Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The draft.

Bulgarian culture is a strange mix of atheism, cultural Christianity and superstition. We don't go to church but love celebrating Christmas, Easter and St. George's day. So much so that they are all national holidays. We used to have one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the former socialist block but are full believers in folk remedies. We dip our feet in salty water when we've got a cold and tell our women that if they want to have any hope of having a child at some point in their life, they should never, under no circumstances sit on cold stones. We are also terrified that става течение, i.e. we are absolutely horrified that we might be standing in the way of the draft.

The draft is any unwanted, ever-so-gentle movement of air a Bulgarian is exposed to. It is considered a major threat to one's health and is constantly to be fought against. Maybe I am stretching things a bit here, but I would go out on a limb and say that the draft is one of the most common reasons for public fights in Bulgaria. People on public transportation fight for seats away from the door so that they can escape the draft, or get mad at those who want to keep the bus windows open. Never mind the fact that it's 35C outside. You get the idea, no?

Kyle used to joke about the draft while we lived in Sofia. He used to say, It's not a draft. It's called air! at which I would just roll my eyes and snuggle in my scarf.

Last night we decided to leave our window open as we went to bed because we thought it would be nice to get some fresh air in our bedroom. At some point this morning still more than half asleep I heard Kyle sneak out of bed, close the window and mutter to himself

...Става течение.


  1. I love it! This is such a Bulgarian thing. Why??

  2. Kyle for president!
    Of Bulgaria :).
    Cheers, both of you

  3. It's an Eastern European thing, not only Bulgarian. Talk to any Russian they are scared s***less of it too.
    The thing is that once you stop thinking about it its magic powers are gone!
    Same with the wet hair in the cold. :-)

  4. I love the ending. Priceless.

  5. hahaha love it

    You know you are Bulgarian when...

    You don't want to have or do any business with Bulgarians.

    You started to drink at the age of 12.

    It takes over 8 years to finish college.

    You live with your mom and dad until you are married.

    When you make jokes based on your own tragedy.

    At your wedding you know only about a third of the guests.

    Your mom uses lard instead of Crisco to fry eggs...and tells you it's
    good for you.

    Duck tape is your father's only tool next to using a kitchen knife as
    a screwdriver.

    Your 15 year old sister can out-drink any American.

    At least one of your friends' nickname is "Sasho".

    Your father calls you a dummy for not knowing how to do something he
    can't do either.

    You drive a better car than your parents.

    There is a 120-gallon barrel of wine and cabbage in your garage.

    There is more alcohol in your liquor cabinet than at the local bar.

    You are 18 years old but your parents still call you by your sibling's
    or pet's name.

    You can hear your dad snoring from across the street.

    Your baba and diado live in your basement.

    Your dad's sneeze scares you.

    Your dad carries around enough money to buy a car.

    Both your parents had to walk to school barefoot in the snow, 5 km
    uphill - both ways - and over rocks and they make sure to remind you
    every time you get in your car.

    There is at least one relative that your family refuses to talk to.

    Being someone's best man really has no meaning.

    Your church has a fully loaded bar.

    Your parents have a shot of rakiya for breakfast.

    You have a Bulgarian cross, flag, or icon, hanging from your rear view mirror.

    If you're a girl and not married by the age of 20 you are an old maid.

    You base your whole life on the fortune in your coffee cup.

    Your mom tells you not to sit on cement or your ovaries will freeze.

    There is a slab of fat in your fridge called 'slanina.'

    When your baba will not accept the fact that you're not hungry.

    You go to a restaurant and you bring your own drinks.

    You live for the annual soccer tournament.

    When your grandma insists that farting is healthy.

    All of your elderly acquaintances are scared of drafts.

    When you can hear your parents talking and you are across the street.

    When you're a girl, and you dye your hair no other color than burgundy.

    Everyone is sure you're Greek or Italian.

    No one has ever pronounced your name right, and every kid on the block
    has a different nickname for it.

    When you can always smell garlic on your parents breath and they
    insist that is kills bacteria.

    When your mother yells at you for taking a shower each and every
    morning with her sarcasm "Did you plow the fields today?"

    When no matter how old you are, your parents never say you're right.

    When you're 6'5 and 150 kg and your parents still think you are too skinny.

    When you're hungry, and then you go and buy a pack of smokes.

    When your baba would rather walk 5 miles to the grocery store instead
    of pay a quarter to take the bus.

    When you have a chicken running in your back yard.

    When your father is talking to you and every other word he calls you is budala.

    You have a shot of rakiya followed by 4erno kafe and a pack of
    Marlboro for breakfast.

    You sport the latest Nike and Adidas outfits but have never exercised
    in your life.

    You always have the latest mobile phone on the market.

    You can spend 3 hrs in a Cafe drinking the same cup of coffee.

    Calling someone for a chat at 1 am on a weeknight is normal.

    When your parents call relatives in Bulgaria and they have to shout to be heard.

    As soon as you tell a neighbor you're Bulgarian they usually scream
    STOICKOV with a weird accent.

    When you're married with kids and your mother still insists on cooking for you.

    When you beg a friend who's going back to Bulgaria to buy you some
    "good" cigarettes.

    When you step on poop and your mom tells you that it's a sign of luck or money.

    You know you're Bulgarian when you're 25, live on your own, and still
    sneak up the stairs when you get home at six in the morning.

    Your parents insist that piling blankets on you body is the way to
    cure your 102 degree fever.

    When you started going to clubs when you were 14.

    When you think chalga is good music.

    When you are never certain whether stay abroad or return to Bulgaria.

    You know you're Bulgarian when your dad thinks everyone in China has a
    black belt.

    When people still think that you are from Bolivia no matter how many
    times you say you're from Bulgaria.

    When your parents' friends have no shame in telling you you've gained weight.

    You know you're Bulgarian when all you have to do is sniffle and your
    parents say "uh-huh" and start yelling at you for getting sick.

    You are adored the first 10 years of your life, then treated like a
    complete idiot until you get married.

    You move next door to a family member to be closer but then end up not
    talking to each other because of something stupid you said when you
    were drunk.


  6. Also, it's very bad to let your child sweat from running around, to drink cold drinks, especially cold carbonated ones. Eating ice cream in the winter is also dangerous for your throat. :)

  7. Regarding the DRAFT... I absolutely agree it is an obsession of ours. Still, I want to belabor the definition. Technically, the open window does not cause draft. Neither can we speak of a draft when we are in the open air, even if it is windy. The draft is present whenever there is, say, a window, and also a door or another window open in the same room or flat. If we're in the open, the draft can be found rarely in facilities such as tunnels. Regarding an open window on a bus, yes, I agree this causes draft although it is not as tricky as a draft in its classical form. The tricky thing about the classical draft is that it is a constant movement of the air between two openings present in the enclosed space. Thus, just when one is most relaxed and unsuspecting, the draft creeps in, does its vile job and VOILA!!! You're down with a cold!

  8. Just thought of another superstition that I have mocked all my life but now consider it has basis in reality. Those of you who have spent at least some parts of their childhood in rural Bulgaria or at least in a house may remember adults' insistence that if children play with fire, they will basically pee on their pants by night. As a person who is absolutely fascinated with fires, I have spent hours playing with them in an almost hypnotized state of mind. Therefore, I can confirm that one does tend to get up at night to visit the bathroom after such an activity. I also think, now that I know better, that there's a good reason for that. Fires are often made in cold nights, but, because the front of one's body is very warm when one is close to the fire, we tend not to notice how cold our back becomes. Thus, spending a long time very close to a fire with a very warm front and a rather cold back, tends to disturb the kidneys a little and leads to more frequent visits to the bathroom. This is especially so for young children who are more fragile and at the same time get very absorbed in activities such as playing with fire and become oblivious to outside conditions such as the cold night. This long explanation is to say that some of these superstitions tend to have some basis in reality.
    My grandmother used to say that if I sing while dining, I will elope. Now that seemed too much!

  9. All of this brings back memories of living in Russia.

    I remember being told to take mineral water baths in increments starting low in duration and temperature and gradually building up. Of course, not having experienced running water in months, I took the hottest possible bath and soaked for half an hour at least. God damn it if I didn't catch a cold shortly thereafter, to the smug satisfaction of many a Russian and Buryat...

    Also, I was extremely embarassed to have my Russian history professor abruptly stop his lecture outside at Kronshdat and frantically yell at me, in front of the entire class, that if I value my potential motherhood and ovaries, I should immediately get off the stone bench I was sitting on. I was mortified, and yet touched by his concern for my unborn children.

    For the record, though, I do believe in The Draft. Perhaps not as fervently as Russians and Bulgarians do, but I have been a victim of its wrath on the Trans-Siberian. Americans could do to be a little more wary of it.

    The cold drinks ban and the bathing-yourself-in-vinegar-while-naked cure for the the common cold, however, will never hold that same regard in my outlooks on health...

  10. now, even Kyle, can understand my astonishment when I heard the people in Seychelles swearing that there is nothing worse than the air conditioning and that the DRAFT is the best divine miracle in the world that could only save you from getting cold...

  11. v-ka!
    no sympathy for you!!! i will take suffering the heat at the Seychelles over air-conditioning anytime. ;)

  12. Great! :D hahaha.. I laughed a lot :)

  13. it is so cool :) i really love this blog :D and the draft thing is so true.... it is a superstition more or less but we Bulgarians are so obsessed with it because from an early age we hear that standing in the draft is bad for our health... :D the end of the story is very funny :D става течение :D

  14. hahaha, my fiance Radoslav's father Ivan kept closing windows on us and telling me I would get sick! meanwhile i was sweating and about to pass out, but I guess being wet it would be even more harmful to be exposed to the draft!