Sunday, June 23, 2013

Protests in Sofia, which have been overshadowed by Turkey and Brazil, began after the ruling coalition, a motley crew of Socialists, Ethnic Turks, and the Far Right, nominated and approved an unqualified and widely-believed-to-be-corrupt business man, Delyan Peevski, to head the country's FBI. His appointment was almost immediately rescinded, but this has done nothing to quell the protests. The feeling is that this appointment simply revealed the deep criminality inherent in all four of the parties represented in Parliament. This deep dissatisfaction (the ruling coalition currently has an approval rating of 23%) is manifested by nightly protest marches throughout the center of the city. On the 22nd, I went downtown with my friend Garth to see what would be the ninth consecutive night of marching.

At around Six-thirty pm, people began to congregate around the Cabinet building.
Within an hour, the square was over-flowing with thousands of people. Остаква! was the most popular cheer, meaning simply resignation.
The March proceeded though and around the center of the city for more than three hours.

I love you Bulgaria! They cannot take me away from you! 

The sign above includes the ascription ИНТЕРНЕТ ЛУМПЕН, an expression that a politician used to dismiss the protesters as, "Internet Ragamuffins", but which has been reappropriated by the protesters.

Many families march; both strollers and canes are attending. 

From the daily newspaper Труд
Initially the protesters were dismissed as having been bought by the opposition party, the center-right GERB. In response, this protester's sign reads, "And I am not paid! I hate you for free!" Another popular sign reads simply, "Enough" and then has each of the four parties on parliament crossed out. The protesters chant, "Red Trash" to the socialists, "Mafia" at the ethnic Turkish party office , and to avoid giving it media coverage, ignore the far right ATAKA's offices completely.

The parade route goes by all of the major centers of the city. I think that it would take about an hour for the whole march to pass any single location. 

But what now? Of course, the marches may fizzle out. But if they continue? Towards the end of the march, I began to feel that the situation was clearly untenable. If the protests continue at this level, effectively shutting down the city each evening, even without a general strike, I think the government would be forced to resign in the coming weeks. But as for what comes after the resignation that the protesters cry out for, no one seems to be able to say.  New elections, of course, but there is no new party with the apparatus to take advantage. Certainly it would seem likely that GERB, who ran the government until the Prime Minister resigned in the face of much smaller protests a few months ago, would benefit. Despite receiving the plurality of votes in the recent elections, they couldn't muster a majority in the face of the antipathy of the other three parties. GERB too is mired in corruption scandals and incompetence, and almost no one views them as the messiah that the crowds seem to seek.

Astute watchers should have seen this coming. Because of the 4% threshold that is required for a party to enter Parliament, more than a quarter of Bulgarians who voted for smaller parties in the last election are entirely unrepresented. Without any viable alternative, without figures untainted by the moral compromises that have been required for power over the last twenty years, "Throw the bums out!" threatens to simply allow a revolving door of differently constituted coalitions of the same old parties. At the end of the route, marching through the dark, I saw power enough to topple a government but not yet nearly enough to rebuild it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


It's been a while since the last post. I don't intend to try to capture the last 5 months in one update; rather, I want to share the latest excitement in my home with all of you: the arrival of Felix the Lucky Dog.

Felix was abandoned on our School's campus last week; or maybe he was separated form a litter of dogs that live somewhere in the surrounding neighborhood. Either way, he spent several days scamping around, finding intermittent relief from his lonely, itinerant existence in the arms of cooing high school girls. Finally, last Tuesday, some colleagues scooped him up and created an ambush: Felix in arms, they waited until I was finished teaching my yoga class for faculty, and then set upon those of us straggling out into the waning daylight. It was all over.

I took him home and waited for Phil to arrive. When he came in and saw the pup on our kitchen floor, already snuggled into his new blanket, I explained that "we're just watching him for a while until someone adopts him." He was impressive in his nonchalance at this prospect and gave Felix the requisite reassuring pats and, most importantly, his name, which means "lucky" in Latin.
Exploring campus.
It's been almost a week, and no one has jumped at the chance to take him off our hands. Perhaps this has something to do with my half-hearted campaign to find someone to do so. While I have been advertising actively and doing research to find alternatives to adoption by colleagues or School community members, I have also been hoping, probably not so subtly, that my efforts fail. After all, if nothing works out, we're not going to toss him out of the house. Right?!?

You can see from the photos that Felix is an easy guy to love. We found him dehydrated, starving, flea-ridden, and possibly wormy. He has, in the space of a few days, had a full revival: he's a happy, healthy, and normal pup. He trots alongside me when we walk around campus, without a leash, and he loves playing with chew toys and chasing tennis balls (which are still way too big for him to hold in his mouth for long). He does the cute thing where he moves his legs in his sleep, as if running after a squirrel, which is mostly funny because he's not much bigger than one himself.

And they get along so well!
But the more frontal-lobe oriented members of our household argue, with good reason, that he is also a complicating factor at a time when life is about to get way more complicated; he magnifies all the limitations and challenges that adding a baby to the family will imply, not only because he, too, is a baby, but because he cannot be brought along on trips, nor is he suited for every environment in which we might find ourselves when we leave our current jobs. Touche.

But... he's so freakin' cute. And such a good boy. So, what could be so bad?

My new executive assistant. 
I guess I am putting this out there half hoping that people will tell me how great it is to have a dog, despite the certain nuisances that come along with caring for one over time, and half hoping that someone will see his cute little punnum and decide to adopt him. The latter resolution needs to be quick, as the longer he stays in our house, the less my emotional stability can be counted upon...