My Favourite Childhood Poem

I was just sitting in the park today when, all of a sudden, I remembered a line from a childhood poem. I feel like in most European kids have to memorize poems by heart when growing up. (My Italian flatmate did confirm this, so we’re 2/2). Reading the poem again made all the memories of being a 3 years old in Sofia come back.

And to this day, РОДНА СТРЯХА is one of my favourite pieces of writing:

Бяла, спретната къщурка,
две липи отпред.
Тука майчина милувка
сетих най-напред.

Тука, под липите стари
не веднъж играх;
тука с весели другари
скачах и се смях…

Къщичке на дните злати,
кът свиден и мил!
И за царските палати
не бих те сменил!

Book Review: Contagious

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How To Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age…by Jonah Berger (Stanford MBA Alumni and Wharton Professor)

Over the last 3 days, I read ‘Contagious’ – at 210 pages, it’s a quick and enjoyable read filled with great examples and easy to understand language. Berger focuses on his research on defining the six qualities of how products, services, and ideas spread through the human population. You can make content contagious by following these STEPPS:

S – Social Currency – people share to make themselves look cool.

T – Triggers – people share things that are top of mind and tip of tongue.

E – Emotion – not positive versus negative emotions, but the key is high arousal.

P – Public – if you can’t see it, you can’t share it.

P – Practical Value – Useful news.

S- Stories – like the Trojan Horse, wrap your product or service into a narrative.

It’s a great book for anyone in marketing, product, or business. I’d say a 3.7/5 read. And he mentions some pretty great YouTube videos (like the Parisian Love one I posted about) or this one about corn:

Now, I’m going to start a Bulgarian comedy called ‘ожених се за веганка’ (I married a vegan). And I’m going to read the book in a lovely coffee shop in Sofia called Chucky’s Coffee & Culture.

чао за сега!

The small things: Bulgarian Edition

Almost every summer, I go back to see my friends and family in Bulgaria. I always end up doing the same trip around the country – starting with Sofia, going to Plovdiv and then Krichim (a little farming village where my grandparents live). This time, I managed to also take a day trip to Пазарджик.

And there are a few moments that made me appreciate the life and people here as I’ve experienced it over the years:

  1. Sitting on the curb in front of my grandpa’s house and eating sunflower seeds. Some of the best pointless, but meaningful discussions have happened over sunflower seeds. Did you know we have a very specific verb in Bulgarian for the act of opening a seed with your teeth? ‘Aс чопла семки!’
  2. Watching a Turkish adaptation of the OC show with Bulgarian voices dubbed over and having to explain that my life in Orange County is nothing like it’s represented on the screen!
  3. Nature – when driving around Bulgaria, I’m always overwhelmed by the beauty of the countryside. In fields of roses, wheat, and tomatoes, I find the most interesting shapes that are cast by the puffy clouds above. Somehow my thoughts also seem to wander, between the rows of cherry trees and mountain ranges, as the car calmly passes by a small tractor on the road.
  4. Fighting to pay the check – it’s an honour to pay the bill. At the end of the night, There’s always a critical act of theatre in which each protagonist defends their family honour. (I managed to win last night, but only because I snuck in ‘to go to the bathroom’ and paid before my cousins could slip the waiter cash for the whole table!)
  5. Hospitality – within seconds of walking into someone’s home, the table will be filled with biscuits, chocolates, roasted peanuts, and fresh fruit.  Just as it’s a rule to never go over to someone’s house empty-handed, you must also be ready to accept guests  into your home at all times.
  6. Eating so much fresh watermelon that your stomach hurts, but your taste buds are satisfied with the taste of summer.

Чао! До скоро!

How to grow a watermelon according to Grandpa Todorov

Being a curious human being (that is currently stuck in the middle of a farming village) – I decided to document my grandpa’s methodology for growing watermelons. We sat outside in 28 degrees Celius heat as he calmly dictated the following knowledge (in Bulgarian, so excuse any mistranslations):

Different regions of the country have different planting conditions and temperatures, so the timing various between each region. He normally seeds between 20th of April to 10th of May. When the plant sprouts from the ground, it takes roughly 60-90 days to pick the fully ripened watermelon. The watermelon plant is most abundant in his region in August (starting to ripen from about the 10th of August).

You plant the seeds directly into the soil on the field when the ground is 12- 15 degrees Celsius. (If you want to start growing the watermelons earlier in the year, you can seed them after the 15th of March in soil bots and keep them in warmer temperatures or greenhouses until the farmland is ready to take them.

You plant the seeds in rows and the seed should be 2-3 centimetres below the ground. The distance between rows should be 2 meters and within the rows, my grandpa plants 4-5 seeds in one place with a meter in between each bunch of seeds. Once the roots have sprouted above land, they make sure there are only 2-3 roots left in the place.

After the roots come out and are not fully ready to be ploughed, if there are natural causes (illnesses, humidity, insects), you can use protective spray. And when the rows get to a height of 10 centimetres, you plough the soil and add manoeuvre and you add extra nutrients to the soil.

Depending on the land, the watering happens at various times. If the soil is dense and can retain water – you can water less regularly and later in the process. Another factor is the weather and the amount of rainfall. However, in my grandpa’s field, they need to water the watermelon plants 7-8 times in the year on average. In order to counter weeds, you may need to plough the rows a second time.

How do you know the watermelon is ready? The best way is to look at the root of the watermelon that connects to the main stem. There should be a little leaf and a long curly sprout. When these two elements dry out, the watermelon is ready to be picked.

The second way is more effective for larger lands of watermelons. When the budded fruit is the size of an apple or a closed fist, the farmer adds a line/scratch mark to the outside of the watermelon. In exactly one month, the fruit is ready to be picked.

Once picked, they can last up to 1-2 months if held in a cool place.

There is a myth that you can knock the watermelon for a hollow sound. My grandparents claim this is (completely and utterly in their words) false. When my grandpa goes to buy watermelon at the store, he looks at:

  1. The core should not be dark green; it should have a slight light yellow tint (light lime green).
  2. If there is a bit of the root left on the watermelon and you rip it off, there should be a pink juice that oozes out after five minutes. That’s a guarantee it’s ripe.
  3. After years and years of growing watermelon, my grandpa can tell from the weight versus the size of the fruit.

Now I’m off to eat my third portion of watermelon slices….

HOW TO make jam, compote, and memories in Bulgaria.

I spent this past week in Bulgaria. More precisely, I was in Sofia and a little town called Krichim visiting my grandparents, who are farmers. I absolutely love going to the countryside for the FOOD. Everything is locally grown, produced, created, and made… even down to the wine, vinegar, and jam. This time, I decided to write down and share my grandpa’s knowledge of jam making in my sketchbook.

plum

Here is the general process… and I’ve included pictures! Enjoy and please DO try this at home if you have the time, patience, and equipment.

Instructions for Making Jam

  1. Wash the fruit
  2. Cut the plums in half and take out the seed
  3. Place all the fruit in a bowl
  4. Mix according to these proportions:
    • 2 bowls of fruit
    • 1 bowl of sugar
  5. Leave the mixture to soak overnight
  6. The next day, boil the mixture while constantly stirring and removing any foam that forms
  7. Boil until the jam until it reaches the proper thickness/consistency… which should take about 30 minutes
  8. Before removing from the flame, add one teaspoon of lemon juice
  9. After the plum mixture has cooled down, distribute the jam into jars
  10. Close each jar using the pressurized cap machine.
  11. Boil the jars again for 5-7 minutes
  12. Let the jars cool down and then store them for the winter months!

TRAVELING, blogging, and drawing.

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I’m currently at Heathrow Terminal 1 about to debark towards Sofia, Bulgaria. There is nothing better than siting down with a coffee and my sketchbook at the airport. The rush of adventure, the fear of take-off, the assurance that I’ve passed security, and the calm of coffee. I remember my elementary teachers saying that you remember things better if you write them down. I don’t know whether that is scientifically proven, but I find it to be true. Therefore, I try to reflect and write down my impressions and reflections of my travels. This trip will be purely personal (going to visit family) but equally offers the opportunity for diversity and variation in my life. So for now, I say bye and здрасти София … Предстегам след 6 цаса… Имам престой в Германия.

Undercover as a Bulgarian TV star.

This summer, I worked with the Coordinator of Productions and TV Drama Executive producer at Sia Productions to help with the pre-production and production of season 4 for ‘Undercover’ – one of the most popular bulgarian TV shows. I wanted to sneak in one of the shots to claim some foreign fame – but alas, I was on duty for the sound recording equiptment most of the time.

Here’s the tailer for Season 3!