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, February 21, 2011

"Less than 6 Months Left" Syndrome

There are, of course, lots of things that I have missed over the last couple of years during my time here in Bulgaria. For the most part, though, the absence of these luxuries and conveniences have all been a part of the adventure (except the intense food cravings... those I could have done without!!). I can honestly say I have enjoyed the simpler lifestyle that I take part in here, and a big part of me dreads going back to the "land of plenty."

Lately, however, the list of things I am anticipating upon arrival on American soil is growing. At the top of the list... a washing machine!! And DRYER SHEETS (and obviously the correlating dryer - although line drying my clothes is NOT a part of the process that I have grown to resent)!! I would say that a great number of volunteers in country have access to washing machines, and to be honest, I technically have one (shhhh - don't tell). When I asked my landlord when the last time it worked was, she laughed at me, and I deemed the archaic thing worthy enough for counter space and nothing else. At this point, I suppose I could have found someone to try and fix it (Bulgarians are incredibly resourceful), but I... just... never got around to it. Washing clothes in an unheated bathroom in an Eastern European winter is nothing short of brutal, but truly - it never bothered me. Until lately. Its gotten so bad that my laundry pile is just growing and growing. So really, I'm just making my life MORE difficult by neglecting my household chores (you can only wash so much at a time when you do so in a small plastic bin), because at some point, I will need to catch up! And sheesh, I was helping a friend with a dryer (the only one I've seen here - but she has 6 kids!) the other day fold her laundry, and I think I sat there smelling a used dryer sheet for a good 5 minutes. Heavenly. 

A couch. Oh my goodness. I love my little peach, purple, and red one-room apartment.... it IS wonderful. But I'm a reader. I miss curling up in the corner of the couch with a giant mug of tea and being all cozy for a bit. There is a time and a place for reading in bed (usually before bed or early in the morning), but I can't wait to snuggle up on my parents couch with a good book and just be absorbed into a page turner. Or watching an edge of your seat film on said couch. Again, watching a movie in bed can be nice... but my tush is looking for a change in scenery. One of the hotels up in the ski resort has this nice big lobby with leather couches and cheap coffee.... I've been frequenting there just for some prime couch sitting and productivity (more sitting, less productivity). 

My car. Not for transportation purposes. I like being able to walk everywhere. And in recent years I've had a hard time justifying the insane gas money to just get behind the wheel and drive, but that is EXACTLY what I want to do right now. 

I'm sure there are more things I could add to this list, but these are the ones I've been thinking of lately. And I'm certainly not going to get into all of the food I'm craving, but I suppose I need to not throw away all of the pants that are too big for me now, because I am certain that after a few weeks of indulging my ICE CREAM, Mexican, Thai, cheeseburger, pizza, Chinese food cravings... I'll be needing them again. And ya know what? As much as I want to get back to my pre-accident active lifestyle, I'll sacrifice it a little while longer in order to indulge. ;)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vday with the 8th grade and Katya's birthday

Making Valentine's afterschool

Katya's birthday is on the 14th, so like last year, we were able to celebrate the two together with the kids after school in the program.
Posted by Picasa

Valentine's Day toothbrushes

Last year, my dentist in the US donated a very generous amount of toothpaste samples and floss. Oral hygiene over here is widely overlooked among both Bulgarian and Roma communities, so we purchased some toothbrushes and taught the middle schoolers at camp this summer the importance of keeping your mouth happy.

I had been wanting to do the same lesson with the kinders for awhile now, so when I was putting together their Valentine's goody bag, I dropped a toothbrush and toothpaste in each bag. After enjoying our cupcakes, we marched the little chickens to the bathroom to practice! NONE of the kids own a toothbrush, so they were excited about their gift. I'd never get away with throwing a holiday party in the US and seizing the cupcake opportunity to teach about brushing those germs away. It'd be like the grouchy old lady who gives out apples on Halloween. But they loved it.

Svetlo back their cheesing over his new skill, and the others greatly concentrating.

Iskra giving the Do's and Don'ts of brushing your pearly whites.

Posted by Picasa

Introduction to cupcakes

So I guess if I'd thought about it, I should have realized these kids have never seen a cupcake. If I'd realized that, I would have handed them out with a warning to not eat the paper wrapper.... haha. Don't worry though, as soon as I saw the first kid try, I quickly put an end to that and "demonstrated" paper removal.

My mom had sent me these cute little sets of Valentine's cupcake wrappers and toothpicks with hearts on them. I definitely got a kick out of the kids trying to eat the cupcakes using the toothpicks as a utensil... hahaha. I gathered them up, and they were thrilled to learn that I was not only giving them permission to eat with their hands, but making it so they had to!! Too cute.

Lots of concentration involved when trying to eat a cupcake... with a toothpick.
Posted by Picasa

Valentine's Day with the Kinders

Or should I say, "Day of Saint Valentine," or... even better... "Day of the Lovers." ;) In Bulgaria, Valentine's Day is only just starting to commercialize as a holiday. Last year, actually, I remember only the flower shops selling balloons, and then the activities I did with the kids. Other than that, you saw only Name Day parties as people named after the actual saint celebrated, and then whatever I pulled off with the kids. This year, however, while out to eat with a couple of friends, I was surprised to see the restaurant completely decked out with balloons and streamers and candles on every table.

I started my day with my "pileta" (chickens), and had a blast! We talked about how we celebrate the holiday in America, made some Valentine's, ate some cupcakes (hysterical, pic to follow), and then I got away with something I never would have gotten away with in the US! Haha, that story to come too...

My buddy Hristo! He's really mastered his balloon drawing lately! One of my biggest regrets over the last couple of years is not spending enough time with this little guy... he has Down Syndrome, and its really neat to see him "mainstreamed" into the kindergarten. The staff and other kids really look out for him, but he kind of does his own thing. I'd like to see him get a little more individualized attention to address his needs. He's a smart kid and absolutely hysterical, but no verbal communication.

Goshko made his Valentine for his girlfriend. ;)

Nicollete - She's so pretty...
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another fav photo

Hiking in Maliovitsa, Summer 2010
Posted by Picasa
Go ahead - diagnose me with temporary Bi-Polar Disorder. At this point, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm going to be an emotional wreck for the next two months, because as of today, you can officially start the TWO MONTH countdown! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mission Impossible

I'm pretty sure I'm the only PC Bulgaria volunteer in the world (bold statement - I still stand by it) who has managed to take a photo with EVERY child in it smiling. It took two and a half years, but here is proof that I managed the impossible:

And look at their faces! No bribery involved!

Add to it the fact that I almost got every single one of them looking in my direction, and wow.... haha
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

After my last two months here (how is it possible that this time is arriving too quickly, and at the same time, not fast enough??), I have a lot of ground to cover in the Euro Trip I've been saving for since early high school.... very exciting. But can it be true that I am MOST excited about summer camp 2011 with my Svetlina kiddos and my family on the Black Sea in June???? 



Today we reviewed out weather words from last week, then started learning some classroom words. These kids are absolutely amazing. So eager to learn. I wish there was a way to make everyone see them the way I do...


Posted by Picasa

AMAZING weather!

So much for the "coldest winter in a 1,000 years!!" Pretty sure its been record high temps lately... Although I was hoping for some serious snow this year, I'm not complaining!! All of the cafe's have set up tables outside, people are out and about (loved the 30minute walk to the kindergarten this morning), the ice rink was melting the other day, and... I was able to play outside with the boys today after school!

It took coming all the way to Bulgaria - where soccer is football and American football doesn't even exist - to perfect my football spiral. I've gotten pretty good, if I do say so myself. ;) But its definitely more fun to teach the kids how to throw.

It makes me nervous, but the boys have really gotten into boxing lately, and have been asking me to use the gloves on a regular basis. It makes me nervous... especially when one of the kids is an amateur boxer (the tall one - at least 6'4"!!!!) - ranked in Bulgaria. Also, all of the kids in this picture are in 7th grade except for two on the far right...
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Things in Bulgaria have a tendency to be on the [ridiculously] inefficient side. I can honestly say that in general, it doesn't bother me. I almost appreciate it. I like that it keeps me on my toes. Sure, the fact that you have to fill out paperwork to apply in order to be able to apply for a residency card is a bit crazy, and I was a little confused why a bank representative had to drive all the way from Sofia to Samokov to retrieve the bank card that the ATM decided to eat, drove with it BACK to Sofia, all to just mail it to me in Samokov a few days later in a package with the other cards the machine devoured from Samokov residents.... but its all a part of the excitement and fun of living in a foreign country, right? ;)

The day to day craziness also allows you to especially appreciate when things turn out to be surprisingly EASY - which does, believe it or not, happen from time to time. 

Last month, I developed a nasty sinus infection. Eventually, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to kick the crud in my head without a little assistance, so I finally emailed Peace Corps - PRAYING that they wouldn't make me come all the way into the capital for a doctor's appointment. To my relief, after speaking with our doctor about the symptoms, he confirmed it was some sort of sinus infection and wrote me a prescription, which he then emailed to me. Now, I don't own a printer, but I DO live three floors above a pharmacy. I unplugged my laptop, walked downstairs in my slippers, penguin pajama paints, winter hat,  and down coat - looking about as pathetic as possible (and not intentionally....), showed the pharmacist my computer, and she filled my prescription within about 4 minutes of me leaving my front door. I was back in bed what seemed like moments later. 

I'll take the ridiculous stories of infficiency any day if it means that some things go even easier than I expected.