Sunday, November 9, 2008
Just My Luck bez Lindsay Lohan and a Hot Guy.
I have been the unfortunate victim recently of what can be best understood as a bad luck spell. I am not sure I believe entirely in the concept of luck. For the most part I believe that the forces of the universe, whatever they may be, come together to bring about the instances and experiences that are necessary for my life. Obviously these are both bad and good. But this pair of opposites is necessary, for without one, the other cannot be known. For the most part, I am happy with those forces. Yes, they bring some pretty undesirable things sometimes, but at the end of the day, I believe it is all intended for my benefit. And usually they are quite considerate not to bring too many bad things at once - amidst long-term struggles and problems they nicely gift me simple pleasures like finding a cute new dress, watching someone totally trip (which, lets not lie, always makes life better for the passer-by) and enjoying a new Gossip Girl episode. I appreciate this and try not to go hating on the world or tarnishing the name of the great forces when something undesirable happens. For the most part, I see the point in everything and if I do not, I enjoying searching for it. I must say however, that I become a bit frustrated with these forces when I feel they deal me way too many seemingly pointless and petty frustrations and unpleasantries at a single time. That would be now. Leave me be to concentrate on the big things ye honorable forces of this great, wondrous world!!! Please do not distract me with uselessness!
It all started when Kevin left, which I will go into details about later. The day was super depressing and while in Sofia waiting to meet him at the train station to see him off, I decided to treat my sadness with some retail therapy. I went shopping and found myself a fantastic pair of over-the-knee, brightly colored argyle socks. I could dedicate an entire blog to how much I love argyle. Or over the knee socks. Needless to say, I loved them and they were worth every stotinka of the twelve leva I paid for them. But somehow during my tear-induced, post-goodbye travel home, the socks disappeared. I looked everywhere. The next day I even went to the bus station, got the phone number of the man who drove that bus, went to the café where I was told I could get bus-driver-411, was swarmed by eight bus drivers who seemed to know everything about me, including where I lived and interrogated me about my love life while I waited for the intended driver, was driven to the “bus park” to look in the bus, and after all of that, still did not find the socks. And trying to explain why I was causing such panic and commotion over a pair of cheap socks was embarrassing and unpleasant. Yes, at the end of the day they were just socks and not very expensive. But I loved them. And after losing my best friend here in Bulgaria to a grand adventure in Thailand, I certainly did not want to lose the socks I bought to replace him…
The bad luck only continued the next week. Daylight savings time comes a week earlier in Bulgaria than in the US. To begin with, I do not understand the point of daylight savings time at all. I do not see why those farmers just did not get up and go to bed an hour earlier during the winter. Why nuisance the entire world with changing the hours?!? And if such a ridiculous thing is going to exist, why change it at different times in different parts of the world? It makes absolutely no sense to me. Regardless, I never remember. Ever. Therefore, I am always an hour early to church. Happened last year. Happened the year before when I went down to the OC for Josh Decker’s farewell and killed time at the Jiffy Lube. Happened each of the three years before that at USC where I killed time at the library with the exception of when I was abroad in London and killed time at Hyde park. Such luck. Anyhow, even after an email from Peace Corps telling us about it, I still did not remember. As such, Sunday morning rolled around and I was supposed to help my new site-mate Katie get to Sofia so she could go to church. I ran to the bus I was already late for, did not see her, and with an audience of all-nighter drunks, called Katie to learn that it was actually 7:30am, not 8:30. Too late to get off the bus. I felt a little better because Day, who I was supposed to meet later, had made the same mistake and been waiting for a bus that was not coming. While traveling, the two skeezies in front of me decided to get all paparazzi and blatantly stuck their camera phone in my face multiple times to take my picture. It was the English-speaking on the phone that apparently warranted their thinking they could do whatever they wanted to the foreigner, so I gave them ugly faces to brighten their memory of me. It was real annoying though and it is times like these where I wish my Bulgarian came naturally enough to say eff off and sound like I mean it. Disgusted, I turned my face into the chair so they had no view of it and tried to go to sleep. I did not succeed, mainly because at some point the man on the other side decided to stick his hand in my lap, as though he was putting/taking something from it. He had a business card or something similar in his hand, so I popped up, gave him the look of death and asked him in Bulgarian what the hell he was doing. He did not say anything and just motioned apologetically. I hated each and every Bulgarian at that point. I eventually got to church where to my dismay I found out that church was actually an hour later that week than normal. Two hours to kill now. I hung around my new friends Curtis and Susan and their adorable little girl Mia until church started, because they had made the same mistake. But since I was supposed to meet Day, I did not get much of the service in as I left early. After sitting on a tram that took forever, I finally met up with her at the mall. Unfortunately however, somewhere between the door and the first store, my phone disappeared. Again, I looked everywhere. I had just spent way too much money on that phone a month before when I renewed my plan and now it was gone. To make money matters worse, I needed to buy powder/makeup in long-delayed response to some previous bad luck of dropping a 55 lira MAC compact three days after I bought it in Turkey and with makeup costing as much as it does in this country, blew 90 leva at the makeup store.
The bad luck did not get better upon returning home, for I was informed that my trip back to the States for Christmas, which was meant to be a surprise to my parents, was spoiled by my best friend’s mom. But I suppose I should have expected the word to get out. Gossip happens. And moms have nothing better to talk about because their kids’ lives are far more interesting than their own. Furthermore, after trying to go without a phone for a while, I eventually had to blow 100 leva to buy the cheapest new one. Ridiculous. In addition, I have bad luck with computer mice in this country. I am on my fourth. I feel like these things should not break, but they do and recently I had to purchase a new one, which came in a plastic carton. It required cutting to open and just my luck, I cut the cable of my brand new mouse in half. Great. I even pulled a trick only my mother would pull and replaced that cut mouse with the previous non-working mouse in attempts to fool the storekeepers. I went back to the office store and while watching them uselessly try to get the mouse to work, tried to pretend I was just as surprised as they were. But my charade was useless, for I could not find the receipt beforehand. 15 leva sucked down the drain there. And yesterday I left my 5th umbrella in this country at the dry cleaners. Ultimately, it is the beginning of the Month and half of my living allowance is already gone. I hate spending atrocious amounts of money on things that in the States I know where to get cheap. I also hate losing things, because it does not happen too often. But here in Bulgaria, I have terrible luck with umbrellas, mice, gloves and cell phones. I cannot seem to hold on to any of them for long.
So here I am now, accepting that life these days is just plain frustrating. And more so, they are lived without my partner in crime, Kevin. He was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to say goodbye to and I did not handle the whole situation well at all. I was in denial for a long time and when it was clear that his leaving was imminent, I took out my hurt and frustration on him. It just seemed easier to wish he were gone than deal with the pain of having him go. And when I knew the goodbye was coming, I dreaded it and just wished it were over. As such, the visit to the train station was not enjoyable at all. It was just basically counting down the minutes until I completely broke down, which I did… and for a long time. I realized in trying to understand my feelings and reaction to Kevin’s departure that I have never really been left – I have always done the leaving. It is usually me leaving my family and friends for something new, fresh, adventurous and exciting. I left Oklahoma. I left Arizona. I left LA for London. I left everything and everyone for Bulgaria. And with something big in the near future, one is granted a completely different perspective to saying goodbye. I have had to miss family and friends from afar, but amidst time and thought consuming new experiences, which makes the missing much easier. I have not had to endure life in the same ole place, same ole way without someone terribly important and vital to me in it. At least not for an extended period of time or possibly, forever. So this is a new thing for me. And I do not like it in the slightest. Anyway, dealing with my thoughts and understandings to this experience is an important time in my life. I am so, so excited for Kevin and his great adventure in Thailand. In all honesty, I am jealous. I wish it were me. I told him that I never expected to go through this experience in Bulgaria with anyone; I imagined I would do it alone. This is one of my biggest faults in life – trying to convince myself that I do not need the help and companionship of others. But having him as my partner was truly one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. I know I can do this alone and it will be ok, but I do not really want to – life is so much more fun with him. I guess that is the test now - conquering this crazy mess we call Bulgaria by myself.
Sadly, the only way I can get a start on that is by getting rid of my 8th graders. Altogether school has been good, with the exception of those awful 14 year olds. I know, I always complain about them and there is good reason. But I have reached the end of the rope now. I did not want to teach them last year after I realized how impossible it was going to be. But I kept going because I am not one to give up. I gave it a terrible and painful year and to be honest, I do not feel good about that time at all. I started with a new set of 8th grader this year, thinking that it would be better because I knew them beforehand. I did not expect losing eleven of the good students, which as I have learned from the experience this year, kept the other students’ ridiculousness and awfulness hidden. Peer pressure if you will. Now that I am left with ten “reject” students – I do not like to call them that, but really, they are the children not ambitious enough or with good enough grades to get into high school, plus behavior-problem ridden students from other schools without an 8th grade – and they seem keen on making my life hell. Last year was a bit different, I had a few allies amidst a few enemies and the rest had the potential to be good. It was day-by-day with them as I guess it is with all children of that age. But this year, they absolutely hate me. The entire class has apparently made some sort of pact that if they all just do nothing, Miss Amy cannot do anything about it. And sadly, they are right. I think of that Machiavellian principle all the time – it is far greater to be feared than loved, but by all means you must not be hated. And I have lost all respect in this class. They steal my stuff, they speak rudely to me, they make fun of me to my face, they run around all class, they show up ten minutes late, they lie to me all the time, they do not listen to a word I say, they laugh when I try to have a serious conversation with them, after the director leaves after yelling at them for twenty minutes about behavior problems they laugh and say Miss Amy cannot do anything about them, and all but two of them are failing my class and do not care in the slightest. They know at the end of the day the system is going to pass them. By just existing at my school in the 8th grade, it is clear that grades are not important to them so I have absolutely no leverage. I am conflicted because I feel like I am failing as a teacher and giving up on them, just like I am sure many other Bulgarian teachers have, but I think I have lost any and all ability to teach them anything. And I cannot let them ruin my life – and they do. Last year I thought of coming home so, so many times. But I committed myself here and was determined to see it through. This year with these students it is 1000 times worse and even though there are only eight months left, I am unwilling to just “get through it.” I have better things to do than that. I feel bad making any sort of ultimatums here, especially considering that if I do not teach these 8th graders, no one will. But I cannot do this anymore. I did not come here to be miserable, waste my time or sacrifice myself because someone else is not willing to do so; I came to try and make some sort of change, to teach a child something. The worst part of this situation is that I love my other classes. Yes, they are difficult. Yes, there are problems. But they respect me and let me try to work those out with them. I do not want to leave them, but if the demand I am about to make is considered unreasonable, those 8th graders just might be my ticket out of here.
On a happier school note, the other kids crack me up every single day and I love them for that. I have this one 6th grade student named Mitko. Sometimes he drives me crazy because although he is incredibly smart and knows English very well, he finds ii impossible to pay attention. But I get it; it is hard for some kids. He does not exactly misbehave, but he is obsessed with flies and snails. Last year on the last day of school he had caught a few caterpillars and snails at home, made them a home in a cardboard box and brought it to school so he could watch over them. He was very caring and compassionate to these little critters, but it totally grossed everyone out. Furthermore, the second a fly enters the room, Mitko is long gone. He has the amazing ability to catch any between his fingers. I could only wish for that kind of skill with the swatter. Unfortunately, he does not kill them, just injures them to the point he can poke and prod them without the risk of them flying away. For the most part, he does his dissecting quietly, but the children eventually take notice and then the lesson becomes about which fly part Mitko discovered today rather than English. I cannot count the number of times I have taken a fly out of his hands, killed it for good, thrown it out the window and told him to either kill it or leave it be – do not keep it in misery. When he is not killing flies, he is drawing pictures of snails in his notebook. He sits in the back so from the front all I can see is that Mitko is drawing and not listening, when I walk back there to call him out on it, there is an incredibly ornate snail picture, usually in some comical setting. Anyway, his homework is usually the most interesting. Last year we had a test with some future tense questions where I asked the students what they were going to do this summer. His response:
If you cannot tell, it says: "1) I'm going to kill some flies. 2) I'm going to play on my computer 3) I'm going to destroy some things."
A few weeks ago we had homework where I asked the students to tell me in past tense what they did for fun when they were younger. His response here:
"I liked playing with car toys. I had a lot. I loved killing snails or playing with them. I had a shell from a snail we cut. And it had some old meat in it so it smelled very bad. So I splashed it with deodorant to smell even worse. Then I lost it somewhere."
In other news, October brought me my favorite time of year – costume-making season. Nothing but vintage clothing makes me happier than creating fabulous costumes, and after really recognizing these passions; I think I have made entirely wrong life direction decisions. Anyway, in preparation for the annual volunteer Halloween party in Veliko Turnovo, I decided to be mish mash, which is a traditional Bulgarian dish made of scrambled eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and sirene, Bulgarian cheese. I actually hate this stuff, mainly because my host mom used to make it on Saturday nights and it usually came around to “revisit” when we were at the disco. It never went down well. I also hate peppers, but I love costumes made to be inanimate objects or strange things. Though last year’s Borovets vafla was difficult to make, it had a box as its foundation. As such, I had not bargained for how difficult costume making from scratch was going to be in this country. At home, I can be pretty sure that the garage or house is going to hold vital materials – duct tape, string, staples, old rags/material etc etc. I scoured the entirety of Samokov for possible materials and made everyone think I was insane in doing so. The bookstore lady did not understand why I was holding hoola-hoops up to my shoulders in efforts to measure them. And telling her I was making an egg costume did not make that situation any more comfortable. Nor was asking the thrift store lady if she thought her yellow sheet was yolk-colored. Anyway, the egg was ready to go, but did not hold up well in travel. Last year everyone I encountered on the trip to VT eyed my box strangely, and this year’s egg was no different. Especially considering I could not cover it so it was very evident I was running frantically to taxis, through bus stations, to the back of busses and through cities with a giant egg. Katie was my travel companion this time so she had to endure the odd looks also, but we documented each step. Unfortunately, I had to completely reassemble the egg that night, but with a hat made of peppers, it turned out great and earned me the “most Bulgarian” award. The party was great and slightly less debaucherous than last year, which was a plus. It was fantastic to see the other volunteers, though I do not know most of them now that we are the oldest group. Bobos rocked the costuming, as always. I love my ladies. I was in charge of the music for the party, which was awesome because then I knew I would love each and every song played. I danced, danced, danced and slipped in some Hanson Mmmbop, expecting to be completely slaughtered for that decision, but everyone on the dance floor seemed to love it, belting out words I thought only I knew. It was perfect. However, the evening certainly took its toll – I did not sleep, danced too much, limboed too low, and then tortured my poor body with six hours of bus rides home.
Dancing Mish Mash from amy williams on Vimeo.
Halloween did not end that weekend, for Katie and I planned a party for my students and the kids at her organization. It was kind of thrown-together madness with hours of DIY decoration making and preparation. It is times like these when you realize how great America and Michaels are with googly eyes, pipe cleaners, tempera paint, plastic spiders, fake webs, plastic pumpkins and all the other materials needed to make ghoulish décor. It worked out though and we enjoyed games like bobbing for apples, get the eye (grape) out of the brains (spaghetti) with a spoon in the mouth, TP mummies and other messy activities like pumpkin carving and cookie decorating. They all seemed to enjoy it and showed up in some fantastic costumes. Although it did not stay on for most of the night, I was a picnic table with a hat made of tablecloth with a place setting on top. My students got mad at me for laughing at them with the apple bobbing, so they made me do it screaming, “who’s laughing now Miss Amy!” I came up on top though and got one of those naughty little buggers. Everyone had fun.
Aside from these things, the country has been buzzing with talk of the elections in the states. Everyone wondering who is the best U.S. President for Bulgaria and seeming pretty pleased that Barack Obama was the choice. It is truly crazy to see how much attention a foreign election gets in different places of the world. That one choice and one country effects the entire world population and far, far way places as much as the American president and America does. I is kind of sad in many ways. I mean, in the states, we rarely hear anything about foreign elections. It is as though we are separate from the world community – invincible if you will. Obviously recent events and the downward trend of America of the last few years are proving that idea and attitude to be wrong, and I for one, am pleased. I am American and certainly happy and very blessed with that. But more importantly, I am a member of humanity. In a utopian sense, borders, restrictions and supremist attitudes just do not make sense. Anyhow, I have followed far more elections being in Bulgaria, for European elections, as well as Middle Eastern and Asian ones are much more on the radar. Being in a country that is a part of a 27-member “state” and very near the “other” part of the world really makes you see a different perspective. Regardless, I am also pleased with the American people’s choice. Ashamedly, I did not vote. Mainly because I had terrible registration issues – registered in two places, not sure if one or the other was valid, a delay in getting a ballot, and realizing that by voting online, I could only vote for President and my choice was not going to make a difference in either of the states I could possibly be registered in. At first I was not too concerned, knowing that Obama was going to be the CA choice, but now that Prop 8 passed, which I am not ashamed to say that I am absolutely against despite being the fish out of water among my “people” if you will, I wish I had. I realize now I have never voted in a presidential election, only mid-terms in 2006. ::embarrassed:: Anyway, I am looking forward to see what happens next - how Obama handles the clean-up duty Bush left him and California deals with civil-rights unrest.
Things are looking up for the next few weeks – awesomely bad girls weekend with HSM3 in Sofia, Thanksgiving, a Bobo visit with the Bobos and the upcoming Christmas season, which always makes everything seem better. And they are building a figure skating rink in the center of Samokov, so I plan on wowing all the boys with my awesome skills… (not really, the last two times I can remember doing that was being fifteen on a “date” with Rawn Richardson peeing my pants and getting wet-boob marks when I fell and then at grad-night with Colin falling and banging up my knee which left some pain for quite some time). As mentioned above and as many of you know, I am coming home for Christmas. All three homes! London then LA then PHX then LA then London and back to Bulgaria (email me for dates). It is a bit of madness with no concrete plan yet, but I will work around all of you! Particularly the LA folk, as I know most of you are traveling out of the city, so let me know when you are there and lets make this work! Beds, floors, and rides are accepted here! ☺
Many warm happy birthday greetings to Pat. I think you are fantastic even when you disappear and hope your birthday is wonderful. You know I am always here and hope everything is OK. Check the mail at Thanksgiving. Also to Miss Natalie Peterson. I hope one of these days we see each other - miss you girl!! And MDAers G1ers Kate Neeper and Jaime Lee and Calvin DiSilva! Miss you kids! Last but not least for the upcoming, ISABIRD Bejarano. I know you wish you were pushing me down ramps at South Bank but you will have to get on without me. And since it's been so long since I last blogged, I missed the October birthdays of some of my favorites, Sir Keven Burns, beautiful Taryn Kaehr, London buddy Ray Verrall, Bradford Fishback, Jeff Clark and Justin Feireisel. Miss you all and hope they were great! Congrats Kayla on getting Kennedy here safely and CALL ME! Also congrats to Mr. Joshua Decker who comes home this week from 2 years in Amish land! So excited for you and so, so looking forward to seeing you!
Miss and love you all. I’m still here ☺ 213.985.2877
Posted by Amy Williams at 6:50 PM