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To say I entered the 2010 festive season completely exhausted and a miserable bastard is probably an enormous understatement.

I bought Mia’s body home and with the help of three local men, Mitko, Gernadi and Mitko’s stepfather Nanno, I buried her on Thursday. I’ve placed her in the area where I intend to plant new fruit trees this coming spring and she will have a cherry tree to shade her.

As distressing as the whole sickness and death has been, I really wasn’t prepared for the devastation that Gina is clearly feeling. I figured she’d be upset because Mia was her baby and in three years, they have never spent any time apart. They have lived together, eaten together, slept together and played together and suddenly Mia is gone.

Since returning to Bulgaria I haven’t been able to get Gina to come and live inside. During summer she would come in and lay on the cool tiles but since the weather has turned cold I haven’t been able to get her through the front door…even when I was nursing Mia in the downstairs lounge-room, she would not come in.

On Friday she just rushed into the downstairs room and could clearly smell her daughter. At first her tail was wagging but then she just stopped and started sniffing and then started licking all the places Mia had lain. I had a blanket there for Mia. Gina has commandeered it and I now cannot get her off it. I can hardly get her out of the room for a wee. She will go, but reluctantly. Last night she went out for a wee and was gone for quite a long time. I went out for look for her and found her standing on the grave, looking really hang dog…she is very distressed.

And when I sit with her she buries her head in my lap or under my arm and whimpers, so softly you can hardly hear her, but it’s there. That usually sets me off, so the two old girls cuddle up and have a little cry.

She’s my old war horse and she’s been to hell and back in her life. I know we’ll both get over it, but it’s been a tough few days…

Now, as you know I have some wonderful friends here, and in Hristina and Volcho, the best neighbours anyone could ask for. I really didn’t feel like Christmas but the invitations started to come in. On Friday I had to go Yambol and pay the vet. My friend Stefka contacted me and asked me to join her and her family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I already had invites from Hristina, so was able to decline her invitations. In all honesty, the thought of trying to be all festive and happy just made me feel worse. I was trying to think of a way to get out of any invites I had, but I guess that’s the thing about only having limited Bulgarian…I can’t ring up and make excuses 🙂

Anyway, Stefka then said I should come to her house for lunch while I was in Yambol. …again, I just didn’t feel like going and didn’t feel like being social at all. But she convinced me, and I’m so glad she did. I had a lovely few hours with her and her daughter Ina. The fed me, chatted to me about all sorts of things and listened to me in my misery. I left their apartment with a slightly happier heart. The pain didn’t seem so bad, so maybe some good company was just what I needed and that’s what they gave me.

Hristina bailed me up when I got home and reminded me about Christmas eve at her house. I had a Christmas present for her and Volcho, so figured that maybe I could just duck over, give them the present and then make my miserable excuses. Did I even get a chance to escape ?? absolutely not !! and again, I’m so glad I stayed. Christmas Eve here is all about family, so I felt very honoured to be included. One of the daughters, Velichka, and her husband Boris were there, the other daughter, Marina, was still trying to get over from the UK and some friends of theirs from Mila who don’t have any children, Ivan and Donka were also there.

I had a lovely evening. Velichka made a huge effort to speak nice slow Bulgarian to me and I can actually conduct a slow Bulgarian conversation now, so I had plenty of chatting, loads of food, and plenty of rakia and Volchos very good red wine to cheer my heart. I left there some hours later feeling much, much better.

On Christmas day I had young Mitko and his wife, Veska coming for lunch. Once again I awoke with a huge dark cloud over me and the thought of preparing lunch left me cold….but I did and I had a lovely day with them. They have a young baby, Rosen, and it was kinda nice to have a wee one in the house for Christmas.

And have you ever seen anything quite as cute:
Mind you, when they left, I had a little time with my old Gina and then hit the couch with a packet of mince pies and a bottle of Tia Maria…..a nice way to end the day.

And just when I thought it was all over and I could clean my house, which hasn’t been done since Mia got sick…..it’s a disgrace….Hristina rings me to invite me over for a pig kill. They had intended to do it on Christmas day, but as Marina and her husband Gorgie only arrived yesterday, they postponed it until they got here.

Well, what an evening I had…It was terrific. This is a happy family with good village friends as well, some of whom have been at their house this holiday. Hristina clearly was not going to allow me to stay here wallowing in my misery and has included me in their entire festive celebrations.

This is just a few of the people that made my night so happy

I think you can see that there was a lot of happiness in that room and it was so good for my slightly battered soul. And they even got me in a pic:

That’s Ivan next to me who cuts the hair of all the local men….I’d just told him I want him to cut my hair and he’s contemplating whether cutting women’s hair is something he really wants to do. Not only have I neglected my house while caring for Mia, but I’ve neglected myself as well….I look like crap and I’m told he’s a damned fine hairdresser…so I’ve convinced him that he has to give it a try. 🙂

So, my non Christmas actually turned out to be very enjoyable..thanks to Hristina’s generousity and kindness. I know life will settle back to normal soon and after the last few days with so many good people, the hurt inside is ever so slightly less. Gina just gave me one of her famous jaundiced looks, so I think she’s on the road to recovery as well.

Before we click over into a new year, I will get the last few entries for 2010 up on here and hopefully get 2011 off to a good start.

To all you incredibly kind people who have contacted me through this blog and through my email since I lost my girl, a huge thank you. Again, I’ve been touched by the warmth and kindness of many strangers and the support and sympathy of friends…thank you.

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I know this is out of whack, especially after the entries on Mia, but I’m still playing catch up…so here we go.

So, after my fabulous time away, it was time to get back home to Miladinovtsi and get to work.

Firstly though,I must tell you about leaving the dogs.

They had to go to kennels for the duration of my time away.  I can’t convince anyone here to look after them in my absence because they are all scared of them, particularly Mia.  Why ?? Because she is big !!  That’s it.  She a lovely dog and they all agree with me on that point, but she’s big…and that’s that.

Anyway, they love Andon, the guy that runs the kennels and when I took them there they cheered up as soon as they saw him. I pretty much got frozen out straight away…and I can’t blame them.  The last time I took them to Andon, I didn’t come back for two years. Anyway, Mia at least said goodbye to me, Gina just curled up in the corner and looked miserable.

Now, a few weeks before I went away, Gina hurt her foot and she had quite a bad limp.  She got lots of extra attention because of it, not just from me but  also from my guests who were with me at the time. By the time I left, the foot was fine.

When I got back to pick them up, they were both curled up asleep under a cover in their kennel.  I stood at the fence and called their names.  Mia reacted first and just went nuts….Gina saw me, leapt up, came running towards me all excited and then suddenly, about 30 feet from me, she suddenly developed a dreadful limp again…almost had to drag herself to me.  Ah, it was a tragedy…but then she realised I was there, the car was there and it was time to go home, so she bolted into the car, got comfy and back to the house we all came…everyone very happy to be reunited.

I had been thinking about returning to Australia to work the winter.  I wasn’t really sure if I could take a really cold winter, so I started putting my feelers out for work before I went to France.  When I returned and saw my girls and the house and got a lovely welcome back from everyone around me, I made the decision to hunker down here and see what happens.

I knew I had to get organised though.  I needed wood and I needed to stock the house foodwise, in case of getting snowed in.  Though at this time that seems almost impossible as the weather here continues to be very balmy indeed.  While the UK grinds to a halt and western Europe freezes, we’re still having days of 19 degrees and I’ve hardy lit the fire since October. Not  a flake of сняг (snyag – snow) to be seen here yet, even though a bitter winter was forecast earlier this year.  I guess there’s still a few months to go, so maybe I’ll get my white Christmas.

The upside of the warm weather though is that I’ve been able to get so much done in the backyard. My yard has been a nightmare from day one. This year, I’ve made some real progress getting it sorted.

The very back part has been cleaned out and ploughed…the old fashioned way

This is Ivan ( another one) and Mariana…she’s the donkey. The donkeys here are well looked after, and I can see why.  Most of these people wouldn’t manage without one and unlike some countries where they virtually work them to death, the Bulgarians treat them well and I guess that’s the smart thing to do.  They are their work horses.  They all have names, which I think is really cute and they are lovely animals and like the folk around me, they work very hard.

The middle section of the yard was a bit more complicated.  Ivan tried to plough it but all we found was concrete and bricks.  Hristina told me that that area was where all the animals houses and shed had been back in the old days, so I made the decision to get a man and his machine in.  I was put in touch with an English guy called Dave. Yes, I let an englishman onto my property…but they’re not all bad, and this guy is a particularly pleasant fella.  And what a terrific job he did.  He had this mini digger thing on tractor tracks and he managed to skim all the sand and crap from the old floors without smashing them up and so I now have these four different layers of good cement and brick floors.  I was going to put my vegetable garden there, but now I’m thinking I might utilise the good floors somehow, some way and the vege garden can go where Ivan has ploughed for me.

So that’s another big job almost sorted.

As always, it hasn’t all been work.  Ivan, the man that ploughed the yard and his wife Donka are friends of Hristina and Volcho and I was invited to join them all for lunch a few Sundays ago. Again, I had a terrific day and again, with my improved Bulgarian socialising is that much easier.

Lunch was very good. The Bulgarians ‘grow’ rabbits for food, the only thing they’re good for, and on that day one of Ivan and Donka’s BIG (cute) rabbits went to meet its maker and we had a most delicious lunch.  Rabbit can be a bit dry and stringy, but Donka clearly knows how to cook them.  It was gorgeous and I will certainly be seeking the recipe for it.  My contribution was a lemon meringue pie.  I wasn’t sure how it would be received and initially,it was regarded with a certain amount of suspicion, but after a few fingers were poked into it and then into various mouths, Hristina and Donka especially, made a far more serious assault on it.  It was bloody good, even if I say so myself and can on my list of things to take when I’m invited to places.

In between them all telling me I MUST get a man, Hristina managed to organise Ivan to come and plough…so a fruitful day as well.

And this man thing…Ivan used to say to me ‘Sue, you should find a good Bulgarian man’…and I used to laugh and tell him to find me one.  Hristina has never said anything like that to me, but now I’m back here this time, she is…and so’s everyone else.  I feel like I’m under siege and just keep using my ‘I don’t speak enough Bulgarian’ excuse as to why I’m not out hunting a man down.

I think they’re worrying about me in my dotage being alone…and in some ways they might be a little bit right.  I had a terrible fall in my bathroom before I went to France and have to admit to feeling a little frightened when I eventually stopped ricocheting around the bathroom. As I lay on the ground I realised that having the shower over the bath and having to step up into it all the time was dangerous and it’s time to admit I’m 55 not 25 and so the bath is being ripped out and the area will be just a tiled shower space.

But I still reckon I can survive without a live in bloke under my feet 🙂

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For a house that’s basically been closed down for the last two years, I managed to get a few guests come through in the last few months…some knew me, some didn’t, some had been here before and for some it was the first time. Each and every one bought a little ray of sunshine into the house and quite a lot of fun.

First cab off the rank was a friend from Australia, Anna.

I met Anna when I was managing the ABC Radio station in Geraldton while in Australia.   She came in for an interview one morning, and she showed a great interest in a magazine that was on my desk, a magazine about Bulgaria.  We got talking and she asked why I hadn’t written a book about my experiences here.  Anyway, one thing led to another and I settled in to write about my time in Bulgaria. Once I had bashed it into some sort of shape, Anna edited it for me.  We became firm friends and she spent a lot of time ( over the odd wine and/or champagne) listening to my stories, laughing about the good times and being kind to me during the bits where I broke down when talking about the not so good times.

She is now living in Germany and one day she rang me here and said she’d found very cheap flights and was I ready for a visitor.?  I’d only been here a short time, so told her the place was chaos, but she was very welcome to come into it if brave enough…and she did.

It was very hot while she was here and quite a bit of her time was spent on my balconies, enjoying the cool evening air…and the crisp, cold Bulgarian wines.

The dogs really enjoyed her being here and it became her job to be dragged around the village by them every day, a ‘pleasure’ usually reserved for me

They get very excited indeed about their daily walk and shoot out that gate like bullets from a gun…it takes quite a lot of strength not to find yourself face down being dragged down the road.

We had a beaut time,  and it was lovely for me to stop working.  When I’m here on my own, I don’t and sometimes I get really worn out, but I find it hard to just sit…so while Anna was here, I did bugger all, except play tourist.

We ended her visit with a couple of days in Sofia.  I have always liked that city and it was nice to return.  I contacted my friend Stella with the fabulous apartments in the city centre and once we were settled in, we went wandering.

I took Anna to a lot of the places I had been to before and went searching for the restaurant I had always taken people to in Sofia, ‘Sеmovata Kushta (симоваmа къща) ‘, the best Bulgarian food I had ever had.  Well, we found it…or what’s left of it.

I knew I was in the right street and the right area but I could not find it anywhere, so I asked in a little shop.  The very big man in the little shop pointed across the street and what do you think greeted us ?  Bloody Tex Mex !!!  I asked a young woman in the doorway what had happened, and she told me.  Some American had bought the place and, as far as I’m concerned, ruined it…

I made the comment that this was typical of the Americans and she replied that she was married to him…I retorted that perhaps she should tell him he should be ashamed of himself for destroying the best restaurant in Sofia…and stalked off, full of indignation.

Anyway, not to be deterred, I remembered a restaurant that my sister Jillian and I tried to get into one night, but it was packed to the gunnels. We found it and decided to have lunch there. It may not have been quite as good as  the Sеmovata Kushta, but near as damned.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we booked to return there for dinner.

We headed off to see some of Sofia…needed to walk that lunch off…

We wandered past the Presidents palace just as the changing of the guards was happening.  And I know I’ve put pictures of these guys up before, but this time they were obviously in their summer dress.

The last lot I got were dressed in red with  black markings.

and this guy gets in because he’s obviously very good at his job…or something

He was leading these guys 4 or 5 years ago.  I never forget a face.

There was the ‘Egg of Luck’ to stroke…and I did

This rather beautiful thing was just set up on the pavement in the middle of Sofia…unattended. I’m afraid that when I see things like this I think about Australia and I know that you could never do this there.  It would either get vandalised or stolen or smashed by some dickhead walking past… just for the hell of it.

There was irresistible ice-creams, served from gorgeous silver thingies, to take into account

And something I just love about Europe…in the warm months, there’s always music…somewhere.

So while we walked around the park in Sofia centre eating our ice-creams, these guys played….it was terrific.

We had another sumptuous meal for very little money that night and the next day it was time for Anna to return to Germany and me to get home and get back to work…

Not long back in Mila, when I got an email from a man I had never met, but who I felt I’d known for years…and I had. In 2007, before I returned to Australia, I was contacted by a man called Alastair.  He is an Australian who has lived overseas for more than 20 years.  He expressed a wish to come to Bulgaria, but never seemed to make it.  I returned to Australia early 2008 and he emailed me to see if he could come and stay.  I told him where I was, but agreed for him to stay in the house anyway. He did this twice, and still we had not met.  Well, now we have.  He and his partner came over and stayed a couple of nights.  It was terrific to meet him at last.  He’s very affable  and very pleasant company, as was Katherine, his partner.  I had a couple of very nice days with them here AND they got to have the one and only BBQ I managed in the new patio area before the nights turned cool.

After they had made their departure, it was back to work for me. There was still rooms to paint, a garden to sort and, of course, I was still cooking, cooking, cooking, stocking up the house with preserves for winter….siege anyone ??

And, plans to make…after I found out how cheap Anna’s flight had been, I decided to get online and see what else there was.  My very dear friend, Deb Westerberg, lives in the south of France.  She’s been to visit me twice in Bulgaria and I have been promising to reciprocate, but everytime we went fare hunting from BG, the cost was ridiculous. Anyway, Wizzair fares were so low, I booked myself a trip…but that’s another story.

Before I could go off swanning around France, I had more guests coming.

Another great friendship I made in Geraldton was Sue Chiera. For most of my time there I lived alone but, towards the latter part of my stay, I decided to move house and was fortunate enough to meet Sue, who offered me a room at her place. It had many advantages over where I was.  It was near the beach, she had dogs ( I was missing my girls terribly) and Sue is a very funny woman and great company to boot.

Sue said she would be coming to visit, and contacted me to tell me she’d be here early October and another friend Lyn, would be with her.  Around about the same time as we were corresponding, I had an email from a couple in Perth, Brian and Marg.  They were thinking of visiting Bulgaria and could they come and stay as well…at the same time as Sue & Lyn ?  Of course, I said, at the same time as realising that I didn’t have enough rooms ready for them all…and I had  a flight to France booked for the day after they all left.

Small, busy, crowded moment.

I swung into action and got myself downstairs to repaint one of the ensuite rooms. I found more water damage but luckily the builders were still here with buckets of plaster, so I asked Stoyan to fill the holes that I had made removing all the water logged render. The whole room was redone, except for the repaired bits. Unfortunately, I then took a rather nasty tumble and badly sprained my wrist, and Yes, it was the right hand and Yes, I’m right handed…Ooops !!

I just had to stop the painting.  I managed the get the rooms upstairs made up..thank God the painting was finished there, and the downstairs room made up, just 98% finished.  I wasn’t far off, but the final painting certainly wasn’t going to happen now.

Brain and Marg were hiring a car in Istanbul and driving to Bulgaria. That was their plan.  Sue and Lyn were flying into Burgas and we’d decided to get Dimitar to pick them up so we could chat all the way back to my place.

Best laid plans…

I was on my way to Yambol to meet Dimitar when my phone rang. I waited until I got to Dimitars house before checking and there was as call from an ‘unknown’ number. I rang it and heard the dulcet tones of an Australian on the other end, but not a  voice I knew.  Brian & Marg had arrived in Turkey only to be told they couldn’t take their hire car across the border.  They had got a bus to Burgas and what would I suggest as their best way of getting to me ??

Heavens, I was on my way to Burgas, but could we fit six adults and all the luggage of four of them in Dimitars taxi ?  I asked him, and in that classic Bulgarian way where nothing is too much trouble he said ‘no problem’.  I told Brian and Marg to sit tight and we’d be there as soon as we had the girls from the airport.

It was so good to see Sue and Lyn coming through customs and after a very excited hello how are you, what’s been happening etc  etc, we headed off to the hotel where Brian and Marg were waiting for us.

It has to be said that the fit was tight, but we managed to get everyone and everything in and soon we were on our way to Yambol to pick up my car and then get out home to my house.

And there started ten days of fun, eating, drinking and much enjoyment…Oh, and sight seeing.

And here they are:

Just a few kilometres from Yambol is the Kabili Monastery and, as often happens, the  nearest things to home are the last ones you see.  Ivan had told me so much about this place so I made a decision that it would be out first stop off. It’s lovely and a truly peaceful place surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Out the front of the Monastery was the usual seller of trinkets, an interesting man  called Ivan.  He took a shine to our Sue and was very keen for her to stay and be ‘his’. It was charm all round and then this…

Sue was a little taken aback and did say a couple of times his hands almost strayed and he almost got a slap….but she did confess to feeling pretty good after her free massage  AND he gave her two packets of sunflowers seeds for her and all her friends.  We almost had to prise him off her  🙂

We managed to get her back and headed up to Jeravna for an over nighter… On the way up we stopped at a restaurant in Gradets and had a large slap up meal…gorgeous place, gorgeous food.

I’d contacted Ivana from ‘IV’ guest house, the place Ivan took me to all those years ago when I was recovering from my operation, and had rooms booked for us all. We got settled and spent a while wandering around taking in the sights and enjoying the terrific art galleries.  And what was I saying about the things you see:

Yes, that is a man with a large gun on his back walking through the streets, but the only thing he was looking to kill was wild boar.

It was fast approaching end of season and the place was nice and quiet.  We headed to the local restaurant that night not looking for food as we’d had such a large lunch, but thinking a few beers and maybe a wine or two could be nice.

We ended up having an unexpected and very enjoyable night out while there.

A group of musicians wandered in and started to play.

The guy with the goatee truly had the voice of an angel, and after we convinced them that we were not interested in ‘english’ music, they got down to the business of singing and playing what they excelled at, good, traditional Bulgaria music.  When they started playing there weren’t that many people in the place, but it gradually filled up and my visitors got the see the Bulgarians at play.  I’ve mentioned before how you can be in a restaurant when there’s music playing and the whole place can start dancing.  We weren’t disappointed. Even one of the staff came out of the kitchen and joined in the dancing and the whole place was just having a great time, especially us.

even got Brian singing

All a little quieter the next morning though

and I’m not even showing you the picture of me…I look like I’ve been hit by a truck.

We headed back home and basically spent their last few days doing relaxing things.  The dogs loved having extra friends to love them and they got to go for lots of walks with these ‘ new’ people as well.  They both fell in love with Sue.  She’s a real dog lover and I’m sure they sensed that in her.  Gina even allowed displays of affection and Mia just fell about all over her every time she appeared at the door.

All too soon it was time to push them out the door…they had homes to get back to and I had things to do.

They were bussing from Burgas to Istanbul and I’m very proud to say that I managed to ring the bus company in Burgas, where they spoke not a word of english, and booked four tickets for them.  I did have concerns that there might be a donkey and cart awaiting them at Burgas, but they assured me that all was fine.  The tickets were there and they got safely to Istanbul.

I had a wonderful time while they were all here…and I think they did as well but, as I said, I had plans.

And that’s my next catch up story

And as I am in catch up mode, my timeline is a little skewiff.  We’re well into autumn right now and across the road from my house is a huge tree, so large it basically fills the view from my front windows.  At the moment I’m looking out at these colours every day


they are absolutely beautiful

ciao for now

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Now, I’m sure you know me well enough by now to know that I’m not all about work…no matter how busy I am. So when Hristina came to me and asked if I wanted to go away on an overnight stay for another performance of folklore and folk dancing, of course I said yes.

I asked her where we were going and she replied ‘Черно море’ Cherno More…The Black Sea.  But where on the Black Sea were we going ? She just shrugged her shoulders, laughed and said ‘Черно море’. So, once again I was off on a magical, mystery tour with the people of my village.  I did run into the Mayor a few days later and he wanted to confirm that I was coming.  I asked him where we were going and found out it was a town called Primorsko, a place I had wanted to visit since Ivan told me about it years ago.  I was very excited about this trip indeed..

So very early on the morning of September 05th I joined Hristina and wandered up to the village centre to await the coach that would whisk us away to the seaside.

even the local dog was there to see us off

and everyone, young and old, was coming along

When the coach arrived there was a flurry of raised voices and waving arms.  I asked Hristina what was wrong and, apparently, everyone was very unhappy about the standard of coach that had come.  It just wasn’t good enough.  Now it looked OK to me, but there wasn’t a toilet or (I think) a movie and so folk weren’t happy. The mayor, who didn’t look too happy himself, eventually got us all onboard and away we went.

Got to Primorsko and there was another problem…something to do with the hotel.  Hey, my Bulgarian has improved exponentially, but I’m still no expert.  Next thing, we’re away to Kiten, 5 kilometres away and in no time at all, ensconced in a very “Russian’ style hotel.

But the rooms were clean and the beds comfy, so I was happy.  I got the share a room with Hristina and Gospodina, the wife of Ivan’s uncle.  It was interesting…I realised how much more Bulgarian I could speak and how much more I could understand, but I still couldn’t keep up when they started a full blown, rapid conversation.

While we waited for our rooms to be made ready, everyone sat outside and those who had bought lunch with them, sat and nibbled. One of the village women who lives just up the road from me is Maria and she’s a very funny woman.  She arrived with her lunch, set herself up on a table, plonked a small vase of flowers, the ones that would later grace her hair when she was dancing, on the table, and proceeded to enjoy a good lunch in the sunshine.

Then it was up to our rooms and, while the ladies prepared themselves for an afternoon of impressing the judges, I wandered around taking sneaky pics with my new very large lens…it’s great because I can take pictures before anyone sees me.  If a Bulgarian sees a camera they will pose, and I want unposed, natural shots…and I got some beauties.

and some, not so sneaky…

No sooner had we arrived in Kiten and got settled, than we were hurried into the bus for the trip back to Primorsko for the competition.  I mentioned before that they take it all very seriously, and you can really feel the tension as they wait their turn…

This day, however, after watching the other competitors for some time, Vala, our local poshta (post office) lady must have decided to ease the tension by getting everyone to have a bit of a dance while waiting to go on.  I was wandering around (again) taking pics when I noticed her quietly dancing, waving a handkerchief…next thing, everyone had joined in and a lovely spontaneous thing happened under a huge shady tree on a beautiful summers day…

Sanka, the Mayors wife, is in charge of the whole troop. Normally she would be dancing as well, but as they had a loss in their family, I’ve been told that she and Dimitar won’t dance for a year. Look at her face while she watches her group on stage:

This is serious business…but all their hard work paid off, as there were many accolades at the end

and while I watched it all through my camera lens, I managed to capture a little of the beautiful colours and textures of the costumes and the fabulous footwear.

Once the competition was over, it was a quick walk around Primorsko and the things you see…

I was busy buying myself a set of garden chimes for my new patio area, when I noticed the Mayor at the booth next to me showing a great deal of interest in something.  I peeked over his shoulder and this is what greeted me:

Knives, guns, nan-chukkas anyone ????

The Mayor purchased one of the larger knives in the range and as we walked away I told him that in Australia, because of the high levels of violence, you would never be able to have a stall like that in a public place and you certainly would not be permitted to walk around the streets with such a dangerous weapon.  I told him the police would shut down the stall, seize all the weapons and probably put the stall holder in jail…and maybe the mayor as well for walking around with such a scary knife….his response ???  ” How else am I supposed to kill my pigs ” and off he walked, proudly showing his new purchase to his wife  🙂

and just in case all those knives and things weren’t enough for you, we could always pop in here for a drink???

Ah, Bulgaria…

Then it was back to the hotel for a big sleep after a busy day and next morning we all headed out and about in Kiten.

We had a beaut day. Most of the people on this trip work really hard and this was a nice couple of days for them away from it all.

The beach was lovely and almost deserted, which was nice, and there was this terrific little bar nestled amongst the rocks….definitely on my list of places to have lunch, or something, when I get back down there again.

and I managed to get my little walking group together for a quick pic.

We then we had a big walk all around the town and then found ourselves and pretty much all of the group down at another beachy/rocky bit.

I told them to gather together for a big group photo…bloody hell, it was like trying to herd cats,

but eventually I got a couple of them all

but all too soon it was time to go

we headed back to the hotel and the bus…now what was I saying about the things you see. I couldn’t resist this guy in his ‘safety gear’ strimming the grass.  Gotta keep the tan up you know…

We jumped back on the bus for a quick trip to Sozopol before returning to Miladinovtsi.

Sozopol was hot, but wonderfully quiet and it was all quiet walks and icecreams

well, except for the guy walking his…..lizard !!! ???

which I found slightly bizarre, but there ya go….Ah, Bulgaria.

It was a very tired old girl who returned to her home that night, but what a wonderful day I’d had…

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So, here I was in Australia, working, catching up with great friends and my fab family.

The work situation was sorted…I had tossed that fateful coin and the decision to take the radio job was made. I had a start date, but I knew there was one thing I needed to do before I started the new job.

I knew in my heart I needed to return to Bulgaria to see my good friends there…to see my gorgeous dogs and to decide what I should do with my house…….and to see how I felt about the country after the rather rotten time I had before I returned to Australia.

My sister Jillian had already planned to visit me in BG and so I decided to return while she was there so I could show her a little more of the country than she saw on her first visit. It was the depths of winter when she visited in 2005 and, though she saw more snow than she could poke a stick at and some lovely winter wonderland scenes, she didn’t really see Bulgaria in all it’s glory…

So. plans were made, tickets were booked and on August third I flew into Istanbul on my way home….or is it ??

Jillian had flown in a few hours before me, so once I arrived and refreshed myself a little, we headed out to experience a little of Istanbul.

With the help of a friend here in Oz, I had got us into a really beaut little hotel slap bang in the middle of the old part of the city, the Sultanamet area. It was a great spot to be and it’s a very beautiful part of the city…..

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Look at this for a breakfast view…..

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And the mosques and buildings were really very beautiful

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And I loved the three and four storey weatherboard buildings that dotted the area

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Jillian wanted to do a wee bit of shopping, so I took a photo stroll around and got a few pics of some of those lovely bits of Sultanamet….. and of my sister, of course 🙂

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The next morning we were up early for the bus to Erdine. We were to be picked up there by the lovely Dimitor and transported through to Miladinovtsi. We had a bit of a wait at Erdine and decided to have a coffee. Wandering around our feet were these two little cuties…though I suspect they were for the pot once they had gained a little more weight

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We boarded the bus at lunch time and then hit the road. Gee, I felt so nervous…I guess I knew there were expats in Miladinovtsi who had caused me so much distress before I left, and according to some, were still indulging in malicious gossip while I was away, and the thought of seeing any of them made me feel a little sick, to be quite honest. I was filled with trepidation…..

And I also knew that this was crunch time…I was either going to hate being back in Bulgaria or love it.

Well, as we came over the hill into the village and I saw my house, a lot of my apprehension vanished, and when we pulled up out the front and Jillian stepped up and opened the front door…and I saw just how beautiful the place was, what a fantastic job Ivan had made of turning my ideas into a reality, I knew that Miladinovtsi and the Big House was where I belong.

Sue and Aisha had left the place in good shape and when I headed out to my vehicle, I found they had also left that sparkling….and I thank them for doing that for me and for looking after the house while I was away.

Jillian had only seen the house pre Ivan and there was a lot of Oooo-ing and Ahhh-ing ringing out around the place as she took a tour. Her reaction was important to me and I reckoned if she thought it was a good job, then it was a good job…as far as I was concerned, her positive response was a vote towards me returning to BG.

I had become so despondent before I left BG, that I think I had lost sight of just how amazing the house is and what a huge difference the work I’ve had done has made. Walking back into it was a very good experience for me….very positive.

Anyway…the next most important task was my fat bottomed girls.

I rang Maria (my vet) and organised a time to meet a the kennels. I was sooooo excited about seeing them again…you have no idea.

It was so good to see Maria again and it was so, so good to see the dogs…..and look at the size of them !!! these girls are just eight months old and still have a fair bit of growing to go.

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And look at my lovely Gina…doesn’t she look fantastic.

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She was vaguely suspicious about my sudden appearance and all of them were a little reluctant to leave the kennels and get into the car. Who can blame them…I’d left them for four months, and the kennels and the people who had looked after them there, including Maria and her family, had become the important people in the dogs lives.

Even though Maria is now the owner of Rosa, she decided the dogs should all be together as a family for the few days I was in town, which was very kind of her, and I think time with her mother and sister was really exciting for her…they were like a bunch of kids, even Gina. 🙂

We got them all in the car eventually and talk about a car FULL of dogs…..jesus !! There wasn’t much space left once they were all settled in, but they were all on board and off to Miladinovtsi we headed…

Again, on arrival they were a little wary…not sure what was going on, but again, once they got back amongst familiar smells and sights, they proceeded to play….and play…and play…and play. Not only are they huge for their age, but they seem to have endless energy…..

I had such a wonderful time with them. After a few days, Gina reclaimed her position in the house and got very settled indeed..and this is where my heart got broken again. When it came time for me to leave, she knew. She started following me around the house and hanging around my suitcase, checking the contents and giving me whithering looks as I put more bits and pieces in it. She just looked hangdog for the last 24 hours or so and I could hardly stop crying….

I love Mia, but I adore Gina…she’s my mate and best girl and I still feel an overwhelming sense of guilt when I think about deserting her….I just couldn’t bring myself to give them up completely, but maybe this is something I have to face in the near future. I can’t seem to make up my mind where I want to be, and that’s not fair on the dogs.

And their future ??? well, Rosa’s is in place. She has the best owner she could have in Maria and for now, the other two are being looked after by a friend of Maria’s. It’s the best possible arrangement, because if I return to Bulgaria I can have Gina and Mia back, on the condition that the guy can put his male Karakachan over her next year and he keeps the pups, and if I don’t return, I will either ship them out here to Australia….or wherever I decide to settle….or he can keep both dogs for himself. I’m bloody lucky, aren’t I ….things just seem to be falling into place for me, not matter which way I turn.

I have loads more to tell about my visit. We crammed an awful lot into eight days… Jillian and I had a beaut time and I have so much to tell about the village, the villagers, Ivan, days out with Christina and an old friend that I had lost contact with, Stefka, Stefka’s daughter and her amazing art.. Take a look at this http://www.inatrifonova.com

there’s stories, there’s pictures and I’ll be back with all that and more another day….

Right now, I have to make marmlade…and that’s ANOTHER story 🙂

bye for now

Mercer xxx

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and so we went from deep and crisp and even, to slimy, muddy, damp and downright yukky !!! And every day is now a battle against the black sticky mud that is the soil here when water is added…

The weather has actually been quite nice the last couple of days, but we had day after day after day of really heavy, wet fog last week…and it was really depressing. There just never seemed to be an end to it..then I awoke Friday morning and realised that I could see blue sky !! and a large, yellow ball in the sky, the name of which I had some difficulty remembering 🙂
I was chatting to my downstairs guests and we realised that we have not seen the sky since well before Christmas…just greyness, that’s been it. No wonder everyone’s been feeling a little low…and what a difference blue sky and some sunshine is making. The temperatures are still low, but the sun has some warmth in it and I stood out in the backyard yesterday and soaked up the warmth like a lizard on a rock…god it was good !!

and the puppies !! Holy, moly, you should see how filthy they are ….in between still being the most gorgeous creatures on gods earth just now 🙂

I’m now letting them out of their compound every day so they can burn off a little of their endless energy, and now that all that lovely white snow has gone, they’ve discovered the place where I’ve been dumping the ashes from the fire…and Oh, what a lovely place it is for them to play. I took my eyes off them for about half an hour the other day and when I went out to check on them, I was greeted by two of the blackest, dirtiest, happiest puppies you’ve ever seen….. I put them back in the compound for the night and I don’t know whether it was them rolling around in the hay or whether Gina was a very busy mother, but the next morning they were back to being lovely and snowy white…..but not for long !!! no point trying to keep them clean…..and they are just having so much fun being puppies…..truly delightful.

And Gina ?? well, I suspect in her previous life, there wasn’t a lot of play, and she now seems to be learning how to play with her pups. The first few days she wasn’t doing very well and was way to rough with them, but now, she is just having so much fun with them…and they with her. This is what I wanted for her..the chance to actually enjoy her pups. I’ve found out that the first lot she had died and the second lot she ate because she was starving, which must have been so terrible for her. She’s been the most fantastic mother, and she really does love these pups. It’s been a joy to watch her.

I bundled them all into the car the other day and took them off to the vet for their shots. I asked a friend, Sue, to come with me because I kinda thought they would be a real handful, but they weren’t. They were lovely, though one of them did get a little car sick…and I give them porridge for breakfast…….so you can imagine what I had to clean up in the car 😦

They were fine with the vet..a little whingy, but didn’t embarrass me at all. Now, keep in mind that these guys are 8 weeks old…..Rosa is weighing in at a hefty 15 kilos !! and Mia isn’t far behind at 13 kilos…..My fat bottomed girls indeed !!

We tried to get Gina on the scales, but she was too big, but Maria (vet) estimates she’s probably around the 40-45 kilo mark and in perfect condition….so I’m very pleased and happy. She’s come back from the brink of starvation and is now a happy, healthy girl..lovely 🙂

And when I haven’t been completely and utterly engrossed in the dogs ???

Well, this year we held Babin Den at my house. I asked Donna, Christina’s sister, if Babin Den was happening at the bar and I’m not quite sure why, but it wasn’t, so I offered my house. The local ladies sorted out the inviting for me and brought all the food and I just provided the house and lots of really good chocolate…they love a chocolate in this country…and my friend, Aisha, bought a large batch of scones, which really went down a treat. I love the fact that if you produce something different at these do’s, the folk here will always give it a go. If they like it, they descend upon it and it’s gone in seconds… if they don’t, it sits, a solitary, unpopular food item….Scones were a huge hit !!
And so the local ladies arrived and we got down to the important business of eating and drinking….
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god, you should see how much rakia I now have…could start my own bar with the booze they bought…
and then, I put on my Bulgarian music and the dancing commenced !!
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It was a really beaut day and I thoroughly enjoyed, as did everyone here….mind you, if I do it again next year, I might have to buy a bigger house ..or knock out some walls….or something.

Before the snow thawed, we had a bit of drama across the road. I was sitting here keeping warm the other day when I heard an almighty THUMP !! I then heard Teodora, the lady across the road, wailing. I ran out of the house and, bloody hell, the weight of the snow had bought down their outhouse..which was full of their sheep. Jesus, it was awful. Karlina from next door was already running over there and I joined them to see what we could do. It was freezing cold and there was no way we could lift the roof…obviously the priority was the get the sheep out and hope that none were dead. I ran back to my house and got Gerry to run up to the bar and get men to help and I also shanghaied a few blokes that were walking past to come and help. Another brit in the village stopped and helped and eventually all the sheep were rescued..intact. This was fantastic, because when I first looked under the wreckage I could see blood and was sure that there would be casualties…..
Anyway, there we all stood afterwards and I realised that they had nowhere to put their sheep…so I offered my garage. An offer that was taken up, and a few hours and a few metres or wire later, half my garage became a temporary home to seven large, surprised looking sheep. They were only there for just over a week while Giorgie and friends sorted out the rubble of the outhouse, which then gave them access to their other outhouses, so the sheep could then be moved there, but it was rather nice to hear them out there when I was with the dogs..almost felt tempted to get some….NOT !!! 🙂

On the ‘Bugger !!!’ list…..I sometimes make mention on here, after a hard days work, that I have a Nana back….gets sore, few twinges here and there, makes strange cracking noises sometimes when I stand up, usual stuff. Well, before Christmas the problem seemed to escalate and I’ve had some really serious problems..a few days where I’ve been pretty much crippled with the pain. Once again, the Bulgaria medical system has picked up something that should have been found years ago either in Australia or Scotland, both places where I’ve had XRays and MRI scans….

My mother had a curvature of the spine and it appears that I have inherited it from her. When they told me here that I had it, I asked the question ‘how could that happen’ to which the doctor responded, ‘it didn’t just happen, you would have been born with it’
Anyway, it’s obviously been there forever and has caused a little problem here and there over the years. Now, I’ve done something…the doctor suggests perhaps lifting heavy things that I shouldn’t be lifting…and one of the vertebrae on the curvature has herniated and is pushing up against a nerve…Shit, Shit, Shit !!! And boy, am I experiencing some pain…and no, I’m not having an operation. At the moment I’m having a course of injections, which Aisha, a friend in the village, who’s a nurse, is administering. Poor woman, has to face my bum everyday…… I’m also taking some pretty good drugs and this is keeping things under control..sort of. Next Sunday I’m off to see some guy in a village near Sliven who is, apparently, a bit of a miracle worker with dodgy backs. My doctor is taking me there, so he must be OK….I hope 🙂 I told my doctor that I don’t care if this guy’s a witch doctor and wants to smear me with pigs blood, as long as he fixes the problem…I want my life back and just now, this is really slowing me down…..

and just a small aside….Poor old Aisha rang me today to tell me that one of the village ladies turned up on her doorstep this afternoon, injection in hand, asking her to please administer it to her….and she’s coming back for the next one in five days !!!! So not only does she have to face my backside everyday, but now she’s got the villagers coming to her as well and presenting theirs….

God I love this country..there’s always something slightly bizarre that brings a smile to my face everyday 🙂

And last, but not least, today is Australia Day, and I was asked to do an interview for the Sofia Echo, an English language newspaper that’s produced in Sofia. They wanted an Australia perspective on living in Bulgaria..apparently. Anyway, it’s done, and I’m waiting to see what it’s like. I have no idea, but they’ve promised me a copy for me and some for my family…..so lets hope I haven’t made an idiot of myself ….

I think that’s it….If the puppies ever stop running around like whirling dervishes, I’ll get some more pics and post them, but for now, ciao, ciao

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And so, it was with great trepidation I returned to Bulgaria. 

The closer I got, the less courageous I felt about coming back.  I was lucky to be able to spend a couple of days with good friends,Kate & Bill, in London, where they showed me great hospitality and gave me great encouragement about getting back here and getting on with things….assuring me that I shouldn’t worry about the ‘swine’ here that had caused me so much pain, because like swine do, they would eventually end up devouring each other.

Gary & Louisa picked me up from Sofia and a few hours later I walked back into my wonderful home….I had missed it very much and I know it may sound silly, but the first sight of it as I came into Miladinovtsi filled my heart with excitement and gladness…it was good to be home.

Ths second thing that greeted me was the sound of hell breaking loose in my backyard.  The slavering beast that Ivan had put here to protect the house, was still in residence….

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and, apparently, not happy that someone was getting into the house.  Jesus, the performance made my blood run cold…and bought all the neighbours out……

And I know he looks like a great, big cuddly bear of a thing there, but he can be really fearsome……trained as a ‘bodyguard’, according to Ivan.

I tentatively stepped out onto the balcony to be ‘welcomed’ by a growling, foaming giant of a dog that appeared to be trying to pull the garage down….but more about him later….needless to say, he’s still here  🙂

I so enjoyed the feeling of being back in the ‘big hoose’, sleeping in my own bed, waking up to the the village sounds that I’ve grown so fond of, seeing the shepherd come through every evening, the sound of the sheeps bells, enjoying the peace and quiet and almost no vehicle noise…….gee, it was quiet, but fantastic as well. 

It was so good to see Christina and Volcho again, Maria and Tanyo, and Dimitor, the Mayor and Sanka,his wife, Donna, Maria at the store, Michael at the bar…….and what a warm and loving welcome back I received from everyone…with the Mayor telling me that I had ‘mnogo dobre preatyli’ in the village ( many good friends)…and I know I do.  These are good people, who are my friends and for that I am truly thankful….it’s them that make my life in this country good.

As I had made the decision to return, I figured that meant I would be staying, at least for a while, so I got in touch with Krasimir, the man I now work with. 

 Kras saw the state I was in before I went to Australia, and I think he didn’t expect to see me back here again….and I had said to him I thought that returning was very unlikely.

But I was back and the first thing I had to ascertain was whether or not he was still interested in making a serious go of Real Estate with me……he is, and so we are underway.  If you want to contact us now about matters real estate, you can do it through this very website……or email me, aussiebulg@gmail.com

We’ve got some great houses, from the very cheapest to mid price range up to and including a couple of damned fine (and quite expensive) houses. Mind you, I say expensive, but if you’re after swimming pools and stables, I guess the price is always going to be that little bit more.

and this is the man himself, young Krassie…

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He’s a lovely young bloke and has a blunt honesty that I really like….the same sort of blunt honesty that I have and prefer in my friends. He works very hard and hopefully, I can live up to his expectations. He’s also quite easy on the eye…so very pleasant to work with all round 🙂

So, to everyone who tells me that they’ll assist in any way they can to enable me to stay in this fabulous country, here’s your chance……talk about us, recommend us, whatever.  We’re keen, we’re honest and we’ll do our damndest for any customers that come.  And Hey, don’t forget, I’ve got accomodation available as well…..which brings me smoothly to the next topic for this entry…..the house !!

Ivan appeared soon after I arrived back and conversation soon turned to the roof and other bits and bobs.  As the weather was still quite cold when I returned from Oz, the first thing he did was to rectify the useless fireplace that I paid my old agents contractors vast sums of money for way back when. I now have a fireplace that not only works properly…it heats the entire kitchen/living room which is over 10 metres long, even with the draughty windows (the other thing I was ripped off over…window repairs) but it now looks truly fantastic

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Ivan basically tore the whole top of the fireplace apart and rebuilt it.  He installed the missing damper (which the previous contractor told me the fire didn’t need) and did me some lovely stonework up the wall behind the fireplace. It looks gorgeous, uses about a quarter as much wood over an evening as it used to and gets the room as hot as a bastard….. what more can a woman ask for 🙂

As soon as the weather warmed slightly, the boys moved back onto the property and got to work.  Starting with smaller jobs like painting all the parapets, the metal framework that the grapes grow over and any metal fences and gates around the place, it didn’t take long for the place to start looking better.  These little jobs are always irksome and somehow usually get done last…….now it’s all been sanded down and painted, it’s just made everything in the yard and the house that much neater.

Before I could say ‘Jack Robinson’ the sound of tiles being ripped off the roof started…….and heavens, they’ve moved quickly.  Already another section of the roof is complete.  This year, Ivan has purchased proper scaffolding…..a relief to me, as I was never happy with the standard Bulgarian wooden scaffolding. He erected it around the part of the house where they were working on the roof…he then announced that he was going to render the building while the scaffolding was up, as he didn’t want to have to re-erect it in six or twelve months time when I was ready for the rendering to be done.

So……..From day one, I’ve had a picture in my head of what I thought the house would eventually look like…..suddenly,my house is starting to look like that picture.  I’ve even had times when I’ve thought that rendering it might not be such a good idea because the brick look was pretty good as well….but not now. 

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Yes….it’s pink !!!  Ivan was aghast when I told him my choice of colour and I got a big Ivan ‘No Sue’ from him, but I think now that it’s starting to take shape, he’s not quite so horrified.  And I’m just thrilled to bits.  It’s just how I imagined it could be….. I can’t stop wandering outside and looking at it, imagining what it will look like when the whole house is done.

OK, I may have to sell it to settle my debt, but what a house I’ll have to sell  🙂

Which is a segue  ‘almost’ as smooth as the house one……

‘Cos, how could I possibly sell up and leave when I have this to take care of…

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Ah, Yes..Ivan’s skills of persuasion have finally paid off….I’d like to introduce Pirat (Bulgarian for pirate…something to do with the eye patch) the latest addition to my life, my not so little bundle of joy.  But let me backtrack a little….. let’s return to the slavering beast in my backyard…..his names Byal (white) and can you guess what his relationship is to Pirat ?

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Oh yes, I not only have the son, but his father as well.  Byal is supposed to return to Yambol, but everytime I ask Ivan when, he just says ‘tomorrow Susanka’ and we all know about tomorrow…it never comes !!  So it looks like I may have the big fella for the long run.

The little guy came to me about 8 weeks ago looking like this

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and very soon, became Mr mischief..

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There are no easy tasks any more…he chases the broom, wrestles the mop, his discovering my ‘soft bits’ and nips them with his razor sharp little teeth and just generally creates havoc around the place…but shit, he makes me laugh.  He’s a funny little bloke and is already bringing me endless entertainment.

He and his father get on like a house on fire and play for hours every day

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which is great for me because it wears the little bastard out….god, he’s got so much energy, and I’m not as young as I used to be.  Though, now that I’ve been smoke free for thirteen months, I can actually take him for….wait for it……runs.!!  Yep, I’ve been doing a wee bit of running with him and I feel great….well, felt great.  Yesterday I twisted my knee and just now can hardly walk……but I’m sure I’ll be good as new in no time.

Pirat is bringing me so much pleasure and also bringing me some things I really don’t want.  I’ve talked before about the birds nesting in my roof and walls.  Now, there’s always been a certain amount of mortality amongst the baby birds and I’ve always had to pick up the dead ones that have fallen from the nests and dispose of them.  Now Pirat is finding them and bringing them to me as little ‘gifts’…it’s God awful and when I try to take them, he eats them….yech !!!  then he wants to put his face near mine…double yech !

And Byal ??  well, after his initial fierceness towards me, he’s starting to trust me and even allows me to pat him now…..apparently, I’m the only person who gets to do that.  Even Ivan doesn’t get too close to him.  Maybe one day he’ll rip my head off. he certainly gets close enough to do that.  When I bend down to put food in his dish, he’s started giving me a huge lick on my face, which scared the bejeezus out of me the first time he did it and sees me very close to his enormous teeth and huge doggy breath, but for the moment, we’re becoming the best of friends…..and he does love a good ear scratch  🙂

and, lets be honest here, no matter how savage a beast he his, ( and make no mistake, he is) it’s hard to take him completely seriously when he sleeps like this

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Must be a Karakachan thing, cos his son assumes the same position often

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and yes, he does have a funny little black and white spotted tummy..in fact,his whole body is like that.  the first time I bathed him his hair went into ringlets and under the ringlets I could see this cute little spotted body….maybe inside every Karakachan is a Dalmnation trying to get out….. 🙂

And so, I restart my life in Bulgaria in just about every way……..the people I’m surrounding myself with, the constantly changing house in which I reside, the getting of a dog…well, two actually, my new and hopefully successful career with Krassie and just about everything else that’s happening now….., I have much more to talk about but it’s late and I need my bed…much to do tomorrow.

in fact, I will just add one more thing……something I’ve wanted since coming here was a garden of heavily scented roses. …a garden where everytime I walked out of the house or pulled up out the front in the car, I would smell the beautiful heady,pefume of roses. I planted many last year and this year they are everything I want……they look stunning and the smell is just amazing….overwhelming…beautiful

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On that note, I’ll say Leka Nosht – Good night

until next time

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