Monday, May 05, 2008

A Novel Post

I've been wanting to post, but I've been feeling tired recently, and I just haven't had the desire to write 'cause I know I have a lot to share. First of all, Veska, Angel's sister, is okay. I went to see her a little over a week ago, and she was sleeping quite a bit. She had a scarf around her head to cover her injury, but there was something calm and peaceful about her, and she looked beautiful. Angel had told me that she was struggling to remember some things, and it was hard to carry on a comprehensible conversation with her. Part of me wondered if she would remember me. When she stirred, Angel said, "Hey, look who came to see you." She looked at me and broke into a big smile, "Apryl!" The rest of our conversation was wandering and philisophical. She soon laid down to sleep again, and when I looked at Angel, he had tears in his eyes. Honestly, it could have been much worse. In fact, it might have been worse if she hadn't gotten in the accident, but I'm not at liberty to elaborate here. God knows what He's doing. I'm glad my friend is alive and safe at home.
Last weekend was Easter according to the Orthodox tradition. I went to my host family's place in Trud because Easter also happens to coincide with my "sister's" name day, and she invited me. My family didn't know that I was coming, and I felt awkward when they were surprised by my presence. "So what? Big deal!" said my "mom." I still can't get used to this "it's-no-big-deal-that-you-dropped-in-for-the-weekend-unannounced" mentality. It's absolutely fabulous. I still appreciate having notice, though.
At midnight on Easter Sunday, I met the volunteer in Trud for a ceremony at the local church. It was interesting in the fact that there was very little that was solemn or sacred about it. There were a lot of young people with candles there, but they seemed to have little interest in listening to what the priest was saying or the solemnity of the event. They were talking to friends, talking on their cell phones, or laughing throughout the priest's speech. I don't understand that. Here we're celebrating the most glorious event on the Christian calendar, and there's no reverence. One thing that's great about Orthodox ceremonies is that the priest spends a lot of time singing blessings and prayers. It's beautiful. I admire the priests' stamina.
I loved hanging out with my "sister" and catching up with old friends from Trud. I'm always so well-taken care of when I go to Trud, and my "sister" spoils me. She even cut my hair for me. It's so shaggy and disarrayed, that I love it. I had to beg her to cut it a bit. She refuses to let any of the longer layers go up past my chin. She's the most infuriating and yet most wonderful hairdresser I've ever had.
A lot of people have had this last week off from work. Between the Monday after Easter, Labor Day (May 1st), and St. George's Day/Day of the Bulgrian Army (May 6th), a lot of people have just decided to take off all the days in-between as well. I was given the Monday after Easter off, but we've been at work ever since. We have projects to write and deadlines to meet. I can't complain too much. It's due to some politics in the office that's really not worth elaborating on. Let's just say that, after taxes, my boss receives about 100 leva (about 79 leva a month). That's ridiculous. I have never heard of such a pittance for the director of a 11-year foundation. So, we're trying to expand the operations a little and also get him a decent salary.
My friend, Andy, came back and visited me last week. I felt badly 'cause I couldn't spend much time with him - between project writing and all - but we had a good time together... having a picnic, going out, cooking dinner, and watching a movie. I don't know when I'll get to see him again, and it's kind of sad that way. I guess that's what you get when you choose to explore the great wide world. You can't keep everyone you care about around you at all times.
This last Saturday, I was invited to an Irish/Bulgarian wedding. It was quite the experience. The mother-of-the-bride is an English student of mine, and she asked me to do some interpreting. I've run into the bride on a few occasions, and I happened to meet her and her now-husband at a bar in Rakitovo on St. Patrick's Day over two years ago. I really think they're great, but I just haven't had the opportunity to hang out with them much.
Interpreting was extremely difficult for me though. It's because I lack self-confidence, and I'm not good at official ceremonies. I love interpreting in casual situations, but I need concrete details when I interpret for official occasions - otherwise I stress myself out to the point of non-function. It's not anyone's fault but my own, but I have a hard time interpreting for something official at the last moment, and I have a hard time saying "no."
So, Bulgarian weddings are a crazy, awesome sort of event that I've had the privilege of attending once in full before. Over a couple of years ago, my host-brother got married. What a whirlwhind that was. For this occasion on Saturday, I had been told that I would be attending the official, document-signing part of the ceremony. They wanted me to stand with the groom's relatives/friends and casually inform them of what was being said during the ceremony. I was assured I wouldn't have to stand in front... and I didn't. I just felt awkward 'cause I was trying to be loud enough to be heard by the Irish without interfering with the actual ceremony. The mother-of-the-bride was trying to get me to speak up, but I felt so incredibly awkward. Plus, I felt bad 'cause I was blocking out on a lot of the vocabulary. Not only was some of it specific to the occasion, but nervousness was causing my brain not to function.
That part of the ceremony went all right. I got through it, and I hope at least a few of the Irish around me heard me and understood what I was trying to say. Whew! What a relief! I had been invited to the rest of the wedding, but I felt awkward staying. I only knew a few people there, and I wasn't into trying to distract the Irish from the event just to talk to me. I tried dealing with it for a few minutes, but didn't see my place in it all, and I informed the mother-of-the-bride that I would be going home. She started to beg me to stay, and I felt so awkward that she was turning her attention to me when she should be thinking about her gorgeous daughter and the event-at-hand, that I told her I would stay. She figured I was lying, and I assured her that I wasn't. I was in for the night.
I walked to the church, and I ran into Milka (my former landlady) and her family. The people nearby had turned out to see the what was going on. Many times I was asked to point out the groom. People here are terribly curious. It was interesting. Who am I to blame them? I just felt more comfortable standing in the crowd. On my way into the church, I found one of my babas in town. She's my former neighbor, and she has always greeted me with the most beautiful smile. I grabbed her by the hand, and we went into the church together. We were one of the last to get in, and we were just about to take in the ceremony when I heard my name running through the crowd and everyone was turning to face me. The mother-of-the-bride was rushing up to me to ask that I interpret for the groom. A look of fear must have crossed my face 'cause she said, "Just go up there and tell him what to do whenn the priest gives him instructions." I went up, but I felt like running away. I felt my mind freezing up and, literally, all the Bulgarian words I know were marching out of my head, one-by-one. I couldn't stop the thought of "I'm going to ruin this wedding" from running through my entire being. Meh. I hate that about myself. "I'm competent! I speak Bulgarian! I can do this!" My mind and body never believe what I'm trying to tell them.
It was so incredibly awkward. There we were, all in front and facing the priest. Traditionally, the bride and groom stand in the aisle in front of the priest. The maid-of-honor and best man stand directly behind them. The rest of the audience takes their places a bit away from the foursome, but there I was... standing right next to the groom. Few other times in my life have I wished for the superpower of invisibility. A cameraman was standing behind the priest, and I can just imagine that he got me there as well - looking like I'd swallowed a thousand flies. The groom assured me that I was fine. I was simultaneously trying to give him instructions in his ear while attempting to stand as far away from him as possible. In hindsight, I wish I had told him more of what the priest was saying in the blessing part of the ceremony (I actually understood most of what he was singing!), but I had been informed that I should let him know what to do when he had to do it, and I was focused on that - successfully blocking most of it out as well. I honestly don't know how useful I was. I almost felt like I hindered the process.
The traditional Orthodox wedding ceremony is absolutely beautiful in the rites sense. I tried to enjoy it. I think it was obvious that I wanted to run away though.
After the ceremony, I found the baba and grabbed her hand. "You stay with me," I said. We went outside, and I was approached by a nephew of the groom. "You looked more nervous than the bride and groom!" he said. Great. I was hoping I had gone unnoticed. Wasn't I wearing my invisibility cloak? He said, "You must have studied from a young age at an English Academy," after I spoke to him for a second. I smiled before I was heared off into a taxi, "I'm American." His shock was obvious. "I'll see you at the reception," I said as I walked away.
We went to Velingrad for the reception, and I happened to be in a taxi with the mother-of-the-groom and her brother. They also figured I was Bulgarian. It's interesting: foreigners guess I'm Irish because of the freckles and the blue eyes. The Irish figured I was Bulgarian. I felt like the mysterious wild-card. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't stressing out so much about my performance.
Things got better at the reception - probably because there was alcohol, and some sweet Bulgarians took me under their wing. Okay, so, I've averted alcohol most of my life. I know "wine is a mocker," and I believe it. That being said, I am a fan of having a little alcohol in the blood. It really takes the edge off. Inhibitions can be a good thing, but mine paralyze me. A little alcohol loosens me up to the point of functioning normally in social situations. It's not just me. Others loosen up and become more approachable as well. I find I understand why people drink.
I did have to do some more interpreting in the beginning. Traditionally, the mother of the groom feeds the wedding party some bread, first with honey and then with salt. This symbolizes the sweet and bitter times in marriage. Hopefully the sweet moments outnumber the bitter. I was trying to explain this to the mother, but she already seemed to know what to do. I had been pushed up in front to try and help in the situation, but I just felt awkward - once again in front of the crowd - feeling like I would give anything for an invisibility cloak. Where should I stand? What should I be interpreting? Where are all my superpowers?
The reception was so nuts and fun. Again, it got more interesting as people drank more. More people came out on the dance floor, and there was more conversation taking place all over the restaurant. I happened to sit next to a couple of my English students, and I was happy to be able to sit with poeple I could talk to. And I danced. Man, did I dance. I think I spent more time away from my chair than in it - 'cause I was constantly on the dance floor. What can I say? With or without alcohol, I love to dance. I danced Bulgarian horos, I danced to classic rock, I danced to the "YMCA." I danced like my high heels were sneakers. I danced so much, my feet and hips still hurt. Good gravy. I felt liberated. I was done with interpretation for the night (except for casual conversations between some of the Irish and the Buglarians I knew), and I had survived.
About three-fourths through the evening, when everyone was feeling good, the bride asked me to come and interpret a speech. I agreed, "But wait. Is it from Bulgarian to English or English to Bulgarian?" "Well, one of the Irish want to say something, so it'll be from English to Bulgarian." Oh man. I actually find it almost easier that way in a sense. I mean, yeah, what I'll be saying will be broken down and grammatically pathetic, but at least I'll be sure that I understand everything that's being said, and I won't have to ask him to repeat it or make something up to fill in the gaps. Plus, I won't fumble with the choice of words, because one Bulgarian synonym has always been good enough for me.
A few minutes later, a brother-in-law of the groom came up. He launched into a speech thanking everyone for their hospitality, and he went on for quite some time. Finally, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if I could interpret. I made it through all right for practically the whole speech. The cameraman was recording, the photographer was snapping, and the Bulgarian crowd was going wild because the man was saying such wonderful things about Bulgaria - the country and the people. It really was a great speech. In the end, he mentioned a cane that he was holding - a gift from the father-of-the-bride when he had fallen recently and injured his leg. He said that he hoped, one day, to return it to him when the father-of-the-bride came to visit him in Ireland. Unfortunately, the word for "return" and another Bulgarian word are very similar - at least in my mind. I interpreted that he would "throw it up" when the father-of-the-bride came back to Ireland. Right away, I realized what I had said, but I couldn't catch myself. I had lost the word "return." Good gravy. People must have noticed, but there wasn't a reaction. The speech was done. I turned red and ran back to my seat. I laugh about it. I hope the bride can laugh about it when she watches her wedding video. Who was under the assumption that I speak Bulgarian well? Sheesh. Fun times. I'm sure I screwed other things up, too, but no one said anything to me. I got the feeling that I was getting the cold shoulder from the bride, but that might have just been my imagination. If I screwed anything up, I hope she remembers that it was her day, and I'm really not that important in the scheme of the event. The groom and the Irish repeatedly thanked me for interpreting. I felt awkward accepting their thanks.
The rest of the night was fun. I spent a portion of it talking to and dancing with the Irish guy who told me earlier that I looked incredibly nervous. I got to talk more with the groom's family, and I absolutely loved them. Late in the evening, the rest of my table decided to leave, and they offered me a ride. I decided to stay. I was sitting alone - perfectly happy with where I was - when I was called over to a table where my Bulgarian peers were sitting. I ended up sitting next to one of the municipal council members from our local government, and we had a good conversation. I'd seen him around and always kind of wanted to talk to him to see what he thought about some things. Like I said, he's near my age, and we had a good conversation about government, helping people, and our outlook on the world. We differ in our views - especially on the importance of money when it comes to actually helping someone - but I think he respected where I was coming from as I respected what he was saying. He figures I'll see things from his point of view soon enough, but I actually hope I never do, 'cause I'll lose a part of me that I value - the part of me that's secure enough in my financial situation to allow me to ignorantly believe that the world doesn't run on money.
I was glad I had stayed. In spite of feeling like I hadn't done a great job with my whole reason for being there in the first place, I met some really great people - both Irish and Bulgarian. They were really great to me. Plus, seeing Bulgaria through the eyes of the Irish reminded me just how great it can be here. I sometimes (okay, pretty often), get so bogged down in my own issues that I forget how much fun the whole experience can be. It's great meeting new people and seeing Bulgaria through the eyes of someone who is fascinated by the newness of it all. I kept telling people that it was a great cultural experience for me. It was. When will I ever get another chance to go to a Bulgarian wedding with Irish participants?
The party ended at the restaurant, and I was given the choice of either going home or going to the nightclub. I was urged to go to the nightclub, and I decided to check it out. The night was basically over. We were all exhausted by the time we got to the club, and I didn't do any dancing there. I sat down with three, teenage, Irish girls, and we tried to stay awake. By the end of it, the Irish were saying that we'd have to meet up again and hang out. I don't know if that's going to happen, but now I know that Irish can be just as hospitable as Bulgarians.
Basically, I'm in awe. I wasn't going to stay 'cause I felt so awkward, but I made it through - maybe not with an invisibility cloak, but at least with the help of a little bit of liquor. My performance could have been better, but at least I wasn't getting paid for my services. I know it's a wedding and it's a big deal, but if it had really been that big of a deal, they could have hired a professional interpreter. Their use of me says that they have confidence in my abilities, but I wonder why it is that I can't have a bit more self-confidence.
And this is the thing that gets me: I want to be an interpreter. I love it. I want to speak in front of crowds and interpret. I even want to do it for official events. So why do I want to do something that paralyzes me so? Maybe it's a quality Georgia O'Keefe referred to once, "I'm frightened all the time... scared to death. But I've never let it stop me. Never!" Maybe it's something I do in the hope that I will one day become the person I've always imagined me to be: confident, assertive, self-assured, so positive on my views that I'm not so wishy-washy, devil-may-care attitude about what others think of me. I am not this person yet. It seems like I always take one step toward her followed by two steps back. I feel like I'm defeated by this process, and I rarely get anywhere, but how will I ever become this vision of me if I don't face my fears? Or maybe it's just me and my inability to say know. My desire to please people outweighs my fear. But, in my vision of me, I'm not a people-pleaser. I aspire to accept criticism gracefully, and deal with the fact that, to be successful, at least someone has to dislike me. I can't please everyone. That's a sure-fire way to fail.
I did tell someone "no" recently. There's a guy who works at a cafe near my office who asked me to translate a 297-page document on the history of coins in the region. There was no way that was going to happen. Nevermind that the sheer volume of pages was incomprehensible, my English vocabulary barely covers my understanding of coinage history. He still acknowledges me. I'm impressed. I've told others "no" before and they've looked at me like I've just killed their dog. Some refuse to acknowledge my presence after I stand up for myself. Whatever. I'm working on being a person some people don't particularly care for.
Meanwhile, I'll keep going on with my week that seems to be half vacation - half work. I went to my English class today, and none of my students showed up. The sun was shining, but I got caught out in the rain. I could do nothing but laugh. I felt fantastic. My life is sometimes so ridiculous that hilarity overwhelms me and I feel like dancing in the rain. My grandma has always said that when the sun shines and rain falls, "The Devil is beating his wife." Here they say that "the bears and the foxes are marrying." Also, they have the saying "it's raining buckets," but the thought of it "raining cats and dogs" is funny to them. I can't blame them. It's funny to me.
It's time for a random thought about something I like about the Bulgarian language: Even when someone is talking directly to you, they'll say your name in the middle of the sentence, as if calling your attention to what they're saying. Even though I'm looking right at someone, they'll typically say my name halfway through the sentence. I like that.
This post has gone on long enough. I've decided that I want to translate some published Roma folktales collected by our former volunteers and share them on my blog. I think it would be interesting. I will save that for next time, though, as it's getting late and apparently they want me at work even earlier tomorrow. (sigh)


Anonymous said...

Чудесен пост, мерси. Това с повръщането беше наистина забавно...

Явно не си разбрала израза, Ейприл: "вали КАТО ИЗ ведро", т.е. вали все едно че се излива от ведро. И за мен cats and dogs няма много смисъл, но звучи добре.

Game tied, 8-8, top of the eight. Red Sox just slashed 5 run lead - Lowell hit 3-run homer to tie the game as I was reading your post...

Here's one for you to translate: "Make Love and Ribolove"

P said...

Hi Apryl,

I was looking for pictures of Velingrad and Rakitovo and saw a picture of a girl and said to myself "I know her from somewhere" and had to have a look.

I truly laughed at the wedding description. I know its over four years ago now but you were great at the wedding for the translating part, I was at the wedding by the way so I know.[and yes you are in some of the pictures and the video too :-) ]It was a stressful day for all involved in the wedding party I will tell you. Glad you had a good time in the end. Hope you are keeping well.

All the best.