Sunday, June 7, 2009

First impressions


-Spectacular views.

-Green, green green forests, mountain sides, gardens, fields and grape arbors.

-Snow capped mountain peaks rising 8,000’ all around us.

-Shepherd’s tending their flocks.

-Men haying with sickles and wooden pitchforks.

-Vintage tractors or donkey draw carts in the fields.

-Donkey drawn carts and goats traversing the streets one block on either side of

the town center.

-Flower and vegetable gardens filling every square inch of property surrounding homes.

-Parks with playgrounds, flower gardens, picnic tables, ball fields, river and wooded walking paths.

-Every home with vine covered terraces.

-Abandoned buildings and unfinished buildings in every neighborhood, town, and municipality.

-Dogs and cats everywhere.

-A beautiful stone fountain in the town center with walking boulevards radiating in all four directions from this central point.

-Outdoor cafes and weekly bazaars.

-Modern glass and chrome spa hotels next door to abandoned or decaying homes

-Detailed architectural mineral baths built during the 30’s.

-Communist block buildings one after the other in the big cities.

-Bare classrooms with concrete floors a black or white board and student desks.

-Women sweeping the park walkways with leafy tree branches along side town park crews with gas powered backpacks spraying insecticide.

-Seniors working 12 hours a day in gardens, chopping wood, gathering mushrooms, picking berries,

-Grandfathers making honey, collecting fresh eggs,

-Women making jams & compotes.

-Young women pushing contemporary sports strollers.

-Saw mills in basements, pouring out into the neighborhood street.

-Twelfth graders parading through town preceded by majorettes and a few horns on prom night.

-Small old Fiats with torn upholstery,chipped paint and loud unreliable engines along side shiny new BMW sports cars.

-Citizens sweeping sidewalks with handless brooms

-Children on bikes riding through town

-Recye receptacles throughout town

-Cars pulled into the fields and families enjoying the local river “swimming hole”



-Cukoo birds out of sight but clearly heard from long distances

-Hoofs of horse/donkey drawn carts on town streets

-The steady beat of Bulgarian music

-The cascading river

-Church bells on the hour

-Dogs barking, cats screeching, roosters crowing

-Voices raised

-The chop of wood being split

-Car engines struggling to stay alive

-Cow bells in the streets of town

-Greetings of neighbors and friends

-School children cheering a point scored in volleyball

-School corridors and classrooms echoing with the sound of voices, and chairs scraping the floor.

-The clinking of glasses in toast of good will

-Language that can not be understood

-Stories of other PCV

-Many different bird calls



-Doing yoga on a mountain top with a 360 view of Gods’ wonders

-Walking into the unknown day after day

-Meeting people who have opened their hearts and homes to strangers

-Tasting fresh garden strawberries dipped into just harvested honey

-Walking paths into the forested hills.

-Playing Uno to learn colors and numbers in Bulgarian

-Exhaustion from 13 days of intense language and cultural integration without a break

-Watching all my whites turn blue while doing my laundry for the first time

-Trying to remember all the little things necessary to take a shower and to still keep those things that are supposed to be dry, dry when you are done.

-Turkish toilets (involves squatting and at a minimum rolling pant cuffs)

-Remembering to carry toilet paper/tissues with you at all times

-Buying a needed item independently (with the help of sympathetic shop keepers)

-Trying new foods as well as familiar foods prepared in a new way.

-Traveling by mini bus for 50 min in the stifling heat over bumpy winding roads

-Holding on for dear life as the cab driver, uses both sides of the road to maneuver around pot holes and patchy road surfaces on country roads at 60 mph

-Laughing hysterically with other trainees at some silly thing that has happened to one of us.

-Being close to tears from frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

-Feeling pride when recognizing how much we’ve accomplished in three weeks

We are about to begin week four here in Bulgaria and in some ways it feels like we have been here for the summer. Mike and I are in a very good situation perhaps in deference to our age!!

I am not questioning the reasons for our good fortune, and am grateful for the wonderful surroundings, great site mates, talented and caring trainer, good food, hot water showers, and a five minute walk between Mike's home and mine. The language acquisition as expected is slow, but when we heard what we are learning in ten weeks is equivalent to two years of college courses, we can take comfort that it is not rolling off our tongues. Bulgarian has a lot of gender agreement endings on words between nouns and adjectives, some variations in sentences structrue and a more complicated way of pluralizing nouns. As with all languages, there are also many exceptions to the rules.

At the start of my second week I was teaching a 40 minute English class to 6,7,or 8 graders. Definetley learning by being trowh into the fire. It will continue this coming week and ito the following one. We will have a short break then begin a summer class for those interested. This will be more fun as we will not have to follow a perscribed plan and it will be with kids who are excited about learning English.

Mike and the other development members of our group are just getting a community project started. We must identify a small simple need of the town, work with the key people within the community and have the project completed by the middle of July. We have to be quick learners here. No time to dilly dally, which is counter to the culture.


emournighan said...

Thanks for the vivid descriptions. WE feel as if we're there with you. We have nothing but confidence in your abilities to adjust quickly and make impact in daily lives. Love and prayers headed your way!
Estelle & Bill

Anonymous said...

It sounds perfect! Enjoy every minute, you are living the dream... I check the site quite often and really enjoy the updates, even if only to live vicariously through you experience. I am sure it will keep getting better and will soon feel like your second home.

Best Wishes

P.S. Keep those updates coming, I love them. (I would like to see a picture of Mike and a goat if possible!!!)

Anonymous said...

Great impressions. It sounds a lot like my first impressions of Egypt and Abu Dhabi with the contrast of new and old but the scenery and weather was not as great as yours. We know you can handle the pace. Keep the updates coming and MIke- !!!PATIENCE!!!!!!!!!!

Thinking of you

Ken and Paula

Anonymous said...

Your impressions are terrific. I feel like I'm there!! Glad to hear you're enjoying it. Keep on going.
Hugs to you both,

Anonymous said...

This is my third time back - first thing yesterday morning, last night, again this morning - I sense a pattern forming... You've done a wonderful job. The pictures are great! I can now see the town when we talk!
What an amazing adventure for both of you. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Keep well and many hugs, Pat

Meg,Bob,Emily & Tim said...

hi! i hope youre still having the same good time youve been having! it sounds like youre having a good time over there. i hope things get easier and less overwhelming. did you figure out what that project youre going to do is going to be Uncle Mike? keep us posted.
p.s. i liked that request of the goat and Uncle Mike!

Marc said...

Sounds like a true adventure! We're all proud of you...

Jim Miller said...

Great post! Thanks for taking the time to share with all of "suckers' who don't have the courage to do what ya'll are experiencing!
- Jim Miller

Diane said...

Hi Lynn and Mike,

I am enjoying your blog. The detailed descriptions of life, culture, country and cityscapes make me feel like I've already been on a trip to Bulgaria. What you are doing is wonderful. I know I couldn't do it (the Peace Corp part of it). However, I can identify with the gardening, chopping wood, and farm animals. I thought "I could live there." Except, I'd bring along my electric chain saw which was my favorite present this past Christmas.

Some family news: Joanne's son Eric got married at a beautiful inn in Vermont on June 13. Christine's son Michael is getting married in Toronto Aug. 29. I'm going to have another grandchild in December - After 6 years of marriage, Jon and Ann have a successful pregnancy (you can relate to that). After recently discussing when they might retire, Jon now says he'll have to work until he's 80. Jon just turned 40 July 27. Yikes, I'm getting old. Ann Marie will be 42 Aug.8. 5 Siblings/in laws turn 60 this year: Joanne, Jim (Joanne's hubby); Richie (Christine's); Sue (Paul)and Tom (Maureen).

Christine's excited about becoming a grandmother for the 1st time. Her oldest: Scott, is having a baby in January. Joanne's stepdaughter is having a 2nd girl in November. Maureen has two (3 & 4 year old siblings). We are all "Memeres."

All the Bouffards are doing well.

Love to you, Cousin Diane