Thursday, October 04, 2007

To the moon and back again

So much has happened in the last month! New job, new apartment, new In-Laws, new everything!

Let's start at the beginning.

August 26th came quicker than we expected, before you knew it Boyan and I were packing our bags, hoping in our car and beginning our journey to a magical land called Bulgaria.

I was ready to let my perceptions of the place and people I had heard so much about collide with reality and to form new opinions of my newly adopted country land and family.

Mom, George, Boyan and I got up at the ripe hour of 4am to be driven to LAX . The cabby was late picking us up, and we never imagined how long the lines at the airport would be at 7am on Sunday. After checking our bags (I hesitantly allowed the woman at the Delta desk check my wedding dress only after promising her a painful death if it got lost) we headed down the corridor outside the terminal and about 100 yards down the sidewalk to get to the back of the line. After waiting an hour we got bumped to the front of the line (our flight was leaving in 30 minutes) to go through security check-in.

Before we had left the house we had packed and repacked everything and as a result, the 200 dollar bottle of brandy my parents had purchased for Boyan's father was placed (safely we thought) in Boyan's carry-on. We quickly learned the error of our ways when while going through the x-ray scanner, Boyan's bag was commandeered by one of the security officials and we were informed that the bottle would have to be confiscated because it was more than 2 ounces of liquid. Duh. I had packed all my liquids in small carry-on size containers and placed them in my zip top plastic bag but had not even thought of that rule applying to the liquor. I got upset, starting whining, bargaining, yelling and finally telling the man to take it and that he was "going to drink it later anyways." He wasn't too happy with me--he made us wait longer so he could check the bottle for explosives and told me he was offended. Fucktard.

So we finally make it on the plane (we were the LAST people on) and I'm sobbing and pissed. I don't think I've ever been more upset or more emotional (in public no less) in my life. Not a great way to start a vacation. The man sitting behind me offers me a percocet (asshole), I refuse as nicely as I can in my state and try to sleep.

We get into Atlanta and our flight is delayed 2 hours (which was fine, our layover in Milan was supposed to be 6 hours) due to a rainstorm. Once we do get on the plane we realize our seats have been upgraded to first class, and I enjoy my trip across the pond sipping champagne, watching Hot Fuzz and eating butternut squash ravioli (yum!) and gazing at the alps thousands of miles below me.

16 hours later we arrive in Bulgaria. The airport in Sofia is very clean, very new and relatively empty—a stark contrast from the 60's retro, Asian toileted Milan hell hole we had spent the last four hours in. I go through the passport check relatively easy. The lady who checked my passport didn't speak English very well so she kept her answers at the minimum. The one question she did ask me was, "Why are you visiting Bulgaria?" to which I answered without thinking, "To get married." A quick pang of panic hit me as I thought, 'SHIT! What if she thinks I'm some sort of mail order bride! ' thankfully she either didn't understand me or…well she probably didn’t understand me so I walked through to the baggage claim and waiting for our luggage to come out…and waited…and waited.

George and Boyan's bags came out with no problem. Soon after I see my suitcase but eventually the conveyor belt stops and my mother's luggage and the garment bag holding my wedding dress are nowhere to be seen. Immediately I think of the woman at the Delta counter whose murder I will have to cover up when I get home (turns out it's not her fault, Alitalia is notorious for losing luggage) we fill out some paperwork, make it through customs checks to find a smiling batch of Syarovs waiting for us on the other side.

The minute we are outside everyone lights up (a trend that would continue throughout the trip) and we stand in a circle exchanging pleasantries, trying to understand each other and finally hop into the party bus Boyan's father had rented for the occasion. It would be four long hours until we made it to Sliven, the moderately sized mountain town which had at one time produced great military Generals and most recently produced one great husband. Once we did get there it was dark, and we were tired. It had been 42 hours since we had left my parents door in Newport and we were ready to crash. Instead we found a meal fit for kings prepared for us. Boyan's father poured us small glasses of Rakia which was strong but smelled sweet and went down smooth and we sat around the table laughing and inhaling second hand smoke. We finally made it to bed and prepared ourselves for our first day in Bulgaria.

Week One: Baptism and Wedding Madness!
We arrived in Bulgaria on Monday and I was baptized on Wednesday. In order to have our wedding in the church I had to be baptized and logged into the registries for the Orthodox Church, so Boyan's and my family headed over to the church so I could get some water poured on my head. The ceremony lasted 45 minutes and the church was sweltering. I don’t know if it was because I was a foreigner and the priest wanted to give me the full treatment, but Mariana (boyan's mother) said it was the longest baptism she's ever been to. I left the church a little more blessed than I had entered and spent the rest of my week running around Sliven picking up things for the wedding. Flowers and jewelry and oh yea! Britta and Ruth! Britta and Ruth arrived on the Friday before the wedding (they had lost Britta's bag as well, gypsy Romanian airline) and had very little time to acclimate themselves to Bulgarian culture, which was evident when Boyan's father gave Britta a glass of Rakia, and like the good little drinker she is she took that as "Take a shot! Take a shot!" and downed the whole thing, to her dismay, in one gulp. Oh well, let's continue.

The day of the wedding came at last, as I was shuttled around to get my nails done, my hair did and finally to my parents hotel room to get ready. I spent most of the time lying around, stealing cigarettes from George (weddings are stressful!) and eating greasy ham sandwiches. Britta came up and started on my makeup which I think turned out fantastic thanks to her fine artistry and my Shuemura lashes. I slipped myself into my dress and had all the necessary items: Something old, the earrings I wore were a 200 year old pair that had been smuggled out of Ukraine by Boyan's family who were nobility during the revolution. Something new, my dress of course! Something borrowed, Britta's friendship necklace and Something blue, my shoes! I also had a tuppence in my shoe which my mom had kept from our trip to England two years ago.

I was ready just in time for Uncle Itzo to come up and fetch us down to the lobby where the entire wedding party was waiting for me to make my appearance. I later told Boyan the scene had reminded me of the scene in Goodfellas after Jimmy is arrested for the first time.

We made it to the church, which was not cooler in the later day as the grandma's who kept up the property told us it would be. Boyan was sweating from every pore, and the candles we had to hold throughout the ceremony did not make it any better. Interesting facts about Bulgarian weddings: 1. Every couple has to be sponsored by a married couple who are unrelated and baptized in the church. 2. Bulgarian's wear their wedding rings on the right ring finger. 3. There are no recitation of vows.

All of these facts made the wedding relatively easy for me because, unlike my baptism, I would not be made to repeat anything in my hack sawed Bulgarian. Now, comparative to the first time I got married in the courthouse, I was much calmer and much more relaxed this time around. I was more excited about how the ceremony would be conducted (I'm a sucker for tradition…TRADITION!!!) and concerned for the amount of sweat coming out of Boyan's face (no one wants greasy wedding photos). The wedding was pretty quick, only about 25 minutes long. We exited the church and met the wedding attendees in the courtyard. 10 minutes of well-wishing ensued until the rain which had been threatening us since the morning began to fall—just in time to ruin what was supposed to be our outdoor reception. It did not rain for the remainder of our stay in Bulgaria.

We were crammed into a little room along with a balloon arch and heart (funny note, the Bulgarian word for balloon is 'baloni' pronounced like bologna!). The night after that was a haze of Bulgarian folk dances, loud incessant Chalga (pronounced Chowga) which is a mix of Bulgarian folk music and techno (picture me pulling out hair—yelling at 4 foot DJ) while watching Mariana's best friend from high school Zdravka, attempt to not fall out of her dress (God bless that woman). There was a fire works ceremony (we had all huddled out in the ran to see it), I threw the bouquet and went home, tired, happy and just a bit tipsy.

For more pictures you can visit my flickr album here, or get another account of the wedding (with again more pictures) on Britta's blog here.

Week Two and Three: The countryside and an appearance by the Black Sea
The rest of my time in Bulgaria was spent relaxing, eating lots and lots of food (everything there is SO TASTY I ate pounds of food and lost 5 pounds!) and visiting different towns.

Our first foray outside of Sliven was for a short day trip to Jeravna, Kotel and Medven. Jeravna is a small village that is protected by UNESCO and therefore preserved as a historical cultural site. All of the houses are brilliantly done (the architecture is from the medieval period) with stone and dark wood. People actually still live there and the community thrives on tourism and farming.

Kotel and Medven were next and these small towns didn't have much to document. We by chance ran into Boyan's father's employee who took our wedding photos (he was on vacation in Kotel at the time, its a very small town).

Our next big trip was to Bourgas and Nessebar. Both cities are on the black sea and ripe with tourism as well. The streets were so congested--it looked like Venice Beach had exploded in Bulgaria. But amongst all the knock-off watches and fake perfumes there were old houses, Byzantine churches and forts used to fight off the turks.

We didn't stay very long, there were more things to see and of course more shopping to do! I forgot to mention how cheap clothes and shoes can be over there. I was happier than a pig in...well you know.

The rest of our trip was uneventful but beautiful. We spent a lot of time relaxing--sitting at home with Mariana, watching T.V. and eating Shopska Salad. I am so excited to go back again and visit my new family. I plan on uploading more pictures once flickr gets it's act together and realizes how lame it is to put limits on free accounts (screw those people) and Picasa realizes they don't have to upload my entire photo library (get it together google). Until then, here are some more pictures just for fun.

No comments: