Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Money Doesn´t Matter

The four countries that have had the greatest impact on me are all in Europe. One of them is in western Europe; three of them are in eastern Europe. Two of these eastern European locations are on the top ten list of poorest countries on the continent. Below are the results a 2012/2013 CIA survey regarding income levels for these two countries (plus others).

Country                                       Per Capita Income (USD)
1.Moldova                                             3,500
2. Kosovo                                             7,400
3. Ukraine                                             7,600
4. Albania                                              8,000
5. Bosnia and Herzegovina                     8,300
6. Serbia                                              10,500
7. Macedonia                                       10,700
8. Montenegro                                     11,700
9. Romania                                          12,800
10. Bulgaria                                         14,500
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)--United States Here´s the link if you´re craving more (pretty pictures to convince you to visit included).

Although I was only in Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina for a total of about nine days, I had so many jaw-dropping moments, so many ¨a-ha´s¨.

It´s safe to say that most North Americans would brush off many of these struggling countries with their superiority complex and comments like ¨Serbia? Bosnia? Aren´t they still at war?¨ Who can blame them, though? Anything we´ve heard regarding the Balkans has been about the war, almost as a warning to stay away. When was the last time you saw an advertisement for Bosnian coffee or to skip Hawaii and go to Bulgaria´s Black Sea instead?

And Serbia?? Pff, they shouldn´t need any advertisement. Hidden among the clothing boutiques and outlets are dusty corner stores where hat makers perfect their trade. Hat makers. (I almost bought a dark-green winter hat  made from rabbit´s skin by the shoppe keeper herself. Unfortunately, my parents had already relocated from Wyoming to Las Vegas. sigh. I could have been as cool as this guy, but green).

My point is this:
You´ll see things none of your family or friends will believe. You may not even believe some of it but who knows what it is that will change the way you see the world until you set out. Don´t be afraid of stereotypes built by your culture. You´ll be more significant and interesting to people with yearly incomes equal to what some spend on one hand of Baccarat than to a few head honchos at an international hub in London or Paris, promise. Instead, go someplace that might scare you. I guarantee the beauty you´ll find will be worth the cost.

Friday, June 7, 2013

a breath of fresh air

So the solemn waiter at the Bulgarian restaurant last night told me where to buy Bulgarian cheese (something you can not find in you´re average walmart). Little did I realise the value of this suspicious grocery store. 

Not only was there Bulgarian cheese, there was also Bulgarian honey and wine. But pfff, not only that, there was also Croatian, Greek, and Polish wine.  !!

The fun doesn´t stop there, though. They also flaunt a variety of Bosnian Burek. And Armenian honey. And Russian Mors with cranberry and sea buckthorn. (No idea what sea buckthorn is, but that´s probably why I bought it). 

This place was filled with all my favorite European specialties, including, get this, Mulbeeren and Kichererbse mit Rosenwasser. I died!! This Mulbeeren is simply a box full of mulberry fruit and the latter is a bag of chickpeas covered in sugar and rosewater.  

Okay so maybe they aren´t the first snack you search for in your cupboard, but it´s a step up from Doritos and gold fish.

This store, Jones Market (located at the corner of Jones and Desert Inn) has given me hope for my life in Las Vegas. Where else can I get Bulgarian yogurts and Russian truffles?

A step off the normal path

My daily routine has settled into some combination of going to the weight room, cleaning, studying, piano practice, and way too much pool time. It´s getting old.

To kick the boredom, I decided to go for a walk, go figure. I grab some of the oldest clothes I have out of my closet (a white t-shirt and denim shorts) and put my hair up in a quick bun. I looked like a bum. Still, within the first ten minutes of walking under the beating sun, I was  to as ¨gurrrrl¨, ¨wuman¨,  ¨princess¨, and my favorite, ¨little mamacita¨. They´re easy to shake off as long as they don´t start following you. No followers this time; lucky me.

I´ve always been attracted to hot, dry climates, but I´ve never spent a full summer in Las Vegas. About 20 minutes into my walk I took refuge at the first place I found: the mall. Who knew I would find the Hispanic Heritage Museum of Nevada alongside Hot Topic and Sears? It was so tempting to go in, but I didn´t want to disturb the girls dancing Cumbia inside. (Actually, that´s only partly true. I waited out front looking at the display on Colombia hoping for an invite or a head nod to come in. I never got an invite. Still, I envied their Latin ways of dancing cumbia at work....).

For women, wedding dress shopping is something magical (or I imagine it to be so). So many styles, cuts, frills, sparkles to choose from. But Las Vegas takes wedding dress shopping one step further. Before you walk down the aisle ladies, don´t forget to consider a floor-length gown in neon green or electric magenta with a glittery bodice. Prefer a strapless summer-sky blue gown? Match that with thigh-high dresses with  an exorbitant amount of ruffles for your bridesmaids. You´re big day can´t come soon enough, can it?

Fifteen minutes and one water bottle later, I made it to my destination, Magura Restaurant. Okay, so I had set off without a destination but let´s be real, I´ve been dying for something authentically Bulgarian. And this is it. They have the traditional decorations, yeah, but that´s not what I think makes this place truly Bulgarian. It´s the people. The guys in the back all wear grey and black, only one speaks English. However, what makes this troupe authentically ¨Bulgarski¨ is that they don´t smile. It kind of concerns me. Being in the US and not having a smile plastered to your face can be taken offensively, especially in food service.

Not to worry, though. I have no doubt that, single-handedly, I can keep them in business. Bulgarians have this traditional pasty called Banitza. I´ve only had it once in the US (not including all the at-home attempts), but it was made by Americanized Bulgarians. Anyway, my point is that these people will make this for me even though it isn´t on the menu, no questions asked. That´s what I call service.