Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis The Season

Hey everyone,

Yes, I have been slacking writing this blog and my readers, and I have decided to rededicate myself to the blog in 2012. The past few months has been hectic, and my blog writing has been replaced by the gym, George, ESPN America with football and hockey games on replay weekday evenings, holidays, responses to the fourth grade squirrels, and holiday festivities. Hmm, let's be honest, sixty percent of blog time was easily devoted to ESPN America, watching replays of hockey games and getting my hockey fix after not seeing any games in such a long time. There are so many things to write about, that this section might need two blogs. Without further ado, let's give 2012 everything it needs to keep you entertained. Here goes:

Introduction of Amelie, Amelie torturing my roommate, and how my boyfriend is like my lovely, yet animal crazy Aunt Camille:

Since the last blog I have a roommate since early November and at least for another month or so, plus got a new kitten. Times have changed in the apartment, and has made the life more lively and interesting. Around November 10, Adrian moved back from London and has been residing in the spare bedroom to finally get his degree, and finally figure out what he wants to do in life. For those keeping track, Adrian is my ex-bf, but we have become like best friends and breaking up was the best thing that ever happened to our friendship.

On November 29, I finally subcumed to the pressure and decided to get a household pet in Bulgaria. Growing up on a farm, I love animals, and this is the longest period of time without having a pet, 3 and 1/2 years. George also helped tremendously in Amelie's introduction to 8 Charlz Darvin. He has been asking for pets for a long time, and he reminds me of my aunt Camille.

To give you a small background on my aunt Camille's heart and attitude towards animals, she wants as many animals as possible, and she would have every animal known to humankind if she had her wish. In high school, our barn was full of animals, which was one of my best memories growing up, even if it did mean waking up every day at the crack of dawn to take care of all of them. Camille is the reason I got into riding horses, and she made sure I had a horse to ride for two years which I am forever thankful for, because horse riding and getting to know a horse while riding is one of those unique things in life you should never not do. Riding horses is more like you and the horse learn each others personalities, and you cannot be successful if you do not get to know the horse and what the horse is like. While I wasn't exactly a smashing success like my cousin was riding horse, I at least had a blast riding every day and escaping whatever was happening in reality by getting on a horse and riding for an hour or two a day.

But besides the horses, my aunt would willing sacrifice her entire paycheck on getting more animals, just to have one more is her goal. If possible, she would have had an elephant, tiger, or you name of the animal here to reside at the farm. If Camille did not have my cousin controlling her, she would go to an animal auction, and come back with about 2,000 animals because she thought they needed a home. That is just the type of person she is. We had llamas, buffalo, deer, rescued raccoons, and any other exotic animal which was legal to have. My first year in Balchik with the Peace Corps, no one there believed there was an antelope in our kitchen until my mom sent a picture of the antelope inside the house.

George is just like Aunt Camille in wanting about 5,000 animals. He saw some photos of monkeys at Kamy's place from her Bali pictures, and asked if we could have a monkey. After saying no, he asked about a chimpanzee instead. If George had his wish, I am certain my apartment would have a minimum of five cats, five dogs, a monkey, three rabbits, a parrot, two horses, two ferrets, and a giraffe. Luckily, the memories of goats and an antelope in our house in winter will never leave my memory. So, I said yes to ONE cat, and eventually will get a dog one day, but let's give the cat a year or two or three to adjust before there is mention of a dog.

Amelie is a wonderful three month old fireball of energy. She is very sweet, playful, loveable, and also a mischievous little devil. She has learned to play nice, and so far the leather couch has survived. Her favorite activity is harassing Adrian when he gets home from work. Amelie loves Adrian and is a mischievous little devil for him most evenings. Pretty much, she goes into his room, wants to play since she has slept all day just to be awake when he comes home from work around 12:30am,. She jumps off my bed where she instantly wakes up as soon as Adrian comes home, and greets Adrian, then tortures him inside his room until he yells at her for being a mad kitten. Just in the nick of time, she races away and hides in my room for a few minutes while I am sound asleep (because Adrian is a vampire and stays up until about 5-6am). Amelie has figured out she is completely safe and sound once she enters my room, and I am a sound sleeper and never hear Adrian screaming at Amelie as she tortures him. The whole process repeats until about 5 or 6 am, when Adrian goes to sleep. Afterwards, Amelie becomes my cat alarm clock at 6:40, sleeping with me, and then cuddling on my neck to make sure I wake up for work, and most importantly feed her IAMS. There is an innocent look in her eyes trying to pretend she was in bed sleeping the entire evening, but I always hear the real story when I get home from work. Below, enjoy the video of Amelie showing her true colors.

Joining the New Gym with the Muscle Guys and Crazy Gays:

After Thanksgiving, Adrian and I decided to join the new Atletik gym about one kilometer from my apartment. Pretty much, it is totally worth the 30 leva I pay every month to go to the gym. While I get to work out there about 4-5 times per week, the interactions and the men who go through are totally worth the price of admission.

To give you an idea of what it is like, here is a breakdown of the percentages of men who go to this gym:

Straight muscle guys: 40%
Gay Men: 40%
Random old men: 10%
Undeclared(meaning not quite sure if they are muscle or gay or both): 10%

Watching the men work on the machines and free weights is easily worth the price of admission. Think of it as the Atletik West Side Story, except with Bulgarian gays versus the muscle guys. Here is the top five of my favorite interactions while working out the past 45 days, of which there are tons to choose from, but I had to limit this to five. Drumroll please:

#5: finding Adrian's future 'boyfriend': Working out with Adrian doing weights together, and finding the most 'lovely' guys for him to be his next boyfriend. Sometimes, I am cruel and decide to comment on his future boyfriend while he is in the middle of a set of weights, which causes him to laugh out loud losing his concentration, and causing me to laugh like a hyena, while the gays glare at us in disapproval for daring to laugh while working out.

#4: The old muscle guy with bicycle clothing: He is on the list because he is around 50, but has decided to work out with bicycle clothing to show off his body, and prove he has zero fat on his body. Pretty much, his outfits are loud and out of control, but he is the one muscle guy who talks with everyone, gay or straight. For that, he gets extra points, even though somebody needs to stop wearing the bicycle clothes in the gym. He will never win a Tour De France with that heavy of a frame, and he needs clothing where we are not reminded of his package every time he walks around the gym.

#3 The model:
Two days before New Year's, I saw one guy from Varna who is convinced he is a model, and even had photo shoots made to make him look like a model. Well, now he has moved to Sofia, and works out at the new Atletik gym. Well, for this particular workout, he was wearing a gay fabulous workout mesh shirt, in which you could pretty much see his body, asking for helping from the straight trainer on how to use certain weight machines. While the trainer loved helping the hot woman who wore a see through white shirt with no bra and had nice perky breasts, he wasn't as excited to help out the model. Reluctantly, the trainer went to help the him a few machines, while the model showed off for the trainer, hoping that he might be able to compete with the hot chick with perky breasts. Sadly, the model's chest was nowhere near as perky.

#2 The straight guy with a decent body hitting on girls who doesn't wear deodorant : He almost made the number one spot if it weren't for the three guys below. Two times I have seen him work out, and you can easily smell him halfway across the gym. If I were counseling this guy like I do a few people as Judge Judy, this would be my advice to him in my imaginary world:

Me: "Dude, I get the metal shirt, but WTF is wrong with you not wearing any deodorant? See that hot girl you were checking out?????? Well, you're never going to get her because she can smell you and knows you're the guy who stinks like a village shepherd guy who hasn't taken a shower in two months!!!!!!! I see you work out, and you have a decent body. You want a chance at that hot chick? Well, do this thing called personal hygiene and take care of yourself. Otherwise, you're going to end up with one of the French Arab gay guys who is going to put on a wig because they're not that picky. Do you understand? Those three aren't that picky, and you know it. After your workout, go downstairs to the grocery store, pick up some deodorant, and bring flowers to the hot chick next time to make up for that awful smell she had to deal with while you were staring at her breasts. Then, you might have a chance. Got it? Ok, Приятен ден биатч."

#1 The Gay French Arabs: I saw these three guys last month when on the elliptical, trying to get out of my fat Oprah phase. Pretty much, these three guys joined the gym mostly to drool and stare at all the guys working out. Here is the lowdown on these three guys.

French guy #1: Well, since I am in a moment of honesty, he makes me look wafer thin. He spends most of the time sitting on the couch, lightly biking for three minutes, or walking on the treadmill for a maximum of 10 minutes during the 90-120 minutes he is there.
French guy #2: He is the diva of the group, and he is cute in his own mind, and sincerely thinks he is god's gift to men. He works out sometimes, but is also sitting on the couches half the time 'reading magazines', but really fantasizing about which muscle guy he wants to take home after the gym.
French guy #3: Precisely like French guy #1, except not fat. He wears glasses, so it is even more obvious which straight muscle guy he is fantasizing about while 'reading magazines' on the couch.

One day, these three guys were watching Adrian and I the entire time we were working out on the couch. I finally realized this when they followed us into the changing room, hoping that Adrian and I would strip, get naked, show off, and maybe invite them home. Sadly for them, Adrian and I disappointed them severely by putting on track pants over our shorts, putting our jackets on, and immediately leaving the changing room. Since then, I think have been on their shit list, because I was the one who mentioned we had to leave right away, without mentioning those three guys. They are ALWAYS there when I work out, and are a constant source of entertainment. I wish these three could have their own reality show, and just watch what they do in the Atletik gym and around town.

Final Moments: Well, anyone is welcome to come work out with me at the Atletik gym, just to prove that I am not making any of these things up. I leave you with a great song by the Muse. George is harassing me that it took me FOREVER to post this blog, so I am going to post more often to get him off my back. Enjoy the blog, and feel free to post comments or questions. Sorry if my video of Amelie doesn't work, but I will figure this out, or have George do it for me.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Role playing in Sofia

Hey Everyone,
This month has been crazy busy moving to fourth grade, work, cooking, and dating. Yes, I said dating, lol. While I will always be on the Sofia D-list in the gay world here, dating someone does make life a lot more interesting, but does not change the opinion of all the insane gay men here in Sofia. So for the past two months, I have shunned most of the gay world of Sofia because I don't have the energy or time to deal with the craziness of these bumbling idiots, except for my two main gays, Alex and Rado. Living in straight A-list world with the boyfriend has been fabulous while life has been as hectic as a speeding Mafiaso in his Audi driving down Tsarigradsko Shosse.

In the next issue, I promise to return to D-list stories for those people craving those mad unbelievable stories because we have a good laugh about this constantly with friends. This issue of the blog will not disappoint you, trust me. There is LOTS of drama involving getting things done for the apartment, and what one must do sometimes to keep utility and internet/phone companies legit. There is a section for peanut butter chocolate chip brownies and pumpkin brownies, which are both given the stamp of approval from the fourth grade squirrels I teach. Let the good times begin! Enjoy reading this issue!

Hot Water Bill Refund:
Remember a few blogs ago when I said my landlady was super persistent and on the verge of being highly annoying, so people will do anything to get rid of her and she gets her own way. Well, this tactic worked finally. In August, I got a 180 leva refund on my 1,250 leva hot water bill from December because of her role of being a persistent pest, and refusing to accept corruption, beauracracy, or stupdity. She also got 250 leva back on her bill of 1,400 leva. In terms of miracles, what Nadia did is similar to Liverpool beating AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final after being down 3-0 at halftime. For American Football fans, what Nadia did was similar to the Bills comeback win against the Houston Oilers in 1993 when they were down 35-3 with Frank Reich as quarterback(I still remember driving with Zack and simply being dumbfounded as we drove back to the farm listening to the radio, because the game was blacked out). Simply, these things should not happen, and we celebrate these small moments in life as miracles.

After dealing with Nadia, I am sure the people at the hot water company felt much like the Italian commentator from AC Milan for the Liverpool/AC Milan match. No Italian is needed to understand, but you can hear his jubilation when AC Milan scores every single goal, going up 3-0 at halftime. This jubilation is what the Sofia Hot Water company felt without fully understanding who they were dealing with when they saw Nadia. Then, listen to the dejection in his voice as he saw Liverpool slowly come back and win on penalties. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6DElrKyEFs

Cable TV and Internet Drama:
When I returned home in August, my landlady and I decided it was time to get an upgrade on the internet and cable. After three years, I desperately wanted to watch hockey and football because it was one of the few things I really miss here in Bulgaria that I don't have. ESPN America is readily available throughout Bulgaria, and at first it seemed doing this would be really easy. My current telephone and internet company, Vivacom, had all these advertisements stating great optical internet, wireless modems, and cable promising fantastic cable. Niavely, Nadia and I believed these advertisements, and signed up for a year contract. What unfolded should not surprise anyone, because advertisements commonly lie to people in Bulgaria, in order to lure them in for offers. For 40 leva a month, we thought we were getting a great deal. Instead, here is what unfolded with the internet and cable:
1. Wireless modem: The wireless modem was essentially useless and a sloth could find faster internet than the Vivicom wireless modem. Claiming to have great coverage throughout Bulgaria, the experiment in Balchik with my host family proved the modem was embarassingly slow, and my smartphone worked 1,000,000 times faster than the modem.
2. Old Cable TV: Well, Vivacom told Nadia it would be super easy to install cable in the apartment. When they arrived in late August, they could not grab a signal anywhere in the apartment for the satellite, which was comically funny, yet inept at the same time because I saw all these other satellite dishes around me. Yet, they still wanted us to pay until Nadia called them up and raised holy hell. I so wish I could have overheard that conversation.
3. Optical TV/Internet: All throughout Sofia, you see large, gigantic, herculian ads stating how Vivicom has optical internet throughout Sofia. At this point in time, Vivacom's optical coverage consist of two apartment blocks in Mladost. So for all the money spent advertising their coverage, it is a big, fat, humongous lie to lure people into false contracts they cannot get out of. Such is life in Bulgaria. Beware of what the advertisement actually advertises.
4. Payback time late September: Two weeks ago, Nadia struck back at Vivacom for their stupidity, by playing our own trick. One rainy Wednesday evening, I went with Nadia to the Vivacom office, where she was my mom, and I was her Bulgarian son raised in America, and spoke Bulgarian with a huge American accent. My job with to lay on the American accent when speaking, flirt with the girls, and sell the fact I was going back to America in a week and didn't need the contract. For the rest, Nadia took care of it as I played the role of the disinterested son trying to escape Bulgaria. It worked like a charm, and Nadia got me out of a two year contract for cable and internet.
5. The Glory of Megalan: That Friday in late September, Nadia and I went to Megalan, where it came highly recommended by new assistant Julia, and her boyfriend Todor. She told me Todor was extremely pleased with this, which made me want to immediately go to Megalan and get cable and internet. The only side effect of Megalan is that I needed to get 15 porn channels in order to get ESPN America. Let me let that sink into your head for a minute. 15 porn channels. And no, there was no possible way not to get the porn channels in order to get ESPN. So, I now have 15 porn channels for my viewing pleasure, an amazing internet connection that works in the entire apartment, and football games on Sundays with replays of hockey games once the World Series is over. Life is good as my TV gets used for sports all the time.

Conclusion and Feeding Fourth Grade Squirrels for Good Behavior:
I have a confession: I am such an idiot for not thinking of this idea earlier to help deal with behavior management, and I give credit to Damon for helping me create this idea. We have been in school for two months, and I have not had to raise my voice once in anger with my fourth grade squirrels. But because of my loud voice echoing, people still hear me teaching and reading books aloud.
What is my secret? I will cook for them for five weeks of good behavior, and they have become lapdogs as a results. It definitely helped that Julia had a birthday in September and I made peanut butter chocolate chip brownies, which they claimed were like heaven as they devoured them in less than 20 seconds. They have ten points on the board starting on Monday morning, and only need one point on the board on Friday dismissal time to get about 10 minutes of playtime, and a tally mark towards food.

As a result, I almost always have a very focused classroom with students working extremely hard at all times. The fourth grade squirrels would like food every week, but I have told them people in the school are extremely jealous I cook for them and delectable food must be earned. If they misbehave the slightest bit, then I take points away until my students, aka squirrels, yell at the misbehaving student/s to get him or her inline, or I decide to eat something I cooked in front of them one day after their lunch and they call this an act of perfidy. That is mostly because I don't have time to eat my lunch with recess or lunch duty, but it is hysterical to see their reaction every time this happens. They were rewarded last week with apple pie, peach brownies, peach salsa, and other goodies, and by their reaction and the amount of food leftover(zero, and I had to fight to get myself a piece), I am certain they will strive to get as many food days as possible this school year.

Here are two recipes any member in your family will easily devour, as I have had made these many times, and they are gobbled up instantly everytime I make them.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

First, mix sugar, butter, peanut butter and vanilla together until blended. Add eggs and mix well. Then, add baking powder and salt. Finally, add dry ingredients and mix well. Add batter into a greased 9X13 pan. Cook at 400F or 200C for about 30 minutes or so.

Pumpkin Brownies
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

Mix these ingredients together, then divde the batter in half.
Pumpkin Half of Batter, you need to add:
3/4 cup pumpkin puree(I highly recommend baking pumpkin in your oven, and then puree it with a hand blender. The stuff from a can simply cannot compare to this and will change the taste of the recipe completely.)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix these ingredients into the pumpkin half of the batter.

Chocolate Half of the Batter:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix these ingredients well, then place chocolate batter into a greased 8X8 pan. Then, place pumpkin batter over brownies and use a knife to cut through and create a swirling motion.

Bake at 350 F, or 175C, for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy these recipes, and I hope you enjoyed this edition of the blog while devouring some pumpkin brownies.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Socialist

Hi Everyone,
I woke up this morning to get the coolest thank you note for writing the blog from a random person, which kind of inspired me to finish the summer travel update. It also proves people actually read this blog, which I always wonder about. Increased readership is always a good thing, especially when you get a really nice message. As promised, this is the summer vacation edition, so enjoy this whirlwind tour to Sweden and Denmark. School has started, and I have a great group of fourth grade squirrels. However, I want to go back in time this blog, and wish I was in Sweden or Denmark.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Note to self, do not attempt to move classrooms with 16 first grade boys on the last day of school when you have a flight to Copenhagen at 2:40pm. Poor Milena and I were running around the school like crazy people trying to get people to move all my junk, I mean books and valuable supplies. It was during this moment I wished I wasn't such a book packrat and regretted my decision to keep EVERY SINGLE book.

Here is why you should go to Copenhagen:

  1. Lots of bike riding and almost no bike theft. People just parked their bikes in the middle of Copenhagen and left them there UNLOCKED. On the weekend, we saw THOUSANDS of bikes, and no one left a lock on it. You could literally just take a bike, go riding around the city, and drop it off. If you left your bike unlocked in DC or Sofia, it would take three minutes for it to be stolen.

  2. There is good shopping for random stuff, and a great bagel store. I found a great CD shop where I browsed through CDs for almost an hour, and Adair purchased herself a new camera.

  3. You can take pictures like this in Nyhavn, which is a really cool spot, rain or shine.

  4. There is a great bagel shop which you can avoid eating at fast food places because the price of food is simply insane.

  5. I was able to find Miracle Whip at the grocery store.

Karlskrona Sweden: Adair and I decided to stop by this smaller town on the drive up the Baltic coast to Stockhom. Here are the highlights of our Sunday adventure:

  1. Karlskrona is pretty much dead on Sunday. Sometimes, I felt like Adair and I were the only people walking around on Sunday in a town of 80,000.

  2. Two old men stopped me and started speaking to me in Swedish. Since we were the only people walking around, it took little time to figure out they were talking to me. In Sweden, I had lots of people mistake me for a Swedish guy and speak Swedish to me when Adair was not around. In fact, I saw someone the identical twin to my brother Zack.

  3. Watching movies such as Inglorious Bastards with Adair at the hostel, and cooking dinner with a stove that didn't work. To go here, you will need to take Adair and stay at the cheap hostel we stayed at which was nice compared to what we paid in other places.

Kalmar, Sweden:
Kalmar is a pretty cool town about 80km from Karlskrona, and it was a super easy drive the next day, and we got to wander around a very cool town, old town, and castle. Here is why you should go here:

  1. There is a great old castle with cool art in it, and you can see great views from the Baltic.

  2. There is a cool old town, but it rained a lot the day we were there. It would look a lot better in the sun. We did shop at H&M, since it was founded in Sweden. Of course, I had more people speaking Swedish to me when Adiar was not there.

  3. MAX Burger: Adair and I were introduced to the MAX Burger fast food chain. It is the Swedish equivalent of McDonald's and your town must have a MAX Burger to even be considered a town. Lots of different burger varieties, free internet, and clean bathrooms. They also have a recycling system that is downright confusing because there are so many different containers.

Stockholm: Wow! That is Stockholm in one word. This is one of the prettiest cities I have visiting, and pictures do not do it words. You can check out my facebook album for Stockholm, because I couldn't just choose 1-2 pics from there. Here are some great reasons you should visit:

  1. Vasa Museum: This is an indoor museum, with a Viking ship that sank in Stockholm harbor almost 400 years ago. The pulled it out of the harbor about 55 years ago, and now you can visit the ship and see for yourself what a real viking ship looked like. The water preserved it very well,

  2. Beautiful people: Wow, is just about all I can say. There are so many good looking men and women that you almost need a bib to wipe off the drool because they are just so amazing to look at.

  3. Island hopping: Stockholm is built on many islands, so you can go island hopping from boat tours, and see lots of cool things. The old town and everything else is easy to walk around.

  4. Beautiful People: Yes, it needs to be repeated twice.

This concludes this edition of the blog. I could write about visiting Vancouver, Seattle, or DC this summer, but these places are not socialist enough to comment about. For the Tea Party enthusiasts such as Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann, I needed to write about those socialist, communists states that will destroy America as we know it. If one of those Tea Party people get elected President next year, I will need to apply for Canadian citizenship. It was bad enough trying to explain to people why we elected George W. Bush twice. Once, they could understand, but never twice. I don't know where to begin with Bulgairans and Europeans if Rick Perry is elected president, or Michelle Bachmann. I will have to move to Sweden, get a higher paying job, learn Swedish, look at beautiful people all day, get free health care, and have a high standard of living.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some things never change

I write this edition of the blog while recovering from the summer flu virus, which has delayed my trip to Balchik at least a day or two. Since I am sick and slept all day, now I am not tired, so I plan to write the blog until it is finished. I don't trust myself driving the Sofia-Varna road feeling like garbage, and I need my A game to drive that road. Enjoy the D-list and farm animal updates, and my next issue will be about Copenhagen, Sweden, Seattle/Vancouver.

Sofia D-list, DC and Vancouver B-list, and Buffalo A-list:
A few months ago, I mentioned how I was on the gay D-list in Sofia, for many reasons. Well, I am still on the D-list here, and still trying to figure out a way to move up to at least the C-list. Here is how D-list I am. A guy, let's call him Bob, who I thought I was going to be friends with erased my number from his phone after being gone six weeks. Bob completely forgot who I was, even though we did coffee and hung out a few times.

So yes, I am still the shy American in Sofia who the gays don't want to talk to because they don't understand why this dumbass American chooses to willingly live in Sofia, when many of them are trying to leave Bulgaria. Sometimes, I feel sorry for Rado and Alex, as they are the only gays willing to regularly hang out with me. Their stock goes down by hanging out with me, hahahahahaha.

In the States and Canada, I got a lot more attention than I ever do in Sofia. In DC, I did have a few people check me out at the one bar I was hanging out in with friends. In Vancouver, the gay scene is the polar opposite of Sofia. Many guys are very masculine, some have beards and chest hair, and they like nature and the outdoors. It was a nice change of pace from Sofia, and I met a few cool people there. But, the Vancouver scene would send most gays in Sofia running for their lives. Almost all men in Bulgaria, gay or straight, shave their body hair away from their bodies, or get it waxed off. I am the weird one for having chest hair and deciding to keep it.

The funniest gay attention came in Clarence/Amherst. When I go home, I spend about 99.99% of the time at home with my family, and I can count on my fingers how many times I have been to the gay bars in Buffalo. Yet, I am definitely A-list there, even though I don't live there and almost never go out. There is always someone wanting to know me better, and wishes that I lived in Buffalo instead of Bulgaria or DC.
After arriving in Buffalo from a red eye flight from Seattle, I wanted breakfast, so my mom and I decide to go to Perkins. Now, I hadn't taken a shower, hadn't brushed my teeth because I forgot to put my tootbrush in my backpack, hadn't put on deodorant, had two hours of sleep, it was 1pm, and I smelled pretty bad after sweating on two planes. It was also 95 degrees in Buffalo, and my mom's car has no air conditioning.

Well, our waiter was in love with me despite all of this. He would not leave my mom and me alone the entire brunch, and always found a way to enter the conversation, even when we were talking about something in Bulgaria he had no knowledge about. The lunch shift was slowing down, and he thought there was a hunk of a guy he was serving. We were there for about an hour, and he came over at least 5 times and spent over 30 minutes talking with us, ok mostly me and my mom just happened to be there. He thought living in Buffalo was tough after DC, and I told him he had nothing to complain about gay life in Buffalo because I would kill for a sports team to play with, even badmitton. Despite all his flirting, he never got my number, and my mom and I made sure to escape without seeing him as we left and paid our bill.
So, the next time I go out to the ID club in Sofia, I am thinking about not taking a shower for two days, not use deoderant, and see what happens. Will I be irresistible, as I was to the waiter at Perkins? Or, will I move to the F-list? My guess is I will still be D-list, because no one is going to smell me with all the cigarrette smoke from the chain smoking gays.

Farm update: The farm has become more of a geriatric ward of animals to be honest. My aunt has a lot less animals, even though she would have about 2,000 if all of us weren't telling her no more animals. Bonnie, the donkey, is still kicking and is at least 36-38 years old, because she was 12-14 when I moved to the farm in 1987. Bonnie and I go way back, and I will cry like a baby when she finally does kick the bucket. On farm tours, I was always in charge of fat Bonnie. I taught lots of kids how to brush using Bonita, and gave donkey rides with Bonita. I trained her to go by herself out to pasture with Mama, and figured out a way to have her saddle fit when she kept getting fatter and the girth was not fitting. Bonnie never liked doing much of anything for many people, but she would do lots of things for me. Probably because I said she was just husky, instead calling her fat.
Of the four dogs, I could take all of them home with me, but I know they would not like city living, except for the Dozer, the dumb and lovable golden retriever who just hopes you have food for him. Dozer is the youngest at eight, and Hoppy, the three legged boxer, has now been there almost 4 years, after being told he would only live a few months on three legs. Sullivan, who is my dog from Teresa's sister, is now 10. My cousin and uncle were asking about why Sully had a small with his hips and walking, and everyone was surprised when I mentioned Sully is now 10 and has been on the farm for four years. They forgot he had been on the farm that long. All his nervous behavior is gone, and he is just one of the dogs. Zeus passed away in July because his hips were giving out on him, but he lived to be 12 which is amazing for a dog that size. Rest in peace big Zeus(see left), you were an amazing dog.

Yes, all the dogs pictured are super fat. All the dogs were skinny and in great shape when they first arrived on the farm. How did they get to be so overweight? Crazy Aunt Patty and Crazy Aunt Camille showed their love for them by making sure they were happily fed and taken care of. But, they would never admit they overfed the dogs, and blame each other for making them fat. The end result is my mom refuses to feed the dogs, and the dogs are still fat with my aunt feeding them everyday. My mom says this proves my aunt is to blame for the fat dogs, but I know they were both guilty. They love their dogs, and the dogs love them for feeding them and taking care of them.

Patrick: Hi, I'm Patrick. For those of you who don't know me, I was the friendly, fat, lovable gray tiger cat. I dealt with my brother Troy for all those years, and Joseph never believed that Troy was crazy. I have been vindicated after moving to the farm, and now everyone knows he is completely batsh#$ crazy. Please note I still love my brother, but he's gone crazy with power.

The past three years have been great for me. I have made lots of new friends, and even made friends with the dogs. I am the lovable cat everyone loves, even two guys who HATE cats like me and have told people, "I hate cats, but Patrick is a great cat." Joe's aunt told his mom that if she ever moves, Patrick must remain on the farm. The farm has made me lose weight, I've gone into my Oprah skinny phase, and no one can ever call me Fatrick again.

I miss Joe a lot, and I wish he would have taken him with me to Bulgaria. He told me that he would have taken me three years ago, but that I had to stay with Troy and take care of him. Damn it, he was right, because Troy was a crazy fool and got his butt kicked until he became king of the cats. Now Troy has other friends and I could go to Bulgaria, but I am too old to fly across the ocean. Joe wants to take me with him, but he told me he was really afraid I could not handle the flight on three planes by myself. While that makes me sad, I take solace in that I have too many people to take care of. I need to make sure Joe's mom, aunt, and Robert get greeted with a warm hello each day, and cheer them up no matter how they are feeling.

Troy: For those of you who don't know me, I am the shy, crazy black cat who ate all the hair off his back and dreamed of being Mr. Bigglesworth after Joseph went into the Peace Corps. Being on the farm has made me stop chewing hair, except when Joe comes home because I chew off my hair to make him realize he made a mistake by not taking me three years ago (sidenote: Troy, the Bulgarians would have freaked out seeing a bald, crazy black cat and not let you into the EU and killed you in 2008).

I love the crazy lady who feeds me(Joe's mom) and Robert and Camille are cool, but I have become crazier than ever. With seven cats, I have left Patrick's company and decided to become King of the Cats. My rule as king is more like the mad dragon king Targaryen, from the Game of Thrones series. My favorite things to torture the cats includes sitting in the cat box for 5 hours at a time growling at other cats, so they cannot go to the bathroom. I also like hiding in the cellar to pounce on unsuspecting cats who dare to enter downstairs.


I hope you have enjoyed this edition, and tales from the animals at the farm. If you have any ideas on how I can get off the gay D-list, I am open to suggestions. Really, I am almost willing to try anything at this point.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Making up for Lost Time

Hey Everyone,

Yes, it has been awhile since writing, but it became monsoon season in the teaching world. I have never, ever had a quiet, relaxing May and June ever, and this year proved to be equally exciting and full of non-stop action. So, I write this blob from the quiet confines of the family farm in Buffalo, catching up in writing this month, and making up for lost time.

This issue will cover lost time for the Man Purse, Kosovo, and a great recipe that is one of my favorite dishes. Enjoy this edition's offerings.

A-List in Kosovo:

Before monsoon season really began in late May, I went to Kosovo with my friends Owen and Sarah. Why Kosovo? Why not was the attitude we had about it. Who goes to Kosovo for vacation? Who do we know has been there? No one. Most people thought we were completely crazy in Bulgaria for going there, and some feared for my safety. The U.S. report on Kosovo made it look like we would lose Sport instantly, and I would lose all of my money to pickpocketers within five minutes.

Upon arrival, there were very few tourists there, just us in Prishtina, and some KFOR and catholic tourists in Prizren who obviously were there for a day trip. Since little is known about this place, I am writing a top 5 reasons you should visit Kosovo:

1. The men are stunningly beautiful!!!!!!! This sounds untrue, but it is real. Great features, beautiful eyes, and much more. I have witnesses to prove it. Sarah and I were drooling the entire time, and Owen, the gayest straight man according to him, noticed how stunning the men were and wanted to hook the shy guy, me, up with one of the guys, but it was way too tough to choose just one. I definitely plan to visit Kosovo for this reason again.

2. There is a Lush store there: Prishtina is rebuilding, the roads are downright awful, but there is a mall with a Lush store. There is no lush store in Bulgaria, an EU member, but there is a Lush store in Kosovo, which was a battlezone of genocide just 12 years ago, and has only been officially independent three years. I was able to buy a strawberry and cream conditioner for my hair to prove this store exists.

3. Prizren, Albania:

Prizren is a beautiful town of about 175,000 on the Kosovo/Albanian border with a sad history, but I hope it gets better because this is a pretty town. It was a lot of refugees during the war, but now things have stabilized since 1999, and one can wander through the old town, see the burned out Serbian church, and visit a fortress where you can pretty much do anything because there is no admission fee, and no one watching you. The fortress was used during the Ottoman Empire, as late as 1905. The old town was great to walk around, and had a lot more to offer than Prishtina. There was barbed wire around the St. George Church was only put there after the Albanians burned this church in 2004. The catholic church in the center of town was left untouched, so it goes to show it wasn't religious retaliation, but more a Serbian versus Albanian thing.

4. Lots of hotels and gas stations: When looking for hotels online, you will find no hotels on Booking.com, and hostelword only has one hotel. Knowing this, I thought finding our hotel in Prishtina was a great deal. But when we drove over the border, there were hotels everywhere. Every few kilometers, there was some type of hotel and gas station complex. It seems every Kosovar Albanian has a dream to own a hotel and gas station. For such a small country, it has LOTS of hotels, in places you would NEVER imagine there would be a hotel. But wait, there is a hotel there, just in case you wanted to stop there.

5. Kosovo loves the United States: Unlike the rest of Europe, Kosovo LOVES the United States. Since we recognized them as a country in 2008, Kosovo even loves George W Bush, but they especially love Bill Clinton. The main street in Prishtina is Bill Clinton Boulevard, and there is a huge billboard of Clinton, along with a bronze statue to thank him for stopping the genocide against them in the late 1990s. American flags were flying in a lot of places. They liked talking to Americans, and didn't treat us as if we had the plague. People were amazed we were not diplomats, soldiers, or part of KFOR. On the way out, the border guards thought we were part of KFOR, and were surprised when I said we were just normal Americans. They waved us by without really even looking at our passports.

I definitely plan to visit Kosovo again. Anyone want to join me after this pep talk?

Paris and the purchase of the Man Purse:

After three years, I have finally integrated and bought a man purse. Every man has a man purse. The big burly Bulgarian drinking rakia has a man purse. The men playing football(soccer to those Yanks reading this) have man purses. The men with ear hair and nose hair have man purses. The Bulgarian rednecks even have man purses(villagers to those who don't know what a redneck is). Pretty much, I was in the minority not owning a man purse. So, I decided to get one for my trip to Paris, because I knew there would be tons of Americans with backpacks. And after visiting little America, aka Venice, last summer with Teresa, I didn't look like all the tourists with their backpacks.

Did it work? YES! YES! YES! The man purse was great because it fit the guide book, a map, plus my itouch and a drink. It wasn't a heavy burden that gave me back sweat after five minutes on a warm, sunny day. As you can see from the photo, it hung on my shoulder, or it had a strap that I could wrap around my body. The French knew I was a tourist, but didn't know I was American. So, they were nicer to me when I ordered food and had to speak survival French.

But, the man purse has the reverse effect in the States. I wore the man purse in metrosexual Washington DC, and they have big bags, but no man purses. In Buffalo, I might wear it as an experiment one day just to see the reaction, but I am sure there will be a lot of rednecks who will stare at me all day. Little do they know they're European redneck cousins all have man purses. But, the Buffalo rednecks wouldn't believe me, and probably think I'm a communist socialist Lenin pig for living in Bulgaria.

Oh, I should tell you about Paris. So many of you reading this have been there, and I felt like I was the last person who visited this great city. I had been waiting for my mom to visit Paris, but after waiting for almost three years for her to buy a ticket to Bulgaria and treat her to Paris, I couldn't wait any longer. Today, I just found out she wants to go to Spain, or somewhere like that instead, which made me wonder why I waited to see Paris so long in the first place.

Paris was such a great city to visit. The art, the food, the beautiful people, and the great English book store in the Latin Quarter full of great history books. I spent a day in the Louvre looking at great paintings, and taking pictures of boyfriends I would want from each century. Every day was sunny, and my breakfast was a croissant with almonds, or with almonds and chocolate.

Paris was everything it should have been, and I was lucky to have beautiful weather for five days. I will probably go back, just for the art.

Spaghetti with Spinach and Sirene:

This is one of my favorite dishes with sirene, and it is very easy to make. When I had the homemade sirene, I made this twice, because spinach goes well with this white cheese. If you want something simple and quick, it doesn't get much easier than this. You can find Bulgarian sirene at the Turkish store on Columbia Pike, or any Whole Foods, where it is called Bulgarian Feta.


500 grams, or 1 lb package of spaghetti. I choose a Barilla #3, an in between angel hair and regular size pasta.

1 package of spinach, about 300-500 grams(8-12 ounces), chopped

about 300-500 grams(8-12 ounces) of sirene crumbled, depending on how cheesy you want it. I use about 450-500 grams.

Optional: 3-4 chopped tomatoes to add on top of pasta when finished

Directions: Cook pasta as you normally would. When pasta is about 2 minutes finished, add spinach and cook 1-2 minutes with pasta. Drain pasta and spinach in culinder, then add sirene and mix well. Serve and eat. If you add tomatoes, do not cook, but mix freshly chopped tomatoes with cooked pasta. It makes a great dish, nutricious, delicious, simple, and good.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Owning the D List Status

Hey everyone,

It has been awhile, but I write you for a second time and hopefully this time it will save. Last night, I had this issue completed and ready to edit, and then it didn't save. Still bitter about this, I am making sure every single sentence saves tonight, or I may trade this blog in for another one that works better.

Getting a Watch Battery:

Last month, my watch battery died, and I went about the task of changing the battery. Now, one would think this would be an easy thing to do, even in Bulgaria. Simply go to a watch shop, and change the battery. In the States, you can go to Target or Walmart and get this done in 2 minutes, but not in Bulgaria. I naively assumed you could go to any watch store and change the battery. SO, so, wrong.

My first stops were at two fancy watch stores in The Mall on my way home from work, assuming that any watch store would be able to change my watch battery. I was met by surly young women in both stores, who in proud Bulgarian customer service relations gave me an answer that made me feel like an idiot. "We don't change watch batteries and why would you expect us to?", was the reply I got in both stores. When I asked where I could get a battery, the usual vague reply was: "Somewhere in the center."

With this beautiful piece of information, I went about one Sunday on Vitosha looking for a watch battery, and finding the Buddies Bears debuting here to build tolerance in a city that could use a lot of tolerance training. I went to four watch stores of different kinds of watches, and not one store could change the battery. But, the saleswomen were much nicer than at the mall, apologized, and told me to try the store next door assuming they would change batteries. After four stores, I gave up and decided today was not the day I was going to change the watch.

Returning from Paris and Balchik, I met a friend for lunch, and decided to renew my quest for the watch battery, but this time on Graf Ignatief street. This time, I felt confident I would find the place that would help me. At the first store, I was in luck and they changed watch batteries, but the woman couldn't open my watch to change the battery.

Finally, I walked by a watch shop with watch repairs near the corner of Rakovski and Graf Ignatief. Of course, this is the place I should have come to in the first place, but I walked by here a million times without realizing it was there, as I never needed my watch repaired. In ten minutes, I had a new watch battery, even though I got ripped off because my battery cost 15 leva, while the previous peron's battery only cost 8 leva. At this point, I didn't really care, as I was simply happy I got the battery changed, and paying a small fee to change it after looking relentlessly for a month was worth it.

Gay D List Sofia:

When writing this, I am in no way upset, but more stating what are facts and observations. With all my straight friends, I am a total A list, and my straight friends rock and so do my colleagues. Without them, my life would be very boring and I would not have the support I have. With my gay friends, I only have 4-5 after almost three years, and two of them are American, with only one gay best friend. I could include six with my ex-bf in London being Peter Pan, but he's in London being Peter Pan, so he doesn't count.

I am at full acceptance with my status in both the gay and straight communities here in Sofia, and it is almost as if I earning my stripes. Unlike Kathy Griffin who calls herself a D list celebrity, it took me a little while to own the D list status in the Sofia gay community. In DC, I was able to make lots of gay friends, and it's been bewildering to me why I don't have more gay friends after almost three years, but I have some theories and observations why. Like Kathy Griffin and celebrities, most gays are terrified to talk to me. I moved up to the D list because I was on the E list when I first got here. And E was not fun at all, so I will take being on the D list.

Here are the reasons why I am on the D list with the Sofia Gay Community(It could be one, multiple, and/or all of them depending on which gay guy you are talking to):

1. I am not the typical gay guy that is presented on TV for Bulgarians to see.

I like to go to concerts, action movies, and the theater, instead of chalga concerts and the gay bar exclusively. I would prefer to wear a $9 t-shirt from Kohls, then to spend $100 on a G-Star Raw tshirt. I like sports, which is the kiss of death. I can spend hours wandering around art museums looking at art. In the states and in DC, it is easy to find similar gay souls who share my interests. In Sofia, I am the lone wolf. They like fashion, chalga, and gossip, which aren't exactly my strong talking points, or what I am interested in.

2. I like other music besides chalga and pop music:

While I went to Madonna, I lost a lot of points when I went to the AC/DC, Elton John, and Bob Dylan concerts last year. Why was I going to see such music? I had one extra Elton John ticket and offered it for free to my two gay friends and anyone else, and they ALL rejected the ticket. Why? Because Elton John was old and didn't represent gay interests in Sofia. Yes, an icon who has improved the lives of the gay community for many years is seen as an old has been with the gays in Sofia.

Chalga is huge, and mostly played at every gay bar, and is sometimes the only music gays here will listen too along with pop music. While I like chalga, I cannot just simply listen to chalga all the time, and it is too much for me.

3. They are terrified of talking with an American:

This sounds strange, but it is true. I have heard many times from friends of my two Bulgarian gays friends say they don't know what they could talk to the American about. The best part is they think I don't understand this, and then I mentioned in Bulgarian how I just understood what they said.

This was the same way in Balchik, but it got better after the first year and were willing to talk to me. In Balchik and with my straight friends in Sofia, we have conversations about things that would be everyday consversation things, and we can laugh and talk about stuff. Not so with the gays in Sofia. They don't have the patience to speak with me, or it is like I am the anti-christ. So, I usually sit quietly with the gays as they talk, and Sasho and Rado will usually find a way to get me into the conversation eventually.

4. I have a quiet demeanor, and I am not the outgoing gay you see on Will and Grace, or other TV shows:

I have always been like this, but it really throws off the gays here. With some people, I will remain quiet during a conversation when I feel there is not much for me to contribute. In the states, I could get away with this, but the gays in Bulgaria don't get this part of me, and they think is something wrong with me when I am quiet.

5. Why would a gay American actually want to work and live here?

I get this question A LOT. Why would I choose to willingly live here? Many gays here would leave Bulgaria if given the chance, because they are extremely uncomfortable being gay in Bulgaria. My ex-bf firmly falls in this category, as do many others. He is living in London because he is too afriad of being gay in Sofia.

When they find out you actually want to stay and live in Bulgaria, then there is something wrong with you. If I worked at the embassy, it would be different, and they would understand this. But, I willingly signed a contract to work and stay here and I choose to stay long term, which bamboozles most gays here.

6: Sports:

I love sports, especially soccer, hockey, and swimming. Bulgarian men hate sports, and they never understand why I would want to watch hockey games, soccer games, or American football games. It is the kiss of death when I mention I like sports to some gays. While I found lots of gays who played sports and they became great friends in DC, here it has been impossible to play a sport with gays besides badmitton, which I can't stand.

7. Gay life is catching up, but still behind the times:

While things have improved a lot in gay life, the gays themselves are behind the times, not just the straight people. When I mentioned how my straight friends and my mom have gone to gay bars and restaurants in DC, they acted as if I committed a mortal sin for bringing my mom out. I had to mentor them on how silly of a comment that was, and how unaccepting it was. Unlike the States where there were many gays leading the push for gay rights, there are very few here willing to do such a thing. The pride parade is scarcely attended, and I become the rebel for being out, talking about dating issues with straight friends, colleagues, and being out to everyone I care about. This now includes my Bulgarian mom in Balchik, who we have a don't ask, don't tell policy, but she did ask two weeks ago whether I found a nice girl or guy in which I am dating, so she knows and just pretends not to know, lol. So now, there is no one who doesn't know about me, and I am extremely comfortable with that.

In the States, I was definitely not the one pushing for gay rights, or leading a cause. After three years here, I feel that I must now sometimes, for the sake of the gays here themselves, and show them there are other views to what gay life actually is, not just what they think it is from some video or movie.

Acceptance of D List Status:

Having said all of this, I am extremely thankful to Sasho and Rado, and a few new friends who have started to get to know me and get me. Note, I am not talking about the two Americans here who get me, nor am I talking about dating life in particular. Finding a guy to date is tricky because of all of this, but I have dated guys, and very nice, gorgeous, wonderful guys. Yeah, it is more difficult and a royal pain dealing with this stupidity, but not impossible and I have found my way in Sofia now. Plus, I have moved up from the E list to the D list, which is a big improvement. The E list is a nightmare when I was in my Oprah fat phase. One day, I hope to move up to B list, like I was in DC with the gays. If not, I am comfortable will accpet my D list status in Sofia, and will report on it more.

How to drive the Sofia/Varna road:

Driving this path could be so much easier if Bulgaria actually finished the highway from Sofia to Varna, like they promised about 35 years ago. Instead, you have two portions of with about 70 kilometers of highway, followed by over 300 kilometers of a two lane road. The highway is the easy part, but the two lane road makes the drive hellish. As I drive this way to Balchik and back a few times a year, I am constantly reminded of what Buglaria should have done, but instead invests in unnecessary hotel and villa building with politicians who care little about the country. I pray to baby Jesus that one day they will finish this highway, but building more hotels on the Black Sea coast is more important, especially when half of them are empty.

Normal people drive this road in about 5-6 hours, and I can do it in five, and usually make Balchik in 6-7, depending on whether there is a holiday season, or when I leave. To survive driving this road and not go insane, I offer the following tips:

1. Bring a good collection of CDs:

There is no radio reception after about 30 km outside Sofia, and I learned this the hard way my first two trips. Now, I have a collection of 30 CDs to pull my through the trip.

2. Learn the road, where it is safe to pass, where it is not, and where there are the speed traps.

Even though I am Speed Racer, I know there are two sections of this road for about 5-10 km where it is simply unwise to pass under any circumstances. So if I get stuck behind a truck going 30 kmh in a place impossible to pass, I will sing along to songs, try to be patient as possible, curse a the corrupt Bulgarian politicians, and then pass when it is safe to pass.

3. Be careful of mafia style drivers or idiot drivers thinking they are Formula One race car drivers in their Volkswagen Golf or Opel:

Every time I drive this road, I almost see one near accident because one of these drivers are impatient and choose they are so important that they must arrive in Varna 5-10 minutes before you. I have learned to let these drivers by, as they are much better ahead causing accidents, than near me causing accidents.

That's all for now, but next time I will include more recipes, including the Peanut Butter Pie, and Spaghetti with Spinach and Sirene. Thanks for reading, and next time there will not be a huge break between issues.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Unable to Resist Temptation

Hmm, I did post in February once, but I started writing it in January, so I guess it doesn't count. This one will count for February though, and there are so many great topics to choose from, but these two are the ones I will write about.

The peanut butter penalty jar is at 23 leva, or 11.50 Euro, or $15USD. It's growing!

Snowboarding, a Five Day Crash Course:
Every year, there is an event called Ski Week for our school, which I love and dread at the same time.

Why do I love it?: Because it is a chance to get outside, get paid to do snowboarding, and enjoy the great outdoors. That's right, we have five school days where I get to actually snowboard instead of teach first grade squirrels. How cool is that?

Why do I despise this week?: Because it usually means I am going to do something stupid and attempt to kill, badly bruise, or cause bodily harm to myself on the snowboard. I could ski, help Kindergartners get up, or do an outdoor program where they ice skate and hike, but that's not nearly as exciting as snowboarding. Last year, I was doing great, until the last day on ice and I wiped out and had a huge bruise on my ass for two weeks.

But, I cannot resist snowboarding, even though I know I will probably end up super sore and bruised at the of the week. Here is a rundown of my snowboarding adventures this year.

Day 1: Decided to go and practice my moves with a few colleagues in Borovets, in an attempt to not look like an idiot when I snowboard with the sixth graders eight days later. I got a little too ambitious with a rented board that wasn't quite fitting my foot. On the third or fourth run, I go flying into the air upon trying to make a turn, and bounce once, then fly into the air again and fly further, landing a second time. I hit my head both times on the ground. The sounds of the people on the lift were:


My reaction: I stand up and shout out to Suzanne above: "I'm fine!!!!!"

Proceed to snowboard for another 90 minutes, eat lunch, drive home from Suzanne's apartment, and then decide to take nap. Everything was fine, but I was tired, mostly from waking up at 6:30am on a Saturday.

Wake up with major headache and nausea, and assume I got the dreaded flu virus that infected 80% of my class. Cursing myself for getting flu virus. Call Alex to tell him I am sick and not going out tonight. Alex tells me to call Rado to let him know I am not going out tonight, I proceed to call my other friend Rado in Balchik. I do not realize this until the next day. Headaches and nausea continue on Sunday, but I am bamboozled why I am not seriously ill with a flu virus that makes people throw up violently.

It is only on Monday that I realize that I don't have a mild version of the flu, when my first grade squirrels need to tell me three times about the schedule, and I keep skipping the number three when I count to ten making tens with the money we are counting. Suddenly, I realize I don't have the flu, but a mild concussion. First grade boys are worried a little, as they realize their teacher is forgetful with remembering to bring things to school, but there is something wrong because he always can count.

Decide to take the day off, and probably should have taken Tuesday off as well, but decide to be stubborn and go to work to prove myself. I do not go to the doctor, as they would have told me to just rest and do not exercise. I do have Diane and Dave track me for dinner at the sushi place. Overall, I do a great job, except for putting the soy sauce in the wrong dish.

Sidenote 1: I went shopping and bought a very ugly mustard yellow shirt because it somehow reminded me of riding and showing horses when I was growing up. At least it only cost 39 BGN leva, or about $25 USD. I would be really pissed if it had cost 200 BGN leva, or $130. Plan to keep shirt as a reminder to not go shopping while having a mild concussion.

Sidenote 2: I decide to buy a helmet from my boss for 100 BGN leva, or $60 USD, for days 2-5, as I want to make sure I have some protection from myself on the snowboard. This proves to be a good investment, plus I look super cool in it. Had I had this helmet on day one, I never would have had the concussion.

Sidenote 3: I would have gone to the doctor had the headaches gotten worse, but I knew the only thing they were going to tell me is to rest and let them know if the headaches got worse after getting a concussion 10 years ago. I also had a connection to see the best neurosurgeon in Bulgaria if it got worse, so I felt covered.

Days 2-4: No incidents on the bunny hill eight days later, where my head is clear, and I focus on make all the necessary turns and do those very, very well. I go back to the scene where I flew threw the air and successfully go down four times without killing myself. Snowboard instructor tells me on Day 2 I am in excellent shape and I have a great body, as I have to take off layers because it is super hot in polypropolene walking up and down a hill 40 times in one day with the sixth graders, who are not wearing long underwear. Sadly, our snowboard instructor is female, and this further proves a crazy theory I will write about in another edition.

Day 5: My brain decides to take the morning off because I had a nightmare the previous night where I felt like someone was choking me to death at 1:00am. Yes, this really happened, and yes, I really felt like someone was pressing their hands to my throat, trying to choke me to death.

Terrified, I searched my entire apartment for an intruder, and then watched podcasts and played solitaire, scared shitless to go back to sleep until 3:30 am, as I believed someone was going to kill me in my sleep. I only fell asleep out of exhaustion, convinced that Freddy would stalk my nightmares and my street changed its name to Elm instead of Charlz Darvin.

As a result of this nightmare and not sleeping well, our fearless hero falls badly while trying to use the moving button lift, and forgets everything I learned about turning. Knee suffers bruise which finally goes away as I am writing this blog issue.

Afternoon is much better and I gain a second wind, doing turns and acting like a pro going down the hill, showing off for all the first grade squirrels stuck sidestepping up a hill on skis.

End result: I am an intermediate snowboarder, which means I can go down the hill, make some turns and not kill myself 75% of the time, use a button lift and look like a pro, and know the difference between heel and toe edges of the board. I decide to take the rest of the season off, but I am interested in buying a board, since I have all the other equipment besides this. I might as well throw down the money and get more ambitious. I have a helmet, am fearless, and I look cool doing it, so I am completely sold on this. Nothing is going to stop me from being intermediate plus next year.

Bulgarian Census and Being an Illegal American:
This year, Bulgaria decided to have a census for the entire country, and wanted to count everyone, including the foreigners. There was an online census from February 1-9, and then they had people go door to door from February 10-28. If you did not fill out the census when they came to your door, you faced a 250 BGN fine, or about $160.

First, I tried to take the online census, as two million Bulgarians did. I was trying to make life easier for the census and have one less foreigner to count. However, my personal identity number is invalid for the online census, as it was for all foreigners. The foreigners overwhelmingly preferred to take the online version, but none of us could because Bulgaria wanted to actually go through the trouble to count us, and see how many illegal Americans there are in Bulgaria!

Well, it is now February 27th, and no one has come knocking on my door. I think they came when I was in Borovets or in Koprivshtitsa, so I go uncounted because I will not get home until late tomorrow night because of a birthday party. No one is going to ask me whether I have indoor or outdoor plumbing. No one is going to ask me why the 78 year old woman isn't living in my apartment where I get discounted bills for electricity. Instead, I will be one of the countless illegal Americans living and working here in Bulgaria.

Officially, there are only a little over 200 Americans in the entire country. But when you add all the uncounted illegals like me, we're over 2,000. We rampage through Sofia demanding streets without potholes, a highway that goes somewhere, Skippy peanut butter, and not having babas beat us up when we try to buy bananas on sale at Carrefour. This illegal American also demands ground turkey and turkey sausage. We have rights too!

Pumpkin Brownies:
Some people think the peanut butter brownies I make are devine, but these brownies are purely devine, and very few people have tried them.

How great are they? After eating a full dinner of pasta and chicken, the four guests and I could not control ourselves from almost devouring the entire pan of brownies. Each of us had 4-6 brownies, including a very thin woman and a gay guy not wanting to gain weight, who cursed me the next day for making something so wonderful. Even I could not resist this in my goal to become Oprah thin, and I ate 5 of them, and then ate two more then next morning, reluctantly saving one for Viktor.

Be forewarned: If you make these the correct way, you will be powerless against the taste, and will go back for a lot of helpings. Pumpkin and chocolate combine to form an excellent choice. The secret is to bake real pumpkin, then puree it when it is soft. The canned pumpkin from the store in the states simply doesn't deliver the same taste as a real pumpkin, and it has a lot more presevatives. I am convinced my pumpkin brownies and pumpkin pie are amazing as a result of this process. I will never used canned pumpkin again, unless there is little choice when pumpkins are not in season and I am making something with pumpkin in the states for friends in the summer.

Pumpkin Brownies:

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips, preferrably Belgian dark chocolate chips

In a bowl, combine sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Divide batter equally into two bowls. In the first bowl, add cocoa powder and chocolate chips, and stir until well blended.

In the second bowl, stir pumpkin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Grease 9x12 pan well. Add chocolate batter first to create bottom layer. Then, add pumpkin layer. Spread evenly with a spatula, then use a knife to cut through the two layers and create a marble effect. Bake at 350F/175C for 40-45 minutes. Cool, and try to share these with someone you love.

Sidenote: If you eat the entire pan, you cannot be blamed for being unable to resist the taste of pumpkin and chocolate together.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lost and Found

I am thrilled everyone liked the first issue and thank you for all the comments and praise. To answer a few questions, I am now up to 11 leva in the peanut butter addiction collection. Sirene is a bulgarian white cheese similar to feta, but a little saltier and tastier. There is a Turkish store on Columbia Pike near Walter Reed where you can get the real Bulgarian sirene. Whole Foods has it as well, but it is not as good as the stuff at the Turkish store.

This edition has a lost and found theme, and banana pancakes. Enjoy!

What has teaching 15 first grade boys done to me?
Any given school day, you will hear me inevitably saying to one of my 15 first grade boys (out of 20) to find something he has lost or forgotten. These items include socks, gloves, shoes, bags, books, shirts, sweaters, pants, toys, brains, water bottle, homework, library books, and/or all of the above. They never lose lunch though, which doesn't surprise me because never go between a boy and his stomach, EVER.

Rather than fixing their forgetful behavior this school year, they have rubbed off on me and I have become like them. Since Christmas, I have lost many things, and I and give you the status of them:

  1. Sunglasses: Left them in the Arena Mladost movie theater after watching Narnia. I blame the 3D glasses that WERE NEVER needed for this film, and it was a total ploy by Hollywood to make more money and lose my sunglasses! Well, it did take me two days to figure out where I last had my sunglasses, because one simlpy doesn't wear sunglasses all the time in December in Sofia. Did I find them? No Way!!!! The Arena Mladost ticket seller acted as if I were rabid raccoon when I asked about my sunglasses two days later. After a month, I bought a pair half price at The Mall for $39 Euro/78 Bulgarian leva.

  2. Two winter hats: I left both hats in my classroom in December. One would think my classroom would be a safe haven for my hats, but I have learned that I can leave $1,500 Euro/$3,000 leva in my classroom for four days and no one touches anything, but winter hats disappear immediately. Did I find them? NOPE! For this one, I am convinced one of the first grade boys have done something with my winter hats. Either they thought the hat was theirs and wore it home to a bewildered mom(70% chance), or they took them on purpose and hid the hats on me because I tell them every day to take care of their things(30% chance). After a few days, it was cold and I had to buy another hat to keep my head warm this winter. Naturally, I keep this hat far away from the first grade boys. They laughed when they saw my new winter hat.
  3. Snowpants: When school started again in January, I had recess duty and was ready to put on my snowpants, when I discovered I had lost them. I was butt ass cold all morning, and it made me go on a frenzied search to find them, mostly because snowpants cost almost nothing in the states, but are super expensive in Bulgaria. Did I find them? YES!! I cannot blame the first grade boys for this one. They were in a large IKEA bag I took home all my Christmas loot in, and I forgot they were in there until I took out the last of the loot about two weeks ago.
  4. Shirt: I lost/left the shirt I was wearing after going to ID one Saturday night. This was the only thing I lost while I was 'happy' and can be blamed by alcohol. It took me until Monday afternoon to realize I lost it and I had an "Oh Yahhh" moment. What is an "Oh Yahh" moment????? It is what my brother and I exclaimed sarcasticly after either of us or someone else did a completely ridiculous and/or stupid thing and this person finally realized this. Sidenote: When I taught fourth grade in Arlington, I used the "Oh yahhhh" moments often with my fourth graders, who did not fully understand the consequences of this when saying "Oh Yahh" to their parents. Two students got grounded for a week for calling out their parents on something and using the "Oh Yahhh". After these groundings and complaining to me, they had another "Oh Yahh" moment as I explained to them that they are 10 and can't use the "Oh Yahhh" on parents until they're in college, or possibly until after they graduate college if mom and dad are paying the tuition. Did I find it? Oh Yahh, but only because my friend Rado found the shirt at the table and took it home for me.

One can only wonder what I will lose after posting this, and what other effects the 15 first grade boys will have on me. I will keep you updated.

How did I use so much heat/hot water?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Two weeks ago, the nice admin lady who deals with our paychecks informed me that my heating/hot water bill was quite high and was $300 Euro. Since I pay half, this meant the real cost of the bill was $600 Euro/$780 USD/ $1,200 leva. After an initial moment of panic, I relaxed, and then freaked out completely thinking WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? about 100 times and wondering what exactly I did to have such a high heating bills from May until October. How could my bill be so high when I was gone pretty much two months this summer, and I don't use heat in the summer, except in October when the heat was turned back on. How could I use so much heat? I called Nadia, my super landlady, to find out the answer. She is amazing because she only has one apartment, actually cares to take care of things, wants the best quality when she buys things, and completely told off my upstairs neighbors last year who were doing illegal construction last year.

Your choices on why Nadia said my heating/hot water bill was so expensive are:

A. I am heating three apartments, not just my own.

B. The Sofia hot water/heating company has no f@$%ing clue how to deal with their bills, and just charge people whatever they feel like.

C. Owen and Alex turned on the hot water while watering plants this summer, having a 24/7 wasteful energy extravaganza.

D. Teresa's shower usage was responsible for 1/3 of the bill for the few days she stayed in the apartment this summer.

E. Prices for heat and hot water prices have gone up.

E or A could have been correct, while C and D are just too obvious. But if you know anything about Bulgaria, the correct answer is B because this is a former Bulgarian state run company. What were you thinking if you didn't choose B??? These companies don't have to explain to anyone. They told my landlady this was just how it was going to be, and told thousands of other people the same thing. I recently asked my cell phone provider why I had not received a paper bill in over two months, and the woman acted as if I was asking for an informercial religious miracle for the cell phone company to do its actual job and be responsible. Why would the heating/hot water company be any different???

Nadia is a saint, and explained to me while my heating bills were for six months, the Sofia hot water/heating company are run by complete idiots who don't know their heads from their asses. They charged me over 300 leva to fix the crappy radiators I have in my apartment that runs their heat. Since Sofia heating actually own the radiators, and not my landlady as you may think. How does the utility own my radiators? Because this is Bulgaria, and I must pay for the repairs because why should they be bothered with covering the cost of upkeep of their radiators that haven't been replaced since 1960. That is my expense for the gift using their heat, except when the Russians are pissed at the Ukranians and turn off the heat to Buglaria, like they did in 2009.

To add insult to injury, they charged me about another 300 leva for what they thought I would use for the November and December heating in what they called auto-correcting, and charging me for the heat they think I'm going to use based on my bills from the previous two years, so my bill might be smaller. But, Nadia told me my December bill was only 204 leva, and was less than last year because December was warm this year. Alas, auto-correcting for future bills totally failed.

So, HALF of my 1,200 bill is for fixing their radiators, and for heat I didn't use. Nadia filed a complaint, or MOLBA, to the company for her bill and my bill, pretty much telling them how ridiculous and stupid they are for billing this way. One might think the Sofia heat/hot water snap out of their idiocracy and actually bill correctly, but they charged Nadia 1,300 leva and she has a smaller apartment than I do!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, I think Nadia is going to be harassing them for a long time, which is their mistake. This is the same woman who got the cable, phone, and internet companies to come to my apartment within an hour when I first arrived here in August 2008, and I don't know of anyone who has gotten this to happen, not even the mafia guys. I have faith Nadia will somehow get money back from her MOLBA complaint, mostly because Sofia Hot Water/Heating will get exhausted dealing with her because she is persistent, knows her facts, and attacks like a bulldog when someone wrongs her.

Banana Pancakes(optional with chocolate chips)

Whenever I'm feeling blue, nothing cheers me up better than banana pancakes, or banana chocolate chip pancakes. Friends have been very pleased with this creation, and people who say the smell from making them permeates my kitchen with a delectable goodness every time I make them. The key to this recipe is adding the banana first to the batter, mixing it, and then adding enough milk to turn the batter into proper American pancake batter. If you want a tastier version or this, add chocolate chips and treat yourself to complete bliss.

The first time I tried this recipe was at a brunch at my apartment in September 2009 and was a huge favorite devoured by many people. There was only one person ever unhappy with this recipe, and that's because she assumed I was making crepes when I said I was making pancakes. Note to everyone: When an American says he/she is making pancakes, they will NEVER make crepes. Don't even dare to think this will ever happen and get your hopes up.

If you try this at home, a lot of my recipes are variations of a recipe, where some of the measurements are exact, and some are estimates based on sight. This one is easier than some, but my goal is to start writing these recipes down again. Good luck trying this one at home, and enjoy a bit of bliss.

Banana Pancakes

2 cups flour

1 1/2 - 2 bananas, pureed(depends on how much banana flavor you want)

1 1/4 cups milk

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinammon, nutmeg, and salt

1 egg

Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions: Mix flour, sugar, cinammon, nutmget, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Add banana and vanilla, and mix into batter. Add half the milk, stir, and add rest of milk as needed to desire to create best pancake batter. If you are using chocolate chips, add them at the end.

Heat over lightly greased frying pan or griddle at medium/medium high heat, depending on how your stovetop cooks. Pour into large spoonfuls into pan, and make sure you brown on both sides. Take out of pan, eat, and enjoy. Goes well with maple syrup, honey, or peanut butter. Or, a combination of those.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Winter Blues

Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay in the blog, but I had a slight concussion last week, and it made writing and editing difficult. Of course, I could say I'm suffering from a mild concussion everytime I write this, so as to have an excellent excuse for my editing mistakes. It also gives me a perfect excuse for losing and forgetting things.

The peanut butter penalty jar stands at 16 leva, 8 Euro, or about 12 USD. It is slowly building up. This installment has a variety of topics, so enjoy.

Who gives the best fashion advice?
Some may say women, some may say gay men, but I say first grade boys are even better. I honestly test out shirts with them to see what they will say. Why? They are brutally honest because they don't know it's impolite to say something mean about whatever someone is wearing. One prime example is when I bought this great grey shirt that I thought looked fabulous. My first day wearing this shirt to school, many people complimented me, and even my director commented on how great I looked in it with all the weight loss. Well, it didn't take long to hear the official reaction from the boys. Here was their reaction the end of one school day:
Boy 1: You have a big belly with that shirt!
Boy 2: Yeah, look at his belly!
Boys 3-15 in not so much unison, but almost in unison as first graders can do to show excitement: Wow, you DO have a belly with that shirt.

Needless to say, I have not worn that shirt to school since this fateful day a few months ago, but I plan to wear it again next month to see if their opinions have changed.

How to survive driving in Sofia lessons 1 and 2:
In Sofia, I drive more like a Bulgarian, with American sensibility added into my driving skills. In Buffalo, I terrified my family sometimes, until they came to DC and called me an excellent driver and fully understood my driving skills. Sofia is pretty similar to driving in DC or New York, except there is a 25% increase in stupidity and unpredictable behavior. The key to survival is to be prepared for anything to happen, go with the flow, avoid potholes, and have a little bit of lady luck on your side.

To help you get an idea on what driving is like in Sofia, I have decided to give you some helpful hints on how to survive driving in a big city, but spread out over a few issues, so as to slowly understand.

Lesson 1: Be prepared for the noveau rich and Mafia to do anything. Why? Because they believe driving rules don't apply to them, because they feel they are entitled to do these things because they have money, and you do not. On any given day, these people will do amazingly idiotic things just to get a few cars ahead of everyone else. One day this past June, there were 26 major accidents in Sofia, and over 75% of them were caused by people driving expensive Audis, Mercedes, or Porshe SUVs.

In the past year, I have had five instances where one of these idiots almost caused an accident in front of me. It is by pure reflexive skill that I did not run into them. Afterwards, I honk like crazy after them, so they understand what they did almost caused a serious accident. Yet, you know none of them actually care, because I should have anticipated one of them driving down the road recklessly attempting to cause harm to others so they can get to their dinner date faster.

The picture above shows what happened in my hood by one of these drivers next to the Azerbajani embassy one sunny afternoon in September 2009 (I live next to the embassy). In order to do this, the mafia guy had to be traveling at least 80-90 kmph( about 45-50 mph) on a small street and did this in less than 100 meters. On this street, I have never gone over 40kmph(25mph) because it is a small, narrow side street full of lots of people walking. The mutri guy flipped the car into the entrance of the embassy, which obviously really pissed off the Azerbajanis. Usually, these mutri guys will pay off people with money, as they did with Sarah and Owen after a noveau rich driver ran into them. But this time, throwing 300-500 leva at the Azerbaijani embassy wasn't going to work, especially when you flipped a car that blocked their entrance.

Lesson 2: Side streets in my neighborhood heading slightly downhill turn into an icy bobsled course: Driving home from my English lesson last year, I was almost home and as I made the right turn by the Russian Embassy, I knew I had to be careful because the side streets are never plowed, and there would be some ice on the road. So, I was only driving 25 kmph(15mph) in anticipation of having to slow down. Little did I know I was in my own episode of Ice Road Truckers. The entire street had turned into a sheet of ice, the street headed downhill slightly, making it impossible for me to stop on the street.

Luckily, there were no other cars on the street, or I would have been in serious trouble. In a state of total panic, I slid past my street and my anti-lock brakes simply were not working on the sheet of ice and were not getting any traction. As I slid past my street, I was hopeful to slow down enough to make the 90 degree right turn that was two blocks away. After passing the Sushi restaurant, I saw a very old man walking in the middle of the street, and he was expecting me to stop for him because he was walking on an icy street. I had to honked excessively to let this old man know I wasn't going to be able to stop, and this guy was not moving. If I hit the guy, I knew I was going to jail and I envisioned the Bulgarian news headline as "Reckless American ruthlessly slaughters defenseless Diado(Grandpa) with his car". The thoughts flashed through my head of being in jail for a long time, and becoming girlfriend to a toothless, tattooed prisoner in a Bulgarian prison outside Pazardjik for 10-20 years.

While I never would have intended to hit the man, the Bulgarian press would have had a field day with me, because they're bitter the US will not give them travel visas like the other EU members.

Fortunately, the old man got out of the way just in time, and I managed to slide into the turn going 10 miles an hour and come to a stop on the flat cross-street. Somehow, I avoided prison, infamy, and becoming a girlfriend to a toothless, tatooed prisoner. My fate is to continue to live here and now write this blog. This night taught me two important lessons:

1. Never go down these side streets when they turn into a sheet of ice, and take an alternate route home.

2. Honking excessively at old people does no good, because they're just too old to care.

You might be a Mutri if (Mafia guy or Mafia Wife):

If you wear or own anything with a leopard print, you just might be Mutri.

If your wife is 20, you are 50, and you bought breast implants for her, you just might be Mutri.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43_-NKtuhLo

If your nine year old child has a birthday party that cost the equivalent of the Lesotho yearly budget, you might be Mutri.

If you are a 20 year old woman driving a Porshe, you just might be a Mutri wife. Or Matt Ziems is right: There are A LOT of 20-25 year old young successful businesswomen driving around Lozentz in Porshes, Audis, and Mercedes. American women need to get their act together to compete with these entreprenurial geniuses.

If you like this clip, you might be Mutri, gay, a villager, or all of the above. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oA1daDCVC_Y

I wonder what Lady Gaga would do if she knew this clip existed........

Explaining the above clips:

Kamelia's Orgasm: I think Kamelia is using the Bible to hope to have her love come and be with her and have orgasms for the end of eternity. It also has an interesting interpretation of the leopard print outfit, for which she is thanking Baby Jesus for by holding the bible. In addition, she is thanking god for giving her the breast implants. Anyone else have an idea why the bible is in this song?

Sashka Vaseva's Lady Gaga Song: Yes, that is indeed the title. I think this clip represents Bulgaria well because it shows the entire of a Mutri home, the gays who love chalga singers, and the fashion you must wear to catch a mutri guy, or one of their sons.

That's all for now. In the next issue, I will give you the full details of teaching Bulgarian to Bulgarians. And, it will be out by the end of the February.