Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Figuring It Out

I am really enjoying being back here in Bulgaria. In some ways, it feels like I never even left. I love my surroundings, and the pace of life fits me well. I think I mentioned before some of the things that I was dealing with when I was in the states. One of the things I mentioned was the "big fish, small bowl vs. little fish, big bowl" scenario. In America, I felt like a tiny, insignificant fish in a giant bowl. I'm timid. I'm mousy. Here, it's the opposite. I feel important, exotic, confident. I carry myself differently. I like who I am here. I just wish I could figure out how to continue to be that person/see myself this way in the states.
I’m still trying to figure out my job, however. The volunteers will be here in two weeks, and there is a lot to do to get ready for their arrival. One of the things I must do is put together their assignments for Pre-Service Training (PST). This is in coordination with the other three technical trainers that represent the other two programs. Peace Corps Bulgaria hosts three different groups of volunteers: Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Community and Organizational Development, and Youth Development. This time, 65 trainees of all these programs will be coming into the country at once. I’ll work with all of them, but I’ll be specifically targeting the Youth Development (YD) Volunteers, and there are about 15 of them.
It’s been a bit difficult over the past few days just figuring out what to do exactly. I spent a few days revising their assignments and making contacts in the local satellite sites (where they’ll be staying with host families), but then I kind of found myself listless. All of Bulgaria and the staff in Sofia has been on vacation since Friday, and the Training Coordinator here has been off for a few days. So, I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied. I helped the Language Coordinator out a bit with some of her work, but I have generally been feeling like I should be doing something more productive with my time – but not sure exactly what that is. I keep waiting for someone to rush in and say, “Apryl, where are we with…?” and I’ll shrug and respond, “Oh, I was supposed to do that?” But I just can’t think of what “that” is. I hate that feeling.
I spent the weekend in Rakitovo. We got a ride to Sofia on Friday, and one of my colleagues is actually from Batak – which is right next to Rakitovo. We picked up her car in Sofia and then continued on our way to the Rhodopes.
I had a great time. I stayed with Yanko and Ani. I got up early on Saturday morning to go on a hike with some people from a hiking group in Rakitovo. We were only supposed to go to a place in the mountains called “Pashino Burdo.” Once we got there, after a couple hours, they informed me that they wanted to continue up the mountain to a place called “Montaritsa” and over to “Tsigov Chark” to the Batak Reservoir. I informed them that I was anxious to get back to Rakitovo as I was staying there as a guest and felt it rude to be gone all day. They wouldn’t let me go back down on my own, however, and no one wanted to come back with me.
Here comes the awkward moment where I become “the person who’s being difficult.” I informed them that they didn’t tell me that the hike would last the whole day and these other locations. I was informed that we would go to Pashino Burdo and that’s it. I said, “I don’t want to ruin the trip for you, but…” And then I was interrupted by some other guy at the lodge we were at in Pashino Burdo. “You don’t want to ruin it? Then don’t. It’s that easy.” I was frustrated. They said they would try to make it quick. Uh-huh.
So we started on our way. It turned out that a group of hikers from Sofia were waiting for us at that lodge (“hija”) and would be coming with us. They were talking about trying to find a rock formation in the fog, but it was decided that we wouldn’t do that in the prospect of saving time. One of the women from our group came up and hugged me saying, “I’m gonna kill you.” I know she was joking, but I was upset. “Well, maybe if you had told me beforehand….” Had I known it was going to be an all-day thing, I wouldn’t have come in the first place.
We started hiking quickly and were soon wet because it was rainy and cold. Plus, up in the higher elevations, we could still find places with a meter and a half of snow. There was no path, so we had to rely on the expertise of the men in our group. My socks and shoes were soon soaked. Before long, we made it up to the top of the mountain and started our descent. Again, there was no path. The woman came up to me and said, “Don’t worry. In three hours we’ll be in Rakitovo.” Fighting my inner devilish tendencies, I reached up only to brush some dirt off her face.
Man, was it gorgeous. I didn’t have a pack and could therefore just worry about keeping my balance. I moved quickly. I would think to myself, “Oh, this is so beautiful. Wait! I’m angry! Don’t forget, Apryl, that you’re angry!” We stopped briefly for nourishment which included wine, bread, cheese, meat, and vafla. We made it down to the bottom, and there were these beautiful converging waterfalls and streams. I wished I’d had my camera. And, glory be, there was a car at the bottom – waiting to take me back to Rakitovo.
When I got back to Ani and Yanko’s, they were there to commiserate with me and offer me nourishment in the form of lentil soup. I changed into dry clothes and just relaxed. Later in the evening, I met up with my friends Angel and Rumen. Krum, of former fame, is also back in the picture. He would follow me around town and try to talk to me about how much he wants me to finance a project he’s working on. He obviously wanted to spend time with me, but I felt completely uncomfortable. Apparently he’s been making overtures to the new volunteer, Emily. He said he’s going to plant a palm tree at the Educational Center in her honor. My colleagues joke that Krum is having a hard time deciding between us.
On Sunday, I met a friend for coffee, and she made me lunch. She made a lettuce and cucumber salad and scrambled eggs with leutenitsa, and it just tasted so good to me. I’m loving the fresh food. I’m eating so much and yet I can feel the weight melting off. On a TMI (too much information) note, my bowels have changed as well. I then met Emily for coffee and later met Gabe (a missionary in Velingrad) at the stadium for a soccer match. It’s been good seeing people and catching up.
In the evening, I went back to Yanko’s to wait for my colleague to come and pick me up. Valia came over with her daughter, Janet. Janet had no problem sitting right up in my lap and giving me hugs. I thanked her for a card she sent me, and she asked, “How did you know it was from me?” Then she told me a fairy tale called, “The Three Golden Apples.” “Do you know any fairy tales?” she asked me, and I was reminded of the time I stumbled in my Bulgarian to tell her the story of “Snow White” a while back.
Janet was eager to get me to come home with her. “Do you want to come back to my house? We’re having potatoes!” I informed her that I very much wanted to, but that I couldn’t because I was getting ready to leave. She then said, “I have a secret I want to tell you.” I leaned in close. “If you come to my house, I’ll give you a lollipop.” “Oh, what temptations you offer!” I told her, and everyone laughed. My colleague soon showed up, and we went to Sofia for the night. The following morning, we got up early, picked up another colleague, and came back to Vratsa.
Since then, I’ve been feeling listless. I’ve been thinking maybe it would have been better if I had just put in to get those days off. It’s been nice here, though. Quiet. Beautiful. I’ve been sharing dinner, laughs, and interesting conversations with some of my fellow colleagues. A man at the local market asked me, "Why do you talk the way you do?" I just laugh and explain. You get to know people little by little. It’s good. I’m happy. I’m ready to have a clear course for work, however. Bulgaria gets back to work tomorrow. For now, Happy George’s Day and Happy Army Day.

1 comment:

GG said...

Great blog! I felt as though I was tagging along on your hike... getting soaked to the core. GG