1. Blue-eyed people.

“I’ve told you ten times to stop hanging out with that girl with the eyes!” my grandmother exclaims and rushes to tie a piece of red thread around my left wrist, as I am running obnoxiously late for a date with my blue-eyed friend Sara. “When you come back I’ll take you to the vrachka for some good luck and protection,” grandma adds while finally granting me permission to leave the house.

2. Throwing out trash when a loved one is flying on a plane.

You don’t want to bring the whole thing down in flames, do you? Just keep your kiselo mlyako cartons one more day, mkay?

3. Proverki.

Open up the books! No one is safe — not the headmaster in Plovdiv, the banker in Varna, and especially not the Вank manager in Botevgrad, when the auditor’s in town. Proverki is a true art, and it takes years of practice to be able to poke holes into the most flawless financial records just as our auditors do.

4. The Svekurva VS. snaha battle.

“Your grandma will be the end of me!” my mom says, throwing away pitka batter just because grandma, the “unusually-cruel beast” that haunts mom’s kitchen and dreams, told her she didn’t add enough maya. Then there’s poor dad, shrugging his shoulders, forced to choose between mom’s tikvenik and grandma’s buhti. No one comes out victorious of this battle.

5. Bad prediction from a vrachka.

“You’ve got a long vein on your right palm, yes, you will receive a marriage proposal next year and have a baby boy,” she says squeezing my hand. Um, no thanks, Madam vrachka, I only came for a short egg-cracking session for good luck and some flour in my face to fend off the fear of dogs. Save the future prediction for our next meeting perhaps.

6. Spoiled turshiya.

Careful with the sugar now! I’m not saying you’ve gotta be an alchemist, but your entire batch will be bad if you get the water/vinegar/sugar proportions wrong. Screwing up means no crunchy cauliflower on your plate, without which Christmas might as well be canceled.

7. Not passing the 8th grade exam.

“Which gimnazia did you get accepted into?” my friend and I awkwardly ask each other, knowing that she failed the essay portion with a 2 and I barely passed math with 3.17.

8. Maturi

Four blissful gimnazia years and it’s time to do it all over again, but this time the stakes are higher. Failing a matura pretty much means not getting into college, which inevitably means that you’d end up being a janitor specializing in street sweeping. At least we’ll have a hell of a cleaner Sofia!

9. KAT.

“No, uncle Kat-adjiya, I wasn’t speeding!” It’s the 3rd time I’ve gotten caught making an illegal U-turn to the parking lot of McDonald’s at Boyana and the Sofia KAT officer is all up in my grill. “The usual?” I hopefully point to the double cheeseburger on the drive thru menu, hoping that I get away without a ticket again.

10. Karakondjuli.

Romanians vampires and American witches don’t stand a chance to our karakondjuli. They are scarier than a svekurva feeding you spoiled turshiya during a matura.

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