Infrastructure problems

I’ve been confronted with a few infrastructure problems recently. Last Thursday, I lost all the water in my apartment. It was a problem I responded to with “Eh. I’ll worry about it in the morning” and went out and bought some bottled water. In the morning I discovered I had running water again. However, I had to let the water run for a good three or four minutes as it came out dark brown. I found out this week that the entire city lost water that evening and the water is now unsafe to drink. I’m not sure what happened but I’ll try to find out soon. Today we suffered five power outages. The first occurred while I was eating lunch at the school cafeteria. Thankfully it happened after I had finished teaching class. The second one happened after I got back to municipality and I was working on the computer. It was a good thing I had just saved my project. The rest took place while I was at my tutor’s apartment. I’m going to ask around tomorrow to see what’s going on. I hope it’s nothing serious.

In some exciting news, I received an invitation to have lunch with Ron Tschetter, the Director of the Peace Corps. He’s currently on a world wide tour and will be stopping in Bulgaria for two days. I (hopefully) will be giving a presentation to him as well as other big wigs from Peace Corps Washington about what I’ve been up to as well as my experiences in the past six months (as Thomas Lodwick pointed out to me today, exactly six months ago today, we got our passports stamped in the Republic of Bulgaria)

The rough draft of my presentation is below the fold.


One of the projects I have been working on with my colleagues is to improve the quality of health care in the villages surrounding Chirpan. Peace Corps Volunteer Trevor Lake (B-18) had been deeply involved in similar projects. His primary focus had been the city of Chirpan as well as one particular village medical center. My co-workers were intent on repairing the infrastructure of the largest village, Zetevo, which serves about 2,000 people. I toured the facility and interviewed the medical staff with several colleagues. The building is in such poor condition, the mayor of the village literally fell through the floor while I toured the facility with him! While researching funding options, I thought, “What’s keeping us from renovating all the village medical centers?” Trevor had secured a truckload of medical supplies for Chirpan but the villages are still in need of help. I set out, with the help of my colleagues, to write a letter to the Director of the World Bank in Bulgaria. However, we didn’t really know what specific problems the centers face.

I suggested that we write a survey. However, my colleagues were skeptical; they wanted to ask people in the municipality who work with some of the centers. I convinced them that the best information will come straight from the horse’s mouth. I drafted a survey that asks village doctors how they wanted to improve their infrastructure, medical care and response as well as the most frequent medical problem their communities face and if they would like to start a youth health outreach program.

The survey generated a lot of interest; a lot more than I was expecting. I got all kinds of questions ranging from how to word a survey question to “why aren’t we including dentists?” I was thrilled at the overwhelming response. People whom I’ve never met came into the office to offer their suggestions and wanted to know why we were going to so much trouble to find out “what everybody already knows”. I took this opportunity to explain that we need the most accurate information to write grants and to precisely convey the dire need of renovation and supplies these small village medical centers have. As soon as the surveys are returned by the end of this month, we will appeal to the World Bank, The Red Cross, the World Health Organization and Project CURE for funding solutions. I believe that the ability to write a cohesive survey will prove to be an invaluable skill for the Department of External Resources to have long after my service has been completed. If the past four months serve as any indication of my experience to be, my service will to be much more rewarding and life defining than I could have ever expected.

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