Sunday, February 15, 2009

Losing Sense of Senses

Happy Valentines Day! Like most other western-world celebrated holidays, this one is close to non-existent here in Bulgaria. Unless, of course, you count the pink balloons the lady at the cosmetics store tried to give me for purchasing some eye cream or the cheap V-Day trinkety things sold at the school store next to rulers and pencils. When did I become old enough to need eye cream? Anyway, in honor of Saint Valentine and love, I want to say how thankful I am for all of you wonderful people in my life. I think about you every day and treasure your love, support and friendship. And I pray that every day you can feel mine, even across the oceans or lands or wherever you are. I still laugh at our good times, cry at the sad times, and see your beautiful faces smiling all the time. And I love you tremendously.

I have reached the point where I have been here too long. I think it is a good when I can walk down the street and everything that was previously bizarre, ugly, nonsensical and foreign now just seems normal. I believe they call this integration and I think adaptation to a new place is a beautiful thing – no longer approaching things from an American perspective, but from the perspective of a girl who has had the wonderful experience of seeing a lot of things in a lot of places and finding the beauty and good in it all. However, I do wonder where the line can be drawn between this and just simply becoming used to something. And in becoming used to something, lowering or abolishing the previous expectations that made that thing strange or undesirable in the first place. And is changing those expectations a good or a bad thing? Is the bad becoming good? At the end of the day, my senses might be in a state of complete dysfunction, but how do I really know? The judgments coming from my sensings came from some specific point of view – a force in the world that tells me what the things interpreted by my senses should mean. I believe that some things are intrinsic - they simply exist as a natural state of the world. But then again, I also know that things have meaning attached to them simply because someone or something decided and expected that is what they should mean. Is the sun rising because it is a law of the natural world? Or because someone decided to label what the sun does every day as rising? And does this happen every day only because we expect it to? Furthermore, the sun is bright only because someone decided the word for what the sun looks like was going to be called bright. It could be dark or green or rain. The sun can be good or bad. So really, what does anything really mean?

I think about this all the time in Bulgaria. For example, when I first arrived in this country everything smelled disgustingly awful. The stench of cigarettes densely woven into people’s clothing, plastered on their breath and emanating from their pores. The frightful aroma radiating from the streets – piles of animal waste, slow-moving and ill-functioning sewage systems, trash going up in flames and drunken men rotting in the smell of alcohol and the lack of bathing. Somehow I reached the point where things which were once repulsive have become almost good. Comforting in a way. I walk down my street passing over the sewer where I would have once nearly puked and do not ignore it, but consider it a friendly smell. A normal one. A man with the aforementioned cigarette smell sits next to me on the bus and the thought of how I might hold my breakfast no longer comes. When it came to men, the girls and I called this Bobo goggles - we had not seen an attractive man for so long that we started to convince ourselves that the men we were around were somehow suitable, acceptable and even good looking. That only got us into trouble, which brings me back to my original question. I wonder if this entire phenomenon, becoming used to something or integrating or whatever it might be called, is a problem. Furthermore, what does this mean for my next step in life, whether that be going back to where I came from or finding somewhere new? How will I adjust? How can I depend on my ability to judge and discern anymore? I expressed this problem to Janel and she just told me to stop opening my fridge, which is known for its rotten smells.

This problem with my senses losing their senses is manifesting itself in another way. I would like to think that I hold a uniquely specific perspective when it comes to art, beauty, fashion and aesthetic. I know that it does not match others’ and I have never been particularly concerned about that. I suppose that is why I could wear shirts that looked like curtains and mariachi pants in high school. Or how I can wear things considered unfashionable here in Bulgaria. The only aesthetic eye I need to please is my own. But I often wonder where that eye comes from? Who is telling me what is good versus bad looking? Is it coming from within? Am I unconsciously inspired by the things I see around me? Or things I think I should see around me? Where are those things I think I should see coming from? Am I really listening to those people in the world that dictate the trends and determining what is art and beauty? Anyway, you are all probably very aware of my hatred of harem pants – dumpy pants as I affectionately call them. I wrote a blog about them back in September after my summer travels where to my surprise they often appeared in fashion-forward cities. Unfortunately, by now they have penetrated the world, come to the US, been appropriated into mainstream fashion and can officially be declared a trend. I read a lot of fashion and street style blogs, considering it to be research for the day when I open my own store. Plus I am fascinated with alternative styles and street culture. The point is, I am seeing harem pants on a daily basis now. I see them in the fashion scenes I love. I see them styled in a way that is daring and ambitious. I see them out of the Bulgarian context. I see them so much that I fear that I am close to liking the dumpy pants. This scares me. I cannot imagine why this would happen, considering I have hated them since the day I arrived here and saw them. Are they just less offensive because I see them all the time? Or because everyone else likes them so I think I should like them? Am I that easily influenced? Is this like the sewer smell phenomenon? More problematic, what does this say about Bulgaria in terms of being clued into trends? I stand by my assessment that Bulgaria is behind ten years on the fashion timetable and not setting any themselves so I question what cheap manufacturer made these children believe they were cool? The Italians? The Turkish? It is all very mind-boggling now nothing is making any sense. Kill me now before I think Crocs or exposed bra straps are acceptable or even cool.

My kids have taken to teaching me about their style, so I am helping them with the translations. After Christmas we had speaking exercises where the students had to tell me what their favorite Christmas present was and a 6th grader Mihaela said she liked her G-pants. G-pants? Never heard of them. I asked the class what these were and was met with open-mouthed gasps and admonishments. Apparently they are saggy jeans that have the top of boxers sewn in to peek out the top. Do we have a name for these things in English? I immediately thought of Tupac, which fit right along with where Bulgaria is at on the fashion timeline – reveling in 1994 gangsta or slut style. I taught them the words "saggy" and "to sag", which nicely, they have used since. I did some poking on the internet and apparently G-pants stands for gangsta pants. The look these G-pants are trying to emulate is this, though in the second the dude has True Religion jeans and designer denim-wear is way ahead of where we are at here.

Earlier this week another 6th grader Bobby asked me, “Miss Amy, do you know about M-style?” M-style? Never heard of it. What is with these acronyms? He told me that M-style is where boys wear hair like this (demonstrating a sweeping, eye-covering effect) and the kids cut themselves. I could not help bursting out in laughter and told him I did know this style and it was called emo in English. He asked me if I knew people like this and told him yes, but that this style became popular in the states in the late nineties/early 2000’s. He seemed confused but went on to say that he hated these people but loved the hair. Bobby, I am with you. I too love the emo hair in the indie-rocker-over-the-age-of-21-not-goth-or-shops-at-hot-topic kind of way. Perhaps hope for Bulgaria’s hairstyle future lies with this child. Sweepy will always be in. At least in my mind. Again I did some poking on the internet and died a little inside and laughed an enourmous amout with what I found. First, did you know that emo was recommended to the Russian government as a dangerous teen trend according to Wikipedia? Then we have emo haircuts so please tell me if YOU can tell the difference between scene hair and emo hair! And if you do not know about scenesters, do not fret. You can learn to be one here!!!

Other than thinking about these mild amusements, I have been doing a lot of reading, primarily The Alchemist. Thank you to Janaina for suggesting the book to me. The read came at a good time, as I am approaching the end of the road here in Bulgaria and need to make some decisions about my next step in discovering my personal legend. I feel very close to the story, because my senior year of college I had a plan for my life, which I was very comfortable with. Akin to Santiago’s sheep herding if you will. By a stroke of luck, which at the time seemed to tear my world apart, everything changed as the world conspired to help me realize that I was not on the path to finding my personal legend. The signs were sent and thankfully I listened to them and from then on I have been on a wild journey that has sent me to great places. I am really glad I started it. Most people I know at home are either awed or surprised that I am here or wistfully say something akin to “I could never do that.” Or they think it is a phase I am going through and will one day return to the life of “normalcy” and “settle” down. Well my friends, I have always had big dreams. And when I say I am going to do something, I will. I do not believe in “I wish”, “one day” or “when I am older”, because that is just prolonging happiness and exploring and learning about the world. I find a way to make it happen. Maybe my treasures lies exactly where I came form, but like Santiago, I have to take the journey to discover what I want that treasure to be. It is not the destination that matters, but the journey. And it is hard as hell, but I am sure when all is said and done, I would have had it no other way. Anyway, as I said before, I have been thinking about the next plan in efforts to align it with my personal legend. Moreover, I am trying to really define what it is I really want. This changes daily but my options now seem to be opening a vintage store or travelling the world in Asia. I will accept thoughts and opinions ☺!

I hope everyone is well. Happy Birthday to Colin Noonan. I absolutely love you Coash and hope it is fantastic! Also to MDAer Allie Anderson, London roomie Andrea Hughes, the beautiful and fun Emily Winnie, the ever fabulous Ryan Hale, my good Bulg buddy Toli and Aunt Carol and Uncle Tim – hope your days are (were) amazing.


Justin Fire said...

Happy V-day Amy. Carrie just finished the Alchemist too, and ipso facto is on my too read list.

"I wish my lawn was emo, cause then it would cut itself."

:P Best to you! Justin

Genelle Powell said...

Is a "scenester" a real thing? I had to lok it up! Thanks for teaching me some culture there! And I am so glad baggy pants went out of style, but I can not say that I appriciate a man in skinny jeans! It's just wrong!

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