There is a heatwave in London. At first, we laughed to hear that 85 degrees with mild humidity is considered a heatwave, having experienced “partly cloudly, 85 degrees, feels like 110” in the States. Well, it was funny until flatmate and I got lost (under the beating sun) looking for a Veterinary Centre not realising we had been given the wrong address. Long story short, it got gross real quick. So, yes. The poor baby got sick last night. Although the whole conundrum was a bit of a mess, I can now say the ladies and I are experts of getting canine unfortunate events out of new, beige carpeting. Huzzah!
I am taking the time of waiting for the furry patient and his Mama to get out of the examination room to finally write out my novel about the past journey I made. (NOTE-the examination was brief and I didn’t finish my post. The dog is fine! He and I watched a romantic comedy movie this afternoon, which is why this post is being finished 8 hours after it was started)
PART ONE: BULGARIA
On top of packing and moving, I have been preparing to sing Despina in Così fan tutte this Summer. One afternoon, I decided that I would watch a movie to make the task of writing the word-for-word translation of the entire Così libretto in my score less tedious. I chose to watch “Eat Pray Love” on Netflix. Although I didn’t hear the most amazing reviews for the film, I figured that since it was about eating and travelling, two of my favourite things, and it had Julia Roberts, it couldn’t be that bad. In my haste in choosing a film, I forgot to take into account that the main character was inevitably going to annoy the bejeezus out of me. The story line follows a woman who receives a fortune from a medicine man in Bali to practically leave her current life and husband and travel around to find her “balance”. I should have known that any anecdote this character may have would come off as super preachy and super annoying…and it did. Needless to say, I didn’t pay much attention to the film, though it was going to haunt me for the next couple weeks.
Two days before I was to leave to Bulgaria to visit the boyfriend, I flipped out at a printer. This was probably a good indication that a vacation was greatly needed. I promised my friends and parents that I’d leave my Così score at home and enjoy my five days of freedom, but the idea of dropping everything and reclaim some sort of equilibrium in my life made me cringe, so I packed a copy of the libretto so that I could review it on the plane.
Sofia was surprising at first — any free and reachable space on a concrete building was covered in graffiti. There were loads of people around, yet the city was quiet. The downtown area had colourful Baroque styled palatial buildings, which were shadowed by Communist-influenced monuments that were being dismantled. The centre of the city housed several Orthodox Christian churches, a mosque, and a synagogue which were all sitting atop the massive excavation of an ancient city. The trams and buses seemed like they were the hand-me-down from Vienna—but they had their own charm. Little women in basements in crumbling buildings sold fresh bread and banitza. Women displayed traditional Bulgarian dresses and handcrafted lace, while men sold copies of Byzantinian icons and antiques.
I arrived in time for the 135th anniversary of the National Guard. The celebration culminated in a weekend of spectacles. The first, a glorified marching band-off playing a varied program of traditional Bulgarian dances, to 80s hits, and “Time to Say Goodbye”, accompanied by a laser show, dry ice, musket twirling National Guardsmen, and unexpected fireworks that scared everyone when they started. The second spectacle, was in the National Theatre, which itself was a gorgeous building. The show was more or less an endless talent show and karaoke showcase of random songs and routines. It was a peculiar mixture of “Toddlers in Tiaras” and the YouTube video sensation “Trololo man” (for those unaware of what any of that means, view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z4m4lnjxkY)
I am being rather harsh and unforgiving of the whole spectacle, though even my native Bulgarian boy was taken aback by everything that was going. In truth, despite its quirks, Sofia was an amazing city and I really wished I was there longer to explore more.
PART TWO: GREECE
The boyfriend and his mom had to tell their friends that they were going to show me around the Bulgarian countryside over the weekend. Truth be told, they were taking me to Greece, but they couldn’t deal with the unavoidable “What?! She’s here in Bulgaria and you aren’t showing her the monasteries and Plovdiv?!” So, I was told to nod and smile when I was asked (in Bulgarian) if I was excited to experience the true Bulgarian culture. Apparently it was a good thing we left Bulgaria, as they were pummelled with thunderstorm after thunderstorm over the weekend….which made for good explanation when we came back with noticeable tans.
We packed the family’s small two-door Lancia and set off for Porto Koufo in Sithonia. I was briefed that the car had no air-conditioning and the drive would be about six and a half hours long. The back seats of the car didn’t have seat belts. When I looked at the boyfriend in stupefaction, he simple said, “What? They aren’t required here.” Yes, right…ok. Well, what about the fact that I don’t want to die. We first stopped at a set of shops and restaurants in the mountains before arriving at the Greek border to get some food and use the bathrooms. I was bursting, but the moment I saw that the toilet was in fact a ceramic square in the ground with a hose to wash it down after every use, I decided that to hold it was my unpleasant yet best option. We grabbed our grilled sausage sandwiches and continued to Greece. The Bulgarian scenery was gorgeous with huge, green mountains and vast golden plains. The villages we past were small and people travelled the roads in carts full of hay pulled by horses adorn in red and white yarn. The Greek roads were littered with stray dogs, dead and alive. The winding roads through the mountains were home to wide olive groves and vineyards. Porto Koufo was a mile-long shore line in a mountainous crescent along the Aegean Sea. “The middle of nowhere Greece” as a local Restaurateur described it, the view was confusingly beautiful. We spent practically all hours of the day on the beach, as there was nothing to do in Porto Koufo but swim and eat. The water was calm and the most spectacularly clear. Some sediment in the sand when broken down by the water let out specks of gold which shone in the sun. The water was a bit cold at first, compared to the heat in the air. To deal with entering the water quick and easy, I dove only to reach about a foot underwater and get pushed back up since the water was so salty. Although, I was really hoping to find an octopus, I found company in schools of small fish and sea urchins. I swam as far as I could, searching for little treasures on the sandy floor.
That night, we went to a local Taverna that came highly recommended. It was called Tzitzikas, and was run by two brothers, Nicholas and Sokrates (I am not joking). We had a feast of cucumber and tomato salad, fresh anchovies, octopus salad, locally caught grilled fish, all seasoned in the freshest olive oil, accompanied by Ouzo and Baklava. My mother told me that there is a saying in France that an indication of an excellent meal is when the members of a party pause their conversations to just savour the food. That night, we ate in silence.
The following day, the routine of diving, swimming, searching, eating carried on like clockwork. The morning when it was time to go, we went to the beach one last time. I swam out as far as I could, but at this point was too tired to dive under the surface. I ended up just turning on my back, and floating. I was far enough from the shore that the sounds of little kids being thrown into the water by their fathers were mute. I was left to my own thoughts, listening to the silence that was the Sea.
I thought about all the moments and emotions I experienced this year from tearfully saying goodbye to my parents at the airport, uncertain of what was ahead, to the exhilaration of receiving my Graduate Diploma in the mail, to yelling profanities at an IKEA bed. I then realised that this moment was what I needed to sort through this year and gear up for the next. Damn it, Julia Roberts. Are you happy? I found my balance floating on gold specked, salty-ass water.