Sunday, September 10, 2006

What Does It Take to "Win" You?

It's almost 2:30 a.m., and I just realized I was supposed to be somewhere tonight. I feel terrible. This cute little girl has been asking when I'll come over to her house, and I always make a plan with her and then promptly forget it. I'm a horrible, horrible person. Hopefully she will forgive me... again. I'll have to show up unannounced with a giant box of chocolates or something - all for her.
I went to a tiny "selo" (village) called Samuil last weekend. I needed to get out of Rakitovo, so I asked the volunteer there if I could visit him. Thankfully, he obliged, and it turned out really great 'cause a few of my other volunteer friends were visiting as well. His selo was having its town "praznik" (holiday), and he had invited my dancing buddies Jerramy, Amy, and David to come put on a quick dance demonstration featuring swing and salsa. So, I got to hang out at the fair and watch. It was a pretty decent fair for the size of the village, and I loved hanging out with those guys. A friend of David's also made homemade Italian gnocchi for us. It took a while, but it was delicious and worth it. I had never seen pasta made from scratch before, and now I know how.
Yanko and I went to Pazardjik earlier in the week to figure out some things for the center, and now I believe we're getting some computers. Praise God! After trying to get ahold of the guy for a week or so, I believe we'll be receiving six computers for the low, low price of $802. I'm wondering what quality they're going to be, but the guy seems really eager to help us out and wants to throw in some extras for us. I'm still praying for these computers. It's not going to matter how much we paid for them if we can't run programs on them and hook them up to the internet. And we got some chairs for the center, too. We've been able to economize on those as well, and that's always a good thing. The opening of the center is looming before us. We've scheduled the date for October 4th, but now I realize that I'm going to have to ask my colleagues to change it. I'm scheduled to be smack dab in the middle of mid-service conference with Peace Corps that day. I could probably get out of it, even though it's "mandatory," but I wouldn't be able to get anyone from Peace Corps to come to our SPA opening.
I've been hanging out quite a bit with Maria and Reneta recently. They're always eager to show me how much they remember from our Spanish classes, and I've had them teach me some words in their Roma language. I would really love to learn Roma while I'm here - even though I'll most definitely never use it once I get back home. There are two Roma languages here: one that's more universal and another that's spoken locally. Angel speaks both, and my colleagues speak the local dialect. They've been telling me that if I want to learn a Roma language, I should get Angel to teach me the universal one. I haven't seen Angel in a really long time though, and even if I did see him, I should be speaking English with him. Maria and Reneta already know English, and they say they'll teach me in exchange for Spanish. They're excited about the progress I'm making. I'm a quick study. I've already learned how to tell someone to "eat boogers."
Valia's daughter, Janette, turned three on Friday. We had sandwiches heated in their new microwave and a delicious cake. I bought her some jewelry and some markers, and she really seemed to take a liking to the markers. She wanted to draw something right away. They told her not to put the jewelry on yet because, unfortunately, she has ringworm. Her mom and brother have ringworm, too, but she's covered. It seems to be spreading around town from cats. Maria has a few spots, too. The poor guys have some medication that turns their skin purple and green. So there was Janette - beautiful and happy as a three-year-old can be... singing "Happy Birthday to You" in English... with purple spots all over her face. It breaks my heart.
I've said it a few times in this blog, but I have to say it again that I really admire and adore my colleagues. They are such amazing people, and I feel sorry for Bulgarians who don't take the time and get to know them just because they're Roma. Ani feeds me... a LOT! She made my favorite dish, stuffed peppers, on Friday, and she made a batch without meat just for me before she even invited me over. I've been eating there a lot recently, and they've been really busy with remodeling. I really hope I'm not imposing. Valia is so sweet. I think she was sad when I decided to leave on Friday - probably because she's purple and stuck in the house all day. I think she was just glad to have the company. Fatme is great. I met her dad the other day, and he said, "You must be Apryl" before I even introduced myself. "You must come to the house and visit." So I'm assuming she's been saying good things about me... and she works so hard up at the center. She's leaving for school soon though, and that's a bummer. My colleagues Tsetska and Maria are so awesome. Maria tries to mother me and tells me I'm too thin. She just got back from "vacation" which she spent picking hops everyday. Now she's trying to convince kids and parents to go to the best school we have in town. Tsetska also treats me well and gives me good advice. And then there's Yanko. My boss is so intellectual and insightful. He works non-stop. Anytime I hear someone say that Roma are stupid and lazy, I think of him. The fact that he's Roma is negligable. My boss is intelligent and diligent for any ethnicity. We were in the center after working hours on Friday - just trying things out and seeing how we wanted to place the computers among other things. He always asks my opinion about things, and I'm flattered. A lot of our decisions are made as an entire team, and that's put our work to a slight halt as many of our colleagues are still on "vacation" - really working on remodeling or preparing for winter or other projects. After looking at the center as long as we could, we sat out on the bench and had a good discussion. I find myself turning to him more and more for advice. I don't always take his advice, but more often than not, I find it insightful. He gives me a new perspective on a lot of issues.
Now that school is about to start back up, more and more kids are coming to us asking for books. Unfortunately, we don't have it in the budget this year to help them purchase school books. It's a pity, but it's also frustrating the way they "ask." "Where are the books you're supposed to give us?" Umm... in the bookstore? Unfortunately, books are expensive, so I understand their desire for us to give them to them, but the way they demand it is surprising. And we have teachers on our backs, too. "I don't have enough kids in my class. Can you get some kids for us and send them down?" So you try and convince Roma kids to go to the primarily "Bulgarian" school because it's better for them. But then the teachers at the Roma school get frustrated with us because we're taking kids away from them and they see it as us trying to put them out of a job. And it becomes this tug-of-war between the schools and the kid's caught in the middle. I don't know what the answer is. I see all sides, but when it comes down to it, I want the education that's best for the child. And then the parents are a whole other issue I'm not even going to go into.
Let's turn to a lighter note, shall we? Apparently, the story of Krum has been fairly popular with the readers here. I was fortunate enough to "skype" (yes, it's a verb now) with my mom and a couple friends from church this evening/morning, and they were laughing about my traumas with Krum. Okay, so yeah, it's funny. You come here and deal with him. No, I admit it really is funny. So, lucky for all of you, there's another guy whose set his sights on me and the situation is comical. So, I met this guy a couple weeks back through a friend. He lives in a "selo" (you all know that word now, right?) a couple hours from Rakitovo, and pretty much as soon as I met him he figured I should marry him so he can go to the states. I told him to get in line. He said I should flip the line so he's in front. Well, I don't know how old this guy is, but he's old enough to have a 17-year-old son. When I balked at the idea of marrying him, he offered me his son. The next day, he drove my friend and me back to Rakitovo. His son was in the car, too, and he kept telling him to pack his bags because I was going to marry him and take him to America. His poor son appeared so uncomfortable. Well, now he's started texting me on my phone. Nazam is his name. I'll try my best to translate from Bulgarian:
Nazam: "Hi chickie! How are you? Have you thought about my problem and America?"
Apryl: "No. I have no intention of marrying you and taking you back."
Nazam: "Hey! You wrote me back! That's okay that you're not thinking about America right now. How are you?"
I don't send a response, so... a few minutes later....
Nazam: "Have you gone to sleep?"
Nazam: "Hello?"
...and then the next morning....
Nazam: "Good morning, chickie!"
Nazam: "Surely I'm boring, and that's why you're not writing me back."
Apryl: "I have no money on my phone to write you back."
...later in the day....
Nazam: "I'm sending you a phone voucher so you can answer my earlier questions." And yes, he sent me a code so I could recharge me phone, but he sent me the wrong code.
Apryl: "I can't charge my phone with that code. It's not the right phone company. Don't send me vouchers."
...a few minutes later....
Nazam: "I want to talk to you. Here's another voucher."
This time he sent me the right code, so I recharged my phone.
Nazam: "So, I don't care about America anymore. I want to know what I have to do to be with you."
Apryl: "Um... I like someone else. Give it up."
Nazam: "Do you ever think we can be together? I want to know what it takes to win you."
Apryl: "NO!"
Nazam: "Does 'NO!' mean that there's hope?"
(This is where I think about that scene from "Dumb and Dumber" where Jim Carrey's character asks Lauren Holly's character what the chances are that they'll get together. "Like... one in a hundred?" "More like... one in a million...." "So, you're saying there's a chance....")
Apryl: "No. You don't know me. Don't hope for me. I like someone else."
Nazam: "I may not know you, but I get a feeling about people pretty quickly. Do you believe in love at first sight? I want to know how to win you."
Apryl: "No. I'm not a prize that you can 'win.' Give it up. There's no hope. You don't know me. I like someone else."
So this was the gist of the conversation, and I haven't heard from him since. I'm sharing this all with you 'cause the Krum story was so popular, and I figured you might like to hear more. I was asked earlier if I make this stuff up. No, people. Of course, it's all written down here from my perspective, and it's translated from Bulgarian, so of course things are a bit skewed, but they REALLY happen. And they REALLY happen to me. So have your laugh guilt-free 'cause you know it's true.
I'd better be getting to bed. It's going onto 4 am, and I have to go to Dupnitsa tomorrow. I'm helping out with a Project Design and Management seminar for the new recruits. I have to go back for a Tolerance session the following week. I hate saying that I don't want to go because I feel so honored to have been asked to help out, and I really admire and respect the people who have asked me to come, but I really don't want to go. I don't feel like I have much to impart to new recruits and that my time could be better served here helping out with our center. I especially feel sorry for Kate, the really sweet technical trainer for this training. I tell her "no" to half the things she asks me to do, and I know it's not easy to coordinate these things and find resources for them. Getting asked by Peace Corps to come do technical trainings is flattering, but it does not make you a good volunteer. So, what does? I don't think I've figured that out yet. Is it... the number of marriage proposals one receives by any chance? How many people you can get to ask you to take them back to the states?

2 comments:

vassi said...

My advice...quit fighting the flow...you gotta buncha guys fighting over you, pick one that you like and throw yourself into a romantic adventure. What have you got to lose? Peace Corps is about jumping into the unknown...why not include jumping into some hot admirer's arms...he may be unkown to begin with, but once you know his name, he won't be a stranger anymore :)

Fuzzmaster said...

OOh Mann I can't wait for the movie.. hehehehehehe!!!!! This stuff is awesome, who needs Pride & Prejudice. Oh yeah, you might want to carry break fluid in your purse/bag. It sprays farther than mace and does pretty good damage.