Our 5th grade students have been contacted by a group of students from Bulgaria to exchange letters, ideas, projects, etc. This all stemmed from our Christmas Card Exchange Project.

5.17.11 (This was sent a few weeks back, but just now posting)

We spent Easter last week and on Friday we are celebrating The Army's Day called Georgiovden.On that day all man with the name George have a nameday. People usually eat lamb.
We're doing an external evaluation of our youngest students who will pass over the next level.
I'm sending you some pictures that some of my students made and wanted to show to your students.
Greetings

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4.20.11(A little late sharing this)

Hello Aaron.
It's been a long time since we haven't written each other.How are you? And your students?
Ours are really busy these days getting ready for the 50th anniversary of our school. Some of them are rehearsing ,others are studying .We'll be having a great concert on 28 and 29 of April.A lot of people are invited -parents,ex-students,ex-teachers,VIP .Everybody is happy in our school.

Along with this we are getting ready for the second biggest celebration in our country-Easter(Velikden).Easter traditions in Bulgaria are a derivative of the Eastern Orthodox Church rituals. In tune with worldwide Orthodox traditions, bright red colored eggs and Easter breads known as "kozunak" are the prominent symbols of Easter in Bulgaria. That's how we celebrate it:

At midnight on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, people in Bulgaria gather at church, with red painted eggs and Easter bread. The priest proclaims three times "Christos Voskrese" (Christ has risen) and the congregation replies "Vo istina voskrese" (Indeed he has risen). One of the Easter breads is specially decorated with one or more (but an odd number) of red eggs. After a special sequence of services, the clergy blesses the breads and eggs brought by the people.

The Bulgarian 'good luck crack' is a unique Easter tradition in Bulgaria. Eggs are cracked after the midnight service and over the next few days, during the festive season of Easter. On Easter, the eggs are cracked before lunch. The egg that is cracked on the wall of the church is the first egg that people eat after the long fast of Lent. People take turns in tapping their eggs against the eggs of others, and the person who ends up with the last unbroken egg is believed to have a year of good luck. He/she is considered as the most successful, healthy and happy person for the rest of the year.

People usually bake and eat lamb .

What about America?

Happy Easter to all of you!


4.17.11

The students from Bulgaria sent us a project of theirs where they highlighted parts of their community. Such a cool project that has grabbed some interest. We are in the process among our major research project to put together one for them and send their way. Here it is as I scanned the parts of the project so you can view it. They did a wonderful job.
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I have been meaning to get these photos uploaded to the wiki and finally found some time. We have the letter and Martenitsa hanging up in our classroom. What a great connection we have found with these wonderful students and teacher from Bulgaria. It really opens our eyes to the generosity of other countries and I hope my students begin to understand how great people are from all over the world.

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3.29.11

Here is some more information about our good friends in Bulgaria. I received this a few days ago and am just now finding time to post here.

Hello, Aaron.

Let me introduce you a very interesting spring holiday-Annunciation, which we celebrate. It was yesterday.
Annunciation is a celebration for all Christians regardless of church tradition to which they belong (Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism) and one of the biggest mysteries in Christianity. According to the Bible on this day Archangel Gabriel brought Virgin Mary the good news that she has chosen to bear the Savior of mankind, God's son Jesus Christ.
In Bulgaria, the holiday is associated more frequently with the arrival of spring and so on that day people must eat "something green" (nettle, spinach, dock, etc.). It is also a tradition on this day at the table to have fish, usually prepare ”ribnik “- fish with rice. It’s necessary to bake round bread(called pita), which is coated with honey, distributed to neighbors and relatives.According to folk beliefs on that "gracious day" more easily and quickly heal all wounds, that’s why people often punch the ears of little girls then. During the day all venom lose its power. Housewives resweep their houses and yards and light fires to jump over in order not to suffer from snake bites in the summer. For the same reason women do not touch pins, hooks or thread.
In Bulgaria celebrate the holiday people with the name Blago,Blaga, Blagovest, Blagoy, Blagoyna and others.
How do you commemorate the day when Mary’s gotten the good news?What is your religion?
On this occasion our mayor and municipality had organized a big concert in the biggest hall in Sofia .My family went there .It was awesome!
Greetings,


Tracking our package to Bulgaria

Expected Delivery Date: March 9, 2011

Class: Priority Mail International Parcels Service(s):

International Parcels Status: Arrived Abroad Detailed Results: Arrived Abroad, March 11, 2011, 10:57 am, BULGARIA

International Dispatch, March 09, 2011, 8:21 am, ISC CHICAGO IL (USPS)

Arrival Acceptance, March 07, 2011, 11:12 am, BETTENDORF, IA 52722




3.8.11

Here is an email I sent to the students today to let them know about Mardi Gras.

Today is Mardi Gras or translated into English, Fat Tuesday. This is a big day for people to celebrate and have a lot of fun before going into Lent season where you give up something important to you for 40 days. The major Mardi Gras event takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Here is a link to give you an idea of the parade and partying http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41944981/ns/us_news-life/

We just Skyped with a class from New Orleans last week and learned a great deal about Mardi Gras. You can go to my wiki and see the video of our conference http://coffeechug.wikispaces.com/Skype+Communication

We don't celebrate too much here in Iowa. It is known that Mardi Gras is going on today, but we don't have any festivals or parades here in town. You have to go to New Orleans for the full appreciation. One of the things that I am lean

Here are a few other links to give you some more information
http://www.mardigras.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras

3.7.11: Here is my response to the email posted below.
No we do not have anything like this in terms of everyone asking for forgiveness. I wish we did because I think it would an important element to our culture for us to come to terms with our offenses and admit them. In some of our religions there is confession which is about as close as we get to this, but this again is up to the the faith of the person.

Thank you for sharing so much about your culture. It makes me realize how rich of a culture you really have. Our country is full of so many people and cultures that we don't really have too many things that we celebrate as a whole nation together. We have St. Patrick's Day coming up soon. Do you celebrate this? If not, then we will put something together for you.

3.6.11 Today I received an email about another holiday or important day in Bulgaria. This is one I would like to see in our culture.

Today it's again a holiday in our country - Shrovetide.By tradition people ask their next of kin forgiveness for any offences made throughout the year.On Shrove the younger ones usually go to older relatives - father-in-law, mother -in -law, father-and mother-in-law, best men, older brothers and sisters and ask forgiveness and kiss the hosts' hand an say traditional words of forgiveness: "Forgive me, mother , Dad. " "Let it be forgiven to you, God forgives," which is the obligatory response. So this holiday is also known as Forgiveness. According to tradition older can not ask forgiveness from a younger family member.
The week before Shrovetide, in some settlements groups of kukeri starts walking around . They walk into some homes and play comic scenes and make blessings for health and fertility. The group usually has a leader called "Hadji" and "A Kuker's bride" or "Grandma" - a man dressed in tattered women's clothes and ragged baby in her arms.
For the table of Shrovetide people prepare pastry with cheese, boiled eggs, boiled corn, khalva with nuts. It is customary to do the custom "hamkane": the red thread is tied and descends from the ceiling a piece of white khalva or a boiled egg. The oldest man turns the thread into a circle and each family member, mainly children, trying to catch the egg or khalva by mouth. Whoever succeeds will be safe and sound throughout the year.
My family went to my parents' place to ask forgiveness.
How about you? Do you celebrate such holiday and how?
Greetings,



3.3.11

Yesterday I sent the Community project and we're going to write an answer to your letter.
Today we're celebrating our National holiday - the Liberation from 5-century Turkish yoke.
Bulgaria was much bigger country - it laid on 5 seas , now we have only one - the Black sea.
On that day we lay wreaths in memory of those who got killed in the war .Everybody flutters the Bulgarian flag from his place and feels patriotic.These days few are the people who will die in the name of the country as our ancestors have done.
We are off school for 4 days .
How about you?



2.28.11
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Chestita Baba Marta ,dear American friends!

Let the newcoming spring bring you a lot of joy,
fresh power and better health.
Best wishes,

Your Bulgarian Friends


2.19.11
Today is almost a national holiday in our country - we celebrate 138 anniversary of Vasil Levski's(the Lion) hanging - one of our revolutionary and national heroes of Bulgaria.Let me tell you first that our country has been counquered by Turkey for 5 centuries.He was hang by the Turkish authoritiesat he age of 36, but he was betrayed by a Bulgarian.He did a lot of revolutionary deeds and opened our nation's eyes to fight against the conquerer.Today every person in Bulgaria have a deep respect and pays tribute to him.
My family also went to pay tribute because of my little daughter ,who's 5.She knows about him but she has never gone to the monument in the city centre.She laid some flowers there. It was a really patriotic experience about her.
Greetings,
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2.18.11

Here is our letter that we sent to Bulgaria in response to the letter they sent us on 2.12.2011

Dear friends in Sofia, Bulgaria,
We read your letter and it opened up our eyes to many new things about your country and also about where we live. We decided to dig a little bit into some of the items that you wrote about and thought we would share our new findings.
In our school district we have six elementary schools. Students in our class come from all six schools and meet at the Bettendorf Middle School. The names of each school are named after famous people from either the area or the country. The names of each school are: Thomas Jefferson, Herbert Hoover, Paul Norton, Grant Wood, Mark Twain, and Neil Armstrong.
Today in class we took time to do a little research based on your letter. Students were each given a topic and provided about 10-15 minutes to research their topic. Here is what they came up with. We hope we have done justice to your topics and hopefully our topics will help you learn some more about us.
Here are some facts that we gathered about your city, country, and culture based on your letter.
· Elisaveta Bagriana
o Poet and author
o Children books
o Poem written titled, “The Eternal”
o Lived to be 97 years old
o Lived in Sofia

· Sofia, Bulgaria
o Population is 1.4 million
o Hosts many soccer tournaments

· Vitosha Mountain
o Oldest national park in Balkans
o Formed by volcanic activity

· Hisarya, Bulgaria
o Small resort town
o Mild climate
o Over two dozen mineral springs

· Bansko, Bulgaria
o Located in southwest Bulgaria
o Birthplace poet
o Used to be part of Ottoman Empire
o Ski resort is for all level skiers

· Martenitza
o Always given as gifts
o Never bought for self
o When you see a stork, migrating bird, or blossoming tree
o Made of red and white yarn

Here are some facts that we gathered about our city, country, and culture for you to learn more about.
· Bettendorf, Iowa
o Named after Joseph and William from 1900’s
o 70 acres given to them to move their iron wagon business from Davenport, Iowa
o 1940’s ALCOA came into city

· Famous people from Bettendorf
o Chris Anthony – Arena Football Player
o Pat Angerer – linebacker for Indianapolis Colts in NFL
o Tavian Banks – NFL football player
o Pat Militec – Ultimate Fighter Champion


· Landmarks
o Mississippi River
§ Flows through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana
§ Empties into Gulf of Mexico

· President’s Day
o A federal holiday to celebrate George Washington’s birthday(he was our first president)
o It is always observed on the third Monday in February
o Many stores will have big sales and school are closed for the day

· Groundhog’s Day
o Take place on Feb 2nd
o If he sees his shadow it is a sign of 6 more weeks of winter
o If he does not it means it is an early spring
o More than 1000 people come to see Punxsutawney Phil (last creature to see Ronald Reagan)
o Here is a good website about the day: http://groundhog.org/


What are some popular movies in your country right now? Here there are some popular movies such as Gnomeo and Juliet, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Just Go With It, and Tangled.

The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. They won 31 – 25 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the most viewed television program in the history of the United States being viewed by more than 116 million people.

In exchange for the Martenitza, we have decided to send you friendship bracelets. We will be making them to send your way and also include instructions and materials for you to make your own. This is a fun little project that students like to do. There is no cultural meaning, but serves as a token to our friendship across many miles.

Take care and we look forward to hearing back from you.


2.14.2011 - I forgot that they shared some information about Valentine's Day with us so I thught that I would share it here. I have also posted a topic about this holiday over at www.coffeechug.posterous.com as well. Feel free to check it out.

Before the Democracy people in our country celebrated "Trifon zarezan" instead of St.Valentine
St. Trifon is considered the keeper of the vineyards. It is celebrated by wine growers, gardeners and tavern-keepers. Early in the morning the housewife kneads bread. Moreover,she cooks a whole chicken, which is traditionally filled with rice. The bread, chicken and a wooden vessel of wine are put in a new woolen bag . With these bags on their shoulders the men go into the vineyard. There they make sign of the cross, take pruning knives and three hubs as each cutting three sticks. Then again, make sign of the cross and sprinkle with some wine the vines. This ritual is called "Cutting". Then all come together and choose a "king" of the vineyards. Only then began the feast.


20 years ago St. Valentine became a famous day of people in love and now both feasts are being celebrated.





2.12.2011 - Here is a photo of our friends from Bulgaria.

Bulgaria Friends

Here are some photos of the winter in Bulgaria





February 12, 2011
Hello Friends from Iowa,
Thank you very much for your letter! We have learned a lot for you, your state and way of living. It seems that Bettendorf is very nice place.
Now we will try to give you some more information about us, our country and our class.
We are 29 students, fifth grade in 51st elementary Scholl “Elisaveta Bagriana”-the name of famous Bulgarian children’s writer and poet.

We are living and studying in Sofia, the Capital and the biggest city in Bulgaria. It has over 1,500,000 people population. Sofia is located in the western part of the country, nearby Vitosha Mountain. It is an ancient city established over 2000 years ago by the Romans. These days Sofia is a modern European city giving many opportunities for entertainment and sport. There are several big parks in the city with nice green fields, where we are going to play and have fun. We like going to the cinema, to do skiing in the mountain, playing tennis and football. In fact our football is a bit different to the American one, as far we know you call it soccer. Soccer is the most popular sport in Bulgaria. Also we like to watch volleyball, basketball and tennis. By the way who won the Super Bowl?
Now we do not have snow in the city but when we had we played with snow balls. Students in our class also like swim, play on the computer, dancing and listening music.

Usually two - three times per year our school is organizing trips out of Sofia. We are visiting many interesting places in our beautiful country Bulgaria. Our last trip was to Hisaria, a small city with many mineral springs and SPA centers. This city also is an ancient and its springs were famous over 2000 years ago in the Roman Empire. Some of the students from our class last year went to Bansko, the biggest and famous Bulgarian ski resort. At the end of February Bansko will be host place of the World Cup for alpine ski.
Usually the school is organizing parties for national holydays and Christmas. Also we are organizing our birthday’s parties, where we have great fun and nice time together.

Here the winter is about to finish. So far it was not so cold, we had only 10 degrease of Celsius below zero. All of us are expecting the spring and the good weather.
On 1st of March every single year in Bulgaria everybody is putting on his hand “Martenitza” (see the above picture, it is coming from Bulgarian word for March - Mart). It is very old tradition, everybody is giving as a gift to his friends and relatives for health. We are wearing Martenitza until the beginning of the spring.

Please send us your postage address and we will send you Marteniza for you as well.
From 1st of April we are going to have our 10 days spring vacation. Then in couple of weeks it will come Easter.

With this letter we hope that you are receiving more information about us and we hope that you will write us soon.

Many warm greetings from Sofia and Bulgaria







Just last week on Friday, January 28th, we sent them a class letter. All students were provided a topic to research and provide information to our letter. Every student participated in writing of the letter.

Here is a copy of the letter we sent them.

January 28, 2010

Hello Friends from Bulgaria,
We enjoyed receiving your Christmas cards. They were beautiful!
We are a group of 17 fifth grade students who meet twice a week to work on accelerated learning activities. We come together from 6 different elementary schools in our district. This quarter we are learning about computer animation.
We live in Bettendorf, Iowa. Bettendorf is a city of over 30,000 people. We live in the middle part of the United States right next to the Mississippi River. It is a great place to live.
We are in the middle of our winter season and it is very cold here now. We have plenty of snow on the ground and our temperatures have been staying around 20 degrees Fahrenheit—sometimes dipping below zero. We are hoping that it warms up soon.
During the winter, we enjoy sledding and winter sports. American football is also very big around here. We are looking forward to the football Super Bowl in a few weeks. Students in Iowa also enjoy video games, all types of sports, and spending time with friends.
Several of us have pets that live in our homes. Some of the more popular pets in Iowa are dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, hamsters, fish, turtles, and lizards. We also have several animals that live in the wild around our area. These include whitetail deer, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, and many types of fish and birds. It is also common to see farm animals such as cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens in Iowa.
Some of our favorite foods to eat are steak, hamburgers, pizza, pasta, and ice cream. Iowa is an agricultural state known for its production of corn, soy beans, beef, and pork. It is very common to see corn and soy bean fields as you drive through our area.
We hope that this tells you a little more about us and where we live. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.
Sincerely,
Your Friends from Bettendorf, Iowa (United States of America)




In response over the weekend with the instructor I learned about an amazing festival that they celebrate in Bulgaria.

Here is what she shared with me
(January 29th) Today people in Bulgaria celebrate a traditional winter festival called - Kukeri.It takes place in Pernik -a town 30 km away from the capital Sofia. Kukeri are mostly men dressed in shepherd costumes with different masks on their heads.They wear bells on their waists and when they walk they ring .It takes years to make a costume.There are people with other disguises,too .There are participants from all over Bulgaria. They compete for a prize.They 're pursuing the evil spirits from the country.
It's very noisy, funny and crowded.
This year unfortunately we couldn't go, but I'm sending you pictures from last year.
You can show them to your students if you wish.
Have you got similar festival?

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I want to learn more. Students take some time to study this festival and learn more about it. Join the wiki and add some more information below. Also, be sure to go to our Holiday/Festival Page and share some information about our days of celebration.