Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Moving In

So I'm officially moved into my new apartment! I still don't know how to pronounce the address... minor detail. But it's a nice neighborhood, about a ten-minute walk from the center and maybe 25 minutes to get to school, so I'll have to be good about leaving super early to get there on time. Pleven feels a lot bigger than I thought it would- there are lots of big supermarkets and a couple of department stores, and lots of cafes and restaurants near my apartment. There are a lot of monuments to the Russo-Turkish War because the Siege of Plevna (Pleven's former name) was the biggest battle of that war. Most of these monuments have artillery around them for decoration. I really like the tree-lined pedestrian boulevard in the center, which has a series of fountains and man-made waterfalls in a small park at the end. There's a really big park, maybe a national one but I'm not sure, right at the edge of the town called Kailaka Park. I haven't been there yet but it's supposed to be beautiful and good for walking.

This is a view of the park with the fountains. The red building to the left is the town hall and to the right is the St. George Chapel and Mausoleum. Today I went to the police station to register with immigration services. I got all of the paperwork in order so I should have my Bulgarian id card in about a week. I got a good deal on my apartment (utilities included, it should end up being under 200 USD per month). This weekend I went to visit another teaching assistant in Haskovo, which is in the south. It was a long trip through the mountains to get there but we had a good time and I finally got to see the world's largest statue of the Virgin Mary! :)

It was built a few years ago, all with funding from residents of Haskovo, and apparently they decided to make it the world's largest. There's a Guinness World Records plaque to prove it outside. It's a nice view of the valley from the hill, too. Maybe one day I'll see the one of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro and I can make a collage of both.

Haskovo also has a zoo, although it's not really worth visiting. It was pretty depressing, actually. I don't think I'll visit any more zoos like that one here. It was located in a nice foresty park near Hillary's apartment and we went for a run there the day before I left. On the way back to Pleven we took a mountain road through the Stara Planina, or Balkan Range. The road we took goes through the famous Shipka Pass, the site of another major battle in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8. It was beautiful. The mountains aren't very tall but there are lots of scenic valleys and viewpoints. It was a very windy road. I also got to pass through a few other towns on the way including Lovech, where another Fulbright English teacher will be this year. It's only about 30 km from Pleven so we'll probably see each other a lot.

I'm still getting used to things here in Pleven and since it's the last weekend before school starts I've decided to take a trip (again!) to Sofia and Blagoevgrad for the weekend. I'm already sick of buses but since they will be my primary mode of transportation here I'd better get used to them. It's nice spending time with the teachers here and I'm looking forward to getting to know all of them but I want to take advantage of my free time and visit friends while I can. School starts next Wednesday and I can't wait to meet my students. I've been preparing a lesson plan for the American Culture class but I'm trying to keep it as open to changes as possible because I definitely don't want to bore them to death with it.

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