Bulgaria: 2nd to 9th September, week 1 LunaDolina set-up

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The final 2 weeks of our Bulgarian venture was spent camping in a valley outside of the village of Voditsa, volunteering for the set up of the first year of LunaDolina Festival. http://lunadolina.com/english/
Organised by a small group of British, Belgians, and Bulgarians living in Voditsa and surrounding villages, and part of the helpX scheme, work exchanged for food + accommodation (+ a cold beer after work).

Nick, Gracey, Ewen, Lisa and I piled into the van, picking up Kathy from her house in Voditsa + her daughter Elly who lives opposite her (both ex-Newcastle) + her partner Dancho (Bulgarian) + Raul (French) on the way. Raul cycled from France, with a tent and an accordion, it took him 2 months. He hates his bike and wants nothing more to do with it. On the last few metres of his journey he found a puppy, a week or so old with maggots in it's feet and covered in sores. Eyes closed, barely responding, but alive. Lunan we called him, after Lunadolina. And began mission cure the puppy.










Priority tasks were to build toilets and to build a cooker. Naturally, Nick, Raul and Ewen were on the shitters, Gracey and I were on building the wood-fired, mud brick stove AKA the petchka (печка) under instruction from Lisa and Kathy. The men had a clever system for ground levelling, spades, spirit levels and funny spy-glass things to look through, we used a big pan with water in the bottom. Mud, sand, water and scrap metal, making it up as we went along... It looked like a space ship emerging from the hillside, but it worked! and cooked lunch and dinner feasts over the following 2 weeks for all of the volunteers as the numbers grew from 4 to 24.


















The stage was built, signs were painted, stairs were made from the chill-out area to the campsite in the forest, cafes constructed... Our most valuable learned skill, how to dig a deep, narrow hole in hard ground for a tall wooden post, and the importance of proper, actual proper, level ground below constructions...


















In the morning we'd wake to the sun rising, light the fire on the stove for coffee and toast. The wasps wanted Baba Ivanka's honey as much as we did, flicking 3 to 15 off the slice before you bite, there were some (funny) stung lips and a (not so funny) stung tongue. A rota for lunch and dinner cooking, Chai and cheesecake and coffee at break times. A cold beer in the evening and accordion around the campfire. Hilariously messy translations of each of our best jokes in Bulgarian, English and French. Two of the Bulgarian boys from the village disappeared into the dark forest (with the jackalls and wolves and wolverines) to find wood for the fire and came back casually with two whole trees.
























Grace and I walked into the village, early one morning. On our way down an old man called and waved good morning to us as we walked past, in his other hand he shook a dead rabbit in the air. On our way back up the track, he hobbled out of his gate, grinning, holding something behind his back, talking to us in Bulgarian. He pulled from behind him... TWO GIANT PEACHES. If anybody thought the generosity we'd been experiencing from the Bulgarians could have been something to do with us being blonde or girls or the only non-Bulgarians on the beach at Karadere, they should talk to John, the big Welsh electrician who lives near Voditsa. He'll describe how overwhelmed he has been by the Bulgarian kindness since he arrived a few years ago, the open-arm welcomes and continuous generosity.

We spent a day exploring the residential streets of Popovo. We were in one of the poorest areas of Bulgaria, people living there put us all to shame with their food growing and economical use of absolutely everything. The houses and flat blocks were built during communist times, when workshops in metal, wood and glass were available to everyone, each home is beautifully unique with fences made from metal cogs and radiator parts.. Vegetables grow on every spare inch of land, squashes dangle from balconies, beans trail fences, and grassy pavements along the roadside have been dug up into community veg patches.






























For our weekend off we went back to the farm with Lisa, Ewen, and Lisa's lovely daughter Zoe who had arrived from Ireland. Our final dinner at the farm with our surrogate family, we were honoured to be asked if we'd like to share their last leg of goat with them, they have killed two over the 4 years they have lived there. Spectacular roast dinner on the wood-fired stove, plum rakia, Ewen did an impressive dance with a flaming axe, a tree trunk, and a drum beat and Zoe wowed us with her fire poi. PASS ME MA FOK'N SPOON in an Irish accent. So much love and laughter, thank you Lisa, Ewen and Zoe XXXX

A couple of full nights of sleep in a clean (shame Nick smelt so bad), insect free bed. Sleeping in the tent with 2 invisibility-cloaked ants tickling paths over our skin, somewhere in our sleeping bags... had become a torturous nightmare driving us to hysteria at 4 in the morning.


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