I am blessed to know people like Martha and Liubo in Sofia, Bulgaria. Even before I had arrived there, they had already contacted a bunch of children organisations who might be interested in some bouncy action. This is the story of the visit at their first contact, Father Ivan’s orphanage.
Father Ivan started to build an orphanage on his own with nothing but 100 Leva (~50 €). Today, he is one of the most respected people in Bulgaria, even Bulgarian of the year 2004, but he still lives with his orphans and takes care of the children and families in need.
The summer residence of the orphanage is behind the Balkan mountains, in a village called Yakimovo, some 180 kilometers from Sofia. That was all the information I got, so I just went to that village and looked for a long-bearded old priest. It was even easier than expected (really EVERYBODY knows him there).
I was a bit afraid that nobody would understand me and I had to organise everything with hands and feet. But luckily, there was Teodor who knew almost native English, and who offered to translate the whole time. Father Ivan then was a really chilled guy, who invited me for lunch and afterwards we went to the town center all together.
After some troubles with the cable, we finally set the castle up, and the kids screamed from joy as they jumped on it. Not for long though, as the 37° Celsius had quite heated up the plastic and the kids just sat in the ~30 centimeter wide shadow at the right wall. (Firstly I thought the kids were real wimps, but I tried to jump on the castle’s sunny part and left with burnt feet soon after).
Fortunately, the pitiless afternoon sun went down in the late afternoon, and the kids could not get enough from the castle then. Some gipsy children came by, who had caught fish for selling them at the market, and took a well-deserved break from their work and had a blast.
We packed the castle into the car again, and I was invited to Teodor’s house to take a shower (quite needed after living in the car for the last days). Afterwards, we all had dinner with Father Ivan and then I was offered to spend the night in a bed in the orphanage’s kitchen.
Gratefully, I ignored the strange smell in the kitchen and blamed it on the animals in the garden. On the next morning, everybody was laughing at me, as someone had forgotten a pot with milk on the oven, and it had burned totally. But in order to respect my privacy, nobody dared to come in and remove it, though they checked through the window if I would still breathe :)
So yeah, I enjoyed this trip to northern Bulgaria very much, and I think everybody else had fun as well. And in the end, Father Ivan promised to pray for my travels, my safety and that nobody would ever burn milk in my sleeping room.