Week 1

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March 18th 2011
Published: March 18th 2011
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View on BusView on BusView on Bus

From Sofia to Ruse.
Monday - The flight was fine, landing at just after 12:00 Bulgaria time. We got our bags and went out for a taxi, (dodging the local people who wanted to take us in their mini busses for just $3 each). The taxi man was really nice (even after Claire tried to get in the taxi, realising once in that she had got in on the drivers side!). He knew some basic English and we were able to test out our Bulgarian which we had speedily learned on the plane. Somehow between the three of us, speaking a combination of English, Bulgarian and German we managed to explain we needed the bus stop in Sofia to then get the bus to Ruse.

Driving through Sofia was interesting, very basic and rather grubby with multi-storey flats as the main accommodation in the city centre. On the outskirts there were much larger houses (very typical of inner-city and sub-urban areas contrasting one another).

The bus station was a modern building and we were able to get our tickets easily, paying just 26 lev (£13) for our journey from Sofia to Ruse. Our bus was due to depart at 2:30 so grabbed some
View on the bus.View on the bus.View on the bus.

From Sofia to Ruse.
lunch and a drink and chilled out for a bit, enjoying the local TV channel and trying to read some of the signs written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

The bus journey itself was an adventure. We got on fine, sat down, I-pods in, chilling out and about an hour or so after leaving Sofia, a man sat two seats in front of ours started to have what looked like an epileptic fit or a heart attack. He was obviously by himself as the man sat next to him just looked at him like he was an absolute freak, and no one seemed to notice or help him. We managed to get the drivers attention with the little Bulgarian/English we could throw at them and they stopped the bus, calling for a medic to see to him. A man sat close by took over the situation and we ensured we shared our knowledge as best we could, however there was little we could do due to the language barrier. He was ok. The doctor came to see to him and checked him over and once he had come round, we continued on the journey. We sat listening to the conversations
Monument - Angel KanchevMonument - Angel KanchevMonument - Angel Kanchev

Bulgarian national hero (unsure what for at the moment thought!). Ruse University is named after him.
the surrounding Bulgarians were having, able to pick up the odd word and it was an epileptic fit – we think from the lights in the tunnels which we went through when going under the mountains.

The rest of the journey was rather long and boring – a man sat next to us joined us in a game of cards and taught us how to pronounce numbers 1-10 in Bulgarian correctly. It was however, nice to see Bulgaria and travel through the towns and villages. It gave us a good overview of what Ruse might be like and what the next 3 months had in store for us.

Once we arrived in Ruse (at about 8pm Bulgarian time) we were met by Emilia (the lady who runs the house we are staying in) and the two Occupational Therapists from the University who are also our educators out here. They drove us to our accommodation which we have since named ‘Baba Tonka Manor House’ as it is huge!!! It’s fantastic – all kitted out with fridge, microwave, beds, comfortable mattresses, bedding, Hoover, internet, wet room shower, balcony overlooking the Danube river!!! – Every thing and more than we were
By the DanubeBy the DanubeBy the Danube

With Ilia and Emily.
expecting. Emilia had also, very kindly, been and bought us a few supplies and had prepared us some supper – a lovely salad with Feta cheese and ham and bread.

Tuesday - Had a nice lie in (in my comfortable bed) and showered (in the walk in shower) and dried my hair in the hot sun (20+ degrees - on one of our two balconies). Had lovely breakfast of muesli, yoghurt and apple followed by jam and toast. At 1:30pm Ilijah, a young man from Emilia’s church, came to meet us to be our tour guide of the city. He spoke some English but very limited and was keen to meet us to learn as he plans to study Religious Studies in England next year.

We wandered about the city to get orientated and went for a drink outside a cafe then were met by Emilia’s daughter who took us to the Occupational Therapy department at the university to meet with Liliya and Petya. They then walked us to the childrens home so we were able to find out where it was and meet the children. On entering the home, we were told the staff had only been told 30 minutes prior to our arrival that we would be attending and working there over the next three months so they were not prepared or filled in on what we will be doing there. It turns out all of the children have come from Mogillino, the children’s home on the BBC4 programme in 2007. I even think that one of the children here is the little girl who had her leg broken while she was getting dressed, however I can not remember the little girl name from the programme. Compared to the institution in the programme, the home is lovely – lots of toys, sensory equipment and a better child to staff ratio. We still noticed many problems which are mainly due to lack of education and the staff routine. There are eight children in the home ranging from age 7 to about 18. The two most severely disabled children (similar to that on the Mogillino programme) were in their cots in a shared room, however the conditions they were in were much better – still no stimulation though or interaction at the time we were there. We were able to go over to them and hold their hands, with some response but very little. The rest of the children were upstairs in the play room with a large selection of toys and games. Some got very excited when we entered, two of them running around screaming, others shuffling to our feet to meet us, the rest completely unaware of our arival. We spent about 10 minutes with them, playing clapping games with those who requested our interaction and were able to get a feel for the place, picking out the strong personalities, and the quiet, shy children.
We left soon after, as the children were about to eat a meal, then went back to the house, had spaghetti bolognaise for tea and chilled out.

Wednesday - Big event - WE GOT THE INTERNET!!! Can't believe we were struggling without it and we had only been deprived for 3 days! Elijah, our new friend, kindly came over to fix it with the help of his 'computer genious' friend called 'Gods Gift' (in English). Im still not really 100% sure how we have the internet becasue there is no modem (like the BT/ Virgin Media/ NTL bit!) so we think it's free! We decided to brave eating out afterwards so went to a nice bar in the centre of town called 'Happy'! Had a very nice meal for about £4 - bargain and also tried out our first Bulgarin beer! (It's no Fosters but its nice!) Wandered around after lunch to get to know the area better and found the hospital and a nice shopping mall.

Thursday - 8 degrees today 😞 As we had another day to ourselves we went exploring once more around town, walking down the Danube river (until we ended up in a very poor, gheto looking, gypsy area which we quickly escaped from). Sticking to the main roads we ventured to the train and bus station to work out how long it would take if we decide to travel. (300km to Sofia by bus= 6 hours, by train= 7/8 hours!) Returned to the house for tea and then as it was St. Patricks day, decided to go to the Irish bar we had discovered down the road for a nice relaxing drink. Limited selection - no Guinness so had half a lager each (as we had to be up for placement in the morning!). Had that then disaster struck. Emily decided to nip
The Monument of FreedomThe Monument of FreedomThe Monument of Freedom

Inaugurated in 1908 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Bulgaria's Liberation for the Ottoman oppression.
to the loo before we returned home and fell down a flight of stairs, chipping her tooth and badly bruising most of her body and face. The staff were very helpful with their limited English stating 'Friend. Incident' swiftly followed by me legging it to the toilet to see if she was ok! A nice Bulgarian couple offered to take us to hospital which we declined as the majority of the damage was Emily's tooth initially. Returned home and went to bed.

Friday - Was up at 8 to play nurse Rachel as Emily's face had got a lot more swollen through the night and her eye was rather blood shot. She felt ok - no dizzyness or headache so wiped out the possiblity of concussion. We went to the childrens home for 9am and were greeted once more by the children all in the play room upstairs. The staff left us with the children literally all morning from 9-1 which we didnt mind as we were able to get to know each child and get on with assessing their muscle tone, capabilities and development. I've already fallen in love with them all - regardless of walking out of the room 4 hours later with a lot less hair (from them pulling it), bruises from nipping and a bite mark on my neck! I felt shattered! We were like human climbing frames - them seeking any sensory feedback we could provide them with. I have never clapped, sung, hummed, danced, tickled so much in my life! The children are adorable though - each with very different issues and requirements. We walked away with lots to discuss - not only about the children but about the staff also. Met with Elijah after our morning with the children and he introduced us to his girlfriend. Enjoyed a nice hot chocolate in town with them then went out for tea to a traditional Bulgarian restaurant. Had a lamb shank and potatoes and two drinks for equivalent of £5 - can't complain!
Meeting Elijah tomorrow also - to continue to learn some Bulgarian and to also help improve his English.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17



Typical all over Ruse. Very rich, glorious buildings next to very poor, run down buildings.
Our neighbour!Our neighbour!
Our neighbour!

Home to a family and a large number of cats!
Our House!Our House!
Our House!

On Baba Tonka Street - 'Baba Tonka' meaning Grandma Tonka - a famous lady who participated in the Bulgarian revolutionary movement. Her house (next door but one) has a secret cellar where she famously sheltered a number of revolutionary leaders.
Enjoying some of the local baking!Enjoying some of the local baking!
Enjoying some of the local baking!

Lovely buttery bread with feta inside! Better than a pizza!

23rd March 2011

wow what a great start to your stay in Bulgaria look forward to reading about your adventures xxxx

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