Day 3: Blagoevgrad and the water wheel
It was hard rolling out of bed Tuesday morning, but we got up early and prepared for our second day with Isus. We drove to his village, and the second he saw us, he got a huge smile on his face and started laughing. He reached right for us, and it was such a special moment. We drove into Blagoevgrad, and rode the elevator to the 5th floor again. Isus was pretty adament that he wanted down, so after walking in circles for a few minutes, he got tripped up and busted his head on the concrete floor. He’s a tough little guy, and only cried for a minute before wanting back down. He just started walking in August, and although he is doing amazing, he has had to work much harder than most kids to get to this point. He is still very unsteady, and Alina usually keeps a harness on him to help him walk. After his fall, we put the harness on him and all stayed a little closer to catch him. He was a trooper, but was pretty grumpy (as would be expected) the rest of the morning.
After meeting at the Social Service office, we all walked to a local bowling alley, to use their indoor playground. I noticed in Bulgaria, that every place has an attached indoor and outdoor playground. Cafes, restaurants, bowling alleys, hotels…….everywhere. It is very nice. Our translator said this is because there is no room in the city for kids to play, so business owners started adding playgrounds to attract more people. This was really the first time we had to play with Isus by ourselves. Our entourage sat in the next room, watching us through the glass, while we played. It was fun, but again…he’s almost 2, so nothing is going to keep his attention for very long. We chased him back and forth on the slide and ball pit, but all he really wanted to do was go out of the play room so he could walk up and down the steps. And up and down the steps. And up and down the steps. And…….you get the idea.
We would say to him, “Zoosy-Busy! Busy! Busy!” and he would repeat us and laugh.
After this, he was very tired and hungry, but we needed to get his picture taken for his Visa. We walked a few blocks to a photo center, and he was not haven’ it. We all thought it would just be a picture of him screaming, but the crazy-photographer (you know how we all are!) had a beard, and kept calling to him and shaking a bell. He stopped crying just long enough to get the most confused look ever on his face…..such a funny picture.
Andy and I had the same goals about our visits with Isus. Having raised 3 two-year-olds, we know how easily they can be over-stimulated, and how a change of routine affects them. Our goal was to spend as much quality time with him as possible…..in as low-key of an environment as we could. So for our second visit, they took us to a carnival. Low-key, right?
For those of you from Norris City, think Bulgarian Dairy Days with older, sketchier rides. In order for us to “bond” with him, they, of course, wanted us to ride with him. So, imagine the only foreigners riding carnival rides intended for 2-4 year olds, and being the only adults riding them…..with a 2-year-old who only wants to get OFF the ride. “Awkward” doesn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Then, to add to the humor, I got in trouble in Bulgarian on one of the bouncy houses with him . When I told the “carnie” that I didn’t understand what he was saying, he strictly said in English, “Get off.” Oh, dear.
So, we politely asked if we could go somewhere “quieter.” We got in the car and drove out of town near the hotel we were staying at, to a restaurant/ farm animal zoo/ park called the Water Wheel. (Think Patti’s at Kentucky Lake.) It was indeed MUCH quieter. We walked around the little “zoo” with him, looking at the deer, turkeys, ponies, rabbits, peacocks, fish, ect. He enjoyed riding on Andy’s shoulders, and trying to stick his fingers in the bunny cage.
We went into the restaurant–which was a traditional old-country style Bulgarian atmosphere– and were the only ones there. Here, Andy and I took turns walking in circles and up and down stairs with him. He loved playing “Stop. Go.” with Andy, and his laughter could be heard through the entire restaurant. When I was helping him on the stairs, I would say, “Bravo! Good job!” And he would repeat, “Good job!”
As it became closer to time for him to eat supper, we all agreed that it would be best if Denis (our translator) drove Alina and Isus back to the village, while we would stay at the restaurant and wait for Denis to return and order supper. (Ending the night with Isus happy and calm!) At this point, only one other couple had entered the restaurant. We said goodnight to Alina and Isus, and Andy decided to take a quick walk outside while I waited at the table. As I sat there, I noticed the woman across the restaurant walking over. She said, “We noticed that you were speaking English. Where are you from?” Come to find out this couple–Jerry and Debbie–were from Albequerque, NM, and were in Blagoevgrad teaching at the University for 2 weeks. Andy returned, and we visited with them. After 4 days of struggling to communicate, it was so nice to have a relaxed conversation. (Another sweet balm.)
Denis returned and helped us choose some very authentic food to eat. Just to give you an idea, the entire meal consisted of stuffed mushrooms and fried cheese appetizers, bread, multiple bottles of water and beer and soda and juice, salads, my cheese and tomato dish (don’t get me started on my obsession with Bulgarian cheese!), Andy’s buttered beef tongue, Denis’s entree, and probably a few other items. Cost in dollars? $22. The food is beautiful, delicious, and artfully presented, and very inexpensive. We listened to live Bulgarian folk music, then headed back to the hotel to end the night.