20-Year High School Reunion

[Sofia, Bulgaria, May 10/11 2019]

This first half of the year has been such a whirlwind of trips! I’ve already been to Death Valley, Ohio/Michigan and Napa Valley! But the crown jewel this year is clearly going to be my 2.5 week trip to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, in large part with my boyfriend. We had been making plans for him to come see my hometown and meet my parents in May. It just so happened that the 20th anniversary of my high school reunion was also going to be in May. We wanted to take advantage of being on that side of the globe, so we tacked on Greece and Turkey. Originally, we were only going to do Athens and Istanbul, but since we had 5 days in each, we tried to see what kinds of side trips we could do from there. That’s how Santorini in Greece and Kusadasi in Turkey got added on. It will be a great trip! 

I left the US on Thursday, May 9th and arrived in Sofia on Friday, May 10th. 16-ish hours of travel and a 10-hour time difference mean that I always lose a day heading home. Sunny weather in the upper 60s (upper teens in Celsius) greeted me at Sofia airport. I deplaned and got through customs so quickly that my parents were hanging out in the sitting area rather than waiting for me by the banister. It was so great to see them! My last trip here was just last September, but it already feels so long ago! 

My mom always makes sure to make some of my favorite dishes when I come home. For breakfast, I love to have some banitza – phyllo dough stuffed with a mixture of feta cheese, eggs and yogurt. This picture was taken right after it came out of the oven, and the whole kitchen smelled like freshly baked banitza!

Saturday was going to be my chance to catch up with my nieces and nephews, since I am only staying in Bulgaria for less than a week and they’ll be in school on weekdays. They are growing up way too fast! 

I also got to stroll down Vitosha street, Sofia’s pedestrian promenade. It’s my favorite thing to do when I am home. There is excellent people-watching, especially if you do it from one of the many cafes lining the street, drinking a beer. 

In the evening, it was time for my high school reunion. Since it was a big anniversary (20th), the entire graduating class got together, not just the smaller group of about 25 I was in a “class” with. In Bulgaria, you have all your classes with the same group of 25-30 students, and that’s what we call a “class.” My high school had about 7-8 classes, so our graduating class was about 200 people. I’d say about 40% of our graduating class made it, which is quite good since most of them live in Germany. I graduated from a German language high school, which means we spent an extra year learning German and we had some subjects in German. It is a public school but you do have to take an entrance exam to get in at the end of 7th grade. It has consistently been rated the #1 high school in the country. 

The party organizers had rented out Fabrica 126, a modern industrial event space not far from where my parents live in Sofia. I took a streetcar there and the 5th stop dropped me off right at the entrance. 

I can’t describe the feeling of seeing some of your old classmates for the first time in 20 years. My smaller class had gotten together over the years, but not everyone could always make it. I definitely hadn’t seen any of the people from the other classes since graduation. It was weird seeing familiar faces but not remembering their names or much else about them. We would recognize each other and smile awkwardly. One guy summed up the sentiment on a custom-made T-shirt, which read “And who are you again?” It was fun though. It was great to catch up with all my friends from my own class all at once, and hang out with those I hadn’t seen in a while. Most have had kids, career changes, country changes… Even our homeroom teacher showed up, as well as some of our other teachers. 

As is typical for parties in Bulgaria, last call is when you’re about to run out of alcohol. I did cut out around 2 am, as I had a day trip to Plovdiv planned for the next day. Hopefully, we won’t wait another 20 years to get together like this again.

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