Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Breeze in Bulgaria, a Review

“Adventurers from the Peace Corps". This was the title of an article that appeared in Zname, a local paper in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik in September 2002. The reporter asked newcomers Bruce McDonald and his wife Stormy what they expected from their two-year stay in Bulgaria.

“When I heard about the Peace Corps it was appealing because it is something that can increase understanding between the US and other countries," Stormy replied. Bulgaria is a wonderful place and we believe that we will also learn more about ourselves, by working here and learning from the Bulgarian people.”

A couple serving in the Peace Corps is not totally unusual, but Bruce and Stormy were already on their way to retirement and becoming grandparents. Leaving family behind in the States and going to live in a foreign country such as Bulgaria is quite a challenge for Americans in their fifties.

Wait a minute! That's what my wife and I did as well, when we accepted job relocations to Sofia for two years. However, there was a major difference between our stay in Bulgaria and that of the McDonalds. While we lived the comfortable lives of ex-pats working in a high-tech environment, Bruce and Stormy were totally immersed in Bulgarian culture and language, and lived the lives of ordinary Bulgarians.

The McDonalds, like us, realized that their opportunity to live and work in Bulgaria was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," a “window in time.”

The first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Bulgaria in 1991, shortly after the country changed its political system. When Bruce arrived eleven years later, he said, "We felt this was such a good place to be because of the big changes that were in process here in the transition to a democratic society and a new market system."

Bruce and Stormy arrived in Bulgaria, were assigned a host family in the village of Panagyurishte, and taught English in the town of Pazardjik. In order to fulfill their duties they needed to master conversational Bulgarian. They adapted to their challenges quickly, making friends, shopping in the markets, drinking rakia, and dancing the horo, the traditional Bulgarian folk dance. And they spoke enough Bulgarian to get by.

A Breeze in Bulgaria is the McDonalds' memoir of their Peace Corps experience in Bulgaria. "This Peace Corps memoir is about people," Bruce writes on his website. "Strange customs, unfamiliar assumptions and ways of thinking, austerity and living close to the earth, sure, but really about people.

The book reads almost like a conversation with the author, as he describes his daily routine and the many adventures and new experiences he encounters along the way. Travel around Bulgaria, volunteering in an orphanage, slaughtering a pig, canning preserves for the winter, and preparing lesson plans are all explained in detail.

The McDonalds' stay in Bulgaria was not without hardship, as a dramatic turn of events took determination and hard work to overcome.

Readers will enjoy this colorful introduction to Bulgaria, a beautiful country with a long history and a proud heritage. The Bulgarians who played roles in the McDonalds' story are warm and eager to welcome foreigners into their homes. Bruce and Stormy McDonald provide us with so many memorable stories, anecdotes and adventures that we can't help but want to make a visit to Bulgaria.

Buy A Breeze in Bulgaria and read it now!

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