Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

Only one more week, and the trainee caterpillars will sprout their wings and turn into beautiful volunteer butterflies. Does the corny imagery make you want to gag? Awesome. I hope so. I can't believe it. I'm a little nervous 'cause I've been enjoying this gig so much, and I don't know what's coming next.
This last week was pretty good. On Monday, I went to one of the satellite sites to hang out for their day camp/community project. The trainees there decided to play a bunch of relay-type water games with the kids. They then separated into groups to play sports, do arts and crafts, or sing songs in English. I was really impressed with the number of kids that came, and they seemed to have a wonderful time. Kudos to the trainees.
The next couple of days were spent in the office - working on final reports. On Thursday, the three other Youth Development satellite groups decided to have their day camps pretty much simultaneously. Fortunately, I was able to go to all of them for about three hours. The first group did a park clean-up followed by some water games. Fortunately, I was able to stay long enough to see how much municipal/citizen support they got (a lot!), pick up trash, and witness how many news networks took an interest in them (three). I wasn't able to stay for the water games.
I then went onto the next site where the trainees had done a project with some of the kids in the village to paint some trash cans, paint a sign to encourage people to keep their trash out of the river, and play some water balloon games. Unfortunately, I missed most of this project, so I didn't get to help much. I remember have a delicious lunch and helping to fill water balloons. Then, they generously gave the Training Manager and myself a water balloon to take to the next satellite site.
The trainees in the final site did a lot of interesting games/songs/dances with the kids who showed up, and we had fun with all the relay races. One of the trainees and I even got into a canned whipped-cream fight. It wasn't a fair fight. Her can was full while mine was on its last legs. So, I was pretty much covered while she didn't have any on her. A successful yet exhausting day. I'm thrilled with the way the day's activities/projects turned out for all the satellite sites, and I'm especially happy that they received so much support.
On Friday, I decided to go up and visit the Close of Service Conference. I wanted to see the volunteers there (I had interacted with a bunch of them during my own service), and I also wanted to listen to a panel dedicated to re-integration/getting on with life after Peace Corps, etc. Peace Corps had invited five people to talk about their experiences of life after Peace Corps/living abroad/etc. At the last minute, the Country Director asked me to sit on the panel as well. I told her that I felt like a failure at re-integration. What could I share? So, I shared the tough time I had moving on with life when I was in the states after my service ended. One of the volunteers joked that I was "the cautionary tale." I was candid about sharing how I was pretty much listless after returning to the U.S. There was a lot of laughter, so I guess they found it funny. I know my situation is not unique. I got a lot of good insight from the other panelists. I guess I just see this return to the U.S. as my second chance to try at re-integration and move on with my life. I still don't know what that's going to entail exactly, however. God will just have to take care of it.
On Friday, right about dusk, I decided to take a walk. I ended up in the mountains, and then I came upon a clearing. While walking along a well-worn path, I found some blackberries. Treasure! I greedily helped myself to as many as looked ripe enough to be delicious. Soon, I saw a soldier in the distance. He was wearing fatigues and carrying a firearm. "This has 'international incident' written all over it," I thought to myself. I could tell that he was coming for me, but I wasn't about to just run off. It took him a good several minutes to get to me. By that time, I'd downed quite a few blackberries.
Once he reached me, I politely said, "Good evening." He returned the greeting and informed me that I needed to make myself scarce. I said, "I can't walk around here?" I found that really weird. I knew I was near a military base, but I was in a beautiful, natural clearing. Maybe the Bulgarians are really protective of their blackberries. I just lamented the fact that here was this beautiful area, and your average evening stroller couldn't go and hang out there. What's the world coming to?
Yesterday, one of my roommates and I decided to go to Pleven. I had never been there, and I heard that they had some really interesting artwork in the town. It wasn't too far away considering the fact that we caught quick international trains to and from the town. It was sweltering yesterday, though. And I didn't have much energy to do anything else than see the panoramic painting that we had gone there to see. Still, it was a nice day.
Afterward, I went out to a discotheque with some friends. I can't believe I managed to stay up until four in the morning. Because I managed to stay out that long, I haven't gotten much done today. The same roommate and I were talking about going on a walk to a nearby village and do some swimming in the river that twists through the mountains here. I think I might have blown it by sleeping too late. So now I'm just having a lazy Sunday.

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