Monday, June 25, 2007


I don’t particularly care much for feelings. They confuse me, and it’s not that I think I’m an exceptionally logical person, but I really don’t care for how irrational they can be sometimes. Where do they come from? What are they based on? Sometimes they can be traced back to something real. Other times, you feel an emotion (or a variety of emotions at once), and you just don’t know why. I know God made them for a very good reason, and they’re vital. I just hate when they get the best of me.
This weekend, for the first time in a long time, I felt lonely. I have bouts of loneliness here, but they’re usually a pretty superficial sense of isolation. I get over it pretty quickly. Recently, I’ve been having this deep longing to connect with someone on a meaningful level, but I can’t figure out who that someone is. There are many people here that I care about, and I’m certain they care about me. It’s another thing, however, to find someone you can really relate to. Just being in their presence makes you feel understood, and you feel you’ve found a kindred spirit.
I’ve adjusted to spending a lot of time alone. It’s something I’ve adapted to since I was young – being an only child and all. It seems like Peace Corps is just conducive to the isolated life. Well, at least if you’re a single volunteer. One would think that Peace Corps would be a lot of excitement. It certainly is in the beginning. Then you become adjusted. You find yourself with a lot of downtime. And somewhere along the way (at least this is true of me), the thought of being by yourself is more appealing than the thought of going to someone’s house and being reminded that you don’t quite fit in somehow. You become lonely. Yet, you still prefer true isolation to searching out a company of people in which you know you will still feel very alone.
Yesterday, it was stiflingly hot. I had to get out of the house, though. I was talking to God how lonely I felt. I hadn’t gotten far, when I came across an acquaintance. She attends the Evangelical Church here in town that I sometimes go to. I knew God brought her along at that very moment because of the way I was feeling, but I was ungrateful. Selfishly, I didn’t want just anyone I knew to come along. I didn’t think this was a particularly good solution to my problem. She invited me to come along with her, and I couldn’t think of an excuse not to go with her.
It was hot. I was moody. I wanted to take a walk where I wanted to go. I didn’t want to get carted around. She was soon pulling at me to go certain directions. I don’t really like people touching me – especially when the weather is stifling. And I don’t like being told what to do. She started telling me about some problems she was having, and then she asked me if I had any money I could loan her. I get very defensive in these situations. I don’t like being viewed as the financially secure foreigner who’s here to help in that “Aren’t you a sponsor?” capacity. She started talking to me about how she’s tired of living in Bulgaria. She’s tired of her work. Man, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that…. Again, selfish me, I didn’t want to be having this conversation. I wanted someone to come cheer me up. “God, I know you did this. You’re teaching me a lesson. You got it wrong. I don’t want this at the moment. I don’t want to play sympathetic listener. I want someone to come listen to my problems.”
We went to a fellow acquaintance’s house to pray with her, but she wasn’t available. The lady I was with then invited me to the house where she works/lives. She takes care of an elderly woman who’s incapacitated. Walking in the house was a good lesson to be reminded of. I have no right to complain (not that it stops me), as I really do lead a life of luxury. The woman was lying on her back. Her mouth was open, and she was staring at the ceiling. She was so old and fragile, and she was wearing a diaper. A few flies buzzed around her. Was she waiting for death, or was it waiting for her? And I was reminded how much I want. Who am I to demand anything? I could be strapped to a bed with no options for getting out. I could really be trapped in my mind.
But let me continue whining ‘cause it’s my blog, and that’s what I do. So, the woman I know started talking about how it would be great if I took her back to the states with me and found work for her. I get so tired of this conversation because I actually do feel for the people here. I wish I could take them all back to the states (if that’s what they really want), but it would actually be better if their standard of living just improved here. She started asking me about my home back in the states. She was assuming that I would move back in with my mother and father once I went home (as is the culture here), and what, she would come with me? I explained to her that, while yes, my parents would help me if I needed it, I actually didn’t have a place to live back in the states. She was surprised by this. This conversation was followed by a line of questioning about how much my boss pays me (“Um, he doesn’t.) and what kind of house my parents live in. “Oh, I thought God sent you into my life to help me, but it appears you have just as many problems as I do,” she said.
Okay, so people can’t be expected to be familiar with our culture. It was certainly true of me. What did I know of Bulgaria before I came here? I just get tired of the same questions and having the same conversations. I lose patience for the same traditions. “Here. You have to eat something. Are you sure you don’t want to eat this? You must at least have some cookies. Are you on a diet or something?” (Repeat this dialogue twelve times in succession).
Once I faded in her eyes as the trophy foreigner sent to answer her prayers, things got a little better. Maybe I calmed down a little bit. She asked me to pray, and I told her that I would only pray aloud if I could do it in English. I didn’t know what to say. I was at a loss for words, and I was frustrated at God for answering my prayers in a way I didn’t like. I had barely opened my mouth when she started crying. I didn’t say anything meaningful, but my praying was meaningful to her.
Afterward, we went up to the mahala to spend time with one of her neighbors. They spent the whole time speaking the local, Roma dialect, and I stared off into space and went someplace in my head. It’s interesting to me when people do that. They just start speaking in a foreign language and let you stare into oblivion. I can’t imagine doing that to another person and them being okay with it, but I get it done to me every so often. The interesting thing is that I didn’t feel quite as alone as before. Strange.
My acquaintance wandered off for a while, and I spent some time talking to the old woman we went to visit. It’s interesting because I’m quickly questioned about my social status with Roma. How old am I? What am I doing here alone? Am I married? She started talking about how she would have never let me go to Bulgaria were she my mother. One thing that’s very interesting to me is how Roma comment to me that I’m still young for marriage. In the Roma culture, I’m an old maid – way beyond my prime. They, however, tell me that I’m a “hubovo momiche” (nice girl), and I’m still young for marriage. “Once you’re married,” she confided to me, “you turn old.” I laughed. She told me that, the previous week, a twelve-year-old girl had married in front of her place. I think it was her granddaughter. Actually, it wasn’t the marriage itself, it was just the virginity ceremony to ascertain her purity, but it’s basically marriage in their eyes. Twelve-year-olds getting married. :::shiver::: Twelve-year-olds having sex. :::double shiver::: I asked if the twelve-year-old was “old” now. The old woman laughed, “Yes, but you’re still young. Why don’t you stay here, and I’ll take you on as my daughter? Poor girl. You don’t have a mother and father here.” One minute, I’m seen as the prosperous foreigner, next I’m just that poor girl who lives alone. I just feel like I’m rarely seen for who I really am – or, at least, the image I have of who I am.
So, yeah. I’m mental. I’m thinking of having Peace Corps provide counseling for me. It’s free. The only drawbacks would be the trips to Sofia and the psych stuff on my records. Meh.
Here’s another random, mental thought. What is success? Who defines success? I’m so tired of magazines and societal trends telling me I’m not good enough. I’ve had enough of them telling other people the same thing. These people then become dissatisfied with their way of life, and they think they should be entitled to something different. They should. I mean, in this global economy we live in, we get to easily see what others have. Wait, why don’t we have those things? What’s wrong with us? Man. No wonder we’re all medicated. Have these disparities always existed? What’s left for the poor man who works himself to the bone and watches the rich man live in comfort? And the rich man still doesn’t have what he wants. This random thought brought to you by the fact that I was reading Roma folktales this morning, and they all start with, “Once upon a time, there was a poor Rom who couldn’t make ends meet.” Bleh.
This weekend, I’ve been putting together a PowerPoint presentation for my organization. Their ten-year anniversary is coming up on the 10th of July, and they asked me to put something together for them. I hope they like what I’ve come up with thus far. Other than that, I’ve been working on another project.
My landlords had their son and girlfriend-in-law stay here again. Once again, it frustrated me. Nothing new. I told Yanko to look for a new place for me, and I’m going to remind him again tomorrow. He mentioned that there were some leads, but none of them have been fruitful as of yet. They invited me down to lunch today. Apparently, they had fried some fish just for me. Enyo’s name day is today, and his son, Emil, had a birthday. I felt as though I was being bribed. I didn’t feel deserving of the meal. I do my best to ignore them all when those two are here staying in my place. It doesn’t matter how many meals they fix me or favors they do for me. I can’t handle having people who aren’t my guests stay in an apartment I, er, Peace Corps pays for. They still don’t even bother to let me know they’re coming. I want out. Actually, I want them out.
We had another heated argument in the office on Friday. It’s so wearing day after day. One minute, we’re fine. The next, something comes out of nowhere. I really don’t like feeling tense and helpless in those situations. Moments like those really mess with me and my current (and very unbalanced) definition of success. It doesn’t seem like we should be arguing the way we do. If we expect to be of benefit to this town, we’re certainly not going to do it by having strife in the office. One thing I really dislike is that Yanko rarely admits he’s wrong. He argues you into a corner, and you feel trapped. I respect my boss a lot, but there’s room for improvement. I spoke up about something I observed between him and his wife Ani. It was directed to him, but he immediately turned on Ani and said, “See? This is where you mess up,” as soon as I was done explaining. We were all flabbergasted. I had been talking to him! I was trying to explain to Yanko that I think it’s impossible to divide work and home. He tries very hard to make it clear that he and Ani aren’t husband and wife in the office. Sorry. In my eyes, you’re always husband and wife. You can’t separate the two like that, and you’re her boss. I don’t care how talented you are, I don’t think it’s possible to divide the lines like that. From 8:30 – 5:00, you’re colleagues in an office. Any other time, you’re husband and wife. No, sorry. I don’t think it works that way, and I’m just as stubborn in my viewpoint as you are. If you argue with Ani as her boss, she’s not going to just accept it like that. And Yanko argues with Ani the way a man who knows all his wife’s quirks and vulnerabilities would argue. He just doesn’t see it. (sigh)
I went on to remind him about the “open window at the center” incident. “If it had been Valia or Ani,” I told him, “you would have laid into them.” Ani and Valia quickly agreed. “Did you see Apryl’s reaction?” Yanko said, “She turned red and apologized. She didn’t try to argue or deny her mistake. It’s really important to me how someone reacts.” We tried to tell him that it wasn’t true that his reaction was based on my response. “Even though I knew it was Apryl before she admitted it, it didn’t change my reaction to the situation.” We all rolled our eyes. It’s not that I want Yanko to yell at me. No. It’d be great if he stopped going overboard in general.

1 comment:

Andrew! said...

Dear Apryl,

I consulted with google to define "success" for you so you can stop worrying about it!

suc·cess (sək-sĕs')
The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted: attributed their success in business to hard work.

The gaining of fame or prosperity: an artist spoiled by success.
The extent of such gain.
One that is successful: The plan was a success.
Obsolete. A result or an outcome.

Anyway, to me it's more of self-improvement. Or pursuing self-improvement, rather, and sometimes not even being aware of your gains. That's what makes me successful! And in my eyes, young lady, you're a rock star - beaming success! Even though you might not recognize it just yet.

I'm eating a bag of red licorice right now(from America)(not eating the bag, but the contents) and I wish I could share some with you! Would you settle for a big ole hug and a dance at COS?

Apryl, am I allowed to read your blog?