Sofia, Two Months

Where are we? What are we doing? Now that the boxes are unpacked and all the household treasures of our life are safely stowed away, I feel enough courage to breathe without wondering what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow is here! And we’re together, starting over, at a new school and in a new life that feels better than we expected.

Our townhouse sits on an urban street in Sofia, beneath a sky that alternates between bright sun and thunderclouds rolling off Mt. Vitosha. Apples and pears drip into people’s yards, and outside the kitchen window is a row of shimmering birch trees that provide shade for Gussy’s naps.

In the late summer weather, Sofia’s pedestrian streets have festivals every weekend, with families and young people mixing around the park, smoking cigarettes and eating slices of pizza.

Sidewalks are crowded with people sipping homemade lemonade and craft beer, and you can buy brioche burgers and eggs benedict with pesto. Unlike Austria, food here has permission to break free from tradition and it’s interesting to eat again! We’re grateful to still have Billa, where we buy semmels and croissants on Sundays, and it makes it feel a little more like home.

Buying milk products is a bit like navigating a minefield with all the creamy white things in the dairy case. This is our favorite yogurt because it comes wrapped in Bulgarian colors, and is tied with a little piece of twine.

The feta options take up two entire sections of the deli, and Mike found frozen rabbits next to the french fries.

Traditional Bulgarian food is based on meat and vegetables, similar to food in Turkey or Greece. Eggplant, meatballs and grilled pork are on every menu, and instead of ketchup things come with a side of roasted red peppers called “lutenitsa.” In the grocery store, there is an entire aisle stacked with a hundred varieties of just lutenitsa. The beer is good too.

Eight weeks later, I’m amazed at how positive the boys have been in accepting all these things. A new school, a new language, new milk that tastes different, and new friends that will never replace the old. Playing video games online with their Vienna buddies probably helps! But they’ve adjusted without being resentful or angry, and I am so proud of them.

In this new home and this new country we are still a family, making plans without counting the days to when we separate again. Even though COVID gives us a little too much together time some days, it’s overwhelming to think that this is permanent now.

I still can’t find my hairdryer or the pepper grinder, and I can’t wait to unpack a pair of scissors that works. But the first notes of this new song seem to be striking the right chord. It’s even written in the birds.