Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back in the Ranks

So, once again, I am unemployed. After the Trainees swore in and became Volunteers, we had a lot of paperwork to process. On Tuesday, we had a final debrief. All Pre-Service Training Staff was there, and we talked about PST. Mostly it was a time to pass out kudos for success. Out of the 62 Trainees who came to Vratsa to begin training, 62 were sworn-in as Volunteers. Pretty friggin' awesome. There were also many suggestions as to how training can be improved. Apparently they're expecting around 80 people to come.
I also had to give a presentation on Youth Development Technical Training as part of my debrief. It went all right. The best part were the comments afterward from the Youth Development Program Staff. The Program Manager said some really wonderful things about my work - to the point of embarrassment. Apparently I had taught her something about giving feedback to Americans. I find that interesting because I think that it's something that I need to work on. I also had an exit interview with the Training Manager, and she only had good things to say about the work that I've been doing over the past three months. Of course, I'm not perfect. I crossed some professional boundaries in efforts to befriend Trainees. It's a good lesson for any job where I might take a leading role among my peers.
After my presentation, YD Program Staff rushed up to me with huge smiles on their faces. They looked absolutely giddy, and they had a small package in their hands. There was a short speech, and then they were pushing me to open it. "Hang on a second." I pulled out a card I had made for them with a black and white picture of us from swearing-in. I had written some of my favorite "character traits" on it. The YD Staff at PC Bulgaria are honestly so fun to work with. We all share a similar sense of humor, so it works out well. They gave me a beautiful, silver necklace. It looks like a flower with pearl-like beads in the center. Very thoughtful.
Yesterday was a nightmare. The PST offices in Vratsa were being torn down around me, and I was working on final reports and running back and forth to the police station for some issues with which I'm currently dealing. It's one thing when you have a problem and it's just you who's dealing with it. You rely on your friends for moral support, and you deal with it. It's another thing when you have to bring your friends into the problem, otherwise there's no way to solve it on your own. This is very difficult for me because I hate being a burden and inconveniencing people for something that's my own fault. It tears me up inside.
So, everything is getting broken down around me. I'm printing files for my final report. I'm putting things in folders. I'm rushing about. Pretty soon, I get a message on my computer that I'm no longer attached to the server. Awesome. I was just about to transfer some files there. Guess I'll have to put them on CD and hand them over that way. Soon after, a guy came to shut my computer down. Awesome. I was just about to print a cover page and a table of contents for my report. No worries. I'll do it the "old-fashioned" way with a pen and paper. So, I did. I can't wait to see the look on the next Technical Trainer's face when they see my report from this year. "Ummm... what's up with the pen and paper? How 'ghetto' was Apryl? Did she even do her job?" Ha! Good thing this all happened after final interviews. (wink!) Hopefully someone will be able to make heads and tails of it.
We were driven back to Sofia, and I hung out in the Peace Corps office for a bit. It's hard to let people go. And it's always that awkward, "Is this the final good-bye, or am I going to see you again?" I hate that. It's better to act like you're going to see each other again - even if you might not. So, I hope that I'll being seeing PC staff again before I leave Bulgaria.
For now, I'm hanging out in Trud with the host family. I took a bus last night with all my luggage. I swear I hiked across half of Plovdiv with all my bags. I was pouring sweat by the time I caught the van to Trud. I threw all my luggage down and sat on the floor - trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Of course the driver had to start bantering with me when I got on - much to the amusement of the other passengers:
"You don't seem Bulgarian."
"That's because I'm not."
"What are you?"
"I'm a person."
"I know that you're a person. What I mean is where are you from?"
"I'm from the U.S."
A few minutes later... shouting in the van so all the other passengers can hear:
"Where is it better? Bulgaria or America?"
"Bulgaria is more beautiful."
"More beautiful... but is it better?"
"It's better because it's more beautiful."
"Yeah, but you don't have the problems that we have here."
"How do you know? Have you ever been to America? And the women here are more beautiful."
"Ah, the women, but what about the men?"
Hesitation. "The men are better-looking, too."
"I don't know about that."
...and on and on until he dropped me off exactly where I needed to be in Trud. Sometimes it's worth the craziness that I put myself through just to have even crazier conversations like this one. I'm so sad that I'll have to leave soon.

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