Monday, August 14, 2006

Making a Connection

I write this on Sunday night (August 13th) in the hope that I will be able to post it tomorrow from my own computer with my very own internet connection. Gergana, my landlords’ daughter, took me to the cable place to see if they could hook me up. They were about to close, but I was able to get internet on my laptop there, so I’m hoping they can hook me up at my apartment. I’ve been wanting internet for so long... dealing with barely-living wireless, buying needless equipment and having it shipped to Bulgaria, cracking my head on how to get the guy at the internet cafĂ© to understand my plight. Anyway, I just hope to have it as of tomorrow – after almost a year here. I’ll probably never leave the house again – or sleep for that matter.
There’s not too much to update you on, but I’m so excited at the thought of posting from my home, I wanted to write. I’m watching “Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” courtesy of John and Rebecca Schwartzhoff. I remember reading this book with my dad when I was young – that and “The Secret Garden.” Those were some good memories of learning to read. Sorry to get all nostalgic on you, but my dad called today, and I always get excited to talk to my parents.
So, I don’t have too much to share with you except for what’s been happening this weekend, I guess. I hung out with a friend on Friday, and we had a very nice chat. I only mention it because it can be difficult to have meaningful chats with anyone here. That’s probably my own fault, but my Bulgarian and cultural frame of reference seems to limit me to fairly superficial conversations. “Hi. How are you doing? How’s the weather? How does your garden grow?” I’m exaggerating, but I guess I just think it’d be easier to get to a more meaningful level of interaction with more people if we all spoke the same language – or maybe if I were just more talented at getting people to open up to me. My counterpart seems to have that talent. Anyway, it was nice to have that interaction with a friend here and then to go to a party with her and her friends afterward. I’m still a commodity of interest here to some people, and that’s nice.
I got up and went to church on Saturday and then went to lunch at Spaz and Sonya’s afterward. I made a salad from fresh vegetables in the garden, and we sat outside to enjoy lunch. They (Sonya especially) have taken a great interest in me and my well-being here in town. Sonya wants me to think of her as a surrogate mother, and they keep trying to get me to come over on the weekdays and visit them. “Tell us all your problems. Do you need money? Do you need food? You know we can help you with anything. Just let us know. Tell us something about you we don’t know.” Sweet and suffocating all at the same time.
After a quick break at home, I went over to see Yanko and Ani. Ani was supposed to show me how to make my favorite dish: “pulneni chooshki.” It’s a baked pepper dish, stuffed with flavored rice. It’s delicious. But Ani wasn’t at home because she needed to go to her sister’s in a nearby town and help with the construction of a house. I found Yanko in the center – working on wiring lights and plugs alone. We just can’t seem to be able to find people around and willing to help, and Yanko tells me it’s “men’s work,” so I can’t help. Instead, we just went out to coffee and had pint-size philosophical conversations with a drunk. My life here really is quite random.
On my way home, I heard a voice calling my name from a balcony. It was a couple girls I know: Geri and Petya, and they came out walking with me for a bit. I treated them to ice cream and showed them pictures from Spain and Prague. I try to remind myself that just hanging out with people is a large part of my job.
I got up early this morning and ran to Velingrad and back. Yanko tells me that’s 24 km, or 15 miles. I don’t know if it’s quite that far, but I definitely feel as though I’ve run a half marathon today. It took me about two hours. My knees hurt, my legs feel like Jell-O, and I have blisters on my toes. Fun times. I told some people around here that I ran to Velingrad and back, and they just gaped at me. Why would anyone do that? One girl asked, “Who saw you do it?” “No one – just people passing in the cars saw me running.” “Well then, how can people believe you?” “Do you not believe me?” She looked at me incredulously. “Well, let me tell you again. I ran to Velingrad and back this morning.” After going on my run, I went over to the center to paint some playground equipment. It reminded me of our community project in Trud during training. How far I’ve come, and I’m still painting playground equipment. Hehe. Only this time, I didn’t have kids helping me. I was doing it all by myself. I was just lamenting how lame it was to be working on this all by myself and how the local community isn’t taking much ownership into it, when three young boys showed up. One of them started touching and stepping on the wet paint. “Do you want to paint?” I asked him. “Yes.” So I soon got all three of them slapping wet paint on rusted metal. They were pretty intense about the whole experience – until I brought along soda and sweets to distract them. Then Yanko and I were left to paint again. We took a break to eat “pulneni chooshki,” which I wasn’t shown how to make because Ani prepared all of it while I was painting, and then we went back to work for a few more hours before I decided to give up for the day. Now I’ve just been here at home – relaxing and wondering what to do about my poor legs. They’re going to be killing me tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be a paraplegic for a day.
Other than that, my weekend (and life here in general) is filled with quiet, rather vague interactions and invitations that rarely come to fruition.
Bulgarian: “Apryl, when are you going to come to my house for ‘na ghosti?’” Apryl: “When you invite me.”
B: “You’re always invited. Just show up whenever.”
But I’m not comfortable doing that.
B: “When are we going to go to the pool in Kostandovo?”
A: “When you invite me.”
B: “When are you free? I can go during the week.”
A: “I work then.”
B: “Oh, well we’ll find some time to go.”
Yeah, maybe during the winter.
B: “When are we going to go to Tsigov Chark?”
A: “When you let me know.”
B: “Okay, I’ll let you know.”
And it just goes round and round. I need to find time when I’m just hanging out doing nothing and just take that opportunity to randomly show up at one of these people’s houses, or call someone up and tell them I’m going to the pool – do they want to come, or say to someone, “Hey, you have a nice, shiny ride. Do you want to go to Tsigov Chark?” Good gravy.
In other random news, my landlord’s grandson is turning into quite the confident little cutie. He smiles when he sees me and says “O.K.!” in a guttural scream. They tell him I’m “Apryl,” which he repeats, but I’m still “Kakata O.K.” to him. He used to shy away from me before, but now he comes up and tries to peer under my dress and say “Kakata O.K. is a pretty girl.” He’s quite the cheeky little fellow. I’m going to figure out a way to adopt him and bring him home.
All right, so that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow to see if I can post this from my living room. Oh, the excitement. I know you’re all holding you’re breath….

Yeah! I did it! I'm posting from a comfortable arm-chair, and I'm in my socks, and I need a shower! Yes! I can post without having to make myself presentable to the public. I know you're all thrilled for me....

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