Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I haven’t been feeling so happy lately. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because there’s not much to do here in the office. My other colleagues have been playing “Spider Solitaire,” and I’ve been at a loss for what to do. Maybe it’s because my camera is broken. Digital cameras are expensive, and mine suddenly decided to stop working. I’m not excited about spending money to buy another one, but I know I will because it’s important to me to have one. Maybe it’s because I find little joy in my English classes anymore. People aren’t showing up as regularly as they used to, and figuring out what to teach them is frustrating. I’d like to start all over just so I don’t have to create new teaching materials every week. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching medical dramas and I’m convinced I have something. Maybe I’m falling in a low point on the infamous mood graph that charts my Peace Corps service. Whatever it is, it’s most likely all in my head.
It’s almost ironic that it’s coming right after a meeting last week in Sofia where I learned all about how to give support to other volunteers that may be going through tough times. We have a new batch of trainees that showed up Monday – English teachers. Our group is no longer “the newbies.” It feels weird. Anyway, I was feeling pretty good then – hanging out with other volunteers I don’t get to see often, speaking English, feeling like I could be of help to others, eating good food, and I even bought some running shoes. I came back on Saturday and was still feeling pretty good. I went to a colleague’s birthday party that night. The following day, Brandy prepared an Easter meal for a few of her students, John (volunteer in Velingrad), and me. Brandy and I went to a café afterwards and ate some JellyBellys I got in a care package and had a drink. It was a relaxing day.
Monday morning I woke up with the blues. I don’t know what happened, and I couldn’t pull myself out of it. My colleagues saw how strange I was looking, and my boss tried to get me to go home. I wasn’t having any of it. What? Me go home because I’m sad for no reason? There’s a girl over there coughing and sneezing. Tell her to go home! Oh the perks of working somewhere without getting paid. My English class went okay on Monday. I was teaching them about clothes and brought in a bunch of my bigger stuff. I had the kids put them on as they were saying what they were in English. That held their interest for a while, but I really wish I had my camera! They were so cute in my oversized clothes. My Spanish class was also going more or less okay – until the very end. I could see that my Bulgarian teacher (who attends my class) was getting more and more frustrated, and I wasn’t sure why. I figured it was because there was something she didn’t understand, but she didn’t stop me to ask questions. Finally, five minutes before the end of class, she said in Bulgarian, “You know, something about this lesson isn’t good.” I was amazed and hurt that she would say something like that. I dismissed the class right then and there – saying that if they had any questions, they could come to me, otherwise we were done. I packed up and they helped put the room back in place. I was throwing things in a cupboard when she said “Adios,” and I responded the same. “Why aren’t you looking at us?” she asked. So I turned, forced a smile, and said “Adios.” I was crushed. Why do I offer my time and work so hard when people are just going to dismiss it? It’s one thing from the kids, but from an adult? Fortunately, I had supportive people around me to reassure me, but I didn’t sleep well that night.
I woke up the next morning and didn’t want to get out of bed. I know I’m sensitive, but it’s a little weird to not even want to get up and go to work. I usually like going to work here. Plus, I have language lessons with this woman every Tuesday. I knew I would have to talk to her about what she had said. I preferred the idea of calling in sick. Part of me wanted to go and say that the lesson wasn’t good, and that I wouldn’t be coming back. Yeah. I wanted to act that immature. I finally got up and came into work, where my colleagues offered even more support. I was feeling a little bit better by the time I needed to go to my lesson. Right away, she asked if I was mad at her. She said she could tell by the way I had said “goodbye.” I said I wasn’t mad, but disappointed and my feelings were hurt. When I told her why, she went into an explanation about how the statement wasn’t directed toward me. There had been something else going on in the classroom that she hadn’t liked. I still don’t see why she had to make that comment though, and it was still hard to smile. I still couldn’t pull myself out of my funk. I sat in the office, listless and sad. Yanko and Ani tried to get me to come home with them, but I didn’t want to be with people. I accepted an invitation from Enyo to have dinner because I didn’t want to be rude, but fortunately he and Milka had to postpone it. I was able to just make dinner for myself, relax, and watch medical dramas.
Why am I so sensitive? Why do I take to heart so many things that people say to me and how they act toward me? Maybe I was just ultra-sensitive because of the way my day had been going. Maybe I’m just too insecure. It’s frustrating, and it upsets me that I’m that vulnerable. There are other volunteers that deal with so much madness that I don’t even have to deal with – colleagues yelling at them, people accusing them of horrible things, and an unsupportive work environment. What would I do if I had been placed in such a situation? I would like to think that I would be just as resilient as them (no one from our B-18 group has terminated their service since we’ve been sworn in as volunteers – something we’re rather proud of as we’re coming upon our seventh month at site. It’s definitely not due to lack of problems. And the odds are not in our favor. Out of a group of 48, chances are someone will go home early – whether that’s due to familial problems back home, medical problems, displeasure with the job, or not following Peace Corps guidelines). So anyway, I would like to think that I would still find a way to thrive even if I had been placed in one of the more difficult sites, but I don’t know if that’s true. I feel like I was really blessed with a great site. I count my blessings when I get together with other volunteers and hear about what’s going on with them – even when what they’re talking about is good. I really think most volunteers are happy here – or they’re finding inventive ways to get through the day. I realize what a great fit I have here at my organization, and I feel like God’s been watching out for me. So when something hurtful does happen, I’m not sure how to deal with it. Is this experience making me a stronger person, or is it showing just how sensitive I really am?
There’s been a slight mood of frustration and sadness in the office. Besides the fact that there’s really not much to do, Valia has been in the hospital again with Janette. Fortunately, the little cutie seems better now, but she was there for a week – trying to fight off pneumonia. On Monday, the city decided to turn off Yanko and Ani’s electricity. They had paid their bills, but the woman who had been processing them had been putting them under the wrong name. Yeah, crazy, traditional, Bulgarian names make it real easy for someone to have your exact same first, last, and middle name. So they tried to get it resolved with the city and this family. The city was fairly cooperative – suggesting that this family pay Yanko and Ani’s bill or they all go to Velingrad to sort it out. But the family didn’t seem to mind that Yanko and Ani had been paying for their electricity all along and didn’t want to do anything to help correct the problem. People can be so horrible sometimes, and I know it angered Yanko and saddened Ani. I think, at this point, they have paid again for this month to get their power turned back on, and then they have to wait for the city to reimburse what they applied to the other family or just apply it to their bill. I’m not exactly sure how things work here. Take that last sentence and just apply it to my entire life in this place. But, that’s why I’m here: to be exposed to another culture and way of thinking, and maybe be a little grateful for what I was just born into in the states.
Ah well, I’m leaving for Turkey tomorrow night. I’m excited, but part of me just wants to hang out in site. I don’t know if that’s due to feeling down (I’m feeling pretty good today), or just a newfound desire to stay at site. I don’t get as excited about traveling as I used to, and I hope it’s just a phase. It’s a good thing considering my work here. I’m supposed to be in site a lot – integrating and all. I’m just a little thrown by this sudden personality change. Plus, it’s traditional Orthodox Easter this weekend. People are going to paint eggs and then have competitions by cracking them against each other. It’s too bad I’ll miss out on that. But Turkey will be great. I’ll be getting together again with people I don’t see often, and we’ll have fun. This time last year, on April 20th, I left for Bolivia. This year, I’m going to Turkey. I really am a fortunate little girl.


Amanda said...

That's it. Next time I'm sending you Will & Grace. :)

Anonymous said...

Keep your spirits up, Apes. We all go through these points in our lives. Just keep the hope that it will pass.

PS. Don't worry if you feel that you don't teach well enough. If you have confidence in yourself, your students will have confidence in you. And if you don't have confidecne... why, fake it 'til you make it!!