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Friday, May 8, 2009


The entire 7 days in Crete, not to mention a significant time before we even left the country, I spent in anxious anticipation about my brief return to Bulgaria. What if I couldn't remember any of the language? What if I realized that it wasn't where I was supposed to be for the next two years? What if it WAS where I want/am supposed to be, but the doctor deems my return impossible? I wasn't sure how people would react to our time there, being that I have officially been away from Samokov for longer than I served there.
When we landed at the airport in Sofia, I felt overwhelmed and nervous. More so than I thought I would...
But God worked in my heart incredibly quickly, and I have rarely felt as loved as I did throughout that week.
We spent the first couple of nights in Sofia hanging out with the American family that invited me over for holidays (yes, also the people who rescued me after my accident and let me camp out on their couch for a couple days!), and explored the capital a little bit. I got to catch up with some good friends, but the most encouraging part of the visit was stopping to grab some coffee with a few of my Peace Corps B-24 team members at Starbucks (yeah yeah, haha!) before my parents and I drove to Plovdiv for the night. Seeing as many volunteers as I did was a bit of a surprise, but it meant the world that so many were able to work out the timing and see me! Everyone tells you that your training groups will turn into your surrogate family for your time of service, and I can attest that it made my day to see them! They were so encouraging, and I loved hearing about their new projects and stories. Was definitely the beginning of a big heart change for me. At that point, I was still using the "IF I come back phrase" when I talked to them, but by the time we made it to my site in Samokov, things started to really come into focus.
We spent one night in the city of Plovdiv (very cool, very OLD city in south/central Bulgaria) where we ate some good food (and some not so good, ;P) and wandered around a bit to find the coliseaum and other arhaeological sites.
The next morning, we hopped in the car, got lost trying to find the road to Samokov - still don't know how we managed to miss it! - then finally headed over the mountain through Borovets and into my town. As soon as we parked the car in front of the basketball arena where I would go every other weekend or so to watch basketball games, I felt this huge relief. It felt SO GOOD and natural to take my parents to my apartment building, to point out my vegetable man (and my back up vegetable man) and various stores. We then drove through the town a bit and then got my parent's checked into their hotel.
Then we fell asleep.
All of the pent up anxiety hit me then! So we read and slept for awhile before meeting my two Bulgarian counterparts in the apartment for dinner. For the next few hours, we ate (sooo much food!), sipped on "domashna vino" (homemade wine), told stories, caught up, and LAUGHED. And wow, I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! The conversation ran so smoothly and everything was so natural, and my parents were beaming as we interacted with my "Bulgarian moms."
The next day we went to the Samokov market, satisfied my craving for Banitsa (a Bulgarian pastry with cheese and phyllo dough), and stocked up on goodies to take back to the US before heading over to the school to meet up with my kids.
As SOON as I walked into the schoolyard, I got a welcoming I had never expected: most of my core kids were outside in the school yard, and proceeded to charge at me and yell "Kaaatttiiieeeee." I got huge hugs, and then smiled on so proudly when they all introduced themselves to my parents IN ENGLISH!!! We went inside to talk to everyone, since happy birthday to one of my girls, have a guessing game about my parents (mom's in her 30s apparentls... and dad is 100!), and dole out American candy before dancing the Bulgarian horo and them playing outside with new footballs, frisbees, and basketballs that we had brought them.
Seeing these kids - MY KIDS - was definitely the last piece of the puzzle that helped remind me why I signed up for the Peace Corps in the first place, and why my heart broke when I had to leave so suddenly. I experienced a couple of months of frustration before my accident as I struggled to find my role, but being there again solidifyed it in my heart that I want to do what it takes to go back. And now I have a specific desire so I can pray discerningly, and I ask you do the same. :)

My beautiful Rila mountains, still covered in snow at the end of April! There was a good few inches on the ground in Samokov the morning we got there, but it quickly melted away in the Spring sun.

The kids were excited to teach my parents the Bulgarian horo, and were amazed when they already knew the step! They did cheat... its the same step they learned on Crete the week before! Shhhh, don't tell.

On our way back from Samokov, we stopped to see my host parents for a little "na gosti" in my training village. It was so great to see them! We ate a delicious Bulgarian meal, met all the new animal babies (including three day old kittens!), and then took a quick walking tour of Kraynitsi before before returning for coffee and saying our goodbyes. I was so glad it worked out to see them, and even more relieved that although my Bulgarian hasn't improved in the last 4 and a half months, I was still able to communicate clearly and translate for my parents.

Svetla and Kiril!
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