Saturday, March 7, 2009

Finding My Footing in the Climb.

Winter Wandering Pics - Jan-March 2009
Mardi Gras Pictures - Feb. 2009
Kukeri One - March 2009
Kukeri Two - March 2009

I am not sure if it is because spring is approaching or that the end is near, but I have been on a really good path recently. Very content, very happy. Ever since I returned to Bulgaria from my American holiday vacay, things have been on the up. Of course there are bad days here and there, but I have been focused on changing my way of thinking, approaching my situation and work differently and opening my heart to receive what the world wants to tell me. I have been on a journey and it has been a great one. For some reason, I always feel as though I reach this particular point at the end of an era. I have three and a half months left in Bulgaria and only now after twenty-three of them do I feel comfortable enough to really get over myself and seriously give selflessly. I think every Peace Corps volunteer has an idea of what service is about before they begin – an opportunity to completely forget about themselves and be immersed in serving others. That ideal quickly evaporates when the reality of living in a different culture and trying to make it work exposes some serious trials and difficulties. I have struggled with what my service meant for pretty much the entire time – never entirely being comfortable. I think a fear of some sort held me back. Perhaps of failure? But at the end of the day, the Peace Corps is a journey of self-exploration. Every volunteer’s day comes at a different time - the day where the fear and inadequacy have been conquered and you are comfortable enough to really be who you are and make the most of what is in front of you. It is not even an identifiable moment – it certainly is a process, but one-day everything just seemed to come together. Many volunteers will agree, but this always seems to happen at the end of service when time is nearly up. Only now am I comfortable enough in my town, speak good enough Bulgarian and have gotten over thinking about myself all the time to really focus all my time and energy on my work and community. And not just do it, but want to do it. And so, I am happy to be here. I am happy to go to work everyday, and I feel I engage in it a lot more. Every night before I go to bed I pray that I will love my students and treat them with kindness and respect, and I have really felt the difference. I like them a lot more. I feel we are rebuilding some burnt bridges. I can laugh and have fun with them. I have started teaching dance classes again, which has been a main ingredient in my recipe for happiness. It is something I love and can pass on to the kids. I have also been helping some colleagues write a grant proposal for funding to build their NGO. And even though I will not, I could honestly stay here longer and be fine with that when maybe six months ago I could not get out of here fast enough.

As always, my kids are the main recipients of my attention these days, so there is always a good funny story to tell. In 6th grade we are working on future tense so I put a take on tarot cards on the board and made them partner up to tell each other’s futures. There were different categories like love, family, work, pets, toys etc etc. Here is what Dimitur had to say:

“Moni won’t marry because she will be a horse. She won’t have any kids because she is a tramp, but she will be very rich because she makes a lot of money at her job. Her toys will be a vibrator.”

Unfortunately, I did not understand his last sentence when he read it and asked him to repeat, which upon hearing realized he mentioned vibrators, decided was not the best idea. I also decided that teaching them tramp was probably not in anyone’s best interest, but a few days before when most of the kids were absent we got to talking about slang. That came after one of my kids Bobby raised his hand and said, “Miss Amy, I have to ask you something but I am kind of embarrassed.” At that point all of the other kids tried to coax it out of him so he just came out and said it, “Miss Amy, what is a blowjob?’ I just burst out into laughing and luckily did not have to take care of that one as the other boys in the class did. This child was obviously unlike the others in not knowing everything bad or all things slang because afterwards he asked, “Miss Amy, you know how boys and girls have different things? What is the name for what the boys have? You know, the thing hanging between their legs?” I deferred to Kristian who jumped at the chance to say penis in class. I asked him where he even heard blowjob and he said some song. Someone needs to pay attention to what these kids are listening to.

Anyway, back to the futures, in one of the classes after we finished everyone’s futures, the kids asked me if they could tell mine. I agreed and this is what I got from Sisi:

“Miss Amy will marry Kevin and they will have 5 kids. 2 girls named Miss Amy and 3 boys named Kevin. They will live at the school. Miss Amy will be a teacher and Kevin will invent video games.”

I tried to clarify if indeed I was to have two children with the same name as me and she said yes. Then Phillip said:

“Miss Amy will be an astronaut and will travel to Mars. There she will meet an alien and they will fall in love and have 50 mutant babies.”

Sisi then piped in and said 20 of them would be named Miss Amy and 30 of them would be named Kevin. Note to any female PCV out there: do not have your male site-mate substitute for you unless you are prepared to deal with the fallout and constant conversation about you being in love for the rest of your days.

Outside of school, I have had a few pretty tiring weekends. The end of February brought Mardi Gras where a ton of us volunteers landed in Sofia for a night at the Irish Pub and then the disco. It was a fantastic time where somehow despite very little sleep and a bad haircut, I ended up being on the wagon ALL NIGHT as one of the last standing at that disco. When I am on, I am on. The embarrassing part of the evening came at four a.m. when I was perched in front of the hostel TV with a plate of Chinese food and some guy came out in the room in front of me while I was flipping the channels. I got a bit startled and dropped the remote, had a five-minute conversation with the guy and as he crossed the path of the TV to head to the bathroom, realized I had dropped the remote without noticing the TV was on some hard-core porn. I flipped to the BBC and tried to make it look like I had not touched that remote in forever when he came back around.

The next weekend was Martenitsa and Bulgarian Liberation Day (from the Turks). Martenitsa is definitely my favorite Bulgarian holiday (details in video above) mainly because it means spring is coming around. We headed down to the Rhodopi Mountains in southern Bulgaria to the village of Shiroka Luka to see the famous Kukeri festival. Basically, Kukeri is where people dress up in CRAZY scary costumes and do interesting dances and sketches in efforts to scare off winter. It was the last must-see thing I had left to do in Bulgaria so it was well worth the long travel. There were sooo many volunteers down there, which made the whole event a lot of fun. The masks and costumes were incredibly interesting and the colors were unbelievable. They were also selling traditional Bulgarian crafts, which were to die for. I have been in the market for some awesome rugs and tapestries for a while, ever since I saw the Rhodpi style in front of a tourist trap in Sofia. I have been holding out for exactly what I wanted, and luckily I found a million of the exact thing at this festival. I spent about two hours total haggling with the sellers and pitting them all against each other to score some amazing deals. In the end I bought two rugs, a tapestry and two pairs of socks. Just enough for another suitcase home… One of the sellers told me, “You sure know how to bargain.” I guess she can credit my mother, though never in a million years will I wish to adopt my mother’s buying, selling, returning or eating in restaurants methods. Sorry mom. Anyhow, after the festival we went to Smolyan, which was a beautiful town, but the most interesting thing there was the amazing thrift store near the hotel we stayed at. I went in two separate times, coming out with some gems all for 50% off! Even though I told myself I needed to save money for Italy in a few weeks and stop increasing the baggage load, I just cannot help myself. Thrift stores literally drag me in. I think “thrift store” is a word I need to know in every language. I have an eye for втора употреба.

Click for my facebook albums one and two to see the great Kukeri pictures and here are some of the Kukeri videos. Sorry some of them are on Google video (which sucks) but Vimeo was being problematic this week. Also, one is upside down, which is sad.

Gypsy Parade at the Kukeri from amy williams on Vimeo.

Horo at the Kukeri from amy williams on Vimeo.

Scary Costumes at the Kukeri from amy williams on Vimeo.

In closing, I am going to share with you someone I have been loving. Like many who jumped on her train, I heard of Elisa a while back when she was the song on the So You Think You Can Dance Season 3 with Lacey and Kameron. Anyway, I googled her and loved all of what she did. It definitely will not be everyone's cup of tea, but she is a very diverse and interesting artist. She is Italian but writes her music in English. Here is a video of her at the Vatican Christmas concert a few years back. The beginning is a little more shaky than she normal performs, but she has an unbelievable voice.

Love and miss you call. CALL ME!


pegngary said...

Neat blog, Amy! We're geezer would be volunteers (supposed to start training in August) and would be interested in a posting in Bulgaria so I started with your blog to find out a bit more. Been to Romania, Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Rep and Poland in 98 and 04 but never to Bulgaria. But we love international folk dance and do a lot of Bulgarian dances. We have a friend who's been in Bulgaria most every year for a decade mostly to dance in the villages. What kind of dance are you teaching? Hope you continue to enjoy your last months there. PS so far our only invite is to Central or South America. At least I would not have to learn the language from scratch- is it hard to learn? thanks gary

Jared said...

Damn. I'm going to be sent to Bulgaria for the PC in May and I thought I was going to be so original by naming my blog "Blogaria."