Sunday, May 9, 2010

Andy and the Volcano

Andy and the Volcano
Andy Viner made it to visit with us over the May first weekend. Although I was worried that 3M would cancel his flight because of expenses, the trip was not cancelled. And then when all of Europe’s air space was closed due to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, I was sure he would not make it. But, I was just being too pessimistic. All the parts of his arrival flights were on time, and everything worked out great. Even “Mother Nature”, and the Volcano could not stop this reunion.
I have read several of the blogs of the younger volunteers who have talked about their parents, siblings, or relatives visiting. They always talk about how great it is to see them, and how much they appreciate it. As I read those blogs, I had always thought it was because they were “kids”, and their loving parents had come to see them. Well – after our visit from Andy, I am seeing this in a slightly different perspective. Yes – it was great to have Andy here, but some of the reason it was so good was because of things that I had never thought about, or expected. I expect the other volunteer visits were good for some of the same “unexpected” reasons.
Lynn and I are immersed in our day to day life here. As we have said before, the changes, confusion, differences, and challenges all tend to eventually “blur” into one murky pattern of every-day life. We don’t always think about things. But, when a guest comes (especially an inquisitive one like Andy), I found that I had this unexpected “drive” and desire to talk about everything. I did not realize I had this need to talk, (and talk, and talk) about all that we have learned, experienced, and assimilated here. But, when given the opportunity, I found it hard to keep my mouth shut! (Please – no comments about that has always been an issue for me!) Thankfully, Andy was a very helpful partner in this, and constantly kept asking questions. And then I could just keep on talking.
The other part of this pattern is that I don’t believe any of this would happen unless people visit us. The guests have to be here to see situations, and ask questions. Without those questions, most people would quickly get very bored just trying to listen to us, and understand what we are saying. In fact, we have been told when we return, we have to expect that most people will only want to hear about 5-10 minutes of our experiences before their eyes will “glaze over”, and their heads will begin to nod.
Although Andy may have gotten tired with the pace we had, his head never nodded. We had a great time. Following are some pictures, and the schedule we had for the visit.

Thursday –

A “jet-lagged” Andy was up early, and we went off to visit Lynn’s school, and walk through the Mahala (always an “interesting” experience. 

Then we had lunch with folks from my foundation. My counterpart Krum is on the left. Ivan, our director, is next to him, and Maria is the person who is in the office with me most of the time.   
After that, we just spent time walking around our beautiful city.

Friday –

We took the train an hour and half north to visit Hisar. Hisar has some of the most extensive Roman ruins in the Balkan Region.

Saturday –

In the morning, we drove with my foundation to a small village about 40 minutes away to watch a folk dancing competition which was sponsored and organized by us last year. This year, the village did it all on their own. In the afternoon, we just finished a easy walk around Plovdiv completing the tour of our town.

Sunday –

I took Andy to a monastery 40 minutes south of us into the mountains. The visit to the monastery was quick, but the hike into the mountains from there was longer, and more challenging. The quiet, solitude, and spectacular views from the mountain tops made the struggles getting there worth while.

Monday –
I took Andy back to the airport in Sofia by train. The ride goes near some snow-covered mountains, and was an easy trip. His flights back to the UK were on time, and uneventful.

We had a great time. And, we think Andy had fun too. In addition to his visit, he also had about a half a suitcase full of goodies for us. Thanks to all the folks who helped with the supplies. We are already using them!

We have decided it is really nice having visitors. Although we really don’t expect any others, we will welcome everyone who decides to go through the trials of traveling almost half way around the world to see us.

But most importantly – Thanks to Andy for being the explorer – the first to visit.