Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Country Mice

It's harder to write with a cat constantly nudging you for attention, but I'll try.

Here the country is much different. The towns and villages are sparsely placed throughout the landscape of fields. The center of town is just that, the center. It's where the life takes place. On Monday mornings it fills with people sitting at the cafes, gazing through the market, catching up on gossip. It's where you go to meet before you go anywhere else. It's the only place you can buy anything but the most basic groceries. Full of cafes and "Fshicko za 1 Lev" (yes, that's right they have "Everything's a Dollar" stores here too) the tree lined street is never rushed. Just outside the center the houses are very close together. They all have gardens closely knitted with vegetables and fruit trees. But the houses and their gardens occupy no more than half an acre and those are the biggest lots I've seen. It's amazing what can fit into less than a half an acre: tomatoes, cucumbers, pears, apples, walnuts, okra, beans, peas, grapes, zucchini, peppers, plums, peaches, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, corn... and that's just what I've seen planted I'm sure there's more. When you get past the houses you run into the bloks. Some are stark, monstrous, and foreboding, others are tree shaded with plant lined balconies. They are quite a change from the full and healthy gardens and quiet, tiny houses. They are practical and stave energy in the winter. Most people that live in the bloks have a house outside the "city" (which is to say bigger village) with a garden in a village near by. They bring some extra produce when it's in season and when they've fixed cakes or goodies they'll share those too. Beyond the bloks and houses there is nothing. There are fields of sunflowers or grazing cattle in a trash strewn field. And there is a road. In every direction there is a road to the next gathering of houses and bloks, a new center of some town.

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