Saturday, December 18, 2004

Winter light is blinding me

Another photo shot in Sofija. Everyone warned me about the winter weather, how cold it would get and so on. They were right of course, it is cold (+or-2 degrees Celcius during the day - colder at night) and the coldest days are yet to come.

What I was not warned about was the hazard presented by the low azimuth winter sun. Even at noon I am blinded by the light and I have glasses that darken in the sunlight. I often cannot see where I am going, and I mean that literally. I wonder what it will be like with snow on the ground. Speaking of snow, the Bulgarian word for snow is "сняг" pronounced "sneeyagk" (sort of).

Backyard gardening is popular

My block (apartment building) has some space in the rear that residents use for gardening. They don't have to go far for fresh veggies. The towns in Bulgaria are a strange mixture of rural and urban. Many people have gardens and it is even common to raise animals such as sheep and pigs in the city limits. This does create a problem with flys. On the bright side you can obtain flypaper here, but they sell this in the pharmacy not the hardware store or supermarket.

Yes, we do have supermarkets in Bulgaria, but only in the larger towns and cities. The super in Razgrad is about 1/4 the size of a small Safeway in a rural town in the U. S. The produce section is miniscule because one goes to the outdoor market for fruits and veggies. Most of the produce you would find in the U. S. is available, but it is locally grown and thus very seasonal.

The upside is that what you get here would generally qualify as "natural", since very little pesticide is used in Bulgaria. The issue is money to pay for pesticides, not health. Because Bulgaria is still such a poor country, insect damaged produce commonly is sold here that would never make to one of our markets. I'm talking about apples with obvious worm holes. The vendors just mark their produce down and sell it anyway. Why not? After all, most such fruit is perfectly edible if you cut out the bad parts, but many Americans would recoil at the site of a worm hole in their fruit. Life is much more basic here and one begins to appreciate this.

Do we have enough patterns here?

Bulgarians (maybe Eastern Europeans and Russians in general) love patterns in their furnishings. It is not my taste, but I cannot complain because my apartment is provided for me along with the furnishings. Very few people in this world can make that statement and I feel fortunate.

Mosque in Sofija

This is my first attempt to use "Hello" a free communication control program made for sharing photos. The program is supplied by Picasa, which is the photo cataloging program I use. Hello appears to be a little buggy, but for the price and functions provided is working ok. The user interface seems carefully designed to eliminate a lot of technical considerations that can get you bogged down when trying to mount photography files to the web. For a program this good, it's just a question of time until the authors start demanding money. As well they should, I suppose.

I don't know much about the mosque, but I'm sure it has historical signifigance for Bulgarians.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Here we are in Bulgaria

Weeks, nay months, have passed since I started this blog and in the interim I have traveled halfway around the world and learned how to be a Peace Corps volunteer in three easy lessons. I don't believe I wrote that. Actually, the business of being a Peace Corps volunteer involves working at community development, which is a many faceted endeavor and not at all simple. The good news is that I am not counting the days until my tour ends. In fact I am having the time of my life.

Today I have spent nearly 8 hours at my computer doing research and writing to friends and associates. It is freezing outside, but my room where I work is comfortable -- one might even say cozy. I am wired in to the world at my fingers and I wonder how it must have been for the early Peace Corps volunteers who lacked computers and the internet. How did they survive and do their work? I'm glad I have the benefit of modern communication technology.