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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby!

We took Nia ice skating for the first time today. It was challenging but fun! She now says she wants to be figure skater. Wonder if there are any ice skating rinks in Delhi.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

One

Chutney turned one last weekend – I am still having a hard time believing it’s been a year… but somehow he went from this (I hope you’ll forgive me, son, for sharing this picture with the world):

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To this:

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We had a couple of parties to mark the occasion – one with Paul’s brothers and their families and another one with friends.

After the first party I realized that we only had one decent picture(below),

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so, I decided to fix that by taking a zillion at the second one.

We had the traditional smasher cake, which started with a small accident. I had just lit the birthday boy’s candle, told my mom to watch him and turned to grab my camera (hence no picture), when he smacked the candle and found out  just how hot fire is. He did cry a little but when I put a dab of frosting in his mouth, he forgot about the candle thing and had a blast playing with the frosting. He even ate some and oh, the sugar high…

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Then there was the Proshtupulka. This is something we do in Bulgaria shortly after a child starts walking. We lay out a bunch of objects associated with different professions (such as a stethoscope, a book, a pen, a ball, goggles, measuring tape, a microphone, a passport or whatever else we think of) on a blanket and let the kid loose to see which of the objects he/she will pick because that will determine what she/he will become. We had already done what we had to do to ensure he will be a U.S. President one day following another Bulgarian tradition but since you can only be a president for 8 years, he has to have a regular career and this is the highly unscientific process by which we determined what it will be. Also, we had done it for his sister when she started walking (she went for the book), so we had to do it for Max too. He picked the wrench, which means he will either be an engineer or a handyman (hey, it’s always good to have one of those around).

Here’s a little video of the Proshtupulka:

Mommy’s future handyman

But what’s a good party without a little romance? Our little man’s flame, Neve, was at the party and Chutney made sure he showed her in no uncertain terms he only has eyes for her. They are a little young, we know, but we are going to India and we are embracing the culture… Plus, they make a lovely couple, don’t you think? There was a little drama, when according to his future father-in-law, Max executed a kiss-and-run maneuver on Neve. She was a little distressed by his behavior and went to talk it over with parents. In the end Max went back to her, gave her a nice hug and was forgiven.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

15 Valentines

It’s been 15 Valentine’s Days since Paul and I tied the knot. Yeah, as in forever, for some of you youngsters out there but whatevs…

We actually got married twice. Once on February 14 (which happens to be Wine Day in Bulgaria and there’s some serious drinking going on on that day each year) and again on June 21. Both weddings were in my hometown, Veliko Turnovo. The first wedding was very small – just a legal ceremony really, so we could start the process of getting my green card. In the summer, we had a bigger wedding for our families and friends.

Our first wedding almost didn’t happen though because our chosen date coincided with the worst of Bulgaria’s transition from Communism to a market economy. Inflation was about 1000% (no, it’s not a typo), the economy was in the gutter, the government was about to fall, there were food shortages, people were justifiably upset and there were demonstrations and riots across the country. Paul and I were living in sin in Kyustendil at the time, which is on Bulgaria’s Western border. My hometown is about 250 km/150 miles East, not far at all but it took about 12 hours by train/bus to get to my parents’ place. Paul was a Peace Corps volunteer at the time and as such was not allowed to drive. I had just graduated from college and was too poor to own pretty much anything, least of all a car.

I had gone to my parents place a couple of days earlier to get ready for the wedding. Paul called me the night before the wedding and said that there were blockades along the way and he was not sure he’d be able to make it to my hometown for the wedding. That was not exactly music to my ears but life can be “funny” that way. Luckily, he did make it to the wedding, after paying some taxi driver an exorbitant amount of Bulgarian leva (not that much in US$ thanks to the above-mentioned crazy rate of inflation) to circumvent the blockades by going half-way around the country and bring him safe and sound to his distraught bride-to-be (moi) in Veliko Turnovo.

It was Paul’s idea to wear traditional Bulgarian costumes at the wedding. I was not enamored with the idea at first because I thought people would laugh at us but looking back on it, I am so glad we did. We didn’t have costumes and they were not easy to find at the time but my mom knew someone, who was in a dancing troupe, and arranged for us to borrow the costumes for the wedding  - that was our “something borrowed.”

Fifteen years, a couple kids and a couple of cats  later, we are still going strong. I am so lucky, I married an awesome guy – unassuming, smart,  funny, a terrific dad and the absolute bestest friend ever!!! What more could I ask for?

Happy Anniversary, My Love – and here’s to 115 more!

Here are a couple of pictures from our first wedding and an article about the coolest weddings of year (1997), featuring us, which appeared in the local newspaper “Borba.” I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures, they were taken before the digital age (and I really need to get a decent scanner!) The article has several typos and misstatements in it but we weren’t allowed to edit the content, so it is what it is… and don’t we just look so happy and in love?!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

svatba1     svatba2

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Monday, February 6, 2012

A picture that wasn’t meant to be…

Paul, Nia and I went to the Newseum (news+museum=newseum) yesterday. This was my first visit and I have to say I had an unexpectedly emotional experience. The Newseum is one of my husband’s favorite museums and he’s been there a number of times professionally (he used to be a journalist). We had been thinking about taking Nia there but weren’t sure if she was old enough to appreciate it. And since it’s one of the few museums in D.C. that are not free (it’s actually quite pricey at $22 for adults, $13 for kids) we were a little bit hesitant.

Our fast-approaching move overseas and a fortuitous 50% off Newseum admission offer from Groupon pushed us over the edge and there we were on a frosty morning looking at newspapers from all over the world and discussing our first amendment rights with Nia. There are a lot of really neat things to see at the Newseum, more than we had time (or some of us - patience) for yesterday but one thing really tugged at my heart.

It’s one of the first things you see as you enter the Newseum - a large chunk of the Berlin Wall together with a three-story East German guard tower that loomed near Checkpoint Charlie (Berlin’s best-known East-West crossing). To most people that’s just another historical symbol. To me, apparently it was a lot more, as I was about to discover.

I had been to Berlin before the Wall fell. I remember looking at the Wall and over it and trying to imagine what it must be like to live on the other side. I had also been to Berlin the year the wall fell. A Bulgarian friend and I visited an East German friend of ours shortly after the Wall fell. I remember standing where the wall used to be and looking at the rubble in disbelief. I picked up a piece thinking “It looks just like any old piece of concrete, yet it brought misery to so many people over the years…” I thought about taking the piece I was holding and keeping it as a souvenir for a moment but then I changed my mind and dropped it. I did not want to remember what it stood for. 

All those memories flooded over me the instant I saw the chunk of the Wall at the  Newseum and I suddenly realized that my life unfolded the way it did because the Berlin Wall fell. Had it not fallen, there would not have been Peace Corps in Bulgaria, Paul and I wouldn’t/couldn’t have met and our family, including our precious children, simply wouldn’t exist. I had never thought of it that way but that realization came out of nowhere and hit me pretty hard. I was choking up. A lady told us they were showing a short movie near the Wall exhibit and the three of us went in to see it. The movie was about news in general but it included a few images of the Tiananmen Square protests that happened the same year the Berlin Wall fell – two similar events that happened the same year - two very different outcomes. To think that our protests may not have succeeded was almost too much for me in that instant (especially now that we are reminded of the events that shook Europe to its core more than 20 years ago by the Arab Spring and the most recent violence in Syria.) I tried to explain to Nia what was happening in the pictures and found myself sobbing uncontrollably. I just lost it for a few seconds there but she and Paul seemed to understand.

We went back out and looked at the Wall for a while. We told Nia some of the history behind it. Interestingly, Paul had been to West Berlin the year his brother married a German lady. He told Nia about looking over the Wall from the other side wondering what life was like for the people in the East. I decided that we needed to take a picture with each of us on either side of the Wall and Nia in the middle. We had to ask a stranger for help with that and it was kinda tricky with the way the Wall is laid out in the Newseum but the lady did her best (Thank you stranger lady!).

The picture didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it in my head but it’s what we have for now and it means the world to us, quite literally. Perhaps we can go back with Max when he’s older and take another one with both kids in the middle. Maybe, we’ll even be able to stage it better next time.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nice Surprise

As part of our Area Studies at FSI, today we had to attend a seminar called Appeal of Conscience. We didn’t know exactly what it was going to be but it was a mandatory event, so we had to go. There was a rumor around FSI yesterday that Secretary Clinton may come to the event but we didn’t put much into it because she’s crazy busy.

We got to FSI at our usual language class time, 7:30 a.m., even though the event didn’t start until 9 a.m. because it is very difficult to find parking at FSI after 7:30, so we had a bunch of time to kill. The area around the conference room where the seminar was going to be held was abuzz with people (security and staff) which was a give away but we thought we’d confirm. We got a program of the event and sure enough, Secretary Clinton was the keynote speaker. Since it was quite early, we were able to get choice seats right in front of the podium but behind the dignitaries. I took a few pictures but they didn’t turn out great – all I had on me was my phone :-(

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The topic of the event was religious freedom and the resurgence of religion as a factor in international relations. I didn’t expect much but the presentations/speeches were very interesting. There were several ambassadors and religious leaders from different faiths and they each shared their experiences and views, which was fascinating. The best part, naturally, was Secretary Clinton’s speech. I won’t do it justice, so I am not even going to try to summarize it but if you are interested, you can find the whole speech here.

Needless to say, I was very impressed and humbled to be in the presence of all these amazing people. It’s especially meaningful to me now after passing the FSOA. It’s pretty awesome to think that Secretary Clinton would be my boss. If my security clearance goes through in time that is, because the Secretary has been talking about stepping down after the elections in November, even if President Obama gets reelected.

Pretty neat, ha!

 
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