Sunday, July 20, 2008

Life for Rent

I'm currently listening to a song called "Life for Rent" by Dido. I love her music, and I've always loved this song. It's about taking ownership of your life and not being afraid of the risks and chances necessary to make it worth living. As silly as this probably sounds, this song has convinced me to do a few gutsy things. It reminds me that life is worth taking risks and chances. There's a line that says, "...I am so afraid to fail, so I won't even try. Well, how can I say I'm alive?" So true.
I have hope for Bulgaria. I really do. I think it's going to be a long, hard road, but I have faith that Bulgaria will improve in the long run - that eventually people will stop running away to look for a "better" life. It's Rakitovo that I'm disillusioned about. Rakitovo makes me sad because it's a beautiful town in a gorgeous location, but it seems to be developing at a rather stagnant pace. Is there such a thing as a stagnant pace? Oh, Rakitovo. How I love you. How I wish I could wave a magic wand and make you the best version of yourself that you could possibly be, but I don't even know what that is.
You know what's been getting me down lately? Well, a few things, but I'm frustrated with the boys I played baseball with last summer. They bugged me all winter to ask when we'd be playing baseball again. When the time finally came, it seems that they would prefer to stay up at the Roma Mahala and smoke cigarettes or hang out with friends who aren't the greatest influences and then become "not the greatest influences" themselves. It breaks my heart. This is life. You give and give, and then what? You get your heart broken. This may sound dismal, but I honestly wish the world would end. I wish the world would end 'cause I believe in a God who's going to make an amazing place we can't even fathom - where there will be no possiblity of getting our hearts broken. Even if I'm not there, I wish the world would end. It's a bunch of nonsense.
This week the puppy next door, K.C., broke her leg. She greeted me as I came in the gate. I petted her and then went inside. A few minutes later, I heard a bang or a thud of some sort followed by her screaming and whining. I came out where Baba Svetka was already trying to console her, and I tried to calm her down as well. No one saw what happened, but we think she might have fallen off a balcony. She got up after a few minutes and went inside - hobbling on one leg. She's been bandaged up, and she's still so adorable with her leg in a cast. She's gotten used to it as well, and she's just as active as she is when she is able to use all her limbs. Funny girl. K.C.'s immediate family has been away at the sea all this week, so Baba Svetka has had to take care of her all alone.
Baba Svetka is awesome. She's my hero. She's a tiny great-grandmother, but she works harder than most people I've seen. She's constantly out in the garden or putzing around the house, and I'm constantly admonishing her for doing heavy lifting when no one else is around. I've only had the opportunity to help her take a huge pile of trash to a container several hundred meters away. And it was heavy! That lady's got muscle! And she's constantly got bruises or some kind of wound from her activities. She brushes it off like it's nothing. I think she's in her 90s or something? I forget. All I know is that I want to grow up and be like her. Otherwise, I don't want to live 'til my 90s. Hopefully the world will end before that anyway.
I forgot to tell you the big news in Rakitovo. We finally got a real supermarket. As in the kind where you can grab a basket and pick out your own stuff, and then you wait in the check-out line to get your items rung up. This is big news. All the stores in my town have been, "Wait your turn and then tell me what you want. I'll get it for you and ring it up simultaneously." This is the wave of the future. This was the grocery store that I patronized when I was living at my old place. Unfortunately, it's a bit further away for me now, so I still shop the old-fashioned way, but it's nice to know that it's there if I don't feel like reciting my entire grocery list in Bulgarian for everyone to hear if I don't want to.
As my time here draws to a close, a lot of people have taken to asking me if it's possible for me to extend my service. I usually answer that it isn't. It's semi-true. Fourth-year volunteers happen. There's one in Bulgaria, now in fact. However, it's not common. It's not something Peace Corps approves on a regular basis, and it's not something a lot of volunteers wish for. Very few apply for a third year. Imagine a fourth. I tell people that I would have to get down on my knees and beg Peace Corps to let me stay. I doubt that's true. More like it would take the citizens of Rakitovo getting down on their knees and begging me to stay. We all know that's not going to happen. That would be really awkward and uncomfortable, too.
It seems like people think, "You've stayed for three years. You must really like it here. Why not another?" Actually, this third year has served to remind me about all the things I'm not so crazy about here. I love Bulgaria, and I will always be thankful for what my experience has taught me. I can't spend another year here. I think I would lose my mind and PC would have to pay for years of therapy. This experience really messes with your self-worth while at the same time building up your self-confidence in the strangest ways. It's a mind-trip. So, I tell people that I'm ready to move on. It's the truth. It's usually followed up by a statement of frustration about how they were unable to marry me off while I was here: "There are so many good suitors...."
It makes me wonder about people who immigrate to the states. Being this submersed in a culture reminds me constantly about how different I am and how uncomfortable and lonely that is for me. What about those people who go and live out their lives in the states? Are they honestly comfortable in their own skins or do most of them do it just for the sake of a "better" life? Is it that they weren't comfortable in their own culture to begin with? I don't know. This experience has taught me that, while I love living abroad, I think I love living in the U.S. more. Of course, if I got a foreign service job, I wouldn't be as integrated and could possibly therefore... still feel lonely? I don't know. It's a tough one. I'm stubborn, and I still think I want to spend the majority of my life living abroad. We'll see.
I got to see an old friend in Plovdiv on Thursday. Josh and I went to the same university for our undergraduate studies, and he happened to be coming through with a choir and orchestra from an Adventist school on the east coast. I knew he was coming, but I didn't know where he would be on what day. He wrote me from Greece to say something to the effect of, "The ensemble will actually be in Plovdiv tonight, supposedly in the symphony hall. I don't know what time. I don't know much else.
I won't have Internet access, and we're off to Bulgaria now. Hope we can figure something out...." Right. I debated it for a few minutes and then I called my boss.
I was able to get a ride with some of my colleagues to Pazardjik and then I went on to Plovdiv on a bus. I called a volunteer who lives nearby, and I called my "sister." They were able to help a little, but I still didn't know where I needed to be and at what time. It was nuts, but I hoped I could find him. I hadn't seen Josh in about three years, and he's now living on the east coast, so it was worth the shot.
Fortunately, I soon found a poster advertising their concert. I called up my "sister" and told her she needed to meet me and come along. The volunteer declined to come. I did finally meet up with my "sister" and two of her lovely friends (one with children in tow). I enjoyed hanging out with them, and then my sister and I went to the concert. When it was time for the show, the ensemble still hadn't shown up. We dropped off my "sister's" friends, and then the tour buses finally appeared.
I yelled "Josh!" as soon as he got off the bus, and we had a great time catching up. I also saw another mutual acquaintance of ours who went to the same university for undergrad. It was great seeing him again and meeting his wife. They rushed for the concert, and it was a spectacular evening. They put on a wonderful performance, and the Bulgarian crowd was gracious and absolutely loved it. Someone even took time to present flowers to the soloists and bouquets to the conductors. I thought it was a really hospitable touch.
Afterwards, after some minor confusion, Vili and I went and ate dinner with Josh and the rest of the ensemble. We had our own table with Josh, however, and I did my best to include Vili in the conversation - translating most of it for her. Vili has met a couple of my stateside friends, and they have both loved her. She's enjoyed them as well. It's more proof that I have an awesome "sister" and I have fantastic friends. I stayed at my host family's house that night. We got home late, and I got up early the next day to catch a bus back and get some work done.
On Friday, I spent the night with Reneta. Maria is gone at a camp on the Black Sea this weekend, and Reneta really wanted me to come and spend a night with her because she was feeling lonely. I remember the last time I spent the night with those girls. Reneta kicked me most of the night. This time I had more space since it was just the two of us. The only thing that's interesting now about Reneta is that she must have really vivid dreams because she cries out in her sleep - sometimes in Roma, sometimes in Bulgarian. I'm waiting for her to start shouting in English. I will congratulate her for dreaming in a foreign tongue. Anyway, I would yell back to her, "Reneta! Calm down!" And we would soon fall back asleep until the next time. Now Reneta is gone at camp. Maria will be back soon. I'll spend the night with her if she asks - and if she can promise neither to kick me nor shout at me.
Greg came to visit this weekend. Greg is a former PCV from my group who took a teaching job in Sofia at an English Academy. He's extremely busy, and he loves the teaching. I'm so happy for him. It'll be a great résumé-builder for him - not to mention the experience. Anyway, he finally made good on a promise to come and see me. He's been to Rakitovo once before, but not since he's been back to Bulgaria in this new role. We had a good time cooking. I made Chinese food last night, and he made pancakes this morning. Other than that, we watched a movie and walked around Velingrad together. His time here was short, but I reallly enjoyed having him. I find I get used to the company of wonderful Americans, and it's hard for me to see them go - even after a day.
Oh, I don't want to go to work tomorrow....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HI i'm a Bulgarian living in US.I was amazed to read about your experience in Bulgaria.I think that we have a lot in common,i feel the same as you feel i'm living my life abroad just because i don't want to loose my sense of reality about the surrounding world.I guess that i'm afraid to settle my self in one place for long time.....anyway i just wanted to tell you how happy i am to hear that you are doing good in my home country close to my home town Plovdiv....
My e-mail is