Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Journey Meets its End...

Wow. It has been one LONG month for me...

Teaching went well throughout the month of January. Things got back into full swing, and I was enjoying my time at school with my colleagues and students. As most of the other months, there were many holidays in January. Birthdays, name days, someone's neighbor's brother's uncle's anniversary... etc. Bulgarians like holidays. So almost every day at school there would be a table filled with chocolates, soleti, banitsa, and of course, rakia and homemade wine. I never complained.

February brought more difficult times for me. In fact, the most difficult since I got to Bulgaria. Unfortunately, an incident happened with a man in my town. I won't go into details, but it definitely was an uncomfortable situation for me. The police got involved, and took it very seriously at that. Any way, that brought about a lot of stress for me.

Less than a week after the incident, I was in Varna with a group of other Peace Corps volunteers for a Super Bowl party. The pub we went to had the game on a big screen, Killian's on draft, darts, and some good food. I was having a blast. However, around about halftime, I started feeling not so great...

Long story short, I ended up in a hospital in Sofia for about a week to have surgery. Let me tell you... a week alone in a foreign hospital to get surgery is NOT exactly a picnic. Any way, everything did go well, and recovery is going alright. But I think this experience (coupled with the other not-so-fun experience of the month) has made me think that it's time for me to go home. I guess I now realize that I never want to spend this long of a time (it's been about 9 months now) away from home, family, and friends. Because in the end, home is always where the heart is <3.

That being said... there are SO many people (and places) in this great country that I will miss. From my host family to the volunteers to my colleagues to the woman who works at the shop below my apartment, this experience has allowed me to meet such a great network of people who I will always be thankful for and will always miss. Peace Corps/Bulgaria has allowed me to experience things that few people ever get to experience, and I will always look back on the great memories that I have made here and smile. So to ALL of you who have helped shape this rollercoaster ride part of my life into something that I will cherish forever, thank you. Really. And I love you.

...Ciao za sega, Bulgaria :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holidays Away From Home

Well, I survived my first Christmas and New Year's being away from home! Definitely wasn't easy, being that this is the time of year that friends and family really take the time to get together, but my friends here made it bearable.

I feel like the entire month of December just flew by, despite my being sick for about 2/3 of it. School has been going very well. It really has made a huge difference being that I'm only at the one school now.. in a GOOD way. I'm able to see the same students more often, there's less confusion about my schedule, and the teachers are able to get more use out of me since my class time is no longer split among four different teachers and two different schools. So, all-around, it's a much better set-up.

Between school and getting sick about halfway through the month, the time for my friend Aaron to come visit came quick. He had decided a few months ago that he would visit for Christmas and New Year's so that I wouldn't be spending the holidays alone, and I'm very glad he did! Just the feeling of having someone here from home was extremely comforting, and made it less difficult to be spending the "most wonderful time of the year" away from home.

The night before he arrived in Sofia, my school held it's big Christmas dinner banquet for all of the colleagues at a restaurant in town near my apartment block. It was a BLAST! I honestly haven't had that much fun since I got to Bulgaria. There was food, music, dancing, and of course, a LOT of rakia! Not only was rakia served with our meals, but many colleagues brought their own water bottles full of their own homemade rakia. Needless to say, but the six hour train ride to Sofia at 6 a.m. the next morning to meet Aaron at the airport wasn't too enjoyable.

Once Aaron arrived, I showed him around Sofia for a day then we came back to Aytos to spend Christmas here. During his stay I took him to the important places throughout my town - the park, my school, the popular cafes, etc. It was great to be able to finally show someone where I've lived for the past several months. Although it still didn't really show him my daily Bulgarian life, it atleast provided a somewhat more accurate picture than what he probably had in mind.
Having him here also made me realize, and be very proud, of my Bulgarian speaking skills. Being that I had to translate everything for him and speak for him during his two and a half week stay, I was able to see how much I actually DO know. It was pretty shocking.

Then I got to go to Istanbul, Turkey for New Year's.. where I, at times, continued to speak Bulgarian when all I had to do was speak English. Oojus (awful). Any way.. Istanbul was a great time. It was amazing to see all of the mosques and be in such a different culture just a small distance away. Aaron and I saw all of the popular sites - Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, etc. Despite how great those were, I think my favorite hot spot was the Grand Bazaar, which is basically a huge shopping center where you're swamped by the salespeople to buy their things. It's fun though because you can haggle for almost everything in Istanbul and get things for MUCH cheaper than what they start out at. Could be dangerous if you spent too much time there, though.

Now it's back into the school routine until our next break (not until APRIL!) But I'll do what I can to keep you periodically updated on school life.

Ciao za sega :)