Friday, 27 June 2014

State of the Workshops

We've been having our workshops for a few months already. Some of them we'll be dropping next week in order to make room and time for other activities, so let's take this opportunity to have a look at what's been going on and which of our workshops will be seeing the warm light of July!

Easy readers had potential, but unfortunately I wasn't able to reach the right audience and participants or make it clear that the workshop was for advanced learners or speakers of English. A lot of the people who expressed interest were really looking for a way to improve and practice their language, and to that effect most have discovered that the English conversation group on Wednesday is closer to their needs. Next week will be the final round of this little workshop that could.

Vicente started his film projections a few weeks ago. So far we've played To Kill a Mocking Bird, Platoon and Midnight Cowboy. Next week's film is still undecided; follow our facebook and twitter to stay posted. Tuesdays at 16:00 in the American Corner.

Vicente's other workshop, Spanish Culture in the Spanish section has been a limited success; we have to say however that we've had a few very devoted participants, which is encouraging. At the workshop itself we have passed over We even went to watch Vivir Es Fácil Con Los Ojos Cerrados together a few weeks ago at the opening of the 21st Spanish and Latinamerican Cinema Week organised by Instituto Cervantes and some of the embassies and consulates of the countries represented. The workshop will live on into July; Fridays at 16:00 at the Spanish reading room, as usual.

Zanda had a great success with her Saturday Native American Art for Children workshop. I didn't go that often because it was relatively early the morning  (three cheers for Zanda for all the sleep she missed!) but I know that it was a sensation and attracted lots of childrens as well as parents to our activities.

On one of the days fellow EVSers Florian and Gabi, normally working in Montana with puppets, took over Zanda's workshop:

Florian next to me, Gabi next to Maria

Unfortunately, Native American Art for Children is another of our activities that has run its course, but you never know!

My personal favourite has been Maria's Creative Magical Writing. This one I have attended a few times and each and every one of them I came out having written something beautiful and, indeed, magical. What we usually do is have a bit of free writing to loosen up our hands and minds and then we are given a topic to write about but under the pressure of the ticking clock. Our creative magical topics have included first-person narration through the eyes of a butterfly; being Death; painting a multisensory picture of what Summer means for us; and more.

We have new participants joining every time and Maria keeps coming up with great ideas to keep things fresh, so two thumbs up for her. You can join us on Saturdays at 13:00 in the American Corner.

Last but certainly not least, and even though it's not exactly part of our regural schedule of workshops, it's worth mentioning that the English conversation group has been given a second hour during the week, namely on Thursdays, in order to split up the participants into smaller, more manageable groups and in this way help more people have the opportunity to speak for longer. With this change, we thought it would be a good idea to also divide the group into two different levels, in this way providing speakers of varying confidence and aptitude with a choice.

On June 11th, we had close to 25 people in this small room.
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
 So, from now on the schedule's going to be like this:

Wednesdays 17:30 advanced group; Thursdays 17:30 beginner group - throughout July at the very least.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pettson and Findus Children's Painting Competition

On June 10th Sofia City Library's Children's Department hosted the award ceremony for the children's painting competition for Pettson and Findus, a children's book series written and illustrated by the Swede Sven Nordqvist.

The Swedish embassy was present, as well as the director of the library and children of all ages. 

The first and second prizes. The little boy
who painted the bottom picture and his mother.

The awards were goodies related to the books and - from what
I caught - for the first places it was money.

The cake's not a lie: it's the Swedish flag.

Swedish goodies and a roomful of eager children.
Hop! There's the Swedish flag again.

South Korean Embassy Presentation

Remember when we said that the Korean embassy is planning great things for their colaboration with our nice little library?

Last week they had a presentation about South Korean culture in the library. They showed a video on South Korean culture and nature and answered questions from the audience. We were all impressed by the presenter's admission that Koreans have only 3 days off per year, and that people often work as many as 14 hours per day! It was a bit shocking, really. South Korea and Bulgaria might be similar in total land area and in the fact that they share a long history, like the presenter mentioned in his presentation, but love for holidays and taking things easy is certainly not some of the things they have in common.

Apart from pamphlets, they gave out to us these cute little Korean fans that will definitely prove to be very useful on the hot Sofian summer days, which are drawing closer and closer...

We are expecting the remake and transformation of the Portuguse reading room into the Korean reading room to take place during August and September. Stay posted.


Our EVS friends Anna & Kuba live in Pernik, a city less than an hour away from Sofia, famous in Bulgaria for its tough, hard-headed people - a reputation probably rooted in its traditionally industrial and mining economy. There are lots of jokes made about people who come from this region, but our experience was completely different from the stereotype, as you will soon discover.

We are preparing a little performance in the streets of Sofia in July with Anna, Kuba, Florian, Gabi and others, and our visit to Pernik last Sunday was mainly for brainstorming, discussing the ideas and planning the event. We even did a little workshop prepared by Anna & Kuba's supervisor on the top of a hill in a beautiful park in the centre of the city whose aim was helping us bond and work together as a single entity rather than a group of individuals.

Tai-chi-ho, tai-chi-ho!

The chain of command... mistake can have the group collapse
like a house of cards.

Becoming one with the group

"Add caption", Blogger said.
I just sat there, motionless.
The brave Florian is about to fall in our arms.

The brave Florian is falling in our arms.

NOT footballs fans.

Definitely not football fans.

There was pizza, fruit salad, cherries, beer and wine. It rained after we left the park. It was a good day.

Our performance will be on the 12th of July. Catch it in a street of central Sofia near you.

 Props to Kuba and his friend whose name I don't remember for the pictures. Especially the last ones are very good, in true Kuba fashion.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

ABGU Chamber Orchestra Concert in Bulgaria Hall

Last Friday, the good people at Sofia City Library provided us good volunteers (dobrovoltsi!) with tickets for a concert by the ABGU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) Chamber Orchestra, which took place in Bulgaria Concert Hall. You can read the press release in Bulgarian with more about the Sofia European Music Festival, the orchestra and the soloists here (and, if needed, do a Google Translation accordingly - it's not too bad).

Truth be told, we hadn't been to a music hall in Sofia before this opportunity was given to us. Generally, I find that it's difficult to enjoy concerts of music you've never heard before; this instance, however, was a good opportunity for us to discover and enjoy great pieces.

We recorded (parts of) them for sharing this pleasure with you, dear readers, and for giving you a taste of what it was like for us to to be in a Bulgarian concert hall.

W.A. Mozart Piano Concert №27 1 (I don't know exactly which part - sorry for the low volume)

W.A. Mozart Piano Concert №27 2 (I don't know exactly which part - sorry for the low volume)

Jean Sibelius Valse Triste // Mendelssohn Violin Concert Op. 64 (the audio quality is much better here because I set my audio recorder to "concert", which I hadn't for the previous recordings. I'm sorry to say it's not complete because the battery ran out).
If you choose to listen to just one of the recordings, the last one should be it.
The concert finished with the following piece, which I didn't know and now it's my earworm for tonight.

Korean Music Night at NDK

Last Thursday we had  the opportunity to go to a Korean music concert at NDK - the National Palace of Culture - organised by the Korean embassy. Just between you and us: they're also planning a Koran section in the library itself, so as you can see they're being quite aggressive - in a good way!

The musicians performed with a guitar, a piano, a kayagum and a taegum

The programme (source: Korean embassy in Bulgaria facebook page):

< Programme >

1. "Ch’ŏngsŏnggok"(청성곡), Traditional music - Taegum
:Taegŭm is a large transverse bamboo flute, or tanso, a small notched bamboo vertical flute.

2. "Sanjo"(산조), Traditional music - Kayagum
:Sanjo is Korean representative music for solo instruments, developed in the 19th century. It has five movements which increase in tempo Chinyangjo, Chungmori, Chungjungmori, Chajinmori and Hwimori.

3. "People of the sea" (바다의 사람들), transcript by Ju Eun Jung from traditional melody - Kayagum, Taegum

4. "Pochagi" (보자기), Hye Lim Kim - Taegum
:Literally 'Pochagi' means a patchwork cloth that can be used as a wrapping cloth.

5. "Let it be", Beetles - Kayagum, Guitar

6. "Heart for the People"(그들을 위한 마음), Ji Eun Jung - Kayagum, Guitar
:As is well known, Korea has been divided into North and South for more than 60 years. In the face of such geographical and ideological division, the most important thing is to continue to love the people who are suffering. So this composition is called 'Heart for the people'.

7. "The Narrow Way"(좁은길), composition and text by Ji Eun Jung - Kayagum & singing, Guitar

8. "Ch’ŏng"(청), Taesŏng Kim - Taegŭm, Piano
:The powerfully passionate music combines with the calmness and contemplation of ‘Ch’ŏngsŏnggok’ to bind the piece together.

9. "Arirang", Traditional music - Kayagum, Guitar, Taegum, Piano
:'Arirang', is the most representative Korean traditional folk song. 'Arirang' is an ancient native Korean word. 'Ari' means 'beautiful' and 'rang' can mean 'dear'.

10. "Hubava si, moya goro", Bulgarian folk song, transcript by Ji Eun Jung -Kayagum, Guitar, Taegum, Piano

We recorded parts of the concert to share the feeling of being there.You're welcome!

Let It Be

Heart For The People

The Narrow Way (lyrics in Bulgarian and Korean)


Hubava Si, Moya Goro

As a last surprise, there was a small buffet waiting for us at the exit. And all this for free. You Koreans are spoiling us!

12 Angry men in Mladeski Theatre

One of the aims of being an European Volunteer is using the time you have to get more educated and have wider cultural interests. Being volunteers in a public library in a city like a Sofia, the capital of the country, make this even easier because we have acces to lots of events and activities, like concerts, writer conferences, theaterplays, reading of poetry, etc.

 This is what happened to me last Tuesday. I had the opportunity of seeing a theater wersion of the 1957 film by Sidney Lumet 12 Angry men. So I went with Valentina, one of our mentors, to the Mladeski Theatre in Dondukov Boulevard.

The film is considered a classic and its argument is well known. Actually is perfect for a theater play and is hard to believe that it was not before the movie was made. The twelve men of a jury has to decide if a teenager acussed of murdering his own father is guilty or innocente. The entire movie happens in one single room where the jury is closed until they take a decission. Being a case in wich death penalty is involved the veredict has to be unanimous. At first all the members of the jury agree on a guilty veredict, except one, played by Henry Fonda, who has his doubts about the proofs and the witnesses.

The representation was a total reenacment of the movie, but with a very modern and particular style. All the actors were wearing smokings. There was a line of old fashioned metal mycrophones in the part the stage closest to the seats. In the most dramatic moments the actors used these microphones to talk to the public. There was gigant statue of a doberman dog hanging from the ceiling. Supposed salive was falling from his jaws during the play, I assume like a symbol of the desire for punishment. The actors sometimes, as a dramatic effect walked from a side to the other of the stage with no porpuse. During the turning points of the screenplay an actor will throw some confetti like to remark the moment.

One funny thing was that I didn´t know during the whole play that the actors were talking in polish, because they belong to a polish company. I was wondering why were there bulgarian subtitles as well in english. I have to improve my knowledge of slavic languages.