Au revoir!

Every journey has a beginning, and an end. And mine isn’t an exception. I realize that the vague philosophical quote makes this post sound like a suicide note, and it is, in a way. With this post I am ending my blog.

It has been a wonderful journey and I am very grateful to those of you that actually took the time to read some of my stories. For those of you that just looked for keywords and left generic comments – it’s ok, the blog wasn’t meant to be everyone’s cup of tea anyway. It wasn’t particularly structured either, I am sure most of you were wondering what the hell was going on half the time. Well, for better or for worse, that time is now over! In spite of the many sleepless nights, nerves wrecked and cameras borrowed, I like how the blog turned out. Not saying it couldn’t have been better, but I’ve always been one to learn by trial and error. And in terms of errors I made more than a few. Yes, yes, this just keeps getting more and more depressing, but it kind of hurts when you have to mercifully kill something you have created.

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And, completely ignoring the somber and depressing tone of the first two paragraphs, I will continue onwards sounding as perky as I actually should be! I was going to emphasize on how this was a learning experience, and how it helped me grow as a person, but let’s be honest – no one really wants to read about that. So, this farewell post is going to tell the stories behind the stories, or how these people ended up in my blog. (HINT: Most of them – by accident)

As you have probably noticed by now, my interviewees tend to flake kalinaout on me in the last possible minute. For this first post, I was expecting a dear friend of mine to tell a very interesting story – which one exactly I let her decide. But she overslept and missed her bus to Blagoevgrad (at 7 p.m., yes, that’s what happened), which made my interviewing her very inconvenient. So, I started going through my phone contacts desperately searching for a person that could help me. And Kalina popped out. She was nice enough to let me write about her, and to tell me a very personal story.

Anna and her son at the christening.

The second post was the complete opposite of the second post – it was very well thought out and planned, but that was the only way it could be executed. I was meant to take the interview at the Christening of my friend Anna’s son, a joyous occasion for every Bulgarian. Still, things went wrong! I was expecting to hear your everyday, run-up-the-mill story about a happy marriage and the joys of motherhood, but what I saw was post-partum depression and insecurity. I honestly, wasn’t prepared for that. I had also forgotten to bring a camera, but the photographer, hired for the Christening turned out the be a pretty stand up fella and allowed me to use his spare!

After this slight emotional trauma, my blog takes us back to class, where we learned the basics of shooting and editing a video in Windows MovieMaker and YouTube editor. And then we catch a (radio) wave with Ivo and Chanko, who were kind enough to let me do a double feature. The hilarious part here is the small blogging camera’s journey – it was forgotten and abandoned a whopping 11 times during the day of the interview. It’s so weird how easy it is to lose something that doesn’t belong to you.

And we’re moving ahead to posts that will not get me banned from using university owned hardware. Bo showing off some... talentThe next one is my dear friend Bo’s post. There weren’t any mishaps here, she was just perfect – had a fun, little story to tell, was doing something interesting enough to make a video about, and after the entire thing was over she fed me. What more could I possibly want?!

The post after Bo’s was the horrifyingly stressful midterm post, which had me running around Skapto, looking for interview subjects. I actually froze a little bit, when I heard Prof. Gilbert say “Pick a recent news story that’s related to your blog!” What was I supposed to write about?! A celebrity’s choice of (un)dress? Putin’s decision to hinder EU trading? I was completely confuzzled (I know it’s not a word, but it’s adorable) .

And after a riveting dash through Skapto, another borrowed camera in hand, the time came for my actual midterm post – the summary post so eloquently named “The road so far.” In it I said I would try to fix the structure of my blog, but I didn’t, since I decided I loved the chaos of it. I liked how my blog became more about the stories and less about the choices, in spite of originally being the other way around. The fact of the matter is, my entire topic is just an angle, a prism, through which to think about stories. Every story has a choice.

After that came my favorite post – the story that unfurled in front of me! It was kind of awkward, kind of sad, and kind of frightening, but it was a fun little experience.  All in all – mixed feelings about this one.

Then came the class on curating web content, a.k.a. the “wook, mom, I made a macaroni pictuwe!” post, in which I clumsily tried to navigate Thinglink and Storify – the latter of which I actually really liked and plan to use in the future as well. But I will probably lose thinglink – I just don’t find it visually pleasing.

10550938_756857364357267_7807865741814455311_nAnd speaking of losing things – my next post was about Tuttee, who lost a whole lot of… Tuttee. This is one of the posts, that had some initial thought and planning, by the way. It was also supposed to have a very neat video of him just doing his thing around the house – editing, cooking, etc. – but technical difficulties (by the name of an accidentally formatted SD card) killed that video in its tracks.

And speaking of killing things – next is the post, that I feel most insecure about. Yeah, the one about John Constantine, the fictional character. On one hand I think it’s a neat little blogger co-operation, on the other I actually did it, because another interviewee flaked out on me, this time too late to find a replacement. In the end, I actually ended up exerting a lot more effort than I would have on creating a regular post. What I enjoyed here is the fact that I could let my imagination run amok and do whatever it does best – create pictures and translate them into words.

And while that’s my medium of choice, there are people who just love their pictures. Preferably on a DSC_1819wall somewhere. Why, yes, I am referring to my latest post! In it, I interviewed Pesho and partly his roommate, about the time they got so drunk that they became graffiti artists. This post happened in the spur of the moment, after a chance meeting around campus, since my original interviewee…. Flaked out on me! Well, in this case she just refused to be interviewed due to horrifying mood swings and complete lack of interest, but the result was the same.

As you can see, every story has a story. It’s these little things, that I will remember them by. I didn’t answer my question, I realized that it doesn’t really have one answer. It’s all about the shape and texture of the story. Those are usually shaped by choices, but more than that they are shaped by the people who make these choices. So, dear reader, if I have to leave you with one thing, I will just rephrase the message from my midterm post.

Make

Great

Stories.

Au revoir!

Oh, and let me leave you with this short video that is in no way related to the story. I call it “The life of the Director”, although it’s just a clip from the student holiday celebration at Redenka. (Hint: Some of the people in the video have been interviewed for class by other students)

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Amateur Street Artists

For this week’s post we have another familiar face – Petar Georgiev. He’s a junior here at AUBG, majoring in European Studies. He’s also an active member of the student community – ex-president of The Griffins, part of the BLIMUN society – and also a very friendly and open-minded person. I went after him for an interview, after I heard rumors of a particularly interesting event. And he agrees.

Petar invites me over to his room in Skapto 3 to do the interview. I enter and am immediately overwhelmed by the copious amount of what I can only describe as stuff in the room. If you take a look at the pictures, you will understand what I mean by that. And every little object is a memento of one story or another. A football from The Griffins’ first win, medals, empty bottles, posters, books… Everything in this room has history. And one of these objects is part of Petar’s story.

We sit down and start chatting, he tries to recall as much detail as possible. The DSC_1819adventure (as many in AUBG) begins at club Underground – a staple of local student life and favorite watering hole. Everyone at the university knows this is the place you go to party until the end. Whether it is of the night, conscious thought, or your allowance – you just wait for it to come. There are many interesting stories about Underground, few of which I’ve had the questionable pleasure of witnessing, but this one only starts there.

“What story do you want me to tell you? Oh, wait, I know!”

Petar plants himself on the bed next to the memory-laden desk and starts talking. Unlike previous interview subjects, Petar’s really talkative and open, getting the story out of him required almost zero effort on my part. He smiles as he recalls the faithful evening at Underground, the story’s point A. He and his roommate decided to go out on a whim, it was the evening before the makeshift Berlin Wall at ABF was torn down. Why am I mentioning this? Well… read on.

So as he and his roommate, Ivan Nikov, stumbled out of Underground in a drunken haze a marvelous idea came to light. Instead of going home and sleeping it off, our two heroes decided to wander the streets of Blagoevgrad in search of excitement. And they found it in the face of a hooded graffiti artist, who was defiling (or improving) the back wall of a random building.

“I remember thinking that this guy’s a real rebel and that I should help him in his fight against oppression – totally in the spirit of the upcoming destruction of the Berlin Wall”

So, Petar and Ivan went over to talk to him, throwing caution to the wind. At first, the artist was distrustful, scared even – how was he supposed to know they weren’t cops – so he assaulted them with a can of spray paint. And by assaulted I mean started violently spraying paint in their general direction. It took some persuasive drunk hand gesturing and horrified yells of dismay to snap the outlaw out of his delusion. When he realized the two were friendly, he started apologizing. Both of them remained unscathed from the paint attack. The three got to talking and realized they had a lot in common – they all disliked DSC_1811oppression and they all liked being drunk. After some more conversing and convincing, the artist allowed Petar and Ivan to tag along and help him out with his current… projects. Ivan and Petar loved the thrill of it all – skulking in the night, three shadowy figures armed with the weapon of change that is street art.

They had to avoid the police a few times, but all in all it was a peaceful evening. Well, as peaceful as a night out on the town, doing graffiti drunk can be. And after all of this, they even received souvenirs! Petar as the more prominent street artist (probably) received the spray paint bottle he had used – a rite of passage he had not expected. Ivan received something completely different. A tiny bust of Sophocles – an ancient Greek philosopher.

“It was really weird in the morning, ‘cause it took some concentration and effort to remember where these came from…”

Petar laughs about this entire misadventure and is certain given the choice he’d do it again, but this time he’d like to be a more active participant in drawing the graffiti – a skill that will definitely set him apart from other EUR majors.

For more riveting stories, like my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

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A constant reminder

Another week, and another blog post. The chill of winter is slowly creeping up on everyone here at AUBG, and the words “God, It’s so cold!!!” have once again become a sort of battlecry against the upcoming finals or a possible excuse to end an awkward conversation. But I digress. Today’s post is going to be very different. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, so just keep reading.

JohnConstantine
John Constantine

In what was either a stroke of genius or horrifying stupidity I decided to choose a slightly different interviewee for today’s story. After last week’s midterm review one thing became clear(er) to me, being a half-decent writer can go a long way. So, I decided to push it a bit further. For this week’s interview I choose a fictional character. Some background to that, I was doing research on… well, one thing or another – curse you Wikipedia and your endless hyperlinks! – but I stumbled across a technique that writers use to give their characters more substance and depth, Fictional Character Interviews. While hardly a novel approach, I found it fascinating. I know it just makes me look lazy – not actually interviewing a person. But there’s a lot more thought and research that goes into such an article! And, hey, if it’s good enough for Forbes or Kurt Vonnegut, it’s good enough for me!

The character I chose is as some of you might expect a vague pop-cultural reference which will appeal to roughly half the readers and that’s assuming I’ve judged my followers correctly. Meet John Constantine. Many a critic have called him the by-product of both Punk Rock culture and Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. He drinks and smokes as if they’re both going out of style. He isn’t particularly nice or friendly, at times he’s downright brutal in his cynicism. Imagine the proto-character for every supernatural noir detective ever conceived. And now let’s get to the interesting part.

He walks in the bar with him enters the heavy smell of cigarette smoke and guilt – bitter and overwhelming. He takes a look around, quickly examining every nook and corner, and possible exit – when in the business of staving off unnatural forces it’s good to always have a quick exit strategy. We sit down and he orders scotch. He takes the whole glass in a single sip and gestures the bartender to just leave the bottle. Finally he looks at me and smirks, belittling my attempts at breaking the fourth wall and making me twitch, a damp uneasiness settles down in the back of my throat, making me cough.

“So, have at it, mate.”

He cheerfully proclaims after three glasses worth of scotch and silence, the belittling grin still on his face. I can’t help but feel nervous (mostly about the feedback this post is going to receive). He stretches his arms and leans back on the chair, happily sedated and ready to talk. I ask him to tell me a story of a choice he had to make. His eyes dart at me, all traces of inebriation now gone and replaced with a weird mix of curiosity and anger. The air around him becomes more menacing as he is studying me, trying to decide whether or not to punch me in the face. I would feel frightened, but by this point in my life I am more or less used to it, comes with the territory.

“Alright, then. You want any old story, eh? Or are you after something a bit more… specific?”

Hellblazer_(1)I am now sure that I’m being tested. Somehow. He gauges my reaction to the question and takes his time before going back on track with the conversation, filling the time with acerbic wisecracks and small talk. Finally, I am deemed worthy for one reason or another (mostly because I write this). And he begins to tell me his story – how arrogance quickly becomes guilt.

His eyes darken, and his brow is furrowed, as he recalls events long past. His fingers are constantly shuffling and looking for something to grasp, fold and crumple nervously – the coaster under his glass quickly becomes unraveled strips of paper.

He tells me of the time when he formed his own punk band – Mucous Membrane. But his short-lived punk rock fame isn’t the focus of the story. His arrogance is. He recalls this time in extreme detail, since it was also around the time when he seriously got into examining the unexplainable and dabbling in the occult. It was also the time when his arrogance cost him not only his soul, but the lives of a few of his comrades as well as the soul of the little girl he was trying to save. He laughs and recalls what he said to himself before everything went south:

“John, me boy, you’ve had some daft schemes in your day, but if this one goes pear-shaped… you’re in for a right kicking.”

At the time he didn’t realize exactly how much of an understatement that was. On tour with Mucous Membrane at the Casa Nova Club in Newcastle, he found the aftermath of a magical orgy gone horribly wrong: an abused child, Astra, had conjured a hideous monster that took revenge on the adults who were tormenting her, and the monster refused to leave. With typical recklessness, John convinced some members of the band, along with several occultist friends, to try destroying the creature by summoning a demon of their own – Nergal. This decision he would grow to regret on numerous occasions. The newly summoned demon was under no one’s control and after it had destroyed the child’s monster, it tormented Constantine’s friends and took the child to Hell. John suffered a nervous breakdown after this incident, and was committed to Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital, which he drifted in and out of over the years. No wonder he was so reluctant to tell this story.

I ask him if he’d do it all again, fearful of the response I might get. He looks up from his glass, blue eyes a-fire with anger and sadness. I stare back at him, trying not to flinch. I feel it – the unmistakable thrill of excitement, crackling from the base of the spine to the pineal gland, signaling danger. It’s never good when even the person who has crossed the line realizes it. I remain silent, waiting for tension to lift. John’s anger slowly drifting away, giving way to unmeasurable sadness, beaten into submission by cynicism and self-restraint. He looks at me and mumbles

“Jesus, we’re all bloody doomed, aren’t we? The entire species is flying off to Hell for its holidays. Somebody stop the world. I’m scared and I want to get off.”

And with that, he abruptly ends our conversation, getting up from the chair and putting on his signature trench coat in one motion. And by the time I wave goodbye, he’s already at the door – all trench coat and arrogance. And then he’s gone – leaving only a nod, a wink and a wisecrack.

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Check out the art and covers of the series, from which John Constantine originates with the covers of the top 10 best story arks:

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Losing it

Hello again, dear reader! And now that we’re past the cliché greeting sentence for today’s post, let me introduce you to a person, who’s a whole lot (well, for factuality’s sake, he’s no longer “a whole lot”) of inspiration. Meet Trayan Kostashki, someone who I’m more or less certain you have met or heard of before. If you haven’t, well, there’s still plenty of time, he has not even graduated yet – second semester senior, majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and Business Administration, here at AUBG.

Here's Tuttee now
Here’s Tuttee now

Some more background info – he is into video production, interned for Forbes and just recently won the 48-hour Documentary Challenge, organized on campus. I can list his achievements for a while, but that isn’t really the purpose of my post. To be honest, Tuttee was one of those people, that I know I can count on for a good story and was saving him for a time when I would really need a good blog post. But, hey, why not try and make every post good? Me and a couple of friends are invited over at his place to hang out and chat, a usual Monday evening. So I decide to try and combine fun and functionality and do the interview there.

We climb up to his room and sit down. Yet again I notice the katana hanging on the wall. He sits down in front of his computer and reclines back in a very aristocratic manner. He is the ruler of these lands, a king in his kingdom. Although, the little smirk that pops up occasionally on his face is meant to tell you he could probably rule any other land.

Having said that I feel it’s time to reveal what Tuttee’s choice was and how it affected him. Now, I’m sure you know where I’m heading with this – he lost a lot of weight and got into more than decent shape over the last year. Yes and no. He decided he wanted to treat himself – body and mind – better. Healthier. Smarter.  Or as he himself puts it

“I now treat my body as a temple, as cheesy as it sounds. I feel this has made me not just happier and healthier, but altogether – better.”

He decided to change more or less out of the blue last year, he recalls the date very clearly – 24 January 2014. His weight was never really a bother to him, people liked him no less, but he did perceive it as a hindrance. When I ask him about the reason he rolls his eyes a bit in his vaguely royal fashion and replies

“I got sick of being fat.”

Here's Tuttee just a few months back.
Here’s Tuttee just a few months back.

While all of this seems rather trivial, you don’t see people like Tuttee every day. He is the type of person, who is willing to take life into his own hands, do what needs to be done to achieve the envisioned results. But if someone else has homework, hey, why not copy it. To me these are people that have realized the value of their own time, and who respect themselves enough to not waste it on activities that in no way further their personal growth. He knows what he wants, he knows what he likes and he’s not afraid to ask for it. He will do the work and reap the rewards.

However, in spite of his impressive willpower and drive, he is still reluctant to say it was easy. He goes on to explain how his friends were incredibly supportive and kept him going, when he didn’t really feel like it. He doesn’t really say it, but I’m certain living with Panayot Apostolov was a huge morale boost. But Tottee’s is a story for another time (or post).

Back on track – during the last 10 months, Tuttee lost a whopping 33,5 kg (73.8 lbs), which is more or less the size of an average-sized male Mandrill sphinx. It must be nice to have that monkey of your back. Or abdomen. Do you know what else is nice? Reading a blog post without bad puns in it. Unfortunately, dear reader, you stumbled onto me and inspiring stories and bad puns are sort of the bread and butter around these parts of the internet. And now past the obligatory sidetrack, back to Tuttee.

As always I ask the final question whether he’d do it again. He just looks at me with the same expression everyone has when asked that question – head slightly tilted, eyes just a bit narrower than they should be, an expression of exasperation – and replies.

Check out the neat little thinglink to see how losing this much weight has benefited his body.

UntitledAnd for even more riveting stories, like my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

Interactive Media 101

Today in Multimedia Journalism at AUBG, we learned about making the content we create interactive. We learned about neat little tools such as Storify and Thinglink. It’s interesting to examine how far online content has gone, both of these would’ve been practically unusable not long ago. I digress. Check out the fruits of my efforts, the images are direct links:

Click me!
Click me!
Click me too!
Click me too!

Perpetuating stereotypes

Today’s story is one of “scandalous” proportions. It’s a story as low on content as it is on well thought out decisions. Meet Mihail Anchev, sophomore and one of the most lackadaisical people on Earth. To tell you more about him – he is kind of an asshole, but extremely sincere. If he doesn’t like you, you’re the first to find out. He cares about a few things, but with a passion. Misho’s entire character has been built around the idea of exploring extremes. Stubborn to the point where he would make himself uncomfortable, just to prove you’re wrong. Addicted to the concept of uncertainty and randomness – a desire to find new experiences and collect stories. If you spent more than an hour in his company, you would be able to piece all of this together and you would go “Oh, yeah, I get it now.”

What’s Misho’s story then? Well, his primary decision in every situation is either to care or not care. His go-to choice should be more or less obvious. So, while I could find a story that shows his true colors and presents him to you in a more humane and soft light, I’d rather be a real friend and ask him to tell us about his exciting relationship with a German exchange student – his current roommate. Basically a guide in why westerners believe Bulgarians to be a savage lot – primal and passionate, unrefined and uncultured. Hell, after all the poor boy has been through, I’m somewhat certain he’s starting to question the very nature of courtesy and cross-cultural understanding. So, let’s begin the tale of the poor exchange student’s birthday.

It was barely midnight, when I met Misho. We had agreed to go out for a cigarette and coffee (blasted midterms…) on the Skapto 1 3rd floor balcony. While there, we got to talking. I asked him if he’d be my interview subject for this week. He said “Sure.” – brief and concise. Which wasn’t really the hard part. Getting Misho to agree to do something isn’t difficult. Getting him to actually do it properly – now, that takes skill and perseverance. I asked him what story he wants to tell me. He looked at me with a dull expression, which might as well have had “Are you kidding me?” written all over it in bright neon green letters. We got into discussing why this wasn’t actually a retarded question and how he could simply re-tell me one of the numerous stories he has told me before. His eyes gleamed darkly and his lips twisted into an evil grin.

“Why tell you a story, when we could simply go and make one?”

I looked at him, slightly disturbed and thoroughly intrigued. I was expecting something more than “Let’s see how much exactly we can scandalize my roommate.” However, in terms of both quantity and quality of laughs had at the events which unfolded – I can say I was rather pleased. Let me give you some background stories of the poor German exchanger who drew the short (or long) stick that is Misho. He is a Political Sciences major, here for only one semester. In this one semester, he has attempted to be an active part of the on-campus life, both in the clubs and in the community. He got into the AUBG Daily, became a peer counselor, an upstanding fine citizen. When you take a look at his corner of the room you see meticulous cleanliness and order, everything has its place, his clothes are always neatly folded. On Misho’s side there’s anarchy. As you can probably guess by now, the poor fellow has been thoroughly harassed in every way possible – he has been locked out of the room and forced to listen to some pretty loud sex on a daily occasion, six people suddenly appear in the room at 5 AM almost every night, he has been badgered into leaving the room by Misho and his girlfriend, who simply jump each other’s bones while he’s in the room, he has been forced to pretend to be asleep for the same reason.

And this is basically all of the background info you need in order to figure out how what comes next fits into the entire scenario. While the exchanger’s privacy has been violated methodically, it has never literally been as violated as this. I follow Misho downstairs to his room. We open the door and his suitemate greets him with a “Hey, Misho, do you mind taking look at my essay, it’s due tonight at midnight?” Misho agrees…

“… but only after this.”

He says and reaches for the door to his room. However, it turns out to be locked. He stares blankly at it for a few seconds, until the decision and its possible consequences are being evaluated in his head. After that short moment of meditation (because I wouldn’t go as far as to call it hesitation…), he takes a step back and violently throws himself at the door. Then he took a step back and went at it again, this time completely destroying the lock. The door however holds and we hear hurried shuffling and footsteps across the wooden floor. Misho is laughing his ass off. We all are. I feel like a horrible person. If perpetuating a stereotype was a physical sensation, I’m sure it’s the same tingle I felt dart up my spine when Misho slammed against the door. This was so wrong. But hilariously so. I was starting to see the appeal. However, I couldn’t help but (barely holding back the laughter) ask “Why?”

“Why? For him to know.”

“To know what?”

“Just to know.”

The confused and terrified exchange student fearfully opened the door. He didn’t even look at us. He just walked back to his bed and sat down. The bitter burn of embarrassment was spreading across my face. Misho on the other side, didn’t really seem to care. He just packed his laptop and left the room. On top of all this, it turned out that the exchanger had a birthday. Later that same night, that same door got knocked down again, but this is what we found behind it.

Sleep it off, buddy...
Sleep it off, buddy…

When asked if he’d do it all again, Misho laughed and said “No, I’d probably escalate everything did to a whole new level.”

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The road so far

For this week, I was supposed to write a post about everything that I learned during this first half of the semester. And while I’d like to condescendingly state “Nothing.”, that would be a lie. I actually learned quite a lot. Technical skills ((using Audacity, YouTube Video Editor, etc.) and soft skills. From the very beginning our instructor, Melody Gilbert, threw us in the deep end. It’s not like I didn’t know what was coming – people had warned me time and time again “Pick a topic and do some research before going to the first class”, “Don’t pick a topic that’s too philosophical or broad”, and what did I do? None of what I was advised to. Literally, none of it. Was I sorry? Yes. Am I still sorry? Hell, no. From this very first (albeit 3-hour long) class, I was forced to think on my feet and act while possessing limited information. For my first post, I had to have a topic set up.  My first topic was a failure, my second one I deemed a failure and thus, through a process of constant refinement I came up with the current one – as philosophical and broad as possible.  It’s clearly reflected in the first post. However, my topic has proven to be a double-edged blade, as it has allowed me to meet some very interesting people and hear more than a few awesome stories. But trying to set up a pattern for interviews and make people actually tell their stories has been a huge pain in the Gluteus maximus.

And while on the topic of interesting people, I might as well just write what every blog post I have done so far has taught me. Nope. That would be boring. So, let me tell you about the things I’ve learned and then link them to the people. Some of them won’t necessarily be journalism skills, but then again, isn’t AUBG supposed to be about finding yourself and all that jazz?

Firstly, I learned that preparation is key for success. Which every single one of us has heard kalinatime and time again. Well, there’s a reason. My first interview post was supposed to be someone else, but as I was just starting off, I delayed letting that person know about the interview until the last possible hour. And then it turned out she was out of town. So, lucky me, I had a backup – Kalina, who was kind enough to tell us the short and lovely story of how she met her significant other. Although not the most interesting of stories, it was personal and heartfelt. Even that story resulted in an interesting realization for her

“Well, for a pretty long time I was convinced that […] was a mistake. But now […] I am really happy I made that mistake.”

I thought it to be a decent enough start for my blogging “career.“  While on the topic of being prepared, another useful thing I learned was that recorders beat phones. Every. Single. Time. Audio is important and good quality is a must. Unfortunately, I still cling to the idea that my phone can manage. We’ll see how that goes.

Moving on! The Multimedia Journalism class also taught me the importance of being creative and trying out new things. Everything resides in everything, and all things are connected. Such is the nature of stories. And when writing them, I always tried to keep that in mind. The moment when I realized that fully was on the day of the midterm, when we were supposed to look for a recent news story that somehow relates to our topic. That was about as hard as coming up with a blog topic in the first class. But if you look hard enough for something, you find it. And it’s usually hiding in plain sight, just in the lurking in the periphery of sight. In this case, it was young Malala Yousafzai’s story – one not only of choice, but of sacrifice and nobility.You can read my take on it here. And while some were touched by that, all others had to say was:

“What? Really?! Daaaaaaaaaaamn!!”

Bo showing off some... talent

It was the same with Bo’s story – one of the most interviewed people, as it turned out – I’d known her for a while now, I’d realized she’s exceedingly interesting more than once, but I never thought about interviewing her. Until I did. nd, as expected, she did have a great story to tell us. It wasn’t necessarily about the choices she made, but I know most of my readers found it interesting. As she puts it

“It’s an unlikely story of meeting a bunch of Bulgarian monks in a monastery and a funny story of how Bulgarian monks are actually quite open to drinking with outsiders”

Anna and her son at the christening.
Anna and her son at the christening.

I also learned a lot about being a regular, functional human being.  Annie’s story showed me how important it is to empathize with people, especially when discussing something personal. Sometimes all that people need is a shoulder to cry or at least lean on. Other times it’s just someone to listen to their story. Everyone wants to be heard. And on a slightly brighter note – Chanko & Ivo taught me how important it is to adapt to situations. For 1294416_178657192343006_711500763_o

example, Ivo wasn’t a scheduled appearance, but I think we made it work. Yes, we, because if it wasn’t for their cooperation, I would have failed and missed (another) blog post. And, luckily, there was an interesting event that day, or how Chank put it

Ivo in all his infamy
Ivo in all his infamy

“Did you know that today is the official Mad Hatter Day!?”

This resulted in hilarious outbursts of emotions and general happiness. These two, they’re good people.

And while on the subject of people – this is the last and most important thing I learned:

Meet.

Great.

People.

That’s all I have for that one. An example could be any one of my interviewees.

If it weren’t for this class, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know these people so well, or at least their stories. And in the end, that’s what we all are – a sum of the stories we tell and are part of. In the upcoming posts, I will try to escalate the quality of stories and writing, as well as finally set up a pattern of some sorts for the interviews. But, all in all – I’ll just follow along this road of stories and see where it takes me. Oh, and check this out (if it has finished uploading by the time I post this.)

Malala Yousafzai’s Inspiring Story as interpreted by AUBG students.

Today the task at hand is to examine a recent news story, related to the blog’s topic. As my blog is mostly just people’s stories, most of which lighthearted and whimsical, you could see why I might experience some difficulties. While pondering the implications of my assignment and staring blankly into a computer screen filled with CCN, The Guardian, TIMES, etc. browser tabs, I stumble across an extremely unlikely and positively inspiring story.

It’s about the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient – Malala Yousafzai, and the article is a feature story about her life. To say it’s a story, however would be to call light just particles. It’s more like an epic. In her relatively short time here, Malala has already faced death, despair and destruction at the hands of radicals in her home country. And in spite of all that, she makes the choice to continue on her path – to fight for women’s rights in the Middle East, to be an inspiration and guiding light for people all over the world.

Malala was born on July 12 1997. Her name means grief-stricken, which she is not. However, her life was not an easy one. She became an anonymous blogger for BBC, letting the rest of the world know what life under the Taliban was like. At the time, Taliban militants led by Maulana Fazlullah were taking over the Swat Valley, banning television, music, girls’ education, and women from going shopping. Bodies of beheaded policemen were being hung in town squares. In Mingora, the terrorist group had set an edict that no girls could attend school after 15 January 2009. The group had already blown up more than a hundred girls’ schools. Malala was very vocal in her protests against that, a true voice for women’s rights.

After the BBC diary ended, Yousafzai and her father were approached by New York Times reporter about filming a documentary. The documentary was very successful and young Malala went on record for several large media, and by that time the Taliban were already sensing she was a threat.

When she was fifteen, Malala was shot in the head. Her survival was a medical miracle. The assassination attempt received worldwide media coverage and produced an outpour of sympathy and anger. Protests against the shooting were held in several Pakistani cities the day after the attack, and over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign’s petition, which led to ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan. The assassins were later captured and brought to justice.

Ever since, Malala has become a beacon of hope for entire nations. In 2013, Malala gave a speech at the UN on the day of her 16th birthday. She made a call for worldwide access to education. The UN dubbed the event “Malala Day”.

After all of this, finally, the young girl received the Nobel Peace Prize. This was after several other prizes and awards – the National Youth Peace Prize, the Simone de Beauvoir Prize are amongst the ones that stand out the most.

I went around AUBG asking students how they felt about this inspiring tale. Some of them were pleasantly intrigued, while others were shocked. None, however, remained unfazed. Some had this to say:

“What? Really?! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!”

While others were just fascinated and inspired. And when asked, responded with

“Yes, I feel like I can do greater things. Whether I will…”

If you enjoyed this, feel free to take a look at the video I made to go along with this story:

And listen to a quick interview with the student in it:

Bo’s Story – or why having an interesting interviewee does most of the work for you.

And yet again I ask for five minutes of your time (well, ten if you listen to the audio clip) to tell you a story. Just like all the others, it’s a story of decision, turbulence and turmoil. It’s a fascinating tale of a monastery, some monks and what turned out to be a considerable amount of spirits

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Enter Boyana Yordanova, a sophomore majoring in Political Science and European Studies. Bo is like most young adult women her age – driven, yet easygoing, casual when need be and serious whe the occasion calls for it. And yes, I am completely underselling her. As she herself puts it:

”I do a lot of different $#*! like art, music, stuff like that…”

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To say Bo is interesting, or fascinating, or a true gem would be to say that the Ice Age was just a very harsh winter. She is one of the people you simply… appreciate. It is nigh-impossible to meet her and not be completely disarmed. A charming smile, coupled with deep green eyes. A mischievous smirk that can make you laugh or tear you down, depending on which side of sarcasm you end up on. She listens to good music, makes good music and appreciates all things beautiful. An artist by heart, a procrastinator by choice, and an insomniac by necessity. Whatever I say about her will be found lacking.

And after all the praise (from which I’m sure she’s blushing right now, if she’s reading) let me give you a quick overview of her story.

“It’s an unlikely story of meeting a bunch of Bulgarian monks in a monastery and a funny story of how Bulgarian monks are actually quite open to drinking with outsiders”

She was in high-school, a year away from graduating, when the photography club decided to have a photo-expedition and hunt for beautiful natural scenery. Everything was as one would expect it to be – there were some beautiful shots, fun memories and  two bottles of tequila. However, tequila is consumed with lemon wedges and salt.

“The entire time we were bringing two bottles of tequila with us in a backpack. And we unpack them… ready, steady, go! But we forgot one valuable thing – the lemons!”

As you might guess, salt isn’t that difficult to come by, but LEMONS in the mountain – well, good luck.

Fortunately, Bo, when faced with the inevitable sobriety of the evening had an idea. That idea is now a story. She proposed that they pop by the nearest monastery and ask the kind, God-fearing men there for lemons. The others were a bit shocked, since the Church is not particularly supportive of all teenage pastimes. Nevertheless, no guts, no glory (and no hilarious stories for me to tell). So onwards they marched to the monastery… for fifteen minutes. When at the doors, they knocked. And there was an answer (no, not to their prayers, that comes after) – a priestly looking old man, with a bushy beard and calm demeanor answered the door. After a cute little back-and-forth about the nature of their request, the brave pioneers were invited into the monastery. There they proceeded to consume excessive amounts of alcohol, and according to Bo – forget most of the evening.

Honestly, I can’t do the story justice, you might as well just check it out here:

And If you’re curious to see Bo hard at work being artistic and overall – extremely pleasing to look at, check out this short video:

Mad Hatter Day – the celebration of choice for Radio AURA DJs

And unlike my previous post, this one arrives right on schedule, much like a German train. Unlike a German train, however, I will aim to entertain, rather than just get the job done. Thus, in the spirit of entertainment, I chose to interview two people about our very own Radio AURA and why they chose it. Okay, in the beginning it was just one person, but as the Internet would put it “stuff happened, decisions were made.

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Chanko being Chanko

I set off to interview Chanko Valev, a Sophomore at AUBG and a person I consider to be a friend and amongst the truest, freest spirits on campus. The second person that got screen time is the notorious-by-now Ivaylo Stefkov, also a Sophomore, fire-spinner and creative. To be completely honest, the whole piece wasn’t supposed to be about the radio, as much as about Chanko. He told me that he had a show to do, so as any good story-chaser, I decided to run with that and followed him to the radio station. There I met Ivo, who turned out to be the co-host, as well as a new recruit, whose job was to read the news before the actual show. Again, I decided to just carry on and follow the narrative, see how it goes.

Ivo in all his infamy
Ivo in all his infamy

And, honestly, dear reader, I was not disappointed. Both Chanko and Ivo are interesting in their own right, but when behind the microphones together they stir up a storm of laughter and mischief. Kind of like the Mad Hatter and March Hare from “Alice and Wonderland.”

While I was thinking that, Chanko was “researching” topics for the show online, Ivo was checking his Facebook account, overall nothing interesting, the studio was eerily quiet. I looked at Chanko and saw his eyes widen and dart towards Ivo, then back to the computer screen. A huge smile lit up his face and he turned towards his co-host.

“Did you know that today is the official Mad Hatter Day!?”

Ivo. Freaked. Out. There was slamming on the table, hands were thrown in the air (just like people do, when they don’t care), a bottle of wine was raised…  Such an outburst of unchecked emotion. I’m still a bit bitter that I couldn’t get it on camera, but the whole thing lasted approximately half a minute, as the song was almost over and they had go back on air. Now, many of you know Ivo and Chanko and understand why they were so happy. But for the rest of you, here’s a short video to illustrate the situation:

Yes, they are both wearing quirky hats. Yes, by accident.

It was not until after the show, that I actually got a chance to interview them. Those AURAs are pretty dedicated, not even my silver tongue and lovable nature got the two to leave early or at least answer questions during the song breaks in the show. I can’t say I wasn’t impressed.

Most of the interview wasn’t particularly intriguing, the usual verbal to-and-fro. I asked them about the hats, but what I got in response was

“Well, they’re really cool.”

Not riveting storytelling. But then I asked the guys about why they chose the radio. Chanko didn’t give it much thought, he just looked me in the eye and said:

“I like the radio. I like the people here. I knew some of them before I joined, so it wasn’t really a tough choice”

Ivo said almost the same, but in a way that was more roundabout, courtesy of his flair for the dramatic. The overall atmosphere of the conversation was pleasant and cheerful. But then we got into discussions about media and Ivo became oddly serious.

“The radio gives you a chance to be on the frontline of media. It is media. But it also gives you freedom and an unbiased look at how things work in this business.”

As for Chanko, he had this to say:

“I mean, it’s kind of like Alice through the Looking Glass. The situation is not “this is cool, because I am in it” as much as “I am in it, that’s why I can see it for what it really is – the good AND the bad.”

At the end of the interview, I asked them the by-now mandatory question whether they’d make the exact same choice. Without a hint of a doubt, both of them said a firm “Yes.” Fun fact, I said “Yes.” in synchronicity with them, so it sounded like a choir. And then they were both jinxed. Mwa-ha-ha.