First of all, visit http://www.flickr.com/gp/8379932@N08/84C402 and see my pictures.
Second of all, this blog is late because we had a spa and movie day on Saturday, which could not be interrupted.
The majority of this week’s excitement began immediately after I posted last week’s blog. On Saturday all 40 of us trainees went to Kustendil a minority exchange and after an unfortunately tumultuous bus ride (this time sadly without Dramamine), we landed in the Mahala. Mahalas are the very segregated and sectioned neighborhoods where the Roma (colloquially known as gypsy) people live. Because many of us volunteers will be working with Roma kids, who are seriously disadvantaged in Bulgarian society, it was a great opportunity to go into their neighborhood and simply get to know them. A few of the young girls performed some traditional Roma dancing and then grabbed audience members to give the crazy booty shaking, belly-dancing a shot. Of course I was led to the front and although this was slightly unnerving, I am not one to shy away from putting on some jangly belt and shaking it. Afterwards we spent the afternoon playing various sports with the kids – I never knew my volleyball skills could be so fabulous. One of my goals here in Bulgaria is to get involved in things I would normally not. I have been a pathetic excuse for athlete since I was a little kid; I was much better at putting my leg behind my head or something equally contortionist than having my foot or arm timely connect with a ball flying towards my head. Regardless, it is important to try here, and I have fun with the kids. However, I did draw the line when I saw a game of red rover beginning. I still have evil flashbacks of playing this in elementary school hearing my name constantly called, because no matter how much strength and effort I put into running across to the dreaded other side, I could never break through. Being called upon time after time after time (I was the prime pick because never being able to break through, I always gave the other team what they wanted), I would get the wind knocked out of me. I hated being the small kid.
Putting my childhood nightmares aside, after Kustendil the ladies from Camp Bobo and Krista visited her host mom’s village home, near Boboshevo. We had a grand time climbing trees and cherry picking, but the real adventures came getting home. The village doesn’t have a bus, so we stood on the highway hoping for a taxi, which we never found. With our hitchhiking thumbs getting us nowhere, Krista’s host mom eventually roped a bus down the road into taking us the 4km to Bobo’s highway exit. Expecting to walk the remaining 4km into town, as we got off and made the near-death sprint across the freeway, we were welcomed by a slowing car that allowed all five of us to cram into the back seat. They were some of our new Boboshevoian friends. For about ten minutes I felt like Jack Kerouac and liked it.
That night we went to the disco, which seemed like the beginning of the second act of our Camp Bobo play. This bizarre evening marked a change in our Boboshevo experience, and the adventurous drama has been continual ever since. The disco is a really strange place and reminds me of a 6th grade dance, except I saw everyone from our 7th grade students to 40-year old ladies drunkenly stumbling to chalga. A few brave souls courageously dance in the middle while surrounded by tables off scantily clad girls concentrating on exhibiting their sexiness to the adjacent tables of boys meticulously asserting their manliness (often shirtless). This is the scene for a while until the slow dance comes on. Yes, you read correctly… SLOW DANCE. At this point the boys put their shirts back on (or not) and sheepishly approach a woman, who they will then ask/grab to dance and engage in what us volunteers call the hug dance. This is in the form of the bear-hug embrace where the man sways so dominantly and allows his hands “explore” the other’s anatomy with such intensity that the dance is over by the time the female can figure out what is happening or where to place her hands and other appendages that are free from the hug’s suction.
Us volunteers spent most of this evening with our “friends” (Iron Maiden, Foxy and the crew) having a good time. We were like shiny, American toys for these Bobo boys. A kid who looked as though he wasn’t a day older than 15 was all over Sehee – when I asked him how old he was, his reply was as follows: “I study geography.” A man whose parents own the swimming pool was fawning over Janel, but we decided he was a good person to know with the pool connection and all. Foxy was chomping at the bit for Day, but he is the most respectable and least skeezy of them all so this was considered acceptable. And after Saturday night, my new boyfriend is Moulin Rouge (*note: this is our code word for being a member of a certain group of “business” men…think The Sopranos). It was love at first hug dance to “Don’t Cry” by Guns N Roses… well, for him at least. We cannot communicate at all – with most Bulgarians I can usually spit out enough to engage in a simple conversation and be understood and understand. However with Moulin Rouge, I spent an entire dance thinking he was asking me where I live when he was really asking me which day and would be good for our date to the gas station (the benzinostanzia). These exchanges usually ended in a frustrated ne razbiram (I don’t understand), where after he would just nuzzle his head into my neck or mine into his. The language barrier again becomes a problem when one cannot think of the words to nicely say, “you didn’t receive permission to petting me like a really soft cat right now.” It’s during moments such as these when I give myself an oral play-by-play in English that I feel like my life is a movie. The next day after explaining to MamaVanya what kept me out until 4 a.m. she told me that he was some sort of tourism minister at the municipality – he is responsible for bringing the hotel to Bobo. This confirmed suspicions of Moulin Rouge, because it is well known that the first hotel being built in this village is funded by the Vietnamese fronted Russian Moulin Rouge. Janel nicely commented that he definitely is in the business of tourism – the tourism of Amy’s body. I didn’t really appreciate this.
You gain one Bulgarian boyfriend, you have to lose another. Poor little Mario was at the disco loitering around us with his little partners in wheelie-popping crime. His heart was being ripped out of his chest as he stood dejectedly in the corner huffing and puffing that we found friends our own age. He eventually stormed out and back home on his bike, while Janel had a great time dramatizing the extent of his soul’s torture. He wouldn’t talk to me the next day and I was concinved he was going to further tarnish my reputation in Bobo by spreading evil heart-broken lies. However a few days ago Day and I allowed him and his friends to play with our ipods and I think all was forgiven. Thank you Steve Jobs.
In conclusion, I would like to think that this week has been about community integration. Apparently the discotec is a good place to start. We are hanging out much more with people from the town, which helps our Bulgarian language skills, as well as social adeptness. Of course it is tricky and difficult thing to avoid being the talk and drama of the town, for the next day all of Bobo knew the events of the discotec. People I did not know began asking me if I wanted a boyfriend in Boboshevo. And then we had to see the 7th grade girls trashed at the disco in class that week, which is incredibly strange. But all in all, life is Bobo is becoming more and more great. I will be very sad to leave this crazy little place.