We've been in Bulgaria a week now, and took a day off yesterday where we didn't leave the apartment. I don't think Alex even changed out of his PJs, and if he did it was brief. And I just now feel like I might be able to put a coherent sentence or two together.
The first days, week, of a trip to Bulgaria is always a flurry of catching up with family and friends. I was a bit startled to realize that I had people to catch up with this time, too. Family and friends I had met on my last trip here, a few of whom I've since seen in the States and all of whom receive regular updates on our life from Alex or our state-side family. It is a wonderful feeling to be so accepted, and in the case of the grandparents flat-out loved. (Think "our grandson loves you, we love you" and expand that to genuine, amazing generosity of heart that leads Dado Mitko to declare he wants to kiss me at any junction, Baba Danchi to attempt to force feed me so that I will grow cheeks, and Baba Maria to regularly pinch those cheeks that are growing.) But, the conversations in English are still few and far between, and that is surprisingly exhausting.
My Bulgarian vocabulary slowly grows, though I wouldn't count on my attempts to transliterate (is that the word?) in to the English alphabet. I can say good morning, good day and good evening all in their proper context. (Dobro Ootro, Dober Den and Dober Vecher, respectively.) I can also use the more casual hello or hi (stradvete or draste, definitely misspelled) and good night (le knosht). I haven't been able to spit out goodbye yet, but since everyone here uses 'ciao' I'm not worried about it. I can toast (nostdrave) and tell someone that something is very good (mnogo hoobovo), though I always make the object male. I have a smattering of nouns, including cat, knife, store, sweater, hat and cigarette. (Lots of smoking here - everywhere. There is no such thing as a nonsmoking section, though I'm relieved that most of the family doesn't allow smoking in the houses.) And for some reason I still remember ladybug from two years ago. Kalinka, it's just fun to say. If I'm hungry, I can ask for salad, tomatoes, water, wine, beer, coffee, tea, banitza and a type of meat I mispronounce as Kebabshke, but get close enough that people feed me. Fortunately, I like all those things! (I could also order rakia, their national liquor, but that I don't like.)
But since merely being able to ask for a few types of food and a knife (not a fork or spoon, mind you) won't get me far, I am incredibly fortunate that Alex is unendingly patient with translating for me and the family is all willing to go to incredible lengths of sign language to communicate with me. We actually do pretty well with the basics, and they have some English words to throw in there, too. Perhaps most surprisingly to me, I am beginning to occasionally get the gist of a conversation. As long as there aren't too many conversations happening at once, every once in awhile I'll realize that I understand the topic they are discussing or even the main point. I surprised Alex - and myself - the first night by understanding that his grandparents were asking who was caring for Gwen while we were gone. I couldn't possibly hold that conversation, but I understood it. Passive knowledge, Alex called it, and hope that I may actually learn this language some day!