Archive for September, 2008

Project Updates

14 September, 2008

Here’s what I’ve been up to and what I plan on doing:

Municipality: I haven’t been doing too much work with them at the moment since people in my office have been on vacation and the fact that the EU has withheld 3 Billion Euro of aid. This makes my job in the office of External Resources a bit harder… I’ll be scaling my presence in the office back some to work in other areas in Chirpan like

Kindergarten English classes: Tomorrow I start teaching the kindergarten class at Kliment Ohridski. The first day (or week!) will be fairly difficult since I’ve never taught English before and this will be the first time many of them will be away from home without their mom. Add to the mix an American guy butchering their language with a very distressed and confused look on his face. Funny/awkward stories are inveitable. Check back here to read about them.

The At-Risk Children’s Center: I’ve been wanting to work with them for a while and I finally got a meeting with the director. She is still very appreciative of the charity football tournament I organized for them back in April. We talked quite a bit and she asked me to be and English teacher/tutor for some of the kids. I eagerly agreed and I hope to expand this role. She even offered to introduce me to a British family that occasionally helps out. Next month I’ll be going with the Center on an excursion to Veliko Turnavo and helping out with some sort of Picnic (though I’m not sure when that is).

English Club: Over the summer it’s pretty much just been me hanging out with one or two teens and speaking English with them. Once the school year starts tomorrow, I hope to expand it some.

Dance: I’m still heavly involved with the Chirpan dance team. This season will be different since I’ll be teaching them English for an hour after each practice. I’ll be paid in beer and rakia. PC policy doesn’t say anything about recieve gifts for our help 🙂

Youth Conference?: I’ve spoken with my tutor and she’s interesting in organizing a youth conference next spring. I have no idea what it will be about or, well, pretty much everything. We’ll flesh it out this winter and see if it’s feasable.

Charity Football Tournament: It’s never too early to start working on next year’s event 😉

Advancement

14 September, 2008

Sometimes it hardly feels like I’ve been in the Peace Corps that long. But when you look at a calender, I’ve been living in Bulgaria for over a year and the one year anniversary of being sworn in is just around the corner. This fact hit home the other day when I was talking to some other volunteers. It came in the form of “Oh! Did you know so and so went home today?” They were talking about some of the B-20s, the YD/COD group before us. Yes, the group before us is reaching the end of their service and leaving the Peace Corps. This makes us, the B-22s, the old kids on the block (at least for YD/COD work). It’s just an odd feeling knowing that you know these people and were mentored by some of them but now, they’re reached the end of their road and are heading home.

For me, this means I’m getting a bit lonely. Not in the fact that I actually feel lonely. The Peace Corps hasn’t sent any replacement volunteers to my region. Right now, there are about seven of us within an hour or so. After October, there will only be three (myself included). I’m combating this by throwing myself into work and community more. I’ve got a year left and I need to make the most of it.

Time in the Peace Corps goes by much faster than you could ever imagine…

Chirpan’s Day

14 September, 2008

Last Saturday was Unification Day, the day that modern Bulgaria became unified after being split up after their freedom from 500 years of Ottoman rule. Several towns, inculding Chirpan, have their city’s celebration. If I understand correctly, every village and city have a town celebration. If the city is named after a saint or have some sort of relation to saint, the celebration usually falls on the saint’s feast day. (Rila, for example, has their “sabor”, as it’s called in Bulgarian, on the feast day of St. Ivan of Rila).

I didn’t attend the feastival since if you’ve been to one sabor, you’ve pretty much been to them all. Now it looks like I’m not integrating BUT Chirpan had a similar celebration on May Day. Not only did I attend, I danced in a concert. So there.

There was a ceremony by the Unification Day statue intown where the mayor and representatives of the city’s political parties and community leaders placed wreaths.

While I was there, one of my friends found me and invited me back to his house. He was there as part of Bulgaria’s Youth Commandos. From what I understand, the Youth Commandos are like the ROTC, but with out the future military obligation. However, I think it’s more like the Boy Scouts but with much less community service and a lot more ammunition. I went back to his house where he wanted to practice for the following day’s military games. He told me that he was going to compete in the target shooting

and AK 47 loading. Yep, you read that. One of the events is how fast teenagers can load 20 rounds into an AK 47 magazine.

I never would have imagined that I would have learned how to properly load an assault rifle in the Peace Corps! (Note to PC Administration: They were dummy rounds and as per PC policy, I did not fire any firearms).

The following day, I biked out to the field where this would be taking place. I found out that everyone would be taking part in all the events. The other events were the obstacle course (tire run, tunnel and rope climb), ninja star throwing and grenade toss. The day’s events were started with some military type people giving a hokey (and testosterone filled) demonstration on how to take out a “terrorist”.

It was pretty over blown with three guys dressed in sniper gilly suits tackling the dude and then loading him into a hatchback and speeding away. However, it impressed all the youths.

The events started and were really really slow. I lasted about three hours and each team had only completed two of the events. I left early. However what really drove me home was the ridiculousness of it all. I mean, you have about 30 teenage boys all trying to out man each other being overseen by middle age men who were trying to relive their glory days of conscripted military service. Oh, and all the men there had a handgun tucked into their pants. I have no idea if they were real, but it was all pretty exaggerated. It was pretty much one giant pissing contest. There were girls as part of the youth commando teams but it looked like they weren’t allowed to compete, just allowed to hold up the placard representing their team and spending the enter afternoon looking disinterested. I don’t think I missed much. However, it was good to get my face out there and seeing some of the teenage boys that I’ve had a passing interaction with as well as seeing some of the people from the municipality again.

Your Photo of the Day

14 September, 2008

What my freezer looks like after I haven’t defrosted it in a month.

Austria and Slovenia

14 September, 2008

Last month, I went on vacation to Austria and Slovenia. It was much needed and I had a fantastic time. Another volunteer and I left from Sofia on an evening flight. The flight lasted only two and a half hours, far shorter than the time it took me to get to the airport! By the time we landed, it hardly seemed like I’d been in the air at all! I guess travelling around Bulgaria has really made me more patient. We spent five days in Vienna and three in Ljubjana (with a day trip to Lake Bled). The weather in Austria was surprisingly cool but it made a nice change from the hot weather in Bulgaria. While there, we went to all of the palaces (Vienna was the seat of power for the Hapsburgs and they had several palaces there, including the Belvedere)

From Austria and Slovenia vacation

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My apologies

14 September, 2008

Sorry for haven’t been updating you with my adventures as often as I have in the past. It’s been a rough few weeks which has distracted me from keeping my blog updated. Onward to blogging!