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.

Friday, September 24, 2010

At the mTel Cell phone store:

me - "Excuse me, but my contract ends in the next couple of months, and I would like to know the specific date."

store clerk - "You're speaking to me in Bulgarian."

me - "Ummm, yes. I guess I am....."

store clerk - "You live here? How long?"

me - "About two years."

store clerk - "But, you're speaking to me in Bulgarian."

me - "Yes. That is the idea."

store clerk - "Wow. You speak well. Only two years? What can I help you with?"

me - "My contract ends soon, and I'd like to know the official date. Also, I'm not leaving Bulgaria until April, so I was wondering what my options are for the few months after my contract is up."

store clerk - "Okay then. Your contract ends at the end of November. Here are your options to keep the same phone number, and have service until you leave in April. Oijsijgsoldkgnmsklgnsdfgndgsszndgslkgnxlbgknxfkhglsndgklngaleigfjnap;lkfnlazndfkzldgnzkdglxsdngdlfhnsrignslgskgnsagknslg. Do you understand?"

me - "Uhhhhh, sure."

Hahaha. Sigh. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Over the last month or so, France's "efforts" to take care of the Roma "problem" in their country have gotten a lot of international attention. They have been deporting Roma families left and right, and even though these families are citizens and members of the European Union, many are getting sent back to the countries their grandparents left years ago, and they themselves have never seen.

Although this is a heartbreaking reason to generate international attention, it has caused a ripple effect for more people to take notice. It's about time the world new what was going on!

And more specifically/locally:

THIS is why I'm here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rila Monastery

Честит ден на независимостта, България! Happy Independence Day, Bulgaria!

Today, September 22, Bulgaria celebrates its 102nd year since the country's formal declaration of independence from the Ottoman Turkish Empire, so I tagged along with Katya and her daughter Petya, and Petya's boyfriend Asen to the Rila Monastery.

The monastery was built in the 10th century, and is considered the most famous orthodox church in the country. Its absolutely beautiful! This was my second visit (I went the first time during PST with a group of volunteers), and I was glad to have the chance to go again.

Many of the artists who painted the works inside the actual church and along the outside were actually trained at an Icon Shkola/School in Samokov. My town is, for obvious reason, very proud of this.

It's still a working monastery, so the second and third floors are mostly residential for the live-in monks. I love all the wood work!


Zhenite! Me with Katya and Petya.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

.:. LOVE .:.

"When someone is willing to take a risk and love the unloved and unwanted
 - despite the assumptions and opinions of those around them - 
that's the love of Christ, plain and simple. 

It's the love we're supposed to show."

from The Gutter by Craig Gross
(read this book)


Just love.

Climb down into the trenches - your own personal gutter - and love people like Jesus did. 

Why are Christians today so afraid to do this?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The more comfortable I feel in my role here, the better I get at the language, the closer I feel to the kids... the harder my job gets. The more emotionally depleting it is. 

Galya got married last weekend. T didn't have money for "first day of school" clothes, so she didn't come. Iz is finally back in school after being under lock and key.... for now. N, instead of repeating 7th grade, would rather not go to school at all. 

The list continues... All these girls are too grown for their own good. 

How do you do this job if you don't draw your strength from the One who will eventually redeem it all?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Still on the subject of humility... WHOA

Philippians 2:

Christ's Example of Humility

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [1] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, [2] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

How cool is that?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately... how far am I willing to go for the Father? Christ made himself NOTHING, and died for everything, and I'm often too selfish and stubborn to commit even just the day to Him - let alone my future plans, desires, and concerns.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Discovered ricotta cheese at the grocery store here... I, of course, purchased said luxury, knowing full well that the only recipe that comes immediately to mind is my mom's world-famous lasagna. I also knew that although I am always craving her deliciousness, I would have to make so many substitutions that I would be left disappointed. 

So I am taking my first swing at Spanikopita - aka... Greek Spinach Pie.

I'd be hard pressed to mess up such a simple recipe, but my mouth is already watering.

But my childhood is disappointed in me (spinach??). 

Mmmmmm. I still wish I could have back all the years I was a picky eater and didn't eat things like avocado... and pineapple...and spare ribs... and meat in general. 
The B24s - the team of volunteers I began my service with - are Closing their Service in one month. I can't believe how quickly that is coming up! Even though I don't get see them as often as I would like, its going to be heartbreaking watching them go.

However, I can't tell you how thankful I am that I made the decision to move my own COS date.  When I started the reinstatement process after getting medical clearance from my surgeon, I was given the option to keep the original COS date (the middle of October), or move it to a later date to try and recover some of the time I lost during my 9 month "sabbatical." At the time, it was hard to project my feelings more than a year out, but I had a feeling that if I chose to leave around this time, I wouldn't be ready. 

And its true - I can't tell you how excited I am about these next 7 and a half months! And how unsure I am if I'll be ready to leave in April anyway... I LOVE MY JOB. And my colleagues. And the kids I get the pleasure of working with on a daily basis. And the incredible mutual respect I feel here. 

And I can't express how insanely excited I am about some of the projects that may be coming to fruition here in the next couple of months.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

YD Tech Academy

Day #3:

Today was the last day of camp, so we the day was a bit more unstructured as we focused on celebrating the LAST DAY OF SUMMER!! Yesterday we had introduced 4 Square and the kids absolutely loved it, so we brought that out again. The kids were really picking up on some strategy, and it was getting pretty intense!
One of the other PCVs brought up the idea of reusing big water and soda bottles as bowling pins. You fill the bottom up with an inch or so of water, and the kids were willing to wait as long as it took for their turn to come up. They loved it!

Helping Andy translate the rules of "H-O-R-S-E"
The three legged race went over really well, and the little kids especially were so cute!

Please notice that our group is 100% BOYS. Still not sure how this happened because I had only girls pretty much all summer... It was great to see the little ones (new 5th graders) and the older (8th grade) ones interacting so well! My organization wants to start working more with some of the younger kids since the core group I started with is starting to age out on us, but seeing the big and little kids play so well together keeps me optimistic for still including the older kids.
We finished the day with cake and ICE CREAM SUNDAES!!!

The kids have been all smiles the last three days.

Job well done!

YD Tech Academy

Day #2:

Monday morning the size of our group was cut in about half (Market Day in Samokov - and the last one before school starts... kids were out getting their new clothes for the first day!), but we had a solid group of boys and our token girl (go Tonya - our rockstar goalie!). We took the kids up to the Samokov ridge field to play some soccer and American football, then we did a community trash clean-up around the field and on the way back to the school. The kids did great!

Before ending the day with sports and games outside, we had a guest PC volunteer from the HIV/AIDS committee come and do a "Myth vs. Fact" game with the kids about HIV/AIDS.
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YD Tech Academy

School starts tomorrow! The last three days Samokov and my organization, Svetlina, have hosted 5 new Youth Devlopment Volunteers from Peace Corps. They just swore in and moved to site a little over a month ago, and the purpose was for them to work with a "seasoned" volunteer and their kids and practice some technical skills in our field.

Since Friday, we've worked together to plan and implement a three day End of Summer camp for the kids at my organization.

Day #1:

We started the day with "Train Wreck" - which as always, as proven to be a group favorite! Think they would have played all day if we didn't have anything else planned...

We did a "Who Am I" activity with the kids. They traced each other onto large pieces of poster board, then filled in the outlines with clothing and interests. They also cut through magazines and colored the free space to represent themselves.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Picture perfect...

Maybe I'm meant for Bavaria?

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More than two years into this adventure, and I sometimes still walk outside surprised to hear Bulgarian everywhere.

Then I get more surprised when I realize I understand it. 

Well. Most of it. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Your Love, Oh Lord
Reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness
Stretches to the skies
Your righteousness
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide

I will lift my voice
To worship You my King
And I will find my strength
In the shadow of Your wings
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Swiss Adventure

Awhile back, a good friend of mine passed along an invite to a Navigator's Labor Day Weekend retreat in Kandersteg, Switzerland. Being that I hadn't seen Jana for well over a year, and hiking in Switzerland has been at the top of my Euro-"to do" list for as long as I can remember, it took very little convincing to get me to check out plane tickets and travel logistics!

I made it to the little hiker's/climber's town of Kandersteg on Friday afternoon by way of Milan, Italy. On Saturday morning, we got up. (had a stern talking to with my still present jetlag), had breakfast, then headed into town. About half of the group of hikers were starting the hike from town level, and the rest of us decided to by-pass the first hour by taking the Gondola up to the Oeschinensee Glacial Lake. In addition to not being sure how my leg would do on a strenuous hike, and being ridiculously out of shape, Jana and I had a plan to hike high enough up towards the actual Glacier that we could have a better vantage point of the lake, and see a few waterfalls that feed it.

Well. Some pride issues (we joined forces with a new friend, and I don't think any of us wanted to be the "one" to throw in the towel!) and one too many "just a little bit furthers" later, we got to the point that we were SO CLOSE to summiting the glacier, that we couldn't turn around!!!

So many hours and heart palpitations and sore muscles later, we MADE IT to Frundenhutte!! By this point, yes, we were above the clouds and practically on top of the world. I have never seen anything more incredible. Crayola, if you're reading this, no Crayon box will ever be complete without the color of that water!!

We made it about as high as you can go without having special equipment... but seriously. How amazing is this? I've always had it in my head that Switzerland has GOT to be some of God's best work. And now that I've been to a glacier in the Alps, I can say with experience and confidence that I wasn't wrong!

Go Team Gimp!!!
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Despite regular cleaning (well... I think I have given up in that department) and vacuming, my apartment is ALWAYS really really dusty. In order to preserve the cleanliness of my winter clothing stash, I put all my warm clothes into a space bag, and vacuum sealed it closed once winter finally left my Rila mountains.

Well. Its cold here. Very cold, actually. Rumor has it, there might be snow up in my mountains (its so foggy I can't verify for myself). This is, however, my third September in Bulgaria, and every year around this time we get this freak cold spell before it gets hot again. 

My dillemma right now is the fact that I am packing for another adventure. Tomorrow I board a plane for Milan, Italy, and on Friday morning I meet up with a good friend of mine in Kandersteg, Switzerland for a weekend hiking retreat that promises some of God's most incredible scenery! I am thrilled! Switzerland has topped my Euro destination list for as long as I can remember, and I am excited to be going so soon! But, considering the weather in the Swiss Alps right now appears to be in the high 50s during the day and only the 30s overnight... packing is going to require a tad bit more attention than I had originally anticipated... good thing I went ahead and already paid to check a bag!! If nothing else, plenty of room to bring chocolate back. ;)
I just have to say, that traversing international waters via airplane WITHOUT a broken leg is the way to go! In fact... it was kind of nice. Caught up on some reading. Watched some movies. Listened to some music. Met a new friend. Ate some good food (what?). 

And thought about how hard it was to get on a plane and leave the life I've been building here, despite the sheer excitement about my best friend's wedding, seeing my family, and eating my weight in overly processed American foods. And it only being for two weeks. But the thought of projecting that mixed feeling to one year from now... almost broke my heart. It was so great to be back home in the land of comfort, convenience, and community, but God has really worked in my heart over the last two years. Not once since my "triumphant" return from a broken leg have I questioned my mission or purpose here. Or my deep desire to be here. 

I also just kind of assumed that when my time here was up, that I'd miss things, of course, but I'd be more than ready to move onto the next adventure (let's be honest, there is always at least one on the radar). Although I'm pretty sure God is not calling me to extend my time here (not fully out of the question, though), I can't express, even 8 months out, how hard it is going to be to walk away from my kids, colleagues, beautiful city, and amazing Rila mountains. 

Being home reminded me of all the things I miss and continue to crave (mainly revolving around more consistent access to the Body of Christ for fellowship and accountability), but it also made me appreciate how much I love the simple life here. The "spokoino" (relaxed) lifestyle and simplicity of it all. 

And my JOB. Most specifically my kids and colleagues. The mutual respect in the work I do here is something unrivaled to anything I've ever experienced.

But I'm also sure God will continue to work in me, and assuming I continue to listen and abide by His calling, He's got me headed somewhere equally amazing a year from now.