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Friday, February 26, 2010

I've been substitute teaching for all of the 7th and 8th grade English classes at the middle school where my NGO is based out of. More on that later (and all of the resolved headaches), but for now, I want to leave you with the highlight of my day.

8th grader: "Katie, Gosphozhata said you were a police officer before you came to Bulgaria. And that you know kung fu!"


Well then. Why yes, I do!


 

At least they pay attention and respect you more when they think you are the female version of Chuck Norris.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heartbroken...

I got an email last week about a Rescue group for stray dogs in Sofia. I knew I shouldn't have opened the email, but of course… I did.

I fell in love… absolute love… with a little (but full-grown) 30lb black lab look a-like (a mini-me of Cleo! And Fresca... and Lucille... and Sheba…). 

I spent the week working out details on what would happen when I traveled, and if taking him home with me at the end of my service was doable.

I got everything worked out, including an offer from my parents to send him home on a flight with a puppy ticket so I could still do my COS travel.

While I took these few days making sure everything was perfect, another PC Volunteer went to the rescue center on Friday to meet a different dog (the day before I sent the email asking for more info on how to adopt him), and apparently also fell in love.

Bruno is going to his new home on Friday.

Thrilled for Bruno. Happy for the PCV. Sad for me. :(



Makes me miss this even more:


Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How do I balance living and loving in the city like I've always dreamed, with wanting to live

HERE: http://www.logcabinhomes.com/PDF/Alpine%20Ridge.pdf????

I'd also like to own a lot of dogs. And a goat. And a jet ski.

I'm pretty sure these two intense dreams of mine don't go together.

Especially with what I assume to be my future (meager) salary.

Hmmmmm.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Love in its purest form is the most powerful weapon we have against hatred, indifference, prejudice, misunderstanding, and divisiveness.

The more we genuinely love, the more we understand that this commandment is life-altering for everyone involved.

Just as water rushing against hardened stone eventually erodes the stone, so love in action breaks down all barriers between people.

It's a commandment which works miracles and brings the kingdom of God closer to reality."

-Stephen Sciolino


 

In the last year, I've spent more time than ever thinking about the concept of "love." And not love as in that "can't eat, can't sleep, world series kind of stuff," but in that I want to BE LIKE JESUS. I want to move into the gutter with all of the dirt and grime of this world we live in and SHOW people Jesus. Sometimes, I feel like the modern-day church has forgotten to truly love other's like Jesus did. We're too busy fighting legislature related to things "we" don't believe in, or arguing with liberal views to the point of frustration and anger, or throwing scripture at people who have spent their entire lives putting up a front to abrasive Christians who won't look non-believers in the face and tell them we love them, and they matter. We're too busy hiding behind the safety of the church as an institution. Shouldn't we, though, start by truly loving others, so that they might know Christ? Isn't that what is important? If they truly know Jesus, do the rest of these earthly battles even matter? If they don't believe that all scripture is God-breathed, do you think it really matters to them what the Bible says the latest "gray" issues? If we can change hearts, then the rest will follow; in HIS time, not ours. 

My favorite ministry in NYC is based right in the heart of Lower East Side of Manhattan. Father's Heart Ministries first aims to restore dignity, and then hope. Most people who walk through the doors there have lost both of those things, and until their physical needs are satisfied, spouting truths about a God who they feel has turned their back on them, or they have lost their chance at winning the affections of a perfect God, may turn them further away. Instead, fill their stomachs, SHOW them God loves them and is by their side. Speak of love, and truth, and hope, and direction. Then encourage them to grow and strengthen in this newfound relationship with their Father using scripture and accountability.

Jesus was accused of an awful lot of things in his day, and the ridicule and doubt hasn't ceased since then. He may have been called a false prophet a time or two… or dozens, but if I recall correctly, when his miracles were witnessed and his words heard, he was never called a hypocrite.

"The greatest single cause of atheism today is CHRISTIANS, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That's what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." – Craig Gross, in The Gutter

"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." – Ghandi

So there we go. I think that is the most painfully frustrating and embarrassing thing a believer could hear. I'm not undercutting the value of the modern day church. Without it, there would be no institution to culture and support growth, strengthening, and accountability. I'm just saying, somewhere along the line, we as a body seem to have drifted from a naked and transparent relationship with God to a self-fulfilling one. If you go out on a street corner and ask a non-believer how they feel about Christians, you're likely to get a wrinkled nose and some muttering about hypocrisy. And I'm pretty sure, when God called us to go out and make Christ-like disciples, that wasn't exactly the response he had hoped to generate.

I want to see a generation of grace and love. A generation where people aren't even going to bother rolling up their sleeves as they crawl in the gutter and love like Jesus did.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wow... I miss this city...

I can't tell you how insanely happy these kids are making me right now... Check out this site about a youth choir from PS22 in NYC hosting tons of great clips from different song covers: http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com/

Monday, February 15, 2010

I love how even my boys got really into making Valentine's Day cards! They did a really great job.



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Then we played some games with the kid's in honor of Katya's birthday and Valentine's Day.


"Happy Valentine's Day if you have winter boots on..."/
"Честит Ден на Влюбените ако имате зимни ботуши..."

TRAINWRECK!!!! :)

Red hot candy toss into lunch sacks.

I've been collecting goodies from various care packages from my mom and aunts (THANK YOU!), and was able to make some really great goodie bag/prizes for the games.
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Surprise! изненада!!

Today we celebrated Katya's (my director and PC Counterpart) 50th birthday with the Svetlina kids! Although she looks not a day over 25, ;) I tried to explain our phrase "over the hill" in Bulgarian. Not sure how well it went, especially when all of the black balloons we bought to decorate with turned out to be purple!



Katya's daughter worked for a summer in America, and told her all about Cheesecake. She asked me last fall if I knew how to make her once, but by the time I realized how many ingredients I would have to subsitute, I was pretty sure she needed to just hop a plane to NYC and grab a slice of Junior's - the REAL deal. I did however, manage to order a piece of cheesecake at an English run restaurant last night in honor of her birthday. I didn't try it, but it looked good. :)


I made a big brownie for everyone to share with "happy birthday" written in Bulgarian... but it suffered a slight trauma on my walk to work...

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

God created us to be creatures of love and relationship, but tomorrow, as we tend to become distracted by the consumerism of earlthly romantic love, don't forget this kind of LOVE:


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear Mr. Taxi Driver,

Thank you for picking me up on the side of the road and rescuing me from the waist-high snow drifts that promised to make me quite late for work this morning. For your future reference, please take note that I am an American. Unlike your country's customs (which the frugal Scottish blood in me has grown to appreciate), we Americans/foreigners are known to often add an attractive tip to our payment for services rendered. However, if you start our ride together by mocking and berating my work here and the beautiful children whom I have grown to know and love, understand that I will defend "my kids" to the death, and deny you your extra stotinki.

                                        Your's truly,

                                            Gospozhitse Katie

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Drift ON MY BALCONY!

Whenever its windy in my town, I can hear the glass pane rattle on the door that separate my bedroom/living room from my hallway, kitchen and bathroom. It hasn't gotten that windy in awhile, but today, after getting windblasted painfully in my face on my walk home from work, I decided it best to hiberate for the rest of the evening.

Good thing, too! You can hear people shouting outside to be heard by people walking directly next to them, and even a window breaking somewhere across the way. It's been doing that all evening, so I looked through the glass on my balcony to see how things were looking after the wind seemed to lessen a bit - and look what I found!!




When I got home from work I brought in a towel that had been hanging on the line outside, and I stepped out in just my slippers. Now there is a snow drift on my balcony about a foot deep in some places!

And I'm pretty sure we didn't get anymore snow this evening... this was just "relocated" snow.




Hey, all you back home!! I asked you to send us some SNOW - you can keep the wind!!!
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I tend to forget God cares about the small things in life too. I was never sure it was "ok" to pray about certain things (yes, I realize this is silly and irrational). It's true, though - I've always felt a degree of selfishness or guilt when I've prayed for the seemingly inconsequential, but God, in that divine way that he does, is excellent at finding ways to remind me how faithful he is even in the smallest details.

Yesterday, I took the bus to Sofia to rescue a package that had gotten stopped for some reason in customs (still don't know why – didn't even get charged for it) and to visit with some great friends. Later in the day, I realized I couldn't find my favorite – and ridiculously warm - earmuffs (the half-band kind that go around the back of your head… so comfortable). Trying to convince myself that maybe I had never even brought them with me in the first place, I still knew I had left them on the bus.

Despite the fact that the bus to and from Sofia and Samokov runs every half an hour, and I was traveling at a completely different time of day, and there are maybe 6-10 different drivers and vehicles, I somehow took the same bus home today that I was on yesterday. I sat in the same seat, and looked everywhere for it. Eventually I resolved that I would lose even my favorite boots if they weren't securely attached to my feet, and I gave up, turned on my iPod shuffle, and settled in for hour long ride through a twisty winter wonderland. 15 minutes or so later, I glanced up to the front of the bus, and low and behold, there on the dashboard, were my ear muffs!!!

See, God even cares about the "seemingly inconsequential." Even though avoiding frostbite on my ears is hardly a small matter….

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My kind of Saturday!


Slept in... caught up on the last two weeks of Burn Notice... made delicious homemade bagels (who knew you could get real Philadelphia Cream Cheese here?)... started working on some travel plans (including hosting an amazing PCV from Turkmenistan here in Bulgaria and then traveling together to Istanbul - CAN'T WAIT ABBY!!) and now I'm getting ready to meet up with some friends to FINALLY take out the Yeti on the snow up in Borovets before a home Rilski Sportist Basketball game tonight.




I would give anything to be snowed in back home with the fam (four legged friends included) today watching movies by the fire while they are dealing with the SECOND blizzard this winter, but I can't deny it:

Life is good. :)
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Someday, I want to live in a place that during the winter, I can give up my kid's stroller and pull them along everywhere on a wooden sled like everyone does here. It's ridiculously adorable!

Still trying to get a pic…

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I've been bringing in a Tootsie-Roll pop or two as prizes for my little kindergarteners. I give them to the little ones who can say the entire alphabet by themselves, or if they know a long and hard vocab word I'm not expecting them to remember.

I also have a pad of stickers with phrases like, "Good Work!" and "Excellent" on them. At first, I had been giving these out as second place prizes or to the kids who were listening well when no one else was. Or the ones who were trying really really hard, but couldn't help just a few mistakes. In my sweet-toothed logic, sugar is always better than a sticky piece of paper, right??

Wrong.

I've been pleasantly surprised that these kids get more excited about the stickers – and competing for who has the most on their shirt at the end of the lesson to show to mom and dad – than they do about my tootsie-rolls or Dots.