Growing Up in Bulgaria
- Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Bulgaria
Visit a Bulgarian community and learn about the lives of local children. Peace Corps Volunteer Stephanie Dunnam describes school and family life in her village, including the daily activities, celebrations, cuisine, and cultures that make it unique.
Hi there. My name is Stephanie. I am serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is located on the Black Sea in southeastern Europe, south of Romania and north of Greece and Turkey.
I teach English in a school with about 200 first through eighth grade students. Even though my village is very small, there are even smaller villages nearby. Children from these areas ride the bus to come join us in school.
Schooling here is a bit different than in America. For one thing, my students don't usually eat lunch at school, because the school day ends by 1:30 pm! After school, children spend a lot of time playing outside or helping with the housework.
Since the government does not provide students with textbooks past the fifth grade, and many families can't afford to buy them, my students must either share books with their neighbor, or simply go without.
In many ways, Bulgarian children are a lot like children in the United States. First of all, they often look a lot like American children. It is not uncommon to see children wearing clothing with American brand names, or even with English writing or phrases.
Like children in the United States, Bulgarian children can look a lot different than one another, too. Part of this is because their families may come from different countries, such as Turkey and Romania. Depending on their backgrounds, their shades of skin may be darker or lighter, and their hair may be blonde, brown or black.
The children in my school speak Russian, Bulgarian, Turkish, or Kopanari, as their first language.Only a handful speak the national language of Bulgarian at home.
Being different can sometimes make my students a bit hesitant to work together, but I try to help them understand that just because we may not look exactly the same, or have the same culture, does not mean we cannot help each other grow.
Bulgarian children like to do many of the same things as children in the U.S. I try to organize activities that will get them working and playing time together, like sledding!
They enjoy playing sports too. Soccer is the biggest sport in Bulgaria, but unlike American soccer, Bulgarians call it "football." If a student does not play football, chances are they like watching their friends play.
Music and dance are very big parts of Bulgarian culture. The most common form of music is a traditional folk style. While dancing the horo, Bulgarians hold hands and move around the room in a sort of line form.
The instruments sometimes include a gaida, traditional goat-skinned bagpipe, a kaval, which looks similar to a flute, and a gadulka, a string instrument.
A more modern form of Bulgarian music is called chalga. This music is a mixture of Bulgarian folk, modern pop, Turkish, Arabic, Greek, and Romani influences. Here is my favorite Chalga star, Preslava!
My favorite Bulgarian celebration is called kukeri. Children put on scary masks and walk from house to house carrying large wooden poles. They bang their sticks on the ground to keep the evil spirits away from the gardens and ensure a plentiful crop during the coming spring. Though some may take this ritual seriously, most of the children see it as a fun way to get candy!
The people of Bulgaria eat a lot of bread, salami, cheese, vegetables, and sweets. The most common Bulgarian dishes include banitsa, which is a cheese-like pastry; moussaka, a potato and meat casserole; and homemade yogurt. In fact, both moussaka and banitsa have yogurt as one of their important ingredients.
In Bulgaria, if you live in a village, you most likely get your produce from the garden. Also, your grandparents probably live with you to help out with all of the work. In a typical Bulgarian garden you can find tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onion, parsley, grapes, squash, and sometimes hot peppers.
Produce is not the only thing Bulgarians grow. They raise animals too! When I am walking to the store, or coming home from work, I often see sheep, goats, chickens, and donkeys in the street. Every morning I wake up to the sounds of roosters.
Many people spend the spring, summer, and fall months working in the fields. A few commute to bigger cities nearby to work as cleaners, construction laborers, and cooks; and a very small number work as business professionals. Unfortunately, right now it is hard for many adults in Bulgaria to find jobs. Parents often have to move to other cities, and sometimes even different countries, to find work.
When I can, I invite families over to my house where they can use a computer and internet connection to call their family members. This allows kids and families who live far away from each other to see and speak to one other on a computer screen.
Bulgarian language looks and sounds a bit like Russian, and uses a completely different alphabet than we do. Here, you can see an example of what Bulgarian writing looks like. The sign above the priest's head says, ?Welcome!?
Learning a new language can be a challenge, but that's why I am here serving as a foreign language teacher.
Just like you may be learning Spanish, French, or Chinese, these students are learning English. Learning new languages can help us communicate and work together with people from many different places and backgrounds.
Maybe one day you will get to meet someone from Bulgaria, or even have a chance to visit this fascinating country. Thanks for learning about my community in Bulgaria and the lives of the children who live here! Dovizhdane! Goodbye!