Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Life in the Trenches: Eva Popov Bowen

I am very excited to introduce Eva Popov Bowen. Eva is one of my oldest blog-buddies. We've been reading each other's blogs for years AND she's the one who gave me the idea of instituting Life in the Trenches Wednesday. She's also Vely Zajec's little sister. ENJOY!

Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? Where do you currently live? Where are you and your partner from?

Hi Everyone! My name is Eva Bowen (though most Bulgarians would spell my name as Iva. I am Iva Popova on my BG passport, and Eva Popov on my US passport; it's all very confusing ;). I was born in 1979 in Sofia, Bulgaria and lived there until 1991 when my family moved to the U.S. I now live in Southern California with my [American] husband Bret, daughter Maya, and two big, hairy dogs, Whitney & Riley. My mom, dad and sister and I all live really close to each other. I work for an Asset Management/Financial Planning firm and Bret is a teacher. Maya is currently employed as the cutest 16-month old baby girl.

How did you and your partner meet?

Bret and I met 10 years ago at a party, a mutual friend introduced us. The following night Bret and his roommates were having a band play at their house and he invited us over. We've basically been together since the night we met.

How did your friends and family initially respond to your relationship?
My friends loved Bret. We already had some mutual friends, so we all sort of hung out together. My parents were a bit skeptical at first -- Bret is a lifeguard in the summers, so when my mom and dad met him, he was super tan with wild blond hair, he was 24 and I was 19.

Have their reactions changed?
When my parents found out he was a MATH teacher and a "responsible young man" they softened up a lot. Now? Now, if my dad calls the house and I happen to pick up, the conversation goes something like this: "Hi Iventze (oh yeah, here's something that's confusing for Americans … all the nicknames we have for each other). How are you? Can I talk to Bret?"

How do your different backgrounds play into your relationship?
I would say Bret's upbringing is very traditionally American and mine more of a mixture of Bulgarian and American. I feel like I was exposed to more and have a little more of an understanding of other cultures and traditions.

What are some of your biggest cultural clashes: food, social life, domesticity, communication, family?
Food – this is our biggest clash. Bret is meat and potatoes. I am shopska salata and tarator. Thankfully, we both agree on dessert.
Social life – it is currently close to non-existent (see 16-month old above)
Domesticity – Bret's mom stayed home and his dad worked. I think this is how he envisioned his future family. My mom and dad both worked. I always knew I would need to have my own career, even when I had children.
Communication/Family – in general, Bulgarians are louder communicators. I think my family always "out talked" Bret's family. I also talk to my family on the phone a lot. Usually several times a day. I still check in with my mom and dad.

What do you love about being in such a relationship?
I love that we get to celebrate additional holidays. I love that we've both added traditions that were not a part of our lives before we met. I love that it has made us more open-minded.

Do you have kids? What part does "BULGARIA" play in their lives?

I want "BULGARIA" and "AMERICA" to play equal roles in Maya's life. I always said "my kid will absolutely speak Bulgarian." I am already behind the ball on that, I find myself speaking English to Maya 90% of the time. I have also learned that so many of my pre- conceived notions of motherhood and the "always" and "nevers" in regards to children were just plain wrong and/or unattainable, but that's a whole other topic!

How often do you travel to Bulgaria and what are your visits like?
Not nearly as often as I'd like. A huge reason for the lack of frequent trips is my job and the fact that I only have three weeks of vacation a year. Yes, to the Bulgarian/European readers, three weeks for the entire year! Vacations and maternity leave are awful in the US. Anyhow, you need at least two to three weeks for a proper Bulgarian trip, which makes balancing vacation time rough.

Has your relation to Bulgaria changed as a result of your being in this relationship?
Even thought I don't make the physical trip over to Bulgaria as often as I'd like, I have a very strong connection to Bulgaria. We still have lots of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends there. And having my immediate family here has kept my Bulgarian-ness even though I've lived in the US longer than I lived in Bulgaria. I don't think my relationship to Bulgaria has changed because I am married to a non-Bulgarian.

Any advice for other people who are in the early stages of a committed relationship with a Bulgarian?
Hmm. Not great at relationship advice, but since you ask ;) Expect that his/her Bulgarian relatives will talk very loud, will greet you with a kiss on the cheek (both men and women). Expect to eat a lot during family gatherings. Learn to love rakia. Otherwise, pretty much all other relationship rules apply…

Thanks for doing this, Petya! Are you (and your husband) going to answer these questions?


To answer your question, I didn't think I would want to participate in the series, but you guys have been giving such thoughtful, interesting and entertaining answers to my questions that I have been thinking about how all these things play out in my own marriage. So, I guess, I might reconsider. Kyle said he'd be up for it too. Before that, though, next week I am introducing you to Yolina who lives in Zurich with her German-Swiss husband Marcel. As always, let me know if you would like to participate in the series.


  1. Petya, I feel like a little bit of a celebrity being on your blog :) Thank you for including me!

  2. Another great one! Thanks Eva and Petya! Where are the partner's interviews though? I was really hoping we could read those! :)

  3. Eva, awesome interview! I am reading what i said and what you said about the kids and i think we really should take it up a notch with the Bulgarian!!!!!!! I almost feel embarrased they don't speak it and admitting to it! even at the cost of them getting a bit confused at first we should do it. they are all smart kids, they'll figure it out. Get this, I recently realized the lady who watches Ian for those few hrs a wk speaks a whole lot more spanish to him than i thought. He seems to be understanding her!!!! holly crap, what kinda Bulgarians are we? our kids are speaking Spanish. Anyways, cute choice of photos Eva.

    Sasha, ok those are not husbands, those are just holograms, Eva and I are faking all this. hahaha. no, my hubby actually answered the questions too and its pretty funny. We'll get Bret to do it too and may be Petya can do one 'American husbands... of the bulgarian sisters' post ??!
    I don't know Petya, its your show. A real fun ine to be a part of too :)
    Come to think of it the comparative conversations that occur between John and Bret are funny too.. like "oh my god, does she do that too?" or "does she put such and such in her food too?"

  4. Eva & Vely:
    You two are too cute! I forgot to mention that I am planning to publish John's response next week. What if I sent that to Bret and asked him to comment (agree, disagree, mock, whatever)? That way we would totally get to experience some of the "what-she-does-that-too-?!" that Vely was referring to. Consult the husbands and let me know what you think!

    I am trying to get a good intersection of people: Bulgarians, non-Bulgarians, people living in the States, Europe, etc.