Monday, September 22, 2008

Putting the “Pro” in Procrastination

I am a time-waster. There. I've said it. I'll talk more about that some other time....
It's cold! In the span of a few days, I went from short sleeves to three layers. I went from sleeping in shorts and a t-shirt, with a couple blankets lightly tossed around me, to sleeping in a couple think layers and having three blankets pulled up and tucked around my throat. What has happened to the weather? Where was this mild transition into cold weather that we call "autumn?" I'm supposed to start stylishly wearing long sleeves with a cute sweater during the day - not look like an "oompa-loompa." I refuse to turn on any heaters at this point. We had an understanding with the weather: It's not supposed to snow until after I COS. At this rate, we'll soon be in booties and look like this kid. The funny thing is, it's supposed to warm up again in a few days.
Last Monday was the first day of school. I was invited to attend one of the local schools for the ceremony. This school was thisclose to closing, but they were able to keep it running for at least another year. In all honesty, it should probably be closed, but this would lead me into a diatribe about the educational system here, and that wouldn't be pretty. I'm glad I'm not a politician. I have friends who work at that school.
Anyway, I went to the ceremony for the first day of school, and they pushed me up front to stand with the priest, the chairman of the town council, some deputy official from Pazardjik, and some teachers. I thought they were going to ask me to say a few words, but they just had me stand there awkwardly while others said many words. I was officially introduced as an official "guest" and given flowers, but I wanted to crawl under a rock and die of shame. I didn't expect them to do that. I don't even think that they expected them to do that. I was the only one up there wearing jeans. Highlights: Other than standing there awkwardly, the director referred to me as English - as in from England, the priest sprinkled me with holy water, and I had a prime view of the backs of people's heads as they sang and performed. Honestly, the program was good. I could have enjoyed it just as much had I just been lost in the crowd.
I don't talk much about local government. Government basically exists so that we all have something to take for granted and complain about. This administration that came into office last year certainly gets its fair share of criticism. However, I want to take the moment to praise this administration for a moment. I certainly am not their biggest fan, but they have a few visible projects that have pleased me. One is finally getting around to putting recycling containers in the town. I now have the option of dumping my paper, plastic, and glass into one of three color-coordinated containers posted conveniently around Rakitovo. Before, I used to have to go to Velingrad if I really wanted to be "green." (I only did this once to recycle a bunch of glass, so don't think of me as too much of a tree-hugger. Before, I used to throw everything straight in the garbage.) Now, my town has given me the convenient option of going "green" locally. This is monumental. I only wish they had held some kind of campaign with students from the local schools to educate people in town about them. Of course, it probably doesn't take a genius to figure out what it's all about, but a good campaign can't hurt. If I see one of the containers smoking, I think I'll go ballistic. (My town has a habit of lighting the trash in certain containers on fire if the municipality doesn't get around to emptying them quickly enough.)
Yesterday, I went to the second-highest point in the Rhodope mountains. It's a place called "Syutka," and it's several kilometers from here. At first, when I was called and invited to come, I thought about my bum leg, and declined. Then they said that we'd be taking cars most of the way. The walk was only a few kilometers, but it was mostly straight up and then straight down again on the way back. My leg didn't like that too much. Peace Corps probably wouldn't like it too much either. Just a few days earlier, we had spent ten minutes on the phone (me doing every leg exercise in the book), to try and determine if just, perchance, it was something more serious than a bruise.
I had a great time up at Syutka, though. We took our time and came across several patches of blueberries. I had the blue tongue and lips to betray my gluttony. Once we got to the top, everyone brought out the various breads, meats, cheeses, fruits, jams, vegetables, and alcohol that they had brought for the occasion. Bulgarian hikes are always the best 'cause they build a fire pretty much anywhere they please and get down to the eating and drinking. It's simple food, but it's always good. If there's another group nearby, we must engage them in conversation and song. In the states, we'd probably give them a nod and make some comment about the weather or the difficulty of the hike. Not in Bulgaria. You must join us for some alcohol and a song about how proud we are that we aren't Greeks! Afterwards, we might even take a picture together! It's awesome. Of course, I always get introduced as being the "token American" that gives the group its "international" credibility. This is followed by someone looking me up and down, making a frowny face, and saying, "But... does she understand Bulgarian?" I kid a lot, but honestly - Buglarians are some of the most hospitable people that I've ever met. I wish I had found this group earlier to enjoy other such hikes. I might even have learned some of the songs!
Today, is Bulgarian Independence Day. I had to work. My colleagues decided that it would be a good time to get some project development done. They're right, but I really didn't feel like working on a national holiday. Nevermind that I don't get U.S. holidays off. I rarely get Bulgarian ones, either. I shouldn't whine so much. It's not like I'm constantly working. It's just that I find myself constantly dipping into my lunch hours and evenings to work as well. This is not my colleagues' fault. I do this to myself. The problem is, even when I'm just sitting in the office listening to my colleagues talking about all the work that awaits them, I feel drained. As the days dwindle down to my COS date, so does my desire to be productive. Honestly, as far as the office goes, I'm ready to leave tomorrow. As far as actually getting ready to leave, I've done nothing.

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