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, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, и весели празници!

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes, did You realize that You would be my Savior?
And the first breath that left Your lips,
Did You know that it would change this world forever?

I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Coca-Cola... and Bulgaria!!!

There may not be any of the Coke polar bears that I love so dearly in this year's Coca-Cola Christmas commercial, but it was filmed here in my beloved Bulgaria!

The entire cast is Bulgarian - even Santa! - and it's set to Train's new song, "Shake Up Christmas."

Very cool! Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas program with the kinders! #3

Seriously... how could you not love these kids??? If I've said it once, I'll say it again, these little ones keep me going. I'm going to miss their high fives and hugs after these last few months.

The woman on the left is the teacher I am partnered with, and then the other two women also work with my class on the days Iskra is off.

This might be mildly inappropriate, but I still laugh when I think about this photo... Yanitsa and this little boy - the grandson of one of the teachers - became fast friends today... we all caught them snuggling up to one another when Iskra yells, "Look! That's full integration!" They are adorable together...

There was a man there this morning to take "professional" photos and make a video of the kids program. I seized the opportunity to ask him to take a photo with me and all the kids with my camera... since I am never in any of the photos I take (no one knows how to use my camera!)... as has been pointed out to me on multiple occassions! (yes, I realize that of the 1100 photos I took at camp this summer, I was in 2 of them... shameful).

I like it. :)
Posted by Picasa

Christmas program with the kinders! #2

Dqdo Koleda/Santa arrives!

Dance of the snezhinki

Malkite (the little ones) watching on... and in one case, totally cheesing for the camera. ;)

The kids singing one last song with our purple haired accordian player...
Posted by Picasa

Christmas program with the kinders!

I had an absolute blast this morning with the kinders at their Christmas program! They've been practicing their repetitions, songs, and dances for the last few weeks, so it was nice to be able to see it all come together today. Not to mention seeing the look on their faces when "Grandfather Christmas" arrived... and the fact that I literally got bowled over by 20 of the cutest munchkins MULTIPLE times when they all charged at me for hugs didn't hurt either.

Our little "snezhinki" (basically snowflake princesses) - too cute

Such studs.

Showing off the character masks I made them for their little play/program

Going to see Santa!!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 20, 2010

American friends from Sofia - Ellee and Jeremi - teaching the kids how to make balloon animals and swords.

I still love how everything we introduce to the kids over here is so new and exciting and novel! There is no way balloon animals, musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, or "duck duck goose" with the average American teen would fly in an after school program like this, but these kids love all the new games and activities! Makes my job a little bit more fun, and a lot less stressful as I can easily pull from the vault of ideas that is my brain.

Posted by Picasa
I absolutely cannot stand how adorable these kids are... kidnapping is still, and probably always will be, illegal, right??????

Posted by Picasa

3rd Year in a Row!

That has to constitute a tradition, right? It also might mean its time to spend Christmas with my family in the US here soon...

I spent all day yesterday rolling out cookie dough, and although we had a small turnout (always frustrating to plan over here - I don't know why I still try!), the girls that did come seemed to have an absolute blast. And the cookies turned out really well!

The 5 "Katie originals" that Katya requested... I love the snowman. :)

Jeremi and some of the ladies with their creations.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"You know they sell rolling pins in Bulgaria, right?"

Why bother purchasing one for a whole 3 leva when my Nalgene water bottle can roll out some Christmas cookies like nobody's business? ;)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My journey here in the BG began well over two years ago now. It's hard to believe how far I've come, and how much I've grown to love this country and the people here. Then again, maybe its not so hard to believe - I've managed to surround myself by passionate and driven people with huge hearts, who have - in many cases - moved mountains to support and encourage me in my role here. 

Yesterday I spent the day in Sofia to run some errands and see a few friends. At the end of the day, I managed to miss my bus back to Samokov by 5 minutes, and then the next bus a half an hour later never came. Sometime during my one hour on the side of the highway in the freezing snow and wind, I struck up a conversation with a woman also waiting to head to Samokov.  The usual battery of questions began withbthe predicted: "how old are you?" "Are you single?" "How much money do you make?" "Do you not like your family in America?" "What do you think of Bulgarian food?" "Are you crazy?" "Do you like it here?" That last one, upon my affirmation that yes, I do love it here, usually spurs some depressing tirade about all the problems in Bulgaria and how unhappy people are here. 

In fact, according to a recent article from the Economist, Bulgaria is THE least happy country in the world.

And that breaks my heart. But then again, I didn't grow up here. I'm not "stuck" here. It's easy to waltz in for two years with a plan and a focus, and know that I have an expiration on my commitment to live here.  With that perspective, its easy to see the beauty here - the dedicated and loyal people, the delicious and fresh food, the gorgeous scenery, the passionate minority groups, and the relaxed lifestyle - and remain blissfully ignorant (to an extent), of the deeper issues. 

But again - I'm American. I have the freedom to move on when I please, travel where I like, and obtain goals I set for myself. I consider myself immensely blessed, but what about everyone else?

Sent from my Palm Pre on AT&T

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The best/worst part about working out is the 4 flights of stairs up to my apartment afterwards!!  ;)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Haven't had the energy to sort photos and truly reflect on this last week of vacation in ISTANBUL, but before I go to bed after just returning from a friend's birthday party this evening, I wanted to share with you this amazing photo taken from the balcony of my hostel's roof top terrace this past monday during breakfast:

That, my internet friends, is my amazing big brother navigating his US naval ship out of the Bosphorus Straight in Istanbul!

I can't express to you how GOOD God is, and how awesome he was to coordinate our independent trips to Istanbul this past week.

A few months ago, I started planning another rendezvous in Turkey with one of the best friends a girl could ask for. Abby just finished up her two years of PC service in Turkmenistan, so we planned a fun and baklava-filled week in the city we had discovered together last spring. There are plenty of stories to share and I will get to those laters, but the highlight was definitely getting to see my bro for the first time in nearly a year and a half. Last month, Ryan sent me a cryptic email saying that he would be in "my neck of the woods." Not-so-much decyfering later, it turned out that the Filkins sibs would BOTH be in Istanbul at the same time! And I already had a hotel booked in order to make this happen.

This past Sunday, I was able to meet up with Ryan and a couple of his buddies from the ship for sightseeing, good eats, some shopping, and... a cold draft brew and REDSKINS football - all halfway across the world. It was GREAT to see Ryan and hang out like that, and I am so thankful that God cared enough about me in order to coorinate this just when I needed it most - a few weeks before my third Christmas away from home and family.

The next morning I was able to actually SEE his ship pull away from the peer and pass right in front of my hostel's view of the Bosphorus.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 3, 2010

I fully intend to gain 20 pounds this week doing THIS:

And hang out with this girl:

Spending the week with two of my favorite people in the world - Abby and my big brother!!
Be back soon. :)
Posted by Picasa