Saturday, October 29, 2005

Welcome to Rakitovo

...and welcome to another Apryl-updates-her-blog-so-often-I-don't-have-time-to-read-the-last-post update. Yeah, I definitely use the internet way too much for a Peace Corps Volunteer. I think about my friend in Bolivia who didn't have hot water or electricity. If she wanted to use the internet, she had to make an overnight trip. And I think, "This isn't Peace Corps. It's 'Posh Corps,'" as many like to call it. But I guess you work with what you're given, and I've been given a site with internet only a few hundred yards from my flat, and I'm going to take the opportunity to make good use of it. I'm still debating on whether or not I'll actually get it in my place. It would probably be much easier if I did.
So yesterday was a lot of fun. My counterpart, Angel, came by and got me at about 1 pm to go get some lunch. We happened to be at a restaurant where celebrated WWII veterans were having a banquet. Angel pointed out to me that just about every one of them was wearing a medal. It was almost surreal to see celebrated war heroes that fought for the other side, and I wondered what their experience must have been like in comparison to our veterans. In my small comprehension, I would imagine it's not much different - except that they "lost." In war, everyone loses, but they lost when it was all said and done, and their history was shaped differently from ours by it. Yet they are still celebrated for their bravery. It's kind of a mind-trip to think about... at least it is to me.
After lunch, we went over to the chitalishte and watch a bunch of Roma kids put on a program of singing, dancing, and acting. It was a lot of fun to watch. I wish I could share it with you all. Afterwards, our organization hosted a lunch for the participants. Those kids are all so talented and cute, so my organization decided to reward them by sugaring them up with Pepsi and cake. Good times. Angel, Brandy, John (another TEFL), and I played some pool, and then Angel and I walked around town. He received a phone call from someone and told them that we were coming. My curiosity wasn't piqued, and I had no clue what was going on until I reached my foundation's clubhouse and saw a big sign on the door: "Welcome Apryl!" Angel had to push me inside because I really didn't want to be faced with whatever was behind that door. It was dark, but I could make out a bunch of kids, my colleagues, and my supervisor - who was filming with a camcorder. One of the boys presented me with a flower and starting speaking rapidly in Bulgarian. Then my supervisor gave me a bag filled with gifts from my organization. I was so overwhelmed, I didn't bother to try and make sense of what anyone was saying. So we had a party. My supervisor gave a speech about how he hoped I would be very happy here... how happy they are to have me... and how, by the time I leave, I will know the kuchek. The kuchek is a traditional, hip-shaking, Roma dance which I will probably never master, but I'd like to try. The party was great. We danced, laughed, ate some snacks, and danced some more. I really like the people who work with my organization. They seem like a lot of fun.
Afterward, I went to Brandy's house and hung out for a while. She has cable, so that means that I don't have to get it. =) I wasn't planning on getting a TV while I was here anyway. She gave me some "welcome to our town" gifts (her kids made me a Halloween card - it's so cute!), and then she fed me good potato soup, croutons, and spinach dip. She says that I'm lucky she likes to cook, and I would have to agree. Depending on how things go tonight, I might get some homemade Chinese food. I think we're going to have lots of fun here together in Rakitovo.
I went to church this morning. Can you believe it? There's an Adventist Church in Rakitovo. It nearly blew my mind. It's the first Adventist Church I've seen, and here it is in my tiny town. I guess there's another one in Velingrad (20 min. away), so maybe they're more common than I had thought. I had no clue what was going on for most of the service, but the congregation was really sweet, and Angel and I have already been invited to "na gosti" with one of the congregants. It's like when someone invites you to lunch after the service in the states, only we'll go some other day. The kids there put on a skit about Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau while a woman pulled them around 'cause they were never standing or sitting in the "right" place. She would interrupt them and tell them to slow down, and then to speak louder or softer. It was pretty funny. I had no clue what they were saying, but I knew the story well enough to know what was going on. Afterwards, I decided to go introduce myself to the kids.
We sang some hymns. I fumbled with the Cyrillic. The kids sang "Jesus Loves Me," and we sang a hymn to the tune of "O, Christmas Tree." After the service, I was invited to come up and present myself. They had lots of questions, but fortunately Angel was there to talk for me. I understood most of what they were asking and was able to respond. It was a good experience. I'll probably get to know these people pretty well since I plan on going back on a weekly basis. I planned to be a part of a church community over here in Bulgaria. I just didn't know it would still be an Adventist one.
This afternoon, Angel and I went to a game hall to play some table tennis, but it's been quiet ever since then. I fell asleep on a bench in the sun for a bit while Angel ruminated about how boring Rakitovo is - how he must be the most boring sutrudnik (counterpart) ever. It's not true. I wish I had the Bulgarian to explain to him how it's not true, but I was enjoying the sun. Someday we'll be able to communicate on a more philosophical level, whether that be in English or Bulgarian, and he'll probably astound me with his mental quandaries.
Tonight we're going to a Roma wedding. Angel was telling me that the bride is no more than 15, and the groom is about 17. They already have a child. Crazy, huh? That's what I'm here to combat against a little, hopefully. In the meantime, there's a wedding. It's cause for celebration, and Angel tells me that we'll be out late. Maybe I'll go take another nap.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Аз съм доброволка от корпус на мира (I am a Peace Corps Volunteer)

I have been saying this for two and a half months, and now it's finally official. I AM a Peace Corps Volunteer! I'm no longer a trainee. I was in Sophia today and took the official oath:
I, Apryl Gibson, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign or domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps. So help me God.
It was a pretty cool ceremony. The U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria administered the oath and gave a short talk. He seems like a great guy - talked to him briefly. A representative from the Bulgarian government gave a speech welcoming us to the country, and our country director (another great guy - very funny and gregarious) gave a speech as well. It was actually a quick ceremony considering all the big-wigs that were there. Ah, and then we had a volunteer represent us by giving a speech in Bulgarian. She did an excellent job. And then we got roses afterward... and probably some of the best hors d'oeuvres I've ever had served by cute waiters. I don't eat hors d'oeuvres that often, and you're lucky I know how to spell it! Anyway, I had a good time at this HUB in Pazardjik and then this quick ceremony in Sophia. Also, I found out that I placed "Intermediate-Mid" for my LPI. That's pretty decent for a couple of months. The scale goes like this: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior - with Low, Mid, and High in the first three categories. One only has to get "Novice-High" at this point in the training to pass, so no worries.
Saying good-bye to my family was hard though. I spent took lots of pictures with my family and then spent some time with my sister. We went to the playground that the kids and us trainees (now volunteers) had upgraded. I ran into a little boy there, Vasco, and I introduced him to my sister.
Apryl: Vasco, this is my sister, Villi.
Vasco (to Villi): You're Bulgarian?
Villi: Yes.
Vasco: You can't be sisters. You're Bulgarian, and she's English.
Apryl: Yes, but we live with the same family.
Vasco: But she's Bulgarian, and you're English.
It went around like this in circles for a bit, and then Vasco gave up. The other boys invited us trainees to a barbecue that night, but I decided I should spend time with my family. Only Tim was able to go.
My family gave me a phone!! I have a cell phone now!! Good gravy. I'm a PCV with a cell phone!! I should be living in a hole in the ground without running water and electricity, but I have a cell phone for goodness sake! It would be great if you could call me, but you'd probably have to sell your first-born just to afford it. This is kinda null-and-void in my parent's case. I am their first-born, and they can't sell me 'cause I'm here. Whatever. I'm rambling again. I have a phone!
And my parents told me it was time to weigh me again. I've gained two kilos! There was a brief celebration in my house due to this event. I'm sure my mom has felt like she's succeeded somehow. Every evening at dinner she would tell me slowly in Bulgarian, "If you want, there's more. Don't think twice, just go get it." There was always more. I'm surprised I didn't gain 12 kilos. I got up early yesterday morning, and my family drove myself and my luggage (I swear win the prize for the biggest bag out of all the other volunteers) to Pazardjik. Tim, Holly, and Jennifer's "parents" drove them as well, and we took pictures of the Trud crew. Saying "good-bye" wasn't that hard, 'cause I know we'll keep in touch and I'm only about two and a half hours away.
So after the swearing-in ceremony at Sophia, I headed back to Pazardjik and barely caught my bus to Velingrad. My counterpart met me at the bus station, and we continued on to Rakitovo. So here I am. I saw my place for the first time tonight. It's really nice... all these little perks that you might have to live here to understand: No turkish toilet. Toilet in a separate room from the shower (so the toilet doesn't get all wet - there aren't really shower curtains or tubs in this country so much... just a nozzel on the wall, so having your toilet in a separate room is a freakin' huge deal). I have a washing machine! That's probably the biggest feature. There's also some other random weirdness going on there though. One bedroom is off-limits to me because (I hope I misunderstood this) someone else uses it on a monthly basis when they're not in Plovdiv??? If someone I don't know shows up at my flat expecting to sleep there, Peace Corps is going to hear about it. I found fireworks in a kitchen drawer. What's up with that? Anyway, besides the bedroom that's apparently dead to me, I have my own bedroom with two beds, a spacious living room with another fold-out bed, a fairly nice kitchen, and toilet room, a shower room with a sink, and a balcony. It's a nice place compared to many others, I'm sure. My landlords live downstairs. So, we'll have to see how this relationship works out.
Some of my colleagues met me at the bus stop, and they took me out for a coffee, took me to my house, and then took me out to dinner. It's been great to see them again. I know it's going to be an adjustment, though. Brandy, the TEFL volunteer here, has been asking about me, apparently. It's good to know that people have been anticipating my arrival with some sort of enthusiasm. Things are good at the moment, but it's about to get tough. Please keep me in your prayers. The last line of the oath, "So help me God," is about to become very important to me here.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Being random

How long have I been living in Trud, and I just found this new internet cafe? Apparently this is where all the boys we know hang out. They keep walking in, seeing me, and saying, "Oh, Apryl! Zdravey! Kak ci?" (Hi. How are you?) And I always say, "Kakvo pravish?" (What are you up to?) and they say "Nishto." (Nothing) It's cool to run into them here, but one just randomly head-butted me for no reason. Little punk. Kids are great. They're a walking advertisement for trusted contraception methods. If anyone wants to fly over and beat them up, I'm willing to let someone crash at my house. Okay, I'd better get going. I've heard the same songs five times now.

Missed opportunities

Today has been the most beautiful day in a while. The sun was out most of the day, and it was warm and absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, I was in my room most of the day - catching up on sleep. We got in at 6 am this morning. Villi, Nellie, Holly, Jennifer, Tim, and I went out to Plovdiv last night for a last Trud harrah before we move to permanent site. We also wanted to celebrate the completion of our youth project. Tim, Jennifer, Holly, and I were out at the park most of the day yesterday - painting playground equipment, benches, and a table, leveling the ground, picking up trash, hanging a tarzan rope and a tire-swing. The kids were such hard workers. It was amazing how much we got done in a day. A couple of technical trainers and a Peace Corps driver came out and instantly got to work. It was so awesome. I haven't done many projects like that before, and it was definitely rewarding. The kids were instantly playing on the swings and we had to remind them many times not to play on the recently painted equipment. Afterwards, they wanted us to stick around for a barbecue, but we had to politely decline.
Today, after finally getting out of bed, I've been roaming around Trud... saying good-bye in a way. I went to eat at "Station," read outside for a while in the sunshine, went to the school to wait for a boy who asked to play basketball (he was a no-show), meandered over to our "park" and found some of the kids playing there. I played there for a while. They always ask where Tim, Jennifer, and Holly are. The four of us are like a wild pack of roaming "dobrovoltsi" (volunteers), and if we don't come in fours, someone always asks where the others are - especially if we're with boys who idolize Tim. I noticed trash on the ground, and some of the paint on the playground equipment had already been scraped off, but it's still a gratifying place to be. When I left, one of the boys asked me why I was going. It's the little things that make me feel good. It's been nice having the others to lean on to make friends and interact with people. I think it's amazing what we've accomplished and the contacts we've made in our short time here. The chitalishte (cultural center) in Trud wants a volunteer, and I'm almost sure they would snatch up one of us if they could. I've talked to the people at the chitalishte, and they've hinted at it.
As for Halloween, which is coming up here shortly, Bulgaria doesn't celebrate the day, but the children are definitely intrigued by the festivities they've seen on TV. Kids here in Trud and also in my site of Rakitovo have expressed interest in finding some way to celebrate. Before our park project, we were thinking of doing a fall festival day - carving pumpkins, making cider, taking kids for hayrides, etc. Brandy (the TEFL volunteer in Rakitovo) has said that she'd be interested in doing something. I'd probably show up too late to really help her with anything, but it would be fun.... There's going to be a volunteer Halloween party here in country, but I can't bring myself to leave site the first weekend I'm there. Next year, people are talking about going to Romania to visit Dracula's castle. That would be interesting. So, does that answer the question John? That was for your sake. =) Thanks for your comments on the previous post.
I suppose that's it for now. I'd better get home soon and switch out the clothes in the washing machine. Oh, how exciting life is!

Friday, October 21, 2005

The finality of it all....

Life in Trud is wrapping up. I definitely feel it. We'll get to that in a second though. First, I have to share this with you because it's awesome - makes me feel special: I received an e-mail from my good friend Brandy. Some friends of mine have started an annual October adults-only (they're all married and most have kids) trip to Disneyland. Last year was the first year, but it already feels like a tradition somehow. I knew I'd be missing out on it, and I was sad about that. I wanted to share with you part of the e-mail she sent me:

The annual adults only trip to DLand was this past weekend, we all had fun but you were definitely missed. There were times where we had an empty seat on a ride and it was always "apryl's seat!" The girls' photo turned out good, but we missed having you in it! We're debating photo-shopping you in because you were with us in our hearts!!

Sweet. Miss ya, Bran. Miss ya, girls and husbands of girls. Now moving on....
I just had my final LPI (Language Proficiency Interview). I think it went pretty well. The proctor said that it went well, and at least I understood all that she was asking me. It's not really a big deal because you just have to speak at fairly basic, elementary level of Bulgarian to "pass" and move on to service, but it's still nice to place at your highest possible level so that you can go from there and hopefully build up to practically native-speaker by the time you leave. And now I must apologize for my English grammar. I'm cramming it out of the way to make room.
Over the past couple of days, we've been working on our community project with the youth. As I've mentioned before, we're cleaning up a small play area with a donation of 50 lev. Kids have come out to help us sand benches and play equipment. Some adults have gotten together and repaired/added wooden slats to benches. Tim's "dad" brought out his tractor and dug up some earth so we could level an area for soccer. We weren't there at the time, so he dug up the wrong end of the field, but all we could do was laugh and be grateful that we had an area to work with. It really did help in the long-run. Some kids, another very helpful Bulgarian adult, and us trainees were out there with shovels, buckets, and wheelbarrows - moving earth from one end of the field to the other. It's almost useless to promise pictures now... you probably are sick of hearing such promises, but I'm gonna try when I get to site! When we showed up yesterday, a new board on a bench had already broken and the wrong side of the field was tilled up. We gaped for a while, and then laughed and moved on. The kids are anxious to paint. Maybe we'll do that today.
We had an impromptu play-time with some kids from the school. We were at the "kmetsvoto" (city hall) for our afternoon language session and the employees there wanted to take pictures with us. While we were out in there in front, a girl we know walked by and started giggling and waving at us. Tim chased her down, picked her up, and tickled her. More kids showed up and crowded around, so I started a game of tag. Then, I started picking up beautiful autumn leaves and throwing them at the children. Holly twirled kids around while Jennifer threw leaves and played as well. Ani (our language trainer) let us postpone language lessons and take pictures with her camera. I HAVE to share these pictures with you. They're so great. It was so much fun. The next day, one of the girls came up to me and asked when we were going to get together and play in front of the "kmetsvoto" again. I'm really going to miss these kids. I feel as though we have truly become part of the community now, and I do not relish the idea of having to start all over in a new place without someone there to hold my hand. Almost every kid we pass by says "Zdravey" (hello) and flashes us a mischievous smile.
I have less than a week left here in site. We'll finish up our community project on Saturday, and then we'll go out and celebrate Saturday night. Monday will find us in Sofia (the capitol). We're going to visit the Peace Corps office and see some sites. Tuesday we'll be back again in Trud - meeting with people and saying good-bye. Wednesday we go to Pazardjik for final HUB. Thursday we go to Sofia again for a quick swearing-in ceremony. Then they send us off to site. By Thursday evening I should be in Rakitovo. I was out with my sister Villi and our friend Dida last night. "What are we going to do without you?" she asked. "Without me? What am I going to do without YOU!" (all in Bulgarian, so be impressed) I'll get a phone, and we'll keep in touch. I'll come "home" and visit, and they'll come to my "home" and see me. If I could just arrange for someone to cook and clean for me like I've been having for the past 2.5 months, things would be excellent.
P.S. David's blog has a much better and definitely more artistic description of the Rila Lakes hike if you'd like to check it out. I swear he stole some sentences from me though....

Monday, October 17, 2005

The wonders of "chalga"

I wish I could share "chalga" with all of you. There are young girls hanging out in the internet cafe with me and they're destroying their eardrums by blasting "chalga" into their earphones. "Chalga" is a... we interrupt this message to inform you that a bunch of boys have rollerbladed into the cafe - Bulgaria is random, just like this blog... form of music. It's like Bulgarian pop-folk with Turkish influence. It's sung by enhanced, half-naked women who strut around in impossible circumstances. I can't believe how graphic TV is here. But "chalga" is an art-form all it's own. I've actually bought a CD by an artist called Anelia. Wish I could provide a link and share her biggest hit with you. They play it all over the place. So there's some random Bulgarian culture for you.
HUB in Pazardjik was fun. I got to eat Chinese food - which is always a plus. Oh, and I had some pizza with corn and pickles on it. How crazy is that? Try it sometime. Those are just a couple highlights. I also received a letter (oh boy!) from Bolivia!!!! Can you imagine??? Someone all the way over in Bolivia wrote me a letter!!! Man, was that ever the coolest thing... (hint hint).
Anyway, we only have one HUB left, and that's when I swear-in as a certified volunteer and move to my permanent site. My "family" was sad when I reminded them that the time was getting short. I told them that they could have another volunteer very shortly here, but my sister said that she didn't want another volunteer - she wanted me to stay. Awww.... I love my "family." I'm going to be visiting them lots over the next couple of years.
I went up into the Rila area this weekend. About 30 of us volunteers/trainees/language trainers took a hike up into the mountains to see the "Seven Lakes." It was gorgeous - even though it was so foggy we barely even saw the lakes. Actually, I would say that we didn't see the lakes at all... just the edge of some water, but it was an amazing trip. The snow falling on the trees was beautiful, the waterfall we saw was picturesque, it wasn't that cold, and the group I was with was a lot of fun. I can't describe the beauty to you. And my camera was wigging out, so I can't show you. Plus, these computers here in Trud aren't set up to share photos... maybe I'll be able to share once I get to Rakitovo. We stayed the night at a fairly nice lodge, played games like Yahtzee, shared some food, and got to know a bit more about each other. I laughed a lot, and I like doing that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bulgarian Food

I thought I'd share with you some of the great vegetarian dishes I eat here in Bulgaria... just in case you were wondering. If not, move on.

"Pulneni chooski" - This is probably my favorite dish. They stuff peppers with rice and bake it. It's a little more complicated than that, but it's sooo good.
"Chooski byorek" - This is where they take peppers, stuff them with cheese (cirene), and fry them in egg batter.
"Sarmi" - Grape leaves stuffed with rice
"Shopska salata" - A salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and sometimes peppers and grated cirene (cheese)
"Mequitsi" - A breakfast dish which is like a doughnut. They put powdered sugar or home-canned fruit/syrups on it. SOOO amazing.
"Banitza" - Usually a breakfast dish. Layers of fried dough with cirene (cheese) in the middle.
"Moosaka" - This is a potato casserole made with cheese and sometimes meat.
"Tarator" - This is a cold cucumber soup made with watered down "kiselo mlyako" (yogurt), spices, sometimes walnuts and garlic. I love it!
"Purzheni Kartofi" - These are french fries. They're so much better homemade.

I may share more later. There are many more traditional dishes, but I can't think of them off the top of my head. Just thought I'd be random and share this.

FYI... and moving on

You should know that this blog is censored by the author. I wish I could be more honest about events and my feelings about them, but the internet is a place where anyone and everyone can see what you "think." I already had a misunderstanding with a Bulgarian due to my blog. Fortunately, he approached me and asked me about it. I applaud his forthrightness. What I'm trying to say is that my life here is not all "peaches & cream." What I share with you is true and honest, and I do love it here. I cannot believe how blessed I have been with an amazing family, a beautiful location in which to serve, and an overall great experience thus far. I just would share more if I could control my audience. It would give you all a better perspective on life here from my point of view, but I cannot risk offending someone.
That said, we made chocolate chip cookies tonight! Well, they turned out more like chocolate chip biscuits, or maybe chocolate chip scones or something, but we tried. We decided to make some goodies for the people who work at the "kmetsvoto" (city hall-type thing) because they've been really helpful in trying to get our youth project off the ground.
I wrote the grant proposal for our project last night. Tim, Holly, and Jennifer contributed ideas. Basically, we'd like to support the community in their plan to spruce up a small play-area between some block apartments. We'll get 50 lev (about $30) if our proposal is approved. We're really not biting our nails because we're sure Peace Corps wants us to do the project, but it's good practice for grant writing.
The space has a lot of charm, but it needs some work. The benches need some repair, there's a ping-pong table that needs some help, the skeleton of a slide sits off to the side (say that three times fast), there's a space to play soccer, but it needs to be leveled out, a beautiful tree is just itching for a tire swing, and the whole place basically needs a coat of paint. My grammar is atrocious - I know. I promise you that the grant proposal is much prettier. I've been having the worst time trying to get it printed out though. I'll have to burn it to a disc and hope that they have a method of viewing it in Pazardjik at HUB.
We've had a lot of other assignments too. Yesterday, Jennifer and I went to a part of town to ask women what they think it means to be a Bulgarian woman (yet another project we have). We got a lot of interesting answers. Many think it's difficult. Others think it's easy as long as there is a good man nearby to support them. Many believe that it means working 24-7, and I would agree with that. The women here work non-stop. It was fun walking around and interacting with the women though. Many of them kept saying that we were visitors from Germany. We corrected them, but they kept on saying it.
Woman to others: "Come meet these volunteers from Germany."
Apryl: "We're not from Germany. We're from America."
Woman: "Oh! You're from America!"
Apryl: "Yes."
Woman: "Which do you think is better? Life in Bulgaria or life in Germany?"
What are you going to do? Laugh and move on... just accept that you're a German volunteer. The people here are so great. They're always open, inviting, and willing to talk to us. I can't believe how accomodating the personalities here are.
Well, we leave for HUB for a couple days tomorrow. I'll be back on Friday, and then I'll turn around Saturday morning and go for a hike in the mountains over the weekend. I'm going to FREEZE!! A bunch of us are hiking to a place called "The Seven Lakes" though, so you can imagine how beautiful it's going to be. I'll tell you all about that if I survive the experience. Other than that, we only have a couple more weekends here in Trud, and then I'll be going to Rakitovo (Ракитово). Wow.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ivanka Petrova - my pseudonym

Hello again, and welcome to another update. Things have been going well since I last posted, and I'm here to tell you all about them: First, I'd like to give a random shout-out to John and Rebecca S. I miss you guys, and I hope you're having lots of good times in your new house. Ah, and as a side-note: I finally figured out the Bulgarian option here on the computer. The name of my town is труд.
This last weekend was fantabulous. Friday was busy with Bulgarian language lessons, basketball, and English club, but then just the girls and I went out to Plovdiv and saw a movie. Jennifer's birthday was a couple weeks ago, and I had promised to take her out to the "kino" (movie theater), so I finally made good on that promise. The next morning, I went to Bratsigovo to see the town and hang out with David (another trainee currently living there). Bratsigovo is beautiful. It's hilly, tranquil, and I would describe it as a perfect autumn setting. We went and had tea at this lovely hotel/restaurant with viney, red leaves covering the stone walls. We took a hike up to the three mini-lakes in the hills behind the town. It was so beautiful and peaceful up there. I came back to Trud on Sunday afternoon and found Villi waiting for me at Station. We decided to go into Plovdiv to see what we could see. On the way to Plovdiv, we were hit by another car. From my unique perspective, based on yesterday's events, this is what you should do if another car hits you in Bulgaria: 1. Sit for a moment and process what just happened.
2. Get out of your car and assess the damage.
3. Show the American were you were hit.
4. Look over at the other car (which has stopped) to see what they are doing.
5. Tell the American "Hide (Let's go)" and just get back in the car and drive off.
For good measure, I glared over at driver and passenger of the other car. We killed time in Plovdiv for a bit, and then we met up with some people to go bowling. The bowling alley in Plovdiv is SO nice - probably nicer than any other alley I've seen anywhere. My first ball was a strike, but it pretty much went downhill from there. I won though, and that's the important thing. (wink wink)
Now we're busier than ever with our projects. I can't even tell you how much we have to do before the next HUB (which is Thursday and Friday). We're meeting at my house in 45 minutes to discuss our grant proposal, and I haven't even done my part yet. Plus, my family is probably wondering where I am for dinner. Bad Apryl!
Ah, and for those of you who may be wondering, I did get rid of my fleas. It was a one-time fluke incident, and I have not noticed any bites since then. For this, I am grateful.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Never tell a Bulgarian mother when you are sick.

I caught a horrible, nasty cold this week. When my "mom" found out, she immediately went into overload. First, we had to put a heater in my room. Then, she told me to stop eating what she had spent quite a bit of time preparing because she wanted to make me something else. I finally calmed her down from that notion. She then proceeded to ask me what I wanted to eat over the next couple of days, but it wasn't a casual question. It was intense in its presentation, and it was like I needed to figure out right then how she could make my entire life better. It's impossible in words to convey the chaos that one sentence ("I am sick") can bring, but I felt like the sky was falling in my house. Ah well... more cultural learning for Apryl. Most Bulgarian mothers are just naturally overprotective.
I have been trying to get rest this week, but it's been pretty much impossible. My tactic has been to just basically stop doing Bulgarian homework. I've also let my room get a little messy. The days are so full, I don't have time for these relatively easy tasks. Yesterday, for example, we had to go teach at one of the English classes. Holly and I took the 2nd Grade, and we had fun creating alphabet and color games for them to play. So, the night before was a busy one just trying to come up with these ideas and create the games. I thought the English class went well. The kids were very bright and interactive. We had a really good time with them. I've started meeting with some of the girls in the village who want to practice their English. The first session went well, but I'm struggling to come up with things I can talk to them about just off-the-cuff. I don't want to spend a bunch of time trying to plan actual lessons or anything. Today we played a memory game I created during my lunch break. Let me share with you today's schedule because it was just "nuts" in my opinion. I know there are others in the world who have more going on in their social calendars than I do, but I'm busier here than I ever thought I would be for training.
9:00-10:30: Bulgarian Language Class
10:30-12:30: Minority Discussion with Peace Corps Guests (If they hadn't come, we would have been studying Bulgarian.)
12:30-2:00: Lunch (We had "Sarmi," which are grape leaves stuffed with rice... SOOOO YUMMY!!!)
2:00-3:00: Bulgarian Language Class
3:00-4:30: Play Basketball with Girls from Local School
5:00-6:00: English Club
6:00-7:00: Meeting with Local Community Members to Discuss Play Area Clean-Up Project
7:00-9:00: I should be having dinner right now, but I'm at the Internet Cafe
9:00 - ?: Debrief Session with Other Trainees to Talk about Previous Meeting
Almost every day, I'm gone from the house from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a return trip for lunch in-between.
Enough of that. We went out to karaoke last night! That was a blast. Tim got up on stage and sang "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. Jennifer and I got up and sang a Madonna song, and then Tim repeatedly pulled me on stage so we could dance to "Hotel California" and other good classics from the English-speaking crowd. There's more I'd like to share, but I think I'd better head home for dinner. Plus, the internet guy looks like he might want to close up shop soon. As they say in Bulgaria, "Hiday - Ciao!"