I returned from my travels to Pazardzhik. You can read about the town and its history here. There are quite a few archealogical digs around this area because there are many Thracian tombs. In fact, if you visit the Museum of Natural History here in Sofia–which I clearly did because duh!! I’m a teacher!–many of the artifacts are from Pazardzhik. Unfortunately, because its population is nearly half Roma and Turkish, it sometimes gets a bad reputation, and not quite the attention it deserves. Pazardzhik is also famous for its outdoor bazaar where there are rows and rows of stands where you can buy all manner of freah fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey, etc.

But what you really want to read about is what I did there, don’t you? I’m so narcissistic. Well…let us begin with GETTING there. Mark and I walked outside our flat and hailed a taxi to take us to the train station. I tried, in my best Bulgarian, to ask him to take us to the train station (vlak gara), but apparently I accidentally threw in a few Spanish words. He asked me to say it again, but with a strange look on his face this time. Finally, he said “habla espanol?”. “SI” we said, all excited. “Gracias a Dios!” And so we could communicate with the Bulgarian taxi driver in Spanish, because…turns out….he spent a few years working in Puerto Rico.

We got to the train station and saw all kinds of places to buy snacks and newspapers, but no place to buy a ticket. So, a man came and showed us his photocopied badge and offered to help us. We were a bit skeptical, but, we followed him anyways. He took us to the ticket window and actually DID help us. As per the advice I had been given by people, I bought a First Class ticket, which cost about 50 cents more. In fact, the whole train ride to and from Pazardzhik (about 2 hours away) cost the equivalent of $10 USD. We found the right train by asking people “Pazardzhik? Pazardzhik?” since there were no clear signs. And after some searching, we found First Class where I snuggled right in.

Perhaps, at his point, you’re wondering about Mark. If I was the one going, why is Mark on the train? Well, that would be because Mark turned into a nervous father-type. Never mind that I am well into my 30s and have a Masters Degree. He was sure I would have problems on the train or not be able to find it on my own. So once he actually put me on the train, he then proceeded to call or text me nearly every 20 minutes while the train was moving. Kind of cute. Kind of stalker. Not sure which.

I shared my First Class compartment with two older men who are engineers. Well, one is still an engineer and the other is retired. They could barely speak English and we clearly know my Bulgarian is a bit pathetic, but somehow we managed to have quite the conversation. They asked me how much things cost in the U.S. and I asked about their retirement system. I know, I know! Not bad for barely understanding each other. They also made sure I got off on the right stop, almost as if Mark had paid them to take care of me….hmm……

I met my friend (let’s call her Kanye) at her flat. Well, kind of. I had a taxi take me to her address, but I couldn’t find her place exactly. No worries though, we found each other by me saying:

“I don’t know, I see a donkey here”.

She said, “Oh is it the one with the red puffy flower on the head?”

“Hey…..yes it is!” I told her.

“Ok, just go to the other side of the building then”.

Navigation by donkey. Perfect.

paz-road.jpg This is what the town of Pazardzhik looks like.
We went out walking around the town and the bazaar and ended up in a cafe. Kanye particularly likes this cafe because it has the best bathroom in town. (In the future I will have to do a whole post on bathrooms here, because, well, they are….different.) I tried out the bathroom, and I concur. It was pretty nice. We met some of her friends/acquaintances for dinner. There were some EU volunteers, who I guess are similar to our Peace Corps colunteers and some young adults who work at a foundation for Roma (gypsies) to help them integrate more into the society, and to help the society be more accepting of them. It was an interesting meal because one person spoke German, one spoke French, a couple of us spoke English, and the others spoke Bulgarian and/or Turkish. Good times. Good times.

The next day, I went to Kanye’s school. Here are some pictures (click to make them bigger):

paz-school-out-2.jpg paz-school-outside.jpg paz-bul-board.jpg

The first two are pictures of the outside of the school. This school is a high school, and it is one of the best ones in Pazardzhik, as Kanye tells me.

This school has yet to discover the computer for keeping grades. Here is how they do it:


All the kids’ grades and behavior problems from that class are in this book.  A sort of records bible.  I can imagine what you are thinking…what if it gets lost? That’s Kanye’s fear too, I assure you. The teachers also have to list their lesson and sign it, and the headmaster (principal) checks to make sure that lesson matches the plan they turned in at the beginning of the year. *cough cough* I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about having my little schedule and focus on the board each day. 🙂
They don’t really have bulletin boards or work on the walls, but they do spruce up the hallways with plants, and post some things in the foyer:

paz-school-plants.jpg paz-bul-board.jpg paz-school-hall.jpg

And teachers the world over can appreciate the ever important coffee machine:


Teachers here only work like three hours a day (I know!! Can you believe it??) So in her off time, Kanye helps her students prepare for their exams and write their college essays. In return, they accompany her to her violin lessons and translate for her. Pretty good deal, ey?

I didn’t get to stay for the whole day because I had to catch a train back to Sofia, but I plan on going back just to see the classes more.

And so that was my time in Pazardzhik. I caught the train back(all by myself!) and fell asleep most of the way. So…what do you think of the school????