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On October 5th, the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, returned to her father’s birthplace – Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Read more about Dilma’s Bulgarian roots in my previous post.
The Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov held his welcoming speech for Dilma Rousseff in front of the symbol of Gabrovo, the April High-School, where Dilma’s father, Petar (Pedro) Rousseff had studied as a child. While walking around the school earlier, the two presidents had spontaneously decided to set up a Portuguese class there, as well as to encourage the study of Bulgarian in Brazil. Dilma’s visit, according to Parvanov, was one step further towards bringing our nations closer.
Mrs. Rousseff’s speech in front of the April School startled the citizens of Gabrovo with its warmth and wholeheartedness: she shared that this day was one of the most emotional in her life, comparing it to the birth of her child and grandchild and her election as president, because she was fulfilling her father’s dream of one day returning to Bulgaria. She said, “Part of Bulgaria lives in Brazil in the face of her President.” Rousseff also spoke of creating a new world of tolerance where differences in religion, culture, and ethnicity do not matter.
In Gabrovo, Dilma personally met with the relatives of her father, Petar Rousseff. She visited a museum exhibition called “The Bulgarian Roots of Dilma Rousseff” where she shed tears at the sight of her Bulgarian family tree, which dates back to 1730. She was also very impressed by the portrait of her aunt whom Dilma is named after.
The presidential visit was indeed as emotional for Dilma as it was for the people of Gabrovo, who were completely won over by the Brazilian head’s sincerity and humanity.
I am very impressed that one of the world’s most influential leaders took the time to pay respect to her father’s roots and to honor his people. I find it fascinating that the relationship between Petar Rousseff and Bulgaria was so strong (even after he had to flee the country) that it transferred to Dilma. To me this is a striking example of the powerful link between the emigrant and his motherland and of the burning nostalgia for home that can transcend even generations.
This is my First Essay in Russian!!!
I’m so proud of it I decided to share it with you!*
*Don’t mind the chicken scratch!
Check out my previous post about learning Russian in How Do Foreigners Hear Language.
It’s the 47th race weekend for the annual Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest regatta!
This year I found probably the best viewing site – the 18th floor of Boston University’s Student Village residential complex. Eh, it’s probably not as exciting as being on one of the Charles River bridges where you can actually hear the coxswains’ commands and see the tension in the crew’s faces, but it certainly offers a breathtaking view of the entire river and the city of Boston.
I started studying Russian this semester. Although Russian and Bulgarian significantly differ in terms of grammar and pronunciation, our languages are in the same time very similar since they both belong to the Slavic language group (and because Bulgarians gave the Russians our common Cyrillic alphabet!). Thus it’s understandable why I sometimes unconsciously use a Bulgarian word and plop a Russian ending on it, or (mis)pronounce a Russian word like it would sound in Bulgarian. (I wonder if the Spanish, Italian, and French have the same difficulty when learning each other’s lengua/lingua/langue.)
Interestingly though, my classmates (Americans, French, and Chinese) never realize my mistakes and just stare blankly when my professor, a native Russian, and I laugh over my tongue twisters.
So I was wondering, how do people perceive an unfamiliar language and when does one start “hearing” and distinguishing foreign languages? I know from experience that learning languages can be very difficult and requires many years of study, but I also think that it’s very easy to learn to distinguish one language from another by simply listening. I am confident that I can accurately pinpoint the sound of most European and many major global languages, even though I will certainly have trouble extracting the words.
If you were ever wondering how English sounds to foreigners (and why so many of them claim to be fluent in English while you, the native speaker, have no idea what they’re saying), then take a look at this made-up-English video:
Yesterday, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov met with the former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at New Boyana Film Studio in Sofia. Arnold presented Boyko with a replica of the sword he fought with in Conan the Barbarian.
Boyko’s action movie idol even flatteringly joked that the prime minister should join him, Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, and Jason Statham in the action-movie movie The Expendables 2.
Earlier this year, Borisov, a former bodyguard, Secretary General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Mayor of Sofia and currently dubbed as “the man of the people”, gave the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a puppy as a present during Putin’s official visit to Bulgaria. Borisov’s present deeply touched the Russians’ hearts and immediately became a media sensation. Here you can watch a song dedicated to the puppy.
An article in The Economist from October 8th spoke of “a week of racially charged rioting” in Bulgaria. I want to use this post as an opportunity to refute this article.
The problem as I see it is that last week, a crime occurred in Bulgaria, which raised a debate about a social issue. The Economist inaccurately interpreted it as a racial issue.
These are the facts: for the last three years, there had been a feud between two families in the Bulgarian village of Katunitza, near the city of Plovidv. The feud culminated on September 23rd with the murder of a 19-year-old member of one of the rival families. So far, the issue seems completely criminal.
The matter became more complicated when the entire village, enraged by the brutality of the murder, rose to a violent protest against the family of the killer: the villagers threw stones and bricks at the mansions of the assassin’s kin, set one of the houses on fire, and completely destroyed a few of their luxury cars. The two families, the villagers, and the police got involved in the turbulence, and several people were severely hurt.
Let me explain why an entire village would rise against a single family. This particular family clan is that of Kiril Rashkov, or as he calls himself, Tsar Kiro. Tsar Kiro is a well-known criminal who built an empire producing and selling fake alcohol. He is filthy rich (thus his mansion and luxury cars in a village near Plovidv), and is obviously involved with corruption since he has not been put in jail yet. He has been arrested for owning fake alcohol distilleries several times and has numerous charges for illegally acquiring property. Tsar Kiro is, therefore, one of those filthy rich gangsters who think that they stand above the law and can do anything without worrying about the consequences. Unfortunately, this is a very typical phenomenon for Bulgaria and the Balkans in general.
The riots in Katunitza occurred because Tsar Kiro and his mobster clan had been terrorizing the village unpunished for many years – it so happened that the recent brutal, insolent murder broke the camel’s back. Therefore, the reasons behind the riot were social: it was a reaction to an impudent reign of crime.
And now, let’s get to the racial aspect of the issue. Tsar Kiro and his family are gypsies – or Roma, call it as you wish. He calls himself a “king” but in fact he has never helped “his people”. He is as far from the poor, deprived gypsies as any rich Bulgarian criminal would be – he lives in palaces while they live in the slums, and he does not give a dime about them. The 19-year-old victim of the feud was indeed a Bulgarian boy, but he wasn’t killed because of his race but because he threatened to bring a case against Tsar Kiro to court. Thus, the tension in Katunitza was of social, not racial nature.
It is ironic that during the unrest, the police was protecting Tsar Kiro’s property instead of defending the taxpayers, but this is a different matter.
The news about the events in Katunitza of course evoked various reactions. Many people from different cities around the country went out peacefully demonstrating in the streets as a sign of support for the villagers. In several places, these demonstrations were headed by an extremist Neo-Nazi group called Ataka: they raised anti-Roma slogans and tried to create calamities in Roma neighborhoods, but were quickly stopped by the police. The latter short-lived anti-Roma demonstrations expressed the views of one single group of people and by no means the views of the general population or of the entire Bulgaria.
Therefore, dear Economist, we are talking about a crime and a social issue, but not about ethnic tension in Bulgaria.
This year, I’m enjoying my classes at the Boston University School of Management even more because of the beautiful sight I see every morning when I walk in. Notice the white-green-red flag next to the American flag.
About 20% of students at the School of Management are international.
My Strategy professor opened a restaurant this March. It is called Saus and serves Belgian street food – pommes frites (Belgian style French fries), poutine (fries topped with gravy and cheese), frikandel sandwiches, Belgian waffles made with very fine pearl sugar, and of course an armada of secret-recipe dipping sauces. Saus is located downtown near Government Center, right next to the Union Oyster House. It has a big sign “Kick*ss Waffles $3.75” on the window, so you can’t miss it!
When my classmates and I visited Saus on Saturday evening, a man with in an apron covered in powdered sugar greeted us cheerfully from the kitchen. We barely recognized the professor we were used to seeing in a suit. He was very happy to see us and spent almost half an hour chatting with us and answering all our questions about his venture.
I was very impressed to see that the owner, who is already an accomplished businessman and a highly-esteemed university professor, was getting his hands dirty with batter for waffles. It proved to me that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to put your heart, soul, and hands into the work. Indeed, his energy and enthusiasm were filling up the entire place!
My professor told us that Saus is already very popular among Emerson College and Suffolk University students because of its proximity to the clubs and bars they visit. He said that he plans to turn Saus into a chain, to introduce imported Belgian beer on the menu, and to sell their many specialty sauces through retail outlets. I wonder if my family’s Bulgarian wine will sell well with his Belgian waffles?
My classmates and I devoured the poutine, frites, and waffles with home-made Nutella and licked our fingers with delight! We thanked our professor, promising to spread the word about Saus among our Boston University friends, and left the restaurant utterly inspired by his work.
I had a blast at the all-American cookout at Kimball Farm, Westford, MA!
Kimball Farm is a farmhouse, an ice cream hut, a golf course, and an amusement park all in one and dates back to 1939. I went there as part of a Boston University School of Management (SMG) student leaders retreat because as you know, you have to work hard to play hard!
Kimball had set up a large tent decorated with corn stalks and huge orange pumpkins for our group’s initial work session. The intense brainstorming must have sharpened our appetite because in less than an hour, we had already stormed for the Great American Cookout: all-you can eat BBQ chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, mashed potatoes, and grilled veggies.
Then, as true future executives (I wish!) we went to practice our swing at the driving range. I feel that I need to apologize to every golf aficionado that I have ever poked fun of! Golf is sooo difficult, and it does require a lot of skill, and it is a real sport! Needless to say, I didn’t do too well at the driving range.
As if to prolong my embarrassment, my friends decided to take me for minigolf next. I did a little bit better at the pitch and putt and definitely demonstrated a trend of improvement: at first I needed six putts (or pitches, I don’t know?) in order to score, but later did it with 3 and even 2! Mind you that I sent my ball to the lake once and then almost broke someone’s nose with a fly ball.
The bumper boats, the exotic animals show (a kangaroo, a bush baby, a python, and a rare owl), and the farmhouse’s specialty, their rich milky ice-cream (Black Raspberry and Mocha Almond for me) made this day complete!
A side note, do you know that you can learn a lot about one’s personality from the way they behave at the bumper boats? There is those who bump into everything they see, then there is the ones who choose a victim and chase it down to the end, and then of course there is the shy ones who circle around on the outside of the lake trying to avoid eye contact. Me? I am the one who would take her umbrella in the boat and attack!