Monday, August 21, 2006

Proposal to Break a Heart

Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon and thunder is crashing in the distance. I love this weather. It can’t seem to make up its mind. One moment I’m melting and the next minute a storm is brewing. It reminds me of me. “She can be all four seasons in one day” – Sting
I received a marriage proposal today – my first in Bulgaria. The guy is fairly sweet and sincere, but he’s 37, and “the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor,” if you know what I mean. I have a hard time understanding him, and I don’t know what he’s talking about half the time. His name is Krum, and I met him early in my service here. He’s recently been showing up at the office, at the center, at my house to give me gifts such as flowers, food, and various knick-knacks. It’s not everyday a girl gets a marriage proposal, so I’m going to share with you a general idea of our discussion:
We were up at the center, standing next to the playground equipment, and Krum pointed to a dilapidated building without windows.
Krum: “Do you like that house over there?”
Apryl: “It’s nice. It needs some work.”
Krum: “I want to buy that house and fix it up. We can live together, and I’ll take care of you. What do you say?”
Apryl: (fairly shocked) “I’m not going to stay in Bulgaria, Krum. I’m going to return to the states.”
Krum: “You can take me with you.”
Apryl: “It doesn’t work that way, Krum.”
Krum: “But I’m in love with you.”
Apryl: “I’m sorry, but I’m not in love with you.”
Krum: “I’ve been in love with you since I first saw you. I don’t fall in love easily. What am I supposed to do now?”
I lied and told him I had a boyfriend in the states. I was hoping it would discourage him, but it hasn’t seemed to. He followed me home from the Educational Center after we finished painting for the day.
Krum: “Can you buy me some matches and cigarettes?”
I bought him some matches, but I refuse to buy people cigarettes.
Krum: “I didn’t go to work today because I wanted to see you, and I lost my job.”
Apryl: Looking at him incredulously, “You’re saying I’m to blame?”
Krum: “Yes! I need you to find me work. I need to eat. I have no money. I’ve been buying you gifts. What am I going to do?”
By this time, he was kind of yelling at me, and I was feeling uncomfortable. I got him to leave, but this is not going to go away. He’s a persistent guy. I’m praying that he’ll lose interest or find someone else to distract him.
Hey! The sun is coming out agai… wait, nevermind. It’s clouding up again. The weather is suffering from some sort of identity disorder.
So, most of our work has taken us up into the center. We’ve been installing lamps, and Yanko’s been taking care of the cables, switches, and outlets. We also have a guy that’s been installing radiators and is now going to install a giant water-heater or something in the kitchen. I haven’t figured it out yet. Bulgarian really is a tough language. Today, we’ve been painting the ceiling. Please don’t ask me why we’re painting the ceiling AFTER installing lamps. It seems to be a trend in Bulgaria. I’ve heard of that happening with another volunteer. My colleagues are amazing, intelligent people. I just don’t understand sometimes. There are definitely times when they don’t understand me. We still love each other though.
I had a good conversation with my colleague, Tsetska. She invited me over to her house for cheesy bread, fries, candied figs, raspberries, and beer. It’s an interesting combination, but it was good. Her son, Marin, kept saying, “What’s your name? Your name is Gabrielle.” I guess Apryl sounds a lot like Gabrielle. “What’s your name? Kaka Amerikanka (American Big Sister).” He was cracking me up.
“Don’t you dare fall in love and stay here,” Tsetska told me. “Can you really see yourself staying and living in Bulgaria, Apryl?”
And something clicked in my head, “You know I love it here, but I will tell you the truth. Every day, something happens to remind me that I just don’t belong here. I feel foreign every single day. I don’t fit in.”
It’s not that I was ever considering staying in Bulgaria permanently, but I had never expressed out loud how difficult it is for me to feel permanently foreign. I wonder what this means for my dream of becoming a diplomat. I wonder if I really could live abroad long-term. But I also know that I get restless in the U.S. It’s a quandary.
My weekend was fairly uneventful and lazy. I played basketball with some girls on Friday evening and then treated my landlords and their kids to whiskey and chocolates because they fixed my bathroom sink and helped me set up my internet connection (which probably really wasn’t a favor in the long run as I’m addicted). They nearly freaked out. It’s not every day a Bulgarian gets to drink whiskey.
I went to church on Saturday – where they’re trying working through the Adventist interpretation of the prophecies in Daniel 8 and 9. All that math can be frustrating. At the close of the service, we read Psalm 27. I couldn’t help but start crying. It’s a beautiful passage. I was then asked to pray in English. At least they didn’t ask me to pray in Bulgarian, but they all got to hear my voice crack.
Oh man, there’s lightening now, and my electric and cable internet connection is on the fritz. Weather like this is only for staying inside curled up in a handsome guy’s arms. Am I being too vulnerable in this post for you? Haha. I’ll try and stop.
So, the rest of my weekend was fairly devoid of human contact. I was supposed to meet someone on Saturday to go to the pool. Because of this, I turned down a couple lunch invitations. I swear one lady, Sonia, wants me to come to her house every day! She was so insistent that I come, that after telling her I had other plans over and over again, I finally kind of lost it and said, “I can’t come to your house every week!” She got upset with me. “But you have to come every week! You’re so thin! Your mom is going to ask, ‘What’s wrong with those Bulgarians? Don’t they feed you over there?’” “Um, no,” I thought, “She’s going to scold me and ask me why I’m not eating right.” Sonia continued, “We’ll let you go this time, but you need to come next week and every week after that.” I am so fortunate to have these people in my life over here, but I feel smothered. Smothered with love – yeah, that’s it.
ANYWAY, so I get home and get ready to go to the pool with a girl here named Diana. Five minutes before I’m supposed to go meet her, she calls me and says she can’t go ‘cause she has “work” to do. I should be glad that she called at all, but I hate that people here seem to wait until the last minute to tell you they’re ditching out on you. I could have made other plans, girlie! I could have been smothered with love! Diana asked if we could go on Sunday. She’d call me. Did she ever call me? Nope. I didn’t expect her to.
I still didn’t leave my apartment for the rest of the weekend. I don’t feel badly about it, but I just wonder where the time goes. Getting internet in my apartment hasn’t made me all that productive, but it helps a little bit. I finally did my taxes, and I wrote a project to expand the activities of our Educational Center. Yanko would like to turn a portion of it into a career informational center and provide people with help to start their own businesses. It’s a fantastic idea, and I’m sold on it. I just hope we find some donors to agree.
Enyo and Milka are gone to the coast for a week. I wish I could say that I have the entire house to myself, and I’m throwing some wild parties, but their daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren are still staying on the second floor.
In my attempt to be more positive, I’m going to share my favorite moment from today: Seeing my little friend Tanya, calling out her name, having her face light up when she saw me, watching her run toward me, and having her put her arm around me and escort me up to the Mahala. We met my former Bulgarian teacher on the way up, and she talked to me and held my other free hand. These are the tiny moments that I live for over here. And you thought the marriage proposal would be my favorite, didn’t you?

1 comment:

actonbell said...

This is so interesting! Back when I was in college, I dreamed of being in the Peace Corps, but it didn't happen. You might not feel this way right now, but your life is fascinating. And I've heard other people say that it's hard to live abroad for long periods of time, esp. my sister, who was in Italy for three years.
I do worry about this Krum guy--I hope he stops pestering you. It sounds like you know lots of really nice people--maybe they'll scold him away for you:)

oh, and good morning!