I never fully appreciated the art of reflection until I reached my thirties. Younger me tended to shrug off reflection like the way you drop your bag after coming home and the closing the door on a long day. Becoming a teacher also helped me developed a bond and kinship with reflection. Because being a teacher means sometimes you just bomb; you bomb a lesson in front of your class, or you bomb a conference or a specific interaction with a student. Afterwards you needs those moments of introspection to help you get better…and also help you not look like an ass at what you’re doing.
This time of year always seems like the time when Alison and I start having those conversations like, “Where were we this time last year?” or “What were we doing a year ago?”. So it seems as good a time as any to kick our feet up and look back at all the shenanigans this past rotation of the sun has brought us. And boy, this year certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to shenanigans.
Upon this reflection we realized it’s been too long since our last post and we’ve made a new year’s resolution (unofficially) to work at it. So if you’re reading this I can only assume you’ve come to find out what has been going on with us the last few months since our arrival and introduction to our new lives here in Bulgaria.
“When we last met our intrepid explorers, they had finished with the guided tours of the city and nearby areas, successfully made it through new teacher orientation, set up their cozy new apartment, and were ready to start in-person teaching with their students who would be arriving the following week.”
Now that everyone is all caught up… 😉
Our school year started off like one of those rides at Disney where you’re all buckled in, ready to go with an anticipatory grin across your face from ear to ear to because you think you’re ready. A little nervous perhaps, but ready. You’re almost certain. You’ve prepared physically, mentally, and even emotionally. You’ve dotted and crossed all things you needed to. Now all that’s left to do set things in motion and enjoy the ride. Right? Instead, you’re instantaneously shot forward at a ludicrous speed, slamming the back of your head into your seatback while you swallow one of your loosened fillings. Haha…jokes!
But to be fair, we did hit the ground running pretty fast this school year. In one moment we’re hauling our suitcases upstairs to our new home. A momentary blink later we’re on campus learning about our new grading software. Another blink and you’re in class, students are here, and the “real work” is underway. Another blink and almost 2 months have gone by and now we’re switching gears into online learning. Another blink, another jump. Maybe the Disney ride analogy isn’t that far off 😉
In all seriousness, we’ve greatly enjoyed our time in Bulgaria so far. We are fortunate enough to work on a beautiful, historic campus. It’s nice to be able to take a scenic walk around the grounds and step away from it all for a moment. The students are wonderful. Very diligent workers who delight in asking great questions, working on cool projects, and collaborating with each other. They have been a joy to work with.
When work isn’t keeping us busy, we’re doing a pretty good job of doing that ourselves! Alison has been running up a literal storm completing a 5k, a half marathon, a half marathon trail run, and a full marathon in just a few short months! Absolute beast. The roads around Sofia (and to be honest in Bulgaria in general) are not good. Nor are certain roads very safe, particularly for biking. And while Alison has found a cool little biking crew, it’s not quite the same. I’m very proud of how she’s found ways to overcome these challenges as she continues to train and look for more opportunities to do these events. Keep kickin’ ass, love!
Not to be outdone, I’ve also been up to some stuff…literally. I’ve started rock climbing again and it’s been fantastic! This time around, we brought more of our outdoor and camping gear (a lesson learned from our previous posting in China) and I ended up bringing my rock climbing kit as a motivator to get back into it. I found a new friend from work who is super into climbing and we’ve been out and about climbing around Sofia. I feels great to great back into it and I can’t wait for next season!
Alison and I have tried to take advantage of the great outdoor adventuring there is to do around Bulgaria. Since COVID is keeping us local these days, we figured it’s best to use the time to explore and see what kind of nature Bulgaria has to offer. We have a lovely mountain right in our backyard called Mount Vitosha. One weekend in October we a nice little 20-ish kilometer loop. We left our apartment on foot and walked toward the mountain, cutting around the IKEA and Ring Road Mall. We heard there was a cablecar that you can pay a little money to take you up the mountain to the starting point of many hikes. We found the cablecar, paid our dues, and soon were on our way up the mountain being embraced by the mountain vista and wonderful view of Sofia. After departing from the cablecar, we hiked to the top of Mount Vitosha and found another stunning view. After walking back down and taking the cablecar, we found our hungry selves walking past the Ring Road Mall. Naturally, we stopped for pizza and refreshments at one of our favorite joints. After dinner, it was a short walk home to complete the day. One for the books!
We also spent a 3-day weekend hiking with some friends from work. We found a lovely little AirBnB with a wood-fire stove. It was close to the trailhead of Rila Mountains. It was great to get out of the city and spend some time in the woods. Playing games, hanging out, and cooking on a wood stove were some other highlights besides the views we earned after putting the kilometers in. I also found something very zen about waking up before everyone else to get the wood fire going.
About a month ago, we were told by our school that we would be transitioning to online learning. At first it was only for two weeks. At the end of that two weeks, we were told two more. At the end of that, the Ministry of Health closed all schools (as well as bars/restaurants/malls/etc.) until Dec. 21, which puts us right into Christmas break. Since we’ll be home for the foreseeable future, we make some homey updates as well as designated spaces for work and leisure. We went to IKEA and a few other shops the day before everything was intended to close to buy various frames, lights, furniture, etc. We also went to an art store we heard about from a friend to stock up on hobbying materials and art supplies. Needless to say, we are ready to hunker down!
While we were hoping to be scuba diving somewhere for the holidays, that’s not an option right now. We’ve taken the time to give our apartment a little makeover, stocked up on fun things to do, and continue to work on projects for both school and home.
To inspire positivity, Alison has created a Holiday Advent Calendar for physical and mental health. She’s doing various sessions for workouts, yoga, mediations, and even art therapy. All are free to join in via Google Meet for any or all of these sessions! More info can be found here!
We all know 2020 wasn’t what we were hoping for. But hey, at least Trump is gone, amiright?! Seriously, wherever you are or whatever your situation is this holiday season we hope this greeting finds you healthy, happy, and near people you love. We miss you.
Nothing but love and good vibes,
Grant & Alison