Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"There is a way that may seem right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12
"Vseki edin chovek e prav za sebe si." - This, more or less, means that every person is right in his own eyes. It makes me wonder what's truly the right. Take the teacher's strike that's going on right now. On the one hand, you can identify with the teachers. They should make more money. But then, so should pretty much every laborer in Bulgaria. On the other hand, you wonder who they're really hurting in the long run, so what's the point? Yes, the teachers are still on strike. I wonder how long it will last. I can't imagine educators striking in the states.
And then there are my English classes: people don't seem to understand why I'm not teaching as many classes anymore. I get the feeling they seem to think that's my job or something. I'm not the only act in town. If you really want to learn English or how to work on the computer, there are plenty of other opportunities. Search them out. I'm doing what's right for me, but I don't think people in town necessarily see it that way.
Also, some of you have been asking what my living situation is now-a-days. Have I moved? Have I not moved? Well, the answer is the latter. There have been some problems with remodeling the place I'm supposed to move into, apparently. I finally called the homeowner, a.k.a. the guy who was supposed to be my new landlord, and he rattled on and on about how some contractors lied to him and yadda yadda yadda, and they're not going to do remodeling this year. He suggested I look for another place. Um... yeah, thanks for telling me, buddy. I should have called earlier, but I thought they hadn't given up on it yet, and that they would certainly tell me if they had. I guess I forgot for a second that I live in Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, my current landlords are telling me that they want me to come and visit (of course!) once I do move. They seem to have warmed a bit to the situation, although they still talk about it as though they're baffled as to why I think I would be "more comfortable elsewhere." Milka even said I was welcome to come back and sleep there. That just made me laugh, but it was a nice thing to say.
In general, things have been going pretty well recently. I went on a hike to the Seven Lakes in the Rila mountains this past weekend. I've been wanting to go back there ever since I went the first time during training, and we couldn't see anything because of the fog. I was worried the same might happen this time, but the weather was pretty perfect. I almost didn't go. My colleagues decided to work during the weekend, and I felt like I needed to stay with them. Fortunately, Yanko insisted that I go.

I am definitely out of shape, and I have a habit of overpacking, but I absolutely hate being cold and being unable to do anything about it. One minute, I'd be wearing four layers, the next I'd be peeling them off of my sweaty body. About 50 of us went. It was a trip scheduled for the new trainees, and pretty much all of them went. That was impressive.
I had a good time talking to the new trainees (B-22s) and hanging out with them, but I found that I sometimes had a hard time keeping the conversation going. I have often said that I'm an extrovert trapped in an introvert's body. Sometimes I just don't know how to connect with people. Maybe that comes from being an only child. I find that I can connect relatively well with currently-serving volunteers. There were a bunch of B-20s there, and I enjoyed talking with them as well. It makes me think that I'm better able to communicate with people who have been in Bulgaria a while - as opposed to those who are "fresh off the plane" from America. So, imagine my fear, reader, when I come back to the states and try to reconnect with you. Expect long silences and an Apryl who seems withdrawn. I just might not know what to say.
So, we saw all seven lakes, and we hiked to the top of a mountain with spectacular views. I sat forever and looked down into the clouds below me - watching mountain peaks and lakes appear and disappear in the haze. One could also see a rainbow in it all. Fantastic. That night, most of us got together for a few drinks and some dancing. It was great to see the repoire of the new group. They seem to get along well and to be very inclusive. Our group (B-18) was great, but I wouldn't have called it an inclusive group. I like being around the new trainees. They give me newfound enthusiasm for volunteer work, and I'm starting to feel better about my decision to stay for a third year. It's still hard watching my group leave though. Just about every day, someone trickles out and says "Сбогом." (Farewell.)
The next day, we hiked down and stopped by a waterfall. So, yeah, it was a great trip, but it made me nostalgic for the time when I went with the B-18s during our training. Also, the CD (Country Director) made an announcement today that it's the last hike of its kind that's going to be happening during training. Peace Corps doesn't want the liability of having 50+ volunteers together in the mountains without supervision. It's lame, but I also wouldn't want to be the person making such decisions. There was an incident the first night, and a trainee was sent back to the states because of it. I don't always agree with Peace Corps, but I can see where they're coming from. In the end, they make up an organization that can't handle public relations nightmares. Peace Corps can't risk bad publicity.
So, I returned to my site tired and worn out - for one day. I helped with some project writing, put up some posters for our "European Year of Equal Opportunities for All" Fair (which is happening tomorrow!), and I taught an English class. Yesterday, I got up early and caught four different buses for a four hour trip to Bobov Dol - a training site. I was there to assist the trainees with their youth meeting. I got there early, so I went and had lunch at one of the girls' houses with three of the four trainees. Afterwards, they showed me three glorious pools that drew crowds in their heyday. Trees and stagnant water now occupied them, but people in town talk about how awesome they once were. The trainees wished they could do a project to restore the pools.
After the small tour, we walked to the school and gleaned project ideas from a solid group of young people. The trainees soon had me in charge of writing, in Bulgarian, the project ideas up on the board. After a long discussion, the trainees were able to reach a consensus with the kids: they'll be cleaning up and restoring a local play area.
After the session, I debriefed with the trainees. I really like the group in Bobov Dol. They're pretty laid back, and they're pleasant even when they're stressed out. I hung out with them for a while, and then I went with a few of them over to the project site in question. I can say this: It has nowhere to go but... better.
I returned to Dupnitsa for the night and got Chinese food (another ethnic food I can't wait to eat in the states) with another volunteer. I was exhausted by the time I went to bed.
Random question: You're the manager of a hotel, and your guests (not Apryl!) leave blood stains on the mattress. What's your plan of action? It's obviously going to gross out your other guests. Yeah. Blood stains. Eww.
This morning, I got up to help out with a Tolerance Session. I had helped with the session last year, but it was in a different format. Another volunteer and I had a wealth of activities for the trainees to do. They were constantly moving last year. This year, they had a panel made up of two Bulgarian counterparts and myself, and they wanted me to talk about gender tolerance and my work with women. I know. I'm just as confused as you are. My work with women? Okay, so I told the technical trainer (my friend, Anna) that I would basically BS it.
Fortunately, I was the last to go, and I was the only one who didn't need translation. I had a lot of nervous energy, and so I tried to calm myself down by standing up (which the trainees did with me) and getting them to laugh - which they thankfully did and were pretty responsive to me. Their smiles of encouragement and recognition (both when I was initially introduced and when I talked) made it that much easier. So I talked about baseball. I talked about the girls' volleyball camp we had over the summer. I talked about English classes and other classes. I tried to share ideas with them on how to get females involved in whatever you're doing. Afterwards, I was told I did a good job, and they said it was helpful. I hope it was.
So, here I am to remind you, once again, how small the world really is: One of the trainees is familiar with the Carmichael area of Sacramento. I told her that I went to school there, and I gave her the street intersection. "Oh, I know where that is," she said. "Isn't that an Adventist school?" I told her to stop freaking me out, and she just laughed. She has family in the area.
Also, one of the trainees in Bobov Dol attended Andrews University - again, for all you Adventists. He had some friends who went to La Sierra University (where I attended), and he's Adventist. We talked about the decision to join Peace Corps vs. ADRA and discussed a few other things only we would understand. Crazy. The world is one heck of a tiny place.
So, tomorrow is the fair that we've been planning for quite some time. I hope people show up. The program has been trimmed slightly because any teachers that are leading dancing/singing/acting groups are on strike and might be too busy refusing to work to let their kids participate. Otherwise, we have pensioners and disabled persons participating. It's going to be one heck of a show. I hope people show up. I don't think it has been well-advertised. I'm planning on standing out in front of the "chitalishte" (cultural center) tomorrow in a special t-shirt while handing out brochures and balloons. I'll also be taking pictures, since I seem to be Future Foundation's designated photographer. I hope it goes well. Of course, I will be letting you all know.
I do like the theme of the campaign though. As I mentioned before, it's the "European Year of Equal Opportunities for All," and C.E.G.A. has come up with a campaign slogan: "Put Yourself in My Place" They have a brochure that explains that no one chooses their ethnicity, abilities and talents, sexual orientation, social status, etc. "Many times we ask children what they want to be when they grow up - a lawyer? a doctor? an astronaut? Have you ever heard anyone say they want to grow up to be Roma? a beggar?" What cracks me up is they go on to talk about smokers and vegetarians. Of course, there are still choices in life. But, yeah! Don't discriminate against us vegetarians... or rather, pseudo-vegetarians!

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