Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sworn-In and Shipped Off...

...and that time I almost went to Kazakhstan? But we'll get to that.
The trainees are now volunteers! Woo-hoo! My work here is done. You're welcome, world. Actually, I have some final reports and then I will officially rejoin the ranks of the unemployed.
The Swearing-In Ceremony was great. Outside it was hotter than Hades. Inside it was relatively cooler. Lots of hoop-la. Lots of media. Lots of great moments. Lots of important people. In fact, after the ceremony, the Deputy Chief of Mission from the Embassy asked me which site I would be moving to for the next two years. I wish. I'd do it all over again for the great health care. Afterward, I ate some delicious appetizers and ran around trying to get sweaty pictures with my trainees. Good stuff. I'm so proud.
The day before, we had our last HUB. We had this whole wrap-up session for half of the trainees, and I was scheduled to co-facilitate it. It was insane. I've facilitated and co-facilitated tons of sessions in front of these guys over the past couple months, but my heart was still pounding with nervousness like it was the first day. I confessed to them that they "terrified me just as much as they had the first day," and they just looked at me like I was nuts. I've been told that I hide my nervousness well. Maybe that's the one poker face I have. At the end of the session, I pretended like I was getting all "verklempt," and I said, "I love you, guys!" Applause.
I had the opportunity to repeat this shenanigan at the end of the day when I was speaking in front of the entire group. It just turned out that I was the last one to talk to them in their last session of the day. I tried to offer the floor to the Country Director, but she just let me have it. Odd. So I told them how fun they were and how incredibly glad I was that I got the opportunity to come back to Bulgaria to hang out with them. This was all true. Then, I said, "I already did this in front of the other group, but I'll do it for you, too. I then pretended to tear up, and I said, "I'm gonna miss you guys." Then I just walked off. Applause. I was so embarrassed. I could feel myself turning red, and I just wanted to find a chair to sit down in. Wouldn't you know it. Of course you can't find a chair when you need one. And the trainees just sit there until both the Country Director and the Training Manager tell them to go. That's it. Show's over.
The funny thing is, a few of the Bulgarian staff came up to me afterward and commented on how it's normal to feel so emotional after these 10 weeks, and then one of them confessed to me that they'd recently let loose some waterworks. Then I got really uncomfortable. Am I really that good of an actress? Did you think I actually cried? And asking this question has one of two outcomes... neither good: 1. I look like a jerk for pretending to cry and mocking the situation. 2. I'm trying to hide the fact that I cried. Well, I guess it's the former, 'cause I didn't cry. Sorry to disappoint.
I hung out with some of the volunteers after the ceremony, and then I went to one of the YD satellite sites for a last party with the town members and some volunteers. Problem was, the "party" was a real downer. Everyone was sad because the volunteers were leaving, and tons of people were crying... for real. And I was so proud of them. Crying means that the past two months have been terribly successful. Hearts have been opened and lives have been changed - as idealistic and lofty as that sounds. I saw it last night. And yet, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. I didn't need to be there. This was their moment. I had lived my own and moved beyond it. I thought back in my head to all the "see you laters" that I've had here in Bulgaria. The tears. The real tears. And I thought about having to say good-bye to people for the second time around. And I thought about saying good-bye to the volunteers I'd just dedicated the last 10 weeks of my life to. And it's so short, but it's a lifetime. And I didn't feel like that was the place for me. This was their moment. My moment lies elsewhere.
Today, we've been processing final evaluations. I loathe evaluations because I let what people think gnaw at me. The other Technical Trainers had warned me, "Your YDs really love you, Apryl." I guess they scoped out some of my feedback before I got to it. I'm astounded with the Youth Development volunteers. Either they really love us, or they got tired of filling out the forms. They gave us all wonderful appraisals. By "all" I mean YD staff. I'm absolutely delighted that they love the program staff. This is what is most important because it means that they will not feel uncomfortable approaching them over the next two years. And they were all exceptionally generous in their appraisal of me. Only one trainee had a bone to pick with me, and this person still rated me highly. Quite undeserved. It's a good thing that we can do self-appraisals so that I can give staff a vision of reality with some tougher criticisms.
T-minus four days, and I will be gainfully unemployed again. The plan is to hang out in Bulgaria for a couple weeks to visit friends and family. Then, maybe I'll be able to get my cousin on this side of the Atlantic for a while to travel with me. We shall see. For now, I'm working this weekend.
Oh! Kazakhstan! Right. I was going to mention this. For about a week there, the possibility seemed to exist that I might go and help them with their Pre-Service Training for three months. It didn't work out. Mentioned. There are more sordid details, but I would prefer not to share them in my blog. It was cool to think about the possibility of Kazakhstan for a while, and to even have staff over here recommend me to them felt like a huge "kudos" for my work. Good stuff. I believe that something even better awaits, and I'm impatient to find out what that is. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this!


The best B-25 Youth Development group Bulgaria has ever seen!

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