Sunday, September 28, 2008

Killing the Waiting/Head Examinations


"Pizza" is even printed on the plate in case you get confused as to what that might be.

I made a fabulous pizza last night. This whole, "teaching myself to cook while I'm in Bulgaria" has succeeded - to a point. I can make four or five pretty good dishes that I'd never made before coming here. Even Angel commented that I've grown by leaps and bounds in the kitchen. Still, I'm far from my goal of really teaching myself to cook. This is due only to my laziness. Cooking for myself does not encourage ingenuity. I have to thank Thomas, who always preferred me to cook for him (or to help me cook) than to going out to a restaurant in town. Living by myself has made me a bit more domestic, but I have a long way to go.
Getting out of here and the presedential elections have been on my mind a lot recently. I'm not going to comment on the race for the presidency. Getting out of here is something I'm dealing/not dealing with all the time. All I do is sit around and let all the things I need to figure out before I COS bump around in my head:
1. Should I do some traveling afterward even if it means traveling alone? If so, where should I go?
2. What should I do with my luggage?
3. How much luggage will I have?
4. What's the best deal on a plane ticket?
5. How do I transport big things home?
6. What do I need to do before I get out of Bulgaria?
One could argue that it's a bit early to think about these things, but it's really probably not. As I mentioned in an earlier post, "Няма време," which means that there isn't any time. The thing is, I can't bring myself to get up and get anything pinned down for sure. I just sit here and freak myself out.
In the meantime, I still have people asking me why I'm leaving, encouraging me to stay, and even jokingly informing me that they're going to find a way to stop me from going. My usual answer is, "If I stay, my mother with come to Bulgaria and beat me." Mom, they get that it's a joke. Or I tell them, "Take it up with my mother," and this is followed by a "We'll get her to stay, too." I'll also tell them that "every beginning has an end." I knew I'd be leaving when I came to Bulgaria. Staying another year isn't going to change that. Even my invitation came with an end date.
It's flattering that people don't want me to go. Giving them an honest answer as to why I'm leaving isn't always the easiest. To some it seems to come down to a question about whether or not I like Bulgaria. "Don't you like Bulgaria? You're sick of it here now, aren't you?" The answer is not that easy. I've only given a couple of people a straight answer, but even I can't articulate it all that well. The simplest reason is, "The time has come for me to go." The more involved answer is, "I've given just about all I have to give. There's no more room for growth/self-development here in Bulgaria." Both the selfish and unselfish reasons for why I'm here have reached their apex.
Mostly, I just want all these things figured out. It's the knowing that I'm going in a little over a month and waiting for it that's killing me. I honestly think that I'm still going to be taken by surprise, "What do you mean I only have two weeks left? When did that happen?" Again, there's an awesome Christian song that slightly relates to this: It's Alright by Third Day.
I love this song and what it says about God. Everything feels so overwhelming and scary sometimes, but it just brings us one more day closer to when we get to go HOME.
I'm floating along here pretty well (other than damning my own unproductivity), but there are a few things that are getting me down other than the fact that I'm leaving: I have a friend in Pakistan in the moment. She's there while her husband is having an operation they could never afford here in Bulgaria. I got a text soon after the operation was over, but that was the night before the bombing in Islamabad. I haven't heard from them since then. I tell myself that there was no way they could have been there, but I'm not sure if something else has happened in the aftermath. My e-mails and texts have gone unanswered.
There's also something else that's breaking my heart at the moment: I'm not sure if I've talked about Mitko before, but I probably have. Mitko is the most amazing little boy in Rakitovo. He's about thirteen, but he looks like he's eight. I think I met him at church, and he used to come to my English classes. Basically, he used to hang out with me whenever he could. He was the most helpful little boy ever, and he was always ready and willing to do just about anything I asked of him. He was also one of my most faithful baseball players. Learning and loving God was of utmost importance to him.
Now, I rarely see him. When I do see him, he's hanging out with boys who also used to play baseball with me, but the rumor is that these boys smoke. I see them cutting class and ducking into corners (probably to light cigarettes), and I've seen them hanging out at the noisiest cafe in the Roma neighborhood (where older kids go to drink, dance, and flirt). Just a few months ago, Mitko commented to me, "Apryl, those boys don't want to play baseball anymore. They'd rather do bad things." A week later, he was hanging out with them instead of me. Once, when he and another boy walked to the stadium with me (and then ran off when we got there - inspiring my head to almost explode), I found them later and sat down to have a chat with him. He nodded the whole time, but it's one of those things where you know that nothing you say is going to reach these kids. Break my heart wide open.
Last night, I was reading an article in a magazine by an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who was here in Bulgaria. I've mentioned her writing before in this blog because she has a great style. She basically wrote about watching a promising and bright child/friend succumb to schizophrenia. The epilogue shared that this girl's closest friend got pregnant and dropped out of school. It's an awful story, and yet it's so realistic. Many times, we're shown the "happy side of life." Every story has its "happy ending" where someone overcame all odds to succeed. People have told me that they should take my PC experience and turn it into a film. I think, "It wouldn't work 'cause my PC experience is not a 'conquering' story." For some PCVs, their story works out that way. Mine did not.
She also makes a provocative statement about leaving:
When you leave a country, you can't tie up every loose thread. You have to leave what's done, undone. You are not leaving a job. You are leaving a life. You are leaving children you spent years with - they were little when you met, you remember when you couldn't understand one another, but you'd smile, and they'd smile, and there was always a way to say I think you're wonderful.
It's easy to cut the fraying edges, hem neatly the distance between what happened there and your life here. It is so far away, there's nothing you can do now. You tell yourself that; it must be true.

I just had coffee with the guy who's probably the most frustrating person for me to talk to in town. I've mentioned him before - the one who throws English words at me like spaghetti, hoping something will stick. Mostly it just comes out as a jumble of confusion. I don't know what he's talking about, and I get frustrated. He asked, "So, will another English girl come here and work for the foundation?" I finally lost it. "No, but another American girl will come." I gave him a hard time. "I've never been to England. Please. If I'm English, you're Russian." He took it pretty well. "Sorry, I just... I have so many things on my mind. I got confused." I apologized for giving him a hard time, but it was a half-hearted apology. C'mon. You've known me for over two years. Get it straight. Still, I shouldn't have been so hard on him. We had just come from church. Plus, he's leaving for Slovakia this week. He kept confusing it with the Czech Republic. Poor guy really has got a lot on his mind.
I went with Yanko to continue the search for an apartment for Emily, A.K.A. the next volunteer. We have a couple options already set up, but we're keeping them open. Yanko is one of those guys who wants the best, and that's a good quality - especially when it comes to the comfort of the volunteer. I've been a big benefactor of that relentlessness. He had a lead on an older gentleman who lives in a rather large house. After five minutes of talking to him, however, it was clear that he wasn't quite all there upstairs. He asked Yanko who he was. Then, he asked, "So, whatever happened with that girl who decapitated her husband?" After trying to figure out who he was talking about, Yanko just pretended he knew what was going on. It turned out he wasn't offering the place - which was just as well, 'cause we weren't going to take it.
Afterwards, we walked around for a bit and stopped at one of the cafes for coffee. We had a pretty good conversation, and Yanko said something that was very flattering. It was something to this effect: "I regularly look at your life and use it as a guide for mine to determine whether or not I'm on the correct path. You're a catalyst for so many things, 'cause you live in the world of my dreams. I would like to live there - even if it were just for a year." Whoa. Earlier in the day, I told him I was in a funk 'cause I felt like so many things were coming up on me, and my problems were too big to handle. He tried to help me crack them one by one, but it really comes down to the fact that I'm leaving, and it's that big change itself that's looming over me. He said, "I would love to have your problems. Why don't we switch?" Good point.
It hit me again when I watched the first presidential debate between McCain and Obama. Barack Obama said the following:
"My father came from Kenya. ...in the 60's he wrote letter after letter to come to college here in the United States because the notion was that there was no other country on earth where you could make it if you tried. The ideals and the values of the United States inspired the entire world. I don't think any of us can say that our standing in the world now... is the same."
I agree with him, but my boss is obviously still star-struck by the United States. I explained the "glass ceiling" to him, and he just stared at me with his mouth open. "I can't believe it." I share other shortcomings about the U.S. with him, and he says the same, "I can't believe it." To him, the U.S. is the epitome of the "ideal country," and California is its "ideal state."
Yanko has said that there's one thing he doesn't like about me: my stubbornness. He tells me that I need to learn to be more flexible. I don't know. I've always considered myself pretty flexible, but there are definitely some things that I'm hard-headed about. He'd like me to change that, but I tell him that it's good to have one thing about me that he doesn't like. If he liked everything about me, that wouldn't be interesting in the least. Perfection is so boring. Also, he keeps trying to get me to start thinking about settling down and starting a family. His interest in this confuses me, but maybe he'd like to see me come back to Bulgaria with a couple of rugrats in tow.
As I mentioned, the weather has taken a turn for fall. And it's not one of those nice falls, where you're crunching in leaves, eating apples, and wearing a light sweater over a long-sleeved shirt. This is Jack Frost disguising as whatever term we use to anthropomorphize autumn, and he's making us hunch over and want to hide in our houses. I hate this time of year 'cause it means lighting stoves. Lighting stoves is my kryptonite 'cause it means that I have to do it in the Educational Center to hold my classes. Meh. Hey Weather! Can't you just hold out a bit longer? We had an agreement here! I actually cancelled my Thursday English class 'cause I thought that it might be too cold in the center. The system needs to be checked out before we start lighting the stove.
Work is work. We started writing a project, and I've been calling the schools in the region to try and set up some times when we can meet, present our ideas, and get feedback about any ideas that they might have. Other than that, we've had a couple of meetings with women and young girls that I've invited to take part in the women's group. Now, we're thinking it'd be great if they formed a girl's club that could help us out with some of our activities. For example, we're having an ethnic festival in October. We'd like them to wear shirts promoting the event and pass out flyers. Also, an ambulance will come to our town and give free gynecological examinations to women. There will also be check-ups for children. We'd like them to encourage people in the Roma neighborhood to go and get checked out. So far, they've agreed to everything. We had a nice meeting on Friday where we talked about the different ethnic groups that live in Rakitovo. I'm encouraged by this progress, but it's up to the organization to keep up with them. I've seen promise before - only to watch it fall apart, which is followed by disappointment, finger-pointing, and hurt feelings. It's hard to be inspired about anything these days. Or maybe I get inspired about the small "victories" these days.
And here's your random, cultural difference for the day: I was walking to the self-service supermarket the other week. I had a lot of things to buy, and I decided that I just wanted to go and pick them out myself. I ran into someone I know along the way. I really like her and her son, but they're struggling financially. Many times she will stop to tell me the state of her finances. She once told me that she thought I was the answer to her prayers because God had sent me to take her back to America with me. What do you say to that? It's not just her though. Others have encouraged me to take them back to the states or to find jobs for them once I'm back there. Anyway, I like her, but it's almost always awkward for me to talk to her. Here's the conversation we had:
Apryl: Hi.
Woman: Hi. Where are you going?
Apryl: To the supermarket here.
Woman: Do you always come here to shop?
Apryl: No, but I wanted to come 'cause I can pick out my own things. It's a bit of a more relaxed environment.
Woman: But it's more expensive here.
Apryl: Yeah, but I like the calm environment.
She looked at me like I had two heads. I must have been out of my mind. Why would I spend more just so I can pick out my own stuff when I can pay less to have someone else get it for me? I was thinking about it, and it truly is ridiculous in a way. However, that's how we Americans are sometimes. Sometimes we'll pay more just to avoid having to interact with others. We probably do need our heads examined.
As a final thought (before I probably think of something else to add that's been bumping around in my head), I'd like to thank those who still read this blog. My good buddy Andy has become a "follower" on this site. Thanks, Andy! I've met amazing people through this blog. Thanks, Misty! And I just got this message the other day:
Hey Apryl,
I've been reading your blog [for] a while and now I learned that you're leaving soon... as you said "няма време"! I just wanted to say that when I found your blog you made me laugh and this made me visit "you" pretty often. It's funny to see your own country through [an] American's eyes:) I found so many истини that I didn't [notice] before or I just was used to those истини so in a way you opened my eyes. Thank you for that!
Thanks, Blaj! It's people like you that make me feel good about purging my feelings for everyone to see over these three years. It's as if all my excitement, tears, frustrations, elations, fears, and guts have been *splortched* all over a wall to create a beautiful picture in words. I'm proud of myself for keeping up this public journal for three years - for better or for worse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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