About a month ago I moved into a new apartment, which isn't very far away from my old neighborhood in Sofia. I love my new place for a couple of reasons. First, it's well-connected by public transportation to the city center and other places of interest. I have a metro stop, two trams, several buses and a few marshrutki (also known as shared taxis) within easy walking distance. Second, the layout is great for having guests over because there is a separate room with a pull-out couch and the living room (which doubles as my bedroom) has a big sofa with comfy chairs and plenty of room to sit, chat and watch movies with friends. As you can see, I had a few friends over shortly after I moved in:
I hope to have many more gatherings like this one here. The only drawback is that there really isn't enough space for more than ten people here at a time. But I prefer more intimate settings, anyway. Third and most important is the amazing view I have overlooking Mount Vitosha and the sports high school next door. Why is it advantageous to be located next to a sports high school, you ask? What is a sports high school, you ask? It's a fantastic spot because with two large football fields directly behind the building, my windows look out onto green grass and open space rather than directly into other people's apartments. And a sports high school is another category of specialized secondary schools that have been established here in Bulgaria since the socialist period. It was thought that education should be highly specialized into different practical fields so that students could be more prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. The foreign language schools where I used to work in both Pleven and Sofia are also legacies of that system.
I really can't emphasize the view enough. It's simply wonderful, especially at sunrise and sunset when the mountain is illuminated by pinkish or orangish light. From the eighth floor I also have a view of the southwestern corner of downtown- including the Military Hospital and the distinctively unappealing Hotel Rodina, one of the tallest buildings in the city at just 25 stories in height.
In other news, I'm still working on getting my project ready for implementation in the fall and waiting for the paperwork to be filed so I can really start canvassing schools. Ideally I'd like to work with one school in Sofia as well as one school outside of Sofia, mainly because there are a lot of differences between urban and rural (or less urbanized) regions in Bulgaria. This is largely due to high levels in unemployment resulting in dwindling small town populations. Many factories which once dotted the countryside have closed over the last twenty years, displacing hundreds of thousands of workers who have left in favor of higher wages in urban areas. Parallel to this trend is the so-called "brain drain" of educated professionals such as doctors, lawyers and educators who move abroad for better pay, resulting in local deficiencies in numerous sectors.
So my goals for this year are to see "Learning Through Our Differences" through to its completion (and reapply for future funding, as well as disseminating information about its results across the country) and to study more Bulgarian! I keep getting frustrated with my lack of vocabulary when talking with colleagues and friends, but it's really up to me to stick with it and push myself to learn more.