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Моята история
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ISBN
954-529-480-9
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Rating (3)
5 3
Format
Paperback
Size
13/20
Weight
280 gr.
Pages
254
Published
08 December 2006

My Story

After “Your Story”, without hesitation, the author steps through the boundary of journalism with the book “My Story”. In a way a continuation, it presents us with a series of “instant photos” of our most recent history. Without any pathos, she looks self-ironically for the place in it of the ordinary person, the one who obviously is not up to speed with the current events, but if not their engine, he is at least a participant in them and surely a biographer of his own destiny.

In the center of our attention is the story - an echo from the politics and hatred of the day, but also the story - personal, yours, mine, hers, everybody’s, stretched between the pathos-filled poems of Vazov and the anecdotes for the American, the French and the Bulgarian. Between the sizzling of fried meat balls and the drums of military marches. Drown in cheerless self-regret or dancing until there is no tomorrow. Where is Bulgaria?

A look from inside at ourselves, not always pleasing, but with good intentions, that wants to capture the image of the Bulgarian, through the eyes of the author, a moment before “becoming European”.

Some memorable quotes from the book:

I leave the old man and sink into grey Bulgaria - the one in which white money is becoming rare and black days more frequent. Bulgaria in which fathers have not been able to teach their sons to take care of them when they are old, and the phrase “Take it easy, dad” is part of a living nightmare.”

From chapter “Take It Easy, Dad” which is the story of an old man who lost his criminal son in a shooting (p. 180).

How can I say it, boys. To live in Bulgaria is part of the injustice in the world. But if everything is just, there will be no equilibrium in the world, right? If I didn’t stay in Bulgaria, I would not be what I am now.”

From chapter “The Benefit of Injustice in the World” when the author talks to German friends in Berlin (p. 220).

To come here [in Vienna], I decided right away. Now I can’t make up my mind to leave. My angels are weak. I got used to this situation - not entirely here, not entirely there. But to tell you the truth, I don’t know how it was back then, but now it’s not easy to be Mozart.”

From chapter “It’s Not Easy to be Mozart” where a young Bulgarian went to Vienna to look for his old girlfriend, but ended up dressed as Mozart, selling concert tickets on the street, in the cold winter (p. 244).

Maybe we are not living well here, but we hope that one day we’ll be OK. Slowly life gets better. In Bulgaria time just goes by and nothing happens. ”

From chapter “Once the European Union Comes…” where in Vienna, on Christmas night the author talks to Bulgarians living and working there (p. 250).

About the Author
Janina  Dragostinova

Janina Dragostinova, was born on March 8, 1962 in Varna. After graduating from a German language High School, she obtains a diploma in German philology in the Sofia University “St Kliment Ohridski”. She also studied film criticism at the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts and Cinematography “Krustyo Sarafov”. She has worked as a journalist for many Bulgarian newspapers, for the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Berlin and for the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency. She has received numerous journalistic awards in Bulgaria and abroad. She has translated several books from German, including “The Anarchy of the Imagination” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, “Journey to Trulala” by Vladimir Kaminer and many others.

Excerpt

My Story Where’s Bulgaria, a novel by Janina Dragostinova

I was sure I’d gone to bed. Fallen asleep actually. At one point I heard someone typing, clattering away. God Almighty - my husband is constantly getting upset - you’re the only one who refuses to understand that typewriters are long gone; why not use the computer? The keyboard’s so much softer. The clatter is getting louder and louder. I’m sleeping, aren’t I? How nice, I think. I can sleep and write at the same time. Nirvana. But am I really writing only or dreaming that I’m writing? If I’m dreaming, how come the clattering is so real? It is getting unbearable. I open my eyes. Well, yes, I had been sleeping. But not writing. The clatter comes from a huge colorful butterfly beating against the window. The sound is identical with the clatter of a keyboard. What if the butterfly was recording my dreams? I can’t claim for sure the butterfly is my co-writer; I only know that these stories were born at the boundary of awareness and dream, of reality and its perception of it, at the place where my little country turns from giant to dwarf and vice versa in a split second, at the place where laughter brings tears, shame becomes pride…at the place, where my days and nights flow on apace and butterfly stories are routine.

If men ask me where the sunrise
Warmed me first when I was small,
If men ask me where the land is
That I cherish most of all.

Ivan Vazov (1850-1921), Bulgarian poet, novelist and playwright, the patriarch of Bulgarian literature.

A three-year-old Bulgarian is asked what he wants to be when he grows up.
A foreigner, he replies.
An eighteen-year-old Bulgarian is asked what he wants to study.
Abroad, he replies.
*   *   *
I’m Bulgarian...
Oh, stop complaining!

Bulgarian humour from the early twenty-first century

The Loves of a Cleaning Lady

Your destiny is to live abroad, a fortune-teller once told me. I am like most Bulgarians who consult fortune-tellers but do not admit it. I usually say I go to them to write stories about them. The truth is I can’t wait for my fate to be disclosed, for the invisible to be made manifest. As I see it, fortune-tellers here are what psychoanalysts are for Woody Allen, but such a claim sounds cynical, so I swallow it.
I have been abroad, I shyly replied.
It was not enough, she said in her hoarse chain-smoker voice.
When I look at it now, it wasn’t enough, but back then I did my best to run away.
I was a government official in Berlin. My work involved sitting at a desk and looking through the window. It rains a lot in Berlin, and I am a real expert on West European rain.
One day I got sick of counting the rain drops. I opened the newspaper and found: cleaning lady wanted. Suddenly a sleeping Günter Walraff was awakened in me. Well, I said to myself, now we’ll see the famous well-ordered German system from within. And we’ll beat it. Besides, it will be an education to see how poor students work their way through school abroad.
Do you smoke? Do you have children? Can you communicate with them? What is your attitude to flowers? Do you drink? There’s a bottle of cognac in the kitchen, but it hasn’t been opened for years. Never touch the stuff. What is your attitude to jewelry? Organic waste goes in the green bag. Don’t get it mixed up with the refuse, because we pay lower taxes…
Frau Friedrich shot the questions at me faster than a game show host. I was hardly able to nod to every second one. She said she was evaluating me on three counts: communicability, qualifications and overall behaviour.
I passed. Bulgaria has always treated its intellectuals badly, Frau Friedrich concluded. It sends them to clean up abroad. She hired me.
My house in Bulgaria was always topsey turvey, but I did my best for Frau Friedrich. This is Europe, after all. I was so good I would finish before the four hours we had agreed upon were up. Or maybe it was because the cognac in that bottle was slowly disappearing. Nothing wrong with that: I’ve seen servants do it in the movies. But I worked so fast that problems started cropping up. For example, the Frau insisted that when I finished the work she gave me I should show creativity and clean some more, whereas my back was hurting and I wanted go home and lie down.
You don’t love this house, Frau Friedrich told me one day. And she was right. I hated the expensive stove, I hated the fake pigeons perched on the windowsill, I hated the parrot that kept tossing food on the floor as if on purpose after I’d mopped, I even hated little three year old Charlotte, who enjoyed scattering her toys and making me gather them. And I hated the glass of water the Frau would leave for me because physical labor makes you loose liquids… Just like Günter Walraff I hated the system from within. In the end I decided that it was better to be a misunderstood intellectual than a cleaning lady in the EU. And so we parted.
Soon after I left, a friend of mine, a Bulgarian married to a German, phoned and said they had hired a house keeper from Slovenia. Very nice, communicative, well behaved. But she finished her work quickly and wanted to leave early, my friend complained. This is the EU, after all! How can she think such a thing? my friend screamed. How can I make her love my house?
What can I tell you, I don’t know how to make someone love a foreign house.

This will be my simple answer:
Where the mighty Danube flows,
Where the Black Sea brightly dances
In the East and stormy grows.

 Ivan Vazov

European “Pleskavitza”

Our bus is leaving for Europe and we must be very careful. Especially now that there is so little time left to January 2007. The bus attendant is very careful too: he chooses his words carefully. The bus, he says, is equipped with a chemical toilet. However, it can only be used for pee. Because (at this point he pauses thoughtfully) whoever “drops a pear” - we hold our breaths - will turn the bus into a (pause)…” rose valley”. That’s right! The attendant is experienced: he has mastered the Europe-speak for sensitive issues.
Still, we feel embarrassed. At this moment none of us is intending “to drop a pear”, but merely by bringing up the possibility the attendant makes us all potentially guilty. He travels to Europe almost every day and understands where the mistrust towards us as a country comes from. The moment the Bulgarians enter EU, they “drop pears”. Totally indecent.
The attendant leaves us to digest the effect of his words, and we lower our eyes shyly as if a porno scene had come on the screen while we were watching a film with our parents. However, this assumption about our potential actions is only hearsay and even unreasonably suspicious. The truth could be different. After all, we have learned to hold back during the last fifteen years. In every way.
Let’s take the boy next to me, for example. He is holding a small wallet in his sweaty hand, the kind you hang on your belt. Every once in a while, he opens it and counts the banknotes. He’s got a lot of money in it. I can see why he’s sweating. I bet he’s going to pick up a European car. Everybody knows that Europe’s jalopies are our dream cars. If we were friends, I would tell him that no matter what make he gets, it will react the same way to Bulgarian roads as Soviet cars used to. I know, because there is hardly a month when I don’t take my Citroen to be repaired. I have the feeling the sole goal in life of every Bulgarian mechanic is to reduce every European car to its Soviet counterpart. Only the can he feel his power over the automobile. “There isn’t a drop of French left in this car,” my mechanic bragged last time. And he was right. So whatever car you bring back, poor boy, you’ll still be driving a Moskvich. I even wonder whether our mayors have a Mephistophelian contract with the car service people. But I can’t tell this to the boy. So I let him count his money and keep dreaming.
I watch the Serbian roads. They don’t inspire trust. There is toll after toll, yet bump after bump. Their highway police is like ours: they sit in ambush waiting to slap steep fines on foreigners. For better or worse we turn out to be brothers, the Serbs and us. Waiting to use a service station toilet, the woman in front asks me for one lev or 50 cents. You’ve jacked up the prices, a regular passenger complains. Well, petrol has gone up, so everything goes up, the toilet attendant explains. Logical: if the price of petrol goes up, why shouldn’t other liquids follow suit?
I was warned not to pass through Slovenia on my way to Austria: Slovenians turned mean the moment they entered Europe. They have the honey jar and therefore the right to do so. One day, when we enter Europe we will turn mean as well. That’s one thing we can do as well as anybody else.
True, the Hungarians aren’t any less mean-spirited. They point to the only gypsy boy in the bus and order him out. But why? They’re not saying. The small dark skinned boy does not make a peep. He obviously knows why. We are being criticised in European monitoring reports for failing to cope with the Roma problem, but I think down deep they really trust us: they’ve left us to do it on our own, haven’t they. With the DYI-Roma kit.
I finally arrive at my destination. Vienna. The Institute for Human Sciences. I am starting a stint there; I’m the latest fellow. Every one has a spacious room, a leather chair and a powerful computer. The Institute is so clean that most peopole are in their stocking feet. Ah, I say to myself, when we become a full-fledged EU member, we too will work in our socks.
So the first thing I do after planting myself in front of my desktop is to take off my shoes. But there is a problem: the chair is too high and my feet are dangling helplessly in the air. If I press the lever to the down position, my chin hits the desk. I e-mail back to Bulgaria for instructions. They don’t help: it is either up or down. I begin to see weaknesses of EU. If I were in Sofia, the “handy man” would have appeared by now, equipped with the one-tool-fixes-all - the “go to hell” phrase - in hand and the matter would be taken care of. But this is Vienna. It calls for a high class approach…
At our first get together a Danish fellow presents her project: “Political Murders in Eastern Europe”. She cannot comprehend how the Romanians executed Ceauşescu then and miss him now. She showed us pictures of a grave constantly covered with fresh flowers; she told us how on Saint Nicholas Day it attracted delegations from North Korea and China. Likewise, the Serbs are perplexed as to who their real hero is, Zoran Djindjić or Arkan, and she points out that Djindjić was a scholarship student at this very Institute and therefore sat in this very hall. Weird things happen in Eastern Europe, the Danish fellow concludes. Questions?
Was Ceauşescu a Dracula, a Polish fellow asks. Like most Poles he has an opinion on everything. And questions. He speaks in a scholarly vein, stressing the word “basically”. It was this ambition that enabled the Polish to catch the first wave of EU accession.
I have a good deal to say about political murders in Bulgaria but keep “basically” quiet. We have only observer status in Brussels anyway. We keep quiet and make notes in a fat book. Not that anyone in Sofia will see them, because Bulgarians know it all, but just in case…
Later I talk to the Belgian who lives next door to me. I try to explain how important Brussels is for us. “But Brussels is such a bore,” she says. “You wouldn’t catch me there dead.” That’s it: nobody appreciates what they have. “Want me to tell you this summer’s funniest story?”. I nod. Well, her Latin teacher had never been to Rome. This summer she had finally saved up the money and realised her dream. The minute she got off the bus she headed for Gucci’s: to go to Rome and not shop at Gucci’s is like going to Rome and not see the Pope. She bought an expensive sweater. Back with her group she felt a sharp twinge in her stomach and the urgent need to empty it. But all she could see were ancient stones. So when the group moved forward, she stayed behind, squatted in a corner, took the sweater out of the Gucci bag, and… filled it. She caught up with the group on the street and was holding the bag out to the side when suddenly a Vespa rushed by, as in the movies, and the driver snatched the bag with the prestige label and the priceless content. “Bella Italia!” exclaimed the Belgian. I immediately thought of our potential “rose valley”, but held my tongue again.
“That’s Europe all over,” says an American student. “You wrap up your shit, steal it from one another, and then wonder why you can’t agree on a Constitution.” The American is from Utah and is studying International Relations at the University of Vienna so he probably knows whereof he speaks. Besides, he’s a Mormon and does not drink hot beverages for breakfast. But my Belgian colleague and I can’t help defending the honour of Europe. God knows why, but I feel more offended than the woman from Brussels.
“Time for bed,” says the landlady by way of reconciliation. She reminds us we need to respect the privacy of others. This holds especially for the American, the landlady says, because Americans do not respect closed doors. Imperialists! he was told straight to his face. I rub my hands in contentment. The American flashes his whitened-tooth smile at us, snaps his braces over his wrinkled shirt and bids us all “good night” with great dignity.
As I fall asleep, I see . There is a dormer over my bed and the nocturnal European sky, all stars, is peeking through the dormer opposite my bed. A real sleeping pill.

Where the Balkan raises nobly
To the sky its mountain chain,
Where the sweeping Marits slowly
Wanders through the Thracian plain.

Ivan Vazov

My Story Where’s Bulgaria, a novel by Janina Dragostinova

I was sure I’d gone to bed. Fallen asleep actually. At one point I heard someone typing, clattering away. God Almighty - my husband is constantly getting upset - you’re the only one who refuses to understand that typewriters are long gone; why not use the computer? The keyboard’s so much softer. The clatter is getting louder and louder. I’m sleeping, aren’t I? How nice, I think. I can sleep and write at the same time. Nirvana. But am I really writing only or dreaming that I’m writing? If I’m dreaming, how come the clattering is so real? It is getting unbearable. I open my eyes. Well, yes, I had been sleeping. But not writing. The clatter comes from a huge colorful butterfly beating against the window. The sound is identical with the clatter of a keyboard. What if the butterfly was recording my dreams? I can’t claim for sure the butterfly is my co-writer; I only know that these stories were born at the boundary of awareness and dream, of reality and its perception of it, at the place where my little country turns from giant to dwarf and vice versa in a split second, at the place where laughter brings tears, shame becomes pride…at the place, where my days and nights flow on apace and butterfly stories are routine.

If men ask me where the sunrise
Warmed me first when I was small,
If men ask me where the land is
That I cherish most of all.

Ivan Vazov (1850-1921), Bulgarian poet, novelist and playwright, the patriarch of Bulgarian literature.

A three-year-old Bulgarian is asked what he wants to be when he grows up.
A foreigner, he replies.
An eighteen-year-old Bulgarian is asked what he wants to study.
Abroad, he replies.
*   *   *
I’m Bulgarian...
Oh, stop complaining!

Bulgarian humour from the early twenty-first century

The Loves of a Cleaning Lady

Your destiny is to live abroad, a fortune-teller once told me. I am like most Bulgarians who consult fortune-tellers but do not admit it. I usually say I go to them to write stories about them. The truth is I can’t wait for my fate to be disclosed, for the invisible to be made manifest. As I see it, fortune-tellers here are what psychoanalysts are for Woody Allen, but such a claim sounds cynical, so I swallow it.
I have been abroad, I shyly replied.
It was not enough, she said in her hoarse chain-smoker voice.
When I look at it now, it wasn’t enough, but back then I did my best to run away.
I was a government official in Berlin. My work involved sitting at a desk and looking through the window. It rains a lot in Berlin, and I am a real expert on West European rain.
One day I got sick of counting the rain drops. I opened the newspaper and found: cleaning lady wanted. Suddenly a sleeping Günter Walraff was awakened in me. Well, I said to myself, now we’ll see the famous well-ordered German system from within. And we’ll beat it. Besides, it will be an education to see how poor students work their way through school abroad.
Do you smoke? Do you have children? Can you communicate with them? What is your attitude to flowers? Do you drink? There’s a bottle of cognac in the kitchen, but it hasn’t been opened for years. Never touch the stuff. What is your attitude to jewelry? Organic waste goes in the green bag. Don’t get it mixed up with the refuse, because we pay lower taxes…
Frau Friedrich shot the questions at me faster than a game show host. I was hardly able to nod to every second one. She said she was evaluating me on three counts: communicability, qualifications and overall behaviour.
I passed. Bulgaria has always treated its intellectuals badly, Frau Friedrich concluded. It sends them to clean up abroad. She hired me.
My house in Bulgaria was always topsey turvey, but I did my best for Frau Friedrich. This is Europe, after all. I was so good I would finish before the four hours we had agreed upon were up. Or maybe it was because the cognac in that bottle was slowly disappearing. Nothing wrong with that: I’ve seen servants do it in the movies. But I worked so fast that problems started cropping up. For example, the Frau insisted that when I finished the work she gave me I should show creativity and clean some more, whereas my back was hurting and I wanted go home and lie down.
You don’t love this house, Frau Friedrich told me one day. And she was right. I hated the expensive stove, I hated the fake pigeons perched on the windowsill, I hated the parrot that kept tossing food on the floor as if on purpose after I’d mopped, I even hated little three year old Charlotte, who enjoyed scattering her toys and making me gather them. And I hated the glass of water the Frau would leave for me because physical labor makes you loose liquids… Just like Günter Walraff I hated the system from within. In the end I decided that it was better to be a misunderstood intellectual than a cleaning lady in the EU. And so we parted.
Soon after I left, a friend of mine, a Bulgarian married to a German, phoned and said they had hired a house keeper from Slovenia. Very nice, communicative, well behaved. But she finished her work quickly and wanted to leave early, my friend complained. This is the EU, after all! How can she think such a thing? my friend screamed. How can I make her love my house?
What can I tell you, I don’t know how to make someone love a foreign house.

This will be my simple answer:
Where the mighty Danube flows,
Where the Black Sea brightly dances
In the East and stormy grows.

 Ivan Vazov

European “Pleskavitza”

Our bus is leaving for Europe and we must be very careful. Especially now that there is so little time left to January 2007. The bus attendant is very careful too: he chooses his words carefully. The bus, he says, is equipped with a chemical toilet. However, it can only be used for pee. Because (at this point he pauses thoughtfully) whoever “drops a pear” - we hold our breaths - will turn the bus into a (pause)…” rose valley”. That’s right! The attendant is experienced: he has mastered the Europe-speak for sensitive issues.
Still, we feel embarrassed. At this moment none of us is intending “to drop a pear”, but merely by bringing up the possibility the attendant makes us all potentially guilty. He travels to Europe almost every day and understands where the mistrust towards us as a country comes from. The moment the Bulgarians enter EU, they “drop pears”. Totally indecent.
The attendant leaves us to digest the effect of his words, and we lower our eyes shyly as if a porno scene had come on the screen while we were watching a film with our parents. However, this assumption about our potential actions is only hearsay and even unreasonably suspicious. The truth could be different. After all, we have learned to hold back during the last fifteen years. In every way.
Let’s take the boy next to me, for example. He is holding a small wallet in his sweaty hand, the kind you hang on your belt. Every once in a while, he opens it and counts the banknotes. He’s got a lot of money in it. I can see why he’s sweating. I bet he’s going to pick up a European car. Everybody knows that Europe’s jalopies are our dream cars. If we were friends, I would tell him that no matter what make he gets, it will react the same way to Bulgarian roads as Soviet cars used to. I know, because there is hardly a month when I don’t take my Citroen to be repaired. I have the feeling the sole goal in life of every Bulgarian mechanic is to reduce every European car to its Soviet counterpart. Only the can he feel his power over the automobile. “There isn’t a drop of French left in this car,” my mechanic bragged last time. And he was right. So whatever car you bring back, poor boy, you’ll still be driving a Moskvich. I even wonder whether our mayors have a Mephistophelian contract with the car service people. But I can’t tell this to the boy. So I let him count his money and keep dreaming.
I watch the Serbian roads. They don’t inspire trust. There is toll after toll, yet bump after bump. Their highway police is like ours: they sit in ambush waiting to slap steep fines on foreigners. For better or worse we turn out to be brothers, the Serbs and us. Waiting to use a service station toilet, the woman in front asks me for one lev or 50 cents. You’ve jacked up the prices, a regular passenger complains. Well, petrol has gone up, so everything goes up, the toilet attendant explains. Logical: if the price of petrol goes up, why shouldn’t other liquids follow suit?
I was warned not to pass through Slovenia on my way to Austria: Slovenians turned mean the moment they entered Europe. They have the honey jar and therefore the right to do so. One day, when we enter Europe we will turn mean as well. That’s one thing we can do as well as anybody else.
True, the Hungarians aren’t any less mean-spirited. They point to the only gypsy boy in the bus and order him out. But why? They’re not saying. The small dark skinned boy does not make a peep. He obviously knows why. We are being criticised in European monitoring reports for failing to cope with the Roma problem, but I think down deep they really trust us: they’ve left us to do it on our own, haven’t they. With the DYI-Roma kit.
I finally arrive at my destination. Vienna. The Institute for Human Sciences. I am starting a stint there; I’m the latest fellow. Every one has a spacious room, a leather chair and a powerful computer. The Institute is so clean that most peopole are in their stocking feet. Ah, I say to myself, when we become a full-fledged EU member, we too will work in our socks.
So the first thing I do after planting myself in front of my desktop is to take off my shoes. But there is a problem: the chair is too high and my feet are dangling helplessly in the air. If I press the lever to the down position, my chin hits the desk. I e-mail back to Bulgaria for instructions. They don’t help: it is either up or down. I begin to see weaknesses of EU. If I were in Sofia, the “handy man” would have appeared by now, equipped with the one-tool-fixes-all - the “go to hell” phrase - in hand and the matter would be taken care of. But this is Vienna. It calls for a high class approach…
At our first get together a Danish fellow presents her project: “Political Murders in Eastern Europe”. She cannot comprehend how the Romanians executed Ceauşescu then and miss him now. She showed us pictures of a grave constantly covered with fresh flowers; she told us how on Saint Nicholas Day it attracted delegations from North Korea and China. Likewise, the Serbs are perplexed as to who their real hero is, Zoran Djindjić or Arkan, and she points out that Djindjić was a scholarship student at this very Institute and therefore sat in this very hall. Weird things happen in Eastern Europe, the Danish fellow concludes. Questions?
Was Ceauşescu a Dracula, a Polish fellow asks. Like most Poles he has an opinion on everything. And questions. He speaks in a scholarly vein, stressing the word “basically”. It was this ambition that enabled the Polish to catch the first wave of EU accession.
I have a good deal to say about political murders in Bulgaria but keep “basically” quiet. We have only observer status in Brussels anyway. We keep quiet and make notes in a fat book. Not that anyone in Sofia will see them, because Bulgarians know it all, but just in case…
Later I talk to the Belgian who lives next door to me. I try to explain how important Brussels is for us. “But Brussels is such a bore,” she says. “You wouldn’t catch me there dead.” That’s it: nobody appreciates what they have. “Want me to tell you this summer’s funniest story?”. I nod. Well, her Latin teacher had never been to Rome. This summer she had finally saved up the money and realised her dream. The minute she got off the bus she headed for Gucci’s: to go to Rome and not shop at Gucci’s is like going to Rome and not see the Pope. She bought an expensive sweater. Back with her group she felt a sharp twinge in her stomach and the urgent need to empty it. But all she could see were ancient stones. So when the group moved forward, she stayed behind, squatted in a corner, took the sweater out of the Gucci bag, and… filled it. She caught up with the group on the street and was holding the bag out to the side when suddenly a Vespa rushed by, as in the movies, and the driver snatched the bag with the prestige label and the priceless content. “Bella Italia!” exclaimed the Belgian. I immediately thought of our potential “rose valley”, but held my tongue again.
“That’s Europe all over,” says an American student. “You wrap up your shit, steal it from one another, and then wonder why you can’t agree on a Constitution.” The American is from Utah and is studying International Relations at the University of Vienna so he probably knows whereof he speaks. Besides, he’s a Mormon and does not drink hot beverages for breakfast. But my Belgian colleague and I can’t help defending the honour of Europe. God knows why, but I feel more offended than the woman from Brussels.
“Time for bed,” says the landlady by way of reconciliation. She reminds us we need to respect the privacy of others. This holds especially for the American, the landlady says, because Americans do not respect closed doors. Imperialists! he was told straight to his face. I rub my hands in contentment. The American flashes his whitened-tooth smile at us, snaps his braces over his wrinkled shirt and bids us all “good night” with great dignity.
As I fall asleep, I see . There is a dormer over my bed and the nocturnal European sky, all stars, is peeking through the dormer opposite my bed. A real sleeping pill.

Where the Balkan raises nobly
To the sky its mountain chain,
Where the sweeping Marits slowly
Wanders through the Thracian plain.

Ivan Vazov

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