Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Silent Lapse

So, I just wasted five minutes or so trying to think of a witty retort to the comment left on my last post, but after thinking of several variations I didn't like, I'm moving on. Good gravy. Thanks for leaving a comment, random person. I rarely get comments anymore, and I appreciate readers.
Anyway, for those of you who are so addicted to my blog that you wake up and get online to check for a new post before you get your morning coffee, (you know who you are... don't try to hide it... admitting the addiction is half the battle) I must apologize for the lapse. Okay, so maybe none of you are that bad. But I have appreciated hearing - either directly from you or through the grapevine - that you have been wondering what's going on with me. Am I still alive? Am I still in Bulgaria? Was I away at a conference? Much to my dismay... all of the above are true. Wait... make that much to my great joy! You know this is going to be a long post, right?
So, let me see if I can catch you up on some of the events going on here in my own version of Balkan life. The other weekend was a busy one. I went to church three times! The first was to my traditional Adventist one. One of the congregants invited me to her house afterward, and I met her lovely granddaughter and had some really good food. I went for a walk afterward and ran into a guy hiking in the mountains with crutches. It was kind of random, but we had a nice conversation. It's cool to still meet people in my town that find an American wandering around a novel thing. I know I really complained about being such an oddity in earlier posts and having people stare at me, but I should have been more grateful for it at the time.
On Sunday, I went with Enyo, Milka, and little Emil (the one who calls me "Kaka O.K.") to the church across the way to light candles and pray to "Dyado Bozhe" (literally... Grandpa God). That evening, I went to the Evangelical Church next door - where the people were really nice and sang a lot. That was cool. I spent most of the day Sunday making posters to advertise the opening of our center. Which is in 14 hours! I'll get to that.
So, these posters.... The original idea was to get kids to do it. The reasoning for this was two-fold. #1: Why do work when you can get someone else to do it? b. If kids advertise the center, then they'll learn about the opportunities it has for them as well. So I decided the kids should partake in a poster contest to advertise the wonders of our center. First place - 20 leva, second place - 10, third - 5. That's a lot of money for a kid. I figured we'd have a good turnout of posters. An official at the Roma school told my boss that he should raise the prize money a bit more. My boss was livid. Anyway, not a single kid made a poster. There are probably many reasons for this, but it's still a little mind-boggling. The upside is that I was personally funding the contest, so now I won't have to put up prize money. The down side is... well... what is up with the kids in this town? Nevermind that some of these beautiful minds don't even know what a poster is.... Yeah. That was fun finding that out and trying to explain the concept. And it's not a translation thing either. As far as I know, poster is the same in English and Bulgarian. Anyway, I made these posters and then left them with my colleagues to put up while I was gone. "Oh, yeah Apryl, we got the posters. We didn't have time to put them up." Right. So I just got them up yesterday. Meh. And there's my diatribe on these posters.
I was gone at a Peace Corps Mid-Service Conference all this last week. It's basically just to mark a moment in time that says we're halfway through our service. Can you believe it? Here I am: halfway through my service. Yeah, you can believe it. Anyway, so we spent some time at this conference just talking about our experience and developing strategies for our second year. It was a good week. I enjoyed seeing other volunteers I hadn't seen in a long time, catching up, and sharing insights with new volunteers who are fresh and ready to face the world. It was nice to just be around Americans for the week - even though that's not usually my idea of a good time. I really like the people in my B18 volunteer group, and the new kids (the B20s) are cool, but I'm a hermit in my site. As I've mentioned before though, my colleagues are bickering and it was nice to just get away from that environment for a bit. The only downside to MSC is the opportunity to compare and scale the things you're doing with other volunteers. Trading of stories and getting ideas is good. It's if you go to that level where you think you're not as "good" as other volunteers because you feel you're not doing as much. I fall into that trap, but you also realize that everyone's site and experiences really are different. The sessions were really helpful for the mostpart though. There was one moment where we had to write a "speech" that we would give to our colleagues as we were leaving our posts. Basically, what could we see ourselves saying to them in a year? I've actually already spent some time thinking about this, and I started crying as I was writing my "speech." It's not going to be easy saying "good-bye." We taped up these "speeches," so I'm guessing we'll see them again in a year at our COS (Close of Service) Conference. I'll probably be crying then, too.
I also had an LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) at the conference, and I found out that my current placement for my handling of the Bulgarian language is Advanced-Mid... which basically means I speak well. Maybe I'll get Superior by the time I leave this place, but that's quite a stretch.
After the conference, I went back to site with a couple guests: Greg and Amy. We had a really great weekend, and both of them stayed through 'til Monday morning. It was kind of amazing that we had such a good time together because it was raining and both Amy and I got sick (something have happened at MSC or be going around or something 'cause a bunch of volunteers go sick at the same time). We stayed inside a lot and played cards. Eating was a challenge and so was my cooking. Haha. But it was a nice weekend regardless. I enjoyed being stuck inside most of the weekend with those guys.
Last night, I went to a cafe with Brandy and met the English owner. I'd heard we had English people in this town, but I hadn't met anyone yet. He'd been living in Spain for the past 20 years - near Valencia to be precise, and he was mixing his English with Spanish and Valenciano. It was great. Afterwards, I went to "na ghosti" (or na gosti - if you feel really passionate about it) with my landlords. And they asked for the hundredth time "When is your mom coming again?" They're getting excited and making plans. I told them I wanted to take her to meet my family, and they said, "But... aren't we your family?" I had a good evening, but I left feeling sick again. Boo!
So far this week, I have been just trying to catch up and get a feel for what's needed before we open our center. Unfortunately, I've still been ill. So all I did today as far as work was go to Velingrad to drop off some pictures for developing. My colleagues are still yelling at each other. I hope it's just the stress of getting the center ready and will end soon. They got the roof painted and finished it up yesterday. They even got some youth to help. The kitchen is finished and looks awesome. I got some stickers giving credit to PC and USAID for the project. We have computers! Yay! Unfortunately, the guy who brought them couldn't install them and says he will come tomorrow to do it. Lame. So, we're going to be opening the center and he's going to be hooking up computers? Well, you take what you can get, I suppose. And the Peace Corps Country Director is coming to our opening! We have other Peace Corps employees coming that are no less important for sure, and the media, too, but I really didn't know if the director would come. He's going to take Brandy and I out for lunch afterward.
So, it's all about the center. I've been talking about this for a long time, and now here we are at the grand opening. It's exciting. I'm not all wound and stressed-out like I have been though. That's good. I just hope it goes well. And I'm praying it doesn't rain. I'll probably post again soon (hopefully tomorrow night) to let you dear readers know how that goes. Toodles!
P.S. And it's officially the 100th post. Wow! All sorts of milestones these days! Ah, and we've discovered the leaver of the mystery comment. Thanks for the comment... person who speaks Bulgarian way better than I ever will.

No comments: