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Dear Dad,

Something terrible happened to your credit card. It kind of slipped away from my wallet into the cashier’s hands… multiple times. But you are happy when I’m happy, right? And I got mom something nice, so that hopefully, at least she doesn’t ask for more for a while.

Love,

Your only daughter

 

Black Friday

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season – with insane discounts! Hundreds of people camp outside the major shopping malls the night before and rush in the stores as soon as they open doors. This year, the Boston Cambridge Side Galleria opened at 1am!

My friends and I are not the extreme type, so we went shopping at 11am and still found the mall packed! “40% off until 1pm”, “Buy One Get One Free”, “2 for $30, 4 for $45”, “The More You Get, The Bigger the Discount” are only some of the attractive signs that lured us into one store after the other!

No wonder why this day is called Black! We finished shopping at 4pm, completely physically and financially exhausted! Long Live American Marketing!

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It’s not easy to be an international student in the States on Thanksgiving. They kick you out of the dorm for 5 days, all of your friends scatter to their respective places of origin, and you have to be very creative in finding what to do.

Bulgarian-German Thanksgiving at the Grosses, 2008

My strategy has been to try to be as traditional American as possible in order to experience the culture. Funny how that turned out!

 

Thanksgiving 2008: Three-and-two-halves Bulgarians and one turkey

The Grosse family was so kind to invite me and two other Bulgarians to their home in New Jersey over the Thanksgiving break. The Grosses used to live in Bulgaria and their daughters, the two half-Bulgarians as I like to call them, went to my high school in Sofia. So in 2008, they got together me and two other girls from that school who currently go to college on the East Coast. For dinner, we had all the ingredients of an American Thanksgiving Feast, but prepared the German way – potato dumplings, sauerkraut (German red cabbage), turkey breast (without stuffing), mama Grosse’s secret saus, all sorts of delicious German pastry (with strudels instead of pies), and of course, Bulgarian Red Wine Tcherga.  My cultural experience was further enriched with Black Friday shopping in the Short Hills Mall.

 

Thanksgiving 2009: Disney World, Orlando

Another not-so -typical holiday, I guess. Timmy and I went to Orlando, FL, where we spent the day riding on roller coasters, trying to get out of haunted houses, and spinning on all sorts of carousels. We saw a mini-city made up entirely of Christmas Lights, but didn’t really experience anything particularly Thanksgiving-ly other than the roasted turkey leg on the bone that Timmy and I devoured.

 

Thanksgiving 2010: Plymouth, It Can’t Get More American Than That

Now this was the epitome of Thanksgiving! We were in Plymouth, MA, where the Mayflower dropped anchor. We saw the Plymouth rock, which marks the symbolical spot where the pilgrims landed and the “Plimoth Plantation”, which is a living history museum. At the Plantation, we visited a 17th century English village that recreates the way the pilgrims lived. There are costumed  actors who have adopted the roles of actual historical figures and pretend that it is still 1627. So when I told them that I am from Bulgaria, they asked me how things were in the Ottoman Empire! Their historical knowledge was impressive! The other part of the Plantation is the Wampanoag Homesite where you can meet real Native People and talk to them about their culture and history from a modern perspective. Finally, I had a very American, very lovely Thanksgiving lunch with Timmy’s family : with a house full of bubbly relatives, mountains of food, and football! Exactly as Thanksgivign should be!

Read more about my meeting with Timmy’s family here.

 

Thanksgiving at the Arabs, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: The Middle Eastern Version

My roommates and I organized a pretty interesting semi-traditional feast for our friends. (Actually, Emma, who started preparing the turkey three days earlier and woke up at 7am to start cooking that day, should get all the credit. I simply decorated the living room with real fallen leaves, but then it ended up in vain because our oven exploded the night before and we eventually had to move the party to a different apartment, the so-called “Arabs’ place”.)   So, Emma ended up cooking for 30 people, most of whom were… Arabs! She invited all of us to hold hands and say what each of us is grateful for. Then we all sat down on the floor, Americans, Pakistani, Saudi, Bulgarian, German, and Chinese (in front of the American and Saudi Arabian flag?!), and had the most international Thanksgiving dinner so far!

So I am pretty sure that I now fully grasp the meaning of Thanksgiving! This holiday is about bringing people together and allowing them to share a beautiful experience like one big family! Cheers!

 


I found this awesome new campaign promoting my neighbor Romania. I don’t know if these clever ads will really attract tourists, but they will definitely create some positive associations and increase awareness for the country.

I like how they focused on scientific and sports achievements instead of nature, culture, and historical monuments, which are very typical themes for such national campaigns. The images look modern and catchy, I love them! Go Romania!

Let’s see if you know the names of all these people? (Answers at the bottom of the post).

Answers: Henri Coanda, Ilie Nastase, Nadia Comaneci, Nicolae Paulescu,Stefan Odobleja.


Dry cranberry harvest at Flax Pond Farm, Carver, MA

I did the quintessential autumn activity in Massachusetts  – I went apple picking and cranberry collecting! Our day trip was organized by Boston University’s  Sustainability@BU.

The cranberry is an evergreen shrub that gives small red fruit similar to tart blackberries. It is delicious dried like raisins or made into juice and is an integral part of the Thanksgiving dinner in the form of the sweet cranberry sauce that goes with your turkey. There are five major cranberries producing states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as some provinces in Canada.

Sorting dry-picked cranberries

The grower-owned and operated cranberry bog we went to is called Flax Pond in Carver, Massachusetts. The farmer, Jack Angley gave us a compelling overview of the lifecycle of this most typical Massachusetts fruit.

There are two ways to harvest cranberries – wet and dry – and we were lucky enough to see both!

The dry way is far more laborious because it involves a lot of handpicking in addition to using comb-like machines that “comb out” the berries from the thick shrub. Dry harvest produces higher quality cranberries that can be sold fresh and eaten straight away (although they taste way too bitter to me in this way).

The wet harvest, however, looks much more impressive and is what most people associate with cranberry production. The plants are grown on the bottom of a dry bed and once they ripen, the bed is flooded and becomes a bog! Because the berries are hollow inside, they rise up to the surface of what now looks like the Red Sea! Then all you need to do is collect the cranberries with a pump! Because of the water and the bacteria that live in it, the cranberries should be immediately frozen of processed.

Wet cranberry harvest

Up to the knees in cranberries, that's life!

Next, we went  apple picking at Highland Farm in Holliston, MA. Apple picking is also a New England favorite because of the many orchards in the region. We tried Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Golden Delicious, and many more whose scrumptious taste was much more memorable than the name.

Apple picking with Anna!


Question: When do you know that something is important to American students?

Answer: When it becomes a Halloween costume.

I will just note the most popular costumes I noticed around Boston University this Halloween and will leave to you to comment on the trends and their significance:

1) The 1% – groups of students dressed in (sexy) business attire with “1%” and “Occupy Wall Street” signs in their hands

2) Gaddafi – costumes of the former Libyan leader, with or without blood stains (not sexy)

3) Steve Jobs – a balding old man with an Apple logo on his chest holding a laptop made out of cardboard (not particularly sexy)

4) Black Swan and White Swan – usually two girls dressed like the main character/s from the blockbuster ballet thriller (very sexy)

5) Angry Birds – people dressed in big round costumes like the cartoon characters from the popular game (anti-sexy)

And what were you for Halloween?

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