So my streak of sunrises ended this morning when I didn’t hear the alarm. I woke up 30 minutes late and caught the tail end of the sky changing colors. It wasn’t a total disappointment but still a failure. We arrived outside the port of Varna, Bulgaria around noon yesterday but we just had to hang out till tonight around 7 pm. We got to use the tenders in the morning to get on land and explore the city. After breakfast Rudy, Andrew, Erik, Julie, Dan O., Shane, and I walked to the center of town, taking in the new and unique culture of Bulgaria. None of us know much about the country and this is the first time SAS has ever gone here.
We had lunch at Makalali Club on the beach. Julie and I shared a Marco Polo pizza and margaritas. Who knew that Varna was a resort town? It seems to be pretty popular for European tourists and has a nice beach. After lunch I went on the “Wonders of Bulgaria” trip with SAS. Our first stip was Aladzha Monastery. The monastery is a collection of limestone caves from the 13th century. The monks who lived in the monastery were part of the Doctrine of Holy Light order. They values silence and stillness which is why they chose this isolated location for their monastery. We climbed around in the caves for a while then jumped back on the bus to head to Golden Sands, a major resort location. Golden Sans is a beach with several popular hotels, restaurants, bars, discos, and beach activities. We ran into a man advertising a restaurant who had never met and American before. I’m not sure if he was joking or not but he said he had only seen Americans on TV. He was so excited to meet us; it was like a little kid meeting his hero. After exploring Golden Sands and scoping out some evening activities, the tour took us to the Stone Forest. The Stone Forest was formed almost 50 million years ago when the area was actually an ocean. The pillars that make up the Stone Forest are made of clay and limestone that formed underwater like stalagmites/tites. There are many mythical stories connected to these pillars; about positive energy, luck etc. Upon returning to port after our tour, I shoveled down an appetizer at a local restaurant before jumping on another bus for an FDP for my education class.
Jenny took us to the Medical University of Varna to meet undergraduate students our age for a reception they students planned by themselves. We were warmly welcomed by about 30 students. They took us on a tour of their school where we visited the cadaver lab, the library, and a classroom. This university is a program that students attend right out of high school. So for 6 years, 18 to 24, they study medicine and then take a test to be a certified doctor in the EU. To be specialized in any area they spend time training under a doctor. It’s strange to think that people so close to my age are almost doctors. Outside, in the courtyard, we were served snacks and drinks while some professors played guitar and accordion and sang. After being entertained with their original music, the dj put on some traditional Bulgarian songs. One student asked if anyone would like to learn a traditional dance. I threw Jon’s hand in the air so he was pulled up to the front. He dragged me up there with him and we joined hands with the Bulgarian students. The dance is sort of a conga line with stepping, grape-vining, and skipping. It was fairly easy to catch on and soon enough almost every SAS and Bulgarian student was dancing. I had an amazing time getting to know the students and exchanged some emails. Hopefully we will all keep in touch.
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Meeting people my age and talking to them like I talk to my friends from home was an amazing experience here in Bulgaria. I really wish SAS would organize opportunities like this to meet our peers in each country. Some people even made plans for swimming tomorrow with the students. I think being with people our age gives us a different perspective. Especially if we aren’t into meeting strangers, this field trip is a safe way to meet locals.
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I got cranky because I didn’t get dinner and I had been away from the boat for more than 12 hours today. I need a shower.