The Way Things Are…

Today I went to the “borsa” in Varna. It is one of those words which translates into English, but without the feel of the actual thing that it describes. It is a market, but as opposed to a bazaar, which is like an open-air farmer’s market, it is the wholesale side of things, where fruits and vegetables are sold by the 10kg bag, imperfections and all. It is mostly small shops that purchase there, but occasionally families go for bulk products- especially as fall nears and canning, wine-making, and rakia season start to ramp up. I mean, if you are going to fill a 50 gallon drum with pickled things your garden, which can usually feed a family of 6 for the entire summer and half the winter, might need a little boost. The wholesale side of things is, as would be expected, a little more gritty. Packaging and display has not yet touched the products, and this is reflected in the prices. The food there was painfully fresh, and every vegetable I saw pressed into my vision and olfactory system, screaming to be appreciated for its fleeting life. Bulgarian summers burst with freshness. I still don’t understand why the big markets are importing. The borsa is for serious food-people, maybe a step above my level of research and planning.

The borsa is directly next to the roma “neighborhood.” I use the quotes because in all senses of the word, such as a tight-knit community living together, it is a neighborhood. But it doesn’t look like a neighborhood. Shacks pieced together over years of scavenging… the occasional bull roaming to find trash… When I first moved here I accidentally ran through the borsa down to the roma neighborhood. It isn’t really a place for a girl with fancy running shoes and an mp3 blaring in her ears to go jaunting through, head up, shoulder’s back. Good running posture can easily be mistaken for prideful disdain. But no one had warned me not to go there. It turns out that everyone is so aware of it that they don’t really think of possibly going there and so it didn’t cross their minds to tell the new girl. We often drive through the area though, on our way into the city center, and it is almost as if no one else even sees it. It is one of those places covered by the invisibility of silence. They don’t talk about it, except tiny comments about safety and appearances. I find it sad, and a bit frustrating. Very few of my Bulgarian friends would ever admit to being racist, but almost all of them make assumptions about roma people, and why they live the way they do. They say it is a problem of culture and laziness. But I drive through that place filled with kids without shoes, which must be so cold in the winter, and I wonder if people really think that these kids, which barely have money for food or clothes, really make a conscious choice to not go to school, or to not work. But there seems to be no answer to the problem and so people don’t think about it. It is just the way things are…

We made a brief loop into the roma neighborhood and then pulled back up to the borsa. Back into the land of selling and buying. We were still looking for cauliflower, which is just starting to come into season and so is difficult to find. (But I am craving it, and besides the Mexican food that doesn’t exist here I am denied very little these days). We bought greek olives, and canning lids, and then headed around one more corner where we finally stumbled across fresh, white cauliflower. While Pavlina purchased a few heads, one of the young men stared me down. No, he didn’t stare at me at all, he stared at my breasts. His eyes narrowed in that possessive desire, and I suddenly became very aware that the shirt I had chosen was a little low-cut, and that I had unbuttoned my final button on my pants because they have gotten too tight. I felt exposed, a bit dirty and a bit angry, as I crossed my arms in front of and around me to cover myself. I couldn’t really blame him. My breasts have swollen insanely lately, and swollen breasts have a different fall than just large breasts, which are apparently attractive for some reason. (Although I don’t fully understand why because it is a sign that I am already pregnant.) Besides, my husband is quick to point out that men are trained to pull women apart like that- to fixate on a piece of them until the woman herself disappears in hot shame. They mean no harm, it’s just the way things are…

I love the world. I just hate the way some things are. 

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