even falling. And, for the first time, I had to dig out my sweaters and jackets; the past few days have been particularly nasty: blustery, cool, and rainy. If you click on the weather bug to the right, you’ll see just how chilly it is—and it’s still August! Of course, this is a temporary cold spell, and it will get warmer again, but the trend to cooler weather is unmistakable now as I head into my second Bulgarian winter.

27 August 2006


Friday morning Paris picked me up in front of my apartment, and we headed out on our 4-hour road trip to Sliven (Сливен.) This was to be our 3rd and final "Internet Marketing" seminar, and despite the promise of a big crowd by Greg, the Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) who organized it, we were disappointed to find an audience of only 5. Lesson learned: when there is no cost involved, people don't value it (it was a free seminar that had been well-publicized in the business community in and around Sliven.)

On Saturday we set out for a hike in the mountains just north of town. Rather me retelling the entire story, I'll just have you click here for Jamie's (another PCV) account of the weekend's events.

24 August 2006

The Islands

Again, rather than a long narrative, I’m just going to give you some vital statistics and pictures.

Islands visited:
  • Barbados
  • St. Vincent & The Grenadines
    • Bequia
    • Mustique
    • Canouan
    • Mayreau
    • Tobago Cays
    • Union Island
    • Petit Saint Vincent
    • Palm Island
    • other small, uninhabited islands
  • Great Britain

  • British Airways 737 to London
  • Virgin Atlantic 747 to Barbados
  • Grenadines Airlines DHC-6-300 (20-seater) to Canouan
  • Moorings 4300 catamaran sailing yacht
  • DHC-6-300 back to Barbados (with a quick stop on Union Island)
  • Virgin Atlantic 747 back to London
  • British Airways 737 back to Sofia (arriving 4:30am!)

Currency in my wallet:
  • Barbados Dollar
  • East Caribbean Dollar
  • US Dollar
  • English Pound
  • Bulgarian Leva

The Spindrift crew
Our crew (minus Micah & Debby, who were taking the picture): Simon, Sarah, Pop, Mom, Joel, Mirena.

Froese family relaxing on beachThe Froeses chilling on Mayreau Island.

Captain Simon at the helmCaptain Simon at the helm, Sarah supervising, and yours truly trimming the jib.

hauling up the mainsailBrothers Micah & Joel hauling up the mainsail (as ordered by Capt. Simon) as mother watches.

15 August 2006

Argh Pirates

...of the Caribbean! We are sailing the Grenadines, having a great time. Simon is the captain of our home on the sea—a 43 foot catermaran. Every island, beach, and reef is more beutiful than the one before. Everyone is sunburned, but we can't help but getting more so. We never know what time or day it is—it's Caribbean time, mon! (BTW, the latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here.)

10 August 2006


OK, below are pictures to go along with the previous post.

This week has been somewhat hectic since I am getting prepared to got to the Caribbean for the big Froese family sailing trip, but it will all be good once I’m on the plane to London tomorrow morning.

D’oh! Terrorist plot in UK…I guess I had better prepare for interminable delays and additional inspections. And there goes my plan to just throw a couple of shorts and t-shirts into my backpack in order to avoid the hassle of checking luggage. Well, at least it’s now the safest time to travel; Seriously, what terrorist is going to do something now? They are going to wait until later, “when you least expect it.”

[UPDATE] I've been informed that I need to be at the Sofia airport 2 hours ahead of the scheduled 5:15 departure of the first leg to London-Gatwick; this means I have to be in the taxi at 2:30, which means I’ll set my alarm for 2:00. Argh!

the Cosmo quiz
Mirena, Megan (new MBAEC volunteer), and Julia thoughtfully consider a Cosmo quiz.

Joel in Vratsa
Yours truly on one of the charming pedestrian street of Vratsa.

152 days to EU accessionIn Vratsa, they are counting down the days until EU accession; I guess today it says 148. At this point every assumes that 1/1/2007 is a firm date—I agree; short of going to war with someone, the EU will accept Bulgaria and Romania next year regardless of how well (or—more likely—poorly) they do on their required reforms.

09 August 2006

Life of Joel

There is a certain young lady my own age who is apparently living vicariously through my blog when she’s not chasing one of her 3 screaming kids around the house; she recently chided me for not writing more about my exciting life in Sofia, Bulgaria—so here goes.

Saturday morning I awoke to the sound of rain on my windowsill. That obviously scratched my plan to get out on my bike, and threatened to ruin plans to go to the pool at noon as well (one of my friends suggested this, and I had rounded up a group of about 6-7 to go to cool off, as it had been quite hot in Sofia recently.) Well, noon came and went as a thunderstorm pelted rain against my windows as I goofed off in my living room. Finally, at about 2 o’clock the clouds parted to reveal an unusually clear blue sky (sans the perpetual layer of smog hanging over Sofia.) It was refreshingly cooler, so no one was interested in swimming, but by 3 o’clock it was dry enough and perfect for cycling; so after 3 weeks of collecting dust in the corner of my apartment, I took my bike out for a 2+ hour spin in the gritty northwest quadrant beyond the ring road—it didn’t look half bad, thanks to the beautiful weather.

That evening, I met Mirena and the two new MBAEC volunteers at Julia’s place for appetizers before we headed out for dinner. Alas, the most exciting part of the evening was flipping through an old copy of Cosmopolitan after our meal—it was actually interesting get a mixed perspective from one each of a male and female newcomer and veteran American expats, as well as a Bulgarian.

Sunday afternoon I joined Mirena for a trip to Vratsa, an industrial town north of Sofia. She had to inspect some real estate for a British client, and I thought I’d tag along just to see another part of Bulgaria. The two hour bus ride up there was pleasant enough despite the fact that the bus was so old (and apparently underpowered) it slowed to 30 km/h while going up-hill in the mountains at some points. The town itself looked as gritty as I expected, but after walking through the center, I found it had an extensive network of pleasant pedestrian streets set among delightful cafes and shops. This is something Sofia really lacks; even though Vitosha Boulevard is now closed to traffic in the heart of the shopping district, trams still rumble through every 5-10 minutes as well as occasional police cars, garbage trucks, and such—meaning you can’t really stroll leisurely down the center of the street.

05 August 2006

Neither here nor there

I had an especially poignant experience this week. On Wednesday, I received an email from Washington with a travel request form and instructions stating to return it by August 24th. The MBAEC will buy my ticket back home for any day between October 1st and December 30th, but I have to make the decision by the 24th of this month. I can’t believe this adventure is so close to ending!

However, on Friday, it was back to the “Immigration Police” station to renew my Lichna Karta (ID card and, more practically, my visa.) My current one expires on the 18th, so I have to renew it for at least another 6 months (thankfully at no additional cost to me.)

I don’t know whether I am coming or going!

At the same time, two new MBAEC volunteers—Ian and Megan—are now in town, and I am reminded of how I felt when I just arrived last year and the previous group—Rich, Maury, and Karen—were giving us the lowdown on living and working in Bulgaria. Now the roles are reversed: I am the grizzled veteran, and they are the idealistic rookies.