March 22, 2004

More lessons learned

Posted by shonk at 11:15 AM | permalink | comment

Updating the list as I think of new ones:

  • 6’7” guys (that’s 2.01m for you metric types) with pale complexions are never mistaken for Bulgarian natives.
  • There’s always at least one journalist in Club 703. I’m pretty sure it’s company policy.
  • There’s nothing quite so forlorn as a Lada buried in snow, with only a crazy guy in the back of the pickup down the street to keep it company.

March 15, 2004

Lessons learned

Posted by shonk at 04:49 PM | permalink | 7 comments

Lessons learned in Bulgaria:

  • You are guaranteed to hear the following phrases several times an hour:
    1. Така (Taka) - The all-purpose word. Means “so” or “like” or “thus” or “O.K.” or any number of other things. I’m not sure Bulgarians even know what it means.

    2. Моля (Molya) - Alternatively “please”, “you’re welcome” and “come again?”

    3. След Малко (Sled Malko) - “In a moment”

    4. Супер (Super) - Means exactly what you would expect

    5. Аиде (Eide) - “Come on” or “let’s go”

    6. Добре (Dobre) - “Good” or “O.K.”
  • Lane markings on the road are entirely optional.
  • The sidewalk is a perfectly reasonable place to park.
  • Ukrainians have a reputation as the Jersey girls of Eastern Europe.
  • Tight black pants are appropriate garb for any female, no matter her body type.
  • You can get a bowl of soup, an appetizer, an entree, a Coke, a pint of beer and bread for dinner at the neighborhood restaurant and pay less than five dollars.
  • Unfortunately, the Bulgarian word for bread, Хляб (roughly “hlyab”), is impossible for a native English-speaker to pronounce. And Petya will laugh at you every time you try.
  • It doesn’t qualify as a meal if it doesn’t have feta in it.
  • “Something’s Gotta Give” apparently means “Impossibly Yours” in Bulgarian.
  • Virtually every Bulgarian under the age of 30 speaks English…but many are too embarrassed to speak it to you.
  • Lemons should never be put in a martini.
  • Радио FM Плюс (Radio FM Plus) really, really needs some new theme music.
  • The Sofia metro is much, much cleaner than the Philadelphia metro.
  • Just because a Change Bureau posts the official exchange rate doesn’t mean they will actually change your money at that rate.
  • Sofia is very beautiful when it snows…so long as the snow doesn’t start melting.
  • In Bulgaria, the head nod and the head shake have exactly opposite meanings of what they do in the US. This is extremely confusing, even when you’re aware of it.
  • You can’t learn Bulgarian in one night. No matter how much vodka you drink.
  • I want to go back. Soon.

UPDATE More lessons learned

More Pictures

Posted by shonk at 04:43 PM | permalink | comment

My latest photos from Bulgaria are now available. This set of pictures is more social and less “touristy” than the last set…possibly because I was more social and less touristy on this trip than the last one.

Botevgrad from above

March 14, 2004

I'm Baaack

Posted by shonk at 11:58 PM | permalink | 3 comments

Well, it was an adventure, what with cancelled flights, missed trains, wildly inconsistent sleep patterns, theft and even some togas, but I’m back from Bulgaria. Pictures are coming soon, but in the meantime, props to Curt for some excellent posts this past week. Thanks to Elenko, Sergey, Martin, Siebell, Veni, Petr, “other” Sergey, Bogdana, Doriana and all the rest for showing me a good time. It goes without saying that the biggest thanks go to Petya — for everything.

For those of you that read her weblog (and if you don’t, you should) but haven’t read the guestbook in a while, you should know that Petya’s laptop was stolen this past Wednesday night/Thursday morning from her office, so there may be some downtime before she’s up and running again. Needless to say, not a good way to start a Thursday morning.

I just got home and already I want to go back.

March 09, 2004

On globalization

Posted by shonk at 06:14 AM | permalink | 4 comments

In the comments to JC’s recent post on globalization, Eliot gets riled up:

My sense is that globalization will lead to annihilation of cultures, natural destruction, and to large corporations becoming de facto governments.

Now, first off, this critique seems a bit strange coming from the user of a camera made in Malaysia, but, given my present circumstances as a traveller, I have a bone to pick with this contention. Now, as I’ve recently, if tangentially, noted, globalization can indeed have a negative impact on culture, but it’s impact can also be exceedingly positive. As an example, I’ll merely point out that, by way of some pictures I’ve taken, readers of this blog have been exposed to a bit of Bulgarian culture that they otherwise might never have had any awareness of. Given that I’m an American who flew to Bulgaria on a German airline, took the pictures with a camera made in Malaysia and powered by Japanes batteries manufactured in China, edited them on an American-designed computer made in Taiwan whose operating system is largely based on the work of the international open source community and presented them in an open-source photo gallery whose authors appear to include an Indian and a Frenchman, I’d say this cultural experience was heavily assisted by various aspects of that international bogeyman we call “globalization”. This, of course, serves as but a single example.

All of this is not to say that globalization has a unilaterally positive effect on culture; rather I merely want to point out that the various markets, products and services that fall under the globalization rubric have made it possible for people other than the extraordinarily wealthy to experience other cultures, either directly, as I am doing right now, or indirectly, through photographs, music and video. In other words, globalization greatly expands our cultural choices. What we do with those choices is not the fault of globalization, which is not, after all, a volitional actor. Rather, if we make choices that lead to “annihilation of culture” then I would argue that the fault lies with us for making those choices, rather than with globalization, which ultimately is just a facilitator for our choices.

(I’m proud to note that with this post I’ve just sent JC his first-ever Trackback ping. Welcome to the club, JC!)

EDIT Fixed a wrongful attribution

March 05, 2004

It's been interesting...

Posted by shonk at 02:34 AM | permalink | comment

It’s been an interesting week for me personally and it’s about to get a whole lot more interesting. I’m leaving for Bulgaria this morning (of course, what with trains, plane connections, layovers, etc. I won’t actually get there until Saturday afternoon). It looks like I may have a little bit more free time than I did the last time I went over, but I still probably won’t post very much, if at all. Hopefully Curt will drop in a few times, but odds are you won’t see me around here for about a week. Have a great week everybody.

January 14, 2004


Posted by shonk at 11:30 PM | permalink | 4 comments

I’ve finally gotten off my lazy ass and posted an album of photographs I took while in Bulgaria last week. Enjoy!

January 09, 2004

Fun With Transliterations

Posted by shonk at 08:07 PM | permalink | comment

I’m much too tired after something like 20 hours of traveling to make even a semi-intelligent post, but here are a few of my favorite transliterations of English words into Cyrillic that I saw in the last week and a half:

Макдоналдс (= McDonalds)
Ред Бул (=Red Bull)
Фантастико (= Fantastico)
Мини Маркет (= Mini Market)
Компютър (= Computer)
Център (= Center)
Скрю Драйвър (= Screwdriver)

And my all-time favorite:
Хемендегс (= Ham-and-eggs)