In case I had ever doubted that I'm where I'm supposed to be:
I've been neglecting to take the time to thank the One who got me here in the first place…
Thanks for the reminder.
With my most recent "monumental life experiences" taking place in relation to big cities, I had recently decided that I was a city girl. I absolutely LOVED living in New York, and my summer at camp last year with kids out of inner city DC secured the fact that I wanted to make a difference in lives of children who live in a world so rich and prosperous, and yet cannot seem benefit from the wealth and resources around them.
In my Peace Corps aspiration statement for the Youth Development Program here in Bulgaria and my pre-placement interview, I repeatedly stressed that I had more experience in an urban environment, and would prefer a permanent placement in a bigger town or city. Actually, I almost gave up Peace Corps altogether for the chance to stay in New York City doing a job I loved. While God calls people to "go," too often we forget that he often calls people to "stay" as well. I thought I was one of those people.
Until I hunted down the FedEx truck all day in Brooklyn.
And until I accepted an invitation to serve with PC-Bulgaria.
And until I got to my village.
The buzz word for all Peace Corps Volunteers is "integration." As trainees, we often tease about the emphasis on this concept, but it's a noble goal and an obvious one. After all, the PC mission is to offer ourselves to a community, invest in it, become a part of it, and then work together to create a sustainable project that works towards sustainability and self-reliance.
True integration is hours of language lessons and months or training away (and then will back step a few places when we reach our permanent sites), but it's so validating to walk to school and greet one of the town elders or babas with "zdraveyte" (formal 'hello') or "dobre den" (good day – also formal) and have them counter with "zdravey" or "zdrasti" (both informal greetings). It kind of feels like you've made it to have them respond with the more personal greeting. J
Each day, we have spent time playing with the kindergarteners who go to school in the building where we have our training lessons. The first day, some of the kids immediately welcomed us. Of course, I was drawn to kids who ran away from the "big, scary Americans." Who knew I liked a challenge?
One little boy (about 2, and only has his canine teeth, which kind of look like fangs J), seemed to want to play, but when I approached him, he ran to his teacher. With a little teasing, I got him to give me a few toothy grins while hiding behind his teacher's leg.
Tuesday, he got a little closer.
Wednesday, even closer.
Today, I crouched down in front of him, and he DIDN'T run away! I promise, I wasn't torturing him. I wouldn't have allowed any permanent damage to be done to his psyche. J
When I said "Az sum Katie. Kak se kazvash?" he told me his name is Ethan (I think… his accent was hard to understand, and that's not a very Bulgarian name. It might have been Ivan… which is VERY likely), and gave me his toothy grin and showed off his fangs.
Then, he took my hand and led me to the slide.
When I get him to smile on CAMERA, then we'll really know I've done why I came here to do.