Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | May 9, 2012

Time to go …

One of our students, Tamari Gachechiladze, took this picture of us after the JMC Rocks party, an annual affair organized and underwritten by “our” students. Melody was honored (see: flowers) by these crazy kids for a job well-done this year.

… for now, anyway. Melody and I are packing for our trip back to the States. We leave Tuesday (May 15) for Chicago. Then we’ll head to northern Wisconsin before traveling back to Minnesota for a bit. And if you haven’t heard, it’s a round-trip ticket. We return to Bulgaria on Aug. 14, which means you can now start planning your trips to visit us!

When we left Minnesota last summer, this place — Blagoevgrad — was a mystery to us. Yes, Melody came for an interview, but she visited for only a couple of cold and rainy days in late April. I was toiling at the Star Tribune and contemplating my planned leave of absence, “a year off” to sort out what might come next. Our daughter, Jenna, had just moved to Chicago to start her life. We hoped for the best.

Well, Bulgaria has been berry, berry good to us. (What can I say, I’m old — that’s an SNL clip from 1978).

The year has whizzed by. We’ve both finished our grading and we’re waiting for graduation this weekend (Sunday is the big day) to see some of our students pick up their diplomas and take the next big step in their lives.

Melody has taught seven courses, I’ve taught three (as a part-timer). We’ve witnessed some truly remarkable work by students. We’ve soaked in as much of Blagoevgrad and the Balkans as we had time for. We’ve laughed a lot. And as good as this has been professionally — Melody has two more years left on her contract here and I was just given a new role starting in the fall that makes me ALMOST a full-timer — it’s been just as much a lifestyle kick.

I’ve had the chance to bike in a way that I never would have imagined in Minnesota. Heck, I’m getting stronger on the hills and am actually enjoying those long, wheezing, heart-thumping, sweat-pouring rides. Melody is working out, too, and furiously chasing after projects (surprise, surprise) in the hopes she’ll find one she can sink her teeth into. She might have found it — we’ll fill you in if we see you this summer.

We’ve stumbled into a life that challenges us (mentally, emotionally and intellectually). We are starting to make friends who we enjoy and adore. Bulgaria is filled with places we still haven’t explored — and there are a million places yet to visit that we’re just aching to get to. Georgia, Belarus, Romania (when our friends Adi and Monica come back), Moldova … the list is endless.

So we’re coming back for next year, the year after and maybe longer (if they’ll have us). It’s that kind of place. It pulls you in and before you know it, you’ve fallen in love with it. As my grandmother said on more than one occasion, in her heavy Finnish accent, “That’s the way the life goes.” Indeed.

The river that runs through Blagoevgrad, with snow-capped peaks in the background. It’s a view that never gets old.


  1. I see no mention of NYC! I assume you will visit here this summer. Hoping very, very much to see you both. WendyLee

  2. Yes, Wendy, we will be in NYC and you will be hearing from us, of course Most likely the third week of June. We’ll keep you posted. Will there be a book club meeting that week by any chance???? :))

  3. Come on professor 😦 I can see someone else granted for my picture 😀 😀

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