Thursday, July 18, 2013

Adventures in Bulgaria, Part Two: Daily life

Every morning I wake up when the sun shines into my window over the top of the grape arbor, which is level
with the house below   My room is up a flower-lined flight of stairs, and has also an outside room where I can sit and have coffee, paint, and read the daily offices.  I have Bulgarian coffee every morning, which is like Greek or Turkish coffee, except that they put in more water, so it's kind of like a cafe Americano, except way, way better.  In this photo of the table, you will see the Bulgarian coffee pot.  You will also see a jar of jam Ginche made from peaches out of their orchard.  Today, though, breakfast was strawberry jam,served with crepes and goat cheese.  Yummy!!
Then I can walk across the street to Michael and Stella's courtyard to hook up with the internet and catch up on emails and facebook and write this blog. It's a wonderful place to study for my first class this fall, on Liturgics.  The silly little computer I bought doesn't seem to have any program for typing documents, so I'm writing my first paper by hand. This picture is looking up and across the street from Georgi and Ginche's gate   Stella and Michael's is where you see the white house up on the left side of the street.  They have a peach orchard behind their fence, which is just beginning to drop ripe peaches.
On the left of this view of their courtyard is a stone sink and a flower and vegetable garden.  Above is the grape arbor, shading the courtyard.  I think that just about everyone here has a grape arbor.  In Bulgaria they don't waste any space on grass.  Every square centimeter is planted in something productive, so the overhead shade yields grapes, which are put to good use in making wine and rakia (distilled from fruit wine, such as peach, plum, or grape).  It's like brandy, only has a lovely real fruit flavor behind its high octane fire-water!

Ginche and Georgi and probably everyone who lives
in small-town Bulgaria, not only have a sink outside, but also cook outside.  For small things, such as making soup or coffee or crepes, they use a propane tank that has a burner on top of it.  For larger things, such as for canning pickles, they use a bigger woodburning stove.  Here you see the seven jars of pickles cooling on top of a tree stump, with the stove and the steaming canner behind.  They put in onion, peppercorns, and dill, then pack in the little cuumbers, then salt and vinegar, and more dill on top, fill the jars with water, and clamp on the sterilized one-piece lids with rubber seals inside them, and process the filled jars in the canner, bringing to a boil and boiling for 20-25 minutes, just as we would do.  I can't wait to try this recipe to see how it tastes with onion and peppercorns instead of garlic.  I'll bet they are really good!!  We live in the courtyards and only go in to get things we need
to bring out for setting the table or tools for working.  The rooms are cool for sleeping, because the houses are built of adobe and well shaded.  Here you see the table where we eat every meal, and behind it is the sink.  Then behind the courtyard wall is an outer courtyard and the barns.  They have chickens, turkeys, two dogs, a pig, and a goat.  Absolutely nothing is wasted.  The dinner plates are scraped into a bucket with the water used to rinse them, and this is fed to the pig.  Peelings and other scraps are fed to the chickens & turkeys, and meat scraps are fed to the dogs.  The outer courtyard is swept every day, and you do not wear your street shoes into the inner courtyard, but have flip-flops or slippers.  We take even these off to go barefoot in the house.  Everything is immaculate and beautiful.  The table cloth we use every day, for example, has hand-crocheted lace around the hem.  This is not unlike the Kingman County farm culture I grew up in, and which some of you Kingman folks will recognize.

So, dear friends, I am learning Bulgarian as fast as I can.  I have learned the sounds of all the Cyrillic letters, the numbers up to five, the colors, and the names of all the fruits, vegetables, and animals we are growing and eating.  I am sure that when I come home, you will see me healthy from living here.  At first they wouldn't let me help do the work, but Ginche and Georgi were getting worn out and I was getting bored silly.  Stella had to explain to them that Americans like to help with the work when they visit, and don't like it if they aren't allowed to.  This allowed them to allow me to do it, and we are all much happier now.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Advenures in Bulgaria: Part One

Bulgaria is full of generous and kind-hearted people.  The couple I am staying with in the village of Barzitsa
have been more than kind to me.  Since they don't speak English and I don't speak Bulgarian, we are communicating by mime, which has worked surprisingly well, except for one faux pas on my part.  They had planned a special day trip for me, but when they told me about it, I thought they were saying they were going somewhere for the day.  I didn't understand that I was invited to go, too, so when they were ready to go, I was heading out the door to go somewhere else!  Whoops!  After they explained again, I quickly changed plans and got into the car with them.  Georgi had even washed the car!

 We drove up a mountain road to a resort hotel in the woods.  We got out and walked down a stone trail into the woods.  After a time we came to a kind of bunker, or cave dug into the ground, where someone had lived for over a year after having to parachute into enemy territory during the War.  It had a bed in one corner, and a fire pit in the other.  Outside was a hollow tree where the man had collected rain water to drink.  That was all that we were able to communicate by mime, other than it all had something to do with the Russians.  It is a fascinating place, and I look forward to learning more about this when I can find a source in English.

They wanted to take me to another place in the woods, but it had been closed off, apparently because it is a protected site that collects water for Varna.  On the way home we stopped at a magazine, which is a little store that has absolutely everything:  meat, cheeses, produce, bread, milk, produce, packaged food, and I even spotted Four Roses American Bourbon.  My hosts purchased some sausages, cheeses, and a watermelon.  Then we stopped at another store and purchased some beer.  We drove home again and had a beautiful late lunch in their courtyard under the grape arbor.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ordination to the Diaconate/Death of my Mother

I'm in Bulgaria now, resting.  The last few weeks before I left for vacation took me through an amazing journey.  Before I finished my work for the year as a school psychologist, I was called to my mother's bedside, as it was thought that she might not live through the night.  Then each hour for the next two and a half weeks was thought to be probably her last.  I had to leave her side to go to the Cathedral in Salina to be ordained, thinking that I would not see her again.

The ordination was the most beautiful, spirit-filled experience -- beyond imagination.  I spent some quiet time in a small chapel before the service, numb with what might have been grief, had I been feeling it, but also full of adoration of my God, who has called me to be a deacon in his church.  Suddenly, light came flooding through a window over my shoulder, bathing the chapel in brilliant colors.  I looked up, and there was the Holy Archangel Michael standing over my shoulder, protecting me and all who pray in this place.  There are only three things I really remember from the ordination.  One was the laying on of hands.  I could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit coming through the Bishop's hands into my head, and spreading throughout my whole body.

Another was receiving communion after the ordination.  It was a receiving into the Church and a blessing by the Church of what has been happening to me -- a recognition that this is where I belong, that I finally have come into God's will for me.  And above all, that I am in communion with Christ, my Lord and my King.

The last, and most vivid, thing I remember is administering the chalice to the people of my diocese.  It was as though I were an instrument in Christ's hands, indeed, a part of his body.  All the rest of the ordination is a blur.  Good thing people took lots of pictures!

Then when I went back to my mother's house, she was still alive, waiting to see me a deacon.  I modeled the black shirt and round collar for her.  She seemed pleased, but continued to live on, hour after hour and day after day.  She thought I was her mother, and wanted me to hold her hand all the time, day and night.  I had several nights of serious praying, asking God at first if he didn't want to speed this up a little, though of course, it was his will, not mine that I wanted.  I'm not telling you what to do, Father, just telling you how I feel, as if you didn't already know, but it feels good to tell it to you anyway. (You see, he puts up with a lot!)   Finally I got the message to stop whining and complaining and to line my will up with his, so that he could teach me some patience and compassion.  "Yes, Lord," is the only answer you can give when he talks to you like that, so sternly and so tenderly.  It makes you love him more, and love makes you want to do what he says.

The following night I felt her mother, my grandmother, holding my other hand.  I saw the transitional space between life and death, with my mother's two sisters and two brothers standing beside and behind their mother.  My father was there, but standing apart, watching over us all.  And beyond and above all of us stood Holy Michael, with his flaming sword, keeping us all safe during this time of vulnerability.  When the light of day came, I saw that my mother's face was grey and waxy, and that she had blood pooled in her legs, but still she was alive and alert to what was going on, though her eyes were closed and she did not have strength to speak.  She held to my hand, and held tighter when I started to let go. Finally, by afternoon, everyone else was out of the house, and somehow I knew to sing to her.  First I sang all the old songs my father used to sing to us, like Beautiful Dreamer, Red Wing, and Santa Lucia. Then I tried the Gospel songs her grandfather would have sung around the farm when mom was a girl.  Unfortunately, being an Episcopalian, I exhausted that repertoire pretty quickly!  Then I started WWII songs.  She smiled and looked more peaceful as I worked my way through everything I could remember of the Desert Song, then nearly all of South Pacific.  I did Sons of the Pioneers, including Cool, clear water, Don't fence me in, Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.  Doris Day:  I sang Moon River and Sentimental Journey.  Finally I tried to sing Deep Purple to sound like a big band. She "got it," smiled, and let go.  She always loved to dance to the Big Band music....