Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How to Keep a Technical Trainer Busy

I have been pretty busy lately. Yanko keeps asking me when I’ll be able to come to Rakitovo, and I just don’t know what to tell them. Even if my weekends are free, it’s a long trip. The job is going well, though. I still like the trainees, and we’re having a good time.
On Friday, the Youth Development trainees and I went to an orphanage in one of the training sites. I had arranged transportation for some of them from a couple of the sites, so I got up early and went to pick them up. The visit itself was great. The orphanage obviously had made sure that everything was in its place because they wanted to impress us. Even the stuffed animals on the beds were all in a specific layout. We got to see some of the kids, but only the young ones because the older ones were in school.
The trainees seemed to enjoy the visit, and they asked a lot of questions. We have another field trip to a home for kids with disabilities and to a boarding school for truants on Friday. Hopefully that will go as well and be just as interesting.
Over the past couple of days we have had HUB sessions. HUBs are basically a time for a large group of volunteers to get together and have general training sessions on a variety of topics. Since there are 62 volunteers, we decided to split them up and have our first HUB session with them over the course of two days. Two different groups came in, but the sessions were pretty much identical for both days. The topics were on Bulgarian history, key organizations in the country, the volunteer in development, PACA tools, and a dating panel. I was asked to assist with a couple of the sessions, and I did my best. The days were long, and I think today went better than yesterday. I hope the trainees liked it and found it useful.
Training is in full swing, and I am super busy. I can’t wait to get back into the office tomorrow so I can get some actual work done. I was glad to help out with HUB and interact with the trainees, but I feel like I lost some time because I have so many other things that I need to be doing.
There isn’t really anything as far as story-wise to share. I have snippets of information that I would like to convey, but that’s about it. I will talk about them here-on out.
I finally got paid for the first time since I’ve been here. That’s a relief. Drawing from my bank account in the states was lame for two reasons: 1. watching your savings dwindle sucks. 2. my bank charges me five dollars plus a currency conversion fee every time. So, it’s nice to have money.
I have been hanging out a bit with some Bulgarians that I’ve met here in Vratsa. They’re all men, so it’s been interesting. They told me that I have a nice smile and asked if my teeth are real. I appreciated the compliment.
One of my flat mates cooks good food, so I have been enjoying when she cooks for us. Other PC staff have come over and enjoyed as well, so we have good conversations over tasty food and wine.
I also eat out a lot. This is nice as well.
It’s interesting because one is constantly comparing the difference between Americans and Bulgarians. One of the comparisons that invariably comes up is direct vs. indirect communication. It’s pretty much understood that Bulgarians use a lot of indirect communication to try and convey a point. This is true for the most part. Of course, there are always the exceptions to the rule that leave you flabbergasted – like when someone tells you that you’ve been getting fatter or someone from staff informs you in no uncertain terms that a session you were involved in was flat out “boring.”
Training has been going well so far, but there are, of course, always ways to improve. The format is new for everyone, and some of the colleagues are new. It’s hard to fit everyone’s expectations. The meetings are endless. Lunch and after work aren’t even sacred. At the end of some days, we can’t even see straight. It’s stressful, but I’m liking it. The trainees are great, but we’re also up for evaluation. The tide could change at any moment.
Vratsa has been buzzing with a holiday celebration honoring one of the national heroes, Hristo Botev, who was killed nearby. During one of the sessions, sirens went off to commemorate those who died for Bulgarian freedom. It was oddly inspiring to see a room full of Americans and Bulgarians – standing in silence for a few minutes to commemorate the heroes of Bulgaria. I absolutely loved it.
My dress has come under scrutiny. I’ve been told that I need to make sure that I dress more professionally. I don’t have a problem with my dress. It’s just that they consider jeans appropriate. Flip-flops are not. I started thinking sneakers were allowed as well. Apparently not. It depends on what you’re doing/who you’re seeing that day. You get mixed signals. So now, all I have are high heels. I don’t have to wear them every day, but I’ll have to wear them often. That’s fine, ‘cause when I do dress professionally, I get a lot of compliments on my style.
During the HUBs, they gave the trainees a brochure with the staff pictures inside. They spelled my name wrong, and they didn’t have a current picture of me. So, they used a picture they have on file that they had taken of me four years ago – when I was getting my first Bulgarian ID. Problem: This picture is absolutely awful. I was told not to smile because Bulgarians don’t smile for professional documents. When I don’t smile, I look angry. So, of course, this picture of me makes me look like I’m a serial killer who will cut you if you cross me in a dark alley. At least the trainees find it amusing. I’m glad they’ve already gotten to hang around me a bit and see me before they saw this picture – otherwise they’d probably avoid me like the plague.
That’s about it. I work. I eat. I sleep. Sometimes I hang out in the amazing town of Vratsa. I’m loving it, but it’s stressful. More later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You went back????? You are one crazy woman. Good crazy, that is. I've been thinking about you. My laptop has been on the fritz for months and I couldn't skype. Well, have fun on the job and, boy, do I envy you! Love, K.