A few days ago I learned that I will be able to stay in Sofia, Bulgaria, as long as I like once my paternal grandmother is no longer living.
Ever since my last visit to Bulgaria, I discovered within me a longing to explore this country's contours (psychological, geographical, economical, socio-political, etc) in some detail. I'm not sure how long I'd like to stay in the three-bedroom apartment we have there - I might very well get fed up with it after a couple of months - but I think making my own friends in Bulgaria (that is to say, ditching the prejudices accompanying the paradigms of the rapidly aging friends of my parents, and mingling with the savvier, more progressive young things of the landlocked Balkan nation) would be a revealing and even life-changing experience for me.
Almost all of my immigrant friends in australia are more in touch with the culture of their birth than I, probably because I rebelled against mine in a very systematic and intense way, and it's tempting to completely break with it at the first sign of its weaknesses. Yet the weaknesses of Australia abound on my radar too (as do that of any nation). I must conclude that there are many powerful life lessons I could learn by going back to Bulgaria for a while, soaking up the culture, reclaiming, re-rejecting and finally making peace with my roots at a pace that suits me. (For without my parents to prod me with emotional cues, and without my grandma to vouch for the stagnancy of the Communist era, I am left to my own devices, to charm and be charmed, confound and be confounded, as I please.)
Some Australian DJ with an Eastern European background whom mashed up Britney Spears and The Prodigy for fun (this sounded like it could be interesting enough, until I realised that the songs used to illustrate that particular example were 'Smack My B#tch Up' and 'I'm a Slave 4 U' - hellooo to the misogyny implied!) is the only person in recent memory to guess the Eastern European part of my accent's heritage - he noted that people from that region spoke with sharper consonants than usual. (I'm used to getting diverse accounts of my accent, ranging from American to Scandinavian to South African to Irish, though the latter three tend to be from people who haven't been to, or don't have much experience with, America.) I've always enjoyed that enthusiastic, emphatic quality to my consonants, as much as I enjoy the elongated and flowy vowel sounds that people who learn English as a second language often have trouble wrapping their tongues around.
Well, anyway, I wanted to stay in Sofia at the end of the 5 weeks I'm going to spend in Europe this winter/summer, intending to peruse the atmosphere, evade my relatives and travel as extensively within and without the country as possible (hello to Greece, Turkey, Romania, Serbia and Macedonia! And lets not forget the gorgeous discount fares!!!), but I was flatly refused no matter how inventively I represented it as win-win situation. My parents fear that I will place a deathly burden on my eighty-something year old Leo grandmum, and that she will fabricate costs of my upkeep which my dad won't be able to deny.
It's nice to know that it won't always be like this - as much as I don't want a relative to die, I guess there's a bright side to every dark, gloomy event.
Bulgaria seems to have a bright future ahead of it, one way or another: Now that it is breathing democracy in and out, its produce is so much the more interesting, creative and internationally lucrative. How much it gears itself up for innovative lifestyles remains to be seen, but it seems to have a lot of potential. No doubt it will anger and frustrate me a great deal of the time, but I can only hope that I also enjoy the freedom of being able to understand a language that is not English, be able to communicate with ever-shifting sensibilities, and get a feel for a nation that few outsiders of a less Slavic make-up would.
Here's to exploration, folks!~