Sharing is caring and I have been remiss. Life on the Danubian Plains has far exceeded our expectations and 29 months on we have settled into life in Bulgaria to the extent that it feels like we have always been here. The wobble we both experienced in year one, in hindsight was probably driven by the frustration of not integrating into the community because of the language barrier. It was an itch we both scratched and sallied forward full of confidence that we could indeed make it here. Terry still struggles with the language but he has gained a few necessary phrases and words. The builders merchants and builders yards are used to him and him to them.
I joined the village dance group a year ago and this simple move proved to be the most important decision I made. It took courage and if I’m honest I made a few disingenuous excuses until guilt made me take my trembling self on a Tuesday night at 6pm and walk through the doors. Let me tell you no accomodations were made for my level of Bulgarian. I went with another ex pat, Catherine which helped enormously. For the first few weeks we stumbled, sweated and fumbled our way round even the most simple dance moves. I had convinced myself many years ago that I was so uncoordinated that any kind of group activity that required coordination was beyond by clutsy reach.
The women were epic, laughing at my intense concentration of their feet, trying desperately to follow by making quick counting paradigms in my head. That was until Lucy the dance leader took me to one side and told me to stop counting and listen to the music and the steps would follow. Just as I was gaining a modicum of confidence Catherine left the group and I made the decision to continue attending. The sheer joy of the physical activity, the laughs and the challenge drove me forward. So as the Spring hit and then the summer I continued to attend. Then 1 week there seemed to be such an animated conversation within the group, the volocity of the conversation left me clueless. Then Lucy asked me if I’d like to participate in an exhibition that would represent the village at the July Traditional Folk Dance and song Festival in the village. Actually I thought we were just going to perform so I agreed. Then I found out it was a competition and that groups from all across the region and country would be attending. Fair to say the bottom fell out of me, bounced off the floor and shot back up to my throat. What had I agreed to? It wasn’t only that at 57 I was suffering the usual versuvial menopausal flushes but the thought of representing the village as an ex pat. I felt a double burden of both representing the Bulgarians and the ex pat community.
But as dance practice became a daily matter in a room with no windows, 1 door and temperatures regularly hitting 50 degrees in the sun I put my heart and soul into the dances. The dance Stamena was 5 minutes 23 seconds of intense dancing with complex moves and Baba Yianitsa I played the overbearing Mother of a son who would choose his future wife from the remaining dance troupe. This required much comedic poking, ear pulling and slaps as he chooses against my wishes. The Tarakluka Festival was on the weekend of 23rd July with temperatures regularly in the 40’s and we were to wear traditional Bulgarian dress. Each village, region and dance has very specific dress requirements. So with hair tightly plaited to our heads, cotton blouses, heavy woolen skirks, beautifully embroidered and heavy aprons and dancing shoes we did indeed dance at the Festival. National TV, and crowds sometimes exceeding 2000 came to watch. Terry, beaming with pride, our good ex pat friends and all the villagers turned up and watched. If it hadn’t been for the tremendous support of the troupe, Lucy who organised and choreographed everything, young Aleksandra, Mimi, Memo, Greta who all were so understanding and supportive I think the heart attack I felt was imminent might actually have happened!
Tarakluka Festival 2018
Bouyed by this amazing experience we went on to spend an amazing 2 days at the Black Sea resort of Balchik in September. The Mayor paid for us to stay in a hotel, all inclusive for the dance troupe and the singing group. I had to learn an additional dance Reginitsa, not far off a river dance. I had lost about 10 kilos and my body was as taut as a drum. The group was smaller as Mimi and Greta had left for holidays but we still performed. Once the dance was performed we went to the sea and swam, we walked around the University Botanical Gardens, we ate enough food to sink a ship and the youngsters stayed late at the hotels club as I collapsed knackered into bed by 9pm every night. I was also proud of the fact that I drove the 5 hours there and back with the noisy troupe making the journey a hilarious one. The scenery was stunning and as I always do I drove murmering “Gods country” under my breath. This Saurday we are performing in Kazunluk, in November in our village and December in the village of Asparohuvo.
What else have we been doing? Terry, despite having an horrendous experience with a client and a fellow builder that almost broke him has risen like the tank that he is and has been booked solid this year and most of early next year with his building projects. Some of the ex pat communities can be devastatingly cruel and for a while we both came under the spotlight of some very nasty people. We decided that rather than retaliate we’d keep our heads under the parapet and continue doing what we do best, ergo, doing things, making the best of life, being honest and truthful in all things. And so the storm passed. We were extremely lucky in having a number of excellent clients who truly appreciated Terrys work and made that very publically known. Such is Terrys skill at roofing that some of these clients have had numerous knocks on their doors asking who had completed their work. And so his portfolio is growing by word of mouth rather than by the sometimes toxic medium of social media. I keep that entirely for social purposes, much to Terrys chagrin. But as I explain, he spends his days with his crew happily chatting away. As the home maker much of my time is spent talking to animals with the exception of dance practice and forays into the village and the neighbours. I cite the fact that each and everyone of my school reports stated that I was a chatterbox. Enough said.
This summer we had Terrys parents and eldest daughter Danielle to stay. Given that the renovation of our own home is not entirley complete we had an extreme mad dash to prepare for them. On one particularly amazing day I returned from the market in nearby Pavlikeni to find Terry had constructed an wonderful outside summer kitchen from the planked wood from the pine tree that was felled last year and natural live edged pine. My large gas range was installed and electric, the roof was tiled and we were ready to go. A 6 foot high coralled parking soon followed and a wood store next to the house giving the garden a more heuristic and natural look. I was particularly pleased with the fenced parking because it hides all of the many vehicles we have. I quickly got to work planting along the garden facing fence with Campsis Radicums, Honeysuckle, Jasmine and a Kiwi plant. I interspersed these with Hostas, dahlias, and Canna lillies. It didn’t have time to properly establish before the visit but has since thrived and is now on the decline for winter.
Much to our absolute joy Terry’s parents Denise and Tony absolutely loved Bulgaria and “got it”. As avid gardeners and lovers of all thing gardening and countryside they truly enjoyed their stay despite our worries that the heat and flies would put them off. It didn’t, and we spent an amzing 10 days with them. Tony went into work with Terry for 4 days which left Denise, Danielle and myself to do the markets and help in the garden. We visited the waterfalls at Krushuna, restaurants, parks and many other sites. It went by in a blur and before we knew it they were off back home.
Our animal kingdom is growing, some by choice and others not. We had 2 female pups of about 3 weeks dumped on us about 6 weeks ago and no takers as yet. We have 2 male 7 month old goats for the freezer, the 2 pigs and 10 chickens. Our freezers are set to be full for the winter months. The joy of fresh eggs can’t be described. Of the ever replenishing supply is simply wonderful. The slaughter of the animals begins when there is a solid 5 degrees overnight so we can hang the meat and let it solidify and hang. Mid to late November could be the dates. We’ll cull the older chickens as broilers and keep the youngsters for next years egg bearers.
We have freezers full of fresh chicken stock, apples, herbs, pears and bottles of fruit, chillies, tomato pasata, chilli jam, roasted peppers in oil, containers of walnuts and hazlenuts. The storeroom is nicely stocked. Only the shop bought goods need to be increased. Sugar, flour, yeast, UHT milk, a few tinned goods such as Terrys beans, Tuna and condensed milk as yet to be added. I did try making out absolute plethora of grapes into raisins but didn’t get it right. Thats for next year now.
The Car Boot I instigated in the village has picked up and is a great monthly affair. Alongside the car booters we have Keith and Caz’s Yorkshire tea stall which accepts donations towards the village fund, Tracey’s Treats with her amazing baked goods, pre ordered and picked up at the booty and Elizabeth the Crafy Balkan and her sheeps milk fudge, cordials, relished and jams. It is now as well attended by Bulgarians as ex pats and that is gratifying. The money raised has so far contributed to special equipment for a young girl in the village with cerebral palsy with a further contribution made by Charity Bulgaria. The entrance tickets to cultural events where villagers perform and represent the village and the next project is a defibrilator for the village. It is all go!