Thursday, May 28, 2009

05-25-09 - 9:47 p.m.

End of Week 1. “Welcome to Bulgaria

Wow. Stick with me on this entry, there is a lot to say.

A week ago today, I boarded a plane to Washington DC. Upon arrival at the airport in DC, three other Peace Corps Volunteer trainees (Brian, Kay, and Meg) and I boarded a shuttle to the Georgetown Holiday Inn. Georgetown is a spectacular place. It is an old neighborhood with a lot of young energy. As far as I can tell, Georgetown consists of wealthy college students and foreign diplomats.

I checked into my hotel room, freshened-up and proceeded to registration. There, I met the faces of the 62 people I will be spending the next two years with. It was quite an experience. We spent the day together sitting at tables getting introduced to different aspects of Peace Corps.

6 p.m. rolled around and we were dismissed with our $220.00 stipend for the next dinner/breakfast/lunch and incidentals. My roommate Jesse and I had a chance to have our last meal with a group of other Peace Corps trainees. It was fantastic! A group of nine of us went to a sushi-bar down the road from the hotel. It was some of the best sushi and edomame (sp?) I have ever had! It was the type of restaurant that was in an old house and had dinning areas on the upper level and lower level. We ate on the upper level where a bunch of hopped up (on excitement) twenty-somethings have a little extra leeway for their antics.

Following dinner, I returned to the hotel to access the internet so my Dad could send me a few immunization records that I forgot. Thanks Dad! I had a pretty nasty headache from lack of sleep and adrenalin rushing all day, so I hit the hay.

The next morning, Jesse and I woke up, packed up and had some time to run a few last-minute errands. Than all the Peace Corps volunteers boarded a bus that brought us to Dulles international airport.

There were a couple issues with getting through check-in and security (they said my pack was too big to carry-on, and I had shampoo in my pack). Once we were in the tarmac a group of us went out for lunch. After lunch, I made a couple last phone calls and boarded the Luftahansa flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Jesse and I, having last names next to each-other in the alphabet, were assigned to sit next to each other. That was sweet to be able to talk with him a bit as we flew to across the Atlantic. The guy worked for a trauma-scene-restoration company so needless to say he has a pretty good sense of humor. (I’m not exactly sure if it is needless to say or needed…I am thinking it is still good principle to disclose that information) Luftahansa is a great airline! They had Tillamook cheese with both meals they served! The food was quite “spitze!”. This is a German airline, so I was able to dust off a little German with the flight assistants.

We arrived at the Frankfurt airport disheveled, greasy, but still riding the excitement wave. For some reason, just changing our gates we had to go through two security points. And Yes, zie Germans did greet me appropriately frisking me…twice… we flew to Sofia, Bulgaria from Frankfurt, Germany.

The B25-ers (we are the 25th Peace Corps Group to Bulgaria) were greeted by the Peace Corps Bulgaria staff, and the Bulgarian national television. It was a strange experience being video taped after flying 10 hours. Not my favorite, but oh well.

From Sofia we were bussed south to a ski resort in the Rialla mountains. Kay told me that some of the easier Peace Corps assignments have been nicknamed “Posh-Corps”. This is something I have been laughing about since Washington DC. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop! The ski resort was absolutely fantastic! The surrounding area was stunningly beautiful. The food has been fresh and delicious, and an espresso is like $0.35 American and beer is like $0.90 American!

At the ski-resort we spent our days in training and our evenings exploring the Rilla mountains, studying and socializing with other B25=ers. I have connected with people from all over the United States many of whom are my age. Another quote that a Peace Corps volunteer told me goes “Peace Corps is about spending time with some of the finest people you will ever meet”. I also have been thinking about this quote as well. The Peace Corps Bulgaria staff is inspiring and each of my fellow volunteers surprises me continuously!

Not only are the other volunteers surprising me, but I am surprising myself! I have been catching on quicker than I thought to Bulgarian, I learned how to do a couple traditional Bulgarian folk dances, and did I mention climbed a mountain!

A group of B-25ers (Greg, Anna, Jesse, Ryan, Kari and I) climbed up a ski hill that was about 400 feet! I will be able to get a few pictures from them soon. It was breath taking not only in the physical-excursion aspect, but also in the astounding aspect as well!

A couple of days ago the B-25ers and I left our classy ski resort to come and live with Bulgarians! There was not a single soul who was disappointed about this. Everyone was so excited to meet our families for the several weeks! We met in medium sized city north of Sophia called Vratsa.

There I met Ivanka and her son. I forgot her son’s name, but he is a pilot who lives with his family in Sofia. He spoke English well so adjusting to my new Bulgarian home was made easier from this. I am currently living with Ivan and Ivanka a 60-some retired couple (pensionaries) Ivanka’s father Pedar also lives with them. He is almost 90 and does not speak often. Ivan and Ivanka are incredible people! They are so patient and hospitable with me. They also live in a beautiful house.

The house has buildings surrounding three sides of the center court yard. There is a elaborate fence surrounding the property. It is made of metal and mosaics. Every square inch of regular ground on the property has been made into a garden. The Minnesota Landscape arboretum has NOTHING on these people. I hardly can believe how lucky I have been so far. I have my own section of the house (2-rooms and a bathroom) and am living in one of the most beautiful homes ever! (I will post pictures as soon as I can). The garden is as far as I can tell mostly food. There is; Peppers, Apples, Dill, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Beans, Grapes, Chives, Potatoes, and much more that I haven’t identified yet. I have been helping out as much I can in the garden. I am willing to bet my mom would welcome my new found appreciation for gardening.

Ivan and Ivanka make most everything they eat on there property. They have goats, chickens, rabbits, and a pig. It is great!

Today we purchased our cell phones, which is virtually useless for anything but text-messages because of the astronomical rate of phone calls in eastern Europe. I don’t have internet in my training village but am able to access it on the occasions we go into town. Hopefully I will get some solid skype time soon but I don’t know when that will be yet…perhaps it is now as I am posting this blog-post. I am doing well, probably getting the best health care I have ever received (I had a minor viral infection and my own doctor, doctor Toni, gave me two examinations and a follow up. It has cleared up now.)

I miss you all, so, so, so much. I also think I am here for reason, to get to know and share what I learn about the people of Bulgaria. Okay, fading fast now…. Lecha Nosht! (good night!)

with my love,



***feel free to write***

Peace Corps

Dan Sarles

P.O. Box 425

Central Post Office

Vratsa 3000 , BULGARIA

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


When: May 18th, 2009 -- July 24, 2011

Where: Bulgaria -->

What: I will be serving for the United States Peace Corps in a Community and Organizational Development program as a Business Adviser.

I will be helping out undeserved Bulgarian communities. I have a feeling my outstanding Microsoft Excel skills are going to come in handy.

Why: To see how people live in a different place. To live with them, and to grow friendships.

How: With a lot of prayers, luck, and tenacity.

I will be updating this blog periodically for the next two years. You can follow me along my Journey to Bulgaria, and hear my Peace Corps story!


what is the first thing you have to do before having a party in outer-space?

you have to Plan-et!!!