Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Home"

(...and other items in quotation marks....)
So, I'm "home" from being "home." Let me say, first of all, that I'm so incredibly blessed. Yes, I make my "home" in two places. I like to think that I'm one of those "trend-setters" that have a home in California and in Eastern Europe. I'm trendy. I'm cool. I'm a "rich American."
I had a wonderful time in the states. So wonderful, in fact, that I do consider it my true home. If home is where you can feel that people love you... that people understand you... that people truly want to be with you... that things make sense on a level that is inexplicable... then yes, California is my home. It was a little disconcerting, and yet amazingly comforting, to come to this realization.
Before I went, I told myself that I would experience reverse-culture shock. I thought that I was so ingrained in Bulgaria that the states would be a pretty foreign place. Well, there were some things that struck me as odd, yes, but the most unexpected thing was realizing how easy it was for me to slip back into my "American" skin. Maybe I had never left it. It was hard in a way because I wanted that feeling of "otherness." Wasn't I a different person? Hadn't I changed? Wasn't I a little "Bulgarian?" I'm not going to worry about it too much. Maybe it was because I knew I wasn't staying for a long period of time and I would be back here. Maybe it was because I wasn't back there looking to jump into the next "stage" of my life. Whatever it was, adjusting for the "real deal" come the end of this year might not be too hard. I think the only thing that threw me was constantly stabbing myself with light switches in the beginning of my visit.
I do have to get some things off my chest about America though. I complain at times about Bulgaria. It's only fair that I talk about America's faults before I sing its praises. And believe me, I'm about to sing its praises. Okay, America. You are fat. I'm sorry, but my eyes are so used to seeing skinny Bulgarians everywhere I go. Seeing people take up so much space in the O'Hare Airport was shocking to the eyes. It's our lifestyle, and we are fat. Kudos to my Grandma Gibson for working so hard to go against the tide. You are awesome.
My next complaint is that people need to learn to speak English properly! Learn less vs. fewer! "Lifes" isn't a word! I propose we all go back and take some English classes. I want to, too. 'Cause my blog is not a shining beacon of proper language skills either. English is a forgiving language, but there are rules, people. Speak like the educated person you are!
Oh, and not many people really asked about Bulgaria. It's not like I really wanted to talk about it. I don't know why. That was my fault. I got all the way home and didn't really want to get into the last two years. That was weird, but it was just my own thing. People who read this blog are genuinely appreciated. It's long, but like I say, it helps me "process" my experience. I got to the states, and I didn't really want to talk about it. But then, people didn't really ask. It was a win-win in the end, but I think people should have an interest in knowing what Bulgaria is like beyond the "Oh yeah, that's where you live," and maybe another couple predictable questions. Bulgarians constantly push me to tell them about the states. Extra kudos to the very few people who pushed me to talk about Bulgaria.
Okay, well, I think that ends my list of complaints. Hahaha. I love the states. I have some amazing family and friends there. It all started when I got to the airport in Sacramento. I had an astounding entourage waiting for me. Some people had come from very far away just to see me for a few minutes/couple hours. I was so touched. I felt like a rockstar - all those awesome people I love cheering for me. It was more than a girl could ask for. And then, some were willing to wait while I got a shower, so we could go get some coveted Mexican food. Oh, that long-awaited burrito was so yummy. It was soon followed by many others.



So, I had an amazing time at home. I saw people I love, and that was important to me. I went to my Grandma Daugherty's for Thanksgiving. I went to the Bay Area for a girls' weekend. I went spelunking in some awesome caves up at Lava Beds National Monument. I camped in snow. I saw a fascinating exhibit on the human body... and even had it affect me to the point of dizziness. That's an interesting story. Basically, I was reading about how the inner ear maintains equilibrium, and I almost fell over. Scary. Fortunately, it was just that one time. I had friends visit me from the Bay Area. Two friends came all the way up from Southern California to see me. My dad came over from Hawai'i. We took a trip to Monterey. We walked along the beach at Carmel and went to the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. I saw the Golden Gate twice! I celebrated a friend's 30th birthday. I baked cookies and a bunch of other goodies with my Grandma Gibson. I went shopping. I was sent a nice phone to use in Bulgaria. I was offered a new laptop, but took a computer upgrade instead (which may prove to be a mistake)! I spent a lot of money. I saw a movie and had lunch with my mom. I spent Christmas with both sets of grandparents. I celebrated the New Year with family for a change. I literally ran into old friends.
Basically, I had a lot of fun. People went out of their way to see me and catch up. I didn't realize how much that would mean to me. It was as if I hadn't missed out on anything these last two years. I didn't feel the least bit excluded or "out of the loop." My friends and family are amazing. I think, during those six weeks, I only spent one full day at home... and that was because I chose it that way. Otherwise, people were always looking to take me out to eat or invite me to do something. I don't think I've been out to eat so much in my whole life! I definitely gained weight, but I was hoping that would happen. It's America. It wasn't much of a surprise that I gained weight.
I realize that we really are quite wealthy. I write a lot in my blog about the stereotype of the "wealthy American," but stereotypes exist for a reason. I felt like there was a lot of wealth in the places I was spending my time. I didn't feel odd about it though. I thought I would, but I realized how exceedingly generous people are with their wealth, and that made me feel blessed. So, I had a blast in California, and I want to thank each and every one of you for making it happen. I'm spoiled! Literally, everyone should have an experience such as mine: Six weeks where people are itching to see you, and you don't have to work. You just get to go out and be with people you love. I feel so incredibly blessed. Did I say that already?
So, I'm back in Bulgaria. The flight back was uneventful. I met a nice girl who's studying in Munich. I was actually able to do some dozing. Once back in Bulgaria, I treated myself to a hotel room. I just wanted to shower and crash out in my own space. I got back to Rakitovo late yesterday afternoon. A student of mine helped me cart my luggage onto the bus and then to my apartment. My landlady left for Canada a few days ago, and she will be there until March or April. Fortunately, there's a very nice woman who will be coming by in the evenings to water her plants and heat her living room... basically take care of the place. She had turned my boiler on, and it was working. Unfortunately, a couple of my pipes were already frozen, and I think the boiler is no longer working. Needless to say, this is disheartening. The world is a beautiful white, and I walk in designated areas to get around, but I'm cold. I wish I could lie and say it's not so bad, but.... Well, my pipes are frozen. I have two heaters heating my room, but the rest of my house is really chilly - I mean, my pipes are frozen. Did I mention that my pipes are frozen? And I can't shower? And I have no hot water? And... and... (sniffle).
I went to Yanko and Ani's last night. Maria and Reneta were surprised and attacked me with hugs as I came in. Yanko and Ani showed up later, after I had been dozing a bit. They were excited to see me. Yanko was saying he had wanted me to come back earlier. I presented them with a bunch of gifts and the American jeans they had wanted. Fortunately, the jeans seem to fit. Well, Yanko's needs some washing for shrinking purposes, but Ani's had better not shrink. They seemed happy with them. Yanko pored over a map of California for quite some time - looking for everything. And they all looked through the picture book of California that I gave them.
Tonight, I'll try and see if my former landlords are available for a visit. Anything to get out of my house. Did I mention that I have to find a way to unfreeze my pipes?
Oh, and apparently we've had some damage to the radiators in the Educational Center - again an issue of water freezing in pipes. I don't even want to know what that's going to take to fix. I guess I will have to find another place to hold my classes.
It will work out. God takes care of me always, and while I know this year is going to be a struggle, I chose it. I hope I grow because of it. I want to see some change, darn it! And even if those things aren't granted, I will be home before the end of this year.

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