All I know is, when we first met Des’s parents, I had flashbacks of meeting one of my spanish teacher’s moms while studying in Spain. They double kiss as a greeting and when she said, “This is my mom” I immediately went over and tried to kiss her hello, never minding that she was facing away from me sitting on a couch. And even though I sensed none of the other girls leaving their place against the living room wall, I was determined to make that kiss happen. So I leaned over the sofa and forced my cheek against hers. It’s seared in my memory.
So Des’s mom greeted me with a rose at the airport and leaned in for that same greeting. She went one way and I happened to go the same way. We went side to side several times, me mirroring her face trying to get that double kiss in when I finally just stood there and let her do it. Hi. I’m Carrie. Get used to this. Her dad would later catch me at almost every stop wandering alone trying to figure out where I was (or more likely, where Ryan was). “Carrie!” in his sweet accent “Carrie!” I would spot him, then twirl in a circle as if I was completely lost looking around. Making fun of yourself is cross-cultural.
We got off the plane and went to their home for lunch. Amy and I took turns trying to say phrases from Google Translate (it gives you the phonetic pronunciation) and was introduced to what would soon become a frequent scenario: A long pause, followed by them asking Des what we were trying to say.
By the end of the week, we just showed them the translation on the screen.
Here’s our fearless leaders driving us.
Plum trees everywhere. We’d driven up to the Rila mountains to stay.
I was walking with her mom and asked Isn’t today just beautiful in Bulgarian. Pause. Ask Des.
I’d said something about it being annoying.
It was still early in the week, so I hadn’t learned my lesson yet to just show the phone translation.
You can’t tell below, except for maybe Vesco’s (Des’s brother) expression, how tired everyone was of saying the Bulgarian word for “Cheers!”. I took about thirty photos already, trying to get everyone in my selfie until finally someone asked the waiter to do it. We still said it on the 31st time. I’d joke that we only cheersed 31 times because it was still day 1, but I have a feeling her family would’ve still been good sports about it on the very last day too.
Ryan and I had this idea that we’d get up before everyone to have some alone time, walking around whatever town we were in. That lasted one day, the first day, because we were just exhausted. It’s one of those times where you don’t realize how long you’ve been running on fumes until you get a proper break. We slept every chance we could.
But that first morning in the mountains, we woke up and walked aways to find a trail.
A rickety bridge that entered the woods.
On the other side we walked up and up until we found large scat on the trail. I was able to take a photo to verify later but in my head already it was a bear poop and I went running back down, tumbling until I found that bridge again. We came out of the woods and just then a van passed us. It happened to be Des’s brother and his girlfriend (both of whom I am absolutely smitten with) and they stopped the car and took us to find coffee. I felt the need to act out bear poop with hand motions and fart noises. It wasn’t even 7am yet. Get used to it, Bulgaria!
We visited the Rila Monastery.
The oldest structure, that brick tower in the background, was open for us to climb but I couldn’t find Ryan (my dad had whisked him off) and I spent 20 minutes running around occasionally hearing “Carrie!”, would see Des’s dad, twirl around so he’d laugh, then continue my search until I gave up and climbed without him.
Also, I didn’t pack well. I had no idea I’d wear that sweater every darn day.
But it was still fresh-smelling at the monastery and there were artisan wells everywhere.
Later we climbed up a trail to visit where a hermit stayed until he died. I’m sure there’s more to the story, but I was too out of breath to hear it. This hike felt like we were going straight up. It was so pretty though.
We had to climb through his little cave and then pull ourselves up out of the rocks. It was like I was being birthed again.
Lunch at a ski resort town.
I saw the ski lift and encouraged anyone who showed an inkling of interest to do it with me, then backed out at the last-minute leaving the boys to do it themselves. Halfway up it started raining and when they met up with us, cozy in a pizzeria, they were completely soaked.
In my defense, I knew that the cross-bar would never be pulled down and this is photographic evidence. I’m a scaredy cat. And cats don’t like to get wet anyway.