Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Arrival of the “Shterkil”

There are storks everywhere now. In fact, some have taken up residence in a huge nest on the bell tower of the church across from my house. That means that we can finally take off those red and white martenitzas that we’ve been wearing and hang them on a flowering tree somewhere. You should see the way some trees are littered with them. I saw a stork in a zoo yesterday, and there were martinitzas covering his cage from top to bottom. I think that’s cheating, but whatever. As long as seeing a stork means spring is here and not that I should be expecting a “little bundle of joy,” I’m happy.
I’m hanging out at home as I write this – doing the domestic thing – washing laundry and baking peanut-butter cookies. Yanko asked me when I was going to make cookies again. Plus, since I don’t have an “Inmen den” (name day)…. I figure I have an “Inmen mesets” (name month) considering my name sake is the fourth month of the year. You’re supposed to “cherpa,” as in bring in some goodies to share on your name day, so I asked Yanko how he felt about me bringing something in all month. He readily agreed, and then told me I was already three days late.
We finally started working up at the center on Thursday. We took out all the rotted flooring and swept up a bunch of junk. It already looks so much better in there. I was listening to Valia and Ani talk about their future plans for the center. They’re already talking about making french fries in the kitchen, putting in a couch and a computer, and just hanging out there all afternoon. Forget the office. I was enjoying listening to them. I know they’ve been dreaming about this center for a long time (Yanko says it’s been six years), but it was the first time I was up there with them and “seeing” their vision of the place. We all agree on one thing: it’s going to be awesome. I sure hope it lives up to expectations.
I went and spent the weekend with “the family.” I had to go to Plovdiv to buy some train tickets for a Turkey trip later this month, and I decided to just make a family visit out of it. I surprised my “parents.” I had asked my “sister” if I could come, and she said of course. I guess she forgot to tell the parents though. Even she forgot I was coming. Her mom called a while after I showed up and “surprised” her as well. At least they said it was a “good” surprise. It’s understandable. Villi is rarely home anyway. She came home soon after that though, and my “cousin” Nellie came over, too. I was glad to see them, but it’s hard to interact now. I don’t see them nearly as often as I used to. After I update them about work and what I know about the other volunteers that used to live in Trud, there’s really not much else to say. Well, there probably is, but I’m not really the best conversationalist. My life is so different now from what it was in training, and it can be hard to re-connect – especially with the language barrier. I was uncomfortable for a while, like I was just in the way, but then it got better. I briefly helped the family plant some potatoes, Villi made a crown for us out of flowers, my “parents” made me my favorite meal, Villi gave me a haircut, and I went to coffee with Dida (a friend) and my sister like, ten times in one day. I decided to spend some extra time there, and we went to a part of Plovdiv I had never seen before – a free zoo and a place where they do rowing competitions, and one can walk/jog/play around the man-made lake. This morning found me up at 5:45 though – standing in the rain, getting an expensive cab ride by chance, and then taking a couple buses just to get back to work – where there’s not much to do at the moment.
Well, I have plenty I can do to keep me occupied. Yanko called a couple donor organizations for me and then just went on and on about how he dreams of living in California, how I must be crazy to come to Bulgaria (Rakitovo in particular), and how about we trade places? And, by the way, how far is Ohio from California? Dallas? Is Las Vegas in California? And since Sacramento is the biggest city in the state, what other cities are almost as big as Sacramento? This is why the maps are still hanging out in the office. My colleagues are bouncing off the walls. We have tons of things coming up, but we’re waiting to see if and when we’re going to have the money to do these things. In fact, we have a huge event happening Saturday (International Roma Day), but we haven’t been able to plan much because we’re not sure about the funding for the celebration. Anyway, so it’s all getting put until the last minute, and it’s racking everyone’s nerves.
My English class fell apart again today. I didn’t prepare well, and the kids were pretty much socializing the whole time. I finally said, “You know what? Sorry. It’s my fault. I didn’t prepare, but I just can’t take it anymore. I’m done for today.” I even pulled one girl out and told her I didn’t know why she even bothers showing up. She always comes in late and just sits there and talks – having someone else write down the words for her, so she says. When I told them good-bye, many of them looked shocked and visibly disappointed. Why? You aren’t listening. You have no respect for what I’m trying to do here. Now you can sit and chat to your heart’s content, and I won’t be here glaring at you… hating Mondays. Ah, high school is coming back to me all over again. Anyway, they seem to care what I think about them (I told a girl she was pretty today and should apply for a local pageant, and she just about flipped out), but it’s not enough to get them to shut up. (sigh) I am making some headway with one girl though. She’s finally learned the numbers 1-10, and she knows the verb “I am;” she just can’t keep them straight as to what they mean. She’s another one who adores me though, so I suppose that’s what important. (“You’re a nice teacher. You don’t beat children.” Uh… what?) Why can’t one use these insights for blackmail capabilities? Anyway, all the kids ended up hanging out for a while – probably because it was raining, so I taught them how to play “Heads Up, Seven Up.” They seemed to like it, but they cheated like crazy. Ah, rainy days in grade school are coming back to me all over again.
Ani, another girl, and I have agreed to start having daily English lessons. We were supposed to start today, but neither of them could make it. Oh well. Just gave me more time to brood and wallow in self-pity over my last class. I then had Spanish with Maria and Reneta, and that was fun. They can joke around and still stay on task, so it’s enjoyable. Plus, they pick up words like their gems, so you tell them a word twice and they’ve pretty much got it. They’ve already memorized the numbers from 1 – 1000, and I swear it won’t be long before they’re ahead of the topics I’m covering in my English classes. I stopped by their home briefly after the lesson, and Maria said they were already doing the homework I had given them. These are the kind of girls one always either aspired to be or was intensely jealous of back in school – smart, clever, witty, pretty, involved in everything. These girls are busy. They have additional English lessons, Maria plays the clarinet, Reneta plays the drums, they’re involved in every activity the clubhouse has to offer, they take Spanish lessons with me, plus their normal schoolwork. They don’t seem to be overwhelmed though, as they still find time to watch obscene amounts of Cartoon Network. I’m so proud of them.
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Hahaha!! Guess what! Two packages from my grandparents got here today! (day after above post) I swear everytime I make cookies, packages show up from them with all sorts of goodies to show me up. Hahaha. Cool. All this is going to help me get through my whole "name month." People are amused by that, and they all say I have to "cherpa" the whole month. It's a good thing all those goodies got here. Ah, and I have reddish hair now. Tsetska, another colleague, highlighted my hair today. It was a painful process, but now I have red highlights to go with my new haircut. Now I'm just hanging out in the office with my colleagues, and we're joking around. It's worrisome when we don't have money, but it can be fun, too. Oh, we have money from SPA. (Yeah!) But that's for the center. Ah, I see they ate up all the cookies and molasses chips I brought in. Success! Done and done. By the way, Happy Birthday to my Grandma Daugherty. I love you!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish I can give you some tips for teaching as I just became a teacher myself, but I'm sure american students are vastly different than bulgarian students. Remember, you can't force them to learn. Acheive your objective, which is to present the lesson you have prepared and let them chose to learn or not. If they disrupt you from teaching the entire class (talking amongst themselves is only disruptive to them unless it prevents you from teaching to other students),, then action can be taken. Always keep your cool. And remember, if they choose not to learn, the only person it will ultimately hurt is themselves.
Happy teaching!

Liz