Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Eight Easy Steps

In Prague, I could blend. People would address me in Czech and it was only when I responded in a thick accent would they start talking to me in English. In Bulgaria, it is completely different. I'm addressed in English, people hardly give me the chance to try Bulgarian, and I have been even asked for directions in English. I've been trying to figure out how they know so quickly that my native tongue is English, and I think I have figured it out. There are both physical traits, and mannerisms which set me apart.
1) Blonde hair. It is ridiculous how little people have blonde hair in Bulgaria. I've gotten a lot of stares, and I've realized it is because of my hair. The only blondes here are bottled blondes.
2) My face. Most Bulgarians have very round faces. I have too many angles to try and be a Bulgarian.
3) Height. I'm a little too tall to be in this country. And I'm not really that tall.
4) Blue eyes and white skin. Not really noticeable at first, but I haven't met any Bulgarians with blue eyes. Not surprising. I'm also the whitest kid here. My skin is like porcelain, but not in a good way.
5) Polos. No one here wears polos. It was more common in Prague, but polo style shirts are not Bulgarian at all. However, polos are my favorite, so I continue to stick out. I tried to wear a tank top to try and blend in, but the only thing that happened is I burned my shoulders and my neck...
6) My back-pack. I can't lie, I wear my little red back-pack out and about a lot. I need to carry my water bottle and some small books in case I need to look up a Bulgarian word. You can't imagine how silly I look...
7) My iPod. It is a reflection of the wealthy country that I was lucky enough to be born in. Although it is just a shuffle, I have it a lot when I go on walks, and it sets me apart. Same goes for my camera or my computer.
8) Finally, my flip-flops are also a dead give away that I'm not a Bulgarian. Europeans don't really wear "Yapansky" as they are called, but I find they are the most comfortable shoes to wear.
Now, these traits could be considered an isolating force. However, I have used the "steps" to identify other English speakers. For example, on a tour of Tsaravets, I saw a girl with a back-pack, flip-flops, and a mini-skirt. The way she held herself and her nice digital camera, which had a full digital display of the pictures she took, pointed to the Western World. I guessed that she was from the States, and I was quite close. She was actually from Canada, so I need to do some tweaking of the steps, but they can definitely be useful...
Tsaravets is a huge hill in the middle of Veliko Turnivo. It is actually the ruins of an old fortress that was the seat of the Bulgarian kingdom, and it was quite interesting. My favorite part was the church at the top, which had modern recreations of earlier frescoes. I was worried that they would have been poor replicas, but they were very nice. They had recreated the frescoes in a modern art style that made them seem more accessible to people of today. Tsaravets also had a great view of the city, and it was great to see the city from such heights.
Sunday night, we went to a Slavi concert. If you don't know who Slavi is, I reccommend Youtubing him, because it is quite hard to explain. He was a great example of the differences in culture. The show was more than just a concert, it seemed to be a variety show. In the beggining, there was a slide-show of famous Bulgarian places, Slavi is quite the nationalist, and later there were comedians between songs. It was nice to have these breaks between songs and artists. The contestants in Bulgarian Idol were also at the concert, and it was great to see there idea of an idol. If anyone is trying to broaden their musical tastes, I would recommend Slavi.
It is raining a lot in Bulgaria right now. It is a great contrast with last week, which was bright and sunny everyday. But variety is good, and hopefully the rain will stop by tomorrow.

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