Friday, December 12, 2008

First Impressions of Home

Disclaimer*: Nothing in this entry will be "right." I'm going to blame it on the jet lag.
I'm back in the states. I got back yesterday. I already miss Bulgaria. I haven't even been here 48 hours, but if the first few moments are any indicators, this whole "re-entry" thing is going to hit me hard. I already signed up for a mentor. I'm hoping connect with another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (besides the ones I already know) to try and get through it. Plus, Peace Corps gave me mental health vouchers before I left. If I can find them, I can go talk to a specialist a whopping three times! I'll be cured!
Ireland was great. My mom and I visited a lot of great spots. We went to the following places: Dublin, Enniskerry, Kilkenny, Killarney, Blarney, and Liscannor. We also drove through a bunch of amazing locales. If these places mean nothing to you, let me just saw that we saw a lot of green, toured a few castles, visited some amazing cliffs, entered some enormous churches, drank a bit of Guinness, and we kissed the Blarney stone! Mom did a really good job of driving on the "wrong" side of the road, and I played the role of navigator since the GPS wasn't working. We saw a lot of southern Ireland that way - by driving all around it. We divided our time between hotels and bed & breakfasts (some not actually including breakfast), and the people were amazingly friendly and nice. We had people come up to us on the street and give us directions when we were lost. A bus driver even pulled up alongside us and asked if we were okay, 'cause I'm sure we looked utterly confused. The accent is great. Some of their sayings we found extremely amusing and now want to use in daily conversation. Plus, Irish boys be cute. I had a really good time with my mom.
My bags and my belongings made it stateside - intact. Only the lid of one ceramic cookware broke, which is an incredible shame, but is amazing considering all the breakables I packed. Considering the price I paid to haul it across Europe, I'm feeling very grateful that only one thing broke. I'm already unpacked - sort of. A lot of the things that were sitting in my bedroom here have been packed away since my mom has taken on a remodeling project with the help of some family members. The house looks amazing. It takes some getting used to, but I love it. Nice, new things are usually easy to get used to. It's the presence of Mom here that makes it feel like "home," - otherwise I'd probably feel like I was staying in some stranger's house.
So, I've started working on going through plastic crates and slowly transfer my clothing back to my closet. I use "my" as an adjective, but I'm trepidatious to start thinking of this place is mine. I don't want to get too comfortable here. American culture is not as accepting as Bulgarian culture on the whole "living with my parents into my late 20's" thing. "Hi. I'm Apryl. I'm 27. I'm unemployed. I'm unmarried. I live with my mother." This may have worked for George Costanza in "The Opposite" episode of Seinfeld, but I doubt it's going to work for me.
So, yeah. I miss Bulgaria already. We landed in San Francisco, and the city was nice from the plane. Once we were on the ground, however, the only beautiful thing I saw were the smiling faces of my grandmother and grandfather. The city was brown, hazy, and it lacked that sparkle I remember San Francisco having. Maybe it was just the day. We soon hit bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway as we were driving toward the haze. It's not as quiet here as it was in my tiny, mountain town. I saw some friends last night, and I saw my uncle today. Other than that, I haven't really been out, and I don't know what to do with myself. I'll have to busy myself by getting my space in order, followed eventually by my life.
I woke up early and flipped through infomercials of every kind - telling you what was wrong with you and what you needed to do to "correct" it. I zoned out and stared at the opposite wall. I'm so lost that I don't even know what I'm thinking when I do that. It may hurt people to read this, but I miss home. Home is a state of mind, but for me (for now) home is Rakitovo. I don't want to sound ungrateful, 'cause I'm from an amazing place with a loving family. It doesn't mean that I want to go back. I just miss her.
P.S. I got this note from a friend of mine in Rakitovo. She's in high school. This just makes it all worth it:
Thank you, Apryl!
Hey, Apryl! I just wanted to say: Thank you for being here, for wasting ur time on us, for always being that nice and helpful, for changing Rakitovo and our ways of thinking... For the 3 years u've been here u have done soo much for all of us and most of all you became part of our lives.
At first when I thought of writing to you I just wanted to thank you for the recommendation u wrote for me and which helped me win the scholarship I was applying to, but that made me think also of all the things you've done and what a great volunteer was sent to us. Благодаря ти за всичко и няма да те забравя! :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ireland!

I made it to Dublin last night - with all my luggage. I'm in an internet cafe. The queen is on TV. Apparetnly she's giving a speech at Westminster. I want her crown. It's pretty awesome.
I'm in Ireland! I've dreamed of coming her for quite some time, so I need to make this short. The flight over was a bit emotional. I was talking to my former colleauges and getting teary-eyed in the airport. Then I met a talkative, Irishman who'd had quite a bit to drink, so the flight was good. Walking through Dublin with all my bags was quite the adventure, but I made it all right.
I went to C.E.G.A. (Future Foundation's partners in Sofia) yesterday, 'cause I needed a printer with internet, and I couldn't think of a place where I could get that. They hugged me and gave me gifts to take with me. Awesome. More luggage. They were small. Anyway, then Greg took me to the airport - where I ate a huge fee 'cause I just have to bring loads and loads of things back with me, and now I'm in Ireland! I don't know what to say. I'm just - here. My mom is coming tomorrow, and I hope we're going to have a great adventure.
The "saga of the painting" had a happy (and completely misinformed) ending. After asking Yanko to get in touch with the lady at the courier firm and then getting in touch with her myself, no one called me to let me know what the status was on the painting. I finally got a hold of her again yesterday. She let me know that it had been delivered on the 25th of November. Super. My dad hadn't contacted me to let me know that he had gotten it, so I wrote to tell him that it was supposed to be there, and could he please check again? This is the e-mail I got back from him:

Apryl-O!
Yes – The painting arrived. I love it! It’s been hanging on my wall for several days and every time I look at it I think about how far it traveled. The artist will probably never know that their sailboat traveled all the way to Hawaii!
So sorry. I know I was supposed to report right away. I was wanting to get a picture of me holding it – perhaps by the ocean.
Thank you so much for all the effort to get it here.
MAHALO APRYL!!
Love,
Dad

I'm going to kill him. Meanwhile I'm sitting here thinking - after all that effort, all those frazzled nerves, the painting just "disappeared." He has two choices: Death by hug suffocation or... I'll think of another method later. I gotta go. I'm in Ireland!

Monday, December 01, 2008

One Last Ditch Effort


Welcome to my 250th post. Can you believe it? Two hundred and fifty posts. I'm writing this under the influence of 200 grams of rakia. Should be awesome.
Thursday was Thanksgiving - for those of you who may not know.... During the morning, I was here with Greg and his girlfriend. We went to Dunkin Donuts for some bagel sandwiches in the early afternoon. They then left for Dimitrovgrad to visit the girlfriend's parents. Angel showed up later in the day, and we went for Indian food. After attempting to call my family several dozen times (they thought their phone was going crazy and actually called the phone company, but I think Skype/Greg's computer was on the fritz), I finally got through to my Grandma's house. It was nice to talk to them. My grandma gave me good advice: "Don't be so hard on yourself." My uncle "Ra-Ra" actually had the best comment of all:
Rob: What are you doing for Thanksgiving?
Apryl: Well, actually, it's past mid-night here, so it's technically no longer Thanksgiving, but I went and ate Indian food.
Rob: Let me get this straight: For an American holiday, you celebrated in Bulgaria by going for Indian food.
Apryl: (laughs) Exactly.
It was an international holiday. At least I wasn't alone, and that's the important thing. There were other English-speakers in the restaurant. It wasn't so bad.
My colleagues called me to wish my a happy Thanksgiving. They were eating a cake that the new volunteer had made. Ani asked why I didn't come over and hang out with them. Honestly, I don't have much time anymore. But even if I did, how lame is it to say "good-bye" and then say, "Oh, psych!" and show up again. Lame! That's why I didn't even really entertain the idea a couple weeks ago. I almost saw Yanko this week, but it didn't work out. He says that he's going to come to the airport to see me off, but I find that kind of a stretch. Ani and Reneta both had birthdays this week, and I called them. I'm here, but I'm not here. It's so weird. It's hard to admit to people that I'm still in Sofia, 'cause it doesn't really make sense - to either them or me.
I took an "I'm depressed - again, so I'm doing nothing - again" day on Friday. I was supposed to go to Plovdiv and meet my "sister," but I decided to just hang out in Sofia. I had the place to myself, and it was nice. I didn't feel well, and I didn't feel like going anywhere.
On Saturday, in the afternoon, I went to Plovdiv to meet my sister so that we could go to Kurdjali. We hadn't made concrete plans, but, fortunately, we found a bus. I used "Couchsurfing" once again, and we connected with a great host. Rado came to pick us up at the bus station, and he took us to his place so we could meet his parents and drop off our stuff. Afterwards, he and a friend of his took us on a night tour of Kurdjali. The town is a really great place. Vili and I had never been there before, so it was interesting for both of us. Plus, we had really great and talkative tour guides.
Rado then took us to a traditional Bulgarian restaurant to meet up with some more friends and listen to live music - again provided by people he knows. The food was great, we danced various horos, and they even sang "Hotel California," in my honor - at which point one of the guys at the table asked me to dance. Plus, my Bulgarian was complimented endlessly throughout the whole weekend. I couldn't have asked for more.
The next day, Rado was gracious enough to take my "sister" and I to Perperikon. We had planned not to disturb him. We had said good-bye to his parents and everything (without waking him), but he chased us down as we were leaving the house, and he informed us that he would be hanging out with us - if we accepted the pleasure of his company. Fantastic.
Perperikon is about 20 km from Kurdjali, and there are no buses there, so it was really awesome to get the ride and the personal tour guide. We walked around the ruins and took myriads of pictures.
Afterward, we visited a monastery in Kurdjali and then went to a restaurant that was sitting out on Lake Kardjali. The lake was absolutely beautiful and very calm. You could even feel the restaurant bobbing a bit. Plus, you could see fishermen catching and slaughtering fish out the windows. Haha. It had a great atmosphere.
We then went to a coffee shop that had an interesting interior and various flavors of thick hot chocolate. Then Vili and I caught a bus back to Plovdiv. It was the first trip that I've taken with my "sister." I honestly hope that it's not the last. We had a great time.
I then accompanied Vili back to Trud. We ate dinner, and then we slept for hours. It was great. My host dad asked me if I'd returned from America. We joked about that for a while. My host mom made my favorite Bulgarian dish, peppers stuffed with seasoned rice, and we looked at pictures from our trip. Plus, my host niece was running around and being cute. It was nice to be with them once again. I hung out with Vili at the salon where she works, and then she and a friend dropped me off at the bus station. It was difficult to say "good-bye" to her, because we honestly don't know if this will be the end. She's thinking about coming to Ireland with me for a couple of days, but that's a stretch. I have to check some things here on the internet, but I honestly doubt it will work out. It's worth a try though. Other than the company, it would be nice to have an extra "pack-mule" for my luggage. No, really. Her company would be awesome to have.
I got back to Sofia this evening. Greg and I went out for my last, Bulgarian meal. He treated me to a couple of rakias. Awesome.
So, I'm leaving for Ireland tomorrow. In 24 hours, I'll be in Dublin. I can't believe I'm actually leaving Bulgaria for who-knows-how-long. It's been so hard for me to go. I imagine, however, that it'll be like every other "good-bye:" unreal. I haven't come to terms with the fact that I've been saying "сбогом" to people here. Many have the feeling that they'll be seeing me again, and I have that feeling, too. There are so many other places in the world to visit before I come back, but I might be back regardless. After three years, it's hard to leave a second (or third) home, saying it's "forever." That just seems absurd. In the meantime, I should set this aside and welcome a new adventure with open arms.






P.S. By the way, the "saga of the painting I [sent] to the states" has taken a turn for the inevitable, that's-what-makes-this-story-so-good, worst: It hasn't turned up stateside, and it was supposed to be there two weeks ago. Of course! Should I have expected anything less? Grrr and double grrr....