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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!

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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:

 


Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to Arnold: "Look at the camera and smile or I'll beat you up again!"

 

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.

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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.

Boyko Borisov, Vladimir Putin and the puppy

 

 


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.

Boston University School of Management Atrium


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!


To all my friends who thought that I have the accent of a Soviet spy: yes, I have finally infiltrated you, and now nothing can stop me to roam unnoticed among you: I officially have a Massachusetts ID. I’m behind enemy lines.

Always a patriot, even with a Mass ID!

I’m not sure how I feel about that though. Can I still act snobbish and international when I show my Bulgarian passpo.. I mean, my Mass ID, or should I be humbled by the fact that I’ve blended in with the American crowd?

I think I might compensate with a thicker Eastern European accent. After all, I look down upon this piece of foreign-to-me legislature, which I have obtained only so that I don’t lose my beloved Bulgarian Passport when partying in the clubs. I haven’t betrayed my country, OK!?!


I have three new roommates this semester, and they all have interesting stories to share.

One of them, Emma, is of Cuban descent. When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, Emma’s grandfather realized that his country is no longer a place where he would like to raise his children, so he drove his entire family out to Miami. None of them has been back to Cuba since.

Emma said that her grandmother is now quite old and is terrified that she might die before she sees Cuba again. Why don’t you just enter Cuba from Mexico, I asked? Because her grandmother prefers to die without having returned to her motherland than to return there while the Castro regime still lasts.

Isn’t it tragic to love and hate your country so much?

Emma says that her grandparents always keep a bottle of champagne at home in case Fidel or Raul die. So, she said, we are also having a big party at our apartment in case that happens.

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Read more of my posts on immigration: 

The Hungarian Belly-Dancer Who Hates London

One-Way Ticket to the States

Soviet Elephants And the Polish Taxi Driver in Boston

Preserving My Cultural identity in America

 

 

 


I didn’t expect that I would be so, so happy to be back in Massachusetts! After nine months in Europe, now I am rediscovering Boston – the elegance of the harbor and financial district downtown, the cultural hotspot of Cambridge where I joined a South American carnival procession a few days ago, the raunchy but extremely fun bars in Allston – the college students’ part of town, the restaurants with ethnic food where they celebrate customers’ birthdays with a disco ball and flashing lights (Brown Sugar Thai Restaurant), and the overwhelming choice of brands in the gigantic grocery stores  where I can finally get the instant oatmeal, guacamole, hummus and papaya that I so much missed back home.

And of course the river! I’m so happy to be back near the beautiful Charles! I love walking along it, reading by it, sailing on it, and since this semester, waking up every single day to the most beautiful college-dormitory window view in the world:

My view from Boston University's Student Village


I just arrived in Miami (a little detour before my senior year starts at Boston University). To my greatest surprise, the first words I heard were in Spanish… and so were the second and the third.

The staff at the airport greeted me in Spanish and so did the lady at the road toll, every street sign is translated both in English and Spanish, and apparently there are only Spanish radio channels in the car. Everyone just assumes that you speak Spanish! Luckily, I do, but how strange must it feel like to the Americans who don’t?

It sounds funny, but it seems that English is like a second language here.


This weekend, I went to my friends’ wedding. It was probably the wedding I have enjoyed most so far! The bride and the groom were very young and so were their guests, so for once I didn’t have to explain myself as a kid to someone’s parents or grandparents. Also, the music was perfect – the best hits from the 90s, which I’ve grown up with, and only very few evergreens like ABBA, Beatles, Elvis, and the such, which usually the older crowd enjoys. There was even plenty of Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Anyways, this youthful wedding was terrific!

And then it occurred to me that the newlyweds weren’t that young at all. Actually, they were at the age at which people normally marry, 25-27. So it wasn’t that they were so young, it’s just me who is getting older and leveling with the age of marriage!

A few years ago, I thought that only old people get married, and now finally it’s people my age that do! It gives me the chills to think that in another 15-20 years, the bride and groom will seem like youngsters to me and I won’t be able to recognize any of their music! Sometimes we need such events that are anchored to a certain period in life to realize how time passes by.

So much for my eye-opening experience. Congratulations and cheers!


On Oriana’s last day in Bulgaria, my friends and I took her for an evening sightseeing tour of downtown Sofia and a night out dancing chalga (the notorious Balkan pop-folk style). Unfortunately, her camera had frozen three days ago and mine had exploded in my hands on the previous day. So without pictures, I guess you would just have to use your imagination!

In the end of my post series, I would like to share with you three observations:

1. Bulgarian and the Slavic alphabet are not so difficult to pick up. Bulgarian tomatoes and Bulgarian sirene can change the pallet even of the biggest food hater.  Oriana likes the pop-folk/chalga rhythm and dances surprisingly well to it, even better than many natives! J

2. I’ve really enjoyed reading Oriana’s blog about our trip because I see how the same experiences have affected us differently and have left us with different impressions.

3. Traveling the world and staying with friends is one of the best things you can do!


11 August 2011 – Armin Van Buuren, DJ Number One in the World, played at Cacao Beach in Sunny Beach until 7am on the next morning!

The show was the finale grande of Solar Summer Fest 2011- an annual festival organized by Yalta Club – voted #19 in DJ Magazine Top 100 Clubs, and sponsored by Tuborg.

The concert was absolutely mind-blowing! There is something incredibly inspirational about dancing on the beach all night long under the refreshing summer rain together with thousands of young people!

As the night was progressing, Oriana and I kept moving closer and closer to the stage until we spent the last hour or two on the frontline! When the sun rose, Armin came down from the main stage and reached out to his fans! He touched both mine and Oriana’s hand and signed his name on every hat and flag that his fans threw towards him. Finally, he took a big Bulgarian flag and wrapped it around himself to show how much he loves the Bulgarian audience – and thus completely and utterly won each one of us forever!


Can you spot us?

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Scroll down for the answer:

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There we are! Read my next post to find out more about this concert.


As religion and revolution have intertwined in Bulgarian monasteries (read my previous post), so have religion and politics fueled one of the biggest social issues of the day in the States.

Oriana, a high school teacher near Boston, told me that one of the gravest issues she encounters in her work is teenage pregnancy (no wonder why Oriana couldn’t stop watching European music TV channels – the American MTV has replaced music clips for reality shows called 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom). She said that every year, there are pregnant girls going to classes or pregnant girls who drop out of school. I was very surprised because at my high-school there has never, as far as I know, been such a case. So don’t your students use any protection, I asked? No, said Oriana, they don’t use any protection and some of them don’t even know how to use condoms. That’s when I found out that Americans don’t have sex education!

In all Bulgarian high-schools, teenagers have a few sex education classes where they teach you the basics of the reproductive system, sex, STDs, etc (if you draw the short straw you might even get to put a condom on a banana in front of your giggling classmates). The classes are usually given either by a teacher or by the school psychologist.

Apparently, on the other hand, the States not only forbid sex ed, but in fact forbid teachers from even talking about sex or “even worse” – about abortion! (Which again confirms my belief that in America, sex is a taboo and violence is acceptable while in Europe, sex is art, and violence is hidden).

Why, I asked, is sex ed forbidden if teenage pregnancy is such a big problem? The explanation according to Oriana, lies somewhere in the relationship between the American voters, the Church, and lawmakers.

The anti-sex ed laws together with the anti-abortion laws, were established by the Republican party, whose electorate is to a great extent comprised of strongly religious people (of whom America has many) who belong to the middle or lower strata of society. These extremely religious voters do not necessarily agree with or benefit from everything the Republicans stand for (especially in terms of the fiscal policy), but they still vote Republican because of their coinciding belief in the doctrines of the Bible: that there should be no sex before marriage and absolutely no “killing of the innocent unborn child”.

Therefore, Oriana concluded, having sex education at school and explaining how to use condoms would be as if approving sex before marriage or sex with a non-reproductive aim.  Thus, everybody who is against abortion votes Republican and gets sex-talk-free schools. This system, however, proves to be corrupt because even though some might be pious, many teenagers in schools like Oriana’s are obviously not abstainers.

So it’s not enough that American parents stand against sex ed; to top it all, teenagers have very strong opinions on abortion (dictated by their parents and their churches, of course). Once they get pregnant, the vast majority of Oriana’s students keep their babies. Actually, there is even peer pressure to keep the baby! I could hardly imagine this: it’s not enough that you are teenage and pregnant, that your parents’ Republican representatives frown upon abortion on TV, that you hear about pro-life choices during Sunday mass, but on top of everything, your schoolmates discuss another classmate who made the right decision and became a mother.. for the second time!

An unfortunate vicious cycle, right?  Your religion forbids you to have sex before marriage, your country forbids you to learn about pregnancy prevention in school, your socio-religio-political convictions prevent you from getting an abortion, and in the end you find yourself pushing a baby cart to prom.


On our first night in Veliko Turnovo, Oriana gave me an important lesson. It was the night of the 9th to the 10th, or the night before my birthday, when we decided to go for a cocktail at a local bar. As we were sitting down at one table, the three boys who had entered the bar just after us asked if they could join us. As Oriana later said, I had knitted my brows to form a big and shocked “go away!” Thankfully, Oriana’s ever-ready smile had outshined the clouds on my face, and the three boys sat down next to us.

They were three Italians vacationing in Bulgaria. They were coming from Sofia and were headed to Golden Sands resort at the Black Sea. Two of them were from Milano and went to Bocconi, where I have many friends, and the third one – from Florence.

We talked about Oriana’s trip around the world and what a shame it was that she would visit Germany, France, and Bulgaria (“Heeey!..,” I objected) but not Italy, about the difference between south and north Italy (which is almost like that between Barcelona and New York), about thin-crust pizza in Venice and risotto in Milano, about what they had seen so far from Bulgaria and how much they liked our cuisine.  We exchanged blogs links and travel tips.

When the clock hit twelve, they all started singing Happy Birthday to me in different languages! Among the five of us, these were seven languages – English, Italian, Bulgarian, Spanish, German, Turkish and Chinese! So this is how thanks to Oriana’s open-heartedness and friendliness, I received an unforgettable multi-lingual birthday party!

As we were walking back to our place, having said goodbye to our new friends, Oriana shared with me her father’s words of wisdom:

Always say yes. If a boy comes up to you and invites you to a dance, just say yes. You don’t know how much courage it took this boy to ask you, and you don’t know how wonderful of an experience it might turn out to be, so just say yes. At least give him one dance only, but just say yes. It makes life so much more interesting!


Today is My Birthday! 

Since I feel very wise with my just recently completed twenty-two years of rich life experience, I would like to share with you one of the most important lessons I learned in the past 365 days.

A friend isn’t someone you necessarily have known for a long time or someone you think you know very well. It doesn’t have to be the one you expect or the one you hope for.

A friend could be a recent acquaintance or a previous casual encounter that you have already forgotten. It can definitely hit you like lightning and light up the whole road ahead of you.

I wanted to express my gratitude to exactly those true friends whose companionship presented me with the best gift: some of my brightest and warmest memories.

… To the cousin I had been estranged from for many years – our renewed friendship showed me that blood is blood and that there is a lot that connects us whether we remembered it or not,

… To the friend of a friend of a friend whom I had met only once before she offered me hospitality and camaraderie beyond imagination – I intend to follow your example and open my home and heart to every guest or lone stranger in a foreign land,

… To the one whose brief introduction impressed me and whose getting-to-know has completely charmed me and inspired me to pursue my own epic journey – I want to be brave like you and never stop traveling,

And to all other new and old friends of mine, A BIG THANK YOU! You are my best birthday present!

A friend is like a gemstone that you find on your way and keep as a good luck charm. 


What is the most delicious fruit in the world?

Forest strawberries from Rila mountain that you have picked up yourself (or with your mom’s help)!

Have you been to the most beautiful place in the world, the Seven Rila Lakes?


It is not easy to celebrate America’s Independence Day in Bulgaria, but I tried to be mentally as close as possible to my overseas friends. This is a list of the “American” things I did:

1. Spent the weekend evenings at the open-air jazz festival, A to JazZ, which presented the history of jazz: from its birth in Mississippi in the beginning of the 19th century, past the influence of swing and bebop, and until the music of the iconic Frank Sinatra and his interpretation of the American Dream. The event was organized by America For Bulgaria Foundation and took place in Doktorska Gradinka (Doctors’ Garden).

2. Went shopping in an American-style mall, where I tried on a pair of Levi’s and checked out which Hollywood movies were playing in the cinema.

3. Walked past McDonalds, Starbucks and Subway… but did not enter in any of them. Instead, bought some imported US beef jerky for my brother from the supermarket.

4. Tweeted and Facebooked my Fourth of July greetings through my smartphone.

Yep, no all-American cookouts in the back yard, bonfires at the beach, or fireworks over the Charles River this year. The fourth of July was just a normal summer Monday here in Sofia, without any sign of stars or stripes.  It’s such a pest that I’m always in the “other” country during big holidays!

Happy Fourth of July!

Read about my 4th July 2010 in Boston

 


On Tuesday, my mom and I went to an ice-cream and wine tasting! The event took place at Gelateria Confetti in Sofia and was organized by Bacchus, the wine and gourmet magazine.  Read the magazine’s article here. These are the six combinations (click on the pics to enlarge):

Vanilla truffle ice-cream with nuts and chardonnay paired with Cluster Chardonnay

Dark chocolate ice-cream with nuts paired with Solitaire Merlot

Strawberry and pistachio ice-cream with fresh strawberries and mint leaves paired with Asti Canti sparkling wine. One of my two favorites for the night!

Lavender ice-cream, cheesecake, and Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spatlese – my definite favorite for the evening, both in terms of ice-cream and wine!

Prosecco ice-cream decorated with melon, paired with Rosé

And the gran finale: Malaga ice-cream decorated with grapes and paired with Gran Feudo Blanco Dulce de Moscatel!

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Read my previous post about sexy Bulgarian ice-cream advertising.

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