Tuesday It was my first real day on my own in Sofia and I had spent most of it sick. I had envisioned venturing out on my own, making it the mile walk to the downtown area and having some great adventures wandering around, window shopping, visiting museums, etc. Instead, Danche was at work and I was sprawled on the couch praying my stomach would stop rebelling against the new diet of banitsa, shopska salad, musaka, and yogurt. I read. I slept. I skyped with some friends in the US. I tried not to panic as my stomach turned over again and again.
By the end of the day, I was doing better. I had slept through most of it but there were still some hours in the day. Danche wasn't home yet and I decided that I would make attempt to interact with the outside world. I took my set of keys and set off.
I wasn't going to risk a long walk so I went to the Bazaar that was less than a two minutes walk from her apartment building. The Ivan Vasoff Bazarre. Named after the famous Bulgarian novelist.
Interpreting new experiences can be hard. It is difficult and frightening to try to categorize what kind of situation one is in. I was torn between two experiences: the State College Farmers Market OR the bazaar in India. The former was a simple exchange. Things were priced and you paid that price. In India, you haggled to get a fair price. And I had no idea which situation was walking into. My arsenal of Bulgarian words and phrases was pretty low. I had mastered "yes" "no" "okay" and "I don't understand." So I adopted a "I'm-Pissed-Off-Don't-Mess-With-Me" expression, one I had seen quite often on most pedestrians in Sofia. I made no eye contact.
All of this was unnecessary. But being in a place where you can't say things causes some unnecessary actions.
While there, (and it was very much like the State College farmer's market) I spotted several flower vendors. Ed had told me that it was customary to bring flowers to a hostess. I immediately wanted to buy some for Danche. I walked around the flower vendors. Twice.
And then walked back to the apartment.
I stewed for a while, ashamed of my own fear. I was going to do this.
I put some leve (Bulgarian money) in my pocket and set back out.
There was one vendor who had been particularly friendly when I walked by (twice) so I walked directly to him. He was old. White hair. Cap askew on his head. A cigarette burning casually in his mouth. He smiled when he saw me again and (I think) said, "Hello!" but I can't be sure because I hadn't learned that word yet. I picked up the first bouquet I saw. He asked me a question. "Nerazberum" I said,
shaking my head and smiling. He nodded, picked up another bouquet and handed it to me. I then saw that the one I had grabbed had mostly dead flowers in it. He was pointing this out to me and helping me pick. I chose the fresher one. He found another and held it out again for me to compare. This happened four times before he was satisfied with my choice. I said, "Da" and he nodded and went to make change. Asked if I wanted ribbon on it by holding up different colors. "Ne" I said. He counted out the change for me in Bulgarian to make sure I understood he wasn't cheating me. As I left I said, "Blagodaria" (thank you) and he grinned.
You'd think I owned the world rather than a bouquet of flowers.
Danche loved them.