Tuesday, July 25, 2006


So I feel as though I need to write and update you all on my travels and what I’ve been up to. Thing is, I’m drained, and I have little desire to write. I’m going through a really rough time right now. It’s just the normal phases of living in a foreign country and working like this, I suppose, but it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now. Please pray for me.
I had a really great time in Spain and Prague. We started off our trip in Barcelona – where we went to La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, the Picasso Museum, and walked a lot along Las Ramblas. Also, I went up to the Olympic Stadium and up around the Museum of Modern Art to watch a fountain show. I’m going to spare you an explanation of what all these are. You can “Google” them if you’d like. The city had changed quite a bit. There’s a lot of expansion and growth, and July brought in a lot of tourists. I felt like such an outsider, and it frustrated me to feel like “just another tourist.” I love Barcelona though. I think it’s currently my favorite Spanish city. I kept thinking about how I need to arrange to live there – or at least in Spain again. Too bad everything is so expensive now.
After that, we went to Valencia. We stayed with a family that I had known from my studying abroad days. For me, it was so great to see them again as I hadn’t seen them in five years. On Saturday, I went back to the campus I had studied at and attended church service there. I was surprised how many people recognized and remembered me. It’s been five years, and at least ten different groups of Americans have come through there. It was so great to see people again and catch up though. They say that now that I live so close (well, closer), I’ll have to come back again. We’ll have to see about that.
The Pope happened to be in Valencia that weekend for a conference. The city was absolute madness, and I stayed away from it all. The other girls, however, happened to see him riding through the streets in his “pope-mobile.” Brandy got an excellent picture of him waving from his vehicle. In addition to this, one of the girls had her wallet stolen in Valencia. It was disappointing that we had such rough times there, and I had to stay away from a city that had been my home.
It seems like trains were booked wherever we went, so we always had to placate ourselves with riding in buses. Traveling was stressful as we never knew if we were going to find a space somewhere. Between the Pope visiting, the Running of the Bulls, and summer tourist season, we had a hard time getting places. We took an overnight bus to Pamplona to catch a running of the bulls. I got some video of the bulls running – well, mostly people running – and it all happened very quickly. It was hard to see because we had to maintain our distance, and a lot of the “runners” just hopped up on the fences in front of us when the bulls came. I liked the atmosphere in Pamplona though. Everyone was dressed in red and white, and I bought a sash to join in the festivities.
After hanging out in Pamplona for the day, we went up to San Sebastian for a bit. I loved San Sebastian so much when I lived in Spain, and I still find it every bit as charming. It’s a beach town up in the northern part of Spain – near France. I walked around and visited old haunts – even stopping at a bakery we liked to frequent when we were there five years before. The place hadn’t changed much in my mind, and it felt like not much time had passed since I had been there last.
We caught a bus back to Barcelona and then flew to Prague the next morning. I used to consider Prague my favorite European city, but now I just list it as “one of my favorites.” How can one choose? Plus, Barcelona blew me away. It was great to walk around the city again though. I still think it’s absolutely charming and beautiful. I love the Danube River there with all its bridges, and the history is absolutely astounding. I took the time to go to a Communist Museum and just wander around town.
We got back to Bulgaria Friday afternoon, and I went straight to the bus station to try and catch a ride to the Black Sea for camp. Unfortunately, the buses were booked, and my only option was to get to the coast (but not to the town I needed) that night, and then catch another bus in the morning. So I went to Burgas, but the camp was another hour away or so in a place called Tsarevo. I got to Burgas at around 11:30 p.m. and didn’t know what to do. I decided to set off and look for an available place to stay. It was then that I was approached by a Bulgarian and asked to take time to have a drink. I accepted, and it was a big mistake. I’m keeping this description short, so I’ll tell you that I was really fortunate that nothing happened. He basically started following and harassing me. Then, he started to try to get in my purse and tell me that I needed to give him money. I escaped him by getting in a taxi and having the driver take me to a hotel he knew of, but then the taxi driver tried to take advantage of me by overcharging me for the “favor.” It was an awful night, and it was an awful way to start the week. I had called the people at camp, and they mentioned coming to get me, but I didn’t want them to do that. They were really sweet about it, and I appreciated their concern.
I headed out the next morning to Multi-Ethnic camp, where we had group meetings, ethnic skits, awful food (I lost a lot of weight), and free-time at the beach. The kids were amazing, and the camp seemed to go really well. I’m glad for their sake. Speaking personally, however, I had a really rough time. My saving grace (besides the kids) was a roommate that empathized with my feelings and a fulfilling connection with the other Americans there. God gives you the things you need to survive. Had it not been for these things, I might have left. It would have been much harder without them, for sure. Again, the camp is not about me – it’s about the kids and the friendships they make there. It seemed to go really well for them. I think they learned a lot about each other and themselves. Five ethnic groups were represented: Ethnic Bulgarian, Jewish, Bulgarian-Muslim, Roma, and Turkish. It was definitely an interesting experience.
After finishing up at camp, I went to another beach town for a VSN event. My roommate from camp was also at this event, and I found her to be of tremendous support here as well. Plus, it was nice to just hang out with Americans. As of late, I have been wary of hanging out with them. I usually just want to hide out in my town and hang with Bulgarians, but this weekend was good for me. I got to spend time with people I appreciate and take a break.
I came back early Sunday morning to find guests in my apartment. I was so frustrated. I keep saying I’ll talk to my landlords about it, but I keep hoping that it will just stop happening or I’ll just get over it. The last few days have been tough. Talking to people about my trip (although they want to hear about it) is unfulfilling because we’re all just reminded that these are things these people I care about cannot afford to do. I’ve practically decided to forgo all trips abroad until my close of service. Going on these vacations just isn’t worth it. While I know that people have missed me, and I love the smiles and “welcome back” reception I’ve received from many, the last few days have been really trying.
I came back to find that we now have some whiteboards for our center, the doors are painted, and they re-painted the kitchen (it’s no longer Pepto-Bismol pink). Plus, a donation of books arrived. They’re fascinating and great for kids, but they are unfortunately all in English. There are a few in French, but just to have the donation is nice. Free books are always a plus, and maybe it will encourage kids to learn other languages.
My organization and I are pretty much just preparing to leave for camp for a week. Four of us leave tomorrow. I really hope it will go well. Pray that God helps me rise above my mood to get an important job done. I’m tired of camps, but I want to look forward to this one. Otherwise, I’d probably just be moping in Rakitovo.
Emotions are crazy things. They frustrate me by how much power they have over me. I don’t want to be sad. I don’t want to feel useless in site. I don’t want to question my self-worth because I’ve been down as of late. But here I am. This job really is difficult. I loved everything and everyone just a few months ago, but how quickly it all changes. I talk to other volunteers, and I realize it’s normal. While I appreciate feeling supported, I just want to climb out of this pit. One good thing has come of all this though: I talk to God a LOT.
Oh, and I have more photos to share with you now. Here are some of Spain, Prague, and the latest happenings in Bulgaria. The link should lead you to two albums. If not, let me know. You'll be impressed with me. Being bummed out has really caused me to cut down on the amount of photos I subject you poor people to. For instance, I took around five hundred photos on my trip, but you'll only see 10% of them. And I cut out a lot of the others I could have shared with you, too. I know you'll be pleased. I still put in a lot of pictures with me in them though. Can't get away from sharing my charming face with you all. I know you'll be pleased once again. Haha. Some things never change....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am sorry your having hard times. Call me anytime you need a friend! I love you! Christi