Saturday, February 28, 2009

More from Sofia

Here I am, I've been here over a week, and we keep on having lots of new experiences!

Firstly, we had our first lesson in Bulgarian this week. We found a private teacher who will come to the house once or twice a week, as we want. We started reviewing the alphabet, and the different letters and sounds - and both of us are already reading words, and some of them we can even understand (like fillet, Sheraton Sofia Hotel etc!!) We have our second lesson tomorrow evening.

Yesterday I prepared our first Shabbat meal, and even figured out how to use the oven. We invited one of Ellis's co-workers to join us (he lives in the apt upstairs) so that was very nice. We even bought matches this week, so we were able to light candles!

Today we woke up to a nice,sunny day. The snow is melting,and it's warming up (around 5 C),so it was very pleasant out. We decided to take a taxi to the center of the city. This was my first trip there, although Ellis had been there already twice before I came. We walked through an enclosed market - inside a very pretty old building - inside were stalls of everything ranging from meat/sausage shops (seemed to be the most popular), cheeses/yogurts,vegetable stands, cosmetics, vitamins, pots and pans jewelery, spice and other assorted items. Leaving the building from the other side, we came to the Sofia Synagogue - no visiting hours as it was Shabbat, but we met some people who seemed to be coming out of services and we talked to them for a couple minutes and wished them Shabbat Shalom.

From there we walked over to the open market. This is a very long market - going down one side were fruits and vegetable stalls, coming up the other side were clothing, underwear - lots of bras!, pajamas, socks etc - not anything we would buy on the streets! There were also quite a number of simple household item shops, where we were able to pick up some things that we needed for the house. There were many gypsys around, selling anything from parsley to cigarettes, to undershirts or sheets.

One of the stranger sites we saw, was one stall where there was a long line outside of it - we wanted to see what they were lined up for - it was potatoes. People were buying large sacks of potatoes. Most of the people we saw in the market were older, local people, and most of them were most likely from lower, socio-economic backgrounds. It was upsetting to realize that the people lined up to buy sacks of potaotes were probably getting their main staple of food. It's strange to think that in local terms, as compared to the average Bulgarian, we would be considered wealthy......

After we finished at the market, we headed back to the city center, and were planning on going to lunch. We crossed a busy street, and just after we reached the other side, on a busy corner, someone bumped into me. I tunred around, and realized that my purse, which had been zipped up, and that I was holding close to me, was open.... I looked inside, and discovered that my wallet was missing.....I got upset - there wasn't too much money in it (Ellis has been leaving most of our cash at home, and only keeping a smaller amount with him when we go out - he had just taken some more this morning, but fortunately, we didn't divide it up between us). I was worried about my credit cards, so we decided to go back home so I could contact the credit card companies. We re-crossed the street, and suddenly a young teenage girl came up to me holding my wallet....The credit cards were all there - she waited for a "reward" - Ellis gave her a little money - even though it was probably her or someone she worked with who stole it from me in the first place! I was just releived to get back my credit cards and driving license, and not to have to cancel them. We will check the cards online to make sure that they weren't copied, but I don't think they were - they check id here when you use them, not like in Israel, and I think that any of these gypsys trying to use a credit card in a shop (especially a foreign one) would arouse suspicion....I guess I'm going to have to figure out a different way to carry my money and cards around with me, at least in places like this. I think that the malls are pretty safe, but the open crowds are more risky. We did go on to have a nice lunch, and then came home to relax.

We're going to try to go to the movies at the mall tonight.

Tomorrow is a local folklore holiday - Granny March. All the street corners have vendors with booths selling red and white string bracelets, tassels, little dolls that you pin to your clothes. From what we can understand, the red and white have to do with some Bulgarian king or such who defeated a Roman army many centuries ago - I think he was wearing a white robe, but was wounded, and the robe turned red. These bracelets are supposed to symbolize good health - people exchange them, and you could get braclets from lots of friends and family. You're supposed to keep wearing them until the first sign of spring - either buds on trees, or flowers or seeing storks - and then hang them on branches of trees....

Ok, I think that's enough for this mail - it's certainly been an eventful day for us!

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