Friday, January 13, 2012

A Farewell to Bulgaria

Soon after completing our installation in Ivancha, it came time for us to leave UFO Studios and make our way back to Krushevo. Solemnly, we packed our bags and said goodbye to the animals, the space, and to our host, Margaret, who we'd grown close to and come to know as a friend. It was a long bus ride back to the Rhodopes in the southwest, and full of thoughts of what we had left behind in the rolling hills and fields of the north.

Upon arriving back in Krushevo, we immediately fell back into the space we had inhabited before we left, only this time we were greeted by the presence of two other workawayers - Anne-Lene and Elisabeth from Berlin - with whom we quickly made friends. Within a week of our return, all of us were invited to another wedding. However, on this occasion we were guests of the bride, and the wedding was to take place in a nearby town called Debren. Much like the wedding before, we had a lovely time dancing and feasting on the usual Bulgarian cuisine.

We were also fortunate to be greeted by wonderful weather in Krushevo, which allowed us to quickly get to work on Lily and Yan's cordwood building. In just a few days work, we managed to finish off a few of the walls by an interesting method somewhat similar to slip-forming (but without the rocks). With two pairs of extra hands around it was quick work, and we enjoyed the practice in natural building techniques.

With Thanksgiving approaching, we decided to treat our hosts and housemates to an authentic American holiday meal and set about gathering ingredients (many of which proved to be difficult to find). When the discussion of a Thanksgiving bird came up, Lily and Yan remarked that four of their chicks had grown into cockerels and were now at an age where they would begin to compete and fight with each other, as such they suggested the largest of them might make a good turkey substitute. The day before Thanksgiving, Lily walked us through the procedure and together we dispatched and prepared our first bird - it was a grim experience, but one that made us appreciate the offering of meat in a new light. Catherine prepared the meal almost single-handedly while the rest of saw about other tasks around the property, and it turned out to be one of the best meals we'd had in all our travels.

Photograph by Anne-Lene.

With the weather holding up, and the date for the girls to move on approaching, we decided to take a farewell hike together through the nearby hills. Careful not to disturb the flocks and guarding karakachans, we spent the day exploring forests and meadows. Towards the end of the hike we found a frozen waterfall which doubled as an excellent (although somewhat terrifying) slide, which ended up injuring all of us in various ways. It was a worthy price.

It was tough to say goodbye to the girls (though made easier by their convincing us to buy tickets to visit them in Berlin), though not long before we were met by some new workawayers in Luke and Lainey from the UK. Just like it's supposed to be, Roy and Luke bonded over chopping wood, while Catherine and Lainey bonded over knitting and making jam.

In the fews days before leaving Bulgaria, Catherine painted a couple murals for people in the village. One, life-size, in the living room of a woman's house, depicted a tropical island with her two grandchildren playing in the sand. In return for the painting, she stuffed us with traditional Bulgarian dishes and gave us bags full of terlitsi, socks, walnuts, and other beautiful things she had made by hand. Catherine also painted a tree of life mural on the door of the village shop, as a way of giving back to the store-owner, Angelina, who would always give us free coffees and beers whenever we stopped by.

Our last evening in Krushevo was spent around the small wood-stove in the village store. We all sat around it in a circle, and used our usual combination of minimal Bulgarian vocabulary and enthusiastic charades to say our goodbyes and recount stories from our stay in the village. Catherine was finishing off a crocheted sweater for her niece, and during the evening she was given more handmade clothes to send back for the baby girl. Fatme, the pattern keeper and master knitter, had made an amazingly intricate hat with leaves curling up the sides, as well as a beautiful pair of cabled terlitsi. We gave out chocolates to everyone who came into the store, as is tradition in Bulgaria when one is making an announcement, and were given blessings of fortune and health in return. At the end of the evening, we said another hard goodbye to the small community that had taken us in and given us so much.

The last difficult parting came in the morning, as we hugged our generous, long-time hosts and new friends. The goodbyes were short and to the point, as one would expect in Bulgaria, but no less heartfelt. Yan drove us to Gotse Delchev, where we would catch our final bus to Sofia.

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