This is the debut post from our first international program located in Sofia, Bulgaria. Elena Zheglova, one of the Sofia Program Leaders, is an alumnus of the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions. She is joined by Teo Gueorguiev, a long-time friend and fellow resident of Sofia.
Good morning, America!
As you are slowly waking and stretching in your warm beds, I am looking into the snowy night through my window. What I see is how a sea of flat apartment buildings’ roofs are slowly being covered with a soft white blanket. If I poke my head out in the cold and look southward, I will see the corner of a park, one of the largest and prettiest parks in Sofia, namely The South Park, its dim lights reflected on the glittery snowflakes. It is dark and quiet in my city tonight. All the excitement and euphoria from the recent celebrations are giving way to the remainder (the greater half) of the winter.
In their sealed wooden homes, the matriarchal family of the bees is buzzing around their mother to keep her warm and last until the spring sun and bloom. As workaholic as bees are in the summer, winter time they spend at home keeping their energy, sipping on the honey they have overproduced, and dreaming of the color and light of the spring.
Outside their dreamy bliss, the environment is rapidly changing. The city is being ransacked for the best neighborhood to bring in two new beefamilies. I screen Sofia’s rooftop corners, parks, botanical gardens, orchards, urban farms, and yards in search of the most welcoming 25 sq meters to host them. I engage with the homeowners and hosts in search of the friendliest neighbors for our bees. Teo paints their home blue. We are both committed to making it work for them in the city.
For Sofia is an official host for bees at a single location. Above all checked-in guests of the Hilton hotel, there are some 120,000 illegal ones cramped in four simple rooms. Yet, they find there all the comfort they need and more food than they can ever handle. 18% of Sofia’s municipal area is covered in green. While most of the citizens occupy the tall soviet-style apartment buildings instead of houses with their own gardens and yards, each person is entitled 25-30 sq m of green space. Thus, there is a lot of pollinator work to get done here.
This is where Teo and I come in. Neither of us has kept bees before- because our grandparents didn’t have any. Neither of us could tell a yellow jacket from a honeybee up until a few months ago- they both sting, right?! Neither of us has the poise and confidence to do what hundreds of beekeepers are having trouble doing- keeping their bees healthy and productive. And we are not an exception in Bulgaria. And that is a dangerous undervaluation of the services bees offer us.
So we want to try: Launch a beekeeping project for beginners– Learn how to properly take care of bees– Build a strong and positive relationship between them, their new neighbors, and ourselves– Introduce them to their wanna-be friends- the young ones– Help others do the same.
Our plan is:
- November 2012- March 2013 Finding a place, securing hives (DONE!) and equipment, finding partners (mentors, school teachers, organizations, professionals), finding interns, finding lecturers, securing funding (Somewhat DONE!), securing legal documents, setting up the space, fixing the schedule of activities
- April 2013- May 2013 The first activity should take place
- May 2013- September 2013 Main season, 8 lectures, 10 groups of kids, 100 work hours for interns
- July 2013 Mid-term report, adaptation
- September 2013- October 2013 Closing the hives, winter preparation, closing activities
- November 2013 Review of the process, funding, planning for next year
Our time is already ticking and we have initiated conversations with Sofia’s botanical garden and a couple puppet theaters whose roofs would be an ideal home for the bee corner. To help them imagine what this could look like, we’ve sketched it up– pre-flowers and color 🙂