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Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Quick Guide on How to Meet Your Bulgarian Neighboors:

With the anticipation of living in your Soviet-Style Block apartment for the 2 years, it makes sense that you would want to befriend those living closest to you, especially since you are probably the only person in the entire building (or neighborhood/city/country) with an up to date fire extinguisher. Let's be honest, if anyone in the building has a cooking mishap, they are bringing you all down with them... and potentially quite literally.

Practically aside, it would also just be nice to have a few friendly faces in a world that sometimes seems to spin without you...

After only living in country for a mere 4 months (what? When did that happen?), its not a surprise that your Bulgarian language skills are sufficient for juvenile requests and modest introductions only.

Here are a few handy dandy tips on creating situations in which it is possible to meet your floor neighbors:

1. On a particularly cold evening, start by plugging in the electric heater that is without a doubt, older than you are. Most likely, within the following hour, it will make slight, but still rather substantially nerve wracking exploding sounds that will alert your next door neighbor there is a problem. Probably out of initial concern for the wall that separates your place from his, he will come to the rescue - providing the perfect situation for you to introduce himself for the first time... and giving you the opportunity to alert him that you come complete with a fire extinguisher should he need its services.

2. Bake good old fashion American cookies, then very awkwardly knock on the door of each neighbor. If you are lucky, one door might be answered, providing a great opportunity for you to get really nervous and forget the first things you learned in Bulgarian language training - how to introduce yourself. They will probably laugh at you just enough that you calm down a little and start over with your introduction. If they understand you the second time, they will skeptically accept the offering of cookies, and introduce themselves to you. In English. Chances are, you will probably develop a love/hate relationship with the occasional English response when you lease expect it. But learn to love it... especially when you learn that it is in fact true that if you bring someone a plate of something homemade, culture says they are supposed to RETURN the plate with something yummy on it!! Just when you think you may never see them ever again, just wait for a knock on your door with a huge piece of deliciousness on it. THEN you may never see them again.

3. Start freezing to death and get the bright idea that maybe the bigger heater of your two might just work if you try it ONE more time. In this situation, you will most likely blow a fuse... If odds are in your favor, when you walk out in the corridor to turn the hall light on so you can see the scary old fuse box that you have absolutely no idea what to do with it, the last neighbor you hadn't met will just be closing the door thinking she escaped you. Here is where confidence in your awkwardness comes in handy... lunge towards her in a way where she might get too startled to close her door, and thrust your hand towards her by way of introduction. This would be a good opportunity to wow her with your well practiced, mechanical introduction (Аз съм новата доброволка от Корпъс На Мира... Аз съм Американка... Аз съм yadda yadda yadda), and she will reply with a rapid fire response in Bulgarian explaining all about her son that is about your age, speaks English, is single, and probably coming for a visit soon. Really, you only caught the gist of that because it has gotten to be a pretty standard response from anyone who could be old enough to have a son your age and they realize you are single and living by yourself. The safest thing to do here is smile and nod, and right before she tries to say goodnight and close the door, don your most pathetically helpless expression and show her your handful full of fuses. Not only have you introduced yourself and gotten your problem fixed, but she also probably now thinks you are incapable of taking care of yourself and will hopefully follow up the introduction with lots of free food and advice.

Now, there are many other ways to create awkward situations in which meeting your neighboors can be facilitated, but most Peace Corps Volunteers would agree that bribery and mild explosions are the most fool-proof way to "integrate" (Peace Corps buzz word!!).

Comments containing feedback and further advice are always welcome.


Karen Stinneford said...

Wow, Katie, I am blown away by your fortitude, maturity, compassion and desire to serve and glorify our Lord! These character traits clearly run in your family, because I seem the same awesome attributes in your Aunt Val, whom I have the pleasure of knowing through church.

(BTW, how in the world do you begin to read a Slavic alphabet?!)

For whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or alone in your efforts in Bulgaria, I offer you these words found in Micah 6:8

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

It's clear to me from reading your blog that you're doing just that, every day. You go, girl.

Godspeed, Karen Stinneford

Vak said...

I love you and your humor!! God provided you with that gift to help you through sharing your other gifts with the world!! Hugs to you this Sunday morning.

Remember, NBM!

Summer said...

Knowing you, am I correct to assume that these are real life accounts that are tried and true? haha This is why I miss and love you KY. Anytime you wanna come back that'd be cool. Or find me a cheap way over there. Whatever works for you ;)

Erin Ludlow said...

Read this one to the whole family. We could hear you reading it to us and knew that it was all true. It was great!
Your blog is one of my favorite things to read. Praying for you.

Vic and Suebee said...

Ask them to teach you to cook Bulgarian! Bev Bassett found that worked in Italy. :)
Have fun!
Suebee :)

Vic and Suebee said...

Ask them how to cook Bulgarian! Bev Bassett used that approach in Italy. :)
Have fun!
Suebee :)