Monday, August 3, 2015


After a five-year hiatus, I've been thinking of reviving this blog, even if for myself only. I've been trying to figure out how to get back into writing once again, one of my first passions, that has long-since collected dust on my bookshelf of various projects that I am starting, stopping, and sometimes not finishing. So maybe this is the month!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

generation gap

There's definitely something to say for financial security and material wealth and happiness. We need to make money, and most people think they'll be happier when they can not only afford a nice vacation and a 4-bedroom house, but when they can afford to send their children to the best schools and provide all the things they didn't have growing up for their families. And of course, who doesn't want these things? I'm not sure, maybe it's because I'm not a parent yet or I don't fully understand the extent to which my parents love me but I know they feel best when they can buy me things: clothes, food, plane tickets, whatever. I think they feel this is how you love your children, you provide for them, you don't want to see them without the things their peers have. Maybe it's a cultural thing. But for me, as much as I appreciate and understand where they're coming from, that's not what makes me happiest. More than anything I want their moral support and words of encouragement. I want them to be proud of me for the things I've done and not tell me what I can't or shouldn't do. Words like, "don't disappoint me" are so cruel in that way. Just laden with expectation and guilt. How do you respond to that one? And look, I'm not catholic or anything but I think Koreans know a thing or two about guilt- parents explain it all. It's frustrating mostly, when deep down, you know you're not at fault, when you're only deciding on what's best for yourself and your life. But there's the rub, it's you, you, you. And there's that guilt again just creeping in...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And the countdown begins....

13 more days of classes, 42 more days in Bulgaria, 56 until I'm home in Florida... and 2 years of my life is over. How does that happen? Was I really just 24 years old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? Ok, so maybe not the bushy-tailed part, but the bright eyes definitely went dull 3 months into Peace Corps service. And I really didn't think I'd make it this far.

There were several times I thought I'd quit and go home- specifically that first winter, I was so sick and so cold, not feeling the teaching thing at all, I didn't think my kids appreciated me or wanted me here, I wasn't sure I'd still be here 2 years later. And although I'm not quite sure how much of a real impact I've had, I'm glad I stayed. Not only for my students and my community, but for myself. Of course it wasn't all on me, I had so much help and support, from friends and family, here and at home, my Ljudmil especially. It's made all the difference.

I'm more than excited about finishing teaching. Yes, I love (some of) my kids, and I've made some great memories with them, but one thing I definitely learned in the past 2 years is that teaching is just not my calling. Or maybe it's just teaching kids that don't speak the same language as me, I don't know. Anyhow, I do have a much greater respect for all teachers and what they do, I really don't know how they do it. I pretty much stumbled through it these last years and came out somewhat unscathed, and it's something I'll never forget, though hopefully I can forget the bad parts, at least.

I'm happy to say that I'll be beginning graduate school this fall, not quite sure exactly where yet. I've been accepted into the Ford School of Public Policy at the University if Michigan in Ann Arbor, which is a great school and I'm really excited about going there. But I'm sort of holding the candle for the Wagner School at New York University and I won't hear from them until the end of June, plus it depends on how much $$ I can get for financial aid from either school, so we'll see. Come fall, I'll either be in MI or NYC. Two very different places and two very different lifestyles I'm sure, but I'm ready for either. I'm just grateful I won't be going home to look for a job, I know the market is so bad and I've heard so many stories from friends worrying about their jobs and getting laidoff and everything. I consider myself very lucky and very blessed. Especially since at one point I really didn't think I'd get accepted anywhere with the surge in applications this year.

I'm making little progress trying to wind things down here. I've made a list of all the crap in my apartment I have to give away or throw out. Not much of this has happened yet, most of my plans are on paper or on calendars. June will be the month for action. But for now, it's all in my head. I really don't know how 2 years of life is going to fit into 2, 44 pound bags (and a carry-on).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring, where are you?

So, I'm really ready for spring break. This year I'm keeping it simple. Well, as best I can. One of my best friends, Emily from Smith College whom I lived with in New York (who now lives in New Zealand), is finally coming to visit! I'm terribly excited. As well, our other college friend Elizabeth will be meeting up with us for a couple days too. After a few days of wandering around Sofia, we'll head to Macedonia's Skopje and Lake Ohrid for some international travel, then head back for some time in Southern Bulgaria and the Rhodopis. A night in Melnik and some winetasting, then to the famous Yagodina and Devil's Throat caves, and then a night in Shiroka Luka, one of the top ten most beautiful villages in BG (according to Lonely Planet). So I'm pretty excited for this very Balkan and Bulgarian holiday. It's only a couple weeks away, but you know me, I'm already thinking about COS travel plans in July! Croatia? Montenegro? I'm thinking lots of turquiose blue beaches and sleeping on the beach...

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year, New Start

I feel already this year is going to be a rollercoaster, just anticipating the changes and the moves. 6 more months of Peace Corps service will go by in a flash, I'm sure. And I'm ready to go home. I don't mind Bulgaria, I'm sure I've grown to love parts of it, but 21 months in and it's like, man, I'm ready to be in familiar surroundings, I'm ready to walk into a supermarket and know where everything is and WHAT everything is. I'm ready to see my friends and just go out for a drink after a day at work, I'm ready to see my family and eat Korean food, ethnic food, ANYkind of food other than Bulgarian food. I miss being able to eat out-of-season fruits and veggies. I miss American television, libraries, dvds, movie theaters, orchestras, and other live music. I miss driving, Wal-mart (YES, Wal-mart), and all the other little things that I've probably forgotten that I miss. Just being around people I know I could easily communicate with, understand, and relate too, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it removes that shroud of stress that you always carry around in a foreign country. It weighs down on your shoulders and sometimes you forget it's there, but it's just exhausting. I'm ready to understand the world around me.

I'm not particulary homesick, but I think when these next 6 months are over I will be much more than grateful to be able to call America my home. It's especially ampliphied because today I've been watching the inauguration preperations on the news and I wish I was home to share in the excitement. I definitely feel a little out of the sphere. But Obama will be around at least for the next 4 years, I hope to be in the States for most of it, if not all.

There are some great things in my life though, the little things, but I've learned to appreciate the little things. (Of course they don't seem so little to me). I've finished my grad school applications, all 5 of them. It's such a relief and 12 essays later good riddance! Now it's just a waiting game. Of course I'm worried that I might not get in at all, but what's done is done and now it's up to God and those admissions officers. I'm hoping for the best.

I've also received my winter boots, the ones I've been pining for since November. After not being able to find good quality, warm boots in Italy, I ordered a pair of Uggs (not the huge muffin ones, much cuter than that) and asked Amy to bring them over with her since she was in the States for Christmas. Of course, the airline lost her bag (and my boots) and after much worrying, they were delivered a week later. My toes are toasty warm now at my heat-less school and I'm happy as a camper.

That's my world for now. I'm waiting for 1st semester to end so I can get a 5-day weekend. That will be a much welcomed break. This weekend-Stara Zagora for belated birthday celebrations!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The kindness of people

I was delighted to hear the other day from Emily's mom, Marcia, that the org she works for, Highlights for Children, will be donating loads of books for my school here in Bulgaria, and Marcia is footing the shipping bill, which I'm sure will not be cheap. After almost two years here trying to make something out of what sometimes seems like nothing, it's so amazing to see that others are willing to see the bright side for you. And I'm not just talking about donations and such, but simply with words and encouragement, it really makes a huge difference to someone freezing their ass off in a Balkan winter. So thanks. 

I haven't written in forever but as I realize it's already December and that I've been here for one year and eight months already and that I'll be leaving this country and what is now my home in only six months, I truly can't believe how fast life has moved. Six months will be gone in a flash and my life will be so different then. It's a little overwhelming to think about, but it also feels like a time to start reflecting. But not too soon! There's still some work to be done.

I opened the English library this semester at my school and the students are going crazy! They are constantly asking me when we'll visit the library next. It's not much, but compared to the pathetic Bulgarian library available to them full of tattered books, it's a big improvement. I think mostly the kids just want to look at the pictures and get there hands on a colorful book since most of the Bulgarian ones are pictureless and brown. But even if they can't read them all, it's something, and I hope even through osmosis they can absorb some knowledge. So it's great to hear that we'll be getting more books soon. 

Other than that, life is cold. My 145 year old school is badly in need of renovation and I'm not sure it's ever had one. There's no insulation and the old wooden windows are drafty and the heating is almost non-existent. Everyone wears jackets, hats, and gloves indoors, and usually I have to defrost my fingers on the radiator between classes, although it doesn't do much. I just can't believe they allow these conditions. Students can barely feel their toes let alone think about algebra and English. And for the little ones in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, it's just sad, and I know this would never be the case in an American public school. I think plans for renovations have been on hold so long because the school is losing students each year and it's possible that in the next couple of years it could shut down. Some schools in other villages shut down over the summer because of low numbers, and unfortunately, I think Popitsa could be headed in that direction. Hopefully, I'm wrong. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel to this seemingly frozen winter season: this is my last week before Christmas vacation and Ljudmil and I are heading to Rome. I'm terribly excited, not only to get out of the country but to eat incredible, amazing food. Oh yeah, and of course to see the Sistine Chapel and the Pantheon. Minor details. Check out facebook for pictures soon. Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone. Best New Year's wishes to all!!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall, here we come!

Besides the fact that my eye has been twitching for some unknown reason today, things are rolling. School starts on the 15th and the summer was exactly what it should've been: hot, sunny, relaxing, and fun.

Most of July was spent teaching my English Summer Camp at my school which consisted of making maracas out of rice and toilet paper rolls (a year's worth) and dancing in a conga line to "Jump in the Line" (Shake, Shake, Shake Senora- from Beatle-Juice???), playing Red Rover (kids are fierce with this game!), and making animal masks. It was actually a great time to have fun with the kids, interspersed with English lessons. The older kids always wanted to take me to the river in their village. We'd just walk and talk, mosey around, then when we'd get to the river, the more rambunctious boys would strip to their skivvies and jump in the river! And I mean, this isn't some mountain river, it's got like trash in it! So I'd always object, but they did it anyway. They seemed to be having a good time anyway.

This summer was also the birth of my yoga class and it's really my pride and joy. I've been working on this ever since I got to my site last summer but there was never a space for it. When I asked if I could hold it in the Cultural Center in town, the then-director said "Yoga is a sport, not cultural". I was like WTF, mate, what yoga are you talking about?? So that pissed me off, it was mainly because they didn't want to pay for heating probably during the winter and at the time I had no way of paying for it. During the spring though, an amazing business-woman in my town opened a gym for women and had extra space and agreed happily to let me start a yoga class there. After purchasing mats with money raised from donations Stateside, it started once a week in July, but the women enjoyed it so much, we decided on twice a week. There's a couple teachers and other women from my community who come, even a pregnant lady came and really liked it so I had to look up special pre-natal yoga poses for her. I'm by no means an expert, or even a seasoned amateur, so I like to stress that I'm "leading" the class, not at all teaching. Thank goodness for the internet, I've been reading about breathing exercises, looking up poses and sun salutations, I definitely couldn't do this on my own. But it's really given me a new appreciation for yoga and the whole practice. It sort of makes me want to go to India for a couple weeks after Peace Corps to do some sort of intensive workshop with a yogi. We'll see. Hopefully I can get a couple women really excited about it to possibly continue the class when I'm gone, that would be ideal.

After English Summer Camp was over, I booked it straight for the Black Sea. It was a bit of a rocky start. My boyfriend, Ljudmil, thought his friend had a villa on the sea, close to Turkey, so on the day of our departure, we're sitting there talking to his friend, Plumen. Plumen's like, this is how you get there looking on the map, and Ljudmil's like, well I thought it was this way and Plumen's like, well you're going to the Rodope Mountains, aren't you, and we're like no, isn't your villa on the Black Sea, and he's like, no, it's in the mountain, and we're all like SHIiiiiiit.

So that sort of sucked because it was peak season and we had no reservations on the sea. But being the optimist that he is, Ljudmil suggested we still head that way and find something when we get there. Needless to say I was a little pissed, even though I guess it was an honest mistake. We drove (or he drove, more accurately) 8 hours to Sozopol, a little seaside resort area. We got in around midnight, his car on it's last leg making some really strange sounds, and with no place to stay. We wandered around for an hour or two in the new town with no luck and finally found a place around 2 in the morning. It was pricey of course, but we stayed there for 2 nights before we found a great little guesthouse by the beach in the old town, owned by a sweet Bulgarian couple. It was pretty cheap and we ended up there for about 6 more nights. Ljudmil was like a kid in the water, he hadn't been to the beach since he was in 6th grade! How does that happen?! He bought scuba fins for his feet, and a snorkel set, it was pretty hysterical but he seemed to be enjoying himself and the water was just perfect. I mean, besides the occassional jellyfish, the water was pristine. The old town was just cobblestone street after street lined with old Bulgarian-style guesthomes and shops. There were cafes and restaurants lining the shore and a beautifully lit, old fort wall.

It ended up being a perfect getaway besides the rocky start, the car breaking down, getting stranded without a hotel, me getting stung by a bee for the first time in my life. But we took a boatride, ate mussels and delicious seafood. Walked around, watched an outdoor film, watched free concerts, and tanned on the beach. There was even a lunar eclipse while we were there so that was pretty cool. Ljudmil's car ended up in Bourgas, the large city nearby, to get fixed up and by then we just wanted to get back home instead of going through the mountains like we had originally planned. It was enough adventure for us.

So now school is starting, I really can't believe it, but I'm ready to get back, ready to have a schedule, ready for cooler weather. The leaves are already changing here, it's a little sad. And only 10 more months in-country. That, I can't believe. It's going to fly by. So, year two, show me whatcha got.