Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bulgaria, This Won’t Be the Last You See of Me

If history is any indication (and they say history repeats itself), I will be back in Bulgaria before too long. I’m already devising a strategy to go back, in fact.
This post won’t be nearly as long as my last. I’m back in New York. It feels like ages have past since I was in Bulgaria. (It’s been a little over three weeks.) And not a whole lot happened this last time.
The biggest news was that Angel wasn’t there. He’s currently out of the country. It was so weird to be in Rakitovo without my counterpart. He’s almost always been there when I’ve been around – just a stone’s throw away, so it was strange to be there without him. Still, it wasn’t as strange as I was expecting.
I didn’t stay with Yanko and Ani this time. They said their house would be pretty full, so I took Margarita (my former landlady) up on her offer to stay at her place. She had done some remodeling, and the house was as beautiful as ever. Even some of my old items were scattered around the house. Towels, plates, cups – even a rubber ducky in the bathroom – indicated that I’d once lived there. I wanted to just move back in.
Margarita spoiled me. I ate a lot of good food and slept late. I spent the rest of my time going and visiting people – who would also feed me well and spoil me.
I took a day and went to Sofia to see my former Peace Corps colleagues – some who had just learned when their last day of work would be. (Peace Corps is closing the program in Bulgaria in 2013, and they’re reducing the staff by half at the end of this year.) While it was good to see them, it wasn’t a good time. They were dealing with monumental news that had just been dropped on them the day before. I was imposing on their grievance process.
Again, I stayed with a former colleague and was spoiled by her family.
After a few days in Rakitovo, I had to say good-bye and go on to Plovdiv.
First, something about Rakitovo:
I won’t be able to describe it adequately in this blog, but I will make an attempt.
There’s something about a certain time of day in Rakitovo. Dusk. The light becomes soft and alive. There’s this feeling that you’re being enveloped by the stillness. The Rhodopes in the background take on a glow (it’s especially prominent in autumn). And everything is quiet. There’s a place – near where I used to live – that elicits this feeling most strongly. It’s overlooking the river – through the trees toward the Rhodopes. I always stop and catch my breath when I’m there during that time of day. But that feeling stays with me as I maneuver around the whole city for those 20 – 30 minutes. That’s when nostalgia hits me hardest. I want to live in that moment forever, and I swear to myself that I’ll find a way to live in Rakitovo – just for the sake of that moment.
On to Plovdiv. I spent a few days with my sister, the family, and some other friends in Plovdiv. I even met up with some Turkish friends and tried to practice my Turkish. A bunch of us went out to dinner the first night and just stayed late – laughing and reminiscing about days past.
The following day, I went to a monastery with my family, and we had a picnic. It was so beautiful and relaxing. I tried to forget that I’d have to get on a plane the next day and get back to skyscrapers.
When the time finally came, my sister dropped me off at the bus station in Plovdiv and we gave each other a million hugs and kisses – with well-wishes and promises to see each other again – just like we always do.