Monday, August 25, 2008

If You Do It, They Will Come... Once

I'm back with another post on the same day. I wanted to dedicate an entire post to my surprise about having another volunteer come - how I initially reacted to it - and what I was thinking those moments after I was informed. Now, that I've processed it a little, I can evaluate a bit how I feel and why. I'll talk about that more at the end of this post.
This weekend, I went to visit a volunteer in a village near the Greek border. I love my Rhodope mountains. They say they're the most beautiful mountains in Bulgaria, and I believe 'em. Not that I'm biased or anything. However, they sure are difficult to get around. You may look like you're fairly close to someone on a map, but it might take several hours to get to them 'cause the Rhodopes are tough to navigate. Anyway, I went on a lovely drive through the Rhodopes to visit a fellow volunteer. It's always nice to speak English, eat good food, and just hang out with someone who shares your situation.
I mentioned in a previous post that two girls here were trying to get people together to have a meeting about HIV/AIDS. They passed out fliers the other day and were able to attract 22 participants. Wow. It was absolutely awesome. I think the kids had a good time playing different role-playing games, and the girls did a fantastic job facilitating. I am intensely proud of them. Once, when asked to model what boys do in their free time, one of the boys looked at me and mimicked hitting a ball with a bat. He plays baseball with me. I loved it! There were only two things that bothered me. The first was that, in one of the games, they were bluntly honest about how they feel regarding Roma. Yikes. The second is that, even though they obviously liked the gathering, they were wishy-washy about getting together again.
This is what I've come to expect from people in Rakitovo. Getting someone to do something once is difficult as it is. Getting them to do it twice, thrice, etc. is even more of a challenge. "C'mon! You liked it! You know you had fun! You even said you had fun! I saw the smiles on your faces!" "Yeah, I know, but... meh." I can't count the number of times this has happened to me. Do it once, they might come. It's a novelty. Do it twice (even though you've varied it up with different games), and it'll be like pulling teeth to bring them back - no matter how fun it was. Anyway, it was all sorts of "fabulousness" even if it only happens once. The girls gave valuable information about AIDS/HIV, and at least half the kids now know that you can't get it from a mosquito bite. A good number thought that you could.
I hope that I'm wrong this time about what I've said above regarding people's attitudes to getting together again. I feel like I've brought these girls over to the dark side. They're idealistic now. They want to see an initiative like this continue and even do projects with the kids; continue to go to trainings like this with the Peace Corps. Idealism. Watch out! It'll get you! I'm glad that Peace Corps was able to "infect" them as well, but I'd really hate to see them disappointed. I hope with all my heart that I'm wrong about this one. Nothing would make me happier. If the youth kept coming and really put their hearts into it, they could turn this town around. Rakitovo would never see it coming.
So, I've had more time to process this whole... transition thing. I think my fear honestly stems from selfish motivations. In fact, I'm sure of it. I'm so ready to move on. It's time to go back from whence I came. It's still not easy. Watching someone come and fill my role isn't going to make it any easier. I'm used to being "the American" in town. I certainly haven't been the only one, but I've enjoyed a sort of novelty status - which I don't always appreciate and often complain about on my blog, but I've gotten used to it. All of the sudden, I felt like I was losing it - like I was watching myself become obselete. That's a scary feeling. I know it's not true, but I've been letting myself think that people don't necessarily value Apryl as a person... they value Apryl as an American. I don't know why I've become so neurotic to think this, but I realized what was bothering me. Somehow I've stopped thinking of myself as Apryl - a multifaceted girl with a unique personality - and started thinking of myself as "the American." So I got it in my head that the sting of my farewell will be tempered by the replacement of another volunteer. This is nonsense, and I need to snap out of it. I joke with the people here that all us American girls are the same, but they look at me like I'm nuts. I'm grateful that they don't laugh at my joke. They're going to miss Apryl. They're going to love and appreciate the new volunteer, but they're going to miss Apryl. I know this because both my "baba" and my landlady cooked for me today, I was treated twice at cafes, and I was invited another couple times. I know this because I saw the looks on people's faces when I told them I was leaving November 10th. I know this because I will miss them wholeheartedly as well.
The song "Safe to Land" by Jars of Clay has been helping me through the day. It's not an exact parallel to how I feel, but it's close. Transitions... good, but terrifying.

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