Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Earthquake Damage

Back in May, the Sofia region suffered a major earthquake.  This was back before we moved to our current house.  Our house is old, but it seemed to withstand the earthquake unharmed.  Now however, it appears that there was some damage.

A few weeks ago we noticed that our downstairs bathroom was leaking from the roof.  We checked the upstairs bathroom and could find no reason for the leak.  The only explanation we could think of was that there was a leaky pipe between the two bathrooms.  The plumber came and inspected the problem, and it appears that we were right.  When he took down the false ceiling he found this.

The plumber (who knows this house well) thinks that the damage may have been caused by the earthquake.  He will come back on Thursday and fix the pipe.  He thinks it should be a one day repair job.  Hopefully this is the only damage we will find from the earthquake.

Monday, September 17, 2012

First Day of School

This morning, school started across Bulgaria.  Sophie began her second year in the Bulgarian system, and Veronica had her first day of Bulgarian school.  Both of them seemed to love it.

Not only was today the first day of school, but it was also St. Sofia day.  It is a day that celebrates St. Sofia, and her three children Faith, Hope, and Love.  It is a big holiday in Bulgaria for obvious reasons given the name of the capital.  It is also Sophie and Veronica's name day.  (Sophie for having the same name as Sofia, and Veronica because the Bulgarian word for Faith is Viara.)  The girls followed the Bulgarian tradition of bringing flowers for their teachers for the first day of school, and chocolates for their classmates for their name days.

I have mentioned in previous blog posts how Bulgarian schools are not afraid to include religious aspects like American schools are.  This was very clear today.  Being the first day of school and a religious holiday, there was an Orthodox priest on hand to bless the start of the school year.  This was more then a simple nondescript prayer or hymn you might hear at a graduation ceremony in the U.S.  It was a full fledged liturgy.  He blessed the whole school and parents by sprinkling us with water, and he presented the school with an icon of Sofia and her daughters after blessing it.  The director of the school and the education official both kissed the icon, and the cross the priest was holding.

As an American this was a bit of a surprise to me.  I was not bothered or offended by it even though I am not Orthodox.  I found it curious.  As a boy my school sang both Christmas and Hanukkah songs at the Christmas presentation every year (By the way did you know Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.  See John 10:22.), but we never had a religious service during a school function.  I have to respect a school system that does not quell culture and spiritual traditions out of a fear of offending people.

After the service, there was dancing, a series of poems and songs, and then a parade in which our girls marched into the school with their classmates to the ringing of a school bell.

Class is in session.  Here we go!

Sophie with her teachers.

Veronica with her flowers ready for her first day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Changes at the Airport

Yesterday we dropped of some friends at the airport.  As we got off the elevator to get in line for check-in, we were greeted by a security officer who asked us if we were all flying.  I informed her that only three of us were flying.  Sasha and I were just the "porters."  We were then informed that only those flying would be allowed to proceed to the check-in area.

We were a little stumped by this.  We were all used to not being able to escort our friends to the gate and watch them board the aircraft.  It has been over a decade since gate good-byes were a regular practice in most airports, but not being allowed even to go to the check-in with friends was a new one for us.

I asked the security guard why this was the case.  She told me that it is a new security measure related to Israel.  That was all I could get out of her on the subject.  Perhaps this was a one time thing for some dignitary of Israel's protection.  Perhaps it has something to do with the terrorist attack in Burgas earlier this summer, or the fact that yesterday was September 11th.

I have heard that flights to and from Israel are no longer posted on the departure and arrival screens in Bulgarian airports.  I certainly saw nothing listed yesterday.  Perhaps this added security at the entrance will be a permanent thing, or maybe it is just when there is travel to or from Israel in progress.  If it saves lives I'm all for it.  We all know Israel has its share of enemies, and I do not want to continue to see Bulgaria serving as a proxy battleground against God's chosen people.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Subway or Museum

On August 31st, Sofia opened its second subway line.  The final stop on the line is just a few blocks from our house.  The girls have been looking forward to taking the underground train, so today, just for fun, we all took a ride down town.

While the construction workers were digging out the tunnels for this new train they discovered something they didn't expect.  Under Sofia lies an ancient and all but forgotten city that dates back at least 2,500 years.  I knew they discovered ruins and had to take precautions to preserve the historic artifacts they discovered, but I had no idea just how much they found.

We got off the train at the Serdika stop in the heart of downtown Sofia.  Within a few blocks we could walk to the Presidential complex, the primary judicial building, or the Bulgarian Parliament.  We could see the main city mosque, a prominent Orthodox Christian cathedral, and one of the largest synagogues in Europe.  Just above the station is the statue of St. Sofia that replaced the statue of Lennon after the fall of Bulgaria's socialistic dictatorship toward the end of the last century.  Yet we were not looking up at any of theses amazing sites.  We were looking down as an army of excavators worked in the scorching heat to uncover the mysteries of Bulgaria's ancient history.

The station itself is pretty impressive as well.  Having lived in Chicago for 4 years, I am no stranger to subways.  This one is unlike any I have ever seen.  Along the platform are artifacts in glass cases, and all around you remnants of a lost city are open to view.  It was more like a museum then a mass transit station.

It is very exciting to be in Sofia as these discoveries are being made.  Our girls learned a bit about the history of their mother's country today.  So did we.