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Typical day for me in Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo


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I just thought I'd write a bit about what a typical working day is like for me here in Veliko Tarnovo.

Once I'm up and about I look out of the windows at one of the spectacular views you can imagine and think about how lucky I am to have it. Since it's winter, I eat my breakfast beneath the warm air blowing out of the heater on the wall near the ceiling. I walk to work in joggers and trainers because they are more comfortable than the work trousers and shoes I change into once I arrive at work.

For the last couple of weeks it's been very misty every morning; this morning is no exception.

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Sometimes the mist is so heavy I can't even see the hill directly opposite my windows, or the River Yantra, or Tsarevets Fortress on the hill on my right hand side. Everything beyond the road running above the Yantra but below my windows is completely blanked out. Sometimes most of the Fortress is shrouded in mist, with only the Patriarchate Tower rising above it. On other occasions, the mist has lessened, so that the Yantra and the Fortress and the hill opposite can be seen but the hills and enscarpments beyond them either cannot be seen at all, or they move in and out of sight as the fingers of cloud drift by.

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Sometimes as I step outside and turn to double lock the outer door, one of the local street dogs trots up to say hello. She doesn't officially belong to anyone but is fed by several people in the neighbourhood. I stroke her and say hello before walking down a steep set of steps to the main street. Sometimes she trots along with me for a while before continuing along the main road into town; I soon leave the main road and go down two more steep sets of steps onto Gurko Street. The dramatically hilly nature of Veliko Tarnovo means that steps and slopes are everywhere.

I often smell the aroma of woodsmoke around Veliko Tarnovo, unsurprisingly given the fact that the vast majority of people have wood burners; the school's radiators are powered by one. On this typical day, I smell woodsmoke on my walk along Gurko Street to school; I see that one of the houses has just received a delivery of chopped wood. The view from this side of the hill is also fantastic. The many cats and kittens that spend their time on Gurko Street look at me when I pass by. Two or three street cleaners in bright orange uniforms appear and begin sweeping up leaves and any rubbish with straw brooms. Sometimes a rubbish truck squeezes through the street, passers-by like myself stepping aside to let it pass.

When the weather is wet I nip from beneath overhanging building to overhanging building, sheltering from as much rain as I can but avoiding the streams of water that flow from the pipes and guttering above; but recently the weather has been misty and cold but dry - the only water in the open air on Gurko Street has been the water flowing into stone sinks set into the hillside side of the road. The water is clear; maybe originally the sinks and water supply was the residents' main water source? Occasionally I see residents fill up buckets from them. Maybe the sinks were there before cars became common, meaning that horses used to drink from them. I know that in the Bulgarian villages, some people travel by horse and cart.

Sometimes I hear church bells ringing in the distance; this always reminds me of my walk to work in Guayaquil in my last three weeks of the job in Ecuador. I had an IELTS one-to-one between 7 - 9 am from Monday to Friday, so I'd set off from my new flat about 6.20. At 6.30 every morning, just as I was walking through Urdesa Norte neighbourhood and nearing the river, I'd hear a church bell clanging nearby. Then, as I crossed the river, I'd sometimes spot an iguana or two in the trees or on the brick wall to one side.

Once I've reached work I get changed and prepare for my first lesson. My exact teaching timetable is different every day of the working week, but I always have at least one or two classes in the morning, afternoon and in the evening, except for Tuesday when I don't have any evening classes. The average number is about five classes a day; most classes are an hour and a half long, but some are an hour and one of mine is only 45 minutes.

For lunch I usually nip out to a shop and get a bottle of Coke Zero, a couple of cheesy rolls and a clear plastic box of sweet things to eat in front of the computer at work. I save one of the rolls and about half of the sweet things for later. Bulgaria seems to have quite a large collection of different types of cheesy rolls. Some with yellow cheese on top (kashkavalki), or variously-shaped ones with white cheese (a lot like feta) inside and on top. The sweet things I normally get are balls of a brown, moist, sweet stuff, rolled in dessicated coconut. I've never quite worked out what exactly is in them apart from coconut, but they're delicious! Another type of sweet thing I get sometimes are a bit like little circular meringues, but chewier and nuttier, a little bit biscuit-like. Sometimes, if I have enough time, instead of buying cheesy rolls, I go to the deli round the corner and have a plate of hot food - normally stuffed aubergine or stuffed courgettes - and a little plate of créme caramel or rice pudding.

Then it's time for afternoon and evening classes, interspersed with planning, marking, topping up the fire in the heater with pieces of wood, chatting and going on the internet to check my email and Facebook, check various sports scores, read articles on BBC Sport and BBC News and play games on Sporcle. The amount of time I get for lunch varies and sometimes I don't get a chance to have it until mid-afternoon.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I don't finish work until 9.30 pm, so I don't bother cooking anything for dinner, unless on Monday I can just reheat a portion of something I'd made at the weekend. At weekends it's a different story - I usually make the effort to do some proper cooking.

On more than one occasion in the late evening I hear the almost-unmistakeable sound of a train passing through Veliko Tarnovo. It's not unpleasant at all - it's a very low, rhythmical rumble. I say 'almost' unmistakeable because I remember on my first few days in VT I couldn't work out what the sound was - I thought it sounded a bit like a group of people beating drums in the distance. I thought that maybe there was some kind of parade going on, even though I couldn't see signs of any such thing when I looked out of the window. Eventually I realised what it was, however!

That reminds of my first couple of weeks in Ecuador, when I thought that the tune the rubbish truck made on its rounds was actually a theme tune from a television programme I seemed to hear people watching all the time. It was only until I heard it properly for the first time (starting up in the distance, becoming louder and louder before fading away again) that I realised what the sound actually was!

Posted by 3Traveller 02:10 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged trains bulgaria ecuador veliko_tarnovo english_teaching bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street Comments (0)

Goodbye to Ecuador

Guayaquil


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I had pictured myself having a nice relaxed time at the airport before my final flight out of Ecuador, but it didn't work out like that at all! I had no time at all to browse through duty-free or have a drink at a café in the boarding area, which is what I had wanted to do. Instead I had a very stressful time of it, as I will expand on below!

Just before I left the flat I realised I still had a tin of fruit cocktail left, so I took it with me to the airport. As soon as I'd checked in my big case I had the fruit salad and checked the Republica del Cacao t-shirts (they didn't have any fitted ones so I didn't buy one) before going through to passport control. As soon as I saw the massive queue I regretted the time I'd spent eating fruit salad because I only had an hour left before take-off. I felt increasingly agitated as I waited because I heard my name being called, telling me to identify myself to someone at Gate 10... the queue was going so slowly and every five minutes my name was being called, along with those of three others. The first official looking person I ambushed told me I still had to wait my turn at passport control despite what the intercom voice had said, so I carried on waiting, feeling even more agitated as the minutes ticked by. I was so afraid I'd miss my flight! Finally another couple ambushed an official close by me, saying their names were being called, so I jumped in too. This official let us jump the queue and go straight to a passport control person.

After getting my passport stamped I had to queue for the baggage x-ray; there were two officials checking passports in the queue and when they got to mine they asked how many days - I assumed they meant how many days I'd been in Ecuador, though I wasn't sure if they meant overall or just since the last time I´d left and come back. The woman seemed impatient and when I said "a year and two months" she just repeated "how many days?", and when I said, flustered, "um, about 420, 430?", she made me go into a little separate room to have my hand luggage checked. The guy took his time doing it. Every couple of minutes my name was still being called, until eventually it stopped. Then one of the onlooking officials said something about my rucksack being checked - I thought he meant I'd have to go back and check it in as hold luggage, so I said "but I haven't got time to do that! My name is being called!" - to which he didn't make any reaction. They let me go as soon as I'd said it though and I just carried straight on to the x-ray and put my stuff through OK.

As soon as my stuff came out from the x-ray I didn't have time to do up my bootlaces so I ran through duty-free and along to Gate 10 with them still untied. I arrived at the gate out of breath and extremely flustered looking, only to be told by the official there that I had to go downstairs because my bags had been identified as a security risk! I said in English "but my flight...!" and luckily for my state of mind the woman said not to worry, that the flight would not be leaving without me.

So in a relieved and more relaxed state of mind, I went downstairs to what turned out to be where suspect hold luggage is put aside and searched before being put on the plane. My big case was hauled out and then searched in front of me. There was a couple next to me having their bags searched too - the woman started shouting about it, which I mentally shook my head about because after all it wasn't the baggage searcher's fault. Not that I would start shouting even if it was her fault, of course. The guy who searched my bag was very nice and did a rather cursory search before saying that everything was fine.

When I checked the time as I sat down on the plane it was 18.16, a minute after we were supposed to have departed. We set off within 30 minutes. The sun was setting as we left Guayaquil. I felt excited about the fact I'd be back in the UK again soon and to be spending time in Madrid before that, but I did also feel sad to be leaving my wonderful Ecuador, a country that had been so kind to me. I will definitely return!

Posted by 3Traveller 04:25 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

Goodbye to Guayaquil

Guayaquil


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Monday 28th

Today I went back to my now-former-workplace to do a few final things and say goodbye to everyone. These things included: paying a visit to Western Union to transfer most of the money from my Ecuadorian bank account to the UK, making use of the printer to print off my flight e-tickets and my Madrid hostel reservation email, collecting a parcel from Emma from the post office using a slip that had arrived at work while I was away, going up onto the flat roof of the building to take photos of the view on each side, going out for lunch (seco de pollo) at the booths round the corner for the last time, and having an exit interview with the Director of Studies.

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It was relatively late in the afternoon by the time I got back, so I didn't do much else apart from go out for dinner. I had a churrasco (at this place, a thin steak with ratatouille-type vegetables and two fried eggs on top, with chips and rice) and then a cup of morocho for pudding.

Tuesday 29th

In the morning I got a bus into Guayaquil city centre for a last look-around. I visited the Central Market for the first time - as soon as I entered I really wished I'd discovered it much sooner. It was filled with fruit, vegetable and herb stalls, stalls of sausages hanging up, stalls selling sacks of flour, beans, pulses etc., and stalls selling tins and packets of food as well as more general non-edible household goods. It was very much like the Daily Market in Otavalo and the general market in Banos, only without the café-stands selling guinea pig, other typical Ecuadorian dishes and slices taken from whole roasted pigs.

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Then I walked past the hotel where I stayed with Mum in February, so on an impulse I went into its café and had a cup of their wonderful hot chocolate. Then I said goodbye to the iguanas in Iguana Square and carried on straight ahead to the Malecón.

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I climbed up one of the viewing towers next to the River Guayas, which is what I'd done on my first visit to the city centre on my second full day in Ecuador. It was perfectly sunny, without a cloud in the sky.

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My next stop was the Artisan Market, another place I had never been inside before for some reason. On the way there I walked past La Barca Azul, the lunch restaurant where I ate several times and took most of my visitors to, but I didn't feel hungry enough for lunch yet so I didn't go in. At the market I had a quick look round and then took a bus back to Urdesa.

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As soon as I'd dumped my stuff I went straight out again, this time to the Banco Pichincha cash machine to take out the rest of the money I had left in my account. I'd left enough in there to change into Euros once I got to Madrid, so I wouldn't need to use my HSBC card there at all, and hopefully have some left over as well. Before I took the bus back to my street corner, first of all I bought a sandwich and a carton of coffee milk from Oki Doki (a convenience store... I remember finding the name very amusing when I first got here) and then I did a little bit of shopping at Mi Comisariato supermarket. Amongst other things, I bought a bottle of Ecuadorian créme de cacao to take back to the UK.

Two minutes before I had to get off the bus, 'Vivir mi Vida' by Marc Antony came onto the radio. I've heard this played so often on the buses (and elsewhere) ever since I arrived in Ecuador that I've come to consider it my Ecuadorian anthem; it felt very appropriate and right that it was playing on my last bus journey here. It played on my arrival and now it was accompanying me on my way out.

Then I packed everything and at 4pm I somehow managed to get my big and incredibly heavy case down four flights of stairs and out onto the pavement, along with my rucksack, laptop case and a couple of bags of rubbish to put out.

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Then I flagged down a taxi to the airport. The fare was $4, so since all the change I had left came to just above that, I just gave the driver all of it.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hotel market airport cathedral buses iguanas ecuador guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

Goodbye to the Ecuadorian coast

Puerto Lopez and Guayaquil


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The morning was taken up with having breakfast, having one or two drinks and a game of cards on the beach, checking out of our various hostels and having lunch (I had shrimp ceviche). Then we went back to Guayaquil via Santa Elena. We didn't get back until after 7pm.

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One full day left in Guayaquil now, before I leave Ecuador.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:36 Archived in Ecuador Tagged coast beach hostel ceviche ecuador puerto_lópez ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Whale-watching and Isla de la Plata

Isla de la Plata and Puerto Lopez


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Day trip to Isla de la Plata, but before we arrived there we did some humpback whale watching! It's a bit of a cliché, but they are so majestic. We loved the way they rise right out of the water before plunging down again. We saw lots of spray coming from their blowholes, too, and once when I and two others had moved to the front of the boat, two or three of them appeared right in front of us very close to the boat. It was exhilarating seeing creatures so large so near.

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Once we arrived at Isla de la Plata we split up into two groups; one went on a long walk and the other one did a slightly shorter one. It was extremely hot and sunny and I'd forgotten my hat, so I went for the slightly shorter one.

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I was really happy already, because of the amazing humpback whales, but then my day got even better because I saw lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds (or Great Frigatebirds - not sure which of the two they were, but both types have red pouches beneath their beaks that inflate like balloons) perched in bushes. I'd always wanted to see them and they were the one type of bird I didn't manage to see on the Galápagos Islands which I had really wanted to. We were able to get so close to them, I managed to get some good photos.

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We also saw lots of blue-footed boobies and some pelicans. The boobies were just standing on the ground beneath bushes. They were extremely tame; not tame because they have got used to humans, but tame in that they haven't learned to fear us.

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With one pair that we saw, the male demonstrated part their courtship display - he lifted his feet up and down and then picked up a stick to present to the female as a nest material. Isla de la Plata isn't nicknamed a 'Poor Man's Galápagos Island' for nothing! The other group also saw some red-footed boobies.

Once we got back to the landing point, we got back on the boat for some lunch - a cheese roll, a tuna roll and some pineapple and watermelon slices - before going round the coast of the island for a bit to do some snorkelling. While having lunch we saw three green sea turtles around the boat.

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Unfortunately there weren't any in the snorkelling place, but we still got to see lots of fish. We got into the water straight off the end of the boat, not from a beach.

After changing clothes back in Puerto Lopez, we went back to the same restaurant where we'd had lunch the day before. This time, as I had promised myself, I had the fish with peanut sauce, which was just as delicious as I'd hoped. I'd raved about the lobster so much to everyone the day before that this evening one or two of the others tried some of their own. They also thought it was amazing.

We moved on to a beach bar on the sand after dinner and had a few drinks. I had a couple more of the Coco Loco cocktails.

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Eventually, pretty late, we headed to bed. On the way, I noticed something I remembered seeing in Montañita at the staff Christmas party; hundreds of little birds perched all along the telephone wires along and across the street.

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Posted by 3Traveller 02:44 Archived in Ecuador Tagged birds night turtles pelicans coast beach ecuador puerto_lópez explorations blue_footed_boobies frigatebirds ecuadorian_cuisine tropical_fish whale-watching isla_de_la_plata extreme_weather Comments (0)

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