Friday, October 2, 2009

When Dogs Attack or Stare For an Uncomfortably Long Time

My daily run/run away from my troubles took place at a soccer field conveniantly located behind my bloc apartment. Usually my jog consists of willing myself to do 30 laps, but on a cold thursday in october, I had an unwelcome visitor. As I rounded the corner of my bloc, I hear what I think is a human walking, but with really noisy, hard bottomed shoes. What do my wandering eyes come upon but a dog the size of bethoveen (st. bernard, not deaf musican). Stray dogs are nothing new in my line of work, so I do a double take then be on my way. But no. This dog starts to mimick me. I go left, it (not he or she) goes left. I start to walk backwards but it keeps the same distance between us. My mind goes to straight to FOX's 'When Animals Attack" and every grizzly youtube video there is. In my arsenal at this moment I have 1) a house key 2) baggy running shorts, thanks in no small part to the prolonged case of food poisoning. And thats it. All I can think of at this point in terms of strategy is coughing really loud and shuffling my feet (damn sting rays). I am truly inbetween a rock and a man-eating monster. What could make this better? Three kids ride up on bikes, look at me, the bear, and decide they should stick around for the outcome. They sit down and stare. Popcorn could of been served and I would not have been surprised. Next thing I know, a 60 year old woman is behind me, and with no greater concern that an ant, she shoos the 'thing' away. Gives me a toothless smile, and walks away. Yeah,...thats Tuesday. Can't wait for Wednesday.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

When Hibernation Ends

Sometimes life can sneak up on you. Other times you can get food poisoning, a fever and all kinds of stomach aliaments which rhyme with Maria, and be stuck in bed for a week. Then, life hits you hard, like haunted house you didn't pay for or know about in advance. With that in mind, here's a run down of what has transpired since I became good friends with Pepto-Bismal:

'And the clouds doth parted, with golden rays illuminating all they touched as if from the hand of Jordan thine self"
Translation: The Athlethic Complex is finally finished making my life so, so wonderful. There is two full basketball courts, volleyball court and a tennis court. Dreams do come true.

I had no idea it would finish so quickly, almost being completed over a course of a long weekend. Then a few more things snuck up on me...

This next one was genuinely completed in one weekend andd took me by surprise.


Oh snap, the 'wind' of change has arrived in mural form. The Cold War is totally scared right now.

Life can't much better, unless someone decided to update the favorite ride of my childhood (and teenage years, and my 20's,..)

Star Tours II? Say what?


Well thats just freaking incredible...
And the single funniest tv show of all time is coming back with a 5th season?



Whats next; my favorite baseball team somehow teaming up with my favorite film franchise to produce an evening of unrivaled nerdom and amazing food? (the following is from the Dodger's Team Website)

                 "Join the Dodgers for a special celebration of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Saturday October 3rd when the boys in blue battle the Rockies. The festivities will include appearances by Star Wars and Clone Wars characters before and during the game and the entertainment will feature Star Wars trivia and clips throughout the night.

Sit in My Town on Star Wars Night and you'll enjoy an all inclusive menu featuring Cloneburgers with Cheese, R2-BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Ice Sabers (popsicles) plus you'll also receive a limited edition MY TOWN THIS IS t-shirt featuring Yoda! Space is limited in My Town so purchase your tickets today and may the force be with you.

Fans are encouraged to dress in their own STAR WARS costumes and for this special night only, are permitted to wear STAR WARS masks only in the My Town section.
Lightsabers will not be allowed into Dodger Stadium. "[emphasis added by me,...because that is the first time in pro sports history that sentence has been used]

With that said, all I can say is....(sound of person running down stairs, hailing a cab, pulling up to an airport, plane taking off...)


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Duck and Cover

(Background on today's entry: I spent 13 years living in Orange County, between the formidable years of 8-21, which, before I arrived from the sunny skies of Seattle, Washington, was Earthquake country. I moved into my house 2 weeks after the infamous Northridge Earthquake, and 1/3rd of elementary school was spent 'preparing' for the big one. Jumping under my desk at the slighest sisemic movement was like watching Simpsons sunday, at 8pm: clockwork. However, I had the unusual experience of never actually being in an earthquake. During not one but THREE earthquakes I was out of the state. The one time there was supposedly a quake, I was in my pool, and naturally assumed with my preadolescant mind that my cannonball was just that awesome. Secondly, I was involved in a tremor during my college years at the UC Santa Cruz, and to be fair,...it was friday night, mid-way through a third game of beer pong. All I remember is my friend and roommate looking confused, and running for a door frame, while myself and my other roommate continued playing BP, not entirely sure if the Natty Ice was kicking in a little more than usual. With this resume of earthquake activitiy, the following story can commence)

(Oh, and I've been on the Earthquake ride at Universal Studios at least 15 times)

Time line: 10:30am- I am up at the crack of 10am, ready to start my day. Snooze button has only been hit twice, with 45 minutes intervals.

10:40- Omlette is cooked to perfection, or enough to satisfy my morning craving for anything eatible.

10:43- ESPN.com, feeds my other craving.

10:45- My world begins to shake, violently.

10:45:02- My mind tells me "hey, dude, this is an earthquake"

10:45:04- The following phrases go through my mind "Stop, drop and roll", "Point, aim, shoot", "Only you can prevent forest fires"....but nothing relative to Earthquake safety.

10:45:09- I realize that my apartment has no table to hide under, and is essentially the cabin of the SS Minnow.

10:45:11- Door frame! I jump out into the hall, do an Atlas pose in the doorway and hope for the best.

10:45:13- DAMNIT, my dvds are falling. Hours and hours spent alphabetizing...Arrested Development is now nestled next to X-Files,...years of theraphy will be needed to erase this.

10:45:15- Phew, the tectonic plates have stopped gettin' their grove on. The world returns to normal.

10:45:17- I realize what I am wearing: Boxer briefs,...and only boxer briefs...in the hallway of my apartment building.

Official report: According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center, the earthquake was of the magnitude of 4,7 on the Richter scale with an epicenter 61 km east of Varna, 24 km east of Kavarna and 20 km southeast of Shabla.




[The DVDs are now safely back in their there place. Let's call take a deep breath]

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Week That Was

Few things can stop me in my track: A hundred dollar bill, a Swedish Super model with a film question, two tickets to the Superbowl, OR......A poster for "Bangkok Dangerous" ...in Bulgarian. There is one lonely DVD rental store in town, and its open about once every 4 days. However, they do a pretty good job keeping a new rotation of posters in the windows, and on July 15th, a ray of light in the form of Nic Cage rained down from Heaven. I simply stared at this poster in the window for a solid 30 seconds, went into the store to find a) it was actually open, b) posters inside were even more amazing and c) a 14 year old girl was the sole employee. I politely said, in my best Bulgarian, "I want that poster". She looked at me...there was a brief second of awkwardness,...she replied "this one?" And then as soon as I answered, it was rolled up in front of me. She wouldn't even let me pay for it. She just smiled, and said "enjoy".

Bruce Willis has crossed the Pond,...and all of Europe to arrive in Bulgaria, in the form of a new billboard for Vodka. (Picture coming shortly) But until then, imagine Jon McClaine with his trademark smirk, black leather jacket, and leaning on,...a giant medieval sword. Priceless.

In the rolladex of my friends, I can add one very important piece: special agent. I met someone who works for the Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, and sure enough when he handed me his card, it said "Special Agent".

On when of my frequent trips to the beach, I noticed an american football laying next to an umbrella (this is a rare occurance, like Sasquasch). I got a little excited over the prospect of an american, or just someone who is a fan of the old pigskin/synthetic leather. I am within 10 feet of the ball, when two kids run over, and start playing with the ball,...with there feet,...and proceed to kick it around for a solid 20 minutes. NFL Europa, why did you leave us??

And lastly, I have a new addition to "Ways you can butcher the name 'Tobias'". I spent a good 6 hours getting to know someone last weekend, and at the conclusion of the day, the customary "hey, let me get your number" comment came up, and I punched in my digits in this persons phone, and after a slight pause typed in my name. I took a quick glance to see if the number was correct and saw before me "Thabayas".

Thats all for now. Hope all is well and good in the homeland

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rocked

To summarize: The best and most effective way to meet 70's era rock stars is to join Peace Corps Bulgaria.




Super nice guy, that John Lawton. The Youth Center I work at created a mosaic for him (only 7,000 individual pieces) and I happened to be having breakfast in the same restaurant. My co-worker casually asks me "Would you like to meet John Lawton?" I wieghed my options, realized I had finished eating, looked at my confused friends all mouthing to each other "who is John Lawton" and went for it....all for you blog readers.




(and in case you were wondering, take a look at this 'Spinal Tap'-esque clip)


Friday, June 26, 2009

Drafting Dreams

Remember when watching the NBA Draft still left a feeling of "one day, that could be me"? Those days before the spirit crushing of 'cuts' in high school sports, or a time before 'playing time' became an issue. A simpler time when playing was just playing; not trying to impressive or prove your manhood on every single posession. With the NBA Draft taking place this morning (or night for those lucky few in the Pacific Time Zone,...not GMT+2) I had a profound sensation of years past, and the wonder and awe that came with seeming giants walk on to a stage, hold a randomly colored jersey and an ill fitting hat. The mystery and allure it created was enough to get any kid away from SNES and in the drive way shooting jump shots until his arms went numb. Of course, the sheer reality of poor genetics, ashtma, or just plain lousy athletic ability squashed many of these dreams right around the time when you started to notice girls. But this morning, seeing flashbacks to previous drafts, even highlights of Charles Barkley walking to the podium in a burdandy suit, or big Shaq Diesel looking like the happiest kid, and even the rain man, Shawn Kemp...it was like being 8 again, thinking that one day that could be me.

And then Stuart Scott had to say this: "Number 5 pick, Rick Rubio is the first player to be selected who was born after 1990"

Well, thanks Stu. I don't feel old at all.

And in a completely unrealted topic, I've told all the kids I coach in basketball to only refer to me as "Coach Bombay" and we repeatedly chant "2018 is our time to shine"

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Daye Tok r Jobbbss"

Random notes from a week of Intrigue and Suspense

-Bulgarian with excellent English skills asks "Are you from Utah?". I said no, and asked why he made this assumption. He told me "Everyone from Utah is coming to Bulgaria to take our jobs".....and then stunned silence.

-Was told I look like a hippie and offered a 100 lev to cut my hair. However, the man offering the money was rocking a glorious Billy-Ray mullet, with more than its fair share of "party".

-Saw 'Terminator: Salvation". Final count of scenes with Christian Bale yelling: 11

-Danced with a babba, showed bulgarians how to do the salt shaker move (thats all I got) and then was freaked by another babba.

-Met a Canadian paratrooper on shore leave from Afghanistan....ay

-In Bulgaria, before you drink it is customary to toast with the words "Nas Gravi", which translates to "to your health". In a particulary occurance, Bulgarians like to show off their foriegn language skills and say "cheers" around me. Now, on the basketball court, whenever I sneeze, the kids say "cheers".


And its summer offically. Take it easy everyone; the calendar says so

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"You guys want to basket?"

Roughly 1/3rd of my life is consumed by by the semi-religion known as basketball. Luckily, I have discovered a group of like minded individuals who live and breathe b-ball (or as it is commonly referred to as "let's play basket"). I've been playing 6 days a week (Sunday is 'Grey's Anatomy' day) and there is a constant 6-10 people playing with me. Some days I will play with kids born after Y2K, other times it will be high schoolers and even a few guys older than myself. No matter the age range, its good times. A few highlights:

- Some one asked me "Who is better: Kobe or Lebron?" and I started to break down their respective games, when a boy walked by and said with complete confidence "Jermaine O'Neal".

- Middle of a game, tied up, 2 points away from the end, and someone casually walks off the court, lights up a cigarette, takes a couple puffs, and rejoins the game.

- Playing with the 2 foot terror squad aka 3rd graders, I dribbled around one then went for a lay up. One kid, Mitko, demanded the ball, proceeded to jump up and down, dribble as fast as he could and throw the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the hoop. And then proclaimed "As sum Tobeee!" ('I am Toby). Which led to everyone else on the court trying to dribble wildly, and anoint themselves "As sum Tobe 2!", "As sum Tobe 3!", etc. I was told I could have 'Tobe 0".

- A new verb has sprung up: 'I kobied that!"

- No matter how many years pass, fake retirements, bad movies or new stars emerge, one constant shall remain in Eastern European basketball courts: Michael Jordan is still king.



[I always forget to bring my camera, so I don't have any pictures. This image seems to do a good job illustrating my job in teaching basketball....or not,...it just makes me laugh] Hope all is well across the pond, in it, and all around it.



p.s. Its Panda-monium!



[Care of "warmingglow"]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bulgaria and YOU

Culture shock can be a strange experience, not unlike a hangover or turf toe (well, not really,...) but-....wait,...

Ok, culture shock can strike at anytime; anywhere; there is no stopping it!

No,...

So I made this video with the help of Greg and Glenn to illustrate the finer points of Bulgaria vs. America. Enjoy (Or don't enjoy...in which case feel free to spit in 4 days of all-nighters trying to finish this) video

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Like football and hot-wings

Once in a great while, there is a convergence of everything you love in life. This is a delicate task because far too often the combinations just don't come out right (example: putting peanut butter AND jelly in the same jar...gross). But like the mythical summer blockbuster that makes a ton of money AND critics love, there is a few fleeting moments where a beam of light shines down on us. I refer of course to the following:





Will Ferrell + Bear Gryls = Awesome town

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Toe-bee-us: A Look Back

Well folks, the clock continues to tick and the days fly by. If you were about to say "Hey, haven't you been in Bulgaria exactly 10 months" you would be correct. Sure doesn't seem like I've spent the better part of a year abroad, in the land of,...well,...I'm not sure,..."goat's milk"? Either way, I thought it would be interesting to see my evolution over the course of these last 10 months, because hitting double digits is way more important than the year mark (take that every news story ever)


Oh Panichishte...I was like a young fawn...skating on ice,...with ball-bearings,...and axle grease,...and the fawn isn't particularly coordinated to begin with.



So full of hope, optimism, and low alcohol tolerance



Social integration at its finest (My host dad is a hustler; says he has never heard of American drinking games...lies!)



"Let me tell you about my best friend..."



Found my biological son...still won't talk to me


Site Placement Day: agony, ecstasy, fear, kindergarten flashbacks



Wearing a tie instantly makes you important,...or a Peace Corps Volunteer



I started to move up in society, which translated to sitting in the mayor's desk when he was away


Then the winter hit,...



Was mistaken for Kurt Cobain on New Year's


Joined a Christian Rock Band




And that about sums it up: I like dogs, people and cold weather makes me grow a handle bar mustache.

Hope all is well across the pond. And to those you have just arrived in the land of Banitsa, Rikia, and Dimitar Berbatov....the good times have only just begun.


























Friday, May 22, 2009

Baskoccer

Basketball: Amazing game played across countless courts across America
Soccer: Amazing game played across countless fields all over the world

Both utilize agility, footwork, hand-eye coordination, teamwork and skill

...yet when you take a group of soccer players and try to teach them basketball, disastorous (sometimes humorous) results take place.

I've been playing basketball after school for about three weeks now, and every day I usually have a following of about 7-9 kids, which usually balloons to 15 by the time the game is over. Most of these kids are devoted followers of the worldwide religion known as "FUTBOL!!!", but they are eager to try there hand at basketball...yet that can't quite seem to grasp a new sport without holding onto the old one.

Example #1) The idea of defense. 8 kids swarm for the ball, throwing everything from elbows to ankles into the fray. Yet, as soon as the ball is free from this scrum of commotion, they all give up, letting the lone warrior standing quard take on 4 or 5 people coming at him full speed.

Example #2) Breaks. I know this is not a fluke, or happenstance due to one of two people. This happpens EVERY game. Someone scores a basket, or steals the ball, and whoever the point guard or "play maker" as it is known over here, will just crouch down when he doesn't have the ball anymore. Literally. No defense, or help your team out; just taking a breather at mid-court.

Example #3) Celebrations. Unlike the single-digit world of soccer, basketball likes its scores to be in the teens, twenties or dare I say triple digit range. So scoring a basket can be somewhat of a nonevent due to the regularity with which it occurs. Not so. Every basket either team scores results in a full team celebration, at which point the other team runs past and scores a basket, and the celebrations begin again, only to usher in another un-guarded attack. I've been slowly working on the high five and other such celebrations which can keep the momentum of the game going.

Example #4) Faking. I've seen my share of divers in the premiership or Seria A, and it has clearly polluted the youth of Bulgaria. One kid dribbled, then accidently dribbled on his foot, only to curl into a ball, yelling for a foul...didn't really understand all that was happening (and 3 seconds later he took the ball the entire length of the court).

Example #5) The one kid who starts dribbling the ball with his feet,...well, I guess you get the idea by now.

But no matter how the game is played or what influences they carry to the court, its been a blast playing. This fall I am supposedly going to be in charge of an actual team at the high school. So, when that day comes, I got hoop dreams,...and I got 'em bad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gone Puppy, Gone











My life was filled with joy for exactly 47 days. I was blessed with four of the greatest friends a person could ever ask for. They never wanted anything from me other than a pat on the head, and a scratch behind the ear. Every time I saw them, they would all jump up and down, making my life infinitely better. These were my boys; my crew, my peeps, my homies. I even had the privilage of naming them. I took each name to heart. There was Luke, Seth, Sandy and Ryan. Each one had a special persona that shined every time they wagged there tail. I truly loved these little bundles of fur and joy. But tonight, they are gone. The last puppy (Seth, my favorite) has found a new home. I know they will all go on to lead fufilling, rich lives. Ryan might even go to med school like he always dreamed about, and I see pro ball in Sandy's future. Who knows, maybe Luke will ask out the dog from across the street. The world is full of possibiliites at this point. All I know for certain is how much I loved these guys and how much they will be missed.

Dolph the Tour Guide

"Hey, Tobias, what's it like over there?"

Great question hypothetical person.

The answer lies in this clip



This straight to DVD action extravaganza starts ultimate Communist badass Ivan Durago aka Dolph Lungren. The film is about something (I wasn't really paying attention) but he entire movie was filmed right here in Bulgaria.

You get a peak at old communist style blocs, the capital city and at the 0:35 mark you get a nice view of the Nemski cathedral...and Dolph Lungren is the prototypical Bulgaria...if this were Russia,...so no, he is not Bulgarian. Forget that last sentence completely.

Hope this clears things up.

UPDATE

My friend sent me this link. This is Buglaria movie production at its finest

BG FM

Thanks to the beauty and eternal mystery of Bulgarian music tastes, I had the pleasure of hearing the following songs on my short walk to work (all through the magic of outdoor cafes)

1). "We Are The World"-Every Famous Person from the 80's (Fun Fact: Even Dan Akroyd!)

2). Friend's Theme- by,...ah,...the band whose only song is the 'Friend's Theme'

3). "Ayo Technology" Remix- You would assume Diddy is behind this one, but oh no,...oh no. I heard a remix involving a whinny voiced Buglarian accompanied by a guitar and a beat straight out of 1994. I will search to the ends of the Earth to find it.

4). "Thong Song"- Yep,...yep.

5). "Back in Black"- The greatest band ever,...according to everyone in a 50 mile radius.

Not even XM/Sirius can provide the variety supplied here.

Hope all is well across the homeland and abroad (Shout out to Bangalore)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Luftansa airlines is sweet

Before:



Now:...well,...kind of...




D-Day,..Judgement Day,...um,...Day of Reckoning,...Day "WhereSomethingImportantIsAboutToHappen". A new group of eager, enthusiastic, possibly scared volunteers is about to embark on the great journey known as 'Peace Corps Bulgaria'. I've changed significantly since my wide-eyed trip from Washington D.C. to Sofia, Bulgaria and with a new group arriving,...I feel like the intern who finally got a really desk and doesn't have to get coffee any more. Might be the over-abundance of "Scrubs" reruns in my life, or might be a job that is starting to take shape; both in activities and fufillment. And like JD on Scrubs, I'm excited to meet the newbies. I can't wait to tell someone "No, she's not mad at you; that's how you tell someone to come over in Bulgaria" and "Its rikyia,...go slow...it tastes like pure gasoline". Can't wait.



So in conclusion, I can not find the following items in Bulgaria, and if you have them lying around, do me a solid, and stuff them into your already crammed suitcases:

Comic books- I have a comic book club at my work, and like taco bell, comics are non-existent here. Anything is acceptable...even Archie comics.

Film Magazines- I also have a film club and with a limited Bulgarian vocabulary, it's tricky to describe a movie without pictures or images.

Spice Packets- taco seasoning, fajita mix, etc

Any books, brochures, cocktail napkins, or sticky notes pertaining to: Yoga, American Football, environment/nature or music will go miles at my work.


Thanks a ton everybody.

I wish you all smooth sailing and a pleasant journey. Bolivia, here y-,...Bulgaria here you come!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the people that make Peace Corps a blast and so devastatingly heartbreaking. I want to give a giant shout out to the people who tuck us in at night and wake us up (usually against a forceful amount of struggling). I speak of course about the wonderful, super-duper, fantastic, always comforting, omniscent, super-beings known throughout the land as 'mothers'. So I this mother's day, I wanted to say a little something to the women who make our lives a little easier, ask a few more questions then necessary about our significant others, and never fail to cure us on a sick day.

I wanted to speak about all mom's, but unfortunetly for the un-biased nature of "Its' Always Sunny in Bulgaria", I can only truthfully speak about a certain 'Momma Hewitt', aka my mom. (However, I will try my best to cultivate this entry from the wealth of wonderful mothers I have encountered). From the time I was small enough to hid behind your leg in times of fear or anxiety, to when reading was a complex challenge and Dr. Seuss the arena of competition, to successive first days of school, from pre-school to senior year, even to hours before a prom or homecoming when I was reassured "you look so handsome", to band-aids applied with a surgeons precision, to school plays with one spectator clapping just a little louder than anyone, to thoughtful emails about how the weather is in America and how that crazy language called Bulgarian is working out, to nearly cracking my sternum with a goodbye hug at Seattle International Airport.... ...there remained one constant: the ever present love and affection of my mom.

From the east coast to the west coast and everywhere up, down, left, right, or above,...Happy Mother's Day! (You deserve it)


Friday, May 8, 2009

King Conan-...youbelievethisisactuallyhappening?

Hey Sports fans-

Per my normal morning routine, I get up just a smidge after 10:30, fire up the skillet, and turn on my trusty Macbook. Beyond the usual box-scores of sporting events which I will never again see live, I peruse a few film websites to keep up-to-date on whats going on in Hollywood (and sometimes Bollywood). Today, was unlike any other. I scroll day "Aintitcoolnews.com" to discover a savory piece of info on the forever in production "Conan the Barbarian" remake (its not a sequel, its not a prequel or even a re-imagining!) and this sentence hit me like,...well,...something heavy that causes damage:

[From Producer Joe Gatta]
"We have a potential start-date on Conan of August 24. And we’ll be shooting in Bulgaria. I would say though the emphasis is on Conan [rather than Red Sonja]. It’s our crown jewel here at the company and that will be the leader. Red Sonja probably won’t happen until next year, as far as making it goes. So we want to launch Conan and reinvent the franchise."

SAY WHATTT?

A few minutes later and I even found out the potential film studio. This is big....very, big. And just to summarize the last nine months of my life, and for those of your keeping track at home:

The Best Way to:

Meet Motely Crue
Have potential access to a major Hollywood blockbuster
Sit court-side at a Basketball All-Star game

...is by joining Peace Corps Bulgaria

Hope this cleared things up a bit.




Crom is smiling on Bulgaria

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"I say you he dead" -Drunken Hillbillie

Found this gem in Varna. The Colonel's power is like Sauramon: all seeing and ever present. Crispy chicken be with you.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Are you Feeling Lucky...or with a pocket full of change?

Casinos in Bulgaria are about as frequent as Starbucks in Seattle. Essentially every 7 feet. I always treated these oases of gambling with a healthy buffer zone, because, there is nothing as sad as a broke Peace Corps volunteer who ALSO happens to be in debt thanks to nickel slots. But, the allure of neon and roulette was just too strong to pass up (that, and there was a casino attached to the hotel I was staying at). I figure I'll walk in, play 5 lev, and be on my way. Noooppee. To even go into the casino, I had to have my ID card scanned, a picture taken, and all cameras put in storage. Needless to say, I'm not psyched at this point. About 10 minutes later, when I had gone through black jack customs, I entered....what can only be compared to an adult chuckie cheese. There was no glitz of the deliberately tacky Vegas, but more like a designer saying "Ah, close enough". Slot machines and more slot machines. They even had electric roulette, which seems to take some of the fun away in my opinion. I head over to the change booth, to get some chips, or what I assume will be chips. NOOOPPEE. For my 20 lev, my two friends and I received a bucket of 10 statinki coins. So we were sitting there with 200 coins, which looked identical to game tokens at an arcade. I did hit it big, 50! on a slot machine,...which took my brain a few seconds to calculate as 5 lev. One saving grace of the whole equation: all drinks are free. You have to fight to even give the waitresses a tip.
In summary, I came out 5 lev poorer, but with my dignity in tact. Las Vegas is going to be ok for the time being.



(You don't see it coming, but there is a giant casino inside)

Happy St. George's Day

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stuff. Happeing.

So much has happened in the few short weeks I devoted to being lazy.

Neighbor's dog had puppies
I was involved in naming process of afermentioned puppies
Went to the Bulgarian Basketball League All-Star Game
A carnival came to town
I signed up for an 11k with the following options of 1k or 50k
Taught the youth of Bulgaria to throw a football, and only managed to hit 2 people in the head
Awesome visit by the family
Went swimming (its a big deal)
Was confused yet again
Had starbucks for the first time in this hemisphere
Occured a new nickname based on a Kanye West song (its pretty easy to figure out)

All this and more. More details coming shortly. My 5 day holiday break starts tomorrow. Until then...I hope Obama's next 1,460 days are just as efficent.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day...ah, whatever

America, how I love thee. Watching a commercial for Subway or Geico brings tears to my eyes. I miss Lady Liberty. But sometimes, just sometimes, I think we need some time apart. Why? Because stuff like this happens:

"Fast & Furious" is Biggest April Opening Ever

4 April 2009 10:37 PM, PDT | From JustPressPlay.net | See recent JustPressPlay news

I knew Fast & Furious would dominate the box office at #1 this weekend, but this is still quite a shock to the system. The fourth film in the "Douchebags and the Cars That Get Them Hard" series is performing well beyond Universal's own expectations.

Deadline Hollywood has Fast & Furious' weekend projection and it clocks in at $71 mil, making it the biggest April opening in history by a lot. Previous record holder was Anger Management in 2003, which raked in $42 mil. Fast & Furious opened big Friday with $30 mil and earned an additional $25 mil Saturday.

What?

Really?

Seriously?

From the acting duo of 'The Pacifier' and 'Wrong Turn's Second male lead...really?

I'm going to blame this one on,...ah,...well, if you have a theory on this one, let me know.

Hope every is well and enjoyable sundaes in mini baseball helmets

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 6: This is Spartaaa!!

We landed on the moon!....I mean, "Michigan State is going to the Final Four!!!!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 6: At the Month of Madness

March Madness is the pinnacle of sports. No other event offers as much energy, excitment, and competition as the NCAA Tournament packs in. The Superbowl is great, but I feel like the game is sometimes overshadowed by the pagentry surrounding it (i.e. 2,000 commercials for the half time show). March Madness, unlike the BCS championship, offers a chance to any of the 65 teams who are invited. The "anything can happen" nautre makes for compelling, if not mandatory viewing. Sooooo, transplant the viewing experience of a sports bar, or a comfy couch at home to 1:30 in the morning in a Bulgarian block apartment with a shady internet connection steaming the game. Is it still March Madness? Of course, but the madness part really comes into affect after the 2am mark. You know you should be sleeping, but the pull of this tournament is like the tractor beam on the Millenium Falcon: you can't escape it. My biggest gripe with the whole affair has nothing to do with the tournament selection, play, or venues. It comes down to the fact that I went to a college with a Division III team, and therefore, I have no real "team" to root for. Maybe this is a good thing, and I can never feel the crush of dissapoint or the agony of defeat. For now, (and I suspect the forseeable future) I will latch on to schools of my family (UM, MSU), my geographical connections (WU, USC) or who ever is a giant underdog, (Go Western Kentucky!). I hope everyone who is a fan is enjoying this years tournament and doesn't have to watch on a 10 inch screen with constant buffering. Let the good times roll.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 5: Camp Rock...ed My World to Its Foundation

Man, I am lazy. When I said the whole "30 blogs in 30 days" I didn't mean consecutive blogs. (There will probably be a flurry of activity around the 29th day). But fear not, I have a new entry today about a subject near and dear to the so many people,...under the age of 14. At work, I saw CAMP ROCK, and if you don't know what that is...good. You have been spared. Don't google it, don't ask your friends at work, don't turn to the disney channel and keep pretending Jonas Bros is a new Hip Hop group from the ATL. I happened to watch an episode of South Park 2 days prior to this viewing experience, and even though South Park intended to 'satirize" and "parody" the Jonas Brothers, it was scary how close them came to the truth. When it comes to this new-new kids on the block type invasion, I can only say: Be brave America and this will all be over soon.



(Also, Go Spartans)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 4: Watching the Watchmen Being Watched


This weekend was by no small means a "typical weekend". The culmination of 22 years of development came to fruition in the magical movie theatre of the Varna Mall. I refer to the long thought unfilmable graphic novel "WATCHMEN". Since 1987, people have tried to turn this comic property into a workable piece of cinema. Terry Gilliam took the first crack and had envisioned Robin Williams as the detective/psychopath 'Rosarach', Sigourney Weaver as the seductive 'Silk Spectre', and a post Conan, pre Batman & Robin Arnold Schwarzenagger as 'Dr. Manhattan'. (We can all thank Hollywood Development for dodging that potential disaster). AND NOW, 2009, in a former Soviet Bloc, I witnessed the culmination of years of tragedy and aggravation.....and it was pretty good.
I don't want to give a whole review, just a few highlights and observations on my viewing experience.

1) Before the movie started, I had my first hamburger in approximately 2 months. It was a Burger King Whooper. This did not sit well with my stomach

2) You can drink beer in Bulgarian movie theatres. The movie was almost three hours with previews. This did not sit well with my bladder

3) There was a kid who was somewhere between 8-10 sitting two rows behind me who did not stop talking from the moment I sat down

4) About an hour into the movie, a character on screen kills a man with a butcher knife. In the head. This same kid left immediately after wards. I felt no remorse, only the burning sensation of why any parent would take there kid to a movie like this.

5) I only have a few problems with this movie. The most glaring is a scene at a cemetery. I know what a cemetery looks like. I am fairly confident you know what a cemetery looks like. However, with this logic aside, the camera does a sweeping crane shot over a giant cemetery; row after row of tombstones. Then, the camera pans up to a sign over the cemetery; the sign reads: "cemetery".

I can't truthfully say who will like this film. I wouldn't recommend it to everybody, and even the nerd faithful could go either way on this one. It is easily the boldest, gutsiest decision I have scene by a movie studio, and in this era of formulaic, sequel-o-rama's, there is nothing more pleasing than seeing someone take a chance.

So in conclusion, have a happy st. patrick's day

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 3: I am on the map

On my daily searche for Chris Farley videos, I came across this gem. Relevant? Yes. (Wait until 7:26, 7:27 and enjoy)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLkfhJn7-b0

(This is always relevant when your dealing with Chris Farley)

In other additional news, Bulgaria is still cold and the people are still awesome.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 2: The Apcolypse Comes Early

I had a livelier entry planned, but on my way to work this autrocity caught my eye.




Its like,...Mad Max meets Space Jam

Or Hoosiers and I Am Legend

Or He Got Game...minus the game

And to make matters more bizzare, this happened over night. Playing H-O-R-S-E on wednesday; Judgement Day on Thursday


(I hope there is still standing basketball hoop where you live, and have a great Friday)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 1: Peace Corps or Sunset Strip?

Day 1 of the Java Script Gauntlet starts with news to end all news. I thought about holding this back for sweeps week, but I figure you have to pull your audience in early. As many of you may know, I live in the Rock n' Roll Capital of Bulgaria. This is not my fabrication. This is truth. An 80 year old women in Isperih confirmed this for me. It is common knowledge in this country that if you want your fill of 80's rock n' roll or heavy metal, you go to my town. Even the mayor, who is an awesome guy, is known throughout the land as "The Metal Mayor" (An earlier blog entry can confirm this will a Deep Purple gold record, and numerous murals ranging from Billy Idol to Alice Cooper). The crowning achievement of the metal music season is the Kaliakra Rockfest. This is a huge deal. 20 to 40 thousand people are expected to attend. The stadium is roughly a ten minute walk from my house. I have not felt this sort of anticipation since Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Since I arrived here in October, my mind has only been focused on this event. The line up was supposedly a hugh secret, and was not to be announced until the very last moment. Well Ladies and Gentlemen,.....all is revealed. On July 1st...........the streets will shake......because.....


MOTLEY CRUE is coming to town!





Am I excited? Oh yeah. Do I like Motley Crue? Um,.....sure,...maybe,...I really don't know. My only two experiences with the Crue is their VHI 'Behind the Music' episode, and my good friend Chad chronicling his 'forced against his will' trip to see them. But come on; this is awesome! I am now closer to meeting rock stars than I ever was in America. Traveling 7,000 miles has away from LA and Orange County has actually brought me closer to the rock scene. If you told me this a year ago,...well,...not exactly sure how I would react, there would of been a fair amount of disbelief. So, in conclusion,...join Peace Corps and you will meet Tommy Lee.


(here is my whole impression of what being a rock star is like)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Java Script Gauntlet

A happy and healthy March 11th to you and yours. Today is a big day for many reasons, a few of which I will with hold until the suspense has reached a fever pitch. For starters, as of this day, I promise to have 30 straight blog entries for 30 days. Why? Is it the people you constantly question my dedication to the blogosphere? Or there is just some much happening that anything less than 30 straight days would do a disservice to my service? I'm going to say: not exactly. Today marks the beginning of something very near and dear to my heart, and eventually, my two years in this great country. I am speaking about none other than the Kavarna Film School Project. If you want to take a short walk on over to http://kavarnafilms.blogspot.com you can read all about it. In bullet point form, it goes something like this: I love movies, I'm a film major and kid's here love movies. Combine all three and you have the makings for a made more tv movie, and one project that can have a long and lasting impact to everyone involved. However, with that said, I need all the help I can get. SO please, I beseech thee, tell everyone you know about this blog and its companion http://kavarnafilms.blogspot.com . Tell your friends, your friends' friends, your great aunt sally, UPS person, gym instructor, Sushi chef, old guy who calls you "Frank"; anyone who will listen, please tell them. I don't want to get all afternoon special, but this has the chance to help a lot of kids and it might be an opportunity they never get otherwise. I really do take this job as a gift and a blessing, and I want to make the most out of it. I know with the constant support of my family and friends, I will succeed. The love and encouragement I have already received during my short time here is nothing short of amazing. Before my mom starts tearing up, I'll wrap this up: Let the 30 day challenge (not involving McDonalds) begin!

p.s. http://kavarnafilms.blogspot.com

p.p.s Thank you everyone

p.p.p.s http://kavarnafilms.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mistaken Nationality, Fermintation, and Ratings

Talking with my good friend Greg, we came to the conclusion that Peace Corps is the greatest untapped potential for a sitcom. Everything you need is here: crazy cast of characters, interesting situations (both funny and exciting), drama, and intrigue to leave people on the edge of their seats. How many episodes of 'Friends' could feature a donkey cart ride, home-made alcohol, and neighbors thinking you work for the CIA? With this in mind, I present for your viewing pleasure, the first installment of (working title only) "Peace Corps Millionaire"





Ext. Long Shot, Afternoon

(An empty street, with more stray dogs than cars. Bloc apartments dominate the frame, making a guessing game of what year we are actually in.)

Long shot of a lonely figure walking past a giant Mural of Alice Cooper

Quick close-up on all things American: Northface logo, nike swoosh on shoes, and ipod cord dangling off

[With an homage to 'Do The Right Thing', the main character walks over a chalk drawing in the street, which has "Peace Corps Millionaire" written]

Only sound heard is coming from the ipod; Flo-Rida

Suddenly a loud voice booms:

VICTOR:
English! English!

[A confused Peace Corps volunteer looks around, then does the obvious thing, and finally looks up to see Victor on his balcony]


PCV:
Oh, strazti. Az ne English. Asum ot America

[Victor, a man of 50, white a great white beard and matching fro, looks, smiles, and says:]

VICTOR:
Come, English

PCV:
(To himself)
Does he need a map,...England doesn't even look like America...

Cut to Int. Victor's "office": A basement room full of bottles, tools, and two giant barrels of a clear substance that is definitely not water

VICTOR:
(Talking a mile a minute, with the only understood words being "English")

PCV:
(Nodding politely)
Yep,...oh, yeah,...most def,....yep,...still American.....

[With a lull in the "conversation", Victor pulls out two glasses, and proceeds to scoop out liquid from the two ominous containers]

[He hands one to PCV, and says, "Nas Gravi!". They clink glasses, and PCV downs his like a fraternity pledge. Victor sips his patiently]

PCV:
(Having a mini spasm)
Woah,...(coughing),...that ah,...thats,...mnogo dobre

VICTOR:
(Stunned to see it downed so fast)
Eschus li?

PCV:
Another? Sure,..I mean, I can do one more...what is this?

[Flash cut to black and white montage]

V.O. "Welcome to the history of Rikyia" There are no South African breweries to give you peace of mind, or label approved by the FDA. All I have is a man and his word. The word is in jumbled Bulgarian, but the toothless grin tells me all I need to know: This clear substance may or may not be strong enough to power a car. Those of you saying "Well, how strong can it really be?" don't know your Bulgarian liguors. American beverages such as Smirnoff or Jack Daniels top out at around 40% proof. Typcially, rikia is about 55% proof and makes your tummy feel all warm and fuzzy. Also, it is suppose to cure all major headaches, fevers and stomach aches (no scientifically approved but rigorously supported by the local 55 and over crowd).

[Snap back to the present]

[Camera follows glass to PCVs lips, and then appears to seamlessly follow the glass back down, only to reveal a whole host of other glasses. Its been close to an hour)

PCV:
No, no, no....Randal Cunningham,...any day of the week.

Victor:
(Wobbling slightly)
[From Bulgarian] You,...you,..look like snoopy

[Jump ahead 26 1/2 minutes)

PCV:
(Eyes are completely glassed over now)
Now,...I don't speak Bulgarian to ...good...but,ah,.."As e te, shte pisha rikyia vasecki den" [Subtitled as "I and you will drink rikyia every day"]....cool? Alright,...catch ya on the flip side...

VICTOR:
English!

PCV:
Yeah,...ok,..

[Fade to black. Single word appears: Integration. Fade to black]


Well, thats a slice of life that I-,..or someone like me has encountered. Stayed tuned for next week's installment, and maybe, in the near future, it will become a webisode. For now, use your imagination and hope all is well in all the land (B-to-I-to-S-to-C)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ideas: A National Crisis

Project brainstorming is hard; getting into the mindset of a 12 year-old Bulgarian is not an easy task. You have to ask yourself "is this worthwhile?", "is this sustainable after I leave?", and "does anyone really care about baseball?". Peace Corps Volunteers have a high rate of success in their projects, but occasionally, there is a few miscues. I present to you, the top 5 worst Peace Corps Projects*:

5. How-To Class on Internet Piracy
4. George Bush Appreciation Society
3. Big Mac Eating Contest
2. Amy Whinehouse Dress-Up Day
1. Gladiatorial Combat







(*This list in entirely fictional, and has never, ever even entered the though process of the wonderful volunteers of Peace Corps Bulgaria,...promise)

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Childhood: Part Deux

Question I get all the time is 'why did you join the peace corps'? There is no one reason and I doubt piece together one in this brief entry. However, one small piece of my development is attributed directly to one person. No, not my wonderful parents, or my brother, not this is someone outside the bloodline. Of course, I am talking about my childhood idol and hero, Ken Griffey Jr. If you are around my age, liked baseball as a kid, then you know where I am coming from. Mix in the fact that I lived in Seattle for 8 years, and it makes perfect sense. Why then am I talking about this 39 year old soon-to-be-hall-of-famer? Because the greatest thing to happen to Seattle since a couple of nerds built computers in their garage has happened:



9 years later and the prodigal son returns...

This really has nothing to do with Peace Corps, Bulgaria...but no one said excitment was rational.

Next entry topic: Why Warren Moon should come back to the Seahawks

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Best Question Ever

This isn't a full entry; just a quick note:

On monday, someone asked me: "Tobias, what does "Space Jam" mean?"

And now I realize why I am here,...and I couldn't be happier

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why does Thursday the 12th get the shaft?

Its Thursday, February 12, which can only mean its time for a blog entry.

This time I thought I would focus on anyone who is coming to Bulgaria in the near future. Any questions, feel free to ask.

The first picture is intended for any prospective Peace Corps Volunteers who are coming from a warm climate to the magical lands of Bulgaria:



yes, these were once shoes. Get ready people, it is going to be cold. However, don't think its all bad,....you can improvise...



Snow+frozen pizza= just the way mom made it,...or you and your roommates in college did.

And on the subject of collegiate friendships, Bulgaria is ripe with remembrances of years past. The third largest (and best) city in Bulgaria, Varna, has an amazing mall with digital projection movie theatre, KFC AND Subway but also the best arcade I have seen since elementary school. What does this have to do with friends from my university days? Not much, but this picture sums up everything that is great about America:




When you play this game, a single tear rolls down your cheek,...and it is red, white and blue,...and it is searching for Osama Bin Laden.

From rambant Patriotism, we move right along to what makes my job so great; the kids (cue:awwwwww). I play soccer with them, or they ask to see my killer jump shot. If I even get close to the backboard, they all cheer for me. Biggest ego boost around.




My homeboys and girls are great, but when we play soccer, they also stick me in goal, and I'm not allowed to kick the ball (I think this is for my own protection or to keep my shoes pristine,...not sure). However, they ask me to throw the ball, which is wierd, but it seems entertaining to them. So I do a little wind up, and hurl the ball, which always get a giant cheer.

That about does it, but I promise to be a little more timely with the next entry.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Celluoid birthday

Today I turn 23, or in the words of my good friend Kelsey, "You are just two years away from legally renting a car". To commemorate this silver, no,...ah,...quartz?....whatever 23 works out to, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane the only way I knew how: through movies. I wanted to look back at all the movies that have influenced me through the years. In trying to think of a list, in somewhat chronological order, all I could come up with was this:



which soon led me to:



at which point I thought of:




So now I'm thinking: Did I fail? Based on these films, all I should aspire to be is a ninja who a) surfs b) solves crimes c) has a grandfather of asian descent even though his parents are clearly of anglo-saxon origin. But to break these down: I'm afraid to get punched, kicked, or slapped in the face which probably eliminates the ninja lifestyle. I would say surfing is in option, but since I was 10 I have been mortally afraid of stingrays which might create a problem. Then theres the wise mentor. I, personaly, do not know any 6 foot talking rats with an encyclopedic knowledge of the warrior code, nor do I come from a long line of mystic ninjas. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that being 8 was awesome or life in the early 90's was taken for granted.

So in conclusion, thank you for all the birthday wishes, and to the parents with kids born in the 80's who graciously chaperoned trips to the cineplex or were dragged against there will to toys-r-us to buy the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures: thank you...and COWABUNGA!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Today is january 25th, and judging by my last entry, this means I am very lazy. This statement is only half true. While I am on the lazy side (my alarm clock is set for 11am) I had a busy, busy couple of weeks. First and foremost, I went to the glorious city known to the world as Amsterdam. I will remember by another name: "The place with the best cheese, thai food, hamburgers and french fries, and every other emenity I have been missing for the past 6 months". Sadly, my camera had no batteries so if your curious about my travels, google "food" and "Amsterdam" and that should bring you up to speed. However, of particular interest for this trip was where I stayed: The Amsterdam Hilton. Now, Hilton hotels have been synonomous with my vacations, mostly because my dad's name is Hilton and my middle name is Hilton, but the Amsterdam Hilton was different. It was the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's famous Bed-In to promote world peace. Or in the words of wikipedia (whoever words those may be):
"Knowing their March 20, 1969 marriage would be a huge press event, John and Yoko decided to use the publicity to promote world peace. They spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite (Room #702) at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel for a week between March 25 and 31, inviting the world's press into their hotel room every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. After their other stunts, such as the nude cover of the Two Virgins album, the press were expecting them to be having sex, but instead the couple were sitting in bed—in John's words "like Angels"—talking about peace with signs over their bed reading "Hair Peace" and "Bed Peace"."

Big display in the lobby and our room happened to be on the 6th floor which is the closest I came to touching history.

Take care every one,....and give peace a chance

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hey Party People-

Usually, there is a log jam of "year in review" articles at or around the 31st of December. They are amusing, but kind of grow into a feeling of resentment or gloating. To buck this trend I thought it would only be appropriate for a new approach:

"The First Firsts"

First time I've even been bit by a dog (no skin puncture, just ripped jeans)

First time I have had (and purchased) a beer in a movie theatre

First time I have seen someone crash a bike,...while walking it

First time I've been driven around in a donkey cart

First time I've seen an indoor skating rink that is actually just white plywood

First time I've been asked to translate the words to a Lil' Wayne song

First time I've been referred to only as "English" by a neighbor (i.e. "How are you, English?")

First time I've been paid more for shipping an handling than the actual item I want to ship

First time I've even been schooled by a 10 year old in soccer

First time I've throw garbage into a dumpster only to have a cat jump out at me

First time I've had homemade alcohol

First time I've been asked to drink homemade alcohol before I've had breakfast

First time I've seen peanut butter and did a celebratory fist pump

First time I've watched a live sporting event at 3am

First time I've seen energy drinks sold in 2 liters,....yes,...2 liters.



So there you have it. Confusing, amusing, and always entertaining.




And with my first 5 months committed to the history facebook, I eagerly await the next 21. I hope everyone had a wonderful new years and may you all seize the world of possibilities 09' has at our collective fingertips.

To the Lonestar State, to Buffa-love, to Tahoe, to The Great Pacific Northwest and all the peguins in between; Happy 2009