I am a volunteer in the Young Citizens of Armenia project at KASA Swiss Humanitarian Foundation. I am also a student in the department of Translation Studies at YSU. This year I decided to take a break from my heavy university schedule and to enjoy my summer vacations somewhere else. I had been looking for a short-term EVS project for a long time and finally I found one in Bulgaria. So I decided not to miss my chance to travel and to have new adventures. At first, everybody (including me) was surprised at my choice because I had never been interested in visiting Bulgaria. Moreover, the project is devoted to archeology which has nothing in common with my profession. However I was lucky enough to be selected by my host organization and now I’m here enjoying my time in the beautiful Balkans.
Being almost in the middle of my project I have already experienced the cultural shock that any EVS volunteer happens to face during his stay in a foreign country. First, an important advice to all those who are their first time to Bulgaria. Never trust the gestures of Bulgarian people!!! Never! The cultural shock for me started in the streets of Sofia when I asked something to people and they answered “No” with a positive nodding of head, or “yes” while shaking their heads negatively. What??? People! Help! They are kidding me!!! Fortunately, I already had some Bulgarian friends who explained me that trusting the gestures is not the best idea here, you’d better wait for a verbal answer.
In general, Bulgarians are friendly and hospitable people, very proud of their country. They have “the most delicious pizza (with potatoes and ketchup and mayonnaise), the most ancient archaeological sites, the most important pottery, and yes… the best mineral water in the world and probably the second in Bulgaria”. Well, I am not sure about all these things above, but I’m sure that Bulgaria has a really wonderful nature and is a perfect place for those who are fond of hiking. You can climb the Rhodope Mountains or just take the slow train and enjoy the breathtaking view over the green lands. I also like the old cities of Bulgaria which have their own architectural style and color, and there is always something interesting happening there; a concert, a dance festival, etc.
I was surprised to discover that Bulgaria is quite a multicultural country and Bulgarians are very tolerant towards the national minorities. You can see gypsies travelling on train with their whole families without tickets and nobody seems to be really concerned about it. Being Christian Orthodox themselves, Bulgarians have a Synagogue, a Mosque and a Catholic Church right in the center of Sofia. Cities with large Armenian communities have also an Armenian church and an Armenian cultural center with schools and other institutes.
Apart from discovering Bulgaria, I have the chance to learn more about archeology through my own experience and to meet other young people from different countries. There are 11 people in our project who come from Estonia, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Romania. It is really cool to learn about their culture and making good friends despite the diversity of national backgrounds. In my return to Armenia I will probably speak some Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian and only one word in Estonian. Almost forgot to add… my Italian friends are learning “Վահագնի ծնունդը” in Armenian and it sounds really sweet with their Italian accent.
Now I have almost a month left in Bulgaria, and I’m looking forward to new discoveries at the archaeological sites and fun adventures on the sunny beaches of Bulgaria!!!
Armine Marukyan, Animator of English Club in Yerevan