Archive for November, 2008

Back in ‘Murka

27 November, 2008

Dispatches from the free world to follow shortly

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Deep Thought

24 November, 2008

I asked my baba if she wanted anything from America, and she said “a tattoo machine”.

My Bulgarian isn’t perfect, but I’m not that bad…

Quote of the Day

20 November, 2008

Me: “Can I keep my old Linchna Karta like a souvenir?”

Lady: “No. It’s not a souvenir.”

Deep Thought

20 November, 2008

Mai mum sez mai speeling luks funnie

Your Photo of the Day

19 November, 2008

Fluency

19 November, 2008

My biggest concern when I first joined the Peace Corps was learning another language. It was a reasonable fear seeing that I took six years of Spanish and still had trouble navigating a menu in a Mexican restaurant. Bulgarian is much (much) tougher than Spanish. For starters, it’s a different alphabet. A “P” in English and Spanish is actually an “R” in Bulgarian. And then you’ve got dudes like this: “Ю”. Having 16 months under my belt makes the Cyrillic alphabet a cinch. It’s actually much easier than the Latin alphabet-everything is straight up phonetic. “You spell it with a “P”, as in “Psychology”. That joke doesn’t work in Bulgarian.

Can I speak, read and write Bulgarian? Absolutly. However, I only write it for my tutor and I rarely read it extensively. But speaking, yet. My vocabulary isn’t where I’d like it to be but my pronouciation and grammar has lead people to confuse me for a Bulgarian. Though they haven’t told me if it’s a slow Bulgarian who says things like “something you put high in a room to make light” (нещо която слагиш нагори в стая да прави светлина) or “a light bulb” (електрическа крушка). Yea, I get lots of weird looks. But not as often as I once did.

Can I communicate? Yes I can. Am I confident when communicating? Ususally. I think that’s the key to learning a new language, powering through your obvious mistakes to get your point across. And not only do that, but do it with a smile. Can I understand what’s going on around me? Yes. Usually if it’s on a topic I don’t have much vocabulary, it takes more energy. But I can usually form an opinion on the subject and convey it.

So where do I stand on fluency? I, by no means, can speak like a native. I can’t put up a newspaper and understand all the front page stories. Or listen to the radio and understand everything. I’m also horrible at Bulgarian riddles (why some people aske them, I have no idea). However, I’m going to define it as “being able to overhear things and understand what people are talking about when you don’t want to”. Listening to people talk about the Roma, people with dark skin and sometimes the President-Elect all fall into this category. It’s also getting harder to fake ignorance on the language. It comes with the territory, I guess. I’ll take that any day to prove my junior high Spanish teacher wrong. 🙂

A trip to the doctor

18 November, 2008

Over the past six weeks, I’ve had a nagging cough. It’s come and gone so much that I haven’t really thought about how long I’d had it. However, this week it’s gotten worse and I finally broke down and called the Peace Corps Medical Officer. She told me to make an appointment with a local doctor and to relay the diagnosis. I called her on the way to dance practice and once I got there, I told my counterpart what I had to do. You can imagine what telling this type of news to a room full of middle aged and older women does when they find out the token American is going to the hospital. My dance teacher came up to me and asked me, very seriously, why I didn’t follow her advice (note: look at the date of that entry. Creepy) She then kissed me on both cheeks and sent me home.

Today, as soon as I got into the office, I headed straight out with my counterpart. We walked to the hospital in the center of town. I think it’s more of a medical center, but for the purposes of the story, I’ll call it the hospital. I had never been in there before and was amazed at the number of gates. It seemed every single room and several hall ways could be locked shut with a gate if need be. We made it to the doctor’s office and walked straight in. I’m not sure if it’s because there was no line, if he is a friend of my counterpart or because I got special treatment. I felt a little bit embarrassed since it seemed everyone on the floor was a minority, several with small children, waiting for their doctor and I stuck out with my gortex jacket. (Later, I would find out it was just lucky timing).

I sat down on the exam table and was handed a thermometer. I started to stick it under my tongue out of habit. Everyone in the room-two doctors, my counterpart and a random lady- saw me start to do it and all shouted “NO!” at the same time. “This is NOT an American thermometer!”. I sat there, blinking and stuck it under my arm. That was a bit crazy how in unison they were. After my temperature was taken, I took off my shirt and let an elderly, semi-retired doctor check my breathing with a stethoscope. He kept asking me to breath deeper. I did. “Deeper”. I tried. “Deeper“. At this point I thought I was going to pass out with how deep and frequently he wanted me to breath. I just pictured the headlines in the paper the next day: Local doctor with poor hearing asphyxiates American volunteer.

The doctor told me to walk down the hall to the radiology department. I walked into the x-ray room and was a bit worried. I’d heard stories from other volunteers who have had x-rays in Bulgarian hospitals. I won’t tell them because it wasn’t the case here. Though seeing an x-ray machine that seemed really old gave me some pause. I took off my shirt once again and with my back to the machine, arms akimbo. No lead vest or lead anything. She left the room and I heard the machine turn on and my chest started to burn (just kidding!). The lady came back into the room and tried her English on me. “Come back in one horse”. I stood there, puzzled, in a giant cold room with my shirt off. “Um…in an hour?” “No, fifteen minutes” and then she promptly left. I just stared at the door closed behind her wondering what had just happened.

Armed with a chest x-ray and a diagnosis written in Bulgarian, I waited outside in the hallway for the doctor again. When I saw the doctor again, he looked at the x-ray and asked me to call the Peace Corps Medical Officer. She and the doctor had a long conversation and then he wrote me a prescription. The PCMO told me what he was prescribing me and was going to check to see if they were FDA approved. She called me again to tell me which ones to buy. It was at this point, I asked what was wrong with me. Everyone had forgotten to inform me! The diagnosis: Acute Bronchitis. I’ve had it before, about six years ago. It wasn’t that bad. Actually, I rather enjoyed it since the day I found out what I had was the same day my swim team in high school had to swim five kilometers in practice. 😉 I was told by my counterpart to take the rest of the week off. I’m not too thrilled about that part since I’m going on vacation back to the States to visit my family next week for Thanksgiving and I don’t want to absent from work for two and a half weeks. Especially since I feel fine.

The bottom line is: I just have a nagging cough, I stayed home today and kept warm but I’ll see if I can return to work tomorrow. So far, all my colleagues are against this idea but I feel fine. I don’t think it’s contiguous.

Kliment Halloween party

7 November, 2008

Wow, I’m late posting this.

I was asked to help organize the school’s Halloween party. I eagerly agreed. My job was to come up with game ideas and find marshmellows. I came up with a guessing game (how much candy is in the jar), pin the nose on the pumpkin, musical chairs (but passing a stuft animal around instead of walking around the chairs) and some relay races. The whole party went off without a hitch and I was asked to be a judge for the costume and pumpkin carving contests. I was also asked to give a short speech in front of all the students and their parents. It’s amazing how fast a year+ of language training can leave you… 😉

My kindergarten class


Musical…ghost?


pin the nose on the pumpkin


awesome jack-o-laterns

President-elect Barack Obama

7 November, 2008

I get teary eyed every time I watch it.

People here have been asking me all kinds of questions leading up to this moment. What I thought about the candidates, how the American political system works, etc. It’s hard enough to explain our asinine primary system in English! People have given me their input and their predictions. Living abroad throughout the whole election season has really shown me how much the world looks to America. Granted, we’ve lost a large amount of our moral authority over the last eight years. But people still held their breath, hoping we’d make the right choice. And we proved that we’re not complete idiots. Fucking up soooo badly, giving the opportunity for black man, whose  middle name is Hussein, whose father was Muslin, and admitted to using cocaine, to run and become president. THAT will be Bush’s greatest legacy.

Personal political ramblings after the jump with some Bulgarian insights.

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Center Excursion

3 November, 2008

Last week, I went on a field trip with the At-Risk Children’s Center I tutor at. Though it was more of a staff outing, I had a good time. We went to the historical city of Tryavna, a town nestled in the Stara Planina and kept historically accurate.

From there we headed out to the Dryanovo monastery. I was really impressed with the scenery. The monastery is tucked in between these two giant cliffs. The monastery is also home to a war memorial to the rebels who died fighting the Ottoman Empire for independence.

On the return home, we had to go through the Shipka Pass. This has a very important place in Bulgarian history-it’s where the Bulgarians, with the aid of the Russians. The Bulgarians and the Russians fought gallantly for three days, running out of ammunition and resorting to firing rocks out of their cannons and when the ran out of gun powder, they threw boulders. It’s considered the turning point of Bulgarian/Russian resistance to the Ottomans. Pretty intense stuff. So rightfully, their is a huge monument commemorating this turning point in Bulgarian history.

You can see most of the Rose Valley from the top.

All in all, it was a lovely day trip and a great bonding experience with the hard workers at the At-Risk Children Center.

Center trip