Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bulgarian Post

Four hours for a package. Seriously?
We finally got a slip for the package that BH's friend sent a month ago. Excited, we rush to the post office. Only to find out the package is in another post office. We set off, still in high hopes. When we give the post lady our slip, she has BH sign a bunch of things and then gives him a receipt. Saying the package is not there. Instead, we have to trek to the other side of the city, 40 minutes by taxi, to get to customs. When we finally get there, we head to the desk written on the slip. But its the wrong desk. After being corrected, we go to the correct window. The woman working there is awful. Doesn't say hi, doesn't help us a bit. When I ask her what we need to fill out on the form, she says, "I don't know. I don't know Chinese." Of course, BH is Korean, but I don't correct her. After struggling through the form (written in Bulgarian and the lady wouldn't help a bit) we finish it and hand it to her. After forking over four leva, she says go up. So we go up to the third floor. Only to be sent back down. Wandering around lost, finally a person helps us. I show her my slip, and she leads me to another window. We give the worker our card, and he says "my, this came a while ago". He searches through the boxes, asks for five more leva, and then finally hands over the package. They asked no custom type questions. Why they couldn't have just delivered it at the door, I have no idea. This is the first time I've been actually angry with Bulgaria. Seriously, that much bureaucracy for a box with underwear and electric cords?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks in Sofia

Thanksgiving is one of the few times a year I want to be cuddled up safely at home. It just is such a family-oriented holiday, it seems a shame not to celebrate with your loved ones. A like-minded Fulbrighter in Sofia felt the same way, and organized an orphan's Thanksgiving on Saturday.
I said I'd bring a pie and the cranberry sauce. That meant, of course, that I needed to make a practice pie. BH and I enjoyed said pie throughout the week. Friday morning, I went to the grocery store to buy some cranberries, but, alas, they were sold out! In a last minute decision I bought this bag of dried cranberries mixed with nuts and some dried figs, thinking I could figure out something.
Laura came up Friday night, and we went to the Deaf club, and afterward out for beer. Laura wanted some Starbucks, and when she came back she brought cranberries! Apparently, the street markets sell them. What a life-saver. We spent a long time at the restaurant, just chatting and learning some Bulgarian sign language.
After our beers, we hit the town. Milk Bar and Club ID. At one point, we realized that we were just bobbing our heads to the music and not really paying attention to what was going on. That meant we needed to get home. So we did!
Saturday morning (well, early afternoon) I baked an apple pie, Laura made apple cider, BH made Korean pancakes, and I prepared the cranberry sauce. We finished our cooking and headed over to Katie and Keith's place. A bunch of Fulbright fellows were there, and the meal was fantastic. All sorts of dishes, and all well prepared. I forgot my cranberry sauce, but c'est la vie.
 
BH and Sophia grabbing their food

After dinner, we played a huge round of rock, paper, scissors, went to a hookah bar (without hookah) and then headed to Milk Club again. It was a very successful Thanksgiving.
The next morning, Sunday, BH and I went to Starbucks and met up with Connor and Sophia. We invited them over for dinner, and BH made one of my favorite dishes: tuna mixed rice. One of the eggs he cracked open was a twin. Does that mean good luck?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Deaf Club Vienna

Friday was a little more low-key. We met up with BH’s friend, David, and he led us on a tour of the city, supplying similar details that Rick Steve’s gave me, but in a way that both BH and I could understand. He explained more about Stephansdom, which is truly a remarkable cathedral. It was originally built in the 12th century, and, with a couple of restoration projects here and there, survives to this day. Germany spared the building during World War II, but the roof did catch fire when neighboring houses were set aflame by the Nazis. However, as is evident in the picture, the reconstruction of the roof is quite impressive.
The tour continued with views of the parliament building, the main university, and other churches in the city. David also taught me the words for Roman, Baroque, and Gothic architecture, which will come in useful throughout our travels in Europe.
Friday night and we were at the Deaf club for University students in Vienna. The system here seems better than Eastern Europe. For one, they have a lot of translators for students. I don’t think that happens in Bulgaria… After a somewhat boring election of new members to the board, we chatted and celebrated a random girl’s birthday. BH’s friends were great, and we spent our last night with them, drinking vodka and telling stories.
I must say Vienna was a tad boring. It was beautiful and opulent, but it didn’t seem like much was going on. When I told this to my friend, NI, she told me that I needed to come back and experience it with her. I might just have to do that.
On our bus back to Prague, we watched the Sound of Music. Driving through the Viennese countryside and listening to the Von Tropps. Wonderful. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saying Hi to the Hapsburgs


Our expensive train from Krakow brought us to Vienna early in the morning. After wandering around for a bit, BH had the bright idea to get a map to get our bearings. After walking a half an hour in the wrong direction, we figured it out, and headed to our hostel. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to check in till around 10:30, so we had to go to Starbucks to wait. Oh, such a shame.
After our typical iced Americanos, we went back to the hostel, checked in, and started our tour of Austria. Rick Steve’s led us on this tour again, and we started out at the opera house and followed his walking tour. He brought us to the Hotel Sacher, Stephansplatz cathedral, and, my favorite, the Holy Trinity plague column, which depicts the end of the 1670 bubonic epidemic. The plague hag is being thrown out by an adorable cupid and the king himself. Nice.

A quick lunch at Nordsee was followed by a tour of the Hofburg palace. While buying our tickets, I asked if there was a discount for Deaf individuals. She gave Byeong-Hun a student discount, and then I received a free ticket for translating. Now, that is a first! Hofburg palace was really interesting, especially the Sisi museum. I actually did not know anything about this apparently famous queen, but the museum was well laid out and very informative. If anyone has seen any movies about Empress Elisabeth, I’d like some recommendations. We also took a tour of the royalty’s dinnerware. They had a remarkable amount of ornate flatware that any housewife would love to decorate with (heaven forbid to eat off of!).
(BH is asking if this china is from China)
The tours were followed by a little trek through Vienna’s Christmas markets. I thought the ones in Prague were nice, but a Viennese Christmas is adorable! Since Austria is on the Euro, I refused to buy anything, but the window shopping was fun nevertheless.
Our last stop of the day was the Kunsthistorisches Museum. What a mouthful. The museum had such a huge collection of European masterpieces, that it almost got boring. Those Italian painters and their religious symbols… However, half of the main floor was Northern Renaissance art. Wonderful. It also made me hungry. Look at these fish.
Since we were trying to make our Euros stretch, we had some street meat, and finished the night watching the Pianist. One great thing about travelling around Europe is being able to visit a country and then see a movie that takes place in said country. Since we had just left Poland, the Pianist was even more moving and fascinating.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seriously, Go to Krakow

After Auschwitz, we got back to Krakow and I tried to find my iPod. Alas, some lucky Pole has a new gadget. At least it was free when I bought my computer...
We got back home and met up with the Fulbrighters to celebrate Rachel's birthday. They ended up going to a Mexican restaurant, but since we had eaten just a little bit of Polish food so far, BH and I ended up going to another milk bar. For their price, these little restaurants are wonderful!
Following dinner, we met up with the group and went to another Mexican restaurant for margaritas. There were some weird group dynamics going on at the table, but I hope Rachel had a blast.
After dinner, BH and I went with some of the Slovakia ETAs to a club. We weren't really excited about the first place, but Katrina, BH and I split off to go to Kitsch Club. This was a mixed club, and a very young crowd. I wasn't in a huge dancing mood, but I had a blast watching all the kids dancing and after an hour or two, joined in. The bar's interior lived up to its name:

The next morning, we woke up early to tour the Jewish quarter. As I mentioned earlier, Kazimierz was once the Jewish ghetto, but recently has become kind of a modern and fun area. However, there are still a number of synagogues, and a delicious bagel restaurant (BH's first!). After walking around for a bit, we ran into the old cemetery. I was a little creeped out. Especially after seeing the remnants of Auschwitz, this vandalism at the cemetery was awful.
We continued our walk through Kazimierz to the new cemetery. After donning a kippah, we walked through the cemetery. What a difference a natural cemetery is. Instead of the horror and disgust I felt at Auschwitz, I was filled with peace and reverence.

We then moved on to the Deaf center on Saint Jana street. We didn't have any sort of plan, but just wanted to check it out. We met the director, and learned that the Deaf community here has an especially large art community. We were given a tour, which involved three levels of interpretation. First, the Polish Deaf would use sign language which was then translated to Polish. The director would speak Polish to an art student, who then translated to English. Afterward, I would translate to ASL. With all these different translations, I'm sure some things were lost. However, we were able to communicate. 
More Christmas shopping, hot chocolate, dinner, and then it was back on the train. A word of warning: do not take the sleeper from Krakow to Vienna. It is ridiculously expensive. Besides this one annoying aspect, Krakow was amazing. If you haven't been yet, go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Auschwitz

After a wonderful day in beautiful Krakow, Auschwitz was, unsurprisingly, very depressing. However, I felt that it was a very important trip, and I'm glad BH and I made it.
The first thing that happened on this day trip was ridiculous of me: I left my iPod on the van. There are a number of vans that leave regularly from Krakow to Auschwitz and it must have fallen out of my pocket as I dozed on the van. Either way, it was gone when I left the bus. However, I couldn't really mope about an iPod when on hallowed ground, so I decided to forget about it and try to learn what I could in the death camp turned museum. We were immediately surprised by the fact that people still lived around this area. I guess you are born where you are born, but I don't know if I could stand to live next to such a grief-stricken land. Ben said that people continue to live next to the site of the World Trade Center, but that is different. At least you are in Manhattan. Auschwitz didn't really have anything going for it.
I'll just let some pictures do the talking, both of Auschwitz and Birkenau. I was sick to my stomach by all the horror that had taken place.






Monday, November 15, 2010

Krakow is ... Wow

Rick Steve's said Krakow was the next Prague. Although Rick isn't my favorite travel writer in the world, I do have to agree. We rolled into the city on a night train around 6:30, and even in the dim mist, freezing our butts off, BH and I could see how that this city was going to be beautiful and charming. Just look at this main square. Deserted and gorgeous.

We spent the next three hours searching for our hostel. I couldn't figure out the map, and we just kept walking around in these huge circles. During this time, we also walked past a ton of beautiful buildings, including the castle, that we would visit later on the trip. When we finally made it to Atlantis Hostel, not the best, but cheap, we both immediately crashed and woke up at about moon to start our city tour.
Although Rick isn't my favorite travel writer in the world, he does write good walking tours. We started off in the northern part of the city at the old city gates and walked through the entire old town. Old Town Square is gorgeous, with tons of people and shops and beautiful buildings. Saint Maria Basilica is one of the most prominent churches on the square. After debating whether or not to go inside, BH and I marveled at the gorgeous interior, with a beautiful carved altar. It was finished it 1489, and when open you can see the Dormition (death) of Mary.
The ceiling was also gorgeous: a deep blue covered with golden stars. The square was also home to a building called the Cloth Hall. Once a trading place for, you guessed it, cloth, it later burned down and was rebuilt in an Italian Renaissance style in the 16th century. After some quick Christmas shopping, we moved on to the old Town Hall tower. Next to the tower there was a gigantic head. Some random piece of modern art that was, somehow, quite cool. It also made a great meeting place.
We continued on our walk past a bunch of churches (apparently there are more churches per square mile in Krakow than any other city besides Rome) and stopped at St. Francis' Basilica. Before Pope John Paul II was a pope, this was his church. BH bought a coin stamped with JP's face, and I sat down in the pew where he once prayed. Even though I'm not Catholic, it was a pleasant experience. The stained glass windows in the church were beautiful. Built in the Art Nouveau (or Young Poland) style, these windows were colorful, vibrant and fantastical.
After paying respect to JP II, we continued on our walk to Wawel Castle. Perched on a top of a hill in the southern part of the old town, the castle grounds are impressive and a major attraction of Krakow. The church was this hodgepodge of architectural styles from various renovations, which added to the compelling beauty of the area. Rick Steve's pointed out that Chakra adherents especially loved one corner of the castle. Apparently, it is one of the seven biggest Chakra energy points in the world. We even saw some random lady soaking up the energy. Needless to say, we felt pretty happy ourselves after leaving the castle.
After our long walk, we headed into the city and ate at a milk bar. These are cheap Polish fast food restaurants, but the quality is definitely better than the average McDonalds. BH had a list of items he wanted to try, and of course, we ate pierogis. Delicious.
The other Fulbrighters were in town for an ETA conference, so we tried to meet up with them. After waiting an hour or two, we met up with a bunch of the Bulgarian ETAs and went for a long walk around the city and saw Krak the dragon.
Ages ago, before Krakow was even a true city, there was a dragon terrorizing the town. Everyday, they had to feed the dragon their livestock. However, the citizens were starving themselves. Luckily, a man came up with a solution; he sliced open a sheep and filled the carcass with sulfur. The dragon greedily ate up the sulfur, and then became very thirsty. He ran to the nearest river and drank until he burst. Krakow was saved.
After our walk, the Fulbright group went out together for an amazing Georgian meal. It was a little expensive for Eastern Europe, but the meal was spectacular. Cheesy bread, nicely spiced meat, and a rich tomato soup.
Dinner was followed by a walk over to the Jewish district for a little bit of partying. Even though it was Monday night, we were only in Krakow for a couple of days and wanted to experience as much of the city as we could. Plus, this was my first opportunity to actually meet the Fulbright scholars that weren't living in Sofia. The Jewish district, or Kazimierz, was once a ghetto, but has been transformed to the student and nightlife district. After running into Rachel, we ended up at a comfy, chill bar. One of the other Fulbrighters happened to know sign language, which was awesome. After a couple of drinks, it was back to bed. We needed a lot of sleep to prepare ourselves for the next day: Auschwitz.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ahoj

BH and I recently took a trip around central Europe. Our first stop was Prague. Prague is one of my most favorite cities in the world. It is the first place I traveled abroad, and where I chose to study abroad in college. The city is like a fairytale, with looming spires, gorgeous streets, and fantastic churches. The only drawback is the food.
 One or two bites and you can already feel yourself gaining weight. This has a cream sauce with dumplings, pork, and whipped cream. When I was a kid, I loved dumplings. As an adult, I just feel like they are undercooked bread. At least the beer is delicious.
We spent the first weekend looking at all the sights in Prague. I won't blog about these now, because I have already written about them. Czech the side bar under the Czech Republic (get it? Check?)
I'm really lame.

Deaf School Bulgaria

BH and I had a chance to visit the Deaf school in Sofia, Bulgaria where, hopefully, BH will be able to volunteer every once in a while. Our friend, Mitko, gave us a tour of the school and I had a chance to chat with the director to see if BH can help out. The school was not in great shape. Like other places in the world, Deaf students are choosing to go to speaking schools and relying on hearing aids and cochlear implants for their education. As the number of students drops in the Deaf residence schools, I assume government aid drops as well. The school was in worse shape than the school we saw in the Philippines. Students were going in and out of class, and it looked like nobody was following any schedule. The teachers didn't seem to mind that our friend wasn't in class, and just let him do what he wanted. The younger kids seemed to actually be sitting in class and not wandering around, but the high school students appeared to not have any restrictions.
The worst part was that there weren't any Deaf teachers. Only the gym teacher was Deaf. I do not understand this. I can understand wanting to integrate students into the speaking world, but not using sign in the classrooms seems like such a huge challenge for the students, and takes away from their instruction. I would think a better system would have maybe 70% of the faculty using solely sign language in the classroom, and another 30% of the time devoted to speech training and lip reading. Then again, I'm being influenced by a recent movie I saw: Children of a Lesser God. This story is about a residence school for the Deaf in New England, and for the most part paints a nice picture. The teachers combine both an oral approach as well teach in ASL. Then again, the Deaf community is very strong in the states...
What is the solution? If the student body continues to shrink, there is no way the school can get the necessary funding to be a viable option for Deaf students. The whole system needs to be re-thought out. Deaf students should be able to receive the same education that speaking students get in schools across the country. Of course, there own special needs should be catered to. Only if the school can attract more students will it have a chance to revitalize; however, the culturally Deaf world is shrinking, so how can this ever occur?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Istanbul!

After our huge road trip, we made it back to Istanbul in one piece. The next morning, Sunday, was relaxing ... until we tried to get Jen back to the airport. There must have been a parade or something, because we could not get back to Europe! We spent about an hour searching for a way over, and finally arrived in Ortakoy. This was a new area of Istanbul for me, and with kumpir in our bellies, it was great to just soak in the sun. What is a kumpir you ask? Well, it is a huge baked potato loaded with goodies. Mine had olives, ham, cheese, peppers and some random things in it. Delicious.
Being a junkie, I wanted coffee after Jen headed off to the airport, but had to make do with a makeshift iced americano. While drinking our coffee, Katy and Andie made some good progress on their sign language. Byeong-Hun later laughed, telling me that Andie is great at fingerspelling while Katy's fingerspelling is kind of crazy. But Katy's signs are easy to understand, while Andie is a little cute and awkward.
Katy and Andie left to drop off the rented car, and BH and I went for a long walk up to Taksim. This is a night-life area in Istanbul that I had not yet seen and thought it could be fun. The walk was long, but enjoyable, and some helpful Turks eventually led us to the square. Earlier that day, there had been a terrorist attack in Taksim. Luckily, nobody died save the terrorist, but it felt weird to be so close to what could have been a crisis.
I'm not entirely certain about the political situation in Turkey, but I think the attack had something to do with the Kurdish separatists. Although there had been a ceasefire, it had ended earlier that week. Anyways, it was very odd for Turkey, which does not have much religious violence or extremism. Again, thank God that nobody else was wounded.
BH and I ended up at a pink cafe called Cafe Morkedi, which is a nice place for finding more information on the scene in Istanbul. After some more coffee, we left to meet Katy and Andie near Sultanahmet. We were quite early, and were able to make it to a mosque and the spice bazaar before meeting up. I had not yet seen this mosque (on the Sultanahmet side of Galata bridge), and was surprised to see some tiling better than those found in the Blue Mosque. Istanbul has way too many things to see.


After bumming about for a while, we finally met up with Katy and Andie. We met up with some of their friends for some meze, which is kind of like a Turkish version of tapas, and raki. Raki is this crazy strong alcohol, kind of tastes like licorice, and turns white when added to water. Fun. At one point, some musicians came into the restaurant and started to play some music.

video

In this video, Byeong-Hun is saying that we are enjoying our meal and that there is music, but he doesn't really care because he's Deaf. Haha. After they played, there was an awkward silence so I applauded. They then came over to our table to ask for money. Apparently, it was not the restaurant's musicians, but a group that came in for individuals to pay. Awkward. The meal was followed by the last ferry home, going back to Katy and Andie's place, playing some cards, and sleeping on a nice warm futon.
The next morning, Monday, was my last day in Turkey. Katy, BH, and I went to Sutlanahmet to see one of Katy's favorite sites: the Basilica Cistern. I'm glad I went. This was one of the most amazing things I've seen in my life. This ancient, underground watering hole is just beautiful, and was, apparently, uncovered accidentally. I think the first two times I came to Istanbul I was too cheap to visit the Basilica, but I'm glad I made it this time.

Two coals of shisha and then a good dinner later, I was back in the train to Sofia. BH stayed behind for a couple of days to see some of the other attractions, while I hit the books. There is still a lot more I want to see in Istanbul, and I can easily imagine myself returning this year.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ayvalik and Pergamon


I landed back in Sofia at around 3 pm on Thursday, got back to the apartment around 5, and left the house again with BH to go to Turkey for the weekend. It was quite a rush, but the sleeper car was great, and it was definitely worth the chaos to come back to Turkey.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to visit Istanbul before during my language seminars in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria. This time, however, Andie, Katy and Jenn, three friends from Korea, had other plans. When we arrived, we met them on the Asian side of Istanbul and immediately started a roadtrip. This means I went from car to plane to bus to train to boat to car again. It felt like that John Candy movie.
We started out at around noon, and started driving south toward a city called Ayvalik, which is on the Aegean coast. The road trip itself was an experience, with Katy deftly dodging cars and doing a great job with navigation. Katy’s teachers had told her of a great place for toast, so we stopped halfway for a snack. I got lamb pizza. 

As we continued to drive, we, of course, started to wear down. All of us were a little crabby when we finally got to Ayvalik, and had some difficulty finding our hostel. Once we finally arrived, however, we had time to look around and enjoy a good dinner. After a few beers, we all crashed and woke up the next morning to enjoy this fantastic spread:


I really do enjoy Turkish breakfasts. A nice combination of vegetables and proteins, and the olives are amazing. If anyone reading this plans to go to Ayvalik, I recommend the Mavi hostel. They were really kind, and even though we had booked for two days and changed it to one at the last minute, we were able to work it out.
Ayvalik really is beautiful. Although it isn’t that large, it is right next to the Aegean, and you can see one of the islands of Lesbos out in the distance. The red Turkish flag also looks great with the sea in the background, even if it is a little too nationalistic for my taste. The weather was pretty nice, and we just enjoyed exploring the city. 

I had expected a Greek population, but apparently that moved out long ago. Now it is an entirely Turkish city. After looking around and eating another fantastic snack of toast, we went back into the car and drove off to Pergamon.
The car ride from Ayvalik to Pergamon was fantastic. Rolling hills with olive trees which then turned into evergreen forests. I kept thinking about the time I was in the Czech Republic with my family and I was reading in the backseat, and my mom continuously yelled at me to look out the window. It took me a couple of years, but I can now appreciate scenery. 
 Pergamon was an ancient Greek city, that is now in modern Turkey. The ruins that we saw were magnificent, and I now feel compelled to visit Greece before I leave Europe. 
 The above pictured amphitheater could hold 10,000 people! I ran down to the bottom and, unfortunately, sang "I Like Big Butts" up to Katy, Andie, and Jenn who could hear me easily. Crazy. The tour of Pergamon was followed by a nice dinner of kebab. We were going to then drive back to another city to crash, but I fell asleep in the car and woke to a change of plans. Back to Istanbul! All this travel in the weekend, I was excited to get to Andie and Katy's house and just crash. 

Stillwater and Darts


The last couple of days in Minnesota were great. Sunday night, a bunch of us went out downtown, and even met Linnea at a club! Ben and I stayed at David’s for the night, and we met mom for breakfast at Shela’s place after a huge trek around the suburbs, trying to get Ben’s glasses fixed. When we finally got to Shela’s, we were just in time for omelets with french toast for dessert. Fantastic. After dropping off Sarah’s gifts at her place, we went back to Lindstrom and played a number of games of Bananagrams.
On Tuesday, Ben and I took a day trip to Stillwater. It is such a cute little town, and I’m glad Ben got to see it before he went home. We got a nice lunch at a bar on the waterfront, and had some nice coffee. There were really high winds that day, so it wasn’t that pleasant outside, but it was a memorable little day trip.
When we got back home, Ben and I cooked a pork stir-fry in orange sauce with an Asian coleslaw on the side. I love being home. With so many ingredients on hand, it is impossible to not have a nice meal. The power went out, which meant no Tuesday night Glee. However, mom was game for going to the Muni in Lindstrom for 75 cent tap beers. We even met up with Joe Rand! Who beat us all at darts. :-D
 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sarah's Wedding

I was able to go home for a week to attend my sister's wedding. Flying in on Thursday, I was a little nervous. Parisians were striking about the increase in retirement age, and I was worried there would be problems with my flight. Luckily, I made it to MSP, and met Ben downtown. With our carry-on luggage in tow, we walked to the restaurant in Uptown for the bachelorette party my little sister had organized. I think my jet-lag made me quite a light-weight, as I felt a little drunk after one drink while waiting for the party to arrive to Chino Latinos. Anna did an amazing job organizing the party, and during the great meal (that wasn't too pricey) we played a game to see who knew Sarah the best. I was a little disappointed in myself for not winning (I don't know my zodiac signs apparently, and didn't know Sarah's favorite color) but the gift was a candle, so it was appropriate it went to a girl.
Following dinner, we went to a comedy club across the street. The humor wasn't the best, but it was enjoyable, and definitely family friendly. They re-enacted how Sarah and Mike met, which was cute. I took a lil movie.


video

After the comedy club, Drabe was going to meet up with us, but Anna, Sarah, Ben and I were tired, so we went back to the house in Lindstrom.
The next morning was a day of preparation. I was playing the piano for the wedding, so I practiced my butt off in the morning. Last minute, I was given a couple of other songs to learn, which were luckily more modern and chord based. However, I hadn't touched a piano for a month, so I was a little rusty.
Ben, meanwhile, was in charge of the name-tents. It was really hard to format them correctly on the computer, and they kept printing incorrectly. At about 2, we realized we didn't have paper left to finish the cards. Ben and I made a wild dash to Office Max in Forest Lake, only to find that they didn't have any paper; Ben insisted that we check at Walgreens, but again, no luck. We finally had to ditch the effort and went to the rehearsal practice. I was excited to work on the timings for the music, but Pastor Oldenburg passed over most of the music pretty quickly. I was able to practice a bit with Rick, thank goodness, who was the soloist for the wedding.
The rehearsal dinner was mostly good. The groom's parents brought us to Eichten's Bison Farm, and we enjoyed soup and undercooked pizza. This was the first time I met the groom's parents, and they were kind. So far, I like Mike's family.
The wedding day itself was a little hectic. After breakfast, I continued practicing piano and trying to get all the pieces to sound at least slightly polished. When Ben and I went to the church, I got a frantic call from my mother, because Sarah had lost her bridal bra. Last minute craziness. Gotta love it.
The wedding itself was really beautiful. The music was, hopefully, decent, and Sarah and the bridesmaids looked fantastic.

I really liked how they used the pashminas with the purple dresses. And Sarah, of course, looked wonderful.
The reception was also a great time. Ben and I were at table three, with Uncle Keith and his girlfriend Jean, my cousin Emily, my nephew Sammy, and my step-brother Ben. The dancing was great, and the wine flowed freely. A little too freely for my friend Ben, but something that I do not need to go into detail here.
Sunday morning and my mom wakes me up at 8 am. She is sick from food poisoning or something, so I have to drive down to the hall with John to clean up. It turned out to be nice, because I got to see Sarah again, and then they all came up to Lindstrom for brunch. Two egg bakes later, and we all watched Sarah open her presents. I got her a traditional Bulgarian pot, and I hope she can put it to use. If not, it would be nice to just have as decoration.
It was a beautiful wedding for a beautiful sister.