This week has been a flurry of diverse and somewhat polarizing emotions. I am unable to pinpoint exactly how such insanity can occur, but I figure this is just the beginning of the ride I willingly signed up for. Up until this point being in Bulgaria has seemed like a really long and bizarre camp that I still had yet to come home from. Being in such a small village, surrounded by animals, and having to use shower shoes in what seems like a campground bathroom complete with the spider living in my loofah, it just seemed like a little adventure. And like all my adventures in the past, they eventually meet their conclusion and I go back to my normal life. I think I am starting to realize that I no longer have a normal life, nor something “normal” to ground me. Although this is throwing me some serious emotional curveballs, this is not bad. In fact, it is probably the greatest thing I could ask for in my life at this point.
(I insert here the side note that the soundtrack to my writing is Goodbye Sky Harbor by Jimmy Eat World. For those that are familiar, this is incredibly indicative of the momentous goodbye that every moment of my day embodies.)
Last Saturday the four of us site-mates visited Kustendil, which is a beautiful, mountainous city. I bought a cell phone (the number will be coming soon via email) and with that purchase, a free bottle of wine was given. Planning on giving this to my host family, as I sat in the Internet café the bottle fell off my chair and its entire contents spilled over the already dark, dungy floor of this subterranean Internet café. Although I could say I was sorry, I couldn’t effectively communicate the depth of my apology. It is times such as these where I am really frustrated I cannot REALLY speak Bulgarian. We returned home to my birthday celebration – MamaVanya cooked an amazing meal and it seemed that by the end of the night, the entire neighborhood was on our porch. We had planned on going to the disco that night – I am not exactly sure how Boboshevo has enough young people to fill a disco, but apparently it does. We made the trek down there around 11ish to find it wasn’t open yet and sat in a café for an hour just to determine we were too tired to go dance and endure the inability to communicate with drunken men. So like the old ladies we are, as the disco kicked off we began the trek back home. However, in Bobo they turn the power off at midnight. Like clockwork, the lights went off and Janell and I continued our journey in pitch-black darkness. Although this could be unnerving, it was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. You couldn’t see a thing in front of you – the only source of light being the stars that were free from the interference of city lights (well because lets face it, I am in the middle of nowhere). Luckily Bobo is safe enough to venture home in such a situation, yet after I dropped Janell off, my enjoyment of the peaceful solitude was rudely interrupted by a stray dog. I nearly peed my pants. The flashlight I had brought was then used.
Sunday I attempted to go to church. I knew this habit would be somewhat arduous to continue in Bulgaria, but I don’t think I imagined the depth of the difficulty. Church starts at 10:30 in a town 20 minutes away, however the only bus is at 7:00am. I am willing to make the sacrifice. I was very proud that I got myself up and ready to begin my first journey anywhere by myself at 6:00a. Unfortunately, the bus decided not to stop and drove right past me. Kind of surprised that the fruits of my labors for something undoubtedly good were nowhere to be found, I went back home. Then I came up with the bright idea to take a bus to another town and connect there back to where I needed to go. This was certainly out of the way, but I was determined. I got the bus and landed in Dupnitsa, just to find I read the schedule wrong and the bus I was counting on doesn’t run on Sundays. Stuck in Dupnitsa, I studied all day. The whole process certainly wore on me – I realized how much harder it was going to be to keep the things closest to me close. And that is sad.
After a failure of a Sunday, I met the other 39 volunteers in Dupnitsa at a training hub where we found out our site placement – where we would live for the next 2 years. Everyone was excited and at a nice event, I learned I would be placed in Samolkov. This is a mountain town about an hour southeast of Sofia near the most popular winter resort in Bulgaria – Borovitz. Samolkov is home to about 30,000 people (40 times the size of Bobo) and I will be teaching 7th and 8th graders at a school that involves kids in drama, music, art and ecology. I was (and am) totally excited! We also met our counterparts at this hub – this is an English teacher at the school who is essentially responsible for us volunteers being able to function at site and not end up locked in the janitor’s closet by kids at school. It took me 20 minutes to figure out that the woman I was with that spoke very little English wasn’t my CP – my CP had a sick child. Needless to say, everything was more difficult for me and my excitement was starting to wear as I realized how difficult integration into site was going to be. I am going to have to figure everything out myself. Yet I think of this experience thus far and how nothing has been easy and believe that it is inspired. I am pretty sure overcoming the challenges is why I am here.
Hub is where the emotional ping-pong of the week really kicked into full gear. It is a crazy experience because with the other volunteers, it kinda feels like you are on spring break – after the work is done, the partying and craziness ensues. Of course this is a ton of fun, but being tossed between one environment to another so frequently, I forget where I am. I also get wireless at hub and spent a good number of anti-social hours on skype calling friends and family. One minute I experience pure elation and happiness to talk to those back at home, but two seconds later I am reminded how much work it is to stay connected to those most important. In talking to my favorite Janaina, I realized the importance of bringing people along with me on this experience – so they can feel a part of it and grow with me. And in turn, I would like to be brought along the individual experiences of those back at home. Reflecting on this, I am overwhelmed by the amount of work this requires and the uncertainty of success. So keep me included in your lives – you know who you are.
The next morning was the beginning of my site visit – 4 days in Samolkov to get initially acquainted with my school and community. Samolkov is a great place and beautiful - I have never seen more beautiful clouds or felt so close to the sky. But I definitely got my first taste of the solicitude and loneliness that comes with being a Peace Corps volunteer. My actual CP seemed pretty uninterested in taking my by the hand and showing me the ropes and no one else at the school speaks English. The second I met her she told me I was going to teach 6th grade in an hour, which was a bit overwhelming. Overall the class went well – it was about Columbus discovering America. Unfortunately, these awful textbooks here like to inform the kids that Columbus arrived in American and met the red Indians to get treasure and this was the beginning of the USA. I tried to clear this up. In addition, one of the tasks during the site visit is to determine summer projects as PCVs arrive at the beginning of July and school doesn’t begin until September. The school is supposed to help us implement projects that we can work with the kids and have something to do. Expressing this need, my CP discussed with the directors a sort of camp I could do with the kids that combined activities and English. I was encouraged, but was then told this would last a week or 2 at most and the rest of the summer I would have a pochivka (break). I was sadly discouraged by this – I want to implement programs and involve the kids in various learning and creative activities but can’t without knowledge of the language and school, or the ability to motivate them when I live in Boboshevo. This made me feel like a failure of a volunteer of sorts, because what am I going to do for 2.5 months? After this meeting I went back to the hotel and took a 4 hour nap - although this was incredibly needed, I started to understand how difficult coming to site is going to be and how easy it will be for me to just hide in my room. The realities of this experience are starting to hit me.
Thankfully, later that night I met up with my future site-mate Kevin to get the skinny on Samolkov. After an hour he told me I was crazy – I think I overwhelmed him with all that is Amy. Or all that is still very American – and a city girl at that (he is an islander from Hawaii). I told him he better like me because we have to be BFF – there isn’t going to be anyone else. All in all, I think he is glad to have a site-mate, and I am incredibly grateful to have him here. I am not sure I could do this without him. It is strange to depend on someone you hardly even know so much – to place a lot in their hands. There is a certain kinship that comes with being a PCV and I am learning to depend on and trust others more – simply because it is essential for survival here.
All in all, this week has been one of ups and downs and the occasional spin, but I am really grateful for that. Each day helps me appreciate the last that much more. Every new one is an opportunity to change something that didn’t work and try something that might. Everything is more tangible here and with all the time in the world to think about the things I never had time to think about and concentrate on before, I feel that I am progressing greatly. Challenge is inspiring – I might get discouraged for a minute, but the next I am forced to pick up and move forward with a new energy. Nothing is easy. And I like that.
Adventure!! - Meg: said in the very high pitched voice used when we were aimlessly driving through Wyoming looking for some cowboys or a hotel to stay in to be sheltered from the rain after experiencing the tri-country rodeo!
Big apology for the length of this week's blog and bad formatting (stupid internet cafe). Also, pictures coming soon!
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not reflect the views of the United States Government or the Peace Corps. It just reflects me.