Thursday, September 06, 2007


It’s a mouthful, I know, but we’ve settled on “Spanglish” as a term to describe the mix of Spanish and English. Now, I’d like your vote for term to best describe the mix between Spanish and Bulgarian. This is what I was speaking yesterday when some Spanish bikers randomly showed up at a bus stop on the way to Velingrad. I heard them jabbering in their distinct Castilian accents, and I immediately asked (in Spanish) what part of Spain they were from. I tried to talk to them a little more, but it was a painful process as my Bulgarian was getting in the way. I told them that my “Bulgarian” was messing up my “Spanish.” Thing is, I forgot to mention that Bulgarian is my third language. I never told them my nationality, and they probably thought I was just some Bulgarian who spoke Spanish rather poorly.
They were exchanging niceties with me, and I kept shaking my head at them (Bulgarian for “yes;” just about everywhere else in the world for “no”). It was also hard to hear them above the rain. They complimented me on my Spanish, but I know how good it can be, and I was getting incredibly frustrated. Every time I’d try to think of a word, the Bulgarian version would pop out. They probably thought I was crazy. One biker stayed behind, and I started talking to him just to keep speaking Spanish. I lamely explained that I had some girls (not my daughters) who study Spanish with me, and I wished they had been there to practice with real Spaniards. He didn’t get why I referred to them as “my girls.” Then I started explaining to him that I wished I could go back to Spain because it was so beautiful there. He pointed to the surrounding areas and said it was pretty amazing here. I agreed, but told him I was tired of living here. I wanted to return to Spain. He looked at me like I was crazy, “I live in Paris.”
On his way out, he said that his girlfriend was from Bulgaria. “Oh, what part?” “Oh, well, she’s actually Turkish, but she lives in Bulgaria.” He asked me if I understood. Oh man, he asked me if I understood. My Spanish must be SUCKING! I barely reacted to the girlfriend comment. I was frustrated with my lack of language ability (now I couldn’t even think in Bulgarian!), the fact that I wouldn’t be able to speak Spanish anymore with him, and that the bus was running late. I don’t have an “on-off switch” in my head: Speak Spanish! Now speak Bulgarian! I would love to have to translate for a Spaniard and a Bulgarian. They’d probably die laughing.
But here’s how the scenario might have played out in their heads if I looked as crazy as I felt, and I love this scenario. It’s awesome.
Scenario: Bulgarian girl waiting for bus stop in the rain. Whoa! She speaks some Spanish. That’s nice. But she says that her Bulgarian is messing with her Spanish. How does your maternal language mess with your foreign language? I’ve never seen that before. Okay, so now she’s talking about her girls, but wait, they’re not her daughters. How are they “her” girls? And now she’s talking about how she wants to go back to Spain. She lives in this paradise, and she’s tired of it here. I tell I live in Paris, and she asks if I speak French. As I’m leaving, I tell her I have a girlfriend, and she looks visibly disappointed. Was she trying to get a relationship/ticket to Spain from a broken conversation in the rain at a bus stop? Psycho!
I love it. If I ever run into them ever again, I’m going to shout in English, “I’m an American!” and then I’m going to go get Maria and Reneta to talk to them in Spanish. Speaking of the Bulgarian language, I learned that they have a special word for “rotten eggs.” My landlords’ son-in-law told me that his son’s diaper smelled like (I forgot the Bulgarian word) and then he explained to me that it meant “rotten eggs.” Leave it to Bulgarians to have a separate word to describe the olfactory pleasures of spoiled poultry products. “No, the adjective with the noun is too much – let’s create a whole, separate word! Additional bonus: it’ll screw with foreigners!” Bulgarians are intensely proud (and they should be) by how rich their language is. It’s so rich, barely anyone speaks it properly. Then again, how many speak English flawlessly? A grammarian would have a field day with my blog!
So, I was in Dupnitsa over the past couple days assisting with Project Design and Management workshops for new volunteers. The first day was relaxed and actually pleasurable. The second day was more of a struggle. Project Design and Management isn’t the most interesting of topics, and it’s kind of intense. Writing projects can be a painful process, and trying to explain how to do it properly won’t always win you fans, but it really depends on your audience. We received good evaluations for both workshops, but the difference in atmosphere was palpable.
Besides work, being in Dupnitsa was fun because I got to hang out with other volunteers whose company I enjoy. We supported each other, went out to eat a lot, and I just liked being out of my town with other Americans. I was at the Peace Corps office yesterday for a while (got stuck ‘cause of rain and sudden lack of taxi cabs), and there were quite a few B18’s (other volunteers from my group) hanging around. I was listless, and being around them wasn’t helping my “feelings of futility.” Some had already COS’d (closed their service), and others were in the stage of COS’ing. I always like running into people in my group, but this time it was just a reminder that they were all “moving on,” while I was “staying behind.” The rain cried the pain I felt. I had little desire to move and return to my site. In fact, I caught a ride with a fairly pleasant conversationalist of a taxi driver who talked to me about how much he hated the Roma. I barely reacted. Former Apryl would have at least tried to get him to admit to having a Roma acquaintance he liked. Current Apryl didn't want to get into it. He tried to get a rise out of me by asking me if I liked "black people." (sigh) Don't even try, buddy.
Now that I’m back in my site, I really can’t describe what I’m feeling. I’ve started counting down the days until I return to the states for special leave (74 days!), and I really don’t want to be counting down the days, but here I am. Lame. Were I COS’ing, I could be going home in four days. I don’t want to think about that. I hope having “cold feet” at this stage is normal.
Today is “Съединение на България” – basically Bulgarian Unification Day. It’s the third I’ve celebrated since being here. I’ll celebrate it a total of four times before I leave. It’s odd to think about. But, for now, I have the day off. We’ll see if I’m going to get tomorrow off as well. We might be doing project writing. Ah, the sweetness of working for an NGO. I can’t take vacation like some other volunteers, and I sit in my town instead. Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine. I’m a bit hungry.
P.S. If you want to see something *interesting* about Bulgarian and Roma relations, go back to this post and see the last comment I just found. I don't even know how to react to it. "Anonymous," if you're still reading my nonsensical blog, I understand that there are problems with the educational system, but I haven't seen anything to support your claims. My Roma friends struggle just as hard (if not harder) to get into university. So, while what you say might be true, I haven't personally seen any evidence to back it up. Plus, if you talk to me and truly know who I am, you realize that I'm not the person to "sympathize" with in such matters. (sigh)

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