Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Seasons change and so do we: On Autumn, Bulgaria, and Kiddos

      I have to apologize yet again for taking so long to post, but I'll say that with the admission that probably this will be a more frequent rate. Life isn't interesting enough to merit a post every three days (even when it is, probably no one would read all of them anyway, so I'll keep things modest). But life's good here!

      As I've said before, because I find it very witty (though I've yet to meet anyone who agrees with me. Fortunately my reservoir of self-confidence is full enough that I manage to cope with such lack of support for my humor.), if Spring sprung, then here in Germany, Fall definitely fell. I'm becoming accustomed to the typical Autumn temperatures (in case you were wondering, the term "fall" is basically obsolete as a name for this season everywhere except North America), those being generally between 35 and 50 degrees on a given day. A month ago those numbers would have totally terrified me, but I'm managing to stay plenty warm and enjoying discovering the amusing style choices that go along with consistently chilly weather. (These include nylons under jeans, undershirts, boots over jeans, and wooly socks. Soon I will probably also manage a bommel hat (picture the knitted hats with huge pom-poms on the top. So excited.))

      All's been going well here. I continue with babysitting, language class, singing in the Palestrina choir, and meeting new people. I had Mexican food last week. Never thought a Corona would taste so good! Biggest excitement of recent time was my trip to Bulgaria over the weekend to stay with Nate and get my first taste of Eastern Europe (and all that those capital letters imply). 

     Of course the knowledge I was going to see Nate made last week draaaaaaaaaaaag, but thankfully made it through and woke up at 4 AM Friday morning to catch a bus and a train to make my 7 o'clock flight to Vienna and on to Sofia. (Bear in mind it was about 25 degrees out whilst waiting for this 4:25 AM bus. Burrrrrr.)  Five fairly uneventful travel hours later (aside from the brief amusement of having to be shuttled out to the plane in Vienna as a Chinese jet refused to move from its parking spot at our gate...), I arrived in Sofia Airport and was greeted enthusiastically by my loving boyfriend (who will kill me for having said that). Nate has a great apartment (once you get past the terrifying entry-way, replete with quite a few horror movie locations. I'm pretty sure it's where they shot the video in The Ring. Thankfully the door locked.) right down the street from the university and the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. We spent a good weekend with a lot of food (Mediterranean, traditional Bulgarian качамак  (I don't know how to pronounce that but it's delicious--basically hot polenta with feta cheese and sauce on it), amazing Indian food, and even some homemade imitation pasta primavera, accompanied by delicious Bulgarian wine) and a lot of sightseeing. Only in Eastern Europe do some of the main attractions include graffiti. We finished the weekend with drinks with some of Nate's Fulbrighter and Bulgarian friends, and then I headed back to Deutschland in the wee, wee hours of Monday morning (though a taxi ride to the airport was only 10 leva, aka 5 euros, aka CHEAP. Bulgaria's super cool that way. My apologies for taking advantage of their sad economy, but hey, girl's gotta eat.)

      I've never been in a country before where I have literally zero comprehension of the language. Though I'll be the first to admit my French is horrid, my Dutch almost non-existent, and my Italian laughable, I can fake a good please-thank you-where's the bathroom with the best of them, and at least make a reasonable stab at pronouncing street names/shops/menu items. Bulgaria was really a humbling experience, language-wise. The one word I had at my disposal (other than "snimki" (photos) and "kolka"(how much), which are all I picked up during four months of Nate's learning Bulgarian) was merci (thank you, obviously), which I generally said with a head-duck and abashed expression.  At one point I was asked what a restaurant we'd been to was, and I, excited to know the answer to something, spelled it out, only to be informed that what I'd just spelled was the word for Apotheke (literally, apothecary, like a drug store), which had been next door to the restaurant. Oops? It was incredibly nice to find, on returning to Vienna, that I actually understood the language around me. I know my German isn't perfect, but it's really improved a lot in the nearly two months I've been here, and it was fun to realize that.

Ridiculous statue in Yuzhen Park. Built in 1981to commemorate 1300 years of...something, it was apparently so shoddily constructed it started falling apart within a year, and instead of spending the money to tear it down (and thus admitting defeat), they just put up a wall to prevent anyone being decapitated by falling pieces of statue.
National Palace of Culture. And Nate. 
Mt. Vitosha 
Gorgeous little Orthodox church of St. George, dating from the 4th century. 4TH CENTURY. They were reciting mass in Church Slavonic while we looked around. So cool.
Changing of the guards. Not quite as impressive as Buckingham palace, but they kick while they walk! Funsies.
I don't remember what this is? National Theater, I think.

Because I can.
      Me being depressing. Feel free to skip: The only downside to such a wonderful weekend is, of course, having it end, so I've been moping around since I've been back.  It's becoming less of a foreign country here and more of just another place I'm living, so it takes a little more to pull me out of a funk than it would have, say, a month and a half ago. It's tough not being able to talk to people, and tougher still to realize I'm no longer an important part of the lives people are living back in the states. Seeing my boyfriend only once a month for a weekend is incredibly hard for me. But I'm living the dream here! I just forget it every now and then. But I really do love it here: I love the family I'm with, I adore the people I've met, I cherish the beer, and I really do love Germany. But I mean it when I say I miss you all!

      Also, realization has hit that I leave for the states (and Katie Ascani's wedding!) in T-23 days, so that's really a landmark time coming up! 

      Kids continue to narrowly walk the line between adorable/sweet/super fun and incredibly obnoxious/whiny, but that's the story with kids in general, I suppose. Kilian decided today my new name was to be "Gorga Lisping Lily Toilet," and he called me that without fail at the end of every sentence. For about three hours. Oy. I also roundly got my butt kicked at "Kennst du Rechnen?" (Can you add?), which apparently I can't. Ouch. Conversation topics tend to be pretty limited; our half-hour walk home usually bounces between what kind of cars we're passing (Ich lieb BMV! Ich lieb Audi! Ich will Porsche! (that's I love, I love, I want)), that the leaves have fallen (die Blätter haben runtergefallen!), who was first/who won, and that Cliona is not a baby anymore (Ich bin kein Baby! Ich bin ein großes Mädchen! (I'm not a baby! I'm a big girl!))  

      I tell you, spending so much time with kids really gives me appreciation for parents. Especially mine. Given the four or so hours I spend per day with the kids, I cannot fathom being a stay-at-home mother. I think I would go insane. Not that being an au pair is turning me against the idea of having children (okay, some days it does), but it has definitely furthered my resolve to wait until I am good and ready.  Being an au pair is a type of Mommy-practice, I guess, but I sure appreciate that I get to hand them back to their parents at the end of the day. I suppose motherhood doesn't include weekends off, now does it?  I'm still amused at the circumstances that have led me, a self-professed non-child lover, to commit to a year looking after children. 

      Also, wherever I got the idea that kids forget things so whatever you do is okay, definitely not a good source. I am constantly being reminded of things I haven't done. Kilian disapprovingly told me today I forgot to give him a plaster (Band-Aid, for those not familiar with British-isms) when he fell on his bike. Last Monday. Sorry? Never say something you can't follow through on, seriously.

      And that's basically all! Went to a cool little local festival last week called the Auer Dult, which was basically a huge swap meet/antique fair/trade show with some rides and lots of food, but ended up being good fun. Here're some photos, stolen from the wonderful Leigh Stephenson:

L-R: Jessica, Sophie's boyfriend, Sophie, ME, Leah, and Taylor

On the awesome and never-ending swings! 
Rickety-looking Ferris wheel

      And weekend before last, I finally paid the 1,50 to climb the steps to the top of the tower in Alterpeter, the church in the city center. A lot of very steep and tiring steps later, I had an amazing, albeit chilly, view of the entire city. 

Frauenkirche in background

Marienplatz from above
      To wrap up, I'll say again (and really can't say enough) how much I appreciate your readership! It really warms my heart. Please come visit me. All of you. 

1 comment:

  1. Laura!
    I always enjoy reading your posts. This one was especially interesting-- Nate, children, sight-seeing, etc... I remember when Yan and I were long-distance (for the first hear and a half of our relationship). We saw each other for a short weekend every 2 months. It was so difficult not seeing him and even more difficult to say "good-bye." I remember my mom shared the quote, "distance makes the heart grow fonder", which couldn't have been more true! You two are blessed to share so much together.. and this season of LDR will pass :)
    I'm so happy for you and your experiences (past and future). We think about you here in Cali (with a bit of envy ;P).