The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of Elon University, the U.S. government, or the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Весела Коледа!!

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours from

"And the first time that you opened Your eyes, did you realize that You would be my Savior?
And the first breath that left Your lips, did You know that it would change this world forever?

And I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Thanksgiving, I tried to make my grandmother's fudge pecan, but due to a serious of unfortunate kitchen compensation attempts, it was a no go. It would have tasted fine, but I tried to make one GIANT pie instead of two little ones (because I lacked the necesassary pie plates/pans), and it just wouldn't cook right. Very soupy - not transportable on public buses.

But after telling my two Bulgarian counterparts about said pie, they made me promise I would make it for them one night. So last night, I went to Mariana's apartment for dinner with the much anticipated pie in tow. Yet again, my oven cooked it kind of funky (half was PERFECT, the other half a little undone...) but as far as I knew it was edible.

Not only did the pie turn out absolutely delicious (yummmm), but it was the first na gosti (a noun and a verb in Bulgarian that describes visiting friends or family) I had attended where I was 100% involved in the conversation, 100% of the time.

It was fantastic!!

I'm finally finding a sense of humor in Bulgarian (my saving grace: and only 5 months in - not bad!), and the converation just flowed. If I didn't understand something, time was taken to explain it a different way, and then we pressed on.

It was definitely an exhausting evening, but not as exhausting as it used to be!

Малко по малко - little by little, making progress! :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Katie = Pavlov's Dog

In the US, I could care LESS about McDonald's. I have no opposition to it, but I could go months (longer?) without giving it a second thought...

But here? As soon as I get on that bus from Samokov to Sofia, my mouth starts watering.

It's sad... really.

And this exit sign is the ONLY indication from the outside that this McDonald's is not on the corner of Rt 236 and Pickett in Fairfax!

(Hey Abby! While I'm mentioning international fast food chains, maybe I should bring up my internet, my INDOORS bathroom, my personal hot water heater, and the three supermarkets within 10 minutes walk from my OWN apartment... yeah, see - I can hit below the belt too. Although, my Peace Corps experience sometimes lacks some of the things I specifically signed up for... sigh, hehe. LOVE YOU!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

This is exactly what I pay my friends for:

"Remember that you prayed for guidance when you made the decision to join the peace corps, so instead of projecting to an uncertain destination, center yourself in the present - as the future is just an expansion of now!!"

Thanks Danny! Its funny how emails of encouragement always seem to come at EXACTLY the perfect time. So keep them coming! I promise to write back. :)

Seriously though... I have been in this constant spiral of forgetting why I came here in the first place, but in addition to having some of the greatest friends and family members back home supporting me every step of the way, I've found myself growing less and less stressed out even though things are still kind of crazy.

Jumping through hoops to get my new passport (and eventually my Bulgarian ID) is proving to be a bit of a challenge, but its helping me realize how incredibly awesome my two counterparts here are. I work with two women at my organization, who are both full time teachers yet also pouring their hearts into Svetlina (my organization). They are tired and burned out, but managing to laugh the entire time as we walk - yet AGAIN - back to the police station for more paperwork (it was only like the 5th time today in about two weeks). I'm finally finding my sense of humor in Bulgarian with Katia and Mariana, so as much as I did NOT want to show my face back at the police station, the three of us rolled in laughter as I went about complaining.

Cause what I am I trying so desperately to learn here?

Sometimes it's more important to change your perspective rather than your circumstance.

This weekend I went back to my training village for the day on Saturday. I needed to pick up my personal passport (which I need for my paperwork and for some reason left in Kraynitsi), but I also thought it would be nice to have a short visit with my host parents. I brought them Merry Cherry Bars, a few tomatoes (remember? They disappeared in the villages months ago... but I can buy them in Samokov!), and paper napkins with Christmas trees on them. After a delicious homemade lunch (I forgot how good Svetla's meals were), an incredible ego boost on how fast they think my Bulgarian is improving (ha, had them fooled!! :)), I caught the bus back to Samokov with a bag full of potatoes, apples, Rakia (Bulgarian moonshine...), and the homemade wine that I helped harvest grapes for this summer. All in all it was a good visit! Other than the fact that all of my geese and rabit friends are gone, there are considerably fewer chickens, and Bessie the pig met her maker a few days ago. О боже... the reality of village life hit!

Sunday I spent a much needed mental health day around the apartment with my wild child kitten, and then my roommate from PC training events passed through the hang out with me for the night.

And to top it all off... today was the first English lesson with my core kids that DIDN'T make me want to extract my teeth one by one. I caught their attention without bribing them (go figure), I didn't feel incredibly inadequate language wise (see what an ego boost can do?), and I actually occupied a whole hour (yeah - all I have to survive is 60 minutes) without mercilessly stretching out the last 15 minutes or so. It was great. We practiced the Latin alphabet (Bulgarian is all Cyrillic), reviewed our colors, learned some numbers, and then put it all to use by playing UNO. It was great!

Its those small victories that are helping me get through the day. Like, there is this one little boy at "Trust Me" (day center for kids with disabilities) who has severe autism and is in a wheelchair. They have trouble keeping him focuses because he can't communicate verbally and will just throw fits. Usually they wheel him around the entire time... every day when I walk in I give him my heartiest "Hello Mitko!" in Bulgarian, and everyday I get no response. Until last week... when I gave him my usual greeting, waited a second or two, and then found my place with my buddy Ivo. After a 5 second delay, I hear "Sttttrraaaazzzsssttttiiiii" coming from little Mitko!

Completely made my day, and for just long enough I forgot about the creepy guy on the bridge, the nervewracking photo line up at the police station, and realized my wallet/passport had been stolen.

I forgot just long enough to remember to thank God for being my Saving Grace and for bringing me here.

James 1:26-27 -
Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I have this problem -

When I get frustrated, I can't understand a lick of Bulgarian.

Which is kind of a big deal when you live in a foreign country and the world already seems to spin on without you anyway.

Today I met up with one of my counterparts and headed into Sofia to FINALLY pick up my Bulgarian ID. When we got there, the little fear I had that this was going to be a challenge since I no longer have my Peace Corps Passport came true... Sure enough - my ID Card is linked to my PC Passport and Visa, and since I had to report them stolen, I wasn't able to pick up my ID card. Turns out, that all of the info on my ID card matches the Passport that no longer exists, so now not only do I have to jump through hoops to get my new Passport (I thought since I never had to do anything in person the first time that it would be that easy... I was wrong - really its not that big of a deal, everything is just amplified here), but once I have it, I have to apply alllllll over again for a Bulgarian ID card. And considering I started this process the week after I got to Samokov, and this is the first week it was ready for pick-up... yippee.

At any rate, hence my frustration.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out in Sofia with my counterpart, her daughter, and her daughter's boyfriend, and barely even hearing all of the Bulgarian going on around me. I am getting to the point where I can usually understand conversations I am directly involved in (usually greatly relying on context) and can SOMETIMES pick out enough words in other people's conversations to get a general meeting, but today... I was tired. I was frustrated. And EVERYTHING was a challenge. Especially trying to understand anything in an all Bulgarian environment (and for a good part of the day we were at a graduation ceremony for a Bulgarian college). So I pretty much gave up trying in drifted off into my own world.

After an exhausting day, I was with Ascen on the way home in the car after dropping off my counterpart, and asked him where he lived since he said it was close to me.

I asked in Bulgarian.

He answered in Bulgarian.

It was quiet for a minute.

And then he says....

"We can talk in English now."


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When it rains... it pours.

But holding out for the moments of sunshine make things so much better...

Things have been a bit on the crazy and frustrating side lately... last week I had a run in with a creep while out for a walk near my apartment building (rest assured - I am fine... nothing ended up happening), and the police called me back into the department yesterday to show me pictures of possible suspects. Last week when I made the initial report, I became very clued in to the reality of the ethnic issues here in Samokov - as hard as I tried to convince them that the individual was of Bulgarian decent, they kept trying to help me "remember" that he was Roma. I did finally convince them, or so I thought, because yesterday they showed me about 10 photos, and 8 of them were Roma men, one looked so Roma that me, my counterpart, and the detectives assistant all mistook him for such, and the last guy was about 15 years too young. Long story short, I think that they are taking this seriously because he was Bulgarian, and they can't dismiss it as just another "gypsy" incident, but I was just hoping this whole thing would go away when I reported it. Anyway, yesterday when I left the police department, I realized my wallet was missing. I had it when I fought with my counterpart over who was going to pay for lunch, and then we walked together to the police station, and I never touched it. I don't want to believe someone could have lifted it (and I don't know how that could have happened), but I never took it out of my purse, and my bag is too deep for it to just fall out. I am beyond confused.... pretty much everything is replacable (with some effort), but being that it wound be back at the police department for a completely different event within an hour after addressing something else, I am convince the police here (who made up some of my favorite people in DC and Burlington), probably hate me. And with good reason. I am only proving that this 22 year old American girl can't take care of herself. Sometimes I get sick of getting tested. For once, I would like it to just be EASY. But apparently my life doesn't work that way. Never really has.... **sigh**

On a much more encouraging note... two good friends of mine from Sofia came to hang out with me and my kids today. I had made contact with a missionary family here before I left the US, but I never expected to be blessed by the further connections. This is the oldest son in the family and Allison, who is staying (only for a couple more days!!) with them for part of her gap year before she starts college in the fall. The kids LOVED them, and I think Allison and Jordan got a kick of their 2 hours of rock star status. :)

We spent the time with the kids decorating the organization for Christmas. The kids played with tinsel and garland and decorated two awesome trees. The holiday appeal drew about 20 extra kids I had never met before, and after a little decorating contest, we enjoyed chocolate chip cookies from Allison and Jordan, then played volleyball outside with some of the older kids. It was a lot of fun to have some extra help and just enjoy a relaxing time.

And now... I no longer have to come back to a quiet, empty apartment!!

Meet Maitap!!

In Bulgarian, "maitap" (mайтап) means "fun" or "joke," and this little troublemaker is a four month old who in one short hour, officially mastered how to climb my drapes... literally. As a matter of fact, there she goes again... :)