Stories everywhere: "I got bit once"

I love that there are stories everywhere. Some good, so bad, some just plain weird. Some stories need coaxing out of hiding. Others leap into our ears unbidden.

Yesterday a friend and I went to the Goodwill Outlet*. We’d never been there, but had heard about this place. The goods—I use that term loosely—are sold by weight and are all higgledy-piggledy in big blue rolling carts.


Periodically, an announcement is made over the loudspeaker about new carts coming out. The customers stand reverently, silently, waiting for the carts to be rolled into place. They may not approach until the signal is given. Then they can rush the bins and start digging. It was fascinating.

Customers waiting for the signal to dig in

Customers waiting for the signal to dig in

As we poked our way through the clothes, furniture, games, shoes and more, we felt like tourists. Janelle mentioned to a woman digging into the clothes that this was our first time at the outlet. She stopped her methodical search to shake her head and say, “I pity you.” She didn’t elaborate, but I think it was because we’d missed this experience for so much of our lives.

After a little more conversation, the woman said. “I got bit once.” Bit? I immediately wondered if it was a flea or a rat.

Janelle asked, “What bit you?”

“A person.”

A person? A person! We immediately needed to hear the story. Our protagonist had found some shoes in a bin. The other woman wanted them and so used her choppers. Our acquaintance then said to the biter, “You don’t want to go there with me” In a menacing tone. She bought the shoes. We later realized we’d been so fascinated by this spontaneous storytelling that we hadn’t asked where she had been bitten. We also guessed that she would have kept the shoes even if they didn’t fit, after the indignity of being bitten.

We left the store with a few pounds of thrift store dregs** and a story. Guess which will last longer?

*While I do shop occasionally at Goodwill, I don’t think it’s a great business. They get stuff for free, and the CEO has a gigantic salary. Still, it keeps things out of the landfill and allows me to buy clothes and other things at prices I can afford. Modern dilemmas.

** I got a TV antenna. It doesn’t work as well as the one I already had, so it will go into my next yard sale. It cost $1.82.

Random pictures from Sofia

What I should be doing right now is preparing for a workshop and performance I'll be doing with my friend Tzveta tomorrow, in Bulgarian. What I'm doing instead is looking at some of the pictures I've taken over the past few weeks. Here are some:


This homeless beauty lives around the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences complex, so I see her when I go to the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum. She's gentle, except when it comes to cars. She barks fiercely at them. [The archivist later explained that she is well cared for by the people who work in the building. She barks at cars because one hit her. She was taken to the vet and was in a cast for a month.]

Many street people in Sofia have baby buggies to carry their belongings or to carry what they find in the dumpsters. This was one of the prettiest I've seen. 

Sofia is a mix of old and new, gritty and sparkling. Here's a lovely chandelier in the Dvorets, or Palace. This grand building, once home of the czar, now houses the Ethnographic Museum and a part of the National Gallery. 

This feline stands guard outside the Sofia University library. 

I know, I've posted tons of pictures of Alexander Nevski Cathedral, but this is the first with tulips in the foreground.

On Easter, my friends from 31 years ago were visiting and we went out to eat. Here are the Easter eggs the restaurant gave us at the end of our meal, tucked into a nest. In the foreground is freshly baked bread, which we dipped into sharena sol, a mix of herbs and salt, served on typical Bulgarian pottery. 

How do all these fit together? They don't, really, except that I liked the images. And here, as the last picture, is the missing piece of the puzzle.:


Disclaimer: This is not an official Fulbright Program publication. The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations. 

Old and new

Lately I've been noticing the mix of old and new that is Sofia. It's a fascinating place, full of contradictions. Architecture is tremendously mixed, as you can see from this old building sandwiched between two newer structures:

From my kitchen window, I see an old building reflected in a new building (this was a few weeks ago, when we had snow):

At the same time, there's a modern trolleybus that goes by the high-tech audio store a few doors away:

The old trolleybuses used to make a sort of singing sound as they went by, but they don't anymore. As I think I've mentioned, public transport includes trolleys, trams, buses, minibuses and metro. Private transportation includes the usual cars as well as the older forms of transport: 

Speaking of old technology, I've been searching through this card catalog drawer for stories, which are in the archives in paper files:

All that said, Sofia has wi-fi everywhere: in the parks, in the metro station, at cafes and restaurants, and most helpfully, a strong connection in my own apartment. 

Old and new.


Disclaimer: This is not an official Fulbright Program publication. The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.