The music behind the words

It's been about seven years we have been coming to Bulgaria. And to my eternal shame I still can't speak much Bulgarian. We speak some french and german so western Europe was much easier for us but here it's a different story.  Some key words get us through but mostly it's the language of the shrug, a gesture , a smile, a hand grasp, a kiss on both cheeks, a wave. Their eyes tell of their warmth  and welcome. But there is a catch. With one important gesture we understand the opposite, because here in Bulgaria a nod means no and a shake of the head means yes. Now I have always known that "da" means yes but every time it's accompanied by a head shake I'm thrown. I receive the answer as "no" until I have to adjust my thinking to the accompanying verbal answer of yes.

Seven years on that's still true. The power of body language and the reminder that what we communicate is much more than what we say. When I facilitated counselling training we would describe the need to listen for the unsaid, for the music behind the words to truly understand how to enable wellbeing. To really understand people we need to explore whats the music behind their words. A beautiful illustration of this for me recently was hearing of the woman who became distressed going to theatre for surgery for breast cancer and when this was explored further she explained that her husband had recently died and she was facing this all alone. The nurse returned to the ward and got his photograph from her bedside. The comfort of his photo and the act of caring calmed and restored her throughout her treatment there. Actions, not just words you see.

And the Bulgarians we meet show their nations culture through their actions. Their generosity in helping out others, their frequent refusal of tips-"that's not needed", their family centredness so much part of what makes our visits here so special. Yes we know there are problems of corruption in this fine and beautiful land but thats not the dominant culture from our experience. So when I hear doubts expressed in the UK about Bulgarians being free to come over I feel aggrieved. Perhaps our own culture in the UK could benefit from some more of the qualities we have seen and experienced here. Their young people especially ,are beautiful and carry themselves with a grace I envy and admire. We can only be enhanced by their presence I suspect.

Reasons  to be cheerful
It's been very hot but last night a storm has freshened the air. Jacko the shepherds dog has returned with his grin welcoming us back.  I have as usual taken lots of photographs of the Rila mountains. The house has an undisturbed view to them and with each shift of the weather they change. The photos never do them justice but I keep trying!  And mostly it's wonderful to have the chance to restore the soul with the beauty of the place.


  1. Hi Audrey,

    "To really understand people we need to explore what's the music behind their words."

    That's really beautiful and incredibly wise advice.

    And your illustration of this with the woman and the photo of her husband is really lovely.

    Also your reasons to be cheerful are very good ones!

    1. Thanks Nancy, it's a special place here in so many ways. We all need a place to be restored and people willing to hear the music behind our words. X


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