Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The end is in sight!

Well, today is our last day in the old country. Mitch left us on Saturday afternoon to spend a couple of days in Sofia, visiting his dad and stuff. Mom (Ionka) left early Monday morning and met Mitch at the airport. They both flew home that day, she to the Ukraine and he back to Winnipeg. Deyan and I have been laying low. I have actually been especially taking it easy since I haven't been feeling 100% these past few days. It's no big deal, but you can pray that I am okay for the trip back. I'm really not looking forward to being on an airplane again for long hours in a confined space. I am quite uncomfortable at this stage in my pregnancy. Simeon is still coughing, by the way, but only in the mornings or after his nap. I'm finding it sad to think of uprooting him again from family he has grown to love. This part of our lives is very difficult for me. I hate being separated from loved ones, and I especially hate it when I think of him. He is so friendly and outgoing and attaches easily to people who show him love. I really hope he doesn't lose this from all the coming and going we do with family.

Things I will miss about Bulgaria:
family - they really so great
food - no pesticides fresh tomatoes (even better than garden tomatoes from home, can't explain why) and other veggies (peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, etc.), peaches right off the tree in the backyard, figs from the neighbor's tree, watermelon (less than $1 each) picked that day, fresh milk and bread without any preservatives or anything (it literally goes bad/stale within a day or two), feta in abundance, things you can't get in Canada (different pastries, meats, etc.)
prices - going out to a nice restaurant and spending less than $15 for a full course meal, clothing (which I didn't buy due to my current size/situation), medicine, alcohol (okay, so it's not like we drink alot or anything, but did I mention that beer is sold at the corner store in 2.5L bottles for less than $2 - the same price for a 2L bottle of Coke here?)
culture/heritage - there is such a richness here when you think of the deep history and roots. This country was already hundreds of years old before Canada was ever "discovered". It's also kind of fun to see cars and horse drawn wagons on the same street together.
weather - lots of sun, very little rain
walking - no one drives around here, unless you are going to a different city or something. The downtown is totally set up for pedestrians.
no mosquitos! - okay, so there are alot of flies which are also very annoying, but at least they don't bite!
the language - Bulgarian sounds really cool and I've enjoyed learning more this trip. Simeon is learning quite a few words too and can count to ten in Bulgarian which is very cute!
restaurants - I love the style of patios and courtyards. I also like that there are small cafe's EVERYWHERE you go downtown with umbrellas to sit in the shade and take a rest and grab a drink or ice cream after all the walking!
ice cream - speaking of...it's kind of cool how they serve it here. It is in a cooler, but each individual flavour is shaped and decorated like a beautiful cake! I should take a picture because it's kind of hard to explain.

Things I won't miss:
beauracracy - everything is SO difficult here! People are generally not very helpful, maybe in part because they don't make any money to speak of!
sidewalks - public space is not very well kept around here. Sidwalks have big holes or tiles sticking up (impossible in North America or the city would be CONSTANTLY sued), people park wherever they want, and block sidewalks all the time.
beds - they don't make double/queen/king mattresses here, although they do have frames for them. For instance, the bed Dey and I sleep in has a king size headboard, footboard and frame, but it has 2 single mattresses side by side. It gets annoying having the space in the middle.
bathrooms - most home washrooms here are set up with a showerhead, a toilet and a sink all in the same room. The floor has a drain in it. At first it's kind of quaint, but going to the bathroom after someone else has showered and the floor is all wet gets tiresome for me.
no high chair or carseat - Poor Sim is going to have quite the readjustment when we get back to Winnipeg and he has to sit still to eat and while driving in the car!

Okay, that's probably good for now. I should get back to the house and continue packing. We leave the house around 5am tomorrow (31st) to drive to Sofia to catch an 8:30am flight. We arrive back in Winnipeg around 6:30pm on Wednesday, the 31st. This will be 2:30am for us, so hopefully we'll go straight to bed and get some sleep! Please pray for a safe and relaxing trip!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ups and Downs

Well, it has been a full week, but not too busy. Let's see where to begin...

On Monday, Deyan had his 3rd wisdom tooth removed. It was the simplest extraction which didn't even require surgery and only cost $20! As soon as the freezing wore off, he was fine and was able to eat supper and everything that night.

Tuesday, we had a visit in the evening from a second cousin of Deyan. His name is Delian and he is only a few months younger than Dey. He and his brother grew up close to Dey and Mitch. He is now married and has a baby one year younger than Simeon. He came with his wife, baby and mother, who is Ionka's first cousin. It was a nice visit. I learned a few more BG customs too. Whenever you have something to celebrate, people bring chocolates. Like, if it's your birthday, you are expected to buy chocolates and serve them to everyone you see that day. And if you have a baby, it's the same thing. Kind of opposite of the North American idea that when you have something to celebrate, everyone else brings you stuff, eh? But they do also always bring gifts for Simeon. Poor kid, it almost always involves interesting clothing, which is nice, and treats. I feel bad, but I can't let him have chocolate all the time and everyone seems to want to feed it to him! I have relaxed a bit and allowed him much more than I usually would, realizing we're on vacation, but I hope he doesn't go through withdrawl when we get back to Winnipeg! :)

Wednesday, we had more company for lunch. Ionka's cousin, Bonka, who she is very close to, came with her grandaughter Simona (this is Antoine's daughter, who you'll remember also met us at the airport when we arrived). She is 11 years old and very sweet. I felt bad for Mom because she had a plan to make a specific chicken dish for lunch, but at the last minute couldn't find the main ingredient. She is a great cook and I know she wanted to make a really nice lunch. She asked for my help about half an hour before they were due to arrive, and the only thing that came to mind was my favorite honey/curry chicken. Well, it saved the day and everyone really liked it. Whew!
That afternoon, Deyan had his 4th tooth removed. This one was the worst and boy was it a doozy! The surgery was traumatic both physically and emotionally. They had to shave off bone and all kinds of crazy stuff. And for the first time, Dey's face swelled up like a balloon! Poor guy. He is recovering, but it's still very swollen and he has a hard time eating.

Thursday afternoon Bonka invited us to go downtown with herself, her husband and Simona. We shopped a bit and sat in a cafe for a nice dessert. Then Deyan went home to rest while the rest of us continued walking around and shopping here and there. The downtowns are cool in this country because they are all blocked off and only available to pedestrians. Anyways, Kaleko Stuyan (Kaleko is kind of a special name for uncle I think) is a nut for kids so he spent the whole day just chasing Simeon around. Simeon of course was loving this! They later took us to a really nice little restaurant for supper. I love the restaurants here. Most of them have patios and/or courtyards. This one had a nice courtyard with a fountain in the middle and a small slide off to the side for Sim to play on. The food was excellent too, and still so cheap! Anyways, it was a nice time and we felt very spoiled!

Today (Friday), Vuicho is coming with his son Mitko who is back from visiting his sister in France. They will spend the day with us and then Vuina, his wife, will join us for the evening. We are going out to a nice restaurant for supper to celebrate a bunch of things. Deyan's grandparents had their 50th anniversary this year, his grandmother just had her 70th birthday this summer, and there are of course the other birthdays and Simeon's arrival, etc. It was going to be a big party with extended family, but Dey's grandparents felt too overwhelmed with this idea and decided to just do immediate family. We will also go tomorrow morning for a family portrait. I hope Dey's face isn't quite so swollen by then! :)

Well, that's the update. I titled this ups and downs because at times I've had an emotional week. Sometimes I am so ready to just come home, and other days I really don't want to leave. I guess that's normal. If you want to pray for us, I woke up with a sore throat and Simeon has developped a cough over the past few days. To be honest, I'm more stressed about how everyone else responds to his cough than I am about the cough itself. Everyone gets really uptight about kids getting sick here! And then comes all the advice (keep him dressed warm, don't let him sit on the floor, don't let him eat anything cold, etc.) and eventually I feel completely incompetent! Anyways, I'm also feeling a bit blimpish these days. Somehow I feel much bigger with this pregnancy. I know, you're all wondering how that's possible since everyone thought I was SO huge last time. Well, last time I really didn't feel extra big, but this time I do. I really hope this baby isn't any bigger than Sim was! I will be happy when the pregnancy is over, though. I'm pretty uncomfortable, especially at night.

Okay, enough complaining. Hope you all are well and we'll see some of you soon!

PS - Emma/Maddie/Marli - Simona's grandparents are wanting to send her to Canada next summer for a month to work on her English. They would love to have her live with a family and then have one or two girls her age come to stay with her for a month in exchange. It would be a great opportunity if you guys are interested! I'll talk more about it with you when I get back.

PPS - Jordan, welcome to Winnipeg! Can't wait to see you in a few days! Hope you have fun with the Guse's and that you recover quickly from jet lag and culture shock!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Fear of the Evil Cross Breeze!!!

I don't know if this is common in other eastern European countries, but Bulgarians have an incredible nervousness about the cross breeze. They are seriously quite paranoid about it! It started the first few days we were here when I kept noticing Vuicho or Baba closing windows and/or doors so that there was only ever 1 open in a room. The temperature outside was quite warm, and I personally enjoy a nice breeze in the house. It was explained to me that "cross breezes" is how people get sick and everyone is so worried about Simeon catching a cold or something. It's almost laughable. I told them that we sleep with our window open at home and a fan blowing on us (at least until we got the air conditioner). I don't think they really believed me.

And you know, I've noticed this phenomenon extends into other areas. No one ever feeds their children anything cold from the fridge until they are quite old. Little did they know we'd been giving Simeon frozen fruit popsicles since he was 7 months old! Hee hee! They are also always checking to make sure Simeon is warm enough, is dry, etc. I understand their concerns, but I guess I'm just a bit more laid back about all that. I mean, when the temperatue outside is above 20 degrees, and he wants to run around in a diaper, I figure it's great! Less laundry for me! :)

Today Dey, Sim and I went for a walk to pick up our new glasses. I'm still getting used to mine, which are quite unique. Dey says when we get back to Winnipeg I should get a funky haircut and go buy a new wardrobe and just go with a whole new look! :) We'll see... Anyways, while we were walking, I noticed babies in strollers, wrapped in thick blankets. I mean, I realize that I'm pregnant and therefore warmer than most, but honestly, it's at least 25 degrees outside! Just a funny thing about the culture here I guess.

I forgot to mention a couple of things in my last post. One thing I have gotten really spoiled with in Winnipeg is the lack of smoking. I have to say that it is much better this trip than the last time we were here, but there are still alot of smokers around and they don't seem to care too much where they blow their smoke! Yuk! It sounds like Europe is beginning to follow the trend of no smoking, but it will definitely take awhile to change things here as it is very ingrained in the culture. The other thing that I just don't get here is how people can eat food with so much oil/grease so often and still be so skinny! There really are very few overweight people around, except for older grandmotherly types. It's odd to me.

Well, that's all for today. I should be home napping with Simeon, but wasn't feeling too tired. Maybe I'll go give it a whirl, though, since he keeps me hopping when he wakes up! Have a great day! :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Well, we just got back from a week at the Black Sea this afternoon. Sorry I didn't write from there, but it was difficult to imagine sitting in an internet cafe when I could be on the beach! :) We had a wonderful time and great weather for the week. The sea and beaches are incredible. The water is between 24-27 degrees Celcius. In other words, refreshing, but not cold at all!
The first couple of days we had lots of waves, which are fun for swimming, but a bit intimidating for Simeon. Usually a fish in the water, he wasn't too sure what to make of these unpredicable splashes! That's okay, though, because he also loved playing on the sand. But by Tuesday he was relaxed and enjoying the waves, which by then were much smaller anyway. Actually, by the end of the week, he made us all paranoid as he would run into the water up to his armpits, refusing any type of floating toy or even anyone to hold his hands! Occasionally he would fall over, or go under, we'd pull him up and he'd be ready to go again, laughing all the time. We spent long hours at the beach, eating lunch at nearby restaurants and letting Sim have his nap under the umbrella. It was awesome.
It was also so good for him to spend some relaxed time with his Baba (Ionka). They had loads of fun together! I wish I could post some photos, but you'll all have to be patient until we get back to Winnipeg because I can't download our pictures on an internet cafe computer!
So, here are a few likes and dislikes of our week:

Things We Liked

being right in town, walking distance from the beach as well as shopping and other sights the great view the nice sand and warm salt water the cheap, tasty food (we ate out every meal, and even the most expensive places were less than 10 leva/person, including drinks and there is no tax or tips) fresh fruit and salads cheap accomodations (12 leva/person/night, Simeon was free) family time no mosquitos!!!!!!!!!!! evenings out, sometimes all together, sometimes just on a date with Dey, exploring some of the culture swimming and feeling weightless in the water!

Things We Didn't Like

being right in town, hearing people all around at all hours, not very private since all the backyards are kind of connected (hard to explain) cats that came on our balcony at night and meowed really loud grease and fat (most of the food here is made with alot of oil and after awhile it gets to you) juice/pop is more expensive than beer, which is 1 leva/pint roughly (okay, so Dey didn't mind this!) sleeping on a sofa bed (Dey and I had a nice room, but the bed really sucked. I don't think I've ever slept in a bed with such a deep hole in the middle!) the bathroom where we stayed was kind of grungy and annoyed me pornographic advertising everywhere and topless bathers on the beach getting the stomach flu (me) the second to last night we were there and needing to spend all the next day in bed, trying to recover crazy drivers who seem to speed up in spite when they see pedestrians trying to cross the street and who are always in a hurry, cutting everyone off and passing whenever they feel like it lack of courtesy (not that I expect people to bow down to me or anything, but you'd think with a big pregnant belly and a toddler in tow, people might give you a bit of a break, like giving up their seat on the bus or at least giving you a bit more space!) Maybe I'm spoiled in Canada! Well, I'm sure there are more, but that's all I can think of for now. All in all, it really was great but we are also glad to be back in Pazardjik. Simeon was very excited to see his great grandparents again and gave them lots of cuddles when we got back! We are all nice and tanned too. I think things will be quiet for a few days now and I'm looking forward to sleeping in a comfortable bed again!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Black Sea, Here We Come!

Well, we're back in Plovdiv for the night because tomorrow we are leaving for the seashore! Yay! We will be staying in this cool little place, Neseber, in a house/apartment (kind of like a bed and breakfast without the breakfast) which has 2 rooms and a bathroom, and possibly a kitchen. Dey, Sim and I will stay in one room, and Ionka, Mitch and Vuicho (Dey's uncle) will stay in the other. It is only $12/bed and is only a 5 minute walk to the beach. We can also walk all around Old Neseber which has cool markets and ruins and great sights. It should be a great week!

To catch you up on the last few days...

On Thursday we drove to Sofia with Vuicho to pick up Mitch at the airport. There we met up with Deyan's Dad, grandmother (Baba Ana) and younger brother (Delian - 12 years old). We left with them and Deyan and his dad spent the afternoon downtown trying to get some paperwork done for his BG passport. The beauracracy here is incredible! After visiting 4 different offices and jumping through many hoops, he still can't renew his passport! His dad will continue working on things for him and we'll hopefully be able to do more when we get back from the sea. Anyways, while they were out and about, I stayed at the apartment with Vania (Deyan's dad's partner), their baby Joanna (10 months), Baba Ana, and Delian. Thankfully, Vania speaks fluent English so we had a pleasant chat while the kids played. In the evening we also enjoyed a nice supper together. We spent the night and early the next morning Deyan's cousin, Antoine picked us up to take us back to the airport to meet Ionka. Of course she was thrilled to see all of us, especially Simeon! He is a bit confused with having so many Baba's but being the socialite that he is, he is lapping up all the attention! So, we went back to Pazardjik for the day and night Friday, and this afternoon (Saturday) we packed up Vuicho's car and came back to his place in Plovdiv. Deyan and Mitch will take the bus to the Black Sea while the rest of us drive in the car. It is roughly 4-5 hours away, so hopefully Sim will do okay. There are no carseats here (don't panic, mom!) and driving is a bit crazy, but I'm getting used to it and trying not to stress out too much!

So, if you don't hear from me for a few days, just know that I'm soaking in the sun and relieving my pregnant body of the heat and humidity by bathing in the salty sea! :) Not to make you jealous or anything....! :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I can see!

Well, we're back in Pazardjik with Deyan's grandparents. Today we went to the eye doctor. I haven't had my eyes tested since I was 15, at which point I was diagnosed with astigmatism. I haven't worn glasses in years, even though I could use them. Deyan's last exam was 4 years ago, so we figured it was time and it's also much cheaper here. It cost $6 for the exam, $14/lens which have special "photosynthesis" properties (something about tinting in sunlight, not sure if I totally understand) . I got 2 pairs of frames, 1 cost $9 and the other $45. So, not bad really. Oh, and this is actually Leva, the Bulgarian currency which is roughly 80cents CDN. It was interesting trying on glasses and I chose some pretty funky ones, thanks to Deyan's prodding. He says they're pretty stylish, but it will definitely take some getting used to for me!

Thankfully, the exam uses numbers instead of letters for identifying your vision. The Bulgarian alphabet is Syralic, and although I know all the letters, it could have been rather confusing! For instance, B in Bulgarian is pronounced V, P=R, H=N, and so on. Numbers are the same, as long as you know what they're called, which I do.

By the way, Deyan's recovery from his dental surgery has gone extremely well. He's eating normally, has very little swelling, and the pain doesn't seem to be bad at all. He's not looking forward to going through it again in a couple of weeks, but he's happy with how smooth things have gone so far.

Tomorrow is Deyan's birthday! We are going to Sofia, the capital, to pick up Mitch at the airport with Deyan's uncle. Then Deyan, Simeon & I will stay and spend the afternoon/night with his dad. We will also probably meet his sister who is only 9 months old. Ionka arrives the next day and Deyan's cousin will pick her up and drive all of us back to Pazardjik. I'm sure things will get busy after that! Happy day! :)

Monday, August 08, 2005

On the move...

This morning we packed up and came to Plovdiv, the city where Deyan's uncle lives. His family is in France at the moment, so there is lots of room at his place! It is a much bigger city than Pazardjik, where Deyan's grandparents live.

Interesting enough, the last time we came to Bulgaria, there was an unusual amount of rain and flooding and one of the roads actually collapsed! Well, this time there was another huge flood, much closer to us! The river that runs between the 2 cities I mentioned above flooded its banks, and although the cities were spared, houses along the outskirts were flooded to the roof! What's up with that, eh? Maybe it's a Winnipeg thing!

Anyways, we came to Plovdiv because Deyan has decided to get his wisdom teeth removed while we are here. It is much cheaper than in Canada ($70/tooth all inclusive). So this morning he saw a dentist, showed her his x-rays, and this afternoon he had his first surgery! They removed top and bottom teeth on one side. It is the first time Deyan has ever had local freezing. He has alot of fillings, but he always got them done without freezing. He knows he needed freezing for this job, as the teeth are partially impacted and they even needed to shave off some jaw bone to access them, but he really didn't like the feeling of being frozen! He looked, sounded, and felt much better after it wore off! I hope he still feels okay tomorrow. He will wait to have the other 2 teeth removed after we get back from the seashore.

So, that's the news of the day. I'm having quite a bit of pain in my pelvic joints and sciatic nerve so please pray for that!

PS - I changed the time on my post - this is now the right time for BG.

No More Jet Lag...I hope!

In my last post, I forgot to mention how crazy it is to deal with an 8 hour time difference! I remember it being tough last time we came, but having Simeon adds a whole new dimension! The first 3 nights, he went to bed between 8 and 9pm, slept a few hours, and then woke up as if just finishing his afternoon nap. He was happy, thankfully, but didn't go back to sleep for 2-4 hours! So we just brought him into bed with us and he sang and talked about his day, and cuddled us. Good thing Dey & I were also having difficulty sleeping or it could have been a nightmare! Instead, we just laughed at his antics and eventually we would all fall asleep. Simeon would then sleep until noon or so and skip a nap. Well, last night he went down a bit later (9:30pm) woke up after an hour, but only for a few minutes, and then slept until 7:30am! Yay! If only I could have slept! His nap was messed up today because he fell asleep in the car, but he's down early for the night and I really hope he's adjusted to the new time zone. As for me, I didn't get a nap today so I think I should actually sleep well tonight. Here's hoping! :)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

We're Here!!!

We made it in 1 piece and with most of our sanity in tact! :) Actually, the travel went really well, considering it was 3 flights, 2 layovers, 1 delay which meant we almost missed our connection, 1 car ride, and a total of 20 hours! Simeon did awesome - thanks for all the prayers! We arrived pretty tired and unfortunately our luggage didn't make it for a few days, but we have it all now so we're all set. We were met at the airport by Deyan's uncle, his cousin and young daughter, Deyan's dad, his grandmother on that side, and his little brother. Thankfully, we didn't visit long, but jumped in the car with his uncle and drove to his grandparent's house (on his mom's side).

Simeon warmed up very quickly to PraBaba (his great-grandmother) and follows her everywhere. Deyan's grandfather looked very weak when we first saw him (he has Parkinson's disease and it is really taking it's toll on his health) but we can see the strength entering him every day that we're here. Simeon is learning Bulgarian words every day and is quite happy. My Bulgarian is starting to come back, and even though I can't speak that much, I can understand alot of the conversation before Deyan translates. And when left alone, I can get by okay with simple chats, at least with family. The only thing left for me to perfect is the proper head shaking. They nod for no and shake their head for yes, exactly the opposite of what we do in Canada!

Bulgaria is such a beautiful country. There are mountains everywhere! The way the houses are built is so unique, and although some things are pretty run-down, I find it very fascinating. The pace is very quiet here, almost to the point of boredom for a socialite like me! :) I'm sure it will pick up a bit when Mitch and Ionka arrive, but for now we are enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

The food is great too! Breakfast usually consists of some sort of pastry (very fattening!) and this strange drink called Boza. It's thick and creamy like a milkshake, but is made from rye and wheat and all kinds of healthy things. I'm not crazy about it, but I can drink it if it's really cold. Simeon doesn't mind it, but still prefers his water. Lunch is the main meal of the day and usually involves fresh seasonal fruit (right now it's watermelon, peaches, berries, figs) and a hot dish, usually with meat in it. So far we've had lamb in a casserole and Kebabche (really yummy sausages), fried peppers, and Banitsa (feta pastry). Supper is a bit lighter and always involves salad, mainly tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden (I've never eaten tomatoes like this before - seriously) with feta cheese, and of course bread (which they buy fresh every day) and maybe some cheese and cold meats. Anyways, there are more things I could say about it, but just trust me - it's great! :)

Well, that's probably enough info for now! My posts may be long because I'm not sure how often I will get to an internet cafe, but I hope you enjoy hearing about our adventures!

Take care! :)
Deanna (and crew)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

To Keep in Touch...

Stay tuned here for updates as we travel to Bulgaria this summer, and for updates on the impending baby!!!

Feel free to use the comments section as much as you'd like!