Friday, August 03, 2007

Act + React

I don't really want to document my week at the beach in Ravda. The place we stayed was pretty pathetic (What do you want for 100 leva (about $60)) for a place to sleep + food for a week? Plus, they were about to sell the place to another investor to build yet another hotel. When my colleagues complained, the manager of the place pointed to a nicer hotel across the way. "You want rest and relaxation? There. Go there."). The food left quite a bit to be desired (They're feeding about three hundred people, and in shifts. Again, what do you want for how much you paid?). None of us ate as much as we would have liked. BUT! The base was literally right next to the beach. That was its one redeeming quality. I spent a good amount of time on the beach, and I went to neighboring Nessebar a few times. The picture above is of a c. 5th century church at night. I'll have to post more pictures. I LOVE the old town. I witnessed a harvest moon the last night I was there, and I only wish the camera could have captured it appropriately.
I'm going off on a tangent. I don't want to document my week 'cause it was a mess of arguments punctuated by a few bright spots.
Bright spots:
1. Going out a couple evenings with Katia. Drinks and bumper cars = good times.
2. Bungee trampoline. Looking down at a crowd watching me do flips = good times.
3. Nessebar. Nessebar = good times.
4. The beach. Fairly clean beach = good times.
5. Town praznik (holiday). Crowd doing the horo/beer & french fries/talking to Dad = good times.
Here are the things I learned from the week:
1. Going on vacation with colleagues is a mistake. Part of the reason you go on vacation is to get away from them - even if you love them.
2. The fact that my body refuses to tan will always be of paramount interest and confusion to people who easily darken.
And the BIG FACT I learned from the week is:
3. How you react to stressful situations speaks volumes about your character.
I guess it's kind of something a person already knows in the back of their head, but this week really pounded it into mine. We had some incidents that were yes, stressful, but were exacerbated to astronomical proportions because of how someone decided to react to them. Just to avoid conflict, I played the role of the deaf/dumb girl who fades into the background. It's not a characteristic I like in myself, but I don't see the point in bickering with people over a grain of salt either.
Several things happened throughout the week. I had an incident where I took a couple girls to a carnival ride and forgot to tell someone where we were going. Yes, I made a mistake. My colleague hit the ceiling. She started yelling in general, and then she laid into me. It was like it was the end of the world. Things just got worse from there. I take responsibility for my mistake. I don't take responsibility for how she reacted or what happened afterwards due to her reaction.
The ride home was like the icing on the cake. Six of us had an issue with our train tickets and were almost kicked off the train. We were allowed to stay on in the end, but relationships were damaged - maybe irreparably. One of my colleagues says she's going to finish the month and look for other work. It's a statement that's been said before. Even I start to think, "I'll just be here until X date, and then...?" I don't know. I made a commitment, but I didn't commit to drama and infighting. How can we be effective if we're constantly nipping at each other?
Anyway, let's move on. Shall we? Not much is going on at the office (thankfully), and Apryl is taking it as it comes. I'm enjoying the downtime and entering a relaxed state of mind. This is better than stressing about what an "unproductive volunteer" I am - like I was doing last summer.
I'm here at the Peace Corps office now. The cough I complained about in my last post just wouldn't go away. The doctor checked me out and had me breathe in a meter-sort of thing to make sure I don't have asthma. I think I did pretty well with that, so we can rule out that sort of inflammation of the airways. Over the phone, she was hypothesizing about a virus that's been exacerbated by allergies. Now she thinks it might be bronchitis. I had to go over and get chest x-rays taken. It was a relatively painless experience, but being in Bulgarian medical buildings unnerves the "I'm American and I'm used to my definition of 'sterile environment'" part of me - even though I'm sure it's just as sterile. It's all very concrete, and there's not much around.
As long as they're not saying that it's due to something cold I drank, or the fact that I've come in contact with cold water. Have I "diatribed" about this before? Okay, so everyone has wives' tales and superstitions about the origins of illnesses and a host of other things that can be traced back to cultural histories, etc. In Bulgaria, it's always due to something cold. "You have a runny nose now? Well, remember when you drank that soda with ice the other day? That's what it's from! Your kidneys are bothering you? I told you not to drink that cold water while you were sitting next to that open window!" And I just kind of blink at them because, yes, we have our own notions for tracing the origins of illnesses back in the states, but I have NEVER heard the "cold soda" theory. We had some girls get sick at the beach. One was throwing up. The doctor there asked her if she had taken a cold shower the day before. Yes, she had. "That's it!" Nevermind that we're staying a base where germs and questionable food and water are rampant. Those, of course, cannot be factors. When I told my colleague that my cough had become worse since we'd come back from Ravda, she explained that it was due to the climate change.
The thing is, I almost believe her. I mean, why not? It makes perfect sense. I went from a low elevation to a higher one, and my system just couldn't take it. I mean, hey, maybe the air changed. What do I know? I'm not a doctor. And yet the doctors and nurses here will tell you the craziest things. That's why I love having our own Peace Corps doctors who actually examine you (did I mention the story about the Rakitovo doctor who signed of that I was healthy just by looking at me and asking if I had any health problems?) and take time to review your history. I was asked by my colleagues the other day why I didn't have a doctor in Rakitovo. There are, of course, a host of reasons that I was uncomfortable sharing, but I explained that my healthcare was fully covered (Hallelujah! Thank you U.S. government that currently has HUGE problems with the healthcare system but covers most of my health issues) and they have my entire patient history. They weren't fully satisfied with that answer, and they tried to give me a wealth of proven, Bulgarian remedies to tide me over until I could get to Sofia. It's interesting to me. Wouldn't they prefer getting their healthcare in Sofia if they could? Wouldn't they prefer state-side techniques? Maybe that's just my bias. They complain quite a bit about the healthcare system and the hospital environment where they live - and rightfully so, but maybe they're actually satisfied customers.
Enough about that. I got the results back from my latest LPI (Language Proficiency Interview), and I'm right up there under the highest level possible. Thing is, I just barely squeaked into that level because, right after my test, they had an LPI reassessment and the levels have gotten more difficult. I agree that they should be more difficult. If you are going to say that I have a "Superior" level of the Bulgarian language, then I should be able to expound on abstract theories about what experts say will bring about the destruction of the world, etc. I can't exactly do that in my "packaged" Bulgarian. The PC language coordinator said that my grammar is pretty flawless (kudos to me as Bulgarian grammar is a nightmare - even for Bulgarians), but I don't speak well outside of a first-person point of view. So yeah, I'm grateful for my "Advanced-High" level at the moment.
My problem with languages, however, is that I get to a good point where I can talk about just about anything. I have my basic vocabulary, and everyone says I speak amazing Bulgarian. This is the point where a person really has to stretch themselves to become a native speaker. This is the point where Apryl gets lazy. I did it with Spanish. I'm doing it with Bulgarian. I'll do it with any other language I learn. I don't know if a person can get a job as an interpreter with such a characteristic. (sigh) I'm going to have to push myself - and make my tutor push me as well.
Okay, well, I've just been summoned back up to the medical office to hear the results of my x-rays. I'm whispering a prayer that everything will be all right.

1 comment:

Peregrine said...

Good for people to know.