Saturday, December 19, 2009

While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks…..

While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks…..

Merry Christmas from Bulgaria!!

Bulgaria’s contrasts constantly amaze Lynn and I. Shepherds watching their flocks were one of those surprises. When my host family told me they had sheep, but they were grazing in one of the mountain pastures, I pictured a large fenced in field. Then as we were driving around, I started noticing men standing in fields with long sticks in their hands. At first, I did not understand what they were doing. But then I realized that whenever I saw these solitary figures in the pastures or on the slopes, there were always sheep nearby. They were shepherds! They would be with their flocks rain or shine, day and night. The Shepherds could be very old or middle aged. Even in the heat of summer, they always seemed to be colorfully dressed. And… they all carried a staff!

As I hiked around our training site, I would come upon shepherds in fields with spectacular views of the mountains as their constant companion. I became awed by these lonely people. I found the phrase from the Christmas carol sung during midnight mass running through my head… “While Shepherd’s watched their flocks by night”. As I watched them watching their flocks, I realized what they were doing had not changed much in 2,000 years since that first Christmas.

Over our short time here in Bulgaria, these shepherds have become one of my symbol for the old traditional parts of this wonderful (and confusing) country. And with Christmas just days away, we thought it would be appropriate to show you who the angel called to visit the manger that night 2000 years ago.

And like those first shepherds, we don’t have gifts to give. However, we can share some of the things we have learned in our short seven months here. Hopefully, one of our insights will make you smile, cause you to reflect, or nudge you to appreciate what you have even more.

Things we have learned:
It seems to rain more often when you always have to walk in it.
Kids are kids – everywhere
Walking is wonderful – you get great exercise, you are outdoors, you see more things, and most importantly – it slows you down.
Reducing the size of your plate reduces the size of your waist!
Buses – are great for teaching you patience because you have to wait for them.
Americans have no idea how lucky they really are
People are highly adaptable (peace corps volunteers everywhere prove that every day).
Shared values create bonds of friendship no matter where you are.
TV really is worthless – particularly when everything is in another language.
Even in a large group of people, you can be very lonely
Culture is so much more than food and customs - - it’s a very different way of thinking!
The things you miss the most are the things you thought about least
Two hour dinners help build strong families, and good friends
Life is a constant challenge – it’s your approach that makes the difference.
Stepping out of your comfort zone opens a world of possibilities
It is easy to set priorities when you have nothing!
How easy it is to be so happy with so little!
Never -- never give up on your dreams!
It is amazing how much a strong love can grow even stronger!

Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Весела Коледа и  Честита Нова Година
Lynn and Mike – in Bulgaria


Anonymous said...

Looks like you made it shopping (presents under the tree). Wonderful blog and talk to you on family christmas.


Anonymous said...

What a terrific story. So good to see you two in the photo - you look so healthy and happy!
We miss you too.......... Merry Christmas,

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to two very hardy souls!


Anonymous said...

Mike and Lynn, Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure! Mike - as you said, I found that down time to read your blog. A bit more of the beautiful mountains and a bit less of the Turkish Toilets please... (Just kidding - Confronting reality is what it is all about). Keep up the good work and keep the faith!!!

All the best in 2010!!!

Anonymous said...

Great to see you all on-line at X-mas. Thanks for participating in the Garrigus X-mas. Your kids were great to have at our house, our boys love having them around. Grampa Garrigus would be proud