Sunday, February 26, 2006

Break Open the Champagne!

We have a project! Yay! I just found out maybe 15 minutes ago, so now I'm telling you! SPA agreed to help finance our education center! Yipee! Some minor revisions to the proposal, and we're on our way. I'm going to go do a little dance right now. Feel free to do a little dance yourself.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Good Times in Sofia

I've been to Sofia twice over this past week. Once with Leslie - who happened to come and visit for the weekend - and once with Yanko. Leslie and I were there just to hang out for a few hours. It was a nice trip. We went and ate at a nice restaurant (you don't know what a treat that is for me) where we ran into another volunteer and a language trainer, and then we walked around the center. We ended up at a photo exhibition being shown at a former national palace. Gotta love those historic royal homes turned into museums. I bought some art on the street. (You can see it in a previous post). I love bargaining, so that was good for me again. The next time I was with Sofia, Yanko and I were there to find some books. We had some leftover donor funding to use to build up our library, so we bought a bunch of classic literature to help our kids with school. It was fun! I like looking at old books. I've forgotten just how much is out there and how much I still have to read! Nothing in Bulgarian for me yet though. I have a long way to go before that. The past few days have been just absolutely gorgeous. The sun has been shining, and it's actually been warm. Just a few more weeks, and maybe I can start ditching the winter coat. Here's to hoping! In the meantime, I'm leaving today for Velingrad with my colleagues for a team-building workshop. Then, right after that, I'm going to another city to meet up with PCVs again to do a Project and Design Management workshop. I'll post again after I get back. Ciao for now.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Brandy Art


Check out what Brandy made for me. Can you see my name?

For Dad: Street Art


Hey Daddy,
I saw this painting in Sofia and thought of you. Plus, I liked it and it was cheap, so I bought it. I know art is a personal preference, so if you like it, you can have it after two years. If you don't, no worries, and I'll hold onto it. I was going to send you this through e-mail, but the internet is acting goofy. Well, this way everyone can see my first street art purchase.

Love you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Display

People stare at me wherever I go. I know I'm an oddity here in town, but it's getting old. Nothing I can do about it. Suck it up, Apryl. I go into a Roma cafe, everyone looks up and stares. It's normal. I look different. Angel and I were invited to a church in the Roma neighborhood. We tried to slip in the back, but no. Everyone looked, and the minister told us we needed to come up in front. So much for sneaking out early. I was wet, dirty, and disgusting from hiking all afternoon in the snow. Whatever. And then the minister went on and on about who I am and why I'm here. Then he asked me to reply to certain questions, to speak in front of the congregation, and to share something about myself. Um, I'm not into public speaking in Bulgarian! Yes, it's important for people to know who I am, but can I just go incognito once? Celebrity is definitely not for me. There's your whining session for this post. Let's move on.
I cried for the first time this week. My electric bill is phenomenal, and I don't know why. Is the electrometer incorrect? Yanko told me I should move. That's not going to happen. I don't know why I'm stressing about it. I don't pay.
My weekend was pretty good. I lazed around on Saturday until it was time to go over to Yanko's and make dinner. We prepared this yummy mushroom dish, and I don't even like mushrooms! Poor Reneta was sick. I felt badly for her 'cause her mom was gone, and I know how much a girl wants her mom when she's sick. I still want my mommy when I'm sick.
Angel and I took a hike this Sunday up into the hills behind Rakitovo. It was absolutely gorgeous up there. I looked down at my town from the snowy hills, and I shivered. Good times. When's spring coming?
My Valentine's Day was probably the best I've had in a long time - probably due to the fact that it's not a huge, commercialized, greeting-card-company-invented holiday here like it is in the states. I'm really not a fan. I spent most of the afternoon in a nearby town with Veska - a girl from our youth group. She also happens to be Angel's twin sister. We went from house to house, from the center to the Roma neighborhood and back, looking for old stories, memories, traditions, and folktales. Most of the elderly didn't want to talk to us, but people were friendly when talking to us and trying to help us find resources. It was SO cold though, and Yanko showed up unexpectedly to take us home.
Once we got into town, we were treated to coffee by Valia (also known as "Valentina") who had a name day yesterday. Yanko ducked out and bought his female colleagues long-stemmed red roses and gifts. His daughters also gave me presents. A package from my mom showed up yesterday. Perfect timing! Lots of See's candy and Valentine's goodies! My dad called. Yay! Although the comment about seeing a beautiful rainbow over the ocean could have been omitted, Dad! =) And Yanko took us colleagues out for dinner. Yep, it was a pretty figgin' awesome day. I hope your V-Day was even better than mine!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Regime

On regime - that's what they call it when they slow your water to a trickle (or just turn it off completely) all afternoon. I'm just sharing for information's sake. Some volunteers have their pipes frozen solid, or they've been without water for weeks at a time. Trust me. I'm not complaining.
We did get a bunch of new snow over the weekend though. The sun was starting to shine. Cows were mooing. Lambs were bleating. I'm sorry I dared to hope spring was coming. What a fool I was. Now I know that the groundhog must have seen his shadow and we must be doomed to an eternal winter. But no. I still find the strength to look out my window at the white world, shake my fist, and tell it that it can't stay like this forever. It will be defeated. Time will conquer.
So we were able to finish up what we needed for our grant and submit the final information. It was a new bank account, and I was at the bank - having a mild cardiac arrest everytime they asked Yanko for such-and-such documentation. Do we have it? Do we have it? Yes! I haven't heard from Peace Corps though as to whether or not everything is okay for now. Guess I'll just hang out 'til the end of the month when we hear whether or not we'll get funding. (sigh) I don't like it, but I can't stalk Peace Corps staff and ask them over and over again whether they have all the needed information, whether it's in the right format or not, whether we can break open a bottle of champagne or let it sit on ice a while longer.... Ugh!
Things are about to get busier here at work. Our donor organization wants to start a project with all its satellites to do some type of exchange. This means we'll be going out and visiting a bunch of other NGO's, and they'll come and visit us. It's to see how we all work and exchange ideas. I think the first one comes on Friday. I know we have a meeting on Friday, and I think the mayor will be there. Rock and roll.
Meanwhile, the internet is slower than molasses as of late. We'll see if I even get this post out tonight. For the record, I'm writing this on Wednesday, February 8th.
English classes still going well. I still have to pinch myself when I ask, "Who wants homework?" and all the kids wave their hands in the air and go, "Me! Me! Me!" Of course, this is still mostly in Bulgarian, but we're making progress. We played Bingo today so they could learn their numbers, and they enjoyed it. Well, they enjoy games and they enjoy it when candy's on the line. Now some of them can say, "I am ________. I am ______ years old. I like _______." It's good times. I test them. They cheat by helping each other out. We laugh. Fun fun.
I took this last weekend for myself. I hung out at home a lot and didn't do much except plan some English lessons. When I did go out for "na gosti" a couple times, it was clear that I still hadn't had enough alone time. I was moody. You know, I'm tired of people telling me in minute detail what I should do - even though they're well-meaning. "Apryl, sit closer to the stove. Apryl, you need warmer socks. Apryl, you need to stay and eat. Apryl, you need to eat more. Apryl, don't put your purse on the ground. (This is a mortal sin 'cause everyone knows all your money will fall out.) Apryl, tell me everything you know about the states. (And shame on you if you don't have an answer to every single question I'm asking you. What do you mean America's too diverse to give a solid consensus-based answer?) Apryl, you need to take five pounds of food back home with you. (Nevermind that it usually goes bad and I end up having to throw most of it away.) Apryl, you don't like this movie, do you? Do you understand what they're saying in the movie? (Shh!! I'm trying to watch the movie!!!)" So then the moody girl comes out, and I don't like her, but she doesn't like people bugging her either. She must remember, however, that she did sign on for this, two-thirds of her job here is interaction, and her livelihood does depend on those around her. It's not these people's fault that they got stuck with an spoiled only-child who likes her alone and quiet time. Should I take this opportunity again to remind you all how much I LOVE it here? And how great I think the people are? Yes. When it comes down to it, yes. They're awesome.
So I was in Pazardjik on Friday, and I was able to focus on new projects. Yay! And I was able to meet up with cool people. Yay! And I was able to call Christi for the first time. Yay! Yay! Yay! Cheap phone service is awesome! I could glorify this endlessly while waiting for the internet connection to perk up, but now I'm cold, tired, and hungry, and I'm going to go home.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hope in a Momentary Reprieve

So the prayers worked! I'm not surprised by that, but I'm slightly surprised at how it happened. We have been given an extended deadline by the SPA program on this one thing that's pending with us. I'm so amazed, relieved, and happy. I was so sad this morning - trying to figure out what could do... feeling helpless and watching the minutes tick by. Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to Pazardjik to work with some other volunteers on another project. It's good to feel busy and useful. Feeling helpless today (even though it wasn't anything I had done) was probably the saddest I've been since coming here. Please continue to pray that we'll meet our new deadline!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Unraveling

I'm here late at the office. I'd thought I'd share a quick post. I've been talking a lot about the educational center we're working on and the grant we're applying for. Well, the four applications (14 pages in total) are done. We only have one more thing pending, and it's a pretty important thing. Right now it's in the hands of a third-party, and it may not come to fruition. We may miss our deadline and potentially miss out on funding at the moment because of something someone else has done (or rather didn't do). I can't believe it. I'm feeling pretty numb at the moment. All that work, hope, and expectations.... If you believe in God, please pray for us. Truth be told, it isn't in the hands of this person. It's in God's hands. If He wants it to come together, it will. If He wants us to wait, we'll wait. If He wants us to do something else, we'll have to figure out what that is. This is how my world revolves. Please pray.