Sunday, July 30, 2006

The weekend

Friday night was lonely. After having had friends and my sister about me for so long, I was alone. It began with a run, though I was a bit sick from some food poisoning in the morning/afternoon. Rain fell in buckets from a blue-grey sky that had been clear just hours before. I took care of my site-mate's cat (Costantine - Costa) and headed home after 10. Down the street from my apartment, I found the body of the kitten I have been feeding for weeks. It was drenched from the rain, but when I put a plastic bag around it to carry it from the street I felt that it was still warm. Although the kitten had been one of the many strays in the area, it was solitary and precious and friendly towards me. I took care of it Saturday.

I met some friends on Saturday for coffee, met a local youth leader to talk about ideas for activities, projects, and his plans in education. Afterwards, I ran, climbed a hillside, studied a bit of Bulgarian, and went to see about Costa. I stayed at his apartment while my laundry finished, and watched Edward Scissorhands. Years ago, I committed a cinematic sin - I passed judgement on this Tim Burton film after having seen only a small portion of it. My sister Victoria told me since that it is a beautiful movie, but I believed it to be silly because of the few odd scenes I'd watched. How wrong I was! Tim Burton's movies are mythic and wonderous. One should never watch them except in their entirety. What a hauntingly curious tale, explaining something so simple - snow! This is how I want to tell stories.

During the night, I had a terrible dream that a friend was in trouble. Something sinister had come, siezed my friend and carried him/her towards certain peril. I tried to save my friend, pushing through forgotten obstacles and rushing to their aide. I was frantic, trying to power my way towards the unknown evil, breaking my arm in the process. I remember arriving somewhere to find everything tranquil and settled. My friend was in no danger after all, and found my anxiety amusing. I woke up shaking, still feeling the anxiety. I rarely experience such intense emotion in dreams. It was unsettling. After awhile, I went back to sleep.

Today, I woke up late to a phonecall. I ran several miles before I finished my laundry and met my landlady in town to pay rent and talk. I worked or re-writing my project for local Kindergartens and Schools, and looked after Costa. Tomorrow, I will go to the local District government and see if my request for community contribution to the project was or will be approved. I have asked for about 900 Leva ($600). Off to cook supper and then sleep.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Victoria, Steve, Istanbul

I was blessed these last weeks with visits from my sisterVictoria and my good friend Steve. Victoria came on Saturday the 15th and stayed until the 26th. She is pretty darn pregnant, and brave to have made this trip. I'm so glad, however, that she came. She's the first of my family to visit me, and can tell everyone else about my life here. She's observant, perceptive and smart, and I'm sure that she saw aspects of my personality, life here and Bulgaria that I have not. It was just good to have her here, too. Although I had to work a lot, she was gracious enough not to schedule her time around my duties so that I could see her and spend time with her. I took her to a couple of Bulgarian dinners with friends (Na gostis) where she pleasantly sat through hours of my poor translating. I had to go back to Camp GLOW to help with an ecology lesson on Wednesday the 19th. I was able to meet Victoria Veliko Tarnovo and get her into a nice pension before heading back to Stara Zagora. She also visited Kazanluk, Plovdiv, Sofia and Stara Zagora.

We met my friend Steve in Istanbul on Saturday the 22nd. Istanbul is a beautiful city, full of zealous shopkeeps and friendly cityfolk. We stayed at the Side Pension, a short walk from both the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque; a tarrace on the roof had views of each. We took a cruise up the Bosphoros (cow-crossing in homage of Io) to the strongholds protecting the entrance to the Black Sea. The rich villas and maritime nature of both the European and Asian coasts of the strait reminded me of Sausolito/Tiburon. The architecture, waterside cafes and thick presence of yachts are similar. We were lucky with weather, which was slightly cloudy, which brought down the temperature yet shed no rain.

It was great to see Steve. He is a smart, relaxed guy and was a joy to talk to. Victoria had a great time with him, too. He's the first of my fraternity brothers to visit me, and helped me remember some of the joys of college friendship. Although neither of us is too nostalgic (and don't want to really become so) we were happy to see each other and talk a bit about the past. He just finished a PhD in cryptology at MIT and will soon begin work at a great internet company in the west bay. I haven't forgotten how great a guy he is, but I didn't realize how good it would be to see him. I'm so glad he was able to visit.

We came back to Bulgaria by night train on Monday morning, spent the morning in Stara Zagora, and arrived in Sofia on Monday night. After walking around Sofia for awhile, Victoria went back to Hostel Mostel while Steve and I went to 'the Candle Bar' for a drink. I don't know the real name of the place, but it is the small, hidden bar that I wrote about before. On Tuesday, we went to Rila Monastary, which is beautiful but far away from Sofia. Both Victoria and Steve left on Wednesday.

I was sad to part with both my sister and my friend. It's in times like this that I get a bit homesick. I don't miss the USA much, but I miss my friends and family. A warm greeting to all from me, still here in Bulgaria.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lots of Travel and Mousquito Bites

I'm back in Stara Zagora after Outward Bound leadership/Instructor Training in Maliovitza (Rila Mountains) and work in Varbitsa with kids. It will be good to step back in my own door and water my parched Tomato plant, not to mention clean my auromatic clothes. I bought new running shoes and some Teva-like sandals to replace the discolored and foul-smelling shoes I had in the wet mountains.

It was good to re-discover the lessons in leadership that I've studied throughout my life but haven't thought about in so long. My Outward Bound team was comprised of 9 people, full of different kinds of experience and style, who worked together well and shared generously. We played games and practiced blindfolded partner-leading (hard to explain) to build trust in the early sessions. We went on an expedition to the peak of Maliovitsa (~8,500 ft) and learned/practiced orienteering. In the last days, we rock-climbed and learned to set up ropes courses. I re-learned how to climb trees. How refreshing the whole experience was!

After that, it was off to Varbitsa, a small village in eastern-central Bulgaria to work at a children's day camp. I taught basic martial arts to the kids (Basically, how to make a fist, protect your face and head, maintain balance, and take small steps to move. Plus easy punches and kicks to maintain attention). The kids invited me on a walk into their mountains which are the eastern foothills of the Old Mountains (Balkans). Playing football with the kids, I skinned my knee up pretty badly. It started as a small problem but soon began to gush blood. The nurse insisted on treating it herself, so I was relegated to patient status (and I hate that). I took really good care of it and tried to keep it from the kids' view, but they really wanted to see my treatment. Se la vie. I have to go, but more later.