Saturday, May 5, 2007

Communism Isn't Really Over...

This week our community assignment project was to organize a community meeting with some local people and have a discussion so we can understand their hopes, dreams and fears. Although I have been in Bulgaria for 3 weeks, it was only 2 days ago that I REALLY realized this is not America. Yes, I knew that physically I was not in America - I was going to sleep to rooster and donkey noises, frequenting Turkish toilets (holes and not bowls), enjoying very few conveniences, and drinking boza (some nasty wheat drink), but it is difficult to shake the mentality that just by living in America you automatically have.

At our community meeting we had the opportunity for the first time to discuss with the people of Boboshevo (of course with the help of a translator) what their community means to them. Sadly this place has been going downhill for a long time - we learned that at one time it was bigger than Blagoevgrad and Dupnitsa (the nearby close towns) but in effort to keep the Turkish people out, Boboshevo sent the hot mineral water found here in the springs to Blagoevgrad. Apparently the Turkish people liked the hot water so they were sending them chasing in a direction away from this town. But now there are no jobs, no opportunities, no trains, no busses, no places to eat, no places to sleep, no medical care, no Internet, no ANYTHING! All the young people leave so its just babas (this is evident in our 2nd grade class which has 5 students). While they were discussing this with us, all the people had tons of concerns and complaints and even ideas for how it needs to change in order for the community to develop. Everyone wistfully remembered the glory of the communist days - this community certainly was better back then. I am not sure they realize that the only thing allowing that glory to continue was the Soviet's political relationship with the US - the Soviet had to keep Bulgaria under its wing so they bought all the crap that Bulgarians manufactured and such. Anyway, they still have such a fatalist view on life - they depend completely on the government - a mayor that is corrupt. Being dissatisfied with him and knowing he is stealing money, they just wait till they get a new one.

The entire meeting as they discussed all the change that needs to happen I was sitting there thinking, well why don't they just pull together and do something about that? Then I realized how American that mentality really is. We grow up with the understanding that we can do anything - we can implement (or at least try) all the change we desire. And largely, Americans can be motivated to do so. Personal leadership and responsibility - its part of our American DNA or something. These people are looking for a leader but don't believe they can find it amongst themselves. With the communist past they look to the outside for someone to do it for them. After I went home that night I learned that my host sister is running for Mayor - this made me really happy.

Aside from the meeting, we have been really busy at school. I had to teach passive voice in 7 tenses to 6th graders the other day, but had to spend an hour studying to know what it was myself. English totally sucks. The teaching seems to be going relatively well though - I have been learning to speak slower and more clearly (Dad, you would be impressed). The kids are also really great for us - incredibly well behaved. I am also slowly seeming to successfully declare independence from MamaVanya and the babying she is constantly doing. However, at the same time, I realized that a lot of things that bug me I just have to suck up and get over. Of course I don't like to do this, but I figure its good practice for being married someday. Its been a long time I have had to live with someone or take care of someone other than myself. There is no use letting her drive me crazy; I can control my own happiness.

This week I miss hand sanitizer, toilet BOWLS (not holes), and a firm mattress with 2 pillows.

And lastly, my birthday is in 4 days. I just looked at the date and realized this. Pretend I am throwing everyone a big party. Lots of love!!!!

1 comment:

esguerra said...

Thanks for some great insights related to the importance of history and the universal disadvantage of understanding only one cultural viewpoint.

I'm concerned about the "American DNA" slowly being corrupted by consumerism. There are tremendous benefits to be found in capitalism and markets--but the excessive buying in lieu of private, personal creativity may negatively affect American society's desire or ability to effect change in the way you described.

Happy birthday and good luck!