How about if I said they were initials? Would you know who I was talking about? George Walker Bush? Could it be? AKA The President of the United States? Would I have something to share about him in this post? Maybe you should read on....
I don't have a whole lot to update you on. After that whole diatribe on numbness, I started feeling things again. I just... bleh. I wish I could remember more from last week, but I'm distracted by other things at the moment. It doesn't matter. I taught my classes. I sat around in the office. Same old story as every day. There is one thing: One of my students made a PowerPoint presentation about how I'm so intelligent and helpful, and how he likes me a lot 'cause I've taught him English. This will sound absolutely horrible, but I wanted to smack him for it. He stopped coming to my English classes long ago. He was one of my most promising, and he just kind of... wandered off. Lies of flattery. It hurt me more than anything. And Maria... oh yes, Maria. Maria, a girl who speaks English frightfully well. A young girl with so much potential. A friend with so many opportunities to shine in the future. (sigh) I've talked about Maria (of Maria and Reneta) so very many times. She's amazing. She's beginning to make choices that do not appear to be in her best interest. She's starting to act shady and to break promises. These are the stories that break my heart the most and make me long to give up on people and only care about myself. I already care about myself way too much, but these incidents are temptations to become the most self-centered person in the history of selfishness. It hurts.
Anyway, we started playing baseball again now that the strange weather has stopped (it's been stormy every day), and I pulled out all the new gloves my mom sent over. Thank you to those of you who contributed. Thank you so very much. My kids are excited - and a little confused. I don't think they quite see the purpose of them yet, and catching is a little awkward still.
This weekend, I went to Plovdiv to hang out with Tim. He was in my training site, and we've been pretty good friends ever since. He lives on the opposite side of the country, so I was glad to have the opportunity to hang out with him. He was in town for an art fair with the youth center he works at. The girls that came with the group make fashion designs and sculptures. They're extremely talented.
I imposed on my host family at the last minute. I felt weird about it, and I was thinking that I was getting a weird vibe from them, but they tried to assure me that I was welcome anytime. My host sister is just always so great and accomodating. We met up with friends and had a good time going out in Plovdiv. I love that town. I also had a good chat with my host sister. She's not the most open of people, so it's hard at times to really get her to share. We had a good conversation over coffee and ice cream one day, and I learned to appreciate her even more than I already do.
She drove me to the bus station at 5:30 this morning so I could catch a 6 a.m. bus to Sofia. President Bush has been in Bulgaria over the past couple days, and we Peace Corps Volunteers were given the opportunity to go to a "meet and greet" at the U.S. Embassy with him and his wife, Laura. Some volunteers were even given jobs related to the events of the past couple days. It was a pretty surreal sort of experience. At first I was really upset with Peace Corps because I had asked them to include me on information regarding protocol and meeting place, which, for security reasons, they got at the last minute. I was (seemingly) excluded from such an e-mail, and I was frustrated. It's a good thing I brought a few materials I thought I would need and got information randomly from other volunteers. It turns out that the e-mail ended up in my spam box. (sigh) Anyway, sorry Peace Corps. I must confess I was mad at you for a while.
We met this morning and then went over to the embassy at about 11:00. We basically chatted to pass the time and wait until his arrival at 2 p.m. We went through two stages of security: once when we came in and then again right before he arrived. We were outside in a courtyard when he came by. He was introduced by the ambassador, and then he gave a short speech. Please don't think ANY of the dialogue that follows is verbatim. I don't have a great memory, and I swear my brain was fried while we were waiting for him out in the sun. He talked about the valuable work Americans do in Bulgaria. He thanked us for working toward democracy. He talked about how great it was for us to be allies. He thanked our Bulgarian counterparts for working with us. He said it was just so obvious how far away we are from home over here (Amen! We PCVs smiled at that one.), and he said a few words about the G-8 Conference he'd recently attended in Germany. He said maybe two words about Iraq and Afghanistan. Mostly, he just thanked us for our work because the crowd was made up of USAID workers, embassy employees, and PCVs... basically what's called "the mission community."
Afterwards, he smiled, threw off his jacket, loosened his tie, and jumped in for a photo with the children of Embassy workers who study at the American school. Once that was over, he made his way down the line. I had always heard that President Bush was a very affable person, and he lived up to it today. Surprisingly, he shook hands and talked to every person who wanted to interact with him. He held babies. He posed for pictures. He was in his field. He talked about random topics like bike riding and Atlantic beaches. I'm sure everyone has a story. We were comparing them after he went on his way. Let me share mine with you:
He was making his way toward me, shaking hands. I was surrounded by other PCVs, and I made sure I grabbed his hand when there was a break in the chit-chat he was having with another attendee. I said something like, "Thank you for supporting Peace Corps, Mr. President." I never would have imagined that I'd utter a sentence like that. "You're Peace Corps Volunteers!" he said. And then he began to ask what kind of work we do. While he was talking to those around me, I took the opportunity to lift up my camera to try and get a picture. He was right in front of me. I couldn't see anything, however, and it didn't seem to be working. After a few seconds, he said something to the effect of, "You gotta turn that on there, darlin'" He and those around started laughing. I turned my camera on, and I snapped him. My hands were shaking so violently, I'm surprised anything came out. This happened to the intense amusement to those around me. I hate that I get like that in such situations. So it's the president. Pshaw! I should have asked for a photo with him.
Other PCVs have photos with him, and they have stories about sitting next to Karl Rove or talking to Josh Bolton or hobnobbing with who have you. I almost grabbed the First Lady's hand, but she left the scene before I could grab her. Oh the life - everyone waits for you hours in advance. Snipers on the roof. Kissing babies. Your own security staff. Hundreds of people preparing for your presence. It's nuts. Well, this is a story I guess I can tell. I had to come all the way to Bulgaria to meet an American president. It couldn't have happened any other way.