Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dreaming Politics

Last night, I had an incredibly vivid and odd dream. I was the host of the Bulgarian parliament in my apartment. Only 14 MPs showed up, but it didn't matter. According to the National Assemblies constitution, we could still get on with our legislation. Perez Hilton, or maybe Azis, was the chairman of parliament, and we started our debate on the first item on the agenda: wiretapping. (Right now, there is a huge Bulgarian scandal, nicknamed tapegate, that involves the Prime Minister and his phone conversations with various people)
Anyways, after discussing the pros and cons of spying on other MPs, we got on to the second issue. Suddenly, the minister of finance declared his resignation. There was an uproar. Instead of appointing a new minister, we had this ridiculous conversation about our next paycheck. How could we get money without our finance minister? Perez Hilton was furious. I was busy getting everybody drinks.
I woke up confused and amused. Bulgarian politics are invading my dreams now. Wonderful.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why it's wonderful to study Bulgarian politics...

The Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, is currently on a diplomatic mission to Japan. Apparently they have pretty decent bilateral relations. The subject of Islamic extremism came up, and the recent bombings in Moscow. When asked if Bulgaria has good relations with its neighbors in the Middle East, Borisov responded with a resounding yes. This is his quip: "We maintain friendly relations with Palestine, with all Arab countries. The Arab world is doing business in Bulgaria; there is a doner kebab on every street corner."
If only diplomacy were that easy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bulgarian MPs Enjoy Dirty Sex Jokes On Top of Homosexual Claims

Since I'm studying Bulgarian politics, I try to keep up with domestic news. Sometimes it just kills me. Like this news story. (from


A Bulgarian MP has admitted that his claims that he had been raped by a female colleague were a joke.
Emil Vasilev, a MP from the marginal conservative party RZS (Order, Law, Justice), which has been tangled in a bitter mudslinging exchange with the ruling party GERB, sent a letter to the media Saturday claiming that Iskra Fidosova, the Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling center-right party GERB, raped him on October 22, in the men's restroom in the Parliament.
"I was brutally raped by Fidosova in the men's room. There is one cracked tile, and one of the sinks is unsteady as a result," Vasilev wrote threatening to appeal the case to the Prosecutor's Office and the unit for fighting organized crime.
The rape accusation was in the final paragraph of a long letter in which Vasilev refutes all claims that the leader of the RZS party Yane Yanev is homosexual.
Yanev has been accused publicly a number of times of being a homosexual by various persons, the latest case being of a former coordinator of his party, who even accused Yanev of sexual harassment. As early as the fall of 2009, the leader of the nationalist party Ataka Volen Siderov said Yanev must come out because his "secret" made him dependent and a potential victim of blackmail. Yanev's response was that Siderov should bring him his wife to check if he really was gay.
The letter, which was sent to the media from Vasilev's parliamentary email account, contains a long statement claiming that the ruling party GERB has had several plots to present Yanev as a homosexual to the public.
On Sunday, Vasilev said that he was not the actual author of the letter but that he liked it and backed it. He further stated that the accusations that Fidosova raped him were untrue and must be viewed with a sense of humor.
"As far as I understand Mrs. Fidosova is alive and well. If she had really raped me, my wife would have liquidated her by now," Vasilev said as cited by BGNES.
With respect to a recent incident, in which he allegedly hit the other Co-Chair of the GERB party group Krasimir Velchev in the parliamentary cafeteria, while Velchev was eating, Vasilev said that both co-chairs were interested in him.
"Velchev wants to fight me, while Fidosova wants other things...," he said winking.
Vasilev accused the media of succumbing to yellow journalism by publishing all the claims that his party's leader Yanev is homosexual at a moment when the RZS party accused the Interior Minister from GERB, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, of money laundering and secret ties with other political parties.
"I can assure you that Yanev has had a girlfriend for 5 years, and they have "spent" many nights togeher in his home. In the past 11 years I have never seen Yanev in any kind of homosexual situation," he said.


Joking about man rape in parliament? Ridiculous. Great way to cover up someone's homosexuality. 

Monday, January 24, 2011


BH spent the weekend in Paris, so, in order not to go crazy alone in Sofia, I made a last minute decision to see another city in Bulgaria and visit Sophia, another Bulgarian grantee, for the weekend. Pleven is north central Bulgaria, and about three hours from Sofia by train. I arrived around 11 pm, and Sophia and her friend picked me up at the train station, and, since it was a Friday, brought me straight to a club. Oh Bulgaria. Naturally, there are fewer clubs in Pleven than Sofia, but cheaper drink and a different atmosphere. Needless to say, we danced for a couple of hours, before crashing at Sophia's apartment.
The next day, we met up with one of Sophia's co-teachers for coffee and then a tour of the city. I was in high spirits, and realized how important it is for me to get out of the capital. Clean air, less ugly apartment buildings, and friendly people made for a fine trip. The city center had this great pedestrian only area, a must for any city.
Sophia and I in f
The city is most well known for the Siege of Pleven during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. A lot of the monuments honor Russian generals and those who died defending Bulgaria. The highlight is the panorama, a huge 360 degree painting of the siege. Unfortunately, the building that houses the painting was built in a glorious modernist style.
Gross gross gross
After seeing the panorama, we had a great discussion about politics, history, and the way people view the history of the Balkans. Sophia's friend was such a good conversationalist, that having an open-minded discussion about the history and politics of southeast Europe made the trip. We just chatted for hours about everything.
The evening finished out with some bars and clubs in Pleven. And this scene.
Victoria Secret minus classy
The problem with popular clubs in Bulgaria is they tend to be Chalga clubs. This is a music style that I mostly cannot stand. Check out this music video if you are interested:
Part of chalga is the importance of scantily clad women. Seriously. It is important. So they had women strutting on the stage all night.
By Sunday, I was ready to see my Sofia. Although it is kind of a dirty and ugly city, I still missed my apartment. Sophia gave me a great weekend. If anyone is planning to go to Pleven, make sure you take the train. During the day. The bus is faster, but then you would miss out on this view:

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Walking to Starbucks the other day, I bumped into this guy in a full business suit. He tried to ask me for directions or something in Bulgarian, but I didn't really understand what he was saying. He switched to English, and in the normal fashion asked what I was doing in Sofia and whether or not I liked it. After a quick chat and comment about how crazy Bulgarian politics are, he gave me the following card, just in case I was interested:
**** PERFECT ******
Would you like a pretty
girl for pleasure at a place
convenient for you ?
per 1 hour - 50 EUR
per night - 180 EUR

The back of the card had a picture of a woman, asking if I wanted a top model at my place. Crazy. Living in Eastern Europe, I guess you kind of get used to this. The other day, I was walking home from the bus station, and a woman asked me something in Bulgarian. I asked her to repeat, and she, in English, said 'saxophone sex'. I'm not really sure what that means... I'm curious if this happens to most of the guys living in Sofia. Hopefully I don't look like I'm stalking the streets for a night walker.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

K and A in Sofia

Two great friends who I originally met in Thailand back in '09 came to visit me in Sofia this past weekend. They are both English teachers in Turkey, so of course they had to visit their neighbor! After visiting them in the glory that is Istanbul, I felt a little self-conscious about Sofia. This city is not beautiful. It does have its charms though.
Like Show Bar: No Limit. I have never been to a show bar before, but thought it would be a fun adventure. We walked in to see a bunch of girls dancing away on the bar. Not working, just drinking too much. This is a male show bar, so when no guys were dancing with my friends, I asked the waitress where the men were. She told me to wait a minute, and before I knew it, some sparingly dressed men were grinding with K! Too fun.
K and BH
 Of course, there are limits to seeing men in g-strings. We decided to move on to a rock'n'roll club that some Bulgarians had introduced me to a week earlier. The music is all 1990s, and it feels like stepping into a time machine. Great place for people watching.
The next day, we did the whole Sofia tour. This is a really short tour. Unfortunately, Sofia, although a decent place to live, is not aesthetically pleasing. We saw what we saw, including a Dali exhibit at the National Museum of Foreign Art, and then retired for the evening.
To round off their short tour of Bulgaria, we headed out of the city for a day trip to a little monastery. Up in the mountains, it was really a nice setting for a monastery, and a nice way to balance our debauchery with some culture.
St. George... the only saint I ever recognize

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas and New Year's in Minnesota

This was one of my favorite Christmases ever! Although I had just been home for Sarah's wedding, this was the first time being in the states with BH. My parents were also housesitting downtown, so we were not stuck in Lindstrom the whole time! Even though we did get out of my horrible hometown, BH was a little bored for the first week. It was a LOT of family time, and although my family tried, only Anna was making considerable progress on her ASL. Hanging out with Anna was a blast! Going downtown, shopping, eating food. If only she had more money :-P
Anna and her friends holding Byeong Hun
The food in Minnesota was great. My cooking in Bulgaria never really turns out, but my mom has EVERYTHING in her house. That is one thing I do miss about living in the states: having a fully equipped kitchen. We also went out to eat a couple of times, and BH tried bison for the first time.
As you may know, my family is big. This meant many Christmases. With my mom's side of the family, with my nuclear family, with my step-siblings, with my father, and then finally with my father's side of the family. That's five Christmases! BH and I got a Wii for Christmas, which was awesome, but my favorite gift would probably be from BH; he got me a stuffed radish (미스터 무) which is unbearably cute.
My dad offered us weird gifts. We were all allowed to choose something from his house... I saw two Frommer's guides to Europe that I snatched up. Although it isn't my favorite traveler's guide, its better than nothing. And these travel guides are not cheap!
On the evening of the 27th, after a birthday dinner for my brother David, we picked up three friends from the airport. They were all students at Gallaudet University at one point, but have all recently graduated. We had a grand time! We had originally planned to go to Chicago and meet my friend Rachel, but because of weather, this changed to a day trip to Duluth. Beautiful!
The next day was a day of recuperating. One friend had an incomplete and needed to finish his essay before we could do anything. BH and I enjoyed our new Wii, and we also just chatted a lot.
For New Year's, my friends planned on all meeting up downtown. We got a hotel, but they all canceled at the last minute. No big deal. To start out the evening, we went to the Deaf association in St. Paul. The Twin Cities has a long Deaf history, so I was really excited, but it turned out that none of the younger Deafies showed up. Too bad.
Deaf Club, Minnesota
After the disappointment of the Deaf association, Tyler and Sarah met up with us as we celebrated New Year's, slightly inebriated, at a random Indian restaurant. After clubbing around the city, we crashed late at night and woke up hungover the next day.
Mom and John met us downtown for a magnificent breakfast at Hell's Kitchen. If you live in Minnesota and you haven't eaten there, go! The bison toast was amazing, and their homemade spreads somehow are delicious on the odd sounding meat bread. We got home late at night, and found kimchi at the local grocery store.
Our last day in Minnesota was spent at my aunt's house. My grandma was a little awkward with my Deaf friends, but definitely kind. My aunt loved the guests, and happily served everyone Irish coffee. Too bad I was driving.
Of course, no trip to Minnesota is complete without the Mall of America. Although it isn't my favorite in the world, JS needed to see it. The girls were shopping for hours! BH and I just walked around, enjoyed Lego Land, and then were ready to leave.
The Mall
It was a fun two weeks. I wish we would have made it to Wisconsin or Chicago, but we ran out of time. Hopefully, though, I'll be able to come home for Christmas for all of the coming years.