Blagodaria, Bulgaria (Paperback)
Wanting to reside somewhere in Eastern Europe for a while, curious to learn how that region was faring after the fall of the wall, the author and her husband taught at the American College of Sofia from 1998 to 2000 in Sofia, Bulgaria, the oldest active American high school outside of the United States, founded in 1860, closed during the fifty years of Communist rule, and reopened in 1991. "Blagodaria, Bulgaria" is the account of their intense, challenging, poignant two years living in a villa with other teachers in a wacky, unique school that shared its campus with a police training academy and never knew when it was going to be ordered to close down, and in a wacky, closed country struggling with the residue of Communism--corruption, poverty, work ethic, unplowed streets, among a people known for pessimism but who had a turbulent history and an uncertain future. Their remarkable, endearing students, some of the brightest in the country and learning to learn by critical thinking rather than rote memorization, have dreams of a different life, many of them going on to prestigious American universities. Despite the all-encompassing demands of the school, the author manages to explore the cultural and historical delights in the old city and travel around the beautiful, diverse countryside of dry plains, rugged mountain ranges, Black Sea coast, villages and vineyards. One summer is spent backpacking through more countries of Eastern Europe, with their accompanying transitions, and during school breaks there are trips to the Mideast and South Africa. Fifteen years after leaving it, the author returned to Bulgaria, which was still in ferment but opening up to the rest of the world and much changed.