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, August 30, 2010


The Bulgarian one. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two of the three of the five little cuz's that I get to see on Saturday!!!

It's so good to be home. :)
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Friday, August 13, 2010

You know you're a Peace Corps Volunteer when you purchase your toilet paper not based on scent (although Sunrise Harvest Peach IS my favorite), but on the quality of cardboard paper roll for art projects... true story. 
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

- Ephesians 4:1-3 -

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Intro to S'MORES!!! :)

After a delicious Skara (grilled) lunch, it was time to break out the marshmallows, graham crackers (thanks Jamie!), and chocolate and teach the kids my favorite campfire tradition!

Like any good PC Volunteer, I'm participating in a "cultural exchange" with the kids. ;)

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Nature Hike and Picnic

Yesterday we took the kids up to Maliovitsa, which is about 30-45 minutes from Samokov, and the gateway to Rila National Park here in Bulgaria. GORGEOUS!! This was hike number 2 from out Social Development project through PC and the America for Bulgaria Foundation, and its safe to say the kids did great, and everyone had a blast!

We started the day by hiking up to the Maliovitsa Hija (mountain lodge), and then we returned to the base again for a BBQ picnic followed by some games, watermellon, and the kids first introduction to S'Mores.

Svetla showing the kids dew collecting in the grass.

Kaka Radka showing the kids how to read a map and use a compass.

Isus and his newest American buddy - Jeremi (a friend of mine from Sofia)

I LOVE this picture!!

Some of the kids hanging out post-hike.

Haha, Tsetsi, Iva, and adorable little Ani.
Goshko and Sasho

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Here is a shout out to my ego - for protecting my pride the last year
and a half.

Turns out the "hill" where I broke my leg skiing is actually quite
smaller than I remember it being.

Read: almost FLAT.

New baby!

This is one of my favorite parts about Roma culture. Whenever a new baby is born in the Mahala and the family is ready to bring the new addition home, close friends and family gather outside the hospital (which I get to walk past every day on my way to work!), play music out of their cars and basically have a little party until its time to load up in a big caravan that drives through the neighborhood honking horns. Yesterday, I saw cars starting to line up in front of the hospital, and was thrilled that the caravan passed Katya and me in the Roma neighborhood when we walking around spreading the word about our hike with the kids today.

Didn't get any pics at the hospital, but this is the caravan passing us in the Mahala.

Neighbors heading to the new babies house to join the party.

Tents set up, with A LOT of food and many gifts for the baby!

In Bulgarian culture, its bad luck for the family to display the baby to the "public" too soon. So usually once the baby is brought home from the hospital, its only introduced to immediate family for the first month - sometimes as long as three.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

The few... The proud...

The B-24 Youth Development Volunteers!

We may be a bit smaller than when we started, but by this picture taken over our Close of Service conference, we can be considered nothing else but true FAMILY.

Hoping to find someone that has all 21 of us (with the Community and Organizational Development Volunteers) together.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

This time next week, I'll be on my way HOME for two weeks!! I'm feeling really good about the direction things are headed with work and life here, but I think that this quick visit home will give me the perfect boost to tackle the last 8 months of my Peace Corps service.

The last "trip" home wasn't exactly planned (ha - that may be an understatement if ever there was one), and I went straight to the hospital where my first meal was a relatively stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich... so this time I'm doing things right. I actually have a flight reservation, my bags will be packed by myself this time (with an appropriate ratio of undergarments and socks... hehe), I HAVE a passport, and as soon as I get home, I can greet my four legged beast however I want! Last time was a bit crazy for all involved, and Cleo was disappointed that I remained "broken" and unable to truly play for months and months.

I realize I have an unhealthy relationship with her, but how can I not???

Look at her:

This week could not go fast enough!!
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I MISS these kids! Another month and a half :)

Date with Miss Sarah!

Girl time with one sweet nine year old.

Dinner, a movie, ice cream, legos, and window shopping.

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Just got back from my Close of Service conference with my fellow B-24s
(the group of us that stepped on BG soil for the first time together 2
years ago), and the week gave me a lot of things to think about for
the next 8 or 9 months or so. Most specifically, grad school might be
back on the list. Hmmmm.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More pics

I've gotten a lot of "encouragement" lately to post pics more frequently, so as you can tell, that's what I've been trying to do.

I LOVE this! Katya and I were walking through the Mahala, and these boys were totally grooving to really loud music. I didn't even have to ask if I could take a picture before they called at me to take one and started posing.

Is she not one of the most precious things you've seen? She and her mom were selling these toys on the sidewalk.

This guy in the Mahala asked me if I liked it down there in the Roma neighborhood. He was really surprised when I confidently exclaimed, "YES." And this photo - an example of the incredible community down there - helps me explain my answer:

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Svetlina Parent Training #2

For our current ongoing project (8 month social development and integration infrastructure), we are holding a series of parent trainings on communication skills and parental responsibility. In the past, we have had a certain amount of difficulty with a solid attendence, even with the promise of lunch for their participation. This time, the thought was that if we held the session actually IN the Mahala, people would be on time and more comfortable, because of the accessibility in a familiar environment. While we more than doubled our participation, there were also a lot of distractions as moms would leave throughout the session to check in with children and other responsibilities. The distractions were hard to work around, but I did notice how much more relaxed everyone was. They freely offered information and were interactive in their participation.

The principal of our school led the training.

Really great to see such a good turnout!

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Sozopol, Bulgaria - Black Sea Coast

Weekend trip to the sea with Hope. I had heard that Sozopol had a really incredible ancient part of the city, but it definitely blew me away! The building structure and how they've managed to preserve the old architecture was really very incredible.

I loved this great little church... conveniently outside of a cafe/bar.

The city of Sozopol itself is a pretty bustling and touristy place. My goal in life when I travel is to eat at places off of the beaten path. Not only are they drastically cheaper, but I've found that if you eat where the locals eat, you'll walk away much more content with your meal! Not to mention you get views like this from rooftop family restaurants. I'm also pretty sure I used the household bathroom by mistake... oops. :)

We stayed in a guesthouse in the new side of the city. Although busier and more developed, it wasn't any less beautiful - just in a very different way. One evening as we were finishing up dinner, it started storming pretty hard. In typical summer fashion, though, it cleared up within the house. We went out to the roof of the guesthouse to find this rainbow waiting for us stretching out over the city.
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

I love that my best friends in this country are 15/16 year old boys, and women like these amazing two!

Toasting 24 years at my birthday dinner with Katya (my boss/colleague/surrogate mom), and my landlord Lalka.

**Katya says I look great for being 114 years old ;)
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"Hike" to the ridge with Svetlina

A couple weeks ago now, we took almost 20 kids on a long walk up to the ridge that stretches across the Eastern border of the Samokov city limits. It was a great time to hang out with the kids (don't get much organized time with them during the summer), and I'm always looking for a chance to work on my football spiral with Martin and Isus. ;)

I absolutely love these kids with everything I have.

There is a restaurant up on the ridge that has a really incredible view of the entire city. It's truly beautiful.
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