Friday, November 24, 2006

Blessed

So I gave thanks yestereday... Bulgarian style. I woke up yesterday and began to cook. Mr. Rooster was crowing as usual, and I was tempted to put him on the menu. Instead, I started out by making deviled eggs. I had already made peanut butter Snicker® cookies, and I was sampling on them. After making the deviled eggs (too salty!), I moved onto an apple crisp. After throwing the apple crisp in the oven, I started peeling potatoes. Mashing potatoes without a mixer is extra-fun, let me tell you. After the mashed potatoes, I started to make macaroni and cheese. I shouldn't have. It was not yummy. Regardless of the fact that I don't really cook all that well to begin with, the ingredients we have here are kind of sub-standard... as far as mac and cheese goes. Everything else I was pretty happy with. The previous day, I made a trip to a large supermarket in Pazardjik and picked up some cranberry preserves and some corn. These were the surprises of the evening. I was so excited about the cranberries, you have no idea. I also picked up some carrots and cauliflower in my town, and I got some flavored cream cheese.
I saw my colleagues briefly yesterday, when I stopped in the office. Yanko hugged me, "What are you up to? Are you cooking?" "Yes," I said, "I've been cooking all day." "From morning 'til now you've been cooking?" Ani asked me. "Yep." Her jaw dropped. I was happy. A big part of Thanksgiving is the preparation, and I couldn't wait to surprise my colleagues. Yanko was getting excited just trying to guess what was on the menu. I went back home and prepared a few more things, and then Brandy came over with a few of her students to help me carry all the madness. Brandy had also made really delicious goodies: fried chicken, stuffing, dumplings, and carrot cake. So, I loaded her girls down with a bunch of dishes and bags, and we hiked up to the Mahala. It was slow-going, and a lot of people stared at us, but we finally made it to the educational center.
I had plans to take over the kitchen and the meeting salon, but young people were meeting in there. Brandy and her girls decided to start setting up in the kitchen. I went over to get some wood for the stove. Maria was kind enough to chop some wood for me. I was scared she would hurt herself, but she insisted. I dutifully toted the wood over to the center. Maria got a fire started. My colleagues showed up. I wondered where my adult English class was. I had been telling my English classes about Thanksgiving and making them tell me what they were thankful for, but I actually invited my adult class to come and participate. Finally, three of them showed up. I was pacing around nervously and started getting frustrated. The kids were still yammering in the hall where I wanted us to eat, and my guests were anxious to start things going. Plus, the food was cold and only getting stone colder.
I decided to go into the meeting hall, and they all looked up, "Oh, Apryl! Happy Holiday!" Veska said to me. Yanko asked them, "Do you know what day is today?" "Oh yeah, I forgot that today's Thanksgiving," Angel said. "Do you want to tell them about Thanksgiving, Apryl?" I really just wanted the room. So I explained a bit about what we do... mostly that we just eat until we can no longer breathe. "If you want to stay and find out, you are more than welcome to join us. I just need this room." So a bunch of them decided to stay and find out what was going on... and get some food.
I was finally able to throw some tablecloths on the tables and put Brandy's charming centerpieces (jars filled with leaves, nuts and pine branches) here and there. I also put some candles in the room for mood lighting and aroma. Glade® had been expensive, but worth it. I then gave everyone markers and pens and told them to anonymously write something they were thankful for. Some were quite verbose, but most were able to keep their comments to one side of the paper. Once they had made their comments, I finally let them eat. I was proud of them for trying new things and eating quite a bit - but there were still too many leftovers if you ask me. The macaroni was barely touched. That was probably a good call. It wasn't very delicious - especially cold.
I loved the atmosphere in there... talking quietly and eating by candlelight. When the meal was winding to its end, however, I turned on the lights and made everyone come together for a brief history of Thanksgiving (courtesy of the internet). Then, I had them pick up the papers on the table at random and read aloud what others were thankful for. A lot of them said they were thankful to be alive, "I'm thankful to God for creating me." In the end, we realized that we had a lot to be thankful for. Sappy, I know, but I liked it, and they liked it.
Afterward, we played "Pin the Feathers on the Turkey" - courtesy of Brandy. She had done a really great job of drawing a turkey and cutting out construction feathers. She didn't think people would get into it and debated whether to actually play or not, but my colleagues loved it! Pretty much everyone there participated, and they were still talking about it today.
Finally, the evening came to an end. Brandy went home to talk with her family, and I stuck around the center to hang with my "other family." I talked with Yanko a bit (he always asks the most provocative questions), and I was able to joke around with Maria and Reneta for a while. I was wearing a beautiful scarf my dad had given me, and they kept trying to wander off with it. Then, they decided they would use me as their giant doll and put the scarf back on me. "Now, stand like this, and make this face. Beautiful!" And then I dressed them up, and they begged me to stay the night. I love those girls. They are so funny.
And they kept eating. Yanko came in and pointed out how his stomach was hanging over his pants. I was proud of them and told them so, "That's how you do Thanksgiving right." Yanko said, "This holiday is only for us Roma. It's perfect for us."
At nine o'clock, I gathered up half of the stuff I had brought, and Angel helped me home. I was happy with the evening. I thought we had done a good job sharing our culture, and our guests seemed to have a really nice time. I was just glad that it had all come together. I had really wanted to celebrate one of America's traditional holidays with them... something new for those that were there. And I was really glad to have both Bulgarians and Roma present there. Nevermind that we all sat separately. A bunch of Roma there, a few Bulgarians there, and then the two Americans over here, but it was still fantastic.
Today, my colleagues presented a book they had published with the help of our major donor. It's called "Folktales from the Mahala," and it's a collection of stories from the oldest representatives of the Roma community that we could find. Our volunteers had gone around Rakitovo and the neighboring towns - asking their elders to share stories with them. I went on one excursion this past February. It was pretty interesting.
The ceremony was great. They had story-tellers and story-"gatherers" present to talk about the experience. We had several guests, and they each got a book. We have TONS of books. If you would like one, I'm sure I could get you one. It's in Bulgarian though. Hehehe. Even the illustrator was there. She was great, and her illustrations are awesome. Makes me want to write a book and see if anyone will publish it for me. Anyone interested in publishing this blog?
Anyway, I spent the day cleaning up (with help from a couple of my cutie kids: Mitko and Metodi) from the evening before and telling my cute, little students that we wouldn't be having English today. They were so adorable, and I was the proud teacher in front of our guests - even though I had to disappoint them. They're so CUTE when they're disappointed. Hehe.
After eating some appetizers, I had English class with a few of my adults. They're great, and they're so smart. We talked about fruits and vegetables today, and I had them play a version of Memory® with their new knowledge. (Like how I'm throwing in all registered trademark signs everywhere?) I'm so proud of how much they know already. They seem pretty proud, too. They just need to keep coming.
Afterward, I went to the kitchen to join some people again, drink a little, and dance "kuchek." Today was Ani's birthday, and we were celebrating a bit. I love Ani. She's like a surrogate mom to me. I like my colleagues so much more when they're not yelling at each other. I love how they say my name a lot when they talk to me. Okay, now I'm rambling. I had to cut out early 'cause I'm SUPPOSED to be making cookies for another celebration tomorrow. I'd better get going. Oh! And I got to talk to some members of my actual blood family today. I'm a happy girl. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving wherever it may have found you. We all have a lot of blessings to be thankful for.

2 comments:

Nert said...

You never made me Snicker surprise...or deviled eggs...or anything for that matter. What makes these Bulimia people so special? Much love, Gibby.

Anonymous said...

It seems that you had alot of fun for "Thanksgiving". We ate till we couldn't BREATHE! hahahhaha We were at the Yeagers for Thanksgiving. Brandy is an awesome cook. When you come home, you gotta try her potatos. MMMMMM!!!Anyways...lots of love to you.
-Christi