Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Different in the City

My clothes smell of smoke.  The weather has turned cold, and I'm wearing the same heat-retaining underclothes I wore to a bar last night.  Technically, Bulgarians are no longer allowed to smoke indoors - being in the EU and all - but I don't know what the rule is for bars.  Wikipedia tells me it's not allowed as of June of this year.  But Bulgaria is not a country that's quick to play by the rules - especially when smoking is a cultural norm.
I was out last night with a couple of volunteers from my B-18 contingent who happened to be visiting.  One of them, like me, kept a pretty comprehensive blog during his time here.  He said that he felt compelled to "get it out there."  Even if no one read it, "it made the experience real."  I know exactly what he meant.

I've taken on an English student.  One of the volunteers will be going to Cyprus in about a month for a short training.  We're going to be meeting twice a week so he can practice his English.  Others have mentioned interest in speaking English with me, and I'm wondering how long it will be before I get back into having classes.  I'm reluctant because it's not my favorite thing to do.  At the same time, I feel guilty denying people who want to learn.  English opens a lot of doors.
I spent a few nights out with Vili this week.  We went to the mall to see a movie.  I also convinced her to come to a jazz concert with me.  It was long, but it was awesome.  Eastern Europeans rocking jazz....  I was impressed.
I saw Angel briefly.  He had run into some mutual friends of ours from Rakitovo, and I caught up with them in the center.  They had not expected to see me, and there were crushing hugs all around and promises to meet up soon.  After they left, I learned that Angel was comforting our mutual friend, Vesco.  Vesco, who used to work with Future Foundation in Rakitovo, is in Plovdiv because his son is here in the hospital.  His son was in a terrible car accident, and it's unclear just how badly he's doing.  Vesco wasn't making any sense when he was talking to me, and I struggled to respond.  I know he was trying to say how good it was to have me back in Bulgaria, but who can be coherent when their son is touch-and-go in a hospital?  All I could say was that I would pray for him.  Vesco thanked me and said my prayers would work because my spirit is "pure."  God knows this isn't true, but I know He hears and answers prayers regardless.  Thank you, Lord.
The U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, Marcie Ries, happened to be in Plovdiv on Friday and decided that she would like to meet with Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in the region.  She was originally scheduled to come to my organization, and my colleagues were understandably excited.  At the last minute, plans changed, and we moved to a cafe just down the street.  Her husband (a former U.S. Ambassador to Greece), mother, and assistant were in tow, and we were five PCVs.  It was a relaxed and informal conversation about our impressions of Bulgaria.  I was greatly impressed that she took that time with us, especially since she's only been here about as long as I have - a month.  I've never heard of a U.S. Ambassador coming to hang out with PCVs just because.  So cool.
As we were saying our goodbyes, her mother suggested that I come and visit them in Sofia.  She seemed sincere.  I stuttered.  How do you just show up as a guest at the Ambassador's residence?
I offered Ms. Ries a bag filled with goodies from my organization.  I expressed to her my colleagues' disappointment that they hadn't been able to meet her.
"How long are you here? I'll come back," she said.  Again, it seemed genuine.  So cool.  


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