Archive for Village Life

Education Education Education

It being the back to school month, my village has emptied of children from the age of 14 upwards.  My village is 35 km from Kardjali in southern Bulgaria, and although there are secondary schools in the nearest town of Djebel, the better schools are all located in Kardjali.  The idea of commuting 35 km each way to school is a completely foreign idea in Bulgaria, as is commuting for work.  This probably has something to do with roads (there not finished yet), and even more to do with the long harsh winters which making driving either very hazardous or just completely impossible.  So for every child in my village from the age of 14 to 18 they live away from the family home in student accommodation near the schools in Kardjali, and just come back at weekends.

My neighbours son started doing this last year, the costs involved are not high, but the parents have to contribute towards the text books, and pay a small charge for the accommodation, and obviously food during the week.  This at first seemed quite strange to me having grown up in the UK where education is provided for by the tax system.  It however, makes a great difference in the attitude of the students towards their learning.  Since mum and dad have to pay directly, if their ‘little angels’ aren’t doing the work and getting good marks they are brought home and put to work in the fields – not a nice option.  The philosophy here is if it is being paid for you will make the most of it.  Waste is considered almost criminal.

Which made me come round to thinking how this could and should be done in the UK.  If the parents of children had to pay even a contribution towards the education of their ‘little miracles’ it would probably cause a little less of this.

I don’t believe education should be compulsory, I myself dropped out of school at 16, and it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I had any inclination to return.  Then I was there because I wanted to be there, which made it a more enjoyable process than being forced to learn stuff that is really of very little use to the vast majority of people – academics apart.  Quantum mechanics anyone?

Sheep & Beer Party

Yesterday I beheaded a lamb, then proceeded to roast and eat the whole thing, with a little help from ‘the pub’.  It is not often that we have organised get togethers here in Samodiva but to celebrate my survival of 3 years in the village without upsetting too many people I thought I would try.

The lamb was chosen from a field of 50, I say chosen, it was the slowest in trying to get away, we then slaughtered and butchered it between me and Ilyas (my knife wielding neighbour), which all in only took 20 mins.  My knowledge of sheep anatomy is now quite good.  There was not much left for the dogs to munch on.  The intestines, stomach, liver, heart, and kidneys are all eaten – not my cup of tea, but each to there own.  I then took ‘larry’ the lamb in to the local town of Djebel where he was placed in the bakeries oven and slow roasted until needed later.  The slaughtering had to be done quite early in the morning as the temperature rockets to 35C by 10:00am.


A few invites were passed round the village, including two sheep farmers, you would have thought they would be sick of the sight of lamb, but seemed quite impressed with preparation none the less.

Between the 10 of us we managed to get through the whole lamb so I think I will be vegetarian for the next few days!  Too much of a good thing.   I didn’t mention much the 3-0 scoreline in Sofia on Friday, or the fact that Turkey only managed a draw at home to Kazakhstan!

Just for Elsa thought I would post this, he does have his own tractor you know!  Doesn’t Ilyas look happy with his scheming?



Happy Christmas! It is August!

The joy of not believing in dragons, pots of gold at the end of rainbows or the tooth fairy, may make me a miserable git.  Thankfully though I don’t have to get carried away buying shit for people to celebrate the birthday of the son of a carpenter from 2000 years ago.  Why am I mentioning this now.  I have just had an email from the better half advising me that now available in shops are this years christmas cards.  It is August 22nd!


Why are shops selling this crap now?  I really have no idea, can it be that some people actually buy them in August?  If you really are one of these people that plan so far ahead why not buy them in March, I am sure they are stocked somewhere on the internet 365 days of the year.  So that cannot be it.  Is it so people like me will laugh at the stupidity of selling seasonal goods out of season?  I can’t imagine so.  So somewhere some shop manager has decided to advertise christmas goods when they should really be pushing school uniforms, and new pencil boxes.  It really is quite funny.


We have ‘Santa’ in my village of Samodiva, although the village is the Muslim brand of after life, and he appears not on the 25th, but on New Years Eve.  So good is the marketing of ‘Santa Claus’ that he now sells across the religious divide.  Perhaps I should get Hikmet to stock up on ‘Faity Lights’ next time he goes to the wholesaler!


August Rain & Village Politics

About bloody time. Thursday we had the first rain fall for 6 weeks and my vegtable patch certainly needed it. I can now take a few days off from the daily hose work. My only fear is that due to the down pour the cucumbers may well start up again, just as I finished picking the last lot.

The tempreature has also dropped to quite a pleasant 25C instead of the very hot 35C, this is my first day in long trousers this month, and the first night when
I haven’t woken up in a sweat!

The food production this year has met and exceeded all targets so even if the global economy completely blows up I shall not be hungry this year, I have even had to invest in some more jars as I have filled over 100 jars with tomatoes, carrots and pickles, as well as strung 400 onions and dried 15kg of beans. The ‘domashno’ which will be ‘stilled’ into rakis has about 20 days of fermenting to
go and I live in a tobacco growing area of Bulgaria. So should I so wish I have beer, cigarettes, food. Without spending a penny and without giving a penny
to those nice people in the tax office! The best thing is it is actually not as much work as you would think, and you really don’t need that much space to grow it either. I have sown a second crop of french beans, have winter cabbages just beginning to set, as well as broccoli, and leeks to provide a bit of fresh veg throughout the winter. I should point out that I am in no way a garden expert and three years ago I was a complete novice, I still have too many weeds.

Coming up next month is the election of the village mayor, why in fact does a village of 300 residents need an elected mayor?   I think this is just a fall
back to communist era party political overlord in every village. So everyone knows though, politics in Bulgarian villages, is just as corrupt as national
and european politics. Our current ‘Kimet’ who has won the last four election, held a meeting to put forward candidates for the post, basically behind close doors and only invited people who were going to vote for him. The outcome, our up coming election (of which I shall not be taking part) will have one candidate. Democracy works!

Muslims & Gypsies

The annual (lunar year) of muslim festival’s is upon us. So this weekend I spent out of the garden and voluteered to drive my neighbour Hussain
around, as he is the local Imam, he is busy saying a few prayers and singing (voice like pavarotti) as each of the local mosques(djamir’s) has its
‘mulitsa’. Not quite sure what is being celebrated but as no-one but Hussain knows any Arabic I am probably not the only one.

I suppose they are somewhat the same as ‘pancake day’ is the christian calendar, lots of eating for just before the month of fasting. So I am quite lucky I
get to do all the feasting and being proudly atheist no fasting required. Today’s mulitsa was in the local village of Mladovo, which as well as being from the
Mulsim minority in Bulgaria, is also a minority in a minority in that most of the village are from Roma decent. The BNP would have loved it.

The festival starts about 9 in the morning, where a few of the men cook the traditional beef and rice, enough to feed the whole village and any passing guests, then
for those who wish, a ceremony in the mosque goes on, whilst the majority sit around, telling dirty jokes, or in my case explaining the price of everything in the UK. The UKFO
can sleep well tonight I have put off an entire village from wanting to emigrate to the UK when I told them 20 cigarettes will cost them 8 euros! I was the brunt of many
jokes, one of the comedians of the village strung me on with a story that he had just had his 15th child, and pointed out his (new) wife who was 30 years his junior!

Hikmet The Giggilo

Hikmet the Dad of 15!

It turned out that he has two daughters, did not find any truth about the age of his new wife though! One of the young lads brought out an English phrase book, so inretrun I got
Hikmet to read out the English for Knife, Fork & spoon, which had the students in the village who study English in fits of laughter at his pronouciation of ‘fork’. The whole village was very welcoming, and I was treated as
a guest, and included me in all that was going on. Hussain was coming to the end of his ‘set’, so sent for me to sit with him during the feast, some poor other old fellow
was shunted down the pecking order, so the Imam’s driver could sit at the ‘top table’. Hussain thought it was quite funny, I have never met an 87 year old with such a mischeavous
behaviour. After the feast I filled the car up with as many as I could and we headed back, two of my new passesngers live in Fotinovo, which would mean about a 2km detour which was no
problem for me, but Hussain was having none of it, and kicked them out at our turn off, telling them there would be a bus along in a minute (The rural Sunday service must be improving). As
we drove on he said they were just chancing their arm, and the walk back would do them good as they are still young (Only in their late 70’s).

I have made a few new friends and have also put a name to a few more faces that I had seen before, the day has yet to finish as Hussain has told me to meet him in the
pub this evening (like all good Imam’s should). I hope no food is involved as I am full to bursting! I’m off to the pub!

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