TEASER POST

Hey! So, spring break has ONE DAY LEFT and you can expect a post about my last 8 days of adventures sometime in the next month :) I don’t know when I’m going to get to it. So here’s a TEASER post!!

If you want to know where these pictures were taken, what’s going on, and any other details that may intrigue you, you’ll have to TUNE IN NEXT TIME!

I am a lazy, lazy bum. This is a super long post to make up for it.

Hello again, everyone!

I apologize for the long wait between posts – things get pretty busy here.

Since my last post, I have traveled to Sofia and Borovets (ski resort town), switched dorm rooms to live with one of my absolute best friends here (awesome!!!), taken a ridiculous amount of midterms, and, as always, made a TON of new friends.

This post was going to be a very detailed post about my average daily life in Blago, but since I have been insanely busy, we’re going to do a semi-detailed post, and include some fun pictures from the last couple of weeks. For you to understand fully, I have to tell you that there are 5 days a week where I don’t have to be up until 12 PM, or even later. So instead of telling you of the drudgery that happens the two days where I get up at 8 AM, we’re going to talk about the majority of my week.

I’ll usually wake up between 12 and 2, get some breakfast (orange juice) and get ready for theday. After my class (if I have one) I’ll grab food with friends or alone and head back to the dorms to do a little studying/procrastinating/hanging out. Food here in Blago is quite an experience. There is no such thing as fast food here, unless you count duner and banitska. Duner is a wrap somewhat reminiscent of Chipotle burritos in size, but the ingredients are very different. There’s a very thick, pita-like bread wrapping around usually chicken, fries, cabbage, onions, and whatever random things the guy happens to put on there. I am not picky, so I usually tell the guy to make me something tasty. And then banitsa. Ah, banitsa. How to describe this most delicious of foods? It’s like heaven in delicious, delicious pastry form. It’s not a sweet pastry, it’s just… gah. Possibly the most amazing food here. I can’t get over it. Wyki (my roommate) and I have developed an addiction. It’s bad, guys. It’s made of flaky bread, sort of similar in texture to baklava, and it has cheese inside. They come in different shapes and sizes, and I even got one with ham once! It was… indescribable. Oh, banitsa. When I’m done writing this post, I’m going to get some. Seriously. One banitsa costs 1 leva, which is about 65-70 cents in USD. I use that to justify how often I eat this food.

Other alternatives for the afternoon – I might possibly go out and shop a little, get out to the grocery store (Kaufland – it’s like Walmart, but it’s in Bulgaria, and filled with German products… go figure) or the pharmacy or something. There’s a lot of shopping to be done here in Blago, but unless you’re looking for shoes or lingerie, you might be out of luck. Also, if you’re trying to find shoes WITHOUT heels, you might be out of luck. I don’t wear heels (when I typed that originally, I typed hells, haha) and I think I’m the only one. Coincidentally, I’m probably the sloppiest dressed person here… A while ago, I saw an actual hobo pushing an actual shopping cart full of actual trash, and he was dressed better than me. Button-down collared shirt and whatnot. I felt a little ashamed, but luckily I just don’t care about how I look, so the feeling passed.

My afternoons here are somewhat indescribable, since I rarely do the same thing twice. Sometimes I’ll do some laundry (by hand… I’m never complaining about the SU laundry again) or go watch TV with a friend or shower and get ready if I didn’t have a chance before my class. It just depends on the day.

Dinner is usually less laid back – we’ll go to a restaurant of some sort. Mostly pizza, but sometimes other things too. They eat more pizza here than anyplace I’ve ever been. Seriously! There’s a pizza parlor every twenty feet! It’s not normal pizza, either. They put EVERYTHING on pizza. Tuna, corn, eggs, pickles, you name it, there’s a pizza with it. Unfortunately sausage and pepperoni are hard to find, but if I’m craving some comfort food, Hawaiian pizza is pretty standard. It’s not called that, though. There isn’t a lot of variety in Blagoevgrad food-wise, so I’m really looking forward to traveling.

After dinner it’s back to hanging out, possibly studying – we’ll convene in a room somewhere and sometimes guitars are brought, sometimes just youtube videos are played, and we’ll hang out until we’re ready to go somewhere else. We admittedly do more exploring of the Bulgarian nightlife than I was expecting to do, but when the town is this small, and the homework is this infrequent, there’s very little else to keep us entertained. There is one bar in particular that I really enjoy called Underground. [Side story – when I first found out I was coming to AUBG I posted in a Bulgarian forum on a website I frequent, asking if anyone had gone to AUBG. One person responded and asked if I knew about Underground. I didn’t know then. Now, I do.] They play rock/alt music, and it’s free some nights for AUBG students. Recently more locals have been frequenting the place, but from what I gather, it has long been a place just for AUBG students to hang out with each other and have a nice night. Understand, though, that it’s quite rare for a club to play music like this. I really enjoy listening to comfortable music. Most clubs and bars here either play KISS-FM type pop/hip-hop/crap or chalga. I was quite surprised at the prevalence of US music here, especially since few people speak English. Chalga, on the other hand, is Bulgarian music. It’s REALLY Bulgarian. If you want to know more about it, don’t. Life is short and precious… don’t waste it on chalga.

After going out (or staying in – one memorable and absolutely amazing night, about 10 of us stayed in the basement of one of the dorms with a couple of beers and a couple guitars, just hanging out) we’ll come back to the dorm and hit the sack. On nights when we don’t go out, we’ll often watch movies. I have watched so many freaking movies since I’ve gotten here. I’m not upset about this, but it’s definitely a change of pace.

Speaking of change of pace, let’s talk general Bulgarian stuff for a minute. I have noticed that Bulgarians move a lot slower than people in the US. There’s no rush here, for anything. If you go into a restaurant to get a cup of coffee, you might be there for 4 hours. Another quirk: Bulgarians are the only people in the world who nod their head to say no, and shake their head to say yes. It really threw me off the first couple of times in restaurants or stores when I would ask for something, get a head shake in response, and have the person helping me walk away. (They would always return with what I asked for, only adding to the confusion. But it’s ok, I got it now.) Luckily (?) I look SO AMERICAN that when I nod to say yes, they understand. I’ve heard a rumor that Parisians can spot an American from 100 feet, with their back turned, but the Bulgarian people have a knack for pinning me as an American that I barely understand. I think it has something to do with the fact that I have light-colored hair, a small nose, freckles, and I look happy most of the time. In Sofia, my friend Bertha and I were walking past a store with a Bulgarian man handing out flyers. He was speaking loudly and insistently to everyone in Bulgarian. I walked past him and suddenly I hear “Have a nice day!” in perfect English, despite the fact that I hadn’t said a single word to him. Great.

If you all want to hear more about Bulgaria, my trips to Sofia or Borovets, or my upcoming spring break adventure, you have less than 24 hours before I leave for Istanbul to get on Skype and CALL ME! I love you all.

Well, shucks.

I wrote a really stellar post about my trip to Sofia this weekend, added the best of the pictures I took, and when I clicked publish, the entire post disappeared and the only thing that came up was the first picture I uploaded. Stay tuned for the re-write and the rest of the pictures!

SNOW!

Last night I went to a Karaoke bar for the first time ever. No, I did not sing, although had I stayed longer, I probably would have gotten conned into singing the U.S. national anthem. I was on the list, apparently.

This morning I looked out the window and saw clumps of snow the size of golf balls falling from the sky. Everything here is bright white and covered in a fluffy layer of cold. It’s been snowing like this all. day. long. and will continue to do so until tonight, according to the weather reports. I have seen multiple snowmen that are my height or taller. The weather is beautiful from indoors!

Classes here have been continuing as per usual, and I still enjoy all of my classes, although one of my professors isn’t really my style of prof. I’m the only History major in my Bulgarian History class, so my professor will frequently call me out to answer questions. The latest example, “Ok Leslie, what were all the reasons for the fall of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Empires?” (annnnd go) ….no, not kidding. I’m not enjoying being that kid. Guess I better bone up on my history of everything that’s ever happened. Wikipedia?

ANYway, enough whining, enjoy some snow pictures!

First week of classes: check!

I am officially done with one week of classes at AUBG, and I am absolutely having a BLAST so far over here. Blagoevgrad isn’t as cold as I was expecting in general, which has made the transition a little easier. The homesickness/culture shock definitely hasn’t faded away completely yet, but having Skype has helped a lot, and I have some amazing friends over here that have really helped as well.

Fun facts:

– My super professional method of “pointing at stuff and saying ‘Da’ a lot” has led me to some pretty delicious foods.

– Bars and cafes here are one and the same. In the morning, a place will serve coffee and pastries, but at night, they’ll transition to alcohol. It’s interesting.

– I did NOT expect the difference between Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish to be quite as pronounced as it actually is. I will have to get accustomed to this, and I will also have to figure out vosotros again. I know what it means and how to use it, but I don’t think I could use it in a sentence.

– In Bulgaria, people nod their head up when saying “Neh” (no) and bobble their head side to side when saying “Da” (yes). This has created some confusion. I anticipate more confusion upon coming back to the States. Yikes.

– Not having an iPhone beside me day and night is the worst feeling ever. I miss my phone :(

– Parties here are very, very different, in that they don’t have them. Everyone is legal, so partying is not a novelty. People will go out to bar/cafes and just hang out there, but actual parties with music and liquor are quite rare, from what I understand.

– I think many of the people here have become immune to the beautiful scenery due to constant exposure. I, on the other hand, almost didn’t make it to class on time one morning because I was simply standing and staring at the snow-capped mountaintops change from pink to gold to blindingly white as the sun got higher in the sky. Absolutely breathtaking.

– The schoolwork here (aside from Spanish) is just a fraction of the work I’ve grown accustomed to doing at Southwestern. The amount of reading is comparable, but I will only have to write about 30-40 pages this semester. Total. [Shoutout time! Hey Brandon – done any of those 125 pages yet? I jest, I jest. Get on Skype sometime please!]

– Many people here, my lovely roommates included, seem to consider any moment not spent drinking tea or coffee as a moment wasted. How anyone here gets any sleep is a mystery to me.

 

Welllll, I’m out of fun facts, and it’s getting close to dinner time. I miss all of you, and I would love to hear from you. Skype, Facebook, or email me. Seriously. Chao chao!

Bulgaria: where indoor chain-smoking is the national sport, and vodka is cheaper than water.

Hello all!

I’m going to give you guys an overview of what has gone down so far since I left; get ready, it’s going to be a long post.

SO. Traveling for 24+ hours at a time is just no fun at all. I flew from DFW to Boston Logan to London Heathrow to Sofia. The wait in Heathrow was the longest, and since they didn’t tell me where the gate was until 45 minutes before the flight, most of my 3 hour layover was spent setting new solitaire records on my iTouch. Great stuff. Getting through customs in Sofia was a little nerve-wracking, but obviously I made it through unscathed, and took the AUBG bus to Blagoevgrad, where I am now.

I won’t lie… the first night (Thursday) was not great. I didn’t have a clock, I didn’t have food or a way to find food, I didn’t know anyone, and every single available drawer, desk, and shelf in my dorm room was occupied by stuff already. I had no internet and no phone, and my Bulgarian would only be sufficient to expose me as an American. Luckily, the next morning was “diversity training” with all the other exchange and first-year students, so I met a TON of people and immediately jumped into things. I have met people from literally around the globe – I have friends from Kazakhstan, Moldova, Estonia, Venezuela, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Holland, and of course, Bulgaria, and the States. The group of people I’ve been hanging out with are mostly exchange students from Holland and the States.

On Saturday, my second full day in Bulgaria, we all took a trip to the nearby (50 km away) Rila Monastery. It was originally built/founded in the 11th century, and some of the original structure still stands, while other parts have been renovated after various fires and such. We spent 2 hours there, and it was AMAZING. I can’t even describe how awesome it was. The scenery was spectacular, the building itself was unbelievable. You’ll have to take a look at my pictures to see for yourself.

Sunday I spent most of the day in my room, unpacking and getting to know my roommates a little better – Lydia from Moldova, and Tanya from Kazakhstan. They each speak at least 3 languages. That is fairly common here… I’ve met people who speak four or more languages. I feel really dumb, a lot of the time. My roommates speak almost exclusively Russian to each other, which is ok, but intimidating… it makes me doubly determined to get better at Spanish, and improve my Bulgarian while I’m here!

My classes started on Tuesday, since I don’t have any on Monday. I have three classes on T/TH: Archaeology in Southeast Europe, Bulgarian History, and Rome and the Ancient World. My archaeology class only has 5 people in it, and the professor is from the US. He’s the only prof I have from the US, believe it or not. In my Bulgarian History class, there are 2 exchange students (including me), and about 20 native Bulgarian kids. My professor lapsed into Bulgarian once or twice, but she told me that since I’m a History major back home, I shouldn’t have any problems. That was… reassuring… I think. My Ancient Rome prof is Italian, and that’s my biggest class… about 30 people! Hah, regardless, I’m going to like the class. I am really excited to study just History for one semester, because I won’t get an opportunity like this ever again! For those of you who don’t know: when I get back to the states, I’ll be applying for medical school, to attend in the fall of 2013. My W/F class is Spanish, which wasn’t a problem. It’s right about my level, so I think I made the right decision there. I have no idea where my professor is from, but he seems very nice. His Spanish and Bulgarian are both better than his English, and I’m hoping that will help me! Haha.

The food here is different, but not anything you couldn’t find in the US if you looked hard enough. Something that surprised me – they seem to eat a lot of pizza. I didn’t expect that. They put weird stuff on their pizza, but there’s a pretty reliable cheese pizza everywhere from what I hear. I’ve been trying new things, which most recently involved some spaghetti that had tuna and pickles in it. Surprisingly tasty… but I’ll probably get something else next time. A few nights ago I had a “kabob” which was actually a Chipotle-sized burrito that had chicken, a bunch of veggies (not sure what they were… I just pointed at some stuff and he slapped it on there) and french fries all wrapped up in it. I paid about $2 (USD) for this burrito, and it was by far the most delicious thing I’ve had here! Peanut butter and granola bars are hard to come by, and I’ve been less than impressed with what I’ve found. On the plus side, I have yet to be disappointed with any bread or pastry that I’ve tried.

So far, I am having the time of my life here in Blagoevgrad. I’m still undergoing a little bit of culture shock, but I think it’ll pass soon. I don’t have a cell phone, but I should be available by Facebook and Skype if you’d like to chat! Chao :)

First post

Hello all!

My name is Leslie Roberts, and I will be studying at the American University in Bulgaria (in Blagoevgrad) from January 2012 to May 2012. I am a double major in Biology and History, and I will primarily be studying History while I am abroad.

This blog is, for lack of a better term, my “PC” blog, that I hope to share with educators, family friends, and anyone who wishes to learn about my experiences! I will primarily talk about the educational and travel aspects of my trip on this blog.

That being said, I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences as I post throughout the semester! I hope to include photos (and possibly videos, if things get crazy) along with my posts.

If you have any questions, of course, post a comment and I will answer to the best of my ability. One caveat, quickly: please use correct grammar when commenting on this blog. Bad grammar (particularly incorrect forms of two, their, and your) is a pet peeve of mine, which I will not tolerate politely if I have to read it frequently.

Thanks, and happy reading!

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