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 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.

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