Saturday, May 5, 2012

All things must come to a blog

I have been running through different ideas and clever ways to address the issue that it has been almost a year since my last blog post. But I couldn't come up with anything, so, sooorry about that. To be honest and blunt, I didn't really feel like it. Sometimes I didn't feel like I could be as honest as I wanted to be, and sometimes I just couldn't really put the words down that were what I wanted to say. I still don't know if I can, but, and not to be to melodramatic about it all, I realized that while this is my personal experience it is also a collective effort, and for me not to share that with friends, family and other prospective volunteers is a little selfish. Before I applied for Peace Corps and all through the application process I read so many blogs of volunteers because I wanted to read about their experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. I don't even know if anyone will read my blog, especially since it has been so long since my last post, but I'll take my chances and put one out there any way.

I have 2 months left in my volunteer service. It feels so weird to be saying that. I can't even imagine what that will be like as the time gets closer. This has been a great experience in my life, incredibly challenging and I am happy to say, rewarding. There is a lot that I still am not sure how to put into words. Maybe after this experience it will become more clear. My first year is pretty well summed up as a war within myself. It was often a battle between staying or going, and how to find happiness and what in the heck I was doing here and searching for in all of this. It was a huge challenge to get out of my own head. Thankfully, I had great support from friends and family, Bulgarians and Americans. My second year has been a whole different ball game. There were times (mostly in the winter) that I started to get back into that unhealthy head space, but for the most part it was marked by progress and acceptance. Progress in my language, my service and friendships with people in my community and other volunteers. Acceptance for where I was and what I was doing. I would also have to say letting go was the second part of the acceptance process. Letting go of things that I can't change and have no control over changing. Letting go of any resentment for people not doing what they said they were going to do and letting go of a lot of stress or anxiety about life here and what I will do when I go back home. Which in case any of you were wondering is a really good way to freak out a lot of volunteers when they are near the end of their service or have returned home, ask them "what are you going to do now"?

I am so happy that I joined the Peace Corps and I am elated that (knock on wood) I will have successfully completed my two years of service. I am grateful to all the people who have accepted me, loved me, taken care of me, and who I am so lucky to call friends. I have seen things I didn't think were possible, the best and worst of human nature, the prettiest and ugliest sites, the most open and loving people with some of the most negative mindsets. I am ready for this experience to come to a close because I am ready for my next move, whatever that may be. As this comes to a close other experiences become open to me. I am not worried about what will face me when I get home or what I will end up doing next because life is about figuring it out and the experiences of those challenges.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

All I need is a Blog song

Well that brings us up to May! This month seems to have gone by very quickly. It was my Mom's Birthday in early May. Then Mothers Day, then my Aunt Theresa's birthday. Before I knew it, it was May 12th which means I have been in Bulgaria for one year now. Which means I have missed every holiday once, seen every season in Bulgaria and have just a little over one year left in my service. It was met with mixed emotions but it is a great thing and I am very happy to be here. Then it was my best friend Lynn's Birthday and I also went to my host village for a weekend with my host family. It was a great time! I love visiting them because they really are my family here and every time I am around them I am in awe of how wonderful and fun they are!

I would also like to say congratulations to Julian and Amanda who got engaged this week!!!

The family!

Great company, lots of food, even more wine...

We were having a wonderful evening.......
Then this guy flew in!!!! Yes he flies!!! Inna and I joked about how it sounded like a helicopter!

look at those mandibles!

My host mom has started crocheting using plastic bags

She is making a bag for Inna.

The Times They Are A Bloggin'

April, April, April! 

What a great month! I had some volunteers come and stay with me, I went to Istanbul, Turkey for a few days, helped with a trash fashion show, received the books I requested from an awesome organization and I (gulp) turned 30! 

I would also like to say a huge congratulations to my cousin Shelly who became engaged to her boyfriend (now fiancee) Danny in April!!!! 

Some of my fellow volunteers came into town and crashed with me. The first night it was Swain and Ryan. We went to a Russian restaurant for dinner. So we had Borscht and vodka, delicious vodka and lots of it!

 Istanbul:We ate great food and saw so many amazing sites in Istanbul. It was what I was expecting and so, so, so, much more than I expected. We were only there for 3 full days so it was a quick trip, but we saw a lot and had a great time. We stayed in the Fatih Sultan Mehmet section of town which is probably the most, or one of the most, touristy area's of Istanbul. 

Blue Mosque

Basilica Cistern

Ayasofya/Hagia Sophia

When I got back from Istanbul I was pleasantly surprised by a package of books from the Darien Book Aid Plan. I had written to them and requested childrens books for the library in my village and they did not dissapoint! They run completely on donations and help a lot of people out all over the world, so if you have some time and some money you want to donate to a good fund that has a direct impact I ask that you check them out and seriously consider sending them a donation!
The box was FULL of books!
The librarian with the very excited kids!
The kids in the outfits they designed/made and or modeled for the Earth Day event at the school

The prizes and winners were announced

March Blog-ness

So March happened. Not a lot happened in March but I don't want to completely skip over it like the ugly step child so lets see.....

I had mold in my hallway. By mold I mean an entire room covered in mold, growing, thick, green, black, and red! So my land lady and I sprayed bleach for a few hours in a small space. The mold disappeared for awhile and has only shown up in little spots since then which I have been able to kill with the left over bleach she left me, since they won't fix the cause of it. (picture NOT enclosed)

One of my English classes and I have done a post card exchange with friends and family from home. The ladies (it is all women in this class) in my class were really excited and I think the people at home were also very excited to receive the postcards and respond back. We just received the responses and the class and I had a fun time reading and translating the postcards.

Dani and Elena

Stanislava, Nelly and Krassy

Yana and Svetla

Spring and nice weather also started to make an appearance in March. So here is the first picture of me without my huge winter jacket on!

Hi Mom!

These people were sitting on a park bench facing the other way, I had to take a picture!
Spring in a Plovdiv park!
Svetla from my English class kept bringing me beautiful flowers from her garden for my classroom!

Rolling in the Blog

Happy end of May people!! Lets start where I left of shall we?

February, it was cold and the heating bills were high! The end of Feb. I met with my cousin Sam and my brother and his family in Holland. What a trip!! It was my nephew Henry's first birthday while we were there! They had a Jip and Janneka themed party for him. In one week Sam and I made it to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Delft, Gouda, Den Haag (The Hague), and of course Hilversum (where my brother was living), enjoyed lots of family time, a first birthday party (or two), and a fair amount of drinking! We also managed to integrate with the locals at the local watering hole. We got to meet some cute guys, and also managed to be hit on by inappropriately aged men at the same time, all in a nights work for Sam and I. It was a wonderful time and sadly for me my Brother and his family have moved back to the US as there time in Netherlands has come to an end, but happily for the rest of the family at home. Here are a few of pictures from the trip. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Good Morning Blog,

Quick morning update, things are going well here. It is February now and the January blues are wearing off. I am travelling at the end of the month back to Holland for another family reunion. My parents will not be there this time around, but my cousin Sam will be. I am so excited to see everyone! 

Work continues to be an adjustment. But if I expected anything else I should not have joined the Peace Corps! I am teaching English and trying to get a few other projects going. I have started tutoring a few more people which I always enjoy because it means making some new friends and being part of another family.

My emotional state is following the Peace Corps Volunteer emotional health chart freakishly close! There is actually a chart that shows where the "average" volunteer starts to feel down and when that starts to go back up.  Now that I am past it I can talk a little more in depth about the harshness of the first 3 months at site. It was a really dark time for me. If you are reading this and you didn't know, don't feel bad. I let very few people know. I would call it my "personal crisis" stage. You know the, what the hell am I doing, stage. There are a lot of ways to make it through that stage. Everyone has to figure it out for themselves. I relied heavily on a few friends and family, and other than that kept my head down and kept going. One foot in front of the other you keep going and then somehow you make it through. I am not saying it isn't hard, I am not saying I didn't fight the urge to blow this popsicle stand, but I also know that I didn't leave so much at home to pack it  in with out giving it all that I could.  I picked myself up after that and kind of re-focused on what I was doing and did really good for the next few months. January was a bit of a blue month, but I think it is for a lot of people, volunteers or not. But again I am focusing back on things and trying to push myself. I am really looking forward to visiting some volunteers and spending time getting to know them better and seeing more of this beautiful country.  

 I woke up to this beautiful view this morning and could not resist taking this picture.
This is a stray dog that I have started to feed. I have named her Penelope or Penny for short.