Sunday, April 29, 2007

Saying Good-Bye/Don't You Forget About Me

I came home after 12 hours of traveling to find that my landlord’s son and girlfriend-in-law were staying here. There’s nothing like spending a long day on the road only to find people staying in your place. It’s not surprising here though. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I complained to Peace Corps about it. They were going to talk to my landlords, but I chickened out at the last minute and told them not to. I tried to make an agreement with them that they would at least tell me before they put someone in the spare room. Looks like I’m going to have to talk to them again.
Pretty much the entire country has the next two days off. People are traveling and spending time together. Peace Corps Volunteers are taking “free” (no vacation days used) trips abroad and the like. My NGO, however, doesn’t believe in such things. (laugh) Well, I’m pretty sure I’ll be at work the next couple days. There’s a lot to do. Besides, I played “hookey” on Friday.
Does it count as ditching out on work when you tell you boss beforehand that you’re going to ditch? Yanko didn’t care. I told him a good friend of mine was leaving Bulgaria forever, and I didn’t know when I would see her again. You have to make time for the things that really matter. I have so few friends here, and it’s hard to see a good one go.
Amy lived on the other side of the country – near the Turkish border. She was so close, she was practically in “Peace Corps Turkey.” Anyway, I didn’t see Amy all that often, but she and I have been good friends since training. She and I have similar personalities, and I always enjoyed being around her. Of course, there are a few really great memories that stand out. Most of my trips abroad have included her: Turkey (twice), Greece (twice), and Qatar. I remember a “short” run we took up in Panachishte to prep for the marathon. We were having such a good time talking, we lost track of time and ended up going on a long run. And, of course, I remember the marathon. We ran together for the first 21 km, and then she smoked me. Amy’s an excellent cross-country runner. She made running fun. Anyway, that’s enough reminiscing. I know I’m not the only one who will miss her… her and her wonderful husband, Jerramy, who’s been living the life picking olives in Italy the past three months. I hope I’ll see them again. In the meantime, they’ll be out in the wilderness of Montana – maybe doing some swing dancing with David.
The weight of my fellow volunteers leaving has been pretty heavy on me recently. Ever since I realized I’d be staying another year, I’ve been feeling very alone and isolated – like everyone from my group has already left. I think I’m having abandonment issues. Haha. Okay, that’s not funny. As we get closer and closer to COS (close of service), there are more and more ET’s (early terminations – Peace Corps has all these great acronyms), and we know there are more coming. A lot of people are returning to start grad school. Others are going back due to family issues. Some have found new jobs. But most are going back for school. Our service ends at an awkward time, and those who finished out their service to the specified end (October 10th) would have to wait another semester or year to “get on with their lives.” It’s understandable. And it’s sad… like feeling a family unravel.
So, I met Amy for lunch, and then I hung out at the Peace Corps office in Sofia while she made final arrangements. I talked to my program managers, and they congratulated me on a third year. I confided in them that I was having some second thoughts. “What would you do in America?” Ivan said, “It’s so boring there. Every day is the same. At least, here in Bulgaria, you can have an absolutely horrible day followed by an amazing series of events.” “Yeah,” I was thinking, “that’s why it’s so emotionally draining here. Who can live at this pace?” They were doing their best to be bright and encouraging. I think I was just sad at watching my friend leave. Afterwards, we met up with another friend, Alex, and we went to the mall and got some dinner. Amy was in a shopping mood, so we stopped in some stores. As PCV’s we always make excuses for our frugality by referring to our job status. And Amy explained away a purchase of shoes by saying, “I can’t afford that. I’m just a poor Peace Corps Volunteer.” “Not anymore,” I reminded her, “you’re just a regular, poor person now.” She didn’t think that was very funny.
I had been debating all that day about whether to stay in Sofia or try to catch a bus up to the Romanian border that night. I finally decided to stay, but there weren’t any free beds at the hostel Amy and Alex were staying at. So, I snuck in and shared a bed with Amy. At least I got to “spoon” with my friend for a few hours during her last night in Bulgaria. And then we got up before dawn and headed for the airport.
I caught an early bus to Rousse to spend time with Jennifer and Tim – two of my training mates from Trud. It’s been forever since I’ve hung out with just the two of them, and we had a good time catching up. Rousse is a huge city right on the Danube River. You look across the way and see the Romanian border. It’s a pretty charming place consider its size, and the architecture varies from the communist motif that permeates this country. Jen’s going to be leaving soon as well – another grad school casualty. Jack and Ronda joined us later that evening, and we had a very nice time together. The only thing it was missing was dancing! Tim and I both had to get up this early to go back to our sites.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought a bus ticket to Plovdiv this morning. I thought it’d be faster getting there than Sofia. Boy, was I wrong. We had to cross the Stara Planina mountains (duh!) and then make stops at every town along the way. It took me two hours longer than I expected. Oh well. I tried to meet up with my host sister, Vili, but that didn’t work out. Instead I ran into a PCV I know from another group, and we had a good time hanging at a café and talking while waiting for transportation back to our sites. I found out that, due to the holiday, buses to Velingrad weren’t running, so I had to stop in Pazardjik first. Oh well. It worked out.
So, that’s this blog post – a tribute to my fellow American PCVs. Not really, but I’ve been feeling sad about the 18s leaving recently. And my site mate, Brandy, is leaving even sooner! I feel as though a ship is sailing, and it’s leaving me behind. Pretty pathetic, huh? Early in my service, I used to avoid Americans. And when I was around them, I couldn’t wait to get back to site. Now, they are my sanity. It’s hard to say “good-bye” to your sanity.

1 comment:

vassi said...

Happy Birthday, Apryl!! We're birthday buddies...i had mine on Tuesday :) Congratulations too on your extension...as mixed as you may feel about it, it's a pretty cool thing and you'll get some time to go back to the states. Take care, Chica!
Vassi