While making Chana Masala for dinner a few weeks ago, I was eager to test a new batch of Indian spices that I had recently made. I find that authentic flavors comes from mixing your own spice blends, which I do, be it garam masala, Chinese five-spice powder or just chili powder. I start with whole spices, toast them and then grind everything in a small coffee grinder, which is reserved solely for spices. Despite my efforts to make my own spices, I am not great at labling them. I usually put them in a jar and store them in the fridge. I use my nose to find the right concoction.

I was busy doing multiple things, beside prepping my mise en place for the chana masala, and I needed to find the correct spice blend, so I opened the unmarked jar and started sniffing… Nothing… I went to the bathroom and blew my nose, thinking I must be congested. I wasn’t. I went back and stuffed my nose in the jar and inhaled as if I was gasping for life… Nothing, no cumin, no coriander, no black and green cardamon, no cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg, no black pepper… Nothing. I then went to the cutting board with the freshly chopped ginger and garlic. I breathed in deeply, again nothing… My pluse was racing… I felt I was starting to freak out. I put some of the garlic and ginger in my mouth, but all I felt was a stinging sensation from the ginger. I suspected I might have COVID.

My daughter was sent home from school in Plovdiv at the start of November. She was never tested, but she lost her smell and taste. Angel, my husband had to go pick her up because they kicked her out of the dorms. He drove her home to Kyustendil, both wearing masks, and she went to her room on the third floor, separate from the rest of the family. My husband was going to isolate away from me and my son, in the guest apartment above the garage. I had no contact with my daugter or my husband other than leaving them plates of food outside their respective lodgings.

My daughter had been home for over a week when I lost my sense of smell. I had no contact with her or Angel. He wasn’t showing any symptoms, but I was. The only person I was in close contact was my son… in his father’s absence, he slept in my bed and we had sleepovers. We laid in bed together reading for a few nights. He enjoys all of the Oliva books. I later found out that his teacher was not in school, but home sick. Could my son have gotten me sick? He had no symptoms, but he is 8.

I didn’t want to get tested because in Kyustendil, the only tests are in the emergecny room where you need to wait for hours, if you get one and if you aren’t sure you have it, why take the risk to get it or infect someone else. Another way to test is to pay for a private test in Kyustendil for about 100lv (50 euro) or go to Sofia for a rapid test for 170lv + plus fuel to drive to Sofia, but I had no desire pay out of my pocket. Testing should be free for everyone, but unforutnatly not in Bulgaria. Be wary of the official government numbers. I am certain they are much worse.

So, I stayed home studying French and making Castile soap for my self-imposed quarantine. Tried to avoid my son, my daughter and my husband. We probably all had it, but we were still living in isolation. My daughter was wanted back in Plovdiv by her team. She had been home for two weeks, so we went to get her a test in Sofia, which we paid out of pocket for the quicker results. It was positive still, after two weeks since she first exhibited any symptoms. I had mild symptoms, head ache, tiredness and chills, plus the lack of smell and taste. My husband said he felt tired, had shortness of breath and a dry cough, no one had a fever. It is hard to self diagnose, and it is also difficult where there are no protocols in place to guide us how to proceed.

My daughter that tested positive, received an official phone call from the Plovdiv health office, four days after her positive result. We informed them that she is in Kyustendil. We never heard from anyone again, no contact tracing, the police never came to hour house to check that we were observing the quarantine… Nothing. I am not surprised that Bulgaria is in the situation that they are in at this moment. The strenght the coutnry showed in March 2020 has been replaced with a political clusterfuck. I fear for the elderly and marginalized commuities in Bulgaria. Winter is coming.


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