Hotnitsa 3

Being Bulgarised

We call it being Bulgarised, it happens quite a lot. There you are, sanding your windows or weeding the carrots and suddenly a neighbour appears, or his son, or even nervous grandchild called round to interpret for granddad. Whichever member of the family appears, it's a fair bet that whatever plans you had for the afternoon are about to go astray. There may well be a party involved. Birthday, name day, pig killing, vine cutting, saint's day, or even a celebration of the day when you nearly died but didn't (kurban). If we came to Bulgaria for the cheap property, we stay for the parties.

One of our early experiences of being Bulgarised involved an afternoon when the son of a neighbour appeared from the garden next door. Barely able to stand (obviously this particular party had been going on for a while), giggling madly and accompanied by an English friend he grabbed me by the hand and led me down a series of paths through other peoples gardens until we arrived at his parents house. My weak protestations about our guests being out, without keys, without language and no knowledge of the village geography were solved with a slightly cryptic map with the word COME written on it pinned to the gate. This particular afternoon involved my first experience of warm Rakia, if you've not encountered it yet, take warning, I don't know how or why warm Rakia manages to be even stronger than cold, but it is... as a result my memories of the latter part of the day are a little blurred. I do clearly remember my vegetarian friends arriving, having finally managed to find the house, walking up the path and being confronted with a pigs head, left outside in a baking tray. Whether due to the Rakia, politeness, or just the sheer good nature of the whole event I'm not sure, but my veggie friends even ate some of the pig.

It's hard, at times, to let go of English expectations, you get up in the morning, plan what you're going to do and do it. In this country it frequently doesn't happen like that and just occasionally this can be a bit frustrating. For us at least though the occasional frustrations are outweighed by the joy of a varied life, where spontaneity and human relationships are far more valued than a healthy bank balance or normal routines. Nazdraveh!