Monday, April 28, 2008


These views are my own and do not reflect the Peace Corps.

I knew that when I signed up for the Peace Corps I would try new things and learn more about myself as I struggled and adapted. I learned one very important thing about myself this weekend.

I should not be left alone in a kitchen, and especially not in a Bulgarian kitchen.

I am challenged in the cooking department. There, I admit it. This is not one of my strengths. I also made things worse by trying to prepare an American meal for my host family using Bulgarian ingredients and recipes that I’ve only “sort of” tried. It got to the point where my host mom put something back in the oven and I felt like I could never try it again. Not everything bombed, however. Aunt Claire, your recipe for deviled eggs is foolproof because it worked for me (aside from the fact that we have unnaturally large eggs in the U.S., which threw off the proportions a smidgen). However, my potato salad and lemon pepper chicken were disgusting, and the lack of baking chocolate turned my cake into toffee (not bad, but I’m glad I didn’t know how to tell them what I’d been trying to make for lack of a stronger vocabulary). I followed up the meal by nearly flooding the kitchen and calling it a day (since it took me about four hours to prepare the garbage that I served). My host mom and Baba were such troopers, though, I am incredibly lucky to have such supportive women living with me. They are also amazing cooks, so make some of it will brush off on me (fingers crossed).

Oh well, for the downs there are the ups. I’ve been able to use Skype (whohoo!) to communicate with my immediate family, so if anyone’s interested in getting it too, shoot me a message. I also had an amazing time last weekend hiking near the Struma River, where the day was long and temperate and there was no shortage of foliage, mountain views, and random animals to take pictures of (at one point we a boar following us). This week was busy with a prep class of teaching Bulgarian students and lots of Bulgarian lessons. This weekend we’ve done a tour of the city (all six of its museums), and I’ve had more time to interact with Bulgarians at Horo class (Bulgaria’s national dance: think Riverdance but slightly less intense). Once I get past introductions, I don’t have too much to say at this point but malko po malko (little by little) I’ll get there. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I didn’t know the Bulgarian alphabet two weeks ago.

Next week I teach my own class, yikes! 8th grade English, wish me luck! Keep me posted on your whereabouts and wellbeing. Oh yeah, the pictures are from hiking and the tour around town. I particularly like the one where one of the hikers uses what looks like a machete to cut hard boiled eggs. That’s talent!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Staging/Orientation Fun

Again this blog does not reflect any of the views of the Peace Corps organization, purely my own.

We just finished up orientation/staging at a small mountain lodge with an amazing view. After some late night ping pong with the locals at the hotel and lots of late night cramming, we survived. We had an intense week of learning the policy ropes, studying some of the cultural differences between Bulgaria and the U.S., and briefly taking in some language lessons (Bulgarski is definitely more challenging than the romance languages for an English speaker, so this will be quite a trip).

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The trip from D.C. to Bulgaria itself was quite a trip. We flew Lufthansa, so everything was in German with English translation. This isn’t the first time my 1001 Deutsche Klasse came in handy though, just wait and see. After 7 ½ or 8 hours when we landed in Frankfurt, they were experiencing some inclement weather. We had expected to go from sunny sixty degree DC to sunny sixty degree Sofia, Bulgaria. Surprise, less than 30 degree, snowy Frankfurt! If they didn’t have the best service and show Juno on the flight, I might have been disappointed with Lufthansa for taking us there.

You might be wondering about the pictures I’ve posted. Well, they are photos of the celebration that we enjoyed on Thursday night. We saw a dance troupe dance the Horo, which is a traditional Bulgarian dance that people do at weddings, family events, and in their homes. Although most people don’t dress that way; those are traditional costumes. Everyone got up and tried it later, and some of us tried the more challenging ones. Later over ping pong, I met one of the Bulgarian girls who worked at the hotel bar and found out that she worked at the Wisconsin Dells for a summer before returning to Bulgaria. Small world, eh?

Anywho, so after the more sheltered experience of learning Bulgarian amongst Americans, we went to our training site where we met our host families. My host mother is Emilia. Her sister in law that lives upstairs is also Emilia. Yup, there’s three of us with (almost the same name). Since Emilia and her brother Rumen, who helped pick me up from the training site, don’t speak any English, we relied on gestures and my very little Bulgarian to entertain ourselves on the ride. Oh yeah, and that 1001 German helped also since Rumen spoke about as much German as I did.

Not being able to express oneself can be frustrating and at times scary. Like the first night when I locked myself in my room on accident and Emilia told me instructions on the other side to help me get out. Only they were in Bulgaria. It was confusing, but I think it makes for a good metaphor. A lack of a way to communicate can make you feel trapped (and for the clumsy ones among us, literally may keep you that way). Luckily for us, we can get by more and more each day, and there will be many, many hours of classes to help us prepare.
I miss everyone very much, and I hope everything is going well!

Saturday, April 5, 2008


The views expressed in this blog do not represent the Peace Corps.

Also Staging went well in DC. I appreciate all of your supportive messages and will do my best to keep in touch. I had the opportunity to see my friends in the DC area yesterday and am becoming closer with the 38 others with which I'll be traveling. I'm learning a lot and keeping busy. I won't have internet access for the next couple of weeks and I have to condense my packing a bit before the international flight, so sorry if this is brief. I'm happy, healthy, and ready to start the adventure of a lifetime!

Also this is what it looks like here now. Yea for cherry blossoms.