Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Roller Coaster of Numbness

Sometimes you're going along and everything feels right. You can't believe your luck. The world seems happy and supportive. No one can do you wrong. Other times, you feel as though you're getting "bitch-slapped" (excuse the language) by forces beyond your control, and you don't know why the universe has decided to align against you. What did you do to piss it off?
I'm feeling the latter this weekend, and it's only Saturday. (sigh) The thing is, I'm getting more and more numb to these sorts of things. It's only how I feel at the moment. This too will pass.
It makes me more and more aware to how numb I've become to a lot of things. What used to catch me off-guard and hurt me has just become a fact of life that I barely react to anymore. If God allowed these things to affect me more, I'd be a basketcase who left Bulgaria long ago. I realize I'm a lot stronger (and in some ways weaker) than I ever imagined. I'm not sure why I decided to stay in Bulgaria a third year. I just know it was a feeling I couldn't shake. Maybe I should get my "feel-o-meter" checked.
The picture to the above left is an example of what my kids like to do to me. Maria planned a picnic (without food) in the hills of Rakitovo. I came late, but that just makes the kids anticipate my arrival all the more. Hehe. My favorite memories from Bulgaria will be of kids running toward me, screaming my name, and arguing who saw/talked to/touched me first. I need to learn to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures more.
This week went by like any other week for the mostpart. I have nothing truly noteworthy (as far as events) to comment on, so I'll probably do more philosophizing as I just can't do a short post. My English classes were all right. A municipality worker asked me how many more lessons we had before the next round of payment. She plans on finishing out the pre-paid lessons and starting up with a course at the "obshtina" (municipality). My first, and very normal reaction, was to feel hurt. "What, you don't want to study English with me anymore?" But I quickly caught myself. The obshtina was holding free, English classes in coordination with requirements from one of the multitude of Bulgarian ministries. It's going to give its workers the opportunity to become more valuable in the job market. It's making steps to improve the system. This is awesome! Plus, I sometimes like to forget that teaching English isn't exactly my "cup o' tea." It's just that it can be fun, too.
This week, we were learning "Do you like...? Yes, I like..../No, I don't like...." One of my favorite teacher-students said, "Apryl, do you like sex?" I couldn't stop laughing. She continued with "Do you like young girls?" My eyes went wide. She had gotten confused on the sexes. I was doubled over. Once I had regained my composure, I told her that I like men.
I was explaining a game to another group of adult learners, and I told them it was something I liked to play with "my kids." One of the 40-somethings said, in very broken English (We, of course, also you children?) that they were also my children. It touched me. And I understood!
As for my computer classes, well, I told Reneta that we'd no longer be learning together. She's learned (like a superstar) everything I could possibly teach her at the moment. She's a whiz at making PowerPoint presentations. Her typing could use more practice, but she'll have to take that on herself if she wants to get really good. I'm trying to knock classes down one by one. The summer will be interesting. The fewer classes I have to worry about, the better. I turn away anyone who asks me about English - especially the people who constantly stray. Talk to me in the fall.
Milka, my landlady, has been gone helping out her daughter and grandchildren and Pazardjik, so Enyo invited Brandy and I to come over and have dinner and drinks with him and his son-in-law, Misho. It was an interesting evening. People kept calling to ask one of them to take them somewhere. (They both drive taxis.) As they had had a little to drink, Misho especially would start talking as though he were wasted. "Man, I've had too much to drink. I can't take you anywhere. I'm wasted. The police'll get me!" Brandy and I thought it was amusing. At least they were being responsible.
Yesterday was "International Children's Day." I spent the whole day in the office with my colleagues. It was nice - as I usually have to leave at some point to go up to the educational center and hold classes. We didn't get a whole lot done. I filled out some donor contracts and got Yanko to sign them. Other than that, there wasn't much to do, and we went out to coffee. After lunch, we were all in goofy moods. We decided to do some project writing, but only Yanko was really able to focus. We discussed ideas and target groups, and then Valia pulled out some wax to wax her legs for the first time ever. We females were pretty mesmerized by the process. Yanko felt like he had fallen in a rabbit hole. I love my colleagues. Sometimes they can frustrate me, and sometimes I think they're pretty odd. I mean, who waxes their legs in the workplace? Sometimes they ask, "What do you think of us, Apryl?" Before I can answer, someone will say, "She's used to us by now. She's just as crazy as we are." They're a lot of fun.
Like I said, Maria planned a picnic on Friday. She asked me to bring my baseball equipment, so I did. The kids then argued about whether they would play baseball or "Survivor BG." Most of them picked baseball, much to others' dismay. I'm always surprised by my kids' desire to play. Earlier in the week, we waited two hours for a soccer team to finish training (and the maintenance guy to cut the grass) so we could play for a bit. Then, on Thursday, we out-waited rain (under a small covering) and bullies so we could play. One kid ran all the way in showers so he could participate. Crazy nutcases. I couldn't tell them, "Let's just go home." (By the way, to those of you who contributed, my kids are SO excited about the new gloves, balls, and helmet. Thank you!) So, most of the kids played baseball while I did "tests of will" with the kids who played survivor. One of the agreed-upon "tests" was to make me "Queen of Spring." That's the picture you see above. I walked back through the mahala looking like that. Everyone stared, but they always stare. Apparently someone told one of my kids that I was "a crazy Italian."
In random news, I think I told you I picked up a USB LAN to try and fix my internet connection. It bites. I got it to work, finally, but it only works sporadically. Sometimes, plugging it in freezes my computer. Now I have to go back to Velingrad. Lame.
I was in Velingrad today for a church service on health. Of course Loma Linda was mentioned (for any Adventists that might be reading this blog). It seems like any news article (Nat'l Geographic was highlighted exclusively) that talks about longevity has some blurb on Loma Linda. I enjoyed it because the speaker talked up oatmeal - it's health benefits and how it makes a delicious breakfast if you add some dried fruits and honey. I eat it all the time, but people at store look at me like I'm from another planet when I buy it at the store. "What? That's baby food." And I got some commiseration when I shared that people look at me like I'm nuts when I go out running. I'm just trying to be healthy and off-set all the junk I eat, people! Everyone here thinks I'm on a diet or something.
After the church service, my host just assumed that Mitko (one of my kids) and I would want to impose on someone and have lunch. Who knows how long we would have stayed there? Mitko and I raced to catch the bus. (We missed it, and we caught a taxi back.) As I left, I realized I made a mistake. I probably should have stayed and fellowshipped with Velingrad-ski congregants a bit. They're very nice people. In fact, I met a woman from Trud who works with a PCV. It's a small world! I just get frustrated when people assume and try to plan my day for me. It's something God has to work on with me. I especially have little patience with the woman who plays hostess at the church here. Anytime I see her, she's pressuring me to come over to her place and eat. Saying "no" once isn't good enough for her, even when I have a very legitimate excuse (I already have plans. It's 9 pm, and I want to go home.). She has to ask five times and then talk about how great it would be if I just came over, which makes me want to come over even less. She's not a bad person. She's just persistent. And I'm stubborn. If anyone needs changing in this situation, it's me.
I was watching "The Ten Commandments" today, and I was relating it to my experience here in Bulgaria. I'm not saying I'm God or Moses or anything like that. Good heavens, no. It's just unbelievable watching the Israelites witness God's astounding miracles one moment and then acting like He doesn't even exist the next. "Look, God parted the Red Sea! God, who?" In my opinion, many people here know what's needed to make their lives better, and they will admit they know what's needed. They choose, however, to ignore it and avoid taking the steps necessary to make it a slightly happier place to live. Living here in Bulgaria has really made me appreciate how infinitely patient God is with me. God has been more understanding of me than I have ever been of the myriads of people who just don't follow through.
Back in training, my Bulgarian teacher made a parallel between Bulgarians and the Israelites in the wilderness. "It took them forty years and a generation to die out before they were ready for the promised land. Maybe it will take us just as long." It's not my place to judge so much. I just comment on what I perceive - whether it's right or wrong. If it brings me closer to God, I see it as a good thing. And I have a newfound appreciation of God in Bulgaria. He's so patient with me, and it makes me love Him all the more. I fall so short though, even when I'm trying to trust Him. It reminds me of a lyric by "Jars of Clay" that I love: "I hope that you might settle for this love I have for you."
Random question: Why is this blogger site in French now? It's been this way for a couple weeks or so. Or is it just me? Am I just that cool?

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