Bulgaria and me - Camila

Bulgaria and me - Camila
Or when you develop an unexpected passion for Banitsa

2020 was a pretty rough year. In January, I was in New York enjoying the high rises, Broadway and Central Park. Then the pandemic kicked in and I had to fly back home without having time to say goodbye to what I consider to be the best months of my life.
After that I had the opportunity to become an Au Pair in France but once again, the dream fell short.
When I applied for this volunteering project in Bulgaria, I didn’t know much about the country even though I visited Eastern Europe before. Of course, I am aware of its communist past, but that’s probably all.
I landed in Sofia. It was late, dark and except the other volunteers who were exquisitely nice to me since day one, I didn’t see anything from the city. I thought only about the project. I wanted to show that I am invested in the mission. Because I am. And because I want to make a change. Or at least contribute to the change.
I never taught before. And I don’t consider myself to be especially good with kids even though I worked as an Au Pair earlier that year. Was I terrified on my first day of school? Yes, yes and yes again. I met my teacher, then the kids, and I got so anxious I could barely speak. For my first day at school, I was simply shadowing. I observed, I listened, and I learned. It is important to understand the dynamic of a class, identify the shy kids from the potential leaders or bullies.
During the break, girls came at me and hugged me. This is not very Covid friendly but what the hell! I hugged them back of course and my heart melted with joy and relief. Kids are so sweet.
These young little fellas are the best part of the experience. Their innocence, their spontaneous kindness and their curiosity are simply dazzling. I will particularly remember the girl who wrote me a list of Bulgarian words and their equivalent in english for my second day of school, or this other cute sweetheart who drew a cat for me and added the symbol of my necklace on it. And of course, the one I call “the cactus girl” because she loves cactus and gives them names like if they were her pets. Probably they are. After all, why plants can’t be pets?
My days in Bulgaria were hectic. I would teach until 12 at schools and then work for my Uni back home. On the top of that, I would need to squeeze few meetings with the organization, find time to work for the Euroclub for which I was designated as a leader and prepare teaching material for school.
This was challenging. But I think it helped me to multitask and prioritize.
Since the beginning of December, my days are a little bit more relaxed as I am teaching less. Sadly, classes moved online.
I am going to miss the kids. I burst into tears on my last day, just because I knew I would never see them again and I didn’t want to tell them because…they would not understand. Worse, they would cry with me if they found out. Just imagine! I would have never found the strength in me to leave them. And yet this is what I had to do. Pull myself together and leave.
Now, let’s talk about food. Whatever we try to convince ourselves, food matters.
As a foodie, I was in heaven since Bulgaria has a wide variety of yogurts, cakes and cheese. Each day, I was trying a new one. What a bless!
And Banitsa! Did I tell you about Banitsa? My first worry when we got into lockdown the last week of November was about me not being able to get any more pumpkin Banitsa from my favorite bakery. Lucky me, it is still open. And yes, I am eating one while writing this article.
My stay in Bulgaria was intense, but incredibly rewarding. I wish I didn’t have to go. Bulgaria has so much to offer. I remember my weekend in Plovdiv and how I was impressed by its colorful architecture. I felt I was in Cuba. I wish I could have seen more but the pandemic decided otherwise. Like in New York.
In spite of that, I managed to do plenty of activities (like bachata dancing!). Besides, I met amazing people. I think that’s the most important.
I don’t know where I will be next year, I am always jumping from a country to another. But I won’t forget Bulgaria and I hope to see this beautiful land again to finally visit the Rila Monastery, Veliko Tarnovo and Varna.

Обичам България
Obicham Bŭlgariya !
Fall 2020

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