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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Computer Lab!

Many, MANY thanks to former US Ambassador to Bulgaria Mr. Sol Polansky, and the Bulgarian American Society!

As a result of their amazingly generous donation and continuous support, we were able to bring a brand new computer lab to Association Svetlina!

Equipped with 4 desktop computers, a new printer/scanner/copier, internet, and a selection of educational software, the Svetlina team and a newly contracted IT teacher will work with the kids to incorporate the computers as a learning tool for our after school program, as well as a mechanism for starting to build some professional skills that will hopefully give these kids an edge when they are ready for the work field.

"This computer lab was generously donated by Sol Polansky and the Bulgarian American Society"
The finished product!
We were able to purchase the computer desks as well from the project budget.
I think Katya is most excited about this beauty!
Some of our 8th graders- our initial target group for the project (with a push for earning their diplomas next year) - checking out their new tools.

Скъпи хора от BAS - Много благодарим от децата и екипа на Сдружение Светлина в Самоков!

Monday, March 28, 2011

I walked into the kindergarten this morning (my second to last visit with them...), and was immediately greeted with a whole lot of yelling. As soon as I got them to speak one at a time, I realized that they were all shouting that their parents had given them permission to accompany me to America. 


Not so adorable when they all started laughing at me later when my eyes got a little misty....

Gonna miss my chickens! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kid's got talent!!

One of my 5th graders showing off his beat box talent:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When we quote Jeremiah 29:11 ("For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope"), why do we always stop there?

 I find such great comfort in the part that follows (v12-13): 
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Peace Corps!!!

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. All month, the PC worldwide is celebrating their 50th anniversary. It's a very exciting time to be a volunteer, especially when you consider the fact that during the last half a century, more than 200,000 Americans have served as volunteers to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries.

Even more impressively, Peace Corps Bulgaria is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year! Nearly 1,250 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Bulgaria since the program was established in 1991. Currently, 166 volunteers are serving here. We work as English teachers and change agents in the realms of youth and community development.

Last week, I went into Sofia for an afternoon celebrating the last two decades of development work here in Bulgaria, as well as the opening of an awesome photo exhibit in the park in front of the National Theater which showcases our presence in country as volunteers.

The photos all turned out great. A member of my volunteer group took this one, and it was so great seeing my B24s represented!

My sitemate Ursula and I got to hold the birthday banner during the ribbon cutting for the photo exhibit. :)
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Favorite word in Bulgarian

I've got a few favorite words in Bulgarian, but "глупости" (pronounced glue + po + stee) is one that I've always especially appreciated. I've often found it creeping up even into conversations I have in English. In general, I'd use it in circumstances/exclamations where "nonsense" or "ridiculousness" would come in handy. Since I love that this word seems to appropriate so frequently, I wanted to go ahead and post the laundry list of definitions that Google Translate provides, because it makes me giggle:

  1. noun
    1. nonsense (the definition I give most often)
    2. crap
    3. shit
    4. bullshit (this is the definition Bulgarians give most often)
    5. rubbish
    6. guff
    7. baloney
    8. rhubarb
    9. drivel
    10. junk
    11. fudge (hehe)
    12. gup
    13. blah
    14. bull
    15. applesauce (ten bucks to a person who can actually make this one work!)
    16. monkey business
    17. blether
    18. humbug
    19. fiddlesticks
    20. jiggery-pokery (love it....)
    21. fiddle-faddle (mom, this one makes me think of you! Although its usually just "fiddle," right? :))
    22. balderdash
    23. boloney
    24. flapdoodle
    25. poppycock
    26. tommy-rot
    27. footle
    28. tack
    29. bleat
    30. cod
    31. eyewash (hmmmmm)
    32. truck
    33. buncombe
    34. bosh
    35. punk
    36. rot
    37. blague
    38. hokum
    39. piffle
    40. kibosh
    41. slush
    42. trumpery

  1. nonsense
  2. nuts
  3. shucks
  4. stuff and nonsense
  1. phrase
    1. all my eye (what does this even mean????)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My big brother and sister-in-law have their plane tickets and plans are set to see them in Rome on the 7th of May! We've got a lot of ground to cover via European railway until mid-June, at which point we'll meet up with my parents on the Black Sea in Bulgaria (verdict to come in regards to camp...)! A week on the beach, a few days in Istanbul, hiking the Rila 7 Lakes as a family (most beautiful place on earth), saying my final goodbyes... and then the grand finale: landing on American soil on July 2nd!! 

Which just so happens to be my quarter of a century birthday. 

All 5 of us will take our jet-lagged selves to Sweetwater Tavern for my first meal back - Ossie rolls, an ice cold microbrew, smoked salmon with garlic mashed potatoes, and a delicious flourless chocolate waffle for dessert. I don't care if I'm that predictable - my mouth is already watering! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

As gorgeous as I think my little country in the Balkans is, it doesn't seem to hold up very well aesthetically during the winter. The gray communist block buildings and even grayer sky often lends to being more than just mildly depressing. No wonder a good ratio of us PCVs seem to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

It's just depressing....

UNLESS, it is covered in the beautifully soft snow that just so happened to blanket my town in the mountains yesterday. It has been a pretty cold winter and I've been consistently bundled up for months, but I am confused as to how we severely lacked the pretty white stuff that finally arrived yesterday. A couple months too late.

As much as I love snow, I am tired of the cold and the mad dash from the unheated bathroom on chilly mornings to my poorly heated bedroom.


You may be from Alaska and Canada or somewhere else with a constantly snowy tundra, but you'll never understand cold - true cold - until you understand Eastern Bloc cold. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Habakkuk 1:5

"Look among the nations, and see;
   wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
   that you would not believe if told."
I've been informed that perhaps I've been slacking a little bit on here. It is true that over the last few months, I have posted more pictures than actual narrative posts, but такъв е живот. :) Besides, how can you not fall absolutely head over heels in love with my kids after I've posted so many awesome photos of them? If I've said it once, I'll say it again: I want the world to see them the way I do.

That being said, this particular update is long over due... the day after I said goodbye to all of my beloved B24s this past fall, the last two of us left in Sofia took a bus up to another town where a tattoo artist I'd read a lot about had a studio. I'd known for much of the last year that I was ready for my third (and most likely final) tattoo, and I had a design in mind that would capture the essence of my Peace Corps service and the person that I am, and highlight my love for the country that has come to mean so much to me.

This isn't such a great picture (the ink is on my left inner wrist and its a little distorted from the angle my wrist was in when I took the photo), but it says "Faith : Hope" and "Love" (which is the biggest word: "the greatest of these is love") in Bulgarian across the top, with the celtic trinity knot that I've been fascinated with for as long as I can remember. My life verse (1 Thess 2:8 - we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well) is referenced on the bottom as well.

I absolutely love it! It turned out great, and I love that it serves as a constant reminder about my priorites and why I am where I am - especially right now.

I also wanted to share with you the story about the 4 Orthodox saints that gave my ink even more meaning: there were three sisters named Vyara, Nadezhda, and Lyubov (faith hope and love).Their mom Sophia and the three girls appeared as a group before the judgment of the pagan court, which offered to release the entire family providing that the mother would deny the Saviour and raise her children as pagans. All three daughters looked up to their mother to assure her that they would remain as steadfast Christians with her and that she should feel no guilt should they be put to death. The agonized Sophia was torn between the love for her children and the love for Jesus Christ. She turned to the court to plead that her children be released, and they could inflict their tortures upon her. The three sisters cried out to their mother that they would rather join her in death to be reunited in the Kingdom of God, than to remain behind without her. Sophia's glance at the magistrate told her the next move was his. Incredibly the magistrate was unmoved and ordered the first of the girls, Faith, to be put to torture before the eyes of her mother. When this failed to bring the mother to pleas for mercy but instead the praises of the Lord, Faith was put to the sword. Hope followed her sister in death, as did her sister Love, three innocents whose horrified mother was dragged to the side of their bodies, over which she continued to pray as she herself also died for the Lord.

How cool is that???
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

4estit Praznik na vsi4ki Bulgari!

Честит Ден на Освобождението България!! 

Happy Liberation Day Bulgaria!!

It can't be news to anyone who has ever stumbled upon this blog even briefly that I absolutely love my job and the kids I get to work with and advocate for on a daily basis. Because of this, however, I don't often broach the "touchy" areas of Roma issues in this forum. I would rather post pictures and stories that show these kids in the light that I see them, so anyone out there in the internet world can appreciate these kids for who they really are - not who the world wants, expects, or tells them to be. 

I'm going to break that rule today, because I think it IS important to shed some light to the real situation at hand, even though I know that whatever I say here will not do true justice to the reality faced on a day to day basis. 

Since the moment I opened the Peace Corps Welcome Book for Bulgaria back in the spring of 2008, I knew that God was bringing me to Bulgaria to work with the Roma/gypsy youth population. Despite Peace Corps best efforts to prepare me for my work here during Pre-Service Training, though, it wasn't until I actually moved to Samokov and started working that I truly started to see the disdain, disgust, and all-around racism towards Roma. To be honest, though, I have yet to truly understand where this resentment comes from, even though everyone you meet has their own theory. 

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a friend of mine was reading Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Griffin was a white Texan, and the book describes his 6 week experience traveling the deep south on greyhound busses and hitchhiking in 1959, all while passing himself (undisputed) as a black man. I've often heard people comparing modern day Roma issues to the Civil Rights Era in the United States not so long ago, but it wasn't until I felt inclined to pick up my own copy and found myself unable to put down Griffin's story that I began to realize how true that comparison must be. I don't have page numbers because I read this on my Kindle, but one of the quotes that made me think of the life my children have been dealt here is this: "When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark." I've seen Roma kids get chased away from vendor stands because they are all automatically labeled as thieves due to their darker hair, eyes, and skin. I've seen paying adults from the same community denied rides on public transportation even though there was plenty of room for them. I've seen Roma families approach a table with a 'reserved' sign in a restaurant, only to be turned away because the table is reserved only for suitable (read white/Bulgarian) patrons. 

It breaks my heart to see such a beautiful, loving, generous, community-based demographic deemed void of all of these positive attributes, and be judged by their skin color or the sins of a minuscule minority. It also makes me proud to be serving in the role I do here - to be working alongside determined, passionate advocates for the Roma population in Samokov - but unlike the start of the Civil Rights movement in America, I wonder if there are enough enraged individuals out there willing to take a stand for population that has been denied their own voices.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just bought my InterRail Global Pass!! And wow... also realized that my verbiage needs to be updated to correspond with reality: I will be leaving Bulgaria, entering the world of RPCVs, and embarking on the 17 country trip I've been saving for since high school... NEXT MONTH. I am officially a basket case of mixed emotions.