A feeble attempt at articulation

This entry has been inspired by Thomas’ entry as well as several emails I’ve received.

It has now been over six months since I have arrived in Bulgaria. I can still remember the overwhelming nervousness and excitement I had while packing for my two year adventure. I had no idea what to expect. Friends and family told me how proud the they were of my decision to serve. However, I didn’t really grasp the gravity of commitment then. I got a sense of it when I walked into the conference room at the hotel in Philadelphia. This was the first time I met my 39 fellow B-22s. It felt so good to hear that we all in the same boat, riding on the same euphoria of emotions; excitement and fear with the common thread of wanting to serve a cause greater than ourselves. We are a motley bunch, ranging from fresh out of college (like myself) to some more experienced resumes (I never would have expected that one of my closest friends would have children older than me) from all over the country with different backgrounds as well as reasons for signing up. I can honestly say that they are some of the greatest people I have ever met and life long friendships have been forged.

Getting to Bulgaria itself was quite an experience. When we finally arrived, we had all been up for almost 30 hours and needless to say, were tired and cranky. We were greeted by the Peace Corps staff and whisked away for a week’s worth of intense training at a mountain hotel. I still remember seeing Bulgaria for the first time. It was foggy and cold. The bus was ridiculously humid (didn’t want to risk getting sick via the techenie) and stared out the window, praying to be able to fall asleep, watching Sofia rolled by. It didn’t help my preconceived notions of Eastern Europe: dark, depressed and rundown. My experiences since then have shattered these stereotypes. While the architecture has the Soviet angular, dejecting look, the people are some of the warmest and kindest people I have ever met. People really value relationships and will go the extra mile (for the most part) to help someone making an honest attempt to learn their language. I remember being when I was first released from training, a newly minted PCV, trying to make my way to Chirpan for the first time. I was drowning in an ocean of Cyrillic and wasn’t sure why my bus hadn’t arrived yet. I asked a man nearby who was completely floored that an American “knew” his language! The result was being nurtured and made absolutely, positively sure I got on the right bus.

He was only one of a multitude of people I have met and befriended. Other include the baba and diyado who own a vegetable stand across from my apartment. I now trade food with them on a regular basis. I’m currently enjoying some palachinka she gave me this afternoon. The police officer I worked with during training. He knew the ins and outs of Rila and was incredibly helpful and open. (He claims he’s an undercover cop because he’s too big for any of the uniforms). My host family, who took me under their roof for eleven weeks and gave me a unique prospective on family life in Bulgaria. My host mother in particular has been particularly helpful and has constantly told me I am as well as my friends and family, are always welcome. I could go on and on with people I’ve met along my travels and daily encounters.

Service has been like an emotional roller coaster. The highs can be incredibly rewarding, a feeling that you are on top of the world and there is nothing that can stand in your way and the lows make you wonder what on Earth you are doing leaving everything familiar behind to move to a country where you don’t know anyone or the language. Sometimes these feeling collide on the same day. I won’t lie and say the idea of leaving early hasn’t crept into my thoughts when things have gotten tough. But I know that if I keep trucking on, the satisfaction will be overwhelming and it will be something I can be immensely proud of. The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire kinda stuff.

I feel like my time here has shot past; that I got to work on Monday and when I return from lunch, it’s already Wednesday. I look at what I want to do, and I honestly think that there isn’t enough time in the two years of service to complete everything.

I wasn’t sure where this entry would take me once I started writing it. I wanted to take a stab at articulating what my service has been like so far. I don’t think I could ever adequately explain it. But the bottomline is, there is no place I’d rather be nor nothing I’d rather be doing right now. I stumbled across this poem a few months ago and I think it does a great job in encompassing why I’m here:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
-Edward Everett Hale, “Ten Times One” (1870)

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3 Responses to “A feeble attempt at articulation”

  1. Natalie Says:

    This entry almost made me cry! Jimmy, I’m so proud of you and so honored to know you. I know you are doing wonderful things for very grateful people. Continue to stay safe and enjoy this wonderful experience!

  2. Brian Says:

    Thanks for giving me a view through your looking glass, you want to take a stab at what application I’ve been working on? Great post, gives me a great rough outline of what to expect (or not expect at all!) in an overview sort of way.

  3. To the 24s « Chronicling Bulgaria Says:

    […] though tough times. I’m sure you’ve been scouring the internet looking for an idea of what service is like or the timeless question of: “what do I pack?” so I decided to write this post to help […]

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