Sunday, February 15, 2009

American Fifteen

Have you ever heard of the "Freshman 15?" It's typically where a new college student goes away to school and quickly ends up gaining 15 pounds. The reasons for this are varied but usually boil down to the new independence colliding head-on with a lifestyle change. Well, I have gained 15 pounds in quick succession since returning to the states. It's not that scary, considering the fact that I needed to put on weight. Instead of people taking in an eyeful of me and shrieking, "Good heavens! Why are you so thin?" they don't say anything at all. This is a plus. What is disconcerting is that I don't believe the quantity of food that I eat has changed. It's the quality. Meh.
I'm still trying to get my life together and in perspective. In reality, I've only been back to the states a little over two months, but it's hard to believe. It feels much longer. I started taking a couple of classes to try and give my life some structure but karate is probably about to end since I've injured myself twice and can't afford the classes. French is going all right, but it only serves to remind me that the only way I can really learn a language is to go and study in a country where that language is spoken... lived... breathed.
I took a Foreign Service Officers Test on Friday. It was interesting. The parts I thought were going to be difficult for me didn't seem all that difficult. The parts I thought I would breeze through seemed to give me a bit of trouble. I give God the credit for getting me to brush up on the information that I needed to. As I mentioned before, the selection process is competitive, and I'm cautiously optimistic. Even if I pass the written test, there's no guarantee that they will like my answers regarding my personality. I might not be asked back for an oral interview. It seems that others have more belief in me than I do in myself - especially my Grandma. I certainly know the power of positive thinking. My grandmother is already incredibly independent after recent knee surgery. I'm just a realist. Maybe that's the "Bulgarian" in me. I need a little more belief in myself.
Speaking of Bulgaria, there's a chance that I may be going back for a few months for some work. It's so uncertain, however, that there's really not much point in mentioning it. Here I go again with the pessimism. I would love to go back to Bulgaria and have something to do for a few months, but I'm too nervous about getting my hopes up.
And this is also the problem that I have when people ask me what's going on, or what the next step for me is. I feel like I'm pulled in a bunch of different directions, and I don't know which ones will pan out. I don't want to comment on ideas I have right now (that I'm not entirely sure about) and then be reminded of them while I'm still here doing "nothing." "Hey, what happened to that....? Weren't you going to....?" It feels like I'm all talk and no action. And I'm still trying to acquaint myself with the cultural "rules" (that I know don't really exist) here in this country. Like, how long can a grown woman live with her parents and be unemployed before she starts over-staying her welcome? What's the appropriate length of re-adjustment? Two months? Five months? Nine months? A year? "Okay, so after three months and six days, you should be comfortable in the states once again. You should go out and look for a job, and you should be acting like a responsible adult." I know there are no answers to these questions, and I'm not really looking for answers. I'm looking for some concrete sign that everything will be okay. The great thing is, I believe in a God who tells me that He wants the best for me, and that everything will be okay. It's just one of the luxuries of my life: too many choices.
I've been perusing Peace Corps blogs of Bulgaria. A lot of our blogs (including mine) are filled with a bunch of navel-gazing - a conglomeration of self-righteous opinions which we tell ourselves have some kind of real importance 'cause we were insightful enough to put them into witty musings. The thing is, I find myself critiquing other blogs. I say to myself, "What are you talking about? That's not the way I remember Bulgaria at all! Correct your grammar! That's not right...." When really, there is no "right." It's an opinion. Maybe I'm just jealous that I didn't come up with it myself. I even recently stumbled upon a blog of someone who recently received an invitation to serve with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria. He's so excited, he might as well have received an invitation to fly to the moon (which may seem mundane to some astronauts). My first reaction is to mock him. Bulgaria is awesome, but does he have any idea what he's getting into? Then I think, "You're such a b****! Let the boy be happy. It is exciting." The truth of it is, I'm jealous. I'd like to go back to the days when I received my invitation and was bouncing off the walls - there was just no camera there to capture my reaction. The internet has become a crazy place. So many feel compelled to share what they're thinking at any give moment - myself included. Why is that? But it can be good at times, too. It's nice to overhear my grandfather saying how proud he is of the things I did in Bulgaria, and the only reason he can speak with authority is because he's read my blog. There is one blog that I've been meaning to get to. The entries are even longer than mine, but I've been told it's one of the best PC Bulgaria blogs out there.
I was asked a bit about my experience at a luncheon with some church members yesterday. They all asked really good questions, but one of them surprised me: "Did you have a friend over there?" I've gotten this question a few times, but usually it's dripping with amusement, and it's generally taken to mean, "Did you meet anyone special over there?" I usually ask, "Like a boyfriend?" The answer is most often a twinkle in the eye. Then I answer accordingly. This woman clarified, "No... like a friend." She was asking if I had honestly made one friend in Bulgaria. I was flabbergasted. Three years? No friends? I think I would have shot myself. I certainly wouldn't have stayed for long. Two of the three goals of Peace Corps center around making friends. Who can live without friends? I must be careful, however. The more critical I get about the questions that are asked of me, the more I find myself asking the same questions I criticize others for. We all ask questions that seem perfectly reasonable to us but can come off a bit strange to the other person.
Friendship is something that I've thought a lot about over the past few days. While in Bulgaria, I always missed my friends over here in the states. And I always thought that the number of friends I have stateside are more numerous than the number of friends in Bulgaria. I would think, "I can't wait to get back, so that I can be with all my friends." Coming here, I've realized that a lot of my friends are actually on the other side of an ocean. I guess I over-calculated the number of friends I have in the states. Or it's that we're spread out, and it's hard to keep in touch - even in the same state. Bulgaria just felt so small and more cozy. I certainly had more cordial relationships with my acquaintances. Ah, small town life. I miss it. But I certainly treasure my friends here. I'm a lucky girl. I get to miss friends in different parts of the world.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Googleganger"

Have you ever "googled" your own name to see what turns up? My name has become more common on the internet since I started the blog. Of course my blog comes up. My Facebook profile generates a hit. A PDF on an Honor's thesis I did in college generates a hit. I knew this stuff was out there. There were other things that surprised me, however: a link to my Athens marathon time (which give an inaccurate age), a few Peace Corps publications, a hunger solutions site, some friends' sites, census data (where, for a few bucks, you can pick up some misinformation on me), and a Seventh-Day Adventist blog site that decided to link one of my posts.
(Un)fortunately, my name and its unique spelling are apparently pretty rare on the internet, so there are only a few sites that truly aren't actually linked to me in some way. This makes it easy to find. At first, I was a bit miffed at finding the sites that had linked to my blog without informing me first. Then I changed my attitude. I know I've linked to sites without consulting their author's first, and I wonder what they would think about that. The internet is a free and superfluous exchange of information. No one can really keep tabs on it or hold it in check. Once you put it out there, it doesn't truly belong to you anymore. Honestly, I'm surprised this blog hasn't gotten me into more trouble. But really... a hunger site with text stolen from the USAID site? An SDA blog site? It boggles my mind that people care. But then again... some of these sites were way down on the list, so maybe they don't.
Readjustment is still a process. I had a friend tell me, "I'm not going to say 'welcome home.' I'm going to say 'welcome back.'" I thought that was smart - 'cause another friend referred to it as a "viaje." Let me tell you that I would not enjoy three years of perpetual traveling and playing the role of the tourist, which is what the word "trip" signifies in my mind.