Spring 2021 – Bulgaria Style

A common thing we found ourselves saying this January, February and March is “Last year, we were doing this on this day.” How much the world changed between BC (Before Covid) and AC (After Covid).

In late January and all of February last year, we enjoyed the sunshine and hospitality of the best hosts in New Zealand. On leap day a year ago, we returned to a very different China from the one we left. On March 14 last year, we left our apartments after a 2-week tight quarantine. At this point technically, we have made it through 1 AC (1 year after Covid began). While Spring 2021 – Bulgaria Style isn’t what teachers in past years living here have experienced, we have been grateful for what we have been able to do and for the “wins” both big and small.

“Wins” for us this Spring have been:

> Moderna vaccine on February 20 and March 20 – Alison’s first dose was worse than Grant’s with an epic “Covid arm”. Grant’s second dose was worse than Alison’s with flu-like symptoms and shakes for two days. We are SO grateful that Bulgaria offered the vaccine to teachers directly after healthcare workers – we know this is not the norm around the world and we have been fortunate to be in a country that puts educators near the top of the list. We have been able to breath easier at indoor locations, and feel like a weight of stress has been lifted during routine times such as grocery shopping, grabbing some food out, etc.

> Rock climbing Grant & the crew – Most of this spring has been rainy and snowy (similar to Vermont weather for a spring), but anomaly warm days have existed. Bulgaria is Mecca for rock climbing and Grant has been able to go out several times this spring to different sites in Bulgaria. Grant and our friend Josh concreted their friendship by purchasing a new rope together, and, to Alison’s relief, all the crew purchased helmets. Having the vaccine meant the crew could also use the indoor Walltopia Rock climbing gym (world-renowned); rainy days = Walltopia now 🙂

Here is a video that Grant made from a recent climbing day in Lakatnik:

> Alison has kept busy this spring with Ironman training (August 7th is 18 weeks away eek). Swimming at a local pool that is right next to school has been convenient, and a crew of fellow teachers have been joining. Biking has mostly been on the indoor trainer, but a couple of warm days have enabled outdoors as well. Running has been a struggle with past knee injuries (from running of course) flaring up, but she is keeping them at bay for now with massage therapy and TLC.

Not necessarily a win per-say, but something that was interesting for us to experience this past spring was Baba Marta Day celebrated on March 1st. On this day, we were lucky enough to be in school. This is how the tradition goes:

  1. On March 1st, people hand out wool/cotton red and white bracelets to their family and friends. If someone comes up to you, says “Честита Баба Марта”, then puts a bracelet on your wrist, you are expected to do the same in return. It reminded me of Valentine’s at school – when your friend gives you one, you give one in return. By the end of the day, teachers and students alike left with the school with arms full of bracelets.
  2. The second part of the tradition is to take off the bracelets. One student told me that you take off a bracelet and put it on a tree if you see a sparrow in the tree (a sign of spring). Most students told me that when you see a bud on a tree, you take off a bracelet and put it on the branch with the bud. The tradition is to celebrate the coming of spring and passage and winter. Naturally, Grant and I went for a hike that following weekend to pass out our bracelets to the trees.

Overall, we thought it was a sweet tradition. More information about Baba Marta Day can be found here.

In other news, we have been online teaching our students for these times: Halloween – February & beginning of March – now. When we were in-person at school this spring, we were on a rotation schedule. For example, 9th and 12th graders in school one week while all others were still online. While it was AMAZING to see our hardworking and curious students, opening up schools in the country came with a price. Cases started rising and haven’t leveled off since. To exacerbate matters, malls and restaurants were reopened; but then needed to be closed again within a month due to the spike in numbers. We are on our April holiday this week (5-11) and will wait to hear about returning to school on the 12th or continuing online.

Other Spring Fun: time with friends, getting packages from Christmas, and taking a local dog for walks

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