I was having lunch with a friend of mine yesterday when she reminded me that what we remember about our lives are moments, moments like this joyous lunch or traveling to a favorite destination. She added, ‘You’re not going to … Continue reading
As I settle in Toronto, I’ve been reminiscing about the decade I spent in Bulgaria.
I remember, especially in the beginning, that I wanted to return to the West. I didn’t speak the language and couldn’t understand why things moved so slowly.
My first invitation was to a village feast or, “praznik.” I recall going to a small chapel and sitting on its front stoop with village women. We sat there holding a single flower in our hands for more than an hour with no one uttering a word. I understood then that Bulgarians were people who appreciated and communicated in silence. Later, I gathered why there hadn’t been any men at the feast. The men celebrate “kukeri” or, carnival together. They dress up in animal skins and multi-colored, hand-painted or fur masks and, donning huge cow bells, walk down the middle of the village streets banging on pots. The point of the ritual is to bond as males while making their presence felt via loud noise.
Over time, I learned how to speak Bulgarian and began to understand the power of silence. I got used to watching the street lamps–with their soft, orange, anti-fog glow–contrast with swirling mists of precipitation and allowed my thoughts to slip into infinity, time immemorial or, urtime. I learned that communication happened differently than only with words. I began to feel the draw of silence and the mysteries that enfolded it.
Subterranean tunnels and time capsules
They say that Bulgaria has everything. This includes Noah’s plate (i.e., the plate Noah ate from while traveling in his ark), subterranean tunnels that crisscross the country, and time capsules. The plate is in Varna and the time capsules are at undisclosed locations, waiting for an unknown trigger that will activate them and enable people to make new, never-before-heard-of discoveries that will benefit both Bulgaria and the world.
One of Bulgaria’s most well-known psychics was a woman named Baba Vanga 1 which translates as Grandma Vanga. During her youth, she was caught up in a violent windstorm that left her blind. Ever since then, Baba Vanga developed the ability to “see” with an inner vision. Bulgarians from all walks of life would line up and wait for hours to meet with Baba Vanga, born Vangelia Pandeva Dimitrova, for healing and to learn what their future held. Well-known Bulgarian and foreign politicians visited her as well. Vanga had learned how to tap into Bulgarian urtime.
Image title and credit: “The Noah Plate,” Copyright © Dukaty Ltd., 2006
Although we hear the occasional horror story about how someone, on account of their race, origin or religious beliefs, is discriminated against, the truth is that globalization (however we view it) is thrusting acceptance upon us.
In Bulgaria, for example, the civil war in Syria resulted in a wave of immigrants from that ravaged country. Bulgaria, a country of roughly eight million mostly older people, and virtually devoid of population with a –0.6 population growth rate 1, is now facing the prospect of new faces from faraway places (e.g., Syria, Algeria and Russia for example), some of different faiths than the predominant Bulgarian Orthodox religion.
I heard a story in which villagers, all of whom were seniors, pulled out their rifles when they heard that refugees of a different religion would be forcibly settled in their village. ‘What will happen?’ I asked, deeply concerned about such a violent reaction. ‘The gendarmerie will become involved.’
Acceptance vs. Resistance
We cannot stop change. We must accept that there are certain forces at work that are beyond our control. As hard as it is for some of us to accept that our world has changed and continues to change, from a psychological perspective, acceptance is healthier than resistance.
Breaking the barriers of difference
There are civilized ways of dealing with difference. Diplomacy, communication, civility, an open mind and a welcoming heart.
A personal example
My family moved from Toronto, Canada to Champaign, Illinois when I was a child. As a youngster, I did not travel well and do not remember crossing the border on account of the suppository my parents gave me.
It was not a direct route since, first, I graduated from Mrs. Armitage’s kindergarten in Toronto and, later, completed first grade in Madison, Wisconsin. As soon as we arrived in Champaign, my mother was befriended by the late Eloise Wachala, a poet, who introduced her to the C-U International Women’s Group. Through this group, Mother met many wonderful women who subsequently became her friends.
This open, welcoming and accepting way is beautiful. It is the opposite of fear, suspicion and discrimination. This open, beautiful way is what made America the culturally diverse nation it is today.
After centuries of wars, conquests and oppression, we cannot entirely blame the older Bulgarian villagers for their deep mistrust of foreigners. We need to keep things in perspective in that regard. Nevertheless, let us open the door for change by acknowledging that times have changed. Wars are mostly economic these days and immigrants have much to offer from professional expertise to culinary delights.
Image title: ‘Green Nuances.’
Description: On the outskirts of Raduil, Bulgaria.
Photographer: Luba Rascheff
1 Source: https://www.google.bg/search?q=bulgaria+birth+rate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&gws_rd=cr&ei=K1Z_UpecD4Tcswb_l4HoCA#q=bulgaria+population+growth+rate&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&stick=H4sIAAAAAAAAAGOovnz8BQMDgz8HjxKHfq6-gaFpYYaWY3aylX5OfnJiSWZ-nn5xCZAuLslMTsyJL0pNBwpZFeQXlOaAZePTi_LLSzLiixJLUuPL84tyUuKTEvOy84_fevNqwT4vt7uxNRMclAXV_nJsBwD9MMUDbAAAAA