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“I’m really sorry. My family is crazy,” Timmy said.

In the grandparents’ cozy dining room, around the festive table, Timmy’s gregarious family members and I were celebrating my first real Thanksgiving, Irish style.  In the beginning, there was a big fuss about who is sitting where because no one wanted to sit next to the two left-handed people; no one wanted to get elbowed from the left. The merrymaking continued throughout dinner, and the most cheerful giggling came from Timmy’s mom and her twin sister’s corner. Next to me, his other aunt was teasing her son, a second-year frat-boy, about his older Latina girlfriend. This aunt also said that I don’t have to eat Timmy’s mom’s jelly if I don’t like it, and instead passed me her own tomato and pesto stuffing.

Meanwhile, the twin and her husband started arguing about their year of marriage. When it turned out that she was wrong, she lovingly nagged him about his Southern accent. In the other side of the table, Tim’s mom was asking if we could please take a bite from a dish that her colleague at work had made, so that she could at least say that we tried it. As a good son, Timmy was trying from everything… several times:  the sweet potato casserole, the cranberry jelly, the stuffed baked clams, and of course the mouthwatering turkey.

At one point, his dad tried to cut the family’s volume in order to hear Timmy’s sister’s greetings from California over the phone’s loudspeaker. In order to send a picture to the cousins who couldn’t make it this year, the grandmother instructed us to pose in front of the camera. We ended up having to take six or seven shots because she kept telling Timmy to put on a normal face. Then everyone praised the grandmother’s special apple pie, and the grandfather proudly pointed out all her handicraft on the walls and shelves. Then In the end, everyone asked her for a different digestive: various teas, coffees, mint candy, and brandy. Timmy’s mom blamed him of being an alcoholic for asking for brandy.

“Every family is a little bit crazy,” was my response.

Thank you for a charmingly crazy Thanksgiving!


The juniors at Boston University’s School of Management refer to this time of the semester as Hell Week. As the deadline for our Core business plans approaches, we are driven to dementia and insanity.

 

US college students take coffee to the next level.

 

Pulling all-nighters is not a new thing on the international college scene. What’s new is the way Americans do it.

It’s not uncommon practice for college students to take stimulating drugs to help them stay awake for days in a row and to hyperconcentrate before exams and projects. The most popular “medication drugs” are Ritalin and Adderall. Their main ingredients are methylphenidate and amphetamine.

Under the influence of these stimulants, students get a rush of energy and become extremely focused for several hours. They become so efficient they can cram a semester worth of material into a 12-hour all-night study session. After the effect has passed, they crash.

These stimulants are in fact prescription medicine for children and teenagers with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)*. Those who have access to the prescription drug turn it into a profitable business. One pill costs about $5 and can keep you going for 5 or 10 hours (it comes in long and short acting forms).

 

Americans claim that in a typical classroom, there is at least one child with ADHD. They treat this child with drugs and stimulants to cure its "hyperactivity" and to force it to "hyperconcentrate". Now who thinks that this is absurd and wrong?

 

*(You have not heard of ADHD? Probably that’s because you don’t live in the States. In my opinion, ADHD is a medical hoax rather than a medical condition. I believe it is like the connection between Sadaam Hussein and the attack on 9/11, or like the claim that French women don’t shave their armpits: it’s a purely American myth. Some of the ADHD symptoms include: inability to stay still and quiet, difficult concentration, and hyper-energetic behavior. However, for the sake of objectivity, I have to say that there is significant scientific proof supporting the claim that ADHD is a legitimate disease. I leave it to you to decide whether it’s overdiagnosed and whether it could or should be cured. )

While the existence of the ADHD disorder is questionable, Adderral and Ritalin’s effects are very real. College students don’t seem to mind the fact that they are taking powerful pills for symptoms that they even don’t have.

***

While some stimulating medications are sold with prescription in drugstores and resold by “studious” college students, other stimulants are widely available in convenience stores. 5-Hour Energy is an energy drink that comes in a small bottle the size of a shot. It supposedly contains herbal stimulants, caffeine, amino acids and vitamins, which give you a strong energy kick.

Four Loko, which was recently banned in Massachusetts, is another strange energy-enhancer in a can. It is a 12% alcohol drink mixed with an energy drink. Consumers become very awake from the caffeine boost without realizing that they are getting drunk as well… until the caffeine effect wears off and they black out.

After all I learned from my American peers about the (ab)use of energy enhancers during Hell Week, I have only one question: Whatever happened to getting a healthy good night’s sleep?


 

The Bulgarian Rose is an essential ingredient of Katy Perry's debut fragrance, Purr.

 

Pop diva Katy Perry launched her debut fragrance, Purr, in early November. The perfume is sold at Nordstrom for $45 for 50 ml and $65 for 100 ml. The Nordstrom description reads:

“Purr by Katy Perry begins with the aroma of peach nectar and forbidden apple, evolves with a distinct floral bouquet of jasmine blossom, Bulgarian rose and vanilla orchid, and slowly reveals accents of creamy sandalwood and musk. Like the singer herself, Purr is playful yet sophisticated. Katy Perry transcends barriers with her music—so does her new fragrance.”

Let me tell you more about the legendary Bulgarian rose.

There is a place in Bulgaria, between the Balkan Mountain Range (Stara Planina) from North and Sredna Gora Mountain on the South and Stryama River to the West and Tundzha River to the East, called the Valley of Roses (Rozova Dolina). For centuries, people here have cultivated the Kazanlak Rose and extracted its valuable Rose Oil.

 

The Kazanlak Rose is one of Bulgaria's national symbols.

 

The scientific name of the Kazanlak rose, named after the major town in the Valley of Roses, Kazanlak, is Rosa Damascena. It has very small but very fragrant pink and pink-red flowers. From its petals, we produce the world-renown Bulgarian Rose Oil, also known as Rose Otto or Rose Attar.

It takes about 3000-3500 kilograms of rose petals to produce 1 kilogram of rose oil, which in turn costs about $7,000. In the past, the price of rose oil almost reached that of gold, so to Bulgarians, Rose Otto is “the liquid gold.”

 

Young rose-pickers throw petals in the air along the streets of Kazanlak

 

Bulgaria is the largest producer of rose oil in the world. Other top producers are Turkey, Morocco, Iran, France, and Italy. The rose oil is widely used in the perfume, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries (Read more about Rose Oil Info and Uses). Some of the perfume brands that use rose oil as their essential ingredient are Dior, Givenchy, Kenzo, Gucci, and Nina Ricci, but undoubtedly the most famous perfume containing Bulgarian Rose is Chanel No.5. The oil is contained even in the most expensive perfume in the world, Imperial Majesty by Clive Christian, which sells for about $300,000 per 500 ml bottle.

Rose oil production is very labor intensive and requires great expertise. The petal-picking season lasts only 20 days in a year. To preserve the best qualities of the petals, the rose-pickers, traditionally young girls, have to gently pick the blossoms one by one early in the morning, before the rising sun evaporates the dew from the petals. Naturally, the rose-picking season is an occasion for celebration.

 

The Bulgarian Festival of the Rose proves that beauty is ageless!

 

The Festival of the Rose (read more) takes place in the beginning of June in Kazanlak since 1903. Some of the highlights include the beauty contest “Queen of the Roses,” the rose-picking ceremony in traditional folk costumes, and the parade with folk music and dance, masked kukeri (read my post on the kukeri carnival), and traditional art. The rose festival in Kazanlak is a true celebration of beauty!

***

Did you read my post on the Festival of the National Costume in Zheravna?


1. Persuade Bulgarian friends to celebrate Halloween – FAIL

Reason: To them, it’s a crazy, senseless masquerade and just another reason for girls to dress slutty and for guys to drink beer… where did they get that idea from?

2. Persuade American friends to visit Salem, MA (origin of the witch hysteria) for Halloween – FAIL

Reason: Not worth the effort, especially since there are plenty of frat parties around

3. Buy a costume from costume store (Garment District in Cambridge, MA) on Oct.30thFAIL

Reason: Everything is too expensive ($100 for an Avatar blue latex costume)

4. Make my costume/make-up myself – QUESTIONABLE

Reason: No one was sure if I was a ventriloquist doll, an harlequin, a big baby, or an outright clown… oh well…

5. Enter a club on Halloween – QUESTIONABLE

Reason: The tight mob was pressing at the doors of the club, the bouncers were taking their sweet time letting people in  although the club itself was empty, guys were climbing on top of parked cars in order to cut in line, and a girl had a stroke of panic because she was pushed around and almost suffocated

6. See a costume competition in a club – QUESTIONABLE

Reason: It turns out, being creative or funny in your costume choice so last-year. Being Katy Perry in her whipped-cream-bra-and-blue-wig costume or Lady GaGa in her swimsuit-like costumes is in!

7. Watching the Boston Halloween Bike RideSUCCESS!

Reason: I watched at least a hundred enthusiasts who had dressed up themselves and their bikes coming from Cambridge, through Boston, and down Brookline. Next year, I’m in with you!

8. Eat candy/drink pumpkin spice latte – SUCCESS

… the things we do to avoid getting “tricked”

***

If you want to see some really scary and beautiful costumes, take a look at my previous blog entry about the traditional Bulgarian monster costumes kukeri, compared to some beautiful carnival costumes from the Bahamas.

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