Thursday, September 29, 2005

Traveling on Peace Corps' dime

I honestly don't know how to start this entry. There's tons I want to share, but I'm not sure of the appropriate order nor of the way to do it. Well, let me start out by thanking all of you (my readers) who have left comments or e-mailed me to say that you enjoy reading my blog. I think it's an atrocious assortment of random nonsense, but I'm so glad that you continue to strive to make sense of my ramblings. To know that there are people out there who are interested in my experience is honestly pretty humbling. I hope that I can give you some insight into this amazing country and maybe open your eyes a little bit to the world in general. Plus, I may hit you all up for money one day to fund one of my projects, so be on the look-out for that. You have about a year and a half or so to save... if I take that route.
We had our mid-training LPIs (Language Proficiency Interviews) this last week. They don't really count. It's just a mock exam to kind of let us know where we're at in the language. I did pretty well. The interviewer criticized me quite a bit, but she wasn't there to be our cheerleader. She later came up and told me that I could go really far in the language and she'd like to give me extra materials. My teacher has said the same. I've come to the conclusion that I have a natural aptitude (at least thus far) for languages. Many Bulgarians have told me that I speak well. I just speak Bulgarian with a Spanish accent and thereby make it sound as foreign as possible. It works pretty well 'cause they roll their "R's" here too. I definitely can't brag about it in the sense of taking credit. That's a gift from God. I've done nothing to deserve it. And I'm not the only one.... Our whole group rocked that test. I'm with a very intelligent group of trainees.
This Saturday we had a Minority Cultural Day in Pazardjik. All of the Youth Development Trainees (and some Community/Organizational Development Trainees) went over to the city to play games and interact with the Roma Youth in the area. I had a blast. I played basketball and Ultimate Frisbee. Okay, here I'm going to brag a bit, so bear with me. You have to take these ego-boosts when you can get them, and I'm not ashamed to share them with you because, as many of you know, I'm fairly insecure anyway. I've received quite a few compliments since that day regarding my athleticism. I suppose no one ever suspected that I could actually play some sports with any sort of skill, so they've been gracious with their words. Someone told me that I was probably the best role model the Roma girls had ever seen. This was when I was out playing basketball with a bunch of boys. Pretty sweet, huh? While throwing a football around later, he called me the "Best Athlete in B-18." B-18 consists of our entire training group. Of course, this is not true, but it's still nice to hear. Tales have been told and exaggerations have been shared, but it's comforting to hear that your fellow trainees are saying nice things about you. There are so many other times when I think that's probably not the case. So that's that. After the sporting events on Saturday, the Roma Youth put on a concert for us. There was traditional dancing, Indian dancing, singing, and acting. It was a fun day. I need to post pictures.
We had another HUB session in Pazardjik earlier this week. Highlight: Playing scrabble in Bulgarian. A fellow trainee had bought the game somewhere and he invited me to play. We cheated by making up a few words and searching in the dictionary, but it was still fun. Lowlight: Getting shots. I had to get three shots - including a flu shot which left me feeling as though someone had sucker-punched me in the arm. By the end of the evening, my whole body was achy. I was cranky and not the best of company.
Now I am in a town called "Dupnitza." Toni (another trainee) and I are here visiting Jenn (a currently serving volunteer). We're here to see the town and get a taste of what volunteer-life is like for someone working with a Roma organization. This is what Toni and I will be doing in our permanent sites, so it's a good opportunity to wander around on the Peace Corps' dime. Last night we went to a restaurant specifically to meet one of the servers. She had been living in an orphanage, but she was recently booted when she turned 18. With the help of volunteers in the area, she was able to find this job and get an apartment. Volunteerism in action... actually making someone's life better... it's cool to see, you know? I'm sure that there are two stories of disappointment for every positive one, but it's a volunteer's job to remain optomistic.
This morning we went to a youth house in the Roma neighborhood. Toni and I teamed up with a couple of cute girls to play some games and learn some English. Of course, we also improved our Bulgarian. These girls are so competitive!!! My goodness!! Games are a serious matter here. Later today, Jenn is going to take us to a place where she teaches Tae-Bo. I've never done Tae-Bo before, so I'm excited to learn about what I've only seen on TV. She's also fed us home-made cookies, so she gets an A+ in my book.
I'll be here until either tomorrow morning or afternoon, then I'll go back to Trud - which is about 4 hours away. I'm planning on going up to Banya this weekend. It's another satellite site, and I'm excited about seeing the town and visiting another group of trainees. Should be good times.


Anonymous said...

I miss you so much, Apes! When you come home (or if I fly to eastern europe to visit you) you have to speak a sonnet to me in Bulgarian.

Lyrpa said...

Tinn Lizzie!!
Wait, you didn't like it when I called you that, did you? Well, I found your MSN blog this evening and saw the entry where you referenced my journey.!1pUFs1ueA-MaxMXiFq72znrw!427.entry#commentcns!1pUFs1ueA-MaxMXiFq72znrw!427

Isn't that a whole mess of beauty? Anyway, I don't remember promising you trash from Turkey, girlie. I certainly don't want to find out if I have to declare it when I go through customs....