Sunday, March 16, 2008

Losing Touch

I feel like I'm losing touch with my community. I don't know. Maybe I was never really that in-touch with them, but I feel like I've lost a lot of contacts - mostly with young people. I have two former volunteers, Tim and Andy who are on this mission through interaction and cultural understanding. They've already been to many countries, and tomorrow they'll be in Bulgaria. Ever since they've been talking about this project, they have wanted to come and do something with me and my kids here in Rakitovo. At the time, it sounded like a great idea. Now I'm thinking, what kids? I feel like I've lost contact with a lot of the young people in my town. And I have no clue what to have them do. Did I mention that they'll be in Bulgaria tomorrow? I feel like this is going to be a huge disaster, and it's my fault. I can just see the blog entries now: "We wanted to go back to Bulgaria to do something with Apryl in her community, but we realize now that Apryl isn't really a part of her community. What is she doing there?"
Yesterday, I celebrated Todorov Den by going and watching horse races on the road between Kostandovo and Dorkovo. There weren't very many participants, but it was mildly interesting. I felt entirely out of place though. Over ninety-percent of the spectators were male, and I realized that I don't talk much to men in my town. I know it's always been hard for me to interact with men, but I still felt completely isolated. I talked to a few people and said "hi" to a few kids I knew, but I felt really exposed for the first time in a long time.
In the end, they called the winners to come up with their horses to receive certificates and feed. One of my favorite boys had told me to follow him and ended up leaving me right where the horses needed to be. I was oblivious, and I wasn't paying attention. Fortunately, a nice lady grabbed my arm and led me out of the way a number of times before a horse a) backed into me or b) kicked me. I think horses are amazing creatures, and I would love to be around them more. Sometimes I'm so taken by their beauty that I can forget that they're also powerful animals.
I mentioned before that the radiators in the center have been fixed. I used them for the first time last Thursday for a class, and they worked like a charm. I was so happy for the warmth that I actually hugged one. We have been plagued by problems with our radiators since the beginning, and I was so ecstatic to have them behave and do what they should.
Speaking of, the first "specialist" is going around town saying that we still owe him 20 leva for the work he did to "fix" the radiators a while back. I saw him today, and my stomach actually turned. His body language indicated that the feeling was mutual. I'm not a confrontational person, but I want to throw 20 leva in his face and tell him all sorts of things that basically boil down to "shut up." He did subpar work that put people in danger and was paid for it. You bet I want to yell at him. It's like paying someone to build you a house, and this person has no clue what they're doing. The house is about to fall in on you, and even though this person needs to fix what they've done, their guarantee is crap 'cause they don't/can't make anything better. And then after they move around one of the sticks that's propping up your roof, they want more money from you. It's ridiculous.
After the radiators were fixed, the center looked like it had been hit by a typhoon. I planned to go and clean up some things today, and to chop some wood. I got to the center to find that Yanko, his girls, and his nieces had already done that. In fact, Yanko had broken his axe from chopping wood. He has more plans for the center, and he was sharing with me about how they'll come to fruition. It's fun when Yanko gets starry-eyed, idealistic, and excited about something. He's like a little kid.
When I got to the center, a woman and her cameraman were interviewing some of my colleagues and acquaintances. Apparently an organization is doing a film project on the Roma and the tradition of marrying young. It was interesting to sit and listen to people talk about their lives, 'cause they were sharing things that I had never had the courage to ask them about. There are a lot of things that I think will be uncomfortable for them to share, or it's none of my business, but they were talking freely in front of the camera. I talked to the woman afterwards, and she has a way with people that I admire. She's interesting, and she gets you to relax and to confide in her like an old friend within the first few minutes of meeting. People like that astound me, and I wish I had that talent.
On a random tangent, I watched the Michael Moore film "Sicko" yesterday. I don't always agree with Michael Moore, but I respect him for being assertive, getting out there to challenge the status quo, and inciting dialogue. He cited a WHO study that placed us at 37th in the world for our system of health care. Later in the film, he took some people to Cuba to have them receive medical care and hailed their system. Cuba was 39th on the WHO list. Something doesn't add up. (By the way, Bulgaria is listed as number 102 out of 191 countries.) Anyway, that documentary made me cry about the saddest situations I'd never even heard of, i.e. people being tossed out on the street and dying from coverage denial, and it made me feel so amazingly grateful that my healthcare here is free. I feel unworthy of it. Almost makes a person want to stick with Peace Corps indefinitely just for the health benefits.
We've been doing project writing in the office as of late, and I'm enjoying it. I feel like I can make a contribution in that sphere - whether it's offering ideas, translating documents, or creating a budget in Excel. The only thing I wish is that I were able to offer avant-garde ideas that would intrigue donors and project beneficiaries, but I don't feel like I have that talent. You would think that, growing up an only child and lacking default playmates, that my imagination would be boundless. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to happen in my case. I keep doing the same things hoping for a different result. Wasn't that the definition of insanity?

1 comment:

Magdalena said...

Ohhh, you shouldn't feel helpless at all! You are a Peace Corps volunteer working in Bulgaria and you are bringing a change!
Don't worry that you are losing touch with your community because it is not true. Bulgarian rural communities can be quite strange but I am sure that they treasure you immensely. They certainly talk about you. I know that from my experience with my grandparents and the old folks in their village. They probably find it hard to speak in English but I am sure that they are mad curious about your life, expectations and impressions. Good luck and have no doubts!