Thursday, November 20, 2008

Progressing & Raising the Bar

It has been an interesting week. I've figured some things out, but a lot has been lost as well. I've spent much of my time sitting in my friend Greg's apartment while he's been away at work all day. Greg gets up early and comes home late. He works 11-12 hour days. I've asked him if it's a recipe for burnout. Every day, when I ask him how his day was, he answers, "Long." Who can keep up that pace?
Anyway, Greg goes to work, and I stay in the apartment alone. I'm so grateful for the place to stay, and the freedom to "readjust," but I get lonely. On Monday night, I took him out to dinner and we went bowling with a couple of his colleagues. On Tuesday, he and his girlfriend went out with some of their friends, and I stayed in. Yesterday, we went out to dinner again. Tonight we stayed in and had dinner. Sometimes we play video games. Other than that, I haven't been getting out much. The weather hasn't been enticing. Today was sunny, so I decided to go and buy a bus ticket to Macedonia (a neighboring country for those who may have missed a recent geography lesson). Actually, the technical name is Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), but that's a history lesson for another day. Afterward, I walked around a bit, but I felt pretty lonely.
Originally, I was going to take a solo trip up to Romania, Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I bailed for three reasons: 1. I took another look at my financial situation and decided that it would be a stretch. 2. I was pushing it on time. 3. Winter in these places wasn't particularly appealing. There is a fourth reason, which is a little harder to admit: I'm scared. I'm not scared of other people or striking out on my own. I'm scared of being lonely. I wish it didn't bother me, but I know how I am. I would have a hard time making friends with other travelers, and I'd be experiencing a lot of things alone. I don't really enjoy traveling alone. I tell myself that it shouldn't stop me from visiting these places, but it's just who I am. I have intense respect and admiration for those who strike out on their own (one guy from my group traveled alone for almost a year after his COS), and I wish I could be like them. I'm not. I think of myself as pretty brave. I don't mind going out on my own when I have a specific objective to accomplish. In fact, sometimes I even prefer being alone in those cases. When it comes to sightseeing, however, I don't really like to be alone. So I decided to back out. I'm not too surprised, but I'm a bit disappointed in myself.
I have to get out of Sofia, though. I'm planning on taking a trip to Macedonia for a few days. Then I'll come back for a couple days. My "sister" and I are going on a trip to Perperikon next weekend. Then I'll be flying out to Ireland the following week to meet up with my mom. It's nice to have a plan after a week of drifting. I appreciate Greg's patience. He's basically said that I can stay here as long as I need. It's good to have friends like that.
I've thought about going back to Rakitovo to visit, but that would be pretty much pointless. I had to pull myself away from there. Plus, I've said "good-bye" to everyone. How lame would it be to go back? "Yeah, I know we hugged and had this tearful good-bye. I still haven't left yet." I think that would just mess with people. It's no less awkward when they call, "Where are you now?" "I'm still in Sofia...." Seeing my "sister" again wasn't something I was planning, but we're both excited that it's going to work out.
A year ago today, I got on a plane and flew back to the states for about six weeks. I eagerly got on the plane because I was dying to see everyone there again. That and Mexican food was waiting for me. I had a fabulous time. I also knew that I was coming back to Bulgaria. This time, I'm dragging my feet. I have no desire to leave Bulgaria. Leaving does not guarantee a return this time. I'm terrified. It's not something I consciously think about. It's just there in the back of my mind. It's for the best that I now have a plane ticket which will take me away. Inevitability needs to consume me.
I had a dream the other night. I dreamt that I was back in the states. I remember thinking about Bulgaria and experiencing this heart-wrenching feeling that she was so far away from me. I could literally feel the distance. It made me sad. I haven't been feeling that way about the states, but that's probably because I know the states are waiting for me with open arms.
My luggage is the new saga of my life (although no word yet on whether the painting made it to my dad safe and sound), and I don't know whether to ship it or to try and take it on the plane with me. Originally, I was going to send it on ahead while I was traveling. Now that those plans have fallen through, I'm wondering if it would be cheaper to check it as excess baggage on the plane?
On a tangent, I have to brag about this: Peace Corps pays for the flight home. The volunteer can either take a ticket outright to the nearest airport to their home-of-record, or HOR as us acronym-happy people refer to it, or they can take cash-in-lieu. Peace Corps calculates the current cost of a ticket home and then give that to the volunteer if they choose the second option. I probably should have changed my HOR to my dad's place in Hawai'i. I could have taken you taxpayers for all you're worth. (Actually, I'm looking at airfare, and it's about the same as to Sacramento. Oh, well.) Anyway, I'm spending about a fourth of the amount they gave me to get back to the states. I wonder if this is a record or something.
So, yeah. You've probably understood that I've been frustrated with myself for still being here - for stalling while trying to figure out how to function again. I've been assured that this is normal. I've appreciated the words of encouragement that I've gotten from my fellow RPCVs. I know that it's normal. I think I just wish I dealt with it in a different way than holing myself up in a friend's apartment. Why can't I be the person who deals with it by drinking and partying every night? Haha. If I did that, I'd definitely want a different way of dealing. Well, there went one week. It could have been a bit more productive, but it wasn't a waste. Next week will be filled with Macedonia, more Sofia and non-Sofia Bulgaria, and then Ireland will be soon behind followed closely by the U.S.A. It's good to be on track, but I'm also still nervous. It's been nice to observe the United States from several thousand kilometers away. I've been simultaneously proud of and frustrated with her while sitting on my perch. Now I have to be a part of her. Meh.
Thanksgiving is coming up next week.. I've been trying not to think about it because I might actually be alone. Let's continue not to think about it, shall we? I'll figure something out.
I'm not sure what to do with this blog after I get back stateside. I'll probably read it just to digest, laugh at my naïveté, and reminisce. I think I might also write down a few things as I remember them - part of the process of digestion. I think I'll have a hard time letting go of this blog as well. It's been a very cathartic method of processing my experiences. Basically it's been a good friend.
I wanted to write down something Yanko said to me as we were driving to Sofia. He kept grabbing and squeezing my shoulders. He didn't want to let me go. "Apryl, you really raised the bar. You accomplished things in Rakitovo that I would never have imagined possible before I met you. It would be hard for anyone to fill your shoes." High praise. "Raising the bar" was a phrase Angel had used the day before, but for entirely different reasons. By the grace of God, I have affected people. They have affected and blessed me more.
Many people have told me that I will be missed - that I was really loved in Rakitovo. I was talking with a friend of mine who told me, "It's going to be hard. We're really going to miss you here." "Yeah," I said, "but you all get to just miss one person. I have to miss all of you. I think it's going to be harder on me." Her answer was, "I don't know about that. We're really going to miss you." I still think I'm going to miss them more.

1 comment:

Miro said...

Just relax and enjoy yourself. It's pointless to worry about the inevitable, and it's lame. If the nostalgia refuses to loosen it's grip on you, I'll send you a list of all things I don't like about Bulgaria and bulgarians. ;-)
By the way, there's some huge development in our society recently. I'll update you when I got all the facts together.