Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

How to annoy me

29 October, 2008

Be the slowest bus driver on the Balkan peninsula.

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A year in

24 October, 2008

I’m a bit late with this. Actually, I’m pretty late. On the 18th of October last year, I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and moved to Chirpan, Bulgaria.

Time has flown by so fast. I can’t believe that I now have less than a year in my service. As I look back on the last year, I can see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. Looking forward, I see how far I have to go and how much I will still change. As far as changes go, I’ve noticed that I am more comfortable with ambiguity, carry myself more confidently and look at the world in a far more “human” perspective. A more human perspective? you say. Well, living and working in the poorest country in Europe where the hope that a single person can make a difference is like a candle in the rain, you see who people truly are, not masked by “stuff”. This isn’t to say that there aren’t materialistic people, just a lot less.

What I’ve learned (in easy to read list form):

  • Being poor is only an economic condition. Having had the incredible fortune of growing up in middle class America (an upbringing I appreciate more and more every day), I’ve had very little daily contact with people struggling to survive. In my experiences here, these seem to be the happiest and most content people I’ve come across.

More after the jump–

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This is Bulgaria…

8 October, 2008

This is a reponse I get a lot to a lot of things. It’s mostly used as answer to something I question something about this country. This ranging from talking about corruption to why water leaks from my kitchen ceicling when it rains. “Jimmy…this is Bulgaria and we think it’s normal…”. They may not agree with it but they have lived with these situations for most of thier life and usually can’t imgaine it any different. For the most part (with the exception of my kitchen) these have been pretty abstract. That is, until yesterday afternoon and the inspiration for this entry.

Regular readers know my backpack was lost/stolen in June. The bus company and driver were clearly at fault but couldn’t afford to replace my things. It wasn’t a problem since most of them were insured and the insurance company paid for them. I decided not to take the company to court since they couldn’t repay me and I felt fortunate enough to have been able to have owned them in the first place. The bus company was told I wouldn’t be filing a claim against them and were grateful. I considered the incident over, and moved on. But this being Bulgaria, the strangest things can happen.

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My bad

7 October, 2008

I’ve done a crappy job blogging. I think it’s a bit typical once you hit the year mark, your blogging starts to taper off. I’ll fight this as much as I can. Onward to blogging!

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!

Update

13 August, 2008

I haven’t been keeping this blog up-to-date as I should have. And the entries I have posted have been excerpts from Bulgarian news. It’s been a combination of not doing anything really interesting and pure laziness (mostly the latter). So this will catch you up to speed:

I was recently asked to be a resource volunteer. These volunteers assist the Peace Corps Trainees (who arrived in Bulgaria late last month). This means someone somewhere thinks I’m doing a good enough job to be an authority on such things. Last week I went to the mountain resort of Panichishte, where my initial orientation was. I gave a presentation on how to integrate into a Bulgarian community with another PCV. It felt very strange being on the other side of things (and it also felt really good! I’m so thankful I don’t have to go through that whole process again). It was an eye opener to see how far I’ve come in a year. Our presentation had some Bulgarian words in it we subconsciously used and we were later told that most of the PCTs didn’t know them! That made me realize how much Bulgarian I have learned and can use on a daily basis.

That evening I was peppered with all kinds of questions ranging from life in Bulgaria, what my job is like, Bulgarian words and pronunciation and Peace Corps policy. I didn’t consider myself an expert but then again, I’ve been in Bulgaria for over a year and they arrived only 3 days prior. It was a strange feeling. The following day I, along with the other resource volunteers, gave a presentation on what it’s like within our respective programs. Each resource volunteer is assigned to a training site. I was given Rila, where I spent my training. I look forward to going back there and seeing my host family again.

I’ve been working on a few projects. However, it’s been pretty difficult since most Bulgarians go on vacation in August since it’s towards the end of the tourist season. One of my co-workers is going on a (much deserved) three week vacation. This has left the rest of us without much to do. And since the teacher I’ve been working on a project to get playground equipment is also on vacation, this has left me with my English group and studying Bulgarian. Things will definitely pick up once the school year starts on September 15th (I’m really looking forward to that). Since Bulgaria has lost most of it’s EU funding and PHARE has been suspended, the Department of External Resources (where I work) won’t be having much work to do. I’ll be working more closely with the school where I’ve been teaching a computer class and will teach kindergarten English.

I will be going on vacation starting tomorrow to Austria and Slovenia. I’ll be back in Bulgaria next week but I have some training stuff to do as a resource volunteer. So it’ll be a while for my next entry. But you can be sure it will be full of photos from my vacation. That’s more or less it.

How to Annoy Me

24 July, 2008

Pay for your groceries with, and I kid you not, six debt cards.

How to Charm Me

24 July, 2008

Ask me to be a resource volunteer.

New Roommate

16 July, 2008

I’ve been in the market for a bike for quite a while and I finally found one. I was told of a bike store on the edge of town on the way to the next village, Zetevo. It turns out that the name of this auto shop (that sells bikes) is “Jimmy”. I walked there on the way to lunch. I walked in, and there she was. I just knew that was the bike for me. A woman behind me called me by name and asked me if she could help. I was a bit surprised that she knew my name but it turns out she’s on the dance team. She introduced me to her husband, Jimmy. He could a kick out our name. He’s a jolly guy and very kind. I took the bike out for a ride. It was a perfect fit. They told me if I ever have a problem with my bike to bring it to them and they would fix it. For free. It pays to have friends in town. 🙂

She’s a Soviet-era road bike built in the city of Kazanlak (so they told me) and has a gnarly Bulgarian flag on the fork. I took it out for a spin after work. It was so much fun whizzing around town! I decided to go down the best street in town. It’s important to note that in my city, when there are pot holes in the road, they fill them full of gravel. I did not think about this and the road quickly became the worst road in town; a road that no amout of gravel could fix. There is a reason that they were repairing that road! With these roads and cobble stone streets, it makes sense all the bikes for sell are mountain bikes! I’ll be taking this bad boy out to the country side as soon as I can!

To the 24s

16 July, 2008

I guess you’re pretty excited. Hell, I remember being ecstatic; I remember the weeks before leaving for staging being anxious and ready to go. To finally go! This was the moment I had be waiting for for almost a year! I decided to apply to the Peace Corps after meeting a recruiter while interning in DC. 30 minutes later, I started my application. I was amped. May the following year, in the middle of finals week, I finally knew what I’d be doing post-undergrad. It was a great feeling. However, I remember being scared shitless as well. What the hellam I doing!? I’m about to leave everything and everyone I know to move to a foreign country-where I can’t read the alphabet, let alone speak the language-to preform an ambiguous task. Let me reassure you this feeling is fleeting. Everyone is in the same boat. And that comforted me. We’re all in this together. There is a strong sense of camaraderie and it certainly helps getting 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 you out.

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