Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Birthday at the Kindergarten

Hey, haven't done much since my last update. Just wanted to share some pics and video of a birthday party at the kindergarten. It was a lot of fun. Made me miss my nieces. I hope this finds you all well.

Today is a korban byram (sorry if I misspell that) which is a 4 day celebration. It should be a lot of fun. Especially, since we have a band new mosque. I should have people from all over the region coming to take a look at it. It is going to be really exciting. Well, after that it is time to prepare for Thanksgiving. Then I have IST (In-Service Training). After IST I get to go to learn how to weave carpets...actually how to host a carpet weaving and then take that info back to my town and hopefully start a similar activity there. So, I get to be gone from the 25th of Nov. until the the 6th of Dec...crazy. Just plain crazy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

So, I haven't updated in a while. Here is over a month's worth of stuff:

So, some of this was written at times when I didn't have the internet, and when I did have I forgot to post it. So, here is a month's worth of adventures...broken into weird/random segments.

Sept 1st, 2010:
Well, it has officially been 6 weeks since I messed my ankle up. Today is the first day I wandered outside without my brace. I still was sporting an ace bandage but it seemed to do alright. I can't tell if my ankle is taking a long time to heal because I messed it up so bad, or because I have been treating it like a wuss and wearing that brace for so long. Mom says the last time I hurt my ankle it took nearly three months to FULLY heal. So I guess this is just how it goes. I hope to be off the Ace bandage in 4 weeks or less. I still don't have full movement in it, up and down is almost all there but side to side still extremely stiff and with limited range of motion. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

In other news, I finally got a story for the history of our chitalishte (cultural center), meaning I typed for three hours in Bulgarian while she dictated from a handwritten document I could barely read. Now begins the long/slow process of translating it and then getting it into the website I am building—well, the hard part is formatting the thing. Oh, I am building a website or seven. When they get uploaded I will send ya'll the links. Yagodina's subor (town holiday) is this weekend too. It should be fun, although the walk is about 1.5 hours (about 7 km, 4.25 miles) if you don't stop for the views. A little faster if you cut through some pastures. I might get to head to “The Ramp” or whatever Jon calls it. About a 2 hour hike up from the town (imagine walking up Alabama hill for two hours on unkempt road). But the view apparently will make me crap myself. I will try to remember a camera. But this weekend is not all fun, games, and rekia, I do hope to get some collaboration done. Jon and I are are working on the same project for our towns and didn't even know it. Time to find some funding for it. Looks like I get to shake down some local businesses. I will post more about it when I have a better idea about the probability of its completion. Oh, I think I got cleared to participate in a English Camp (as a trainer, duh) for the weekend of the 10th through the 13th. If all goes according to plan, I will on the 7th I will go to another conference (this time in Sliven) until the 10th where I will get directly onto a bus to Plovdiv, then another bus to Borino then I might have to hike to the site. If everything works out I will get to the camp around 10:30 at night. I can take the 1300 bus from Sliven to Plovdiv. Then I get to take the 1630 bus from Plovdiv to Borino, it should arrive there around 2130. From there I have no idea where I will be going. Alright, enough of this. Time to finish watching Carnivale. Later.

Sept 21st, 2010:
So, that was quite a jump. A whole 20 days. A lot has happened. I had the PDM (Project Design and Management) Conference and taught at the English Camp. My life has changed a lot in the last 20 days. Before my day to day activities involved a lot of uncertainty and flexibility. Now there is still as much uncertainty and flexibility as ever but with more plates than I can spin safely.

To begin with school is in session. I started teaching English at the Kindergarten yesterday and that was a...new challenge. Imagine me, someone who barely speaks Bulgarian trying to teach little kids how to speak English in the very best Bulgarian I can muster. And still failing miserably. But luckily Asya, one of the people I will be working with, was there to help control and speak on behalf of me. All in all it was a good start despite I only taught for a whole 15 minutes. I get to try it again on Thursday. I also found out I will be teaching at the school. I still don't have a program yet, but I think I will be teaching computers and English there. I could be wrong, but that sounds like it. OH! When I find the director I will find out if I can use one of their classrooms in the afternoon to teach an adult class or three. At my absolute max my week will look like this: Monday: Teach at the kindergarten at 9:30; after that at the school; Tuesday: Teach at the school in the morning and an adult class in the afternoon; Wednesday: Teach at the school in the morning; Thursday: Teach at the kindergarten and then the school, with an adult class in the afternoon; Friday: teach in the morning at the school. I will teach adults in the afternoon because the primary school is only in session until noon. I will probably only do a third to half of that. I am being an ambitious new volunteer. I have plans for making an eco-club at the school. I have all the paper work to start a scouting organization here and even the contact info for someone in a nearby town (Borino) who is looking to start a scout club. It is actually Shah's old counterpart—he just COSed (closed of service...yes, it is a verb) last week—so I might get to help them too. Also, I am still working on the map project I mentioned on Sept. 1st and I am still working on translating the museum. Then I get to make a website for them too.

Some of you might be looking at that and thinking, “Is that all?” The answer is no. Those are only the activities I am doing to meet my secondary goals. My first big projects are a Tourism Resource Exchange within the central Rhodope region and map out a eco-trail between my town and Whitney's town. The Tourism Resource Exchange (from now on referred to as TRX) is not going to held until April—if all goes according to plan. The TRX is a place for towns who do not have a tourism infrastructure to talk with people and other town who have one to learn how to begin and how to maintain a tourism infrastructure. For those towns who already one established, there will be professionals and experts there to advise them on how better and advance the current infrastructure. The TRX is too big for me alone so I will have lots of help from other volunteers in the area. We are going to start primarily with our towns and hope to include others later. We hope this will become an annual event in which leaders in the local tourism industry meet and work together to better the entire region. Remember when I said ambitious? Rolled into this is a project in which Whitney and I try to find the best eco-trail between our towns in order for tourists to gain easier access to Whitney's site. She has lovely town and they want in on the tourism industry. First we are going to help people gain access. Then we will work on the other stuff. We have an example project for another eco-trail to work from and it seems like a year long project. Jon and I are also talking about getting information boards put along the trail between our towns to further promote the eco/botanical trail between our towns. Whew...BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!

I still have my household chores, aka Selska Rabota. I just got all my wood delivered (It's okay, I here you snickering) for the winter. So, I have been splitting that every afternoon after lunch for an hour or so. I am no longer worried about my tattoos because I have been doing this shirtless. What? I get hot and sweaty swinging an ax for an hour or so straight. It also gave me an awesome blister in my palm so I gotta do it all right handed. I should also buy a hatchet...Anyways, I have been learning how to make preserves for the winter. All interesting and all very new to me. I am trying to get in the mindset to eat seasonal foods, I guess that means lots of potatoes and other roots for most of winter. Next week I get to start learning how to cook on/in a stove that has no temperature control. I am stoked (just like all the fires I get to start) to learn how to cook winter foods. They mostly consist of soups, stews, and slow cooked meats. I get to hang out inside for long periods of time this winter because there will most likely a meter or so of snow around from November to May. I should try to find snow shoes to go hiking. Actually, I should brush up on how to make snow caves...just for fun. Oh well, it is not like I do not have plenty to keep me busy during the winter. While the rest of the town bunkers down for the winter I get to plan and prepare for the next active season.

Let's see, is there anything else?

OH! I got a package from my folks today. I got a pair of Carhartt's, an awesome hat (it has a mohawk), my rain pants (yeah, that's right, pants for the rain), and SEASONING PACKETS AND MACADEMIA NUTS! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO! I gots me some teriyaki marinade and taco seasoning. I have a recipe for tortillas, so, when I am needing a lift during the long, dead winter, I am gonna make me some tacos. Oh, I should also be getting a copy of Civilization 5. All in all I think I have more things to do than I have time for, which is super. I don't sit still well (unless I am playing video games). Now, all I need to a mouse for my laptop (I hate the pad thing) and find the internet and I will be set for the next two years. Though, I do have about as much stuff to waste my time as I do actual work.

I guess I should do my dinner dishes now. Bye for today.

Sept. 30th, 2010:
Well, I am officially a long-term resident of the nation of Bulgaria. I have my “lichna carta” (registration card) yesterday. This thing is so cool. They have the facial recognition tech stuff, no glasses, no piercings, no smile, picture which makes me look a little annoyed (I was). Also, there is a chip in it that allows for swiping the card at ID points. On the chip, they also have digital copies of my prints. It is pretty fantastic. Good ol' big brother. Keepin' me safe and such.

Yesterday involved a nice meeting with some of the other volunteers in the area. We decided to all pick up our cards at the same time so we could meet, exchange resources, and talk about projects, vent about our frustrations, and share coping mechanisms. It was really nice. Got some good work done and got some more plans. All I can do right now is keep throwing irons in the fire and wait. I know that they will probably all finish at the same time and then I get to juggle hot iron for a few months. Oh well, that's the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism for you. Well, off to work again!

Oct. 21st, 2010:
Well, what the hell happened to October? Lots and lots of new things and even more new project ideas. So, still tossing irons in the fire, some are hot and I am beginning to juggle and just waiting for the point of being overwhelmed. Right now, the project that takes to most time is teaching English. I teach at the Kindergarten two days a week, once a week at the primary school (I teach third through 8 graders, not at the same time) and in November I am going to start afternoon classes for adults at the school. Kids here only go to school from 7 am to 1 pm. So all the classrooms are free after 1 or 1:30. I think I am going to start at 2:30 and go for 1 hour. We'll see how that goes. I only teach at the kindergarten for 20 minutes tops—but usually coffee and snacks follows for another 30 minutes. So, if I get two afternoon classes I will teach English for about 5 hours a week. Not too bad. But, right now all my focus is one figuring out a way to teach kids here about Halloween. I have 5 days to get this done. Because I have volunteered to help another volunteer put on a haunted house so I will be gone for Halloween weekend (Friday through Monday) and on top of that I have to go into Plovdiv to get my flu vaccine on Wednesday the 27th. But, they start giving out flu shots in the afternoon, after all the buses to my town. So, I am going to hang out in Plovdiv and do some market research for those two days and then head to help the other volunteer. Well, at least that is what I am thinking right now, that can, and probably will, change within the next 6 days or so.

Right now I am working a lot on the website. I have set an arbitrary finish date of Nov. 30th. No one really seems to care when I finish as long as I am working on it. I just finished translating all the information into Bulgarian. Now I am waiting on proof reading and editing on the Bulgarian script. Then I get to start looking for free web hosting sites, online photo galleries, video hosting sights, etc, etc, etc. Oh, that reminds me I still need to edit the three digital videos they have and create subtitles for them. That should take me close to one month.

In other news, I found a really awesome program called Google “Sketchup” which is helping me make a map of my village. I am about a quarter of the way done outlining all the buildings. So, I still have a long ways to go on that. I have an arbitrary finish date of the end of April. The sooner I finish my end to sooner I can start to hound people for resources to help get this project done without needing to actually write the big GP—grant proposal. So, I am getting stoked on that.

I am creating a survey (seriously, it was only a matter of time) for all the local guests houses and hotels about what services they offer and if they have a website, etc. You know, simple market research. Rolled into this is a series of questions about what sort of business development help they want/need. I am not sure how these questions are going to works. I will probably talk with Jon, Whitney, or Amber about that since that is kind of their cup of tea. I am going to being this by myself and door to door. The instrument development should be done by the middle of November, and I should have gathered all my data by the end of December. Now, I need to learn how to do useful stats in Excel. I hope to use this data to better develop training materials on business development, marketing, and customer service. I am hoping to get those classes up and running by NEXT fall. This is a long term goal. But, also in line with market research I am also heading out into some of the other larger tourist destinations nearby to see if they sell homemade Rhodope souvenirs. There is a couple of people who make homemade souvenirs and I want to help them make a little more money. Because we only sell them at the Tourist Information Center and that place is only open when I am there (Saturday mornings, generally) so getting their wares to a place that can actually push them is 12 times better than what I can do within the village alone.

And on the TRX we are still in the research mode but Cameron and I are talking pretty regularly about it. We are also trying to figure out a way to set up collective bargaining for our villages. They make a lot of raw materials that get used in different products, such as milk, berries, mushrooms, etc. Our villages sell these products to buyers to travel from village to village. They in turn sell it to someone else with nearly a 1000% mark-up. Like, they buy a kilo of mushrooms for 5 bucks. They then sell those mushrooms for 50 bucks a kilo. Ridiculous, right? So, we are working with them to give them a pay raise.

Well, time for bed.

Nov. 1st:
Wow, that was a weekend. Some stuff went down on the internet. Some things went down in Veliko Turnovo (good things happened there, no worries) and all in all, just a very long weekend. The party and Haunted House were fantastic. Learning more and more about planing and execution of plans here. I am on the news here...again, for helping out with the haunted house. Which, by the way, gave me some awesome ideas for next year and I am excited to start planning that next September. Also, found out my parents will be coming to Europe next September and taking me on a cruise. Stoked to see them. I am working on plans for a trip to Italy for my birfday in February with Nikki (SO EXCITE!) and have a lot on my plate otherwise. Time here is flying by at a crazy rate. I am excited to say that I will start my adult English class next Tuesday. And by excited I mean I am extremely nervous. Holy crap. I am going to start prepping classes this week as well as catching up work that I missed while out doing other work. My Halloween projects turned out better than I expected. Though, it was a bit harder than I expected. Since this is their first Halloween it required a lot more me doing it first to gain their interest. I had a very unexpected Jack-O-Lantern carving party. That came together in the matter of a few hours. But things are going well and getting easier. My language is still struggling—in my opinion. But that is mainly because I have a hard time forcing myself to study. But I have plans to change that habit. I am a little behind on certain projects I am working on, but it is okay. I have time to catch up. It seems that winter is the time to plan and prepare for spring and summer.

Speaking of winter, the weather is getting cold. There is snow on the ground and looks like it is going to stay that way for a long time. Still have a lot of wood to split, mainly because I only split wood for an hour or so a day and don't get to split everything at once, like most locals. Oh well, it will get done. I am not worried. Right now I am exhausted and waiting for the bus back to my town. But, still have some work to do on the internet.

You should see some pics of me below. I look a little funny. But that is life. Also, there are some pics of the kindergarten I teach and of the reults of my the pumkin carving party.

I miss you all and look forward to seeing you again and having some winter brews. If anyone wants to ship me a case of Snow Plow I would love you forever and ever.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This one goes out to...

everyone touched (not literally, figuratively you perv) by Jesse Lee Dukellis. He was an amazing man. My heart goes out to those he left behind.

Drinking for you bud!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hello blogosphere! @$&*#! I LIVE IN BULGARIA!

Alright, time for a huge post. I have not updated this since I got the good news I did not break my ankle. Some of you may be asking, “So, what has been happening in your amazing life?” The answer is simple: I work and live. Many of you may be thinking that this is a gross over generalization, and you are, in fact, correct. So, I will try my best to fill you guys in on my daily tasks. I did write out a play-by-play of my daily routine but that may be too much information for some. For those of you who only want to skim you can finish the next sentence and be on to your next blog. I wake up, eat food, find work, work for a couple hours, go home, eat more food, wander around town, find more work, wander a bit more, go home, eat yet again, listen to music and read, go to bed, that is all, hope you enjoyed my abuse of the comma, have fun with your next blog.

Still with me? Good. I usually wake up around 6 or 6:30 and begin cooking breakfast. While I wait the 15 to 20 minutes for water to boil I typically exercise (can't be slacking on my physique) and grind some Ethiopian coffee I bought in the nearest city, Devin. Once the water is boiling I start cooking breakfast which is two eggs with a bowl of granola and yogurt (there should be a pic, but it may not be labeled). After that I take about 45 minutes to finish getting ready for “work” which includes, doing my dishes, flossing, brushing teeth, washing face, combing hair (yeah, what of it?), putting on deodorant ('bout time I made it a habit, right?), and getting dressed. See? Not much different than in the States. Now it is usually around 8:30 or 9. I head down to one of the cafes and have a doppio. What? I drink a lot of coffee. Anyways, I drink that and watch people while I study Bulgarian vocab until 9:30. At this time I go and look for work. Sometimes my counterpart is in the library and sometimes she isn't. It is a busy time of the year. There is hay to gather, cattle to herd, things to harvest, canning to do, and a myriad of other things to prepare for the coming winter. If she is not there I have another office to utilize if I have computer work to accomplish. Some of the work I have been doing on the computer is creating a website or seven (without any programs like dream weaver, just me and notepad and a bunch of mindless coding), editing pictures, scanning pictures, helping with database management and spreadsheet creation, etc. If not I head to the cave and sit around talking with the people who work there. While there I may help someone but mostly I sit there, smile, and watch how they interact. Depending on the day I may have my first beer at 10:30. Between 11:30 and 12:30 I will head home to make lunch which is generally a huge salad, some fruit, and any bread I may have baked over the weekend. Then I nap or play computer games. About 2 or 2:30 I will re-emerge from my home and either have some coffee or work on some personal project. The last week or so I have been walking through every street making map of the village. Around 3 or 3:30 I usually go back to work until 5 or 5:30. Then I go shopping for food I may need for dinner, or I buy ice cream and eat it in the town square while the older men ask me why I am not drinking beer/rekia. I tell them because I have to cook dinner and they just kind of shrug their shoulder, make a joke about finding me a wife, and that is the end of it. Then I cook dinner, watch the news, get ready for bed, and watch some American TV I downloaded before I left. Whew! What a crazy life? Not really. Like I said, “I work and live.”

Life is a routine. Nothing new there. My work is drastically different than what I did in the States but it is work nonetheless. I may not sit in an office, or have a 9 to 5. I may get to hike for 5 hours and call that my work for the day. But at every moment I am working to fit into this community. I may have to work harder to integrate into my community because I am very different than usual. To help facilitate this I leave the lip piercing home and keep my shoulder tattoos covered (my Black Drop tattoo shows because it is too hot not to wear shorts). I am going to start learning how to make preserves for the winter with some of the local women. I will be learning how to make rekia and wine with my neighbor. Sometimes I go and visit with people at a local restaurant or their homes. My homework one week was to attend the local disco and meet some younger people.

Some interesting things: The cultural center I work for is performed in Varna (a big city on the black Sea coast) for a festival celebrating cultural diversity in Bulgaria. For this festival I got to perform with them. By “perform” I mean I stood on the stage, in a traditional outfit, and I didn't say a word. That is all. It was fun and I got to go to the Black Sea for work. WOOT! Also, having an American performing with a folk group was big deal and I got interviewed by the media. I tried my best answer the questions in Bulgarian but I quickly ran out words. I asked a friend to help translate and continued for a little while and then let them interview her because I am not supposed to talk with the media. I am not supposed to talk with the media because I, the American, quickly become the center of attention and it should focus of the partnership between Peace Corps and the host organization.

A Dutch couple bought the house down the street from and will live here next summer. They speak very good English and are extremely nice and they can party. Seriously. They were here for the first 3 weeks working on fixing up the house and will be back next year for more renovations. It will be nice to see them again after I have gotten more acquainted with the area.

I am also trying to find fast, reliable internet access. The next town over has cable internet so I am looking for a telecommunications grant to get cable internet to our town. It is cheaper and faster than what is currently available. I am preparing to start teaching English in October. I will have two classes, maybe more, one class will be at the kindergarten and another class with local business owners who want to improve the quality of service to English speaking tourists (which there are a lot). I will also be offering English classes to the employees at the local tourist attractions because only 1 person currently speaks English. Next summer I hope to work there during the weekends as a tour guide.

Don't worry, I have not forgotten about coffee. I am still quite obsessed with it. I am building up the language skills and nerve to ask the local cafe owners if I can work on their machines. They use La Cimballi (sp?) machines—two group, not sure of the model numbers—one is similar to the one at La Vie En Rose and the other looks like a newer model. I would ask but I don't think they know. With the limited amount of competition between the cafes and seeing how they prepare their coffee (pretty much the exact same way) I don't think offering specialty grade coffee is high on their lists of things to do. But I will ask a little later when there is less tourists. Also, I am looking into traveling to origin while I am a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) because if the Peace Corps (PC) are active in that country I will get the same benefits I would in Bulgaria. I am looking at East Africa right now. Just need to know when the harvest seasons are (if there are multiple) and when people conduct buying trips. It would be nice to go with someone who knows what is going on and what they are doing. But we'll see what happens.

Below are some pictures of my life. What I look like,my typical breakfast and dinner, and a little shrine I made to remembering home and my friends. I miss you all and hope you are doing well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

quick update

I got some good news and some bad news:
First the good news: I did NOT break my ankle! WooHoo!
The Bad News: I DID severely sprain my ankle. I will be on crutches for a couple days then I get to move across the country! YAY!

I swear in tomorrow and will begin my real adventure! So stoked. Another bummer about my ankle is that I won't be able to hike for about a month. Which is good and bad. Good inasmuch as I get to spend a lot of time in village. Bad inasmuch as I will not get to explore the surrounding region for a while. Anyways, I have more stuff to do right now. I will post again from my new hometown.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Long time no type

ДОБЪР ДЕН! “Dobur Den!” (good day!)

Whew! It has been a while since I have dusted off this thing. I guess it is time for me to update my blog. I have a lot to say and not much time to say it. I have been doing well. Just living life. I get up and go to school everyday and study Bulgarian for about 3 hours. I have a couple hours worth of homework for Bulgarian homework NOT including the couple of hours a day of COD (Community and Organizational Development) work I do everyday. When I have an hour or so to catch my breath I am playing football (soccer) with some local kids. I eat well. They put so much food on my plate that I cannot finish it. Then they ask me if I don't like it and I have to tell them that I do not eat much. They eat a bit heavier than I am used to. Lots of beans, rice, and bread (seriously, so much bread), meat, and cheese. It is all delicious but very very filling. I am currently living in the Balkans and it is great. There is some awesome hiking near my town.

I recently got my permanent site placement. Some of you already know where. I would post the name of the town here but I am not supposed to so I guess you'll just have to figure it out through the grapevine (sort of). I am going to living about 1300 meter about sea level deep in the Rhodope mountains. I will be about 6 or 7 kilometers away from the border to Greece. My town is about 700 people strong. I officially work for the Читалище (Chetaleshte) (think of a cultural center for the town) but will have the ability to work with many different local organizations. The town is beautiful (as you will see) and so is the surrounding areas. I might get a chance to lead tours to a local cave which requires climbing up 60 meters of ladders and then within the cave repelling down to a lower level to exit. Which will be cool. There is a lot of fantastic things near my town (about 20 brown bears, some awesome lake, etc, etc, etc). Enough writing. Here are some pictures.

Monday, May 24, 2010


So, I had a blog written and I have no idea where it went. So, here are some pictures.

Cameron's Birthday party!

Soccer game!

View on our walk to the next town.

View near my co-trainee Amber's house.

Our River!

Our language trainer Momchil smelling hte flowers outside our classroom.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Your Wondering Now What to Do When you Know That This is the End"

So, today I got to know where my training site located. I will be in Pudria which is about 20 or so Km north of Vratsa in the northwest of Bulgaria. My address will be : [send me and email if you are interested]

This is only valid until I get to my permanent address in 11 weeks. Please do not send anything until I ask for it. There is gnarly customs taxes. For instance, anything sent to me that has a value over 50 bucks I will be charged 100% of the value of the items. An example is that if items sent to me are worth 45 USD I will not be charged. If it is worth 55 USD then I will charged 55 bucks to get it out the post office. Remember, Bulgaria is an industrialized nation and a lot of items are available commercially. Also, customs agents will open the package, in my presence, to assess the worth of the items. If you do send something please be sure to write “Items for personal use. No commercial value.” so that way I might not have to the customs. It is a remote possibility but a possibility nonetheless.

Some of you may be confused about me being in spot then moving to another spot for more training. The first few days are mostly briefing about security, medical policies, and overall understanding of how thing work within the Peace Corps. There are also language courses twice a day in which we are changed around to find the best fit among trainees and teachers. They are looking for learning styles, skill level, and desired host family demographics. I spent the last week going through all this and now I am going to be meeting my host family tomorrow afternoon. They will most likely not speak any English. This is exciting and frightening because I am not too comfortable with my ability to follow Bulgarian when spoken fast. For instance I watched Bulgarian news yesterday and had could only read country names during the international section. I mean that is better than nothing but still a tad overwhelming. Also, the town is only 700 people strong. Almost everyone will know who we are and we will be huge spectacles. Maybe not like having the press following us around (like the airport in Sophia) but people stopping, watching, pointing, and whispering. They have had volunteers in the past so it may not be too out of ordinary. Oh well, we'll see. My group is going to be awesome. I am also excited to start playing football (soccer) and learning other games. Apparently there is a lot of hiking and nature around. Our language trainer (LT) is a former boy scout, or Bulgaria's version of Boy Scouts, so we might get Sunday nature walks.

We had a huge fancy dinner last night since this was the last night of our training here. It was quite exciting. I got all dressed up and sat with my group who were also all dressed up. Learned a few new words in Bulgarian and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate. The typical dinner in Bulgaria lasts for 3 or 4 hours. Slowly eating (that is going to take some time to get used to) and sipping a locally made brandy. During the dinner we had a local dance troupe come in and perform traditional dances. After their performance we all got up and danced with them...well, we tried at least. Then we took over and partied. I hung out and chatted with people in the corner because it really wasn't my kind of music and, as many of you know, I don't dance. Toward the end of the night me a couple friends went back to my room to listen to doo wop and drink Johnnie Walker Gold Label and chat. We finally said good night around 1 AM or so.

In other news, I found out a fellow trainee's family own a coffee farm in Honduras. He says it is in disarray because of familial politics but I might get a chance to go there and help. I don't know anything about coffee farming other than what I have read in books and online but it is a trip to origin that sounds awesome. I think I am going to mention the Coffee Corps to him. They may help them figure out what kind of coffee to plant, best pruning practices, etc.

As for the personal things, the food here is delicious. I am eating lots of fresh fruit and veggies with every meal. There is also some sort of protein at every meal as well. I am feeling pretty good about most things. I am trying my hardest to adjust to life here. But still living out of suitcases and being in a huge (tourist) group makes it a little hard. I think the gravity of the situation will sink in when I get home with my host family and there is no one to turn to when I have no idea what is happening. HA! The other big turning point will be when I get dropped off at my permanent site for the first time. When there is nothing but me and my stuff (if I get a private apartment that is) and no one to talk to not even in broken Bulgarian. I have been so busy that I hate so say that I haven't had much time to miss the little things. I am constantly on the go, meeting new people, and learning new things that there hasn't been enough time for such feelings. I work so hard that I am in bed by 10:30 and I am up by 7. I am sure that the novelty of this place will wear off soon but right now I am just enjoying being here.

All in all this is an awesome experience thus far, but the summer camp atmosphere is ending today. Now it is time to work and prepare to live in this country on my own. On the plus side of that is the pace of life is much slower. I guess that is all and I will update when I get a chance to from Pudria.

I will post photos when I get a chance. I am really bad at remembering my camera.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We made it

So, after Leaving JFK at 5:30 PM EST time (2:30 PM PST) I arrived in Bulgaria and at the hotel at 8:30 PM Local time the next day (1:30 PM EST or 10:30 AM PST) if you include leaving the hotel in Philly at 9 AM EST (6 AM PST) I was traveling for 28.5 hours straight. I am tired. But I made it safe and sound. Plus the food is delicious.

That is all I can do for right now because whiskey and sleep are calling my name.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"I believe the distance of reach is far beyond what I have ever dreamed"

This is a picture of my last breakfast with my family. Mmmmmmm, fried rice and coffee.

The last two pics are all that I own. No car. No House/Apartment. Just these boxes and suitcases.

Whew. It has been a crazy last week. Lots of running around. My cousin had a baby 12 hours before I left for Philly for Staging. I have spent the last 24 hours basically getting to know a as many fellow trainees as possible. I got to sit in a room for 7 hours and learn about Peace Corps core policies and rules. It was a lot to take in a single sitting. I am extremely tired and have to be up extra early because I am a group leader and have to help get other Peace Corps Trainees onto a bus heading for JFK in NYC as well and be in charge of their tickets and passports. Exciting stuff. I am also realizing that I brought the least amount of stuff. I apparently am going to be getting a lot of things there such as more button up shirts, more slack, and ties. Business casual is less casual and more business in my opinion. But I also think that anything with buttons is dressed up. All my clothes are going to be hand washed and line dried which will limit what dress shirts I can wear. The more I talk with people about my job the more I realize that Community Development workers seem to have the least amount of direction which is a relief and terrifying. I like the freedom but also find it daunting.

I am meeting a lot of awesome people. My cohort is big with 80 kids heading to Bulgaria with me. I am not getting tired and should be off to bed soon. The next time I blog will be in a couple weeks when I regain Internet access in Bulgaria. I will miss you all and look forward to seeing you when my adventure is done.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


So, I am sitting here at the Black Drop Coffee house for the first time in two weeks. It feels so weird to have gone so long without going to the place I went once a day for nearly 8 years of my life. Also, there is no good espresso in Puyallup and that makes me angry. While driving back up here I realized how lovely this place is. A part of me will always question my intentions for leaving this place. I know that this is the right move for me in the long run. I need to leave for a while in order to regain perspective. I am by no means talking shit about Bellingham. I can see myself coming back in the future but for right now it is not the place for me. It is hard to explain. Maybe it is because it is the only place I have lived outside my parent's house or maybe it's because I don't feel as though you can “grow up” in Bellingham. It is Never Never Land to me.

In other news, I need to only pack my shit and then I am ready to go. No more throwing stuff out/donating it/selling it. The stuff that I cannot fit into my bags gets tossed. Then it is all family all the time until my folks drop me off at the airport. Well, not entirely. I do have a couple more things to get but nothing too important...just shoes. My Bulgarian is coming along slowly. The words/sounds feel awkward in my mouth but it will just come with time and practice. It is difficult to talk to wall.

Anyways, I will update with more stuff later. And pictures of how little shit I have now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It is that time again

Whew, busy couple of days. I have begun the “Great Purge” which has gone surprisingly fast yet painfully slow. I have finished with part I which was clothes and misc. shit. I got most of my clothes to fit in a single suitcase right now. That picture is all the clothes I have. I did not realize how many shirts I had acquired over the years. I am still going to have my tux and suit and things hanging in the closet but seriously. One suitcase to live off of for 27 months...and I still need to narrow that down. Part II will begin, probably later tonight, which is my books...sweet dear God I have so many books. I began this a little yesterday by throwing out about 2 years worth of literature reviews and research files which kind of killed a small part of my heart. I looked through them and remembered all of the late nights of reading, and searching for more and more information, and then I dumped 2 years of work into the recycling bin. But I have to remember that I still have all of my papers on my computer and therefore can retrace all of my research again if the time comes. Part III will be organizing my CDs and DVDs which will be ever worse than dealing with my books. Organizing and sorting all of my CDs and DVDs will probably take me an entire day. No Joke. It is ridiculous. I will post pictures when I get them.

I have been busy packing and throwing stuff out and hanging out with family that I haven't had much time to work on my Bulgarian. I really need to get on that. It seems that people are starting their final countdown but I find myself too busy to begin to think about it in that light. I still need to talk to the cell phone company, sign my car over to my brother, sign my the power of attorney papers, get insurance on my stuff, go over financial obligations with my folks, and a bunch of other stuff. WEEE! But who can really listen to me whine about such an awesome opportunity as this, huh? I mean seriously. I may be stressed but I am going to be living in another country having a once in a lifetime opportunity. THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!

Oh well. Off to get rid of more stuff. LATER!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Well, well, well, here we go again.

Welcome to my new blog. For those of you who followed my LJ I am sorry. That was a horrible piece of adolescent rambling that no one should have been subjected to. I will try to update this thing with a little bit more regularity and caution than my previous blog. I am going to have to cut this one short because I have so much to do that I am not sure where to start. Also, I am lazy. I guess I will write again soon...I guess.