Every Goodbye is a new Hello

Dear friends,

It is often said that in life every end is a new beginning. The semester is close to its end. So is my Multimedia Journalism class.  Is this the end of my blogging adventure, though? Not at all!

Three months ago I started an exciting journey through time. I met with people from seven different countries, who grew up in the 90’s and experienced their childhood in seven different ways. They played different games, read different book, watched different movies, enjoyed eating different meals…but they were united by something so much stronger! All of them were children of the 90’s. Childhood back then was not about having the coolest iPod or the newest computer game…It was about acting, creating, feeling…exploring reality with all your senses. As Norma from Mexico said:

“I am glad that I learnt to have fun just by being close to nature, running around, playing in the park and riding my bike.”

Indeed, things seemed to be so much simpler back then. Domestic animals, grandparents’ garden, the fresh air… This is all I needed to have fun. After I interviewed Makhina Mirzoeva from Tajikistan, I knew that I was not alone.

“During my childhood I was visiting a kindergarten and most of the time I was with my grandparents in our home outside the city and it was pretty good, I would say – the big house, a river, fruit trees and a lot of raspberries and strawberries. We had domestic animals and I was taking care of them. I was usually collecting eggs or picking carrots and bringing them to my grandmother to prepare some meal. “

Perhaps all these feelings are quite subjective. Perhaps we glorify the past, just because back then we were too young and inexperienced and childhood seemed to be so much more interesting and exciting. As Marion Gottlieb from the US said:

“When you are younger, emotions and experiences are seen more intense and more overwhelming, because you can put them in perspective of the experiences you have already had and the knowledge you have already gained. When you go through experience you haven’t been through, it seems so much more epic.”

However, it seems to me that our childhood years actually taught us the most important lessons in life.  My blogging journey helped me identify three of the most important ones:

  1. No matter the cultural differences, we are all the same in our essence.
  2. If we want to be happy, we gotta learn (or better remember) how to appreciate small things in life.
  3. Always keep the child in you…And don’t take life too seriously! It is not like you are getting out alive! 🙂

I really did enjoy and learned a lot from my first blogging experience! I hope that you enjoyed it too! Have a wonderful day and keep following me, because my journey DOES NOT stop here! 🙂

With love,

Nikoleta

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Growing up in Bulgaria


Every now and then, when we hear on the news that Bulgaria is threatened by an economic crisis, my mom starts laughing and joking.

“Have we ever been out of crisis, starting from the 90’s?” she says.

sarnichkiMy parents often told me that after the falling of the Socialist regime in 1989, people were quite confused. They did not know what to expect, but hoped that it might be for the better. When I was a kid, I often heard my grandparents talking about politics…. They were always mad at those people in the government, who were “robbing the nation.” In fact, they had some hope, when Simeon, the former King of Bulgaria came back to rule us as a prime minister…I remember that when he got elected,  we went out of the living block to celebrate and dance Horo in the yard together with the neighbors. Then…when he disappointed them like everybody else, I came to the conclusion that all politicians must be bad people… I still don’t know if I was wrong or right.

Back then I had no idea what the word “economics” means, but I heard people complaining about it. I knew that my parents did not have much money…But I didn’t really feel it. They did everything possible to ensure that I had a happy and fulfilling childhood. Things seemed to be so much simpler back them…

I would get up at about 8 am and have my breakfast. My favorite one was a slice of bread withtumblr_lsei1dziP11qf75rr lyutenitsa and cheese on it, served together with a glass of ayran! Just like all Bulgarian kids in the 90’s, I also loved having banitsa and boza in the morning!

Boza_bgThen, it was time for games and entertainment. I would go out with the kids from the neighborhood and spend hours playing with them. We always had something to do – riding bikes, rope jumping,  playing football, hide and seek, battledore and shuttlecock and all other kinds of games…The local playground was like a second home for us!

When I came back home, it was time for my afternoon nap. Isn’t it funny that when you are a kid, you hate sleeping during the day, but once you grow up, you would die for a nap! What was interesting about me is that the only way my father would ever make me take a nap was spending at least 15 minutes dancing Sirtaki with me in the living room…until I fell asleep in his arms.

Perhaps that’s one reason why I have always loved dancing… I remember I wanted to be a ballet dancer when I was a kid. My mom even started taking me to modern ballet when I was five…I was the youngest one in the group, so the older girls considered me their talisman.

timonandpumbaaSince the 90’s were a transition period for Bulgaria, I remember I liked both Soviet and 5-5543Western books and movies. The Russia production Nu Pogodi was just as favorite to me as the Disney characters Aladin, Timon and Pumba, The Lion King and Bambi. The American fiction series ALF was another huge hit at the time. However, as I was spending lots of time with my grandparents, I was also quite familiar with all the Latin American telenovelas flooding the airwaves at the time. I remember I knew all those long names of character, such as Branca Letícia de Barros Motta and even corrected my grandma, whenever she mispronounced them.

tumblr_lfuzrhtRtI1qclmdmo1_coverWhen I think of the 90’s, the songs of Aqua, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, La Bouche and Vengaboys echo in my years.  Mr President’s Coco Jambo was probably one of the greatest hits at the time, which you could hear at any kids event, even when the 90’s were long over. Whenever I heard my favorite songs on the radio, I would hurry up to record them on a cassette, using my father’s old cassette recorder.

The natural world has always been a passion of mine, since a very early age. I loved going to the natural museum and listening to my father reading to me about animals from his books… I liked animals so much, that I have barely had a period in my life when I didn’t have a pet at home.

Visiting my grandparents in the countryside is another beautiful memory of my petelchildhood. Actually…a thousand of memories! The crowing of a rooster in the morning, the smell of grandma’s freshly baked Patatnik, the joy feeling so tall  on my grandfather’s shoulders, the black-and-white pictures in the paper albums,  the long hours spent walking in the mountain and exploring all those amazing trees and flowers, learning how to dig the soil and plant seeds, how to pick the ready carrots and potatoes, how to cut the parsley without damaging its root…

Today’s kids might consider those things too simple and ordinary…too old-fashioned and boring. They wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t find them magical and exciting. Childhood back then was not about having the coolest iPod or the newest computer game…It was about acting, creating, feeling…exploring reality with all your senses. It was all about the natural beauty of simplicity. 🙂

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Growing up in Mexico

Being one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, with 16 boroughs and more than Mexico_City300 neighborhoods, Mexico City is a fascinating capital that provides its visitors with plenty of opportunities for sightseeing, entertainment and cultural experiences.

Now, as she is far from her hometown, Norma Casillas Pitol, an exchange student from Mexico reminisces about the place where she grew up.  Norma was born in Mexio City in the 1990s and she remembers this period as extremely favorable both for the country and for herself.  Similar to many other countries in the 90’s, Mexico was going through a transition period.

551847_3975407948199_306368077_n“At that time we were changing our president. We had a party  that was ruling the country for over 70 years, so people were hoping for good things and positive changes. Most people were kind of employed and we did not have as many problems with unemployment as we do now. Generally, we were economically stable.”

Norma loved living in the big city and she remembers spending her childhood years playing in the park outside her house and riding her bike around the neighborhood.

Every morning she would get up at 7am and walk to her kindergarten. After her classes, Norma enjoyed going to Hawaiian dances in the afternoon. Then it was time for games and entertainment. Apart from the mainstream hide-and-seek, Mexican children enjoyed playing games such as Pisoton – trying to step on other players, and the so-called “Stop” game.

The-Little-Mermaid-377x600

“There are a lot of people in a circle. They usually choose the country that they want to be. One of the players declares war on another and then they have to run. When the person who has declared war says “Stop!” the other needs to stop. Then the first person has to reach them by calculating the steps in advance. If they manage to do it, they win.”

Norma liked Mexican music, but she was more fond of performers, such as Queen and Robby Williams.

Her favorite books and movies in the 90’s were The Little Mermaid, Anastasia and “everything related to princesses.”

When it came to food, Norma was a great lover of traditional Mexican cuisine.               Meals I121202_152227_640437prepared with tortilla and tacos, Chilaquiles and Fajitas were and still are among her favorite tastes.

One of the most precious memories Norma keeps of the 90’s is going to interactive museums together with her parents.

“These museums are specially designed for children, because they don’t just give you information, but also encourage you to do and arrange things with your hands, so you learn while having fun.”

Norma finds it a little bit disturbing, as she sees all those children unable to entertain themselves without their iPods and computers in the technological era that we live in.

“I am glad that I learnt to have fun just by being close to nature, running around, playing in the park and riding my bike.”

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Growing up in the United States


Marion Gottlieb, an exchange student from the United States, remembers the 90’s as one of the most peaceful and fulfilling periods of her life.  That was the time when she grew up as a happy and carefree child in the small town of Falls Church, Washington DC. The period was also a prosperous moment for the United States history.

“We were going through a boom time economically through the majority of the 90’s. We pulled out of the Gulf War in 1991. We had Bill Clinton as a president. He was a president for eight years and we had a surplus in economy, so we were able to spend on improving domestic and international trade.”

Marion’s day started at 9 am, when she would wake up and prepare to go to school. Kindergartens were half-day open at the time, so children only stayed there for four hours.  They spent the rest of the day playing outdoors.

“I liked my little neighborhood. It was very nice and kid-friendly. I had a yard that I was able to play in together with the children from the neighborhood.”

Marion’s favorite game back then was “fugitive”, or “an updated version of hide-and-seek.” During the summers she enjoyed swimming in an outdoor community pool.Hide and Seek is Way too Dangerous For little kids

“I was in a summer league team. It wasn’t really very competitive. However, it was great fun. I was going there every summer for many years until I was 16.”

When she was in 1st grade, Marion really got into reading. Apart from Harry Potter that Marion was a huge fan of, she liked reading series.

“There was that American Girl series. It was like a franchise – they made dolls that were based on characters in books.  I got the magazines too. “

Marion was also interested in historical fiction. She was particularly fond of books in the form of diaries. She remembers reading about a young Native-American girl who lived during the 1850’s and underwent a lot of struggles. Another interesting book she remembers was about the colonial period of the US, when they were a colony of Great Britain.

When it came to movies, Marion was not a huge fan of cartoons.

Jumanji_poster“I enjoyed seeing real actors. My favorite movies were Jumanji and Honey, I Shrunk the Kid.”

When Marion thinks of the 90’s, the songs of Spice Girls echo in her ears.

“Ginger  was my favorite one. I even made my parents get me that Spice World movie. I recently rewatched part of it… It was absolutely inappropriate for kids with all those sex jokes.”

Spice_world

Similar to many kids, Marion was a picky eater. She was not fond of all types of food, but she pretty much liked all kinds of sweets.

“I liked cakes. And I really liked yoghurts. I used to get these yoghurt custards. My mom used to pack one with my lunch every day. “

Another vivid memory that Marions has of the 90’s was the celebration of Halloween. She
remembers dressing in all kinds of ways during the years – from a little pumpkin to a mediaeval-type princess.

                                                         “I dressed up every year until I was 11. My last year I dressed 400px-Kobe_Mosaic17s3072as Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings.”

Marion smiles as she remembers all those moments of joy and the excitement that she felt when she went trick-or-treating in her neighborhood.

“When you are younger, emotions and experiences are seen more intense and more overwhelming, because you can put them in perspective of the experiences you have already had and the knowledge you have already gained. When you go through experience you haven’t been through, it seems so much more epic.”

Like it or not, we all grow up. The world changes, our values and perceptions change, we change… However, it depends on us to what extend we will let time erase the child inside us. While I was shooting a video of Marion playing hide-and-seek and eating chocolate cake, something in her smile told me that her young self was not completely gone… She enjoyed re-experiencing her childhood. Perhaps we all need to do it from time to time… Perhaps we will never be completely ready to grow up…Perhaps we don’t need to. 🙂

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My Journey Till Now

Dear friends,

It has been five weeks since I started my journey, and it is time for me to summarize and share with you what I have learnt so far.

Blogging turned out to be an exciting thing to do. Some of the people I interviewed were my close friends. Others I thought I know well…and still others I met for the first time. What I realized was that until you ask a person about their childhood, you cannot claim that you know them at all.

I knew that my Vietnamese friend Hieu is really passionate about mathematics. I knew that in addition to majoring in Math and Economics at AUBG, he is a devoted tutor teaching both Calculus and Linear Algebra…However, I never asked myself where this passion comes from… 🙂

It turned out that back in the 90’s, Hieu was an enthusiastic reader and subscriber of a kids’ journal called Math and Kids.

“I had almost all the issues and there is still an extensive collection of these issues in my home.  We usually solved problems from each issue. We were very excited about sending them to the publishers and then we got little monetary rewards for our work. That was pretty amazing.”

I also knew that most Albanians are polyglots… The ones I have met at AUBG speak 3 or 4 languages, and Italian is usually one of them. However, I never asked myself what helped them learn to speak it so well. It was Ili who gave me a hint that 90’s cartoons played a big role in learning.

“The major part of my friends can speak Italian mostly because of this – because they used to watch Italian TV, when they were kids.  I also have friends who speak German because of this.”

When I met Alungoo I virtually knew nothing about her…and very little about Mongolia. I was one of the ignorant people who related Mongolian history just to Genghis Khan …and Mongolian culture to the breeding of their famous horses.

I did not know about the severe economic crisis in the country during the 90’s

“In every 2 weeks or so, people were forming long lines in front of food shops and waiting for hours in order to get bread.”

I had no idea how creative Mongolian children could be, until I heard that they were playing with colorful sheep knucklebones, each combination of which had a different symbol.

And, of course, I had no idea that Mongolian hip-hop was sooo good!

Listening to Alungoo talking about her childhood years in the 90’s gave me a deeper insight into her country’s history and culture, and made me realize how many things I can learn, if I just ask people about their own stories…even when it comes to your closest friends.

I have always felt my Tajik friends Sheroz and Makhina very close to me. … At first I found it strange – after all Tajikistan and Bulgaria were located on different continents, separated by almost 4000 km, and belonging to different historical and cultural backgrounds… Or at least we were supposed to be different.  The more I talked to them, however, the more I realized how much we were alike. We often had the same preferences for food, movies, music and activities… But why was that? After asking them about their childhood, I realized that when we were kids, we liked the same games, such as klasiki, the same books, such as “Doctor Aybolit”, and we had parents concerned with the same issues…

“And we were forced to eat our breakfast– otherwise we would not go anywhere.”

In fact, my journey so far has taught me that no matter where they grew up, what the situation in their countries was at that time, what kind of games they played – klasiki,  Meo Duoi Chuot, soccer or sheep knucklebones, and what their parents wanted them to eat for breakfast…90’s kids share a lot in common.

All of us experienced our childhood on the threshold of transition – historical, political, economic, technological and social…We loved exploring reality, even though it was not a virtual reality. We enjoyed playing games, even though they were n0t high tech games, and we learnt to be social, without being in a social network…It seems to me that we were the last generation that had the chance to do that… And in a way that makes us reminisce those years, remember them with a smile and nostalgia…

In the first short movie I created, you will see me experiencing part of the childhoods I described in my previous posts… I had the feeling that at least for a day, I could go back in time and play, taste, listen and feel what children around the world did in the 90’s.

I hope that you enjoy it. 🙂

 

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My First 5-shot Video

Hello, everybody!

I am excited to announce that I just created my first 5-shot video. It is composed of five 5-second shots and it shows the creator of Bad Habits at AUBG smoking and shooting at the same time. :))

From now on, most of my posts are going to contain such videos. Let’s hope that they will be much more successful than this one! :))

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Growing up in Mongolia

Rolling grasslands, galloping horses and the glorious Genghis Khan – these are the first 521897_368602069913532_238955739_nassociations that come to people’s minds, as they think of Mongolia. Alungoo Bellezza, Political Science student at AUBG, finds it funny that so many people still associate Mongolians with nomadic horsemen…Especially as she knows how much things have changed during the years. Heavy traffic, fancy cars, Western European fashion and cuisine are now integral part of the capital Ulan Bator – the place where Alungoo was born and raised in the 1990’s.

All these changes and transformations, of course, happened due to key moments in Mongolian history. Alungoo’s childhood years were one of those moments in history.

“The 1990’s were the end of the 70 years of socialism in Mongolia. The Democratic Revolution, which was started by young people, overthrew the Mongolian People’s Republic and one of the leaders was our current president …  Mongolia was transformed from a utilitarian regime to liberal democratic one. The economy in Mongolia was liberalized too. Even though political and economic situation were transformed, things were still in a very bad condition.”

Ration cards were still being issued and stores shelves were depleted. In every 2 weeks or so, people were forming long lines in front of food shops and waiting for hours in order to get bread or what is left there.

UlaanBaatar-2009

Despite the severe crisis in the country, Alungoo keeps many nice memories of her childhood. Going to the kindergarten, for instance, was a very exciting experience for her.

“I used to go to a French kindergarten. It was also like a gymnastics school. We used to do stretching and speak in French. “

In addition to going to the kindergarten, Alungoo also enjoyed playing outdoors. Something more, she was allowed stay out till later than many other 90’s kids could even imagine!

“I would stay out till 2 am in the morning. It was always safe. I also had a nanny, so she was always by my side.”

As a kid, Alungoo enjoyed playing many different kinds of games. Yo-yo and “elastic illusion” (rope jumping) were among her favorite ones.

Traditional Mongolian brain benders were also very popular among kids.images

“It is a puzzle that you have to put together.” she explained “It takes time and concentration.”

The sheep knucklebone (Shagai), however, is probably the most unique and memorable game of all. Four knuckles of sheep bones are painted in different colors, jumbled and then thrown on the table. In the Mongolian version of the game each knucklebone symbolizes a different animal – a camel, a sheep,a goat, and a horse. The different combinations of animals have a different meaning. Four sheep, for instance, mean that you will be lucky.

knucklebones-game-600x355“Each combination has a symbol. It is really popular in the countryside.” Alungoo said.

When she was at home, Alungoo enjoyed different types of entertainment.

“I loved tamagotchi! It played a very important role in my life!

images (1)However, I often killed my “pet”, so I had to buy a new one.” she said. “I also loved animals, but my mother would never allow me to get a real one.”

Similar to many 90’s kids, Alungoo was a great Harry Potter fan.

“I used to go online and take some courses on Potions class. At that time I used to know all the spells that were in Harry Potter.”

Alungoo was also passionately interested in the history and culture of Ancient Egypt, so she had a huge collection of books and CDs on this topic.

Since she studied in a Russian high school, Alungoo’s movie preferences were quite affected by Russian culture.

“I liked Russian cartoons, adaptations of Pushkin fairytales…everything connected to Russia!”

When it came to music, however, Mongolian kids were quite patriotic.

ICE_TOP“We really liked Mongolian hip hop. It was always about love. I remember all the lyrics even now.  “Ice top” was one of the most popular hip-hop groups at the time.”

When it comes to the taste of the 90’s, the first association that Alungoo makes, are her favorite pirozhki, which she used to buy from her secondary school canteen.

“There were many different kinds” she said. “My favorite 800px-Piroshkipirozhki were with potato stuffing.”

Pirozhki…Well, they certainly were one of the tastes of my childhood too! I ate them with strawberry jam and marmalade, however…. Isn’t it funny? 🙂  Despite the distance of almost 6000 kilometers separating Mongolia and Bulgaria, the love for pirozhki is one thing that unites us…or at least if we do not consider the stuffing. 😉

Have a wonderful day, everybody! And do not forget to smile! A smile is the most beautiful accessory you can wear! :))

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