02 November 2006

Ridin

Opel CorsaSo, after not having driven a car for over a year (with the exception of a short trip in Germany last December) I finally rented a car on Saturday—a Opel Corsa like the one pictured, except it was kinda greenish with no wheel covers, and the antenna was snapped off; but what can you expect for 20 Euro a day.

Fall colorsOn Sunday, Mirena and I were in Dolna Banya—a small town about an hour away where a Peace Corps volunteer lives and had organized that weekend’s Hash. We rewarded for the effort by perfect weather, brilliant fall colors, and—afterwards—a delicious, 5-course Bulgarian meal of salad, chicken nettle soup, rice-stuffed peppers, tender pork fillets with mashed potatoes, and—for desert—pumkin banitsa. All very tasty and surprisingly inexpensive. At first, I thought this was a picture from Mirena’s new camera phone, but since you can see her clutching it, it obviously isn’t; and it can’t be Barbara’s either—as you can she is framing up a picture on her camera. Photo credit: Niltay (I think.) I love recursion!

On Monday morning, I drove Mirena to work—to this old, Dickensonian steel mill that has probably never seen better days under state control, and now looks even worse since being bought by an Indian concern that is obviously squeezing the last bit of profit out of it before it will undoubtedly have to be shut down for not even coming close to meeting any European environmental standards. Then I drove up to Svoge to visit another Peace Corps volunteer—Jennifer. We continued up (north, but actually downhill along the Iskar River)—an area with particularly interesting geography. Our goal was the “Seven Thrones Monastery,” which was disappointing—it was just a chapel with 7 rooms—but the scenery along the way made it worthwhile.

The rest of time before turning in the car on Tuesday afternoon, I used it to make preparations for my party that evening. It’s interesting how natural it felt to be back behind the wheel, cruising out to the mall and to big-box retailer at the edge of town (I went to Praktiker—the German answer to Lowes/Home Depot to buy a new fluorescent light for my bathroom.) However, I was glad to return it—traffic around Sofia is terrible most of the day, and—although I became a shameless sidewalk parker—it’s nearly impossible to find parking space anywhere downtown.

Mike's costumeThe party itself was fairly low-key, which is to be expected for a “school night.” Mike definitely walked away with the best costume prize—he came as a blog; specifically as The Persistent Itch! He stapled favorite posts from this blog to the front of his t-shirt and pages from Ryan’s blog, Blog-aria, to his back. He said that he thought of splattering the paper with fake blood, thus being a “blog stalker,” but decided that would be in poor taste. Photo credit: Mirena

Incidentally, as I write this on Thursday evening, it has begun to snow!

Also, you may notice the list of “friends’ blogs” to the right has become significantly shorter; I've eliminated anyone who hasn't written anything in the latest 2 months—which is being generous; no use sending you there if they haven't written anything new. Hopefully this may goad some them into writing again. ;-)
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