Sunday, June 01, 2008

Recognition

I believe that everyone likes receiving positive recognition for an ability that they have or something they've done. I know I like it - even though I sometimes start to feel awkward, especially if it's for something I don't think that I deserve. But recognition is nice. I'll get to that in a second.
Future Foundation has decided to apply for another volunteer. They still tell me that they're not going to let me go anywhere - whether it's to the states or France or wherever my next stop is, but they know that can't put off the inevitable. About once a day I hear the suggestion from someone that I find a nice boy and just stay in Bulgaria forever. I joke that, if a Bulgarian boy can't rope me down in three years, a Bulgarian boy is probably never going to rope me down. This is followed by them insisiting that there must be someone they can set me up with, and then an unfruitful racking of brains while they try to come up with a suitable suitor.
Anyway, Yanko and company have applied for another volunteer from the Youth Development program. I don't know how I feel about it. One part of me thinks that it'd be great for them to have another volunteer 'cause they're such great people, and it's a good organization to work for. Another part of me wonders what a volunteer would need to do here and if they really have the time to dedicate the attention that's required for such a person. I sometimes wonder if my hesitation comes from a desire to remain their "one and only" Peace Corps Volunteer. I honestly doubt that though. In all sincerity, I would love to see a person come and succeed in many of the ways that I was unable to. It's time to sit down and have a chat with the Peace Corps.
With the quest for a new volunteer comes the inevitable question of who will play the role of that person's counterpart. The role of the counterpart is an involved one, and it takes finesse to do it well. This person is the volunteer's first contact into the community, and it's important that the relationship be a good one. Of course, there are volunteers who have survived "bad" counterparts and made good relationships with other colleagues, but it's disappointing and highly unsatisfying. A counterpart should be there (at least in the beginning) whether you want to help write a project, wonder where the hospital is, have a flood in your apartment, whatever. Plus, this person is expected to meet the volunteer to bring them back for their first visit to the host community, and to attend a couple of trainings with the Peace Corps.
My colleagues get that it's an involved responsibility, but they couldn't agree who should take it on. No one wanted to dedicate the time it takes to help a volunteer integrate and get on their feet in the beginning. Well, maybe it wasn't a matter of desire. I realize that my colleagues are incredibly busy. They hardly have their weekends free these days, and we've got a lot of projects coming up. They're right to hesitate. It was just disheartening to see them throw the responsibilty around. It made me thankful for my counterpart, Angel. Even though I wondered why he was constantly at my side in the beginning, I was really grateful for it - and probably even got a little dependent on it. I was trying to tell him how thankful I was for him the other night, but he's already heard it tons of times - even from other volunteers. "Apryl, I know that there's no other counterpart like me in all of Peace Corps. They should hire me to train counterparts." I shut up. His ego apparently doesn't need any more stroking.
Baseball has been a little "hit and miss" figuratively and literally. It's been fun, but I hit Maria in the leg the other day with the ball. Of course I didn't mean to, but she was angry. She insisted that she was done playing such a "dangerous sport." I told her that all sports carry risk, but she didn't want to hear it. I think she was more upset about the fact that she was unable to hit the ball that evening. After she got hit with the ball, she didn't look too bothered by it and continued to play, but she started to get more upset later into the evening as she was finding it impossible to connect the bat with the ball. On the way home, as she was complaining about her leg, I called her out on it, "You're not upset about getting hit in the leg. You're really upset that you were unable to hit the ball." She considered this, "No, that's not it." Oh, Maria, Maria. I love her, but I see so many of the things I don't like about me in her. I don't like that.
Out of hundreds of candidates, Future Foundation wrote the best proposal for a project offered by the Ministry of Education and Science. It's a huge accomplishment for our organization, and we were invited to Sofia to receive a certificate for our work. I'm incredibly proud of my colleagues - especially when I remember the headaches, arguments, and late nights we spent on developing and writing it. Yanko invited me to come along to the conference at the Hilton Hotel in Sofia, and I accepted. We went for a conference, and I ogled the interpreters in their cabinets - broadcasting live interpretations into various headsets around the room. "Wow," I thought. "I want to do that!" It's intense. It's demanding. It's amazing. Otherwise, the conference was fairly interesting, and the award ceremony was fairly anti-climactic. I hope our "first place" recongnition won't go to our heads, but people in town need to know my colleagues are capable of writing fantastic projects. I find people here, however, easily explain away these things however they want. I don't know where it's out of envy or what, but it seems people are quite talented at belittling the success of others.
On Friday, we went to a celebration for the 60th anniversary of the segregated, Roma school. They put on an excellent program, and I was astounded by the work of one of the teachers in particular. He plays the accordion, writes songs, and maintains at least three or four singing groups (both youth and pensioners) and a drum group comprised of Roma youth. How he finds time for all of that, I don't know, but my hat goes off to him. The school recognized Future Foundation's role in helping students' development, and I thought that was considerate - especially since we're not their favorite people, what with try to convince students to leave that school and attend integrated ones.
Yesterday, I spent all day cooking and shopping. We made burritos with Maria and Reneta. It was delicious! I was proud of myself for following recipes and making some good refried beans and tortillas from scratch! If it didn't take all day, I'd probably do it more often. Reneta said it was the best food she'd ever eaten. Mmmm... the rewards were worth it.
Today, I was invited to go to a program and potluck to celebrate International Children's Day with disabled children. The program was great. I was impressed by the ability of people to turn out to support the event. I sat down with the organizer and the head of the NGO this morning, and I told her that I really admired her work. She's a really great woman, and she's always been so sweet to me. Besides running her organzation for kids with disabilities, she works as a secretary at one of the schools. She also cares for three children - one has Down Syndrome. She has amassed a good collection of people to help her, and I admire her work so much. Instead of eating at the potluck however, I invited Jeina and Petya, a couple girls I regularly drink coffee with, to come over for Mexican leftovers. Mmmm.... And I still have a lot of food!
Now I'm sitting in the office 'cause I haven't paid my internet bill yet for the month, and the cable place is closed. I'm about to leave and go to the church and then probably meet my former landlords for a glass of wine. I saw Milka, her daughter, and the grandkids at the event today, but Milka was distracted with the youngest, "So, Apryl. What are you up to with the organization these days? Nothing, right?" Ummm.... I started to explain to her that we had won an award for best-written project, but I could tell she wasn't listening to me.
Before I go, however, I want to say a quick "thank you" to all those who have worked to impact my life for the better. I've been realizing how much it takes of oneself to spend time with young (and old) people who need their free-time filled in a constructive manner. If you wonder if I'm thanking you, be sure that I am.

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