Monday, July 03, 2006

"I'm Only Happy When It Rains"

The weather has been so strange lately. Just about every night for the past few days, I’ve woken up to lightning flashing and thunder crashing. It’ll last about 45 minutes or so – just long enough to disrupt my sleep (I love watching it ‘cause I think it’s cool) and soak the ground for the next morning. Then, the sun will come out and it will be a blazing hot day. Not today though (Sunday, as I’m writing this). I woke up around 9 am to teeth-rattling thunder, and it’s been thundering and raining off and on all day. Regardless of whether it’s raining or not, the sky insists on being a murky gray. It’s been a good excuse to sit in all day and hang out with the laptop for some quality time.
I’ve been working on a grant to get some more money for our educational center, and I’ve been getting some things together for a tolerance manual that will hopefully go into the Minority Kit that we’re planning to do. I’ve also been trying to get some stats together to give Peace Corps a tri-annual report of the work we’ve been doing in Rakitovo. I have no clue what to tell them, honestly. These forms and statistics are always so confusing. I know it’s important to see the outcomes of our work, but I honestly can’t figure out what it is they want me to report.
It’s been a day of typing and getting thoughts down into electronic print. I’m glad the weather’s been the way it is so as to give me an excuse with feeling “okay” for being inside all day. Sunny days tell me I should be outside looking for someone to hang out with or taking a walk in the mountains.
Yesterday was sunny and warm, and I took a couple hours in the afternoon to go up to Tsigov Chark and the reservoir nearby. A guy in town has an interview in Sofia on Monday. The job is at a hotel in Cyprus for a concierge position, and he’s going to have to give the interview in English. His English is basic, but surprisingly good considering he hasn’t practiced for ten years. Plus, he’s a quick study. We’ve been meeting for about an hour and half everyday for the past few days so that we can work on possible questions and good answers to them. I have no idea what these people will ask, but I racked my brain to think of the pattern interviews normally follow in the states. He came up with some thoughtful questions himself. Anyway, so he invited me to go to Tsigov Chark yesterday with his wife and sister-in-law. It was a relaxing afternoon, and hopefully he’s ready for his interview on Monday.
It’s common here to look for jobs abroad. Unemployment is high in Bulgaria, and there is this huge exodus to other countries to try and find work. The sad thing, however, is that I know a few children and spouses who have been left behind so that food can go on the table. Sometimes both “Mom” and “Dad” are working abroad, and the kid lives with “Grandma,” a sibling, or basically alone. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t imagine being in that situation. It’s pretty common here, but I don’t think the kids really get used to it.
I’ve been out playing basketball a few nights this week. There’s this game called “King/Queen” that I first learned in Trud. You basically have one “ruler” in the prime spot and a bunch of other people lined up in rank, trying to move up and eventually take the spot from the “ruler” by making shots. If they miss, and the “ruler” retrieves the ball within a certain range and makes a shot, they move down in rank and give someone else the opportunity to move up. Anyway, we got about nine kids to come out and fill all the spots to play this game, and I had a really good time interacting with kids I normally don’t interact with. The following day, we had some of the same kids show up to play again, and my ball developed a goose egg and popped. It was a cheap ball from the lev store in Velingrad, so no surprise, but it was still disappointing. I only had that ball for five days! I’d only played with it maybe three times! Fortunately, to distract me from my mourning, I was invited to go to the discotheque.
I had never been to the discotheque in Rakitovo (how long have I been here?), and I decided to jump on the opportunity. Brandy rarely wants to go because she knows she’ll run into her students there, and whenever she does go, I’m not in town, and the people I hang out with don’t go there. It’s an interesting place – underground and frequented in the early evening by kids as young as ten. So you’ve got tiny little girls dressed in short skirts in there and pre-pubescent boys dressed like thugs along with their adolescent counterparts dressed in much the same way. And sure enough, people asked me where Brandy was. Yes, we Americans like to travel in twos. I suppose it’s a normal question. Fortunately, they played other genres of music in addition to chalga, but I didn’t stay long. It was way to hot and suffocating in that underground lair.
In other news, I’m finally excited about Spain. Well, I go back and forth, but there was a moment there when I was definitely psyched about my up-coming trip. Part of me is just anxious for July to be over so I can go back to my regularly-scheduled programming. I need to subdue that part of me, however, because it’s a month full of all these good possibilities and potential, and I want to enjoy it.
Plus, there’s not this guarantee that I’ll be returning back to regularly-scheduled programming at site anytime soon. I’ve been asked to be a Resource Volunteer for Pre-Service Training (PST) for the next round of Youth Development Volunteers. What this means is that I’ll be expected to attend a dinner with them one night during their first week in the country, and then I’ll have to visit a training group (think Trud) three times during their training to help out with assignments and debriefs.
There are many reasons I’d like to do this:
1. I’m really not good at saying “no.”
2. Peace Corps asked me. It’s like one of those proverbial “pats-on-the-back” that I was alluding to in an earlier entry. It’s like getting a gold-star from PC saying, “we value your outlook as a volunteer and want you to influence others.” Yes, PC asks because they value a volunteer’s work. They also ask those who live in close-proximity to the training site. I’m not downplaying the invitation, but it’s also based on region. I happen not to live “too far east” of the established HUB site.
3. It’d be good to meet the new volunteers and start establishing some good contacts. I have good memories of our Resource Volunteers while we were in Trud. They were fun people with helpful insights, and we all had a good time hanging out with them.
These are also basically the same reasons I should be declining the invitation:
1. I’m really not good at saying “no.” It’d be good to start for the sake of my site.
2. Peace Corps asked me. While I believe in Peace Corps’ mission, I already do a lot of work for them. I’m already doing VSN (Volunteer Support Network) for them, Minority Committee, and I did a brief PST Committee input thing for them. I’m a volunteer for my community, and I feel this huge pull to be there. Plus, I need to avoid the trap of “I’m a good volunteer because Peace Corps asks me to do things for them.”
3. Other volunteers are great. I respect them a great deal and even enjoy hanging out with them on occasion, but I’m really not here to try and make friends with Americans. I like hiding out in my town and being incognito to other PCVs.
4. It’s not just four occasions that I’m going to be out of my site for this training. It’s going to be at least six with this, plus a minority panel I may be asked to do (and I want to do!) and VSN introduction to this group as well.
5. The HUB and training sites aren’t close enough for me to turn around and get back in a day. Any trip will be an overnight and put me out of site for at least two days. Six events x two days = Two weeks and two days of work. (Weekends don’t count.)
So, that’s what, three pros that I’ve turned into cons and added two to round it out? I still really want to do it. I’ve been asked by people and an organization I really respect. Yes, Peace Corps can drive me mad with their rules and directives, but I generally like the staff. They have been nothing but helpful to me when I’ve asked for it, and they generally leave me to do my work, which makes me happy. I respect its mission a great deal, and it’s tempting to want to try and help empower other volunteers. How about empowering people in my community? Huh? When am I gonna do that? So, I’ve decided that I’m going to talk to my colleagues about it and let them make a decision. They’ll probably say that I should do it. On second thought, I think I won't ask them. I'll just decline.
That’s enough of that. Dusk is settling, and the sky is still the same shade of gloomy as ever. It’s decided to start raining again. I love this weather, ‘cause I’m still sitting barefoot in my living room in a t-shirt and yoga pants, and I’m cozy. And I’m trying out a recipe for “red beans and rice” from another volunteer. I don’t have all the ingredients for it because I was too lazy to go out in the rain and get them, but what I do have is cooking on a pot as I write. We’ll see how it goes. Oh yeah, and I think the vegetable guy has a crush on me, so I’m trying to avoid him. He’s a harmless, sweet, lonely, old man who keeps inviting me to coffee, and I just don’t want to deal with that today. I don’t really want to deal with that most days….
So people, seriously no takers on sending free texts from your computer to my phone, huh? But it's so easy! You sign up at, you go to their main page, switch to English since I'm assuming you don't read Bulgarian. The icon is up at the top. Then, in two seconds, you can register and ask me for my phone number and send free text messages to my phone. We do it all the time over here in the sticks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OK I registered! Now I can send you free text messages...SWEEET! So message me your phone # and tell me how to do it. You know I am not good at these technical things. Love ya! Christi
PS I am jealous of your is so HOT here! Had a great 4th though...missed ya though. I more 4th to go. =)