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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I want the world to see them the way I do...

Just got back from an AWESOME ten days on the Black Sea Coast with about 30 incredible kids. It was such a great environment - pulling these kids away from the restrictions of school and home responsibilities, and letting them be care-free KIDS for ten days. In addition to enjoying sports, dancing every night (I actually learned one of the Kyuchek Horo's!), games on the beach, and time in the water, the kid's partook in team building activities and communication/cultural trainings together. In addition to the Bulgarian kids we brought with us, we "recruited" a few more who were staying at the hotel with their families. Watching all the kids work and play together was incredibly humbling.

On a more personal note, it was just the experience I needed to connect with these kids in the way I've been praying for. Other than keeping them safe (do you know how hard it is to teach a kid to swim who has ZERO body fat???), my only real responsibilities this past week were having fun with them and nurturing stronger relationships. Instead of having to maintain a classroom environment like I do back in Samokov, or keeping activities within the time window their home responsibilities allow, I got to love on them ALL day. I got chase them in the water, fumble along with them as I slaughtered a new dance, teach them how to throw an American football, try out new games, and just LAUGH and smile with them. All day. Every day.

At the beginning of the week, the kids each had their own groups and clicks. The one's I knew well (mostly my core group 7th grade boys) hung out with me quite a bit, but the other kids were a bit stand offish except with their peers that they already knew well. Only a few days in, however, all the kids were playing with each other, and I got countless daily hugs!

Not to mention, last night I got an "obi4am te/I love you" Skype message from one of my girls from camp - one I had never even met until this week.

This is one of the most emotionally draining jobs I'll probably ever have (who are we kidding? I have this affinity for the road less traveled...), but the victories with these kids are SO huge and so encouraging! I can't imagine having to say goodbye even a year from now.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer of Dreams – 2010

Or… "Лято на мечти – 2010"

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will be leaving Samokov with 30 kids from town (a mix of Bulgarian and Roma children) and a staff of excited teachers for our annual Association Svetlina ten day summer camp on the Black Sea.

I am really excited about hanging out with the kids for ten days by the water, and watching some ethnic barriers crumble as the kids learn to play and communicate TOGETHER.

Can't wait to share pictures and stories when I come home in a couple weeks!

Thanks for praying, and please continue to do so!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My big bro is currently on his LAST deployment with the Navy. I'm so proud of him!

I got an email from him on Thursday saying he was ported in "my neck of the woods." I'm not sure if he was entirely serious or not, but he asked the likelihood of me being able to meet up with him for the weekend. Unfortunately, even though he's really not that far away, it would require a ridiculously inefficient bus route to reach him (so much so that I'd probably miss him entirely) or a $700 plane ticket! And I'd be cutting our camp departure with the kids this week a *tad* too close for comfort.

There's been so much going on lately with work and the kids that I've been insanely homesick for the first time since I've been back, and the fact that he is SO CLOSE yet sooooo very far away is killing me! How fun would it have been to hang out with Ryan on the Adriatic Coast for a day or so! I love spontaneity… until practicality gets in the way. ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My water heater is giving me problems... Again. It's been leaking, and although the hot water knobs in both sinks work, its not working at all in the shower.

I went next door to my neighbor's to ask him for help after work today, and he answered the door in only his underwear.

15 minutes later he comes over to help (fully clothed), takes off the bottom of the heater, and rust and water pours out.

He grunts, goes next door, and returns a couple minutes later in his bathing suit.

He starts taking the water heater apart, and this is the first indication I have that maybe this job isn't going to be pretty...

And when your decade old (at least?) heat source looks like this:

You will probably have this sludge to clean up... and thats not including the bucket of slime and grime he walked out to the dumpster with.

Haha, I've been bathing in that water for 9 months now. Yummy.

Never a dull moment!
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“Déjà vu convos upon arriving at work:

"Mariana, why are there so few children in school today?"

September/October: "Because of the 'grip' (swine flu).

Every Monday: "Because it's market day."

November: "Because it's raining."

December: "Because it's cold."

January/February: "Because it's snowy."

March/April: "Because it's cloudy."

May/June: "Because it's sunny and beautiful outside!"

When I pass a child during school hours:

"What are you up to right now?" - me

"Nothing." - child X

"Why aren't you in school?" - me

"I don't know." - child X


Let me tell you what heartbreak feels like...

UPDATE: Just found out that there was a miscommunication somewhere along the line... she's engaged. Not yet married. Pretty sure that doesn't make it any better. Especially when you find out that that man she's marrying is at least 20 years older than she is, and decided that instead of marrying her older sister like originally planned, he wanted her instead.

It's hearing that one of the 7th grade girls from your core group of two years got married this weekend.

7th grade... 12 years old.




She was gonna make it.

This part of the job will never get easier.
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm not so much a planner as I am a dreamer, but regardless, I can't stop thinking about the "next step."

It's pretty amazing to think that at the end of my time here in the Bulg, life can take any turn I want it to. Very exciting. :)

I realize that I don't have to even begin to truly make any real decisions for another six months or so at the absolute earliest, but it's fun (and overwhelming and exciting and crazy and intense and… and…) to think about.

[Mere] Thoughts/Ideas/Opportunities as of NOW:

  • Close my PC service (COS) as originally predicted in April 2011 (less than a year! Whoa!) and embark on the much-anticipated Euro backpacking trip of a lifetime. Then:
    • Find a job – enter the "real world" (don't judge… but most days that sounds so good to me)
    • Grad school – getting my MSW somewhere, but the thought of more school… YUCK
    • Spend a couple months in St. Petersburg, Russia at a language immersion program
  • Extend my PC service for "x" amount of time with my current organization in Samokov
  • Extend my PC service for one year as a PC Volunteer Leader
  • Or, who knows… maybe travel the world in a hot air balloon. Or be the next Bachelorette.