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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

"I thank my God every time I remember you."
Phil 1:3

Photos from Memorial Day 2009


Since my senior of high school when I was working on a The Things They Carried "Creative Whatever" project for my AP English teacher, I've gone downtown on Memorial Day every year that I've been home and able. I love seeing the pride, loyalty, and community that is embodied by every veteran and patriotic American that shows up in our Nationa's Capital throughout the weekend to remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I remember one conversation that first year that brought a leather-clad, Harley-riding, burley Vietnam Vet from Rolling Thunder to tears: "We thought your generation had forgotten us."

Regardless of your stance on war and politics, don't forget to say a prayer for all those still waiting for loved ones to come home. Say a prayer for every soul that gave their life for our country. Say a prayer that we'll be a generation that WON'T forget.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kindergarten graduation!

The next two posts are from this past Thursday during the "graduation" ceremony for the kindergarten kids I've been working with a teaching English since November. I love these little guys! The you throw the boys into little slacks and bow ties and the girls into the most adorable little skirts I've ever seen... and by the time they were showing off their English skills to the MANY parents who came, I could hardly contain myself! Not to mention the fact that I got a hug and kiss from all 12 of Samokov's future studs. Every girl should be this lucky. ;)

Some of the kids have another year of kindergarten left, but all the soon-to-be first graders had a dance for everyone. Very cute. :)

There are only three little girls in the class, and these two kind of lead the presentation in a "teacher student" kind of way. Zina used a magic wand when "randomly" choosing a child to demonstrate what they've learned this year.

Mitko and Rumen totally MADE MY DAY when they each recited the English alphabet and counted in English FLAWLESSLY. Kinda funny how most of the kids now know the English alphabet better than the Bulgarian cyrillic one. ;)

Me and Rumen! The little guy reminds me so much of my cousin William back home! Personality, mannerisms... everything. I love them both!
Posted by Picasa

Kindergarten graduation!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 28, 2010

Every PC volunteer around the world has their own fair share of travel stories, I'm sure. And although we don't rely on bush taxis and horse carts to traverse across the country, and the Bulgarian bus system is fairly reliable, I've developed a love hate relationship with the numerous hours I spend on the bus every month going wherever it is that need or want to go.

I love bus travel, because the winding mountain roads and valley straight-aways are gorgeous, and because people are usually quiet enough for some serious thought and God time (not that I don't get enough quiet time living alone in a country that doesn't speak my language, but you know…). I also have FINALLY developed the ability to snooze during travel. Much to my parents chagrin, I'm sure, I definitely did not possess this as a small child as we flew on airplanes around the world or drove across country.

Some stories that could sometimes appear to contribute to a "hate" relationship with buses, but really just make me laugh. Out loud. At random periods of time. All the time.

  • The day after Christmas 2008, I was on the bus heading back to Samokov. It was dark out, and the road from Sofia is narrow and winding, with mountains and drop offs on either side. Drivers on this road are known to play chicken (as they are everywhere in the BG, I'm sure), and passing is not only expected, but encouraged. Even on freezing, icy nights like that one. I have gotten into the habit of plugging into my iPod, and trying to not pay too much attention. I was probably listening to the Straight No Chaser Christmas album, when all of the sudden the driver slams on the brakes and the old rickety micro-bus fishtales into the middle of the already narrow road. We all sit there for a second, catching our breath and, in some cases, allowing our hearts to start beating again. All of the sudden, the bus driver throws up his hands, shouts "le le!" (an expression of surprise or astonishment here), and chuckles in a way that only Bulgarian men of a certain age can. We all look out the windshield, and low and behold, someone's Christmas dinner (a big fat, pink pig) is charging across the road into the woods
  • I was waiting for the bus to go to a big city about two hours away earlier this fall. I was early to the bus station, so one of the first people in line. Right before we were about to board, someone taps me on my shoulder and starts asking me a ton of questions about America and my work here. Because I see a big part of my job as shining a POSITIVE light on my kids here, I got into a conversation with him, and didn't realize the entire line had gone onto the bus ahead of me. And was officially full. I was supposed to be in Plovdiv that night, and there were no other travel options to get me there before I needed to present at a Peace Corps conference. I begged and pleaded with the bus driver to see if there was anything he could do, and explained I HAD to get there tonight. He looked at me again, grabbed a newspaper, spread it over the stairs in front of the door of the charter bus, and pointed. And there I sat for the next two and a half hours, winding through the beautiful Rila mountains, and bracing myself with every sharp curve in the road.
  • There is a bus from my town to Sofia every half an hour. Sometimes these buses are big charter buses, and other times they are these itty bitty scary remnants of communism. Knowing this, I usually get to the bus station pretty early, to ensure that I get a decent seat. This, time, however, I was running straight from work, and had to sit in the shotgun seat that is only used if the bus is completely full. And it was. We stopped about 15 minutes outside of Samokov to because someone was waiting to be picked up on the side of the road. The bus driver pulled over to tell this woman there was no room, so she would have to wait for the next one in another half hour. She said that it was ok, she needed to be on the bus, so she would stand if she had to. Because my mom taught me my manners, and she was older and laden down with what easily could have been a lifetime of possessions, I offered her my seat. I would stand instead of her. She sat down, and I braced myself for the rest of the trip. About 5 minutes later, this woman (this would be a good time to tell you was a… tad… on the bigger side) offered to SHARE the seat. So I spent the next 40 minutes sitting sideways "on" the edge (really – probably even more the SIDE of the seat) with my pushing intensely on the block underneath the drivers seat so I could keep from falling on the floor.

These are just my favorites. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Every good and perfect gift is from above..."

~ James 1:7 ~

I was messaging with one of my closest friends today, and we got onto the subject of strength. What it means, where it's from…

This particular friend and I were really close throughout high school and then the first year or so when I went off to North Carolina for school we just kind of drifted. It wasn't until my accident last Christmas brought me back home that we truly reconnected. It was totally a God thing that we eventually figured out we were both back "home" at the same time, and by the time we were resuming our Caribou Coffee dates after too many year's hiatus, I was back on my feet and [theoretically at that point] planning my return to Bulgaria.

I say all that to draw point to the fact that she had no idea how much I struggled after my accident. How angry and bitter and frustrated I had been over the whole situation. I broke my leg, lost my job, had no semblance of independence, and no one could tell me when I would walk unassisted, drive a car, go back to work, or if I could return to Bulgaria. And I didn't even know if I even wanted to go back. And other than my parents noticing this internal battle going on, I told no one. In fact, I hid it. Apparently rather well, too.

This subject today came up when we were talking about not wanting to be strong anymore when times of trial arise. And about how incredible it is that when we ignorant humans decide time and time again that we can't handle something on our own (can we ever?), that we DON'T HAVE TO. Every single time – HE is there.

I admitted to her at this point that every time someone back home had told me what a "trooper" I was, or how strong I was being, or how much of a fighter I've always been… that I wanted to scream. Loudly. I didn't feel strong. I felt ANGRY. She asked me how I pulled out of it. What made me return to the only foundation and stability I've ever (and will ever) known. I never hit rock bottom. I also wasn't praying myself through this, and since no one knew what I was going through inside because I made sure they didn't, I'm pretty sure no one was discerningly praying me through it either.

But wow. The thought of a "perfect gift." Undisturbed clarity. Being able to all of the sudden see through the storm and finally noticing a hand ready to pull you up (one that has without a doubt been there the entire time). THAT'S what turned everything around for me. And honestly? I don't think I saw it at the time. Actually, I know I didn't. My surgeon will tell you it's because I started physical therapy or walking again. But I know different. I know that the reason I healed a non-union fracture after a months of non-healing can't be explained with some medical jargon. My 0% to 90% healing marathon in a mere six weeks was because I received a gift. A perfect one. A second chance. An open door. One I had promised to walk through should the opportunity arise. And here I am.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Best day yet as a PC Volunteer...

You haven't truly lived until you've seen 150 of the world's most overlooked kids get to be the center of someone's world for a few hours.


And let me tell you, on a day like yesterday, you'll never see happier and more excited pro basketball players or kids anywhere in the world.

It was one incredible day!

What's the point of hanging out with pro athletes without a dunk demonstration?

Yes, she's small... but he's still 6'10.
"I heard there are tall people! Where are the giants??" - small child on my recruitment walk through the Roma neighborhood.
Guys getting ready to play a small scrimmage for their many fans.

Group photo... we had more kids coming in and out throughout the 3 hours we were outside! Truly amazing...
We were trying to relocate all the kids for a group photo and it was hard getting everyone in one place. Two of the tallest guys on the team threw their hands in the air and started screaming while they ran across the school yard... every kid followed!
We had kids ranging from age 6 to 16 and 17 years old.
American football... a new concept for most of these kids!
Victors during one of the relays, and their "biggest" fan.

Wiffle ball... also a totally new concept!
Some of the guys on the team. There were 9 guys from US, and 3 Bulgarian basketball players.
Me and my sweet Zina from my kindergarten class!

If this isn't an indication of a job well done... I don't know what more proof you need.

:) :) :) :) :)
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 21, 2010

I may be here to work with them:

But these little guys are the ones that keep me going:

School and Cyrillic Alphabet Holiday Program

"Neofit Rilski" Middle School - Samokov, Bulgaria - Friday, May 21, 2010

Posted by Picasa

Plovdiv - Part 2

Plovdiv has an incredibly maintained Ancient Roman Theater - they still use it for performances! We took all the kids up to the gate to look down into ampitheater, and the guy selling "tickets" to go in let us bring all 30 people in for free!

Posted by Picasa

Excursion #2 - Plovdiv (part 1)

The kids in Old Town Plovdiv on Monday, May 17, 2010

Posted by Picasa