Home! - billyknox
10-21-2008

Okay it has been forever since I have said anything but I promise I can explain… 

So I sent the past three months integrating into a community and getting to know people and just about the time I was feeling pretty good about things it was time to move! That is right, I am sadly no longer under the protective wing of Babba Elka (although she might say otherwise). I am off to make my way in the world, well at least Bulgaria, all by myself and I am now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! We had a ceremony and I shook some one’s hand, took an oath, and got a pin to wear so everyone knows! 

I am now an official resident of the town of Nikopol on the Danube River, which forms the border with Romania. I am working in the municipality in the “Economic Activities” department which essentially means that I make Bulgarian flashcards all day long and as of late entertain myself with this wildly interesting thing called “The Internet” that I just got a few days ago. I am told that I will have this Internet thing at home soon enough but things take time here and it isn’t like I am going to die without it so we will see when that happens. In my office there are two other women but there are a couple of other women that work elsewhere in the municipality that spend a good 60% of their day in our office. I don’t know if you can picture it but essentially it is me surrounded by four older women all day long entertaining them with my attempts to speak Bulgarian and holding impromptu English classes every 15 minutes or so. They are my crew and I am going to go ahead and say they would face a pack of wild ravenous dogs completely unarmed for me. I have started calling them mom from time to time in an attempt to convey that I can indeed take care of myself but I am not sure it is really working seeing that my hand is held, figuratively of course, everywhere I go. They are absolutely amazing and I am excited and feel blessed for the opportunity to share life with these women for the next two years! 

Last weekend everyone in the municipality went on a little weekend retreat up into the Balkan Mountains. It was stunningly beautiful with all the trees changing colors for autumn. We stayed at this little hotel really out in the middle of nowhere and in true Peace Corps form I can honestly say we roughed it. There was no Spa or Fitness Center and we had to make due with only a Jacuzzi and Sauna… I couldn’t help but think to myself that I had a completely different picture in mind when I signed up for the Peace Corps. You know the classically romantic living in a tent with a tribe in the middle of the jungle somewhere. That is not Peace Corps Bulgaria… We have saunas and things of this sort. The Posh Corps if you will.

Friday and Saturday night were quite the ordeal on this little getaway. We had traditional Bulgarian meals, which pretty much is a normal meal stretched out over about 5 hours. There was homemade wine and rakia flowing freely from old two liter soda bottles and plenty of music and dancing. There are certain songs that you can play over here and everyone will get up and join hands and start dancing the “horro” right in the middle of dinner! It is actually really fun! Through the course of the night on Saturday pretty much everyone had songs dedicated to him or her and I was no exception. I had a number of 50cent songs dedicated to me and was obliged to get up and dance in front of everyone by myself. It isn’t exactly easy to dance to “Candy Shop” in front of a bunch of older men and women you work with in a manner that is discreet and does not draw attention to yourself. Notice here I did not say it was difficult in general. My lack of self-awareness and the utter absence of a clue as to what is going on in my life as of lately made the dancing quite easy I am just not sure how it as perceived… I guess I did receive a little bit of positive feedback though. Upon returning to the office on Monday I was asked by my “crew” to play “Ayo Technology” by 50cent and Justin Timberlake multiple times and was told that when I return to American in two years this will be the song they remember me by. Please go and listen to it, pay close attention to the lyrics, and then imagine a bunch of women sitting around a computer listening to it and thinking of me… I don’t know how I feel about that yet… 

Yesterday I went to the cultural center after work with a friend to watch “band practice.” There are a bunch of older men and a couple of younger ones that get together twice a week and toot their horns (literally they all play horns of some kind) and from what it seems talk about “man things” and have “man time.” Tiempo De Los Hombres is alive and well on this side of the world Pops! I learned to play a song on the piano and I think that I am going to start taking piano lessons next week! Ladies watch out because when I come back I will be bilingual and able to tickle the ivory. This probably won’t help me much but it is worth a shot… 

I realized something yesterday as I watched my friends play their music and joke around and laugh. I was horribly ignorant to think that I was going to march over here and give something back and help out. I am learning, slowly I think, that the world has so much to give and that my friends over here have so much to give. I think one of the worse things that we can do is to get into our head this idea that we are going to go into the world and sprinkle our blessings about. The world, and my friends, have the capacity to bless me with far more than I could every possibly give them. It is humbling to realize this. Giving things is easy. Receiving is difficult, exponentially more difficult. That being said I realize that I am giving something in my time over here and that I will leave an impression but yesterday really helped me see how far off I am and how much I still need to learn. 

Well it is time for me to get ready for work! I am going to the city today to get my Litchna Carda, which is essentially my identification document that says I am a temporary Bulgarian for the next two years. I went last week but forgot my passport so this is round two! Wish me luck! 

I love and miss you guys dearly. Thanks for all of your emails as they really do help me get through the days! Keep them coming (it is getting cold here and winter, I am told, is going to be rough)! 

BK

Listen to Vampire Weekend- The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

PS I just got done doing a little role playing with my Bulgarian tutor who happens to be one of the women in my crew. I was suppose to be at a restaurant sitting alone and she came up and asked if the seat next to me was free and could sit with me. I told her it was free and to join me. From there I didn't know what to do so I asked her what she was drinking and apparently that was a pretty forward remark because the situation was reenacted and we all laughed for about 20 minutes...

10-21-2008

Okay it has been forever since I have said anything but I promise I can explain…

So I sent the past three months integrating into a community and getting to know people and just about the time I was feeling pretty good about things it was time to move! That is right, I am sadly no longer under the protective wing of Babba Elka (although she might say otherwise). I am off to make my way in the world, well at least Bulgaria, all by myself and I am now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! We had a ceremony and I shook some one’s hand, took an oath, and got a pin to wear so everyone knows!

I am now an official resident of the town of Nikopol on the Danube River, which forms the border with Romania. I am working in the municipality in the “Economic Activities” department which essentially means that I make Bulgarian flashcards all day long and as of late entertain myself with this wildly interesting thing called “The Internet” that I just got a few days ago. I am told that I will have this Internet thing at home soon enough but things take time here and it isn’t like I am going to die without it so we will see when that happens. In my office there are two other women but there are a couple of other women that work elsewhere in the municipality that spend a good 60% of their day in our office. I don’t know if you can picture it but essentially it is me surrounded by four older women all day long entertaining them with my attempts to speak Bulgarian and holding impromptu English classes every 15 minutes or so. They are my crew and I am going to go ahead and say they would face a pack of wild ravenous dogs completely unarmed for me. I have started calling them mom from time to time in an attempt to convey that I can indeed take care of myself but I am not sure it is really working seeing that my hand is held, figuratively of course, everywhere I go. They are absolutely amazing and I am excited and feel blessed for the opportunity to share life with these women for the next two years!

Last weekend everyone in the municipality went on a little weekend retreat up into the Balkan Mountains. It was stunningly beautiful with all the trees changing colors for autumn. We stayed at this little hotel really out in the middle of nowhere and in true Peace Corps form I can honestly say we roughed it. There was no Spa or Fitness Center and we had to make due with only a Jacuzzi and Sauna… I couldn’t help but think to myself that I had a completely different picture in mind when I signed up for the Peace Corps. You know the classically romantic living in a tent with a tribe in the middle of the jungle somewhere. That is not Peace Corps Bulgaria… We have saunas and things of this sort. The Posh Corps if you will.

Friday and Saturday night were quite the ordeal on this little getaway. We had traditional Bulgarian meals, which pretty much is a normal meal stretched out over about 5 hours. There was homemade wine and rakia flowing freely from old two liter soda bottles and plenty of music and dancing. There are certain songs that you can play over here and everyone will get up and join hands and start dancing the “horro” right in the middle of dinner! It is actually really fun! Through the course of the night on Saturday pretty much everyone had songs dedicated to him or her and I was no exception. I had a number of 50cent songs dedicated to me and was obliged to get up and dance in front of everyone by myself. It isn’t exactly easy to dance to “Candy Shop” in front of a bunch of older men and women you work with in a manner that is discreet and does not draw attention to yourself. Notice here I did not say it was difficult in general. My lack of self-awareness and the utter absence of a clue as to what is going on in my life as of lately made the dancing quite easy I am just not sure how it as perceived… I guess I did receive a little bit of positive feedback though. Upon returning to the office on Monday I was asked by my “crew” to play “Ayo Technology” by 50cent and Justin Timberlake multiple times and was told that when I return to American in two years this will be the song they remember me by. Please go and listen to it, pay close attention to the lyrics, and then imagine a bunch of women sitting around a computer listening to it and thinking of me… I don’t know how I feel about that yet…

Yesterday I went to the cultural center after work with a friend to watch “band practice.” There are a bunch of older men and a couple of younger ones that get together twice a week and toot their horns (literally they all play horns of some kind) and from what it seems talk about “man things” and have “man time.” Tiempo De Los Hombres is alive and well on this side of the world Pops! I learned to play a song on the piano and I think that I am going to start taking piano lessons next week! Ladies watch out because when I come back I will be bilingual and able to tickle the ivory. This probably won’t help me much but it is worth a shot…

I realized something yesterday as I watched my friends play their music and joke around and laugh. I was horribly ignorant to think that I was going to march over here and give something back and help out. I am learning, slowly I think, that the world has so much to give and that my friends over here have so much to give. I think one of the worse things that we can do is to get into our head this idea that we are going to go into the world and sprinkle our blessings about. The world, and my friends, have the capacity to bless me with far more than I could every possibly give them. It is humbling to realize this. Giving things is easy. Receiving is difficult, exponentially more difficult. That being said I realize that I am giving something in my time over here and that I will leave an impression but yesterday really helped me see how far off I am and how much I still need to learn.

Well it is time for me to get ready for work! I am going to the city today to get my Litchna Carda, which is essentially my identification document that says I am a temporary Bulgarian for the next two years. I went last week but forgot my passport so this is round two! Wish me luck!

I love and miss you guys dearly. Thanks for all of your emails as they really do help me get through the days! Keep them coming (it is getting cold here and winter, I am told, is going to be rough)!

BK

Listen to Vampire Weekend- The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

PS I just got done doing a little role playing with my Bulgarian tutor who happens to be one of the women in my crew. I was suppose to be at a restaurant sitting alone and she came up and asked if the seat next to me was free and could sit with me. I told her it was free and to join me. From there I didn't know what to do so I asked her what she was drinking and apparently that was a pretty forward remark because the situation was reenacted and we all laughed for about 20 minutes...