Thursday, May 28, 2009

Panichishte & Byala Slatina, Bulgaria

Hi everyone! WOW, so much has happened since my last post! But I want you all to know I got to Bulgaria safely and everything is going well so far.

The pre-orientation week in Panichishte, Bulgaria was SUPER busy, but a lot of fun. Every day began around 7 a.m. and ended around 6 p.m. Then, most of us would use our evening time to hike through the surrounding mountains and forests, it was beautiful there! My roommate Whitney and I had a really nice balcony connected to our room, so we enjoyed a view of the snow-capped Rila mountains every morning. So I couldn't complain about that! The classes, however, were very long and we had to learn SO much within such a small time frame. We had language classes every day with different language trainers and we also had a lot of health and safety classes. During this week, we also found out where we will be located during our pre-service training (PST) and who our "satellite" groups will be (aka the groups we will be with during training).

The town that I am currently in is called Byala Slatina and it is where I will be living until I move to my permanent site towards the end of July. It's a town of about 6,000 and is located 45 miles or so northeast of Vratsa (so I'm still in the northwestern part of Bulgaria). On May 24, all of our host families were waiting for us in Vratsa to pick us up and take us to our homes. It was a very exciting but nerve-racking day. My family consists of a mother (Yulia), a father (Krasimir), and a baba (or grandmother). My parents do have two sons, but they live in Sofia and do not visit very often. When I first met my parents, my mother cried because she always wanted a daughter - it was really sweet.

I've been living with my family for a little less than a week now and communication is very difficult (because they speak ZERO English). I'm the first American they have ever met, and they do not have children nearby, so they have really not been exposed to the English language at all. However, I'm learning more and more of the language every day (4 hours worth!) so hopefully communication will start to improve soon. Until then, I carry my dictionary with me at all times and rely a lot on my body language. Speaking of that, it definitely is true that Bulgarians nod and shake their heads the opposite way - which makes things even MORE confusing than they already are! For instance... I went to Mtel (the main cell phone provider in Bulgaria) the other day to buy more credit, so I asked the worker if they were able to do this for me, and he shook his head. It took me awhile to figure out that that really meant yes. I'm semi-starting to get used to it though!

This week the other trainees (I'm with Emmy, Raf, & Carolyn) and I visited the local school to observe classes. There are only two English teachers in our town, and they themselves do not understand or speak much English, so I think our presence will definitely be important in helping them learn what they need to learn. Tomorrow, I get to teach my first class! It's an 8A class (there are A & B classes - and the A classes are more advanced) so I'm hoping it will go smoothly.

Well it's about time for lunch and for classes to start again, but I will post more again soon about my life here in Byala Slatina. I will also be posting pictures soon so stay tuned! I miss everyone back in the states!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last Week in America

Wow, so my time left in America has officially come down to ONE WEEK! After applying to the Peace Corps almost a year ago, the time has finally come for me to finish packing my bags and head to Bulgaria. It seems unreal.

In the past couple of weeks I have tried to focus my time on being with friends and doing the things that I know I will miss the most (like eating a lot of good American food!) I've been slacking quite a bit on learning the language, but after talking to fellow volunteers and meeting one of them last week, I'm pretty sure we're all in the same boat on that one. Although it's obviously an important thing for us to be focusing on, we've also got to worry about packing, saying our goodbyes, and soaking up what we can from our final days in the states.

This will probably be my last post until I get to Bulgaria, because I'm assuming that I'll be stressed out a lot this week making sure I have all the essential things I need packed. But I hope to have internet access probably about a week after my arrival in Bulgaria (because we're staying in a mountain resort in Panichishte for the first week, which as I understand, has ZERO access to ANYTHING). But after that, our host families will arrive to pick us up on Sunday, May 24 and take us to our homes where we'll be living throughout training. I can't wait to meet them!

Anyhow, wish me luck and I'll be posting again as soon as I can!

Dovizhdane America!