Monday, May 18, 2009

Hitting the Ground... Speed-Walking

Some of the views from my office.

Life has been crazy here over the past week. I’ve been enjoying myself, but it’s hard to find any free time during the week. The trainees (this is how I will be referring to the future Peace Corps Volunteers) will come in a couple of days, and it’s been nuts trying to get everything ready for them. Once they get here, we will be leaving Vratsa and going up to a resort village in the mountains to do Initial Orientation for five days or so. After that, they will come back to Vratsa to meet with their host families and go to their respective villages. Then we will hit the ground running. Training will be in full swing.
Last week, I had training for the first couple of days. I didn’t have to do much except interact in some of the sessions, but the chairs were hard, and all I could think about was how much work I had to get done back at my desk. The other days, while trying to wrap up some assignments for the Youth Development trainees, I also had to make some visits to some of the satellite sites around Vratsa. The Youth Development trainees will be spread around four local towns/villages, and I needed to go to these sites to meet with mayors, school directors, cultural center directors, directors of special institutions, etc. to get to know them and inform them that they would be visited by the trainees once they arrived. It was fun and interesting work. Everyone was very open and nice. It was just time-consuming. I’d be out at a satellite or two for most of the day, and then I’d come back to the HUB center in Vratsa and work on assignments. Then, I’d go eat and return home to sleep. Like I said, it’s been fun and interesting. My Bulgarian Language Trainer from Pre-Service Training when I was in Trud (Ani), is a Language Trainer at one of my satellites, so I got to hang out with her. In fact, I got stuck in the satellite because there wasn’t a train between noon and five p.m. These are just things to keep in mind and make life more complicated.
So far, there haven’t been any difficulties. It’s just a bunch of running around and coordinating with various people. And I’ve been spending a lot of time making contacts and getting complimented on my Bulgarian. My head is swollen because people just keep saying how well I speak Bulgarian. It comes and goes. Some days I feel like I speak it like a rock star. Other days, I find myself fumbling with the most basic sentences.
This weekend, I decided to hang out in Vratsa. Gokhan, the other American trainer, and I decided to check out the discotheque on Friday night. I was sitting on a bench in the center, waiting for him to show up, when I was approached by a Bulgarian who started asking me about what was going on at the local theater. For the most part, I can get away with a few basic sentences in Bulgarian without people catching onto the fact that I’m a foreigner. Anything more complicated, and people start asking me, “Why do you talk that way,” or “Are you Bulgarian?” So, this guy continued engaging me in conversation, and it soon came out that I’m from the states. He was so excited, ‘cause he said that he loves foreigners. Gokhan and I ended up going out with him and a friend to get a drink and then go to the local discotheque. He’s one of those people that just has a zest for life and can be a bit overbearing. He reminds me of a guy in my town who was that way. He insisted that we meet up again on Sunday.
On Saturday, I mostly stayed home. One of my colleagues, Katya, is a wonderful cook and enjoys cooking for others. She has treated Gokhan and I to many a wonderful meal already. So, we hand a long lunch with her on Saturday. Then, I was still tired, so I just hung out, read, and napped.
On Sunday, I decided that I would go climb up one of the nearby hills to visit a place called “the hija.” It didn’t take long to get there, so I admired the surroundings and the views of the town. Then I took a long walk along the river. The walk was beautiful, and I even passed some rock climbers. (Rock climbing is a huge past time here in Vratsa because the mountains are ideal for it.) I walked until I decided it was a good place to stop and just lounged in some shade by the river. Then, I walked back. Gokhan soon showed up for dinner, and then he and I went out to meet the boy we had met a couple days before. He showed up with a beautiful, red rose and informed me that it was for me. So we walked around, met up with some more friends, chatted, and went to coffee. Now he wants me to call him tonight when I get off work. I’m not so sure about this whole thing. His friends have indicated that he has a reputation of being quite the ladies’ man. And so far, I’m just not interested.
Otherwise, it’s been normal to be back here in Bulgaria. Like I said before, sometimes it feels like I never left. The only weird thing is that I’m not in Rakitovo. I love Vratsa, though. It’s a great town, and it’s definitely up there in my list of favorite towns of Bulgaria. The surroundings are beautiful, and the center is laid-out well. The people that we met who live in Vratsa don’t seem to crazy about it, but then who’s ever crazy about the place where they grew up? Unless you have actually lived in other places, it’s a “the grass is always greener syndrome.”
I miss Rakitovo. Part of me wishes that I could be there as well, but I don’t think I would like to go back to what I was doing when I was a volunteer. Those days are over. My job now is very different. It’s interesting hanging out in Rakitovo, though. I forgot to mention this last time. There are people who know that I’ve been back to the states, and they ask me how it is over there. Some have asked me how it is in England. The most interesting, however, is when kids come across me. Most of them just figure that they haven’t seen me in a while. They get excited when they see me and ask me when we’re going to play baseball. It’s the same when older people see me on some roads I used to take to the stadium. They smile, say hi, and then ask me when I’m going to be bringing the kids along with me.
In other news, I thought I’d share a bit of an ego-booster. I didn’t realize how competitive this job was. I figured that myself and maybe a couple other people had applied for it. Not so. There were actually quite a few candidates. It reminds me of how privileged I am to be here. It also makes me a bit nervous, and I start thinking, “Why me?” I just hope that I do the job well.
The weather has been a bit interesting. It’ll be hot, and then the sky will cloud over. We’ll have rain and some thunder and lightening for a while. I love it. I can’t take the constant heat. I think I’m catching a cold.
So, that’s it for now. I’ll probably remember some other things that I wanted to share and left out, but I’ll have to get to it another time. I don’t know when that will be exactly. I haven’t set up my laptop at home because of some electrical issues, so I don’t have access to internet at my apartment yet. Work is busy, and I don’t usually have time to sit down and write. It’s about to get even busier, so who knows? Until next time…. one of the satellite sites....

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