Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thirtween and Going Nowhere

The Best Inventions (according to 7th grade Bulgarians) from amy williams on Vimeo.

When I was thirteen, I thought my life was the best it was ever going to be. It was so good that I decided on my birthday that year that I was going to stay thirteen forever. Now let me set the scene: It was 1997 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I was in the 7th grade. I spent my weekends at Woodland Hills mall with my best friend Jessica Collins buying loads of watermelon sour straws from Mr. Bulky’s, coveting pink satin shirts that said “whatever” Clueless style at the 5-7-9 and wishing that the “almost A” from Playtex in the lingerie department at Foley’s came in an “almost AA”. When we were not at the mall we entertained ourselves with private Mariah Carey dance parties (Always Be My Baby was a must-play) and religiously watched Days of our Lives and The Young and the Restless, which we knew everything about from scouring the weekly Soap Opera Digest during breaks at school. I was on the drill (dance) team and thought I was hot stuff high-kicking away at halftime games for those 7th grade hotties or wearing my little uniform to school on spirit Fridays. But most significantly, I was in love. I even shared this love of the boy of my dreams with my other best friend Genelle Anderson. Mr. Taylor Hanson led me to do some things in those days I am certainly not proud of – I stole some grass, left a BoM on his front step along with his favorite Jelly Beans, ran away from home, drove my family insane with the strict Hanson TV taping schedule, wrote an infamous Superteen article and peed my pants at the Laser Quest where Genelle and I camped out on Fridays hoping to get a glimpse - and for those that know me well, that started an epic era in my life. Genelle and I even decided that we would be supportive if he fell in love with the other. We were committed. This love was legit. Furthermore, it ruled my life. Overall, at that age I was overly dramatic, awkward, scared of boys, waiting for boobs and my first kiss and overwhelmingly obsessive and fanatic. Some of these things have not changed. The thing is, I loved my life and as I look back, I am really grateful it was so much fun. My memories of my early teenage years are filled with so much color, so many stories and more than enough amusement that still has me laughing today. As ridiculous as so many of those things may seem, they have shaped me into the person I am today. For better or for worse.

A while back I had a conversation with Day about what it is about girls like us that causes us to have these really intense personalities that lead us to obsess over ridiculousness. What is it that causes us, along with the other Bobos, to still really love awful movies and TV meant for thirteen year olds whilst we are in our mid-twenties? What is it that draws us to celebrity gossip, sequins, High School Musical, dance parties, Saved By The Bell re-runs, Celine Dion music video making, Amanda Bynes, Newsies, singing loudly in public and costumes? What is it that causes us to unleash our inner crazy in bouts of giggles, gaggles and screams? It certainly is not generational - the monstrous, shrieky creature known as the tween has endured throughout time. Is this a girl thing? Or is this a thing for a very special breed of girls? And in case of the latter, is there some gene that denotes crazy in the pre-teen/teen years? And more so, how did four of us coming from that same breed, though I give an exception to Sehee because she is far more pragmatic and sensible than the rest of us, land in the same training group in PC Bulgaria? Day and I also discussed what it will be like if our own kids possess similar personalities. I cannot imagine what my parents must have been thinking as they were trying to parent this crazy 13tween year old girl. Not only did I want to be involved in everything, which required time, schedule planning and ridiculous expenses, but I dragged my parents probably through hell and back with my love for Mr. H. My mother claims she was trampled by thousands of screaming girls when I dragged her all the way to Frontier City in OKC to see them. And my father, who dies a little inside at the mere thought of dirt actually allowed Genelle and I to climb inside his car with handfuls of rocks, grass and pinecones, which we scored from Mr. H’s house. (and now that is out, let us never speak of it again.) Anyway, all the way from Bulgaria Day and I were thanking our poor parents for their patient endurance and lamenting the moment that it comes back to bite us in the form of our own offspring. So thank you mom and dad. Going back to that promise I made to myself on my 13th birthday, I do not think I realized it at the time, but I would indeed stay that age forever. I do not anticipate that crazy, fanatic thirteen-year-old girl will ever fully disappear.

With that said, I backup the chronology here to AB (awesomely bad) girls weekend (click for pictures) that took place the first weekend of December. It was simply amazing. The purpose was two-fold: to see High School Musical 3 and visit the newly opened Starbucks. A ton of us ladies headed up to Day in Pravets for spa treatments, Buffy watching, Amanda Bynes drinking games (shots of tequila (or orange juice) for each time she falls in What A Girl Wants), vegging on pizza and charades. It was fantastic. We made the trip into Sofia to take Cosmo quizzes at lunch and get the coffee and goodies we had been missing out on for well over a year. You would have thought we had never been to a Starbucks before, but the staff got wind of out excitement and gave us extra free scone samples. More wonderful, however, was the HSM3 viewing. As with all films we see in a theater in Bulgaria, we were the only ones laughing or if we were not alone, everyone else’s reactions were much delayed. This is due to the subtitles and the fat that lots of culture and jokes do not translate well. I am surprised we did not get kicked out of that theater considering how loud and ridiculous we behaved throughout the entire showing. It was great though and we found no shame in shrieks and sing-a-longs. Afterwards we even scored a photo session with the entire cast - the cardboard form of them. I would not have been surprised if by that point, the entire 3rd floor of the mall knew who we were. At the end of it, some lady muttered, “I am not sure how people behave in England so I do not know if this is considered annoying or not there.” Whatevs lady. YOU try to channel that Zac Efron generated squealing.

Back at school, things were going so much better than they were before I dumped my 8th graders. It is amazing the difference actually. I am so much happier now and willing to step up and do more for the other students. Every once and a while the worst 8th grader storms into my room screaming at me and I have to refrain from telling him what a waste of life he is, but for the most part, all of our lives are better. The rest of them are still just as amusing as they ever were. Homework grading is now one of my favorite parts of the job, because guaranteed, I will be laughing. I will share a bit of my joy:

7th Grade homework assignment: Write house rules and what you think of them.
Emo:Do my homework - Very often I don’t do my homework and I lie the teacher it was very hard. But I can’t lie Miss Amy. Listen to the teachers. I don’t listen Miss Amy very often but I do it.”
Rumi: “Everyday I must excrete waste but I simply have no choice”
Gabi: “Everyday I must spew trash”

I sense the use of a bad translation service.

\7th Grade Pen Pal program: Write a letter to a 7th grader in Iowa telling about yourself.
Vesko: “I don’t like most of my teachers. Especially Mrs. Dojcinova our PE teacher – they are always shouting, screaming, and sometimes even hit us. I like our math teacher and Miss Amy.” (under the picture of me) - “This is not a monster (don’t worry), it is my English teacher.”
Am I that scary looking?

7th Grade homework assignment: Write sentences using the given vocab words.

Ivan: “I have one friend called Peter and his mother is a virgin.”
Zornitsa: “Mrs. Petkova’s virgin because hers man is died”
Stanislava: “Donald’s mom was a virgin”
I do not think they understand that concept entirely…

7th Grade homework assignment: Write about your dream girl/boy.

Gabi: “And the most important is he mustn’t have a girlfriend”
Desi: “It will be perfect if he can cook, clean, tidy up, do the washing up and mop the floor.
These girls obviously know what’s up with Bulgarian men. Good luck to them.

Ivana: “He mustn’t be a gypsy. He mustn’t be dirty, stupid or a grumbler… but this boy doesn’t exist because he is a dream boy.”

At least she is practical.

Stanislav: “About her appearance. Her hair has to be dark or blond and not very long. Her lips have to be small. She mustn’t be taller than me. She has to be 13 or 12 years but not younger or older than me. About her way of dressing. She must wear sport clothes. I think with jeans, sweatshirt and trainers. I hate smart clothes. She doesn’t have to be slim. I hate this…”

Hope with such precise pre-reqs that he finds her!

Kiril: “She must be on my years. Must be as high as me. She must be blond. Should not be fat. It must be beautiful. Must like guys like me. Not to look at other guys. She must have attractive name. Must speak several languages – English and Bulgarian. Must be developed for her years and consider the other.”

Who taught him “developed for her years” aka big boobs? Sure was not me. I have a feeling this kid is going to turn into the man Gabi and Desi are looking to avoid.

Outside of school, the last weekend before Christmas vacay Day and I headed to Bobo (click for pictures) to pay the host parents a visit. It was short and sweet, which is the way time with the host families is best spent. The most interesting part of the whole weekend was the attempt to leave. We thought there was a bus at 8:50 to Sofia and while were mozing along taking pictures in the center, the bus to Dupnitsa which we gave no second thought to was filling up. It left and 8:50 passed so we started to ask around. I sent Day to one villager while I took another at which point we learned there was no bus. Problem. But as happens in villages, in no time at all we were ushered into a paneled van that did not open from the inside while a superbly stinky driver raced us out of the town. We had no idea where we were going and just chalked it up as adventure. Eventually the guy stopped on the side of the highway and let us out to get into the bus to Dup, which he apparently called the driver of and told to pull over and wait. Crazy. Things that would ordinarily kill you in the states get you where you need to be here in Bulgaria. And I love it.

Finally it was time for Christmas vacay and I could not have asked for a better one. I jetted out of here to London (click for pictures) where I met Meg and enjoyed that great city’s festiveness. Oxford and Regent streets were unbelievably beautiful. We even went down to the Tower of London to go ice-skating and experienced no tumbles or spills! Katy and her boyfriend Jamie met up with us to be our photographers and accompany us to the Wagamama (Sethala, Brettany, Isabird – be jealous!). The London bit was short and sweet as the next stop was sunny Los Angeles. Seriously, thank God for that place. I landed and after the initial weirdness of hearing so many American accents around me, walked out side and wondered why it was that I ever left. That thought entered my mind a number of times as I spent time with my favorite people in the entire world, ate pinkberry, drank root beer at the Chipotle, got a pedicure, went to the LACMA, walked to the Beverly Center, ate Mexican food, went to the beach, played yahtzee at CafĂ© 50’s, ate C&O’s garlic rolls, drove a car, went vintage shopping in Long Beach, went to Noah’s Bagels on Larchmont, karaoked in Little Tokyo, played charades with my fantastic Glendale crew, wandered Old Town in Pasadena, went to the American Apparel, bought something from every aisle at the Target etc. etc. ETC! LA was amazing and my life and friends there are fantastic. Phoenix was sandwiched in between the LA jaunts, which was just as great. My family is hilarious and it was great to spend time with them as crazy and sometimes frustrating as it can be. I also got to see some long-time friends and special people in my life that I cannot live without. Taryn Kaehr and I organized a mini high school reunion, which was actually a lot of fun and I got to see some faces I had not in a very long time.

Now I have only been away from the states for twenty-two months, which in the grand scheme of it all, is not long. However, you would be amazed how things have changed. Most of you are experiencing these changes as they come so they do not seem strange, but for me, they might as well be like what Bulgaria was to me when I arrived. So, onto the new things in America:

1) Electronic billboards. There were a few here and there before I left, mainly on Sunset Boulevard or near the Beverly Center, but now they have replaced the paper ones. And they are real distracting. How is this safe? And how is the carbon output good for global warming? And how is this good for generating jobs. Where is the billboard putter-upper now?

2) Credit-card payment at parking meters. This has sprung up quite a bit and I am pleased. No one in the states walks around with anything but a credit card.

3) Parking garages with beaming lights where there are spaces available, along with a electronic notice that tells you exactly where they are. Good, but I feel like this can become inefficient when everyone is
racing for the same place. I got myself into a pickle at Century City mall.

4) No cash registers in the Apple Store. This was a problem. I wasted 20 minutes of my life walking around this store telling myself I was not crazy and there was a cash register somewhere.

5) The presence of Blackberries and iPhones. The people who had Blackberries before I left were the few who were given them for work. And usually they had a normal, unblingged phone with it. Now everyone has one or both and has become a slave to their communication device. I just do not know what to do or whether to be offended when I am having a conversation with someone while they are thumb clicking away for minutes at a time! This is where I prefer a lack of technology. I still have never owned a phone with a camera.

6) Blu-ray. Never heard of it. Still do not know what it is and was admonished for that.

7) Rockband. This has taken over people’s lives. Guitar Hero had just come out before I left so I am not sure what kind of craze that started. But Rockband has taken over social lives. No one goes out anymore, they play Rockban
d. It was the Christmas must-have. You need an entire new room for Rockband. But you know, I kind of love it. I feel like if I was around it all the time, that would be a huge problem.

8) French pedicures = not cool. When did that happen? I do not want to revisit the memory of the look I got from Elyse when I said I wanted one.

9) Bluetooth in the car. Whhaaat? Weird. Guess that is what happens when using the phone becomes against the law.

10) Foam soap. Sam Hagler, I am with you here. It was around before I left, but now there is nothing but.

11) Ceramic hair dryers. We are still light years behind over here when we have just now got the ionic kinds and even those are ridiculously expensive.

12) Diaper vending machines. America is becoming a place where you do not have to carry a single thing.

13) No people at the desks at the airlines. We have not seen this yet in Bulgaria, mainly because most of the people here have yet to fly. And before I left, you still had to go to the desk, even if you checked in before. But it works.

Surely there are more but I have since forgotten they are new.

Overall, being home was great (click for pictures here and here). Not only to see some familiar, loving faces and enjoy the things I have not been able to in a long time. But because so many of you are such an integral part of me that has been missing in its full form since I have come to Bulgaria. Yes, I have amazing friends and support here - but even though we know each other well, we have not known each other for a long time. There is something that comes with time – understood patterns of behavior, understood ways of thinking, being able to recognize when someone is doing something not in their best interests etc. You people knew me before Bulgaria and though I believe and advocate for change and continual evolution, it is important to have those around who are going to hold you accountable for the person you were before and the goals you have always had. As such, the vacation was needed as so many of you took time to sit down and listen to craziness and endless blabberings in efforts to make sense of things myself. You ask me the good questions. You give me the good advice. You know me and what I need to hear. You love me when you know I am being ridiculous. I thank you for all that. After the vacay in Amerika, I came back with a lot of ammunition to change my life for the better and dig myself out of a longstanding rut. And honestly, I am much happier now. It is a process. It is a journey. It is never going to end. But I received some much needed inspiration and motivation to keep moving forward and loving it along the way.

That leaves me where I am today - on the home stretch. At first coming back to Bulgaria was misery, mainly due to the cold and amount of snow and ice around. It took two hours to get to the store and back in the pouring snow. Compared to sandals and dresses in Los Angeles, it was dreadful. Bulgaria was also experiencing a major gas crisis – Russia cut off supplies to Ukraine, which is where we get all of ours so everywhere running on gas heat was closed or using rations. As a result, we did not have school when I first arrived and for two weeks there were shortened classes. This caused the days to creep by, but we are finally back on a normal schedule. Last weekend was Janel’s golden 25th birthday so we combined her party with Sehee’s to take over Stara Zagora with golden fabulousness. Check out the pictures here. Time goes faster when I have parties to plan. Now we are on the vacation between terms for a couple days and I have only got five months left! Unbelievable. Now it is time to make them worth it.

In closing, I have missed a million of your birthdays on the blog but I love you all anyway! Till next time, stay classy kids and call me! 213.985.2877.


Sokphal said...

Amy you are too cool for school! Keep on truckin in Bulgaria! You're more than half way there right? Your kids seem hilarious! AND your feelings for Taylor Hanson (who is married with kids now...sorry) is how I felt for Macauley Culkin. I wrote him a fan letter and have the 8X10 AUTOGRAPHED black and white glossy to prove it! What a dream boat. What can I say? He had me at "aaaarrrrrgghhhh!"

Genelle Powell said...

Amy I read this one twice because it made me laugh so hard. Those kids sound like they are too funny! No you are not scary looking! Thanks for taking me back a littlw there. Not that those are necessarily things that I want to go back to! Kissing hanson posters were not my finest moments! I love you! thanks for the fantastic times. You will always be my best friend.