Archive for October, 2007

"Alo Mester Jem!"

31 October, 2007

Today was my first day teaching a computer class at the local elementary school. I was pretty nervous because I had no idea what I was going to do. Let alone explain it. Before I went I asked a few B-22s for ideas. Barb suggested that I get them to type their name in English and other words relating to Halloween. So with this in mind, and a box of chocolates (the teacher’s strike forced them to cancel any festivities) I set out with confidence to the school.

After getting lost on the way, I finally made it. I just relaxed in the teachers’ lounge and shot the breeze with some English teachers. Finally it was time. I went to the classroom with one of the English teachers. They class was 30 minutes long and was over before I knew it. I didn’t really teach as much as I supervised. I helped the kids long onto the internet and find a site which let them dress celebrities (I’m using that word loosely as Paris Hilton was one of them But I got a kick out of the fact they could 50 Cent). While they were playing online, I chatted with the teacher. She was blown away by my brother’s ability to speak five languages. She really wants to meet him when he visits with my uncle in March. I was pretty much the token American today. But I know I’ll be teaching something next week. Since the election went into a runoff, there will be no school next Monday because of the election.

I was pleased to find out today that there will be a TEFL volunteer moving to Chirpan next week. It’ll be great having another American in town!

I know my blog looks pretty boring so I’ll be uploading photos of Chirpan and my apartment later. До тогава, чао!

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Address

27 October, 2007

In case anyone wants to send anything, here is my work address. 🙂 It should be in both Latin and Cyrillic. I figured if things were sent to a city hall, they won’t get tampered with.

Jimmy Wall

Джими Уол

US Peace Corps Volunteer

Доброволец от Корпус на Mира на САЩ

Obshtina Chirpan

Oбщина Чирпан

Pl. Saedinenie № 1

Пл. Съединение № 1

Chirpan 6200

Чирпан 6200

BULGARIA

БЪЛГАРИЯ

One down, one hundred and three to go!

26 October, 2007

I now have internet in my apartment. You can expect to find the cunning witticisms and insightful insights you’ve grown to expect to find here. Or at least see what I’ve been up to.

I can’t believe that my first week here has flown by. I’ve gotten know several people via dance class as well as people on the street. I have gotten some ideas for projects as well as starting to teach next week. My colleagues have suggested that I build on the project of the volunteer I’m replaced. He received a SPA (Small Project Assistance) Grant to repair the roof of one of the municipality’s village hospitals. This grant was coupled with health lectures for the villagers. My counter part has asked me to look into writing a grant to repair the actual rooms in the hospital. Hope to visit soon. I briefly met one of the doctors and he was enthusiastic that showed interested. Unfortunately, I cannot submit a grant for the first three months and USAID pulled out of Bulgaria when they joined the EU. This means they will only be offering these grants until the end of 2008. But there are several organizations that offer grants for such projects. In fact, with the accession to the EU, there have been several more candidates for local office. They believe (and I don’t know if this is true or not) that with membership, it is easier to get money for project. I do know, however, that the European Union spent a lot of money in Bulgaria to help get them up to their high standards. It seems that every highway I’ve been on has benefited from EU funds. In fact, in Rila, where I did my training, there were several churches that had received funds for restoration. Not bad for a town of 3,000!

As for this past week, if the rest of my time here in Bulgaria follows suit, I can’t wait! Everyone has been so nice and I feel more and more “at home”. Keep it up, Bulgaria.

Settling in

25 October, 2007

I have now spent a week at my site. It’s gone by surprisingly fast. I was expecting it to be fairly rough but so far it’s been smooth sailing through calm seas (knock on wood). The first few days at work were fairly slow. I had no idea what I should be doing nor what I could be doing. So I’ve shown up and practiced my Bulgarian with people around the office. I bring my workbook along and one of my colleagues is kind enough to check my work. Things have been picking up as of late. My site mate (another volunteer here) is no longer in Bulgaria. I was looking forward to living in the same town with another American. Since she was a TEFL volunteer at a school that has had a volunteer for the past 8 years, they are looking for someone to fill in. Twice a week now I am “Mr. Jim”, the computer teacher. I will be teaching a computer class to children ages 6 to 9. I have no idea how this is going to play out. I’ve never taught kids before, let alone in Bulgarian!

I’ve also had meetings with local doctors for potential project ideas and I have a meeting with the president of the youth parliament this afternoon. I really hope someone at this meeting speaks English…

To help with my integration to my new community, I’ve been attending what I thought were dance classes. I found out last night that it is actually dance practice for a dance team! I figured this out when I heard they were preforming tonight and went to the changing room and saw rows of traditional Bulgarian outfits! I was relieved to find out that I will not be preforming with them tonight. I am very bad but I’m sure after two years I’ll be much better.

The highlight of my week so far has been befriending a local baba who runs a vegetable stand. I was getting ingredients for my spaghetti one night and stopped for a tomato and an onion. She only charged me for the onion. I thanked her profusely. Now, whenever I walk past, I stop and chat with her. She is very pleased to hear that I am learning the horo (traditional Bulgarian dances).

My First Few Days

23 October, 2007

These posts will become more frequent once I get a connection in my apartment. Here’s a sample of my first two days at site.

So it begins…

I got off the bus and met my counterpart at the bus stop. She had a car. “Good start”, I thought. We drove to my apartment. “I can’t wait to get to move in!” I thought. After they showed me around and took me to the nearest magazine for dinner, they left me on my own. I started to unpack my crap and more or less made a mess in my apartment. It was starting to get cold and dark outside and thought (I didn’t speak. I’m sure talking to myself will happen a few months from now) “Boy, I could sure eat some of that tastey powder soup!”. So I walk around all my crap in the living room and go to the kitchen. Pour some water into a pot and put it on the stove. I turn the stove on and BANG! the power goes out. Shit. I’m now in a cold, dark apartment unable to get to the bedroom because of all my crap. I find my flash light and check the fuses (for what, I don’t know. I’m trying to own the situation). After “inspecting” them, I go back to the kitchen and contimplate my options. I think about toughing it out until the morning but I can’t reach my bed, it’s cold and dark and I’m still hungry. I just sit there. For 20 minutes. Then I call my counterpart who brings an electrition (I’m pretty sure it’s her boyfriend becuase who is going to help at gringo at 8 in the evening? (I don’t know why I used gringo)). Anywho, he fixes the problem. Then I was told not to use the toilet because it doesn’t flush. I didn’t care and made my awful soup. I then set out to put together the bed I bought from Trevor (the volunteer I’m replacing). I pulled the frame out and started to look for the screws. I looked everywhere. Everywhere. “Maybe, as a practical joke, he put them in the freezer!” (He didn’t). So, I slept on the mattress with the frame scattered around the bed. (Sidenote, that bed is the best investment I could have made.

Day #2.
I decide, “Hey! It would be fun to do laundry!” So I plug my washing machine into the kitchen wall. I put all my clothes in and the washing powder and turn it on. The kitchen light turns on instead. Yep, my washing machine became another light switch. I have no idea either. Undetured, I grab the PC unapproved electrical cord which was sitting in the living room and try another socket. Success! (It may seem like this took a matter of mintues but no. It took about 2 hours of me turning the kitchen light on (via the washer) before I struck upon this glorious idea). So I sit in my kitchen and read the biography on Che as my dirty clothes hum in the background. I had put the hose to let the dirty water into the sink for when it drains. 20-30 minutes into the cycle, the water starts to drain. Fast. I look up and hear a “splash!”. Puzzled, I look under the sink. Turns out, packaging tape is not a good instrument to hold pipes together. Luckily, I had a bucket unter the sink so I didn’t flood my apartment. I then used the dirty laundry water to flush my toilet. Talk about water management! (Oh and the water into the washer leaks. I used that water to cook dinner and wash dishes). When my clothes were finally finished, I went, like a normal person (I use “normal” very liberally when applied to me), to get them out. The washer was having none of it. I got frusterated and left the apartment thinking “Hey, maybe it’s on a timer and will unlock after 10 or 15 minutes.” I have no idea what prompted this train of thought, but it wasn’t the case. I literally had to sit on the floor with my feet pressed up against the sides of the maching and force the door open. I’m pretty sure this is going to be routine as I had to do the same thing with my whites.

Yep. It made for an interesting two days. However, the sink has been fixed, the toilet replaced and some dude from work put my bed together. There has been no progress with the washer however. I really hope that I don’t break it.

Almost finished

3 October, 2007

I’ve almost finished my training. I can’t wait to get out and get to work. It’s strange; I thought I would love to stay in the warmth of training. But ever since I found out where I’ll be working, I (and everyone else) has been itching to get out. Most to the anticipation is get get control over our diet and living situation. I know when I finally move into my apartment and things slow down, I’m going be so bored without the constant language classes, assignments and traveling around the county. Especially with winter coming. I’m not really looking forward to it. I’ve heard the dreary weather makes it harder to integrate into the community. But this just gives me an opportunity to go to dance classes and learn the Horo and teach English.

I’ll be posted more often when I get a reliable internet connection I’ll be posting more often. I’ll probably be backlogging some of my journal entries here. I’ve got some great stories.