Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reflections on Revolution and Independence


Saturday, 22 September, was Bulgarian Independence Day, a day that celebrates Bulgaria's final separation from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. To commemorate the occasion, a parade was held downtown in Sofia, as well as in other cities, such as the ancient capital, Veliko Tarnovo.

Closer to home, the senior editor of Horizont, a program on Bulgarian National Radio, interviewed one Philip Altman, or Филип Олтман, as he's known locally, about the American Revolution in the context of Bulgarian Independence. Phil waxes poetic about the aspirations of our founding fathers, the difference between saying "the revolutionary war" and "the war for independence," and how understanding a complicated man like Thomas Jefferson can help us to understand better the human condition. 

Without further ado, here to pluck at your patriotic heartstrings, is Филип... 



video


Sunday, September 9, 2012

хайде България!


Sweet view from Margaret's apt in Brooklyn
Yet another long hiatus from the blogging finds us back in Sofia, BG, after an action-packed spring and summer, complete with a road trip to Istanbul and Greece with Margaret and Bryan in April; a holiday on the Dalmatian coast with Elias; and an awesome summer with family and friends in New York, Vermont, Maine, and Minnesota. We feel pretty lucky to have had such a full itinerary in our first year in Sofia, and we look forward to more exciting excursions in Year Two and, most importantly, to welcoming more special guests to Sofia and surroundings.

Trying an anti-jet lag strategy. Didn't work.
Despite a battle with some epic jet lag, we've had a pretty smooth return. Who can complain when you return to work after a 2-month vacation and have a 4-day weekend after your first few days back? Good ol' Unification Day. We talked about traveling somewhere to take advantage of the extra time, but with loads of preparation before the start of the school year (17 September!), and with fond and very fresh memories of our summer adventures, we didn’t feel compelled to leave town, after all. So we’ve been kicking around here, enjoying Sofia’s spectacular late-summer weather and, for me, some great yoga classes at a local studio hosting guest teacher Nanci Traynor. She is incredible, and, fortunately, she’s moving to Sofia in a few weeks! Phil, too, has been active, beefing up at the gym and playing tennis or squash every day.

Hard to see, but the score is 1-0 BG.
But we’re sports fans as well as practitioners, so, after a tip-off from Dan Heijman, we turned up at Levski stadium Friday night to see Bulgaria play Italy in a World Cup qualifying match. Bulgaria kept possession through much of the game and scored an early opening goal, though the match ended in a tie. The game was as much an anthropological experience as an enjoyable sporting event, as we learned about the language and behaviors exhibited by the male-dominated (seriously, like 99%) fan base. One funny thing is that they are great with the cheers; they especially like to call out one section of the stadium for call-and-response-style cheering. For example, Sector E will shout, “Sector B! Sector B! Sector B!” until they’re sure they have Sector B’s attention, and then they’ll scream “българи!” (Bulgarians!), and Sector B has to shout back “юнаци!” (Heroes!). This is accompanied by a slightly fascistic arm-pumping motion. Add this to the homogeneity of the crowd and its preferred aesthetic (over-developed upper body, shaved head), and the mood felt a little oppressive at times, most literally when a few hooligans in the crowd chose to throw flares into the empty seats in their own “sector,” effectively smoking out their fellow fans (flares were also thrown down onto the track at the riot police ringing the perimeter).

Today, Phil gets back to the real deal when he returns to Frisbee practice. The team is gearing up for a tourney during the weekend of 6 October, which happens to be the same day as parent conferences at school. Phil can only make a cameo for the finals, on Sunday.  Listen folks, these are the compromises one makes by being a “national team athlete” as well as a consummate professional.

On the horizon: a potential visit from Verity Chegar in a couple of weeks and a rendez vous in Brussels with Margaret in mid-October. Until the next round-up, най-добри пожелания!