Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thought vs. Reality

I finally made it to Rakitovo a few weeks back. 
The weather was gorgeous, but no one was out.  It seems to have gotten even quieter there somehow.  I stayed with Baba Tsvetka in the house adjacent to where I used to live.  My former landlady, Margarita, was out of town.  I had planned to stay in my old place anyway (as she had invited me regardless of her presence there) or in the hotel.  Someone appears to live in the hotel room on the first floor (that's where I stayed when I visited for the very first time), but it doesn't appear to be in operation any longer.  I don't know who would stay there anyway - other than me in a pinch.
I was properly spoiled by Baba Tsvetka and also made the rounds to a few places.  I saw Yanko and Ani.  Maria had her 19th birthday, and I stopped by her new house to give her a present.  I saw Reneta.  Angel and I went out and checked on his horses in a local field.  And I mostly just ran into people if they happened to be out.  But, like I said, very few people were out.
The next weekend, I went to Varna with a group of our volunteers.  It was actually a lot of fun, and I felt like I got the chance to get to know some of them better - especially since we were all packed in a van for the six-hour ride there and back.
The following weekend, I went to a small village in the Rhodopes to celebrate Thanksgiving with 10 other Peace Corps Volunteers and some Bulgarians.  The weather was gorgeous, so we took an awesome hike through the hills nearby.  We played games.  We cooked and ate a lot of traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving food.  (My cooking skills relegated me to dish duty.)  We went out at looked at thousands of stars.  We relaxed and had a really great time.  I felt grateful to be invited - especially since I'm not part of their contingent, and half of them didn't know me.  That's hospitality for you.  The volunteers in my region have been great about including me.
This past weekend, I stayed in Plovdiv.  I went out and saw some friends.  I cleaned my apartment.  I turned in some applications.  It was a much-needed break.
I have been going to a lot of shows with Vili recently, which is amazing.  We went to a jazz concert.  We went to see a modern version of a Bulgarian play called "Bai Ganyo."  (To my shame, I barely understood a word of it.  My lame excuse is that some of the actors didn't project well.  Also, they spoke too quickly in dialect.)  We went and saw a Bulgarian musical featuring the music of Queen - which was pretty awesome.
I've also been to see some movies:  Looper and Cloud Atlas.  Like I said in my last post, it is certainly different in the city.
For about a week, I was busy with a campaign to help a friend of mine.  I referenced him in my last post.  He is still in critical condition in the hospital, and he is not well enough to insert the shunt.  I'm praying for him - as I know are many others.  I'm still in awe about how quickly the campaign came together.  I had brainstormed another idea with a volunteer, and she was excited and on board.  It really was a great idea, and I was looking forward to collaborating with one of the volunteers.  We'll just have to keep it in mind for something else. 
Work is... well, I have mixed feelings about work.  I'm generally busy, which is good.  As my program manager at Peace Corps seems to enjoy saying, "This is the most important thing."  I find myself constantly wishing I were better... smarter.  But I bet a lot of people wish that about themselves.
I've started a love affair with the radiator in my apartment.  I have a fairly large living room that doubles as my bedroom.  This thing can heat - as long as I close the doors to my hallway and kitchen.  If I go in my kitchen, I can feel the temperature drop by several degrees.  But I keep the window open in there, so that's not surprising.  I wish my bathroom had a window, but I digress.
I'm being extorted by a baba in my building.  (I kid.) I've taken to visiting an 84-year-old woman about two-three times a week.  She suffers from dementia, and she believes that there is no one around to care for her.  (The neighbors tell me a son comes in and checks on her about once a week.)  She has taken to keeping her door propped open in the mornings, and when she hears someone coming, she cries, "Help!"  She then complains of chest pain.  I try to visit not because I'm a good person.  I actually find myself getting rather impatient with her if she's downcast.  I visit because this is someone's grandmother.  (In another life, this could be my grandmother.  But I've been blessed with two very healthy grandmothers.)  I visit because one day I might be 84 years old.  And if I live that long, God forbid that I think I'm all alone in this world.  Because dementia makes it true.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I have a lot to update this blog with, but we will get to that... eventually.

For now, my friend Ivan was in a terrible car accident in Rakitovo.  He's been in the hospital in Plovdiv for a few weeks, and now doctors say he needs a shunt to regulate the intracranial pressure in his brain.  The shunt costs about $2800 and is not covered by insurance.  Both of his parents are unemployed.  For the past few days, at the request of his father, I have been doing an online campaign to try and help Ivan get the shunt.  As of this post, we are a little over $200 from reaching our goal.  If you would like to learn more about ways you can help (there are other ways besides donating), please click here.

Thank you in advance for your prayers and warm wishes for Ivan and his family.