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?


Dilma Rousseff and Georgi Parvanov

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.

Dilma Rousseff's Family Tree at the Gabrovo museum

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.

Dilma Rousseff's note in the visitor's book at the Gabrovo museum

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:

 


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.

*

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

 

 


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.

The palace of the gypsy mobster Tsar Kiro

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.

Angry village sets Tsar Kiro's house on fire

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.

Peaceful protests against the police's tendency to close eyes before 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.

Boston University School of Management Atrium


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!


 

This is the official trailer for a new travel series dedicated to Bulgaria, made entirely on high quality HD. Travel TV producer  and director of the project Victor Dimchev said that “This is Bulgaria” is a video catalog of the country’s national and historical landmarks. It aims to attract foreign tourists but also to remind Bulgarians to appreciate what we have.

So far, Dimchev’s team has passed 100, 000km and has completed 3/4 of the 13-film-long series.  It is yet to be determined which international channels will broadcast the film. A DVD version will also be available.

Simply put, I can’t wait!


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.

*

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.


The Bulgarian-Polish wedding from my previous post reminded me of an essential cultural idiosyncrasy that I must clarify in the name of the friendship between our two peoples – the difference between getting drunk in Poland and in Bulgaria.

As you probably have heard, Eastern European nations have notorious drinking habits. In other words, the drunkenness of Russians, Serbs, Polish, and Bulgarians has passed into a proverb. But as a proud Bulgarian, I feel obliged to draw an important difference between the ways the Polish and the Bulgarian drink.

The difference is not in the quantity, because both the Polish and the Bulgarian would drink legendary quantities on any particular occasion. It is not in the results either because anyone hardly ever remembers the results. The key differences, as a matter of fact, are three: the type of alcohol, the speed, and the mezze.

The Type of Alcohol: This is very straightforward: The Polish drink vodka. The Bulgarian drink rakia, mastika, beer, and wine in no particular order. This difference is determined by geography – the Bulgarian climate is favorable towards a greater agricultural variety, so we can produce more types of alcohol.

The Speed: The Polish take shots. The Bulgarians savor the drink. Therefore, a Polish gets drunk much quicker and immediately starts dancing, while a Bulgarian will drink, talk, sing, and dance (in this order) throughout the entire night.

The Mezze: The Polish just take shots. The Bulgarian take their time eating, drinking, and socializing around the table. As long as the Bulgarian munch on thinly sliced lukanka or sour pickles, their full stomachs slow down the effects of the alcohol.

In conclusion, although the Polish seem as the more mighty drinkers during a wedding, the Bulgarians will eventually catch up and will probably keep on drinking long after the Polish are under the table.


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!


Nesebar is as overcrowded with tourists as Sunny Beach, but at least the beautiful ancient architecture of the city makes it feel quaint and charming. Since the Antiquity, this port town has been ruled by the Thracians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, and the Bulgarians, and there is plenty of ruins and old buildings that remind tourists of Nesebar’s long history. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t go there on the best beach day.

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to Sofia, we stopped at Burgas, Bulgaria’s biggest port city, to see the Festival of Sand Sculptures. Every July, artists from various countries (I spotted names from Australia Portugal, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, and Bulgaria) take part in the annual festival in the Sea Garden in Burgas. The sand sculptures are built with 3300 tons of special river sand mixed with C200 glue, so that they can hold strong at least until the end of September.

This year, the theme was Cinema.  Indeed, the sand sculptures can take you on a journey through the greatest Hollywood movies with their incredible scale and detail – the fine lines on Professor Dumbledore’s face from Harry Potter, the elvish writing from Lord of the Rings, the beads in Jack Sparrow’s hair from Pirates of the Caribbean, the sleeping girl by King Kong’s side. Which sculpture is your favorite?


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!

Enter your email address to subscribe to Zikata's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 74 other followers

Follow me on Twitter!

Share this Blog

Share |
July 2021
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Read it? Rate it!

RSS Getting curious:

Your Green Eyes

Ad