Being productive

Today has been a very productive day. I got lots figured out including (and most importantly) the schedule of events for the football tournament. The sports minister told me not to worry about getting the awards or arranging the cultural excursion (Chirpan has the oldest monastery in Europe, founded around AD 300). This was such a huge relief! I also made headway with determining what specifically the money raised will be used for; such as for art supplies, field trips, etc. I’ve been thinking I’ve been too personally involved in organizing this event so I delegated this as well as writing the summary for the flyers to someone else in the office. I was able to get the key elements posted on the Peace Corps Eastern Europe and Central Asia Yahoo! group page in case there are any PCVs going on vacation this spring.

I then had tutoring with my Bulgarian tutor. However, we didn’t really go over much Bulgarian. Instead, we brainstormed project ideas. Most of these projects revolved around getting youth to spend their free time more constructively. This all started by asking her if she could find some interested students and teachers who would like to practice their English with a native speaker. This then inevitably grew into a cultural exchange, that I can teach them American holidays (like President’s Day and Flag day (btw, what is flag day anyway?) and traditions as well as learn Bulgarian ones. For instance, today was a celebration of Bulgaria’s version of George Washington, Vasil Levski. He was assassinated by the Ottoman Empire 135 years ago today. He is so revered that every town has his placename on a street, plaza or school. In fact the currency, the Lev, is named after him. Not much happened in our town. The big celebration was in his hometown of Karlovo.

This discussion also lead to the problems facing Chirpan and Bulgaria. Central to this was how much the education system, and attitudes, have changed after the Berlin Wall fell. Before, teachers could grade on discipline in the class room and students could only miss five classes before getting kicked out of the class. Now, teachers can’t grade classroom behavior and students can miss up to 30 lessons (!?) before action is taken. It’s part of a warped sense of what democracy is: that you only have rights and not responsibilities. We then started to talk about ways we could instill leadership and responsibility into high school students. A tall order for sure as I’ve heard horror stories of TEFL PCVs having fireworks thrown at them in the middle of lessons. Other ideas we kicked around were for me to hold a grant writing seminar (akin to PDM) to help municipal worker and teachers fund their ideas and needs. This brainstorming session got me excited, especially since my tutor was very involved and wanted change. I hope we get to act on some of these ideas.

Afterwards, I headed out to dance practice. We have a concert on the 29th of this month and I need extra practice since I missed all of last week. The teacher was pleased with my progress. I than sat around a table near the furnace, drinking vodka with my teacher, the musician and other dancers swapping funny stories. JUST KIDDING! I sat in uncomfortable silence wishing I knew why people were laughing. Oh well, I’ve only been here for six months and I think my proficiency is pretty good for living in a medium-sized city.


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