. Small children go a long way in breaking the ice. For most of the weekend we just sat around and relaxed in the courtyard. I thot the Spanish knew how to take it easy, but they've got nothing on Bulgarians. The meals lasted a couple hours, and there didn't seem to be the concept of eating before your food got cold. They would leave their dishes out for 20 minutes or more while talking. But the food tasted just as good cold as it did while it was hot. I got my first taste of rakia, home made bulgarian whiskey made from grapes, which is dangerous stuff. There's a reason they don't do american style shots here - rakia is anywhere from 50 to 75% alcohol. Instead they drink sips out of their shot sized glasses.
After a long dinner on Saturday night the young people went to midnight mass at a monastery up higher in the mountain. The babies stayed home with the babas (Kami cried because she wanted to come too.) Mass was really different than I was expecting. Before midnight there wasn't enough room for most people inside the church where monks were chanting. The orthodox monks had black bushy beards and dressed in black clothes, not robes. We were dressed in jeans and stood around outside waiting for midnight, it seemed kind of social, a lot of people were even having a cigarette. While we were waiting we also bought tall thin candles to light. My family's not very religious, but they still do all the orthodox traditions
. At midnight a monk rang some bells outisde, and we all walked around the church. We were supposed to go around 3 times but only went once, I didn't get a clear answer out of Dessi later about that. Then we listened to some monks chanting (in Bulgaria) in front of an altar set up outside. After the chanting we got to break our eggs which we brought with us. You take your egg and hit it against another person's, and if your egg doesn't break you win. Then we got back in the car and drove down to the one and only bar in the town, basically a concrete one room building dressed up with curtains and flowers.
On Easter morning we didnt go to church. Instead we went for a short hike above the monastery with the kids. We walked to a shrine and got some great views. After the hike there was more sitting around, a long lunch (I think I ate goat intestines in a soup) and playing with the kids outside. Out of necessity I learned a lot of words over the weekend. I had my dictionary out most of the time and kept writing down new words, and even got quizzed a couple times which was a fun event. I haven't hit overload yet, I'll let you know when that happens.
The day I arrived in Kocherinovo was black Friday here, by the orthodox Christian calendar. On Saturday morning we died eggs, which was more intricate than what I did as a kid, but nothing I couldn't learn. After lunch we drove with Dessi's mom up to the small village of Skrino, a town higher in the Rila mountains of a couple hundred people, where Dessi's mom grew up and her aunt still lives. It was a teeny house with only 3 rooms, and the bathroom was turkish style, out back with only a hole in the floor that opened directly onto the ground. That was the type of thing I thot I was getting myself into when I signed up for the peace corps, so I could handle it for one weekend. There was a huge amount of family, including 2 sets of grandparents and 3 nuclear families, I got so confused with how everyone was related that I won't even try. There's no way to describe how I was taken in and immediately was one of the family. Even without a common language (Dessi and her cousin's husband were the only ones who knew some words here and there) we managed to communicate and have an awesome time