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.


Fuzzmaster said...

Woa, I had to hit refresh several times untill I realized that all that secret code at the top wasn't just a browser glitch. Shows you how much us typical ignorant Amarykans know.

I heard today that an Amarykan X-Nun is sueing God her/hisself for half the Universe (after all they were married for several years).

Fuzzmaster said...

The grammar bandit strikes again... Is this a trend?