Thursday, February 21, 2008

Break it down

Today, as frequently happens, one of my co-workers brought lunch to school for whoever cared to join. I think this is one of my favorite things about my school and the teachers that I work with. Let me set the scene:
Simova brought in lutenitsa*, pork fat**, fried pork fat, pickled veggies, bread, and cheese. After she was done with classes she pulled out the white "it's time for lunch" table cloth and put it over the gold fringed red velvet "smoker's room" one. Plates of deep red homemade lutenitsa, bite-sized pickled cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes, creamy white hunks of cheese, and salted (cheese-looking) pork fat decorated the table. (the first, and only time I ate the pig fat was when I mistook it for cheese... quite surprising!) She told me excitedly earlier that day that we'd drink Rakia*** after classes were over. I was looking forward to the hours of conversation about nothing important that, as always, ended in people getting excited and yelling at someone two feet away from them about how much eggs cost this week. I wasn't disappointed. It was fantastic.
Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have such a warm and open school. They accept me with open arms, look the other way when I do something culturally insensitive, and always include me in everything that is going on.
Emel sat on the other side of the table and translated anything she felt was important, a joke or new word. Simova and Galya flanked me and we made side comments when conversations rose to a roar. I haven't seen Costa in weeks and he looked so happy, with his cigarette in one hand and his hand other tucked under his arm. Venci got new glasses which were discussed extensively. And Sashka acted out her story of the week, then just acted silly for the amusement of all. Rainie was in and out, as usual, working on something- who knows what. Vacileva asked me if I could cook with pumpkin...
"Yes! of course. I love it."
"Well, I'll give you another then. What do you make with them?"
"Pie, bread, soup, curry..."
I don't think this had ever been heard. There was a definite gasp around the room. Then discussion of whether these things could be made with pumpkin or not and more importantly, would it taste good?
My classes ended a little before one and now, here it is almost four. Half the time I just sit back and think of how much I enjoy these, almost weekly, occurrences. Then someone will ask me, "What are you thinking? Why are you quiet?"

*lutenitsa is a tomato and bell pepper spread that is put on just about anything... think of it as the most amazing tomato sauce you've ever tasted.
**pork fat is eaten here like a meat. it's almost a delicacy... although I don't partake.
*** Rakia is the national drink of Bulgaria. It's made from fermented fruit that they can't eat during the summer. Today they asked me what kind of fruit we have in the US. I said in my state really only peaches and apples. Then they wanted to know what we did with all the left overs, since we don't have Rakia. I tried to explain that we have huge farms where these fruits are grown and then sent to different places to sell them. "Yes, but the trees in your yard. What do you do with all the extra fruit from them?" I wish I had fruit trees in my yard.
The differences just don't translate most of the time.

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