Monday, June 16, 2008

The Абиторински Бал

... or Prom on crack.

Last weekend I went to the Ball for the 12th graders. In my town in Bulgaria the 12th graders go on an excursion for a couple days with all their 12th grade class-mates from their high school. Then they have a Ball, or Prom, in town for all the graduates city-wide. I didn't get to go to the beach with them on the excursion, but I did make it to the Ball.
The students invite the teachers that they like to the Ball. The students all have custom-made dresses and suits and dress up very fancy for this occasion. It's one of the biggest events in town every year.
I showed up at 8 pm to the restaurant where the festivities were to take place. I was nervous and apprehensive... was my dress too nice? was it nice enough? would I be able to find my students? what other teachers were going to be there?
Shortly after entering I found the table where my colleagues were sitting. I knew all of them... thank goodness. I was not over-dressed and not under-dressed... fears relieved. I hadn't found my students yet, but I was sure that sitting with all the other teachers from my school would solve that issue shortly.
But as I did say before, this is no ordinary Prom... it's Prom on crack. They served a 5- course meal. There was music and dancing during, between, after, before, all the time. There were two different singers that came and went and a band and a DJ. My conservative American nature was not too shocked to find that alcohol was part of the menu (I'm becoming Bulgarianized). It does still surprise me when I see students drinking with their teachers though. All students are of age (which is 18 here), but still nothing I am used to seeing in the States.
So these reasons make for a crazy Prom but not quite a Prom on crack, just wait. So I arrived at 8 pm, by 10 pm we had spent two hours on our first course and the students had spend an hour and a half dancing with DJ music. Then the shirts came off.... literally. I don't know what song, I don't know why, but all the sudden over half the guy students in the room had their shirts off. I tried to hide my complete shock at this turn of events. Thankfully the shirts went back on after a couple of songs... I was worried. Then came the balloon popping, out of the blue someone would pop one balloon then 10 more pops would follow. This happened several times during the night. The table dancing was always a cause for concern. When students were particularly fond of a song one or two of them would get up on their table and sing along. This seemed to be monitored carefully by the table of observing teachers, because if the glasses on the table shook they all shot horrible looks to the student and told them to get down.
I did get to dance with my students and I loved that. It was really neat to be asked by the kids I had taught all year to come to the dance floor and do the dance circle (a very inter-cultural concept). I also got to talk to a few of them more as friends than as a teacher. I think it's a lot easier to make that transition here. Towns are small, friendships varied.
Around 1 am I was tired and ready to go home, as were two of my other colleagues. So we packed up and left just as the rest of the town was arriving. After a certain point in the evening, or rather early in the morning, anyone in town who wants to is welcome to join the festivities. A friend told me it went on 'til 5 or6 in the morning.
Overall it was a very fun and interesting experience. I was glad I went.

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