Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a summer {in passing}

So September arrived, with little to no delay the crisp fall air did too.

so what happened in July and August?
that's a great question.

July marked my team of volunteers middle of service, meaning that we had a conference to discuss further, what it is exactly we are doing here in Bulgaria... Relationships...Development a balance of the two. I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably not see any extraordinary result of my service, no people from my village dramatically pulling themselves out of poverty or even becoming highly proficient in English, but i think that my time here is still quite profitable, for me and for the Bulgarians i'm with.

otherwise, i met up with my family in london, and saw some cool stuff including a day trip to oxford to see the pubs where c.s. lewis and j.r.r. tolkien used to hang out! [photos]
following london, my family came to bulgaria and that was a good experience. we hung out around the village and saw some of the other places in the region. they say it was an incredible experience. for me their reactions reminded me just how weird it is that certain things have become so normal to me. i also realized that i don't mind chalga the heck did that happen?

August, was hot, peaceful and mostly spent outside. my town had it's town festival which last year signified the beginning of my friendships with my friends here in the village. Although it was still a crazy time here, all day horo all night disco, there was still missing a certain vigor that last year's festival seemed to have. Unfortunately i think it's due to the major infrastructure project in the area that is coming to an end, hence major lay-offs and an exodus from the village. A trend that i expect will continue through the fall and into the winter...

this past weekend was really good too!
i was able to do somethings that i've wanted to badly do this summer.

1. Play Kubb with friends at a bbq
2. Swim in the River
3. Play Settlers of Catan
4. Sleep on my terrace
5. Channel the animal spirit.

a few peace corps buddies came into town for a bbq and also to show an outdoor movie on a hill top. it went superb. most everyone in the village showed up for the showing. people are still talking about it, it's thursday.

Sneak Peak Sarles Family Christmas Card 2010

[one of the many pubs frequented by c.s. lewis and j.r.r. tolkien

joke ;)
q. how do you turn soup into gold?
a. add 24 karats!!!!


a friend recently suggested i write about the beer in Bulgaria, i feel that a fellow mid-westerner and colleague in the peace corps has already written the definitive analysis on the matter.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

13 of 26: a very special world cup addition

ever since i was a little kid, every time i read a book, i always look to see where the exact center of the book is. i’m not sure if i do this because i don’t like reading and i just want to be done, or if it gives me some sort of prospective.

at any rate, during this past week there was some bright shinning hour that represented the exact center of my peace corps service. there is equal time since i’ve arrived as there is till i leave. perhaps this provides some sort of prospective.


soccer teams and fans from around the world have gathered in south africa to compete in a contest known as the world cup. and it's extraordinary!

of the things i want from my time living here, is an expanded knowledge about the game that all the world loves but calls by the wrong name. many of my friends from minnesota, love soccer, play soccer, watch soccer, and make up different games involving the soccer ball and a special location in portland square park, duluth, mn.

on the whole, i never completely understood soccer. believe you and me, it showed... and shows.

so world cup time in my village is great because the cafe owner brings his big screen tv from home and hangs it up outside the café on the patio. and people gather around three times a day to watch different teams, most of the time just wanting a good match and to cheer against whoever i am cheering for.

and with some of the excellent playing on behalf of the united states, it has been an excellent time in the café lately. even up through last nights excellent show against ghana. (darn…)


our program staff have announced where they will be placing the members of the new team of volunteers. and, i have a couple new volunteers who will be living near me. this will be a strange change. since i've lived here, there haven't been any other americans that live close.

next month, my peace corps team comes together for a meeting to discuss the middle of our service, and also to celebrate. there’s going to be a talent show. i wonder how i can present making mix-tapes as a talent?

also next month, my family is coming to visit bulgaria. this should be pretty rad. or at least an opportunity to show off my bulgarian skills in-front of people who don’t know how mediocre those skills are… we’re also going to spend some time in london and possibly greece.

abandon settlements

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

12 of 26: a year.

One year ago today, I boarded a plane with some kids and one old man and flew to Washington DC. There we got a shuttle bus to a place where we met some other kids, and then we ate sushi and I asked everyone where their financial institutions were, and they laughed, and I played it off as a joke... but everyone still liked me so it was okay.

And I would say, on whole, it’s been a pretty alright year. Made some new friends, learned some new language, ate some banichka, spent most of my time in a café in a village somewhere.

But, I’d like to take a chance to think how this year has differed from my expectations;

1. When I was applying, I just assumed I’d be going somewhere in Africa.
-I’m in Bulgaria.

2. Have a sweet new bike, custom built by a special bike shop that Peace Corps Bulgaria might have had.
-I think I imagined this, but somehow I just thought it was too cool to not be true. They did give me a bike helmet though. I don’t get out biking as often as I’d like, I miss that a lot.

3. Find either a deadly spider or poisons snake in my bed before going to sleep.
-This came from a story of a friends’ older brother who was in Peace Corps in Africa. I just assumed it would happen to me too, but as of yet it’s only been the bed bugs.

4. Not having Internet access for weeks at a time.
-This hasn’t come true neither. My village doesn’t have internet access, but I have one of these little mobile internet deals though.

5. Completely lose touch with any new good music.
-Although, there are not ANY good record stores in Bulgaria, I have been introduced to some good new music from my friends here in Peace Corps.

Some things my expectations were spot on.

1. The mayors office where I work, looks exactly how I imagined it somehow.
-Don’t know why this is. Just is.

2. Playing a lot of soccer.
-ohh yes, and sometimes I even kick the ball. . )

3. Read a lot.
-I’ve been reading a lot.

4. Meet some fantastic new people both Bulgarian and American.
-yes, this is true.

q. what kind of shoes does a mouse where
a. squeekers!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Picks, Pics and Picnics

One thing, that is particularly special about the place I live, is that it’s climate is influenced by the Mediterranean sea. It’s not that it is a Mediterranean climate per-se, but some-days it would be easy to think it was. And those beautiful Mediterranean days are how i'm going to describe the previous two weeks.

Since spring sprang in April, the village has been plowing away in the fields and planting the potatoes. The work is fun. It involves spending time out in the beautiful weather with friends, and there usually is a good picnic involved. And that brings me to “the picnic”.

From my time here in the southern Rhodopee mountains, there is something I have learned.
Our friends back in Minnesota really should be having more picnics. It’s not that picnics (or bbq’s, if you wish) are not happening, it is just that they should be happening more often. Instead of going to Taco Jon’s on a beautiful summer day, go to the grocery store to purchase your favorite vafle, kufteta, tomatoes, and cucumbers to be eaten outside in a suitable location. Just sayin’.

Another bit of news is that the new volunteers to Peace Corps Bulgaria are arriving next week. This whole year has been kind of like my Freshman/Sophomore year in Bulgaria. And now begins my Junior/Senior year.

(note: the title for this post was taken from a comment my buddy Ryan made from my previous post. 80% of my humor is me trying to imitate Ryan’s humor, the other 20% is probably something I’ve seen on youtube.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

P-Corps Voulunteers on the 2010 Census

Chances are if you didn't study and love Econ. like myself, you will not care too much about this, but for those of you who share the passion of derivatives and equilibrium (Nash or otherwise) I present to you, How Peace Corps Workers are counted in the 2010 census;

"Thank you for your inquiry. Military and federal civilian employees and their dependents (including the Peace Corps) who are serving overseas will be counted in their home state, using administrative record counts from federal agencies. These federal employees will be counted for apportionment purposes only."

--ASK Census

Monday, March 8, 2010

all…….. the places and spaces i’ve been

one of the best parts of being in peace corps, is that; a lot of the time work and fun look like the same thing.

here are some stories from my service; in order the photos appear

There is a little cabin located 4.5 KM outside of my village. It is a nice place to take a hike to and eat lunch. Lunch in the winter is salami/bread/onion and… straight-up animal fat, grilled. It’s actually pretty good, but probably not too good for your health.

Rakia, is a brandy, that people in Bulgaria love to drink and make. There is a distillery in my village. One fine spring day, I had the opportunity to help with the distilling process. We made sure the fire underneath the basins was roaring, and pored the distilled rakia into their containers. Then, we ate some animal fat and drank some beer. It was a good time.

There are a lot of cats that live on my street. I’m more of a dog person, but there is this super ugly cat that hangs out on my terrace sometimes. I threw it some bread because I felt bad for it.

A few weekends ago, we celebrated Meg’s birthday by going to Buzlodja. Buzlodja is an old communists monument that was built for communists party meetings. After Bulgaria became a democracy, Buzlodja was closed-up and forgot about. The building is been badly vandalized, and the windows are all smashed out, but you can still see how cool it was. On the day we went, it was very windy and foggy. Given the spaceshipness of the building, and the creepy post-apocalyptic abandoness, the fog was just the icing on the (birthday) cake.

Last Wednesday (March 3rd) was Bulgaria’s independence day. And even though it is March, and very similar weather to Minnesota, my landlord, his daughter, and my neighbors and I had a barbecue at the picnic area we built last summer. (Finally, the pictures of the picnic area I helped make!)

I’ve been cooking a lot. Banana-bread is a hit here.

The thing that I am starting to realize about service is this; life is characterized by little moments that become routine and you forget how unique and incredible it is that you have the opportunity to be doing things like this.

For instance;
There is a lot of lumbering that goes on in my region, and hence a large forestry department with a lot of forest rangers. Yesterday, a group of forest rangers from my village invited me to come along to mark trees for removal at the peek of a neighboring mountain. We climbed into the forestry jeep, and made the drive on the snowy rudimentary road up the mountain. It was sweet! We were driving through rivers and very narrow roads through a beautiful pristine forest. The road didn’t go all the way to the top so we had to hike up another 300 meters. It was a perfect day to be up there. The sun was bright, and the sky was a marvelous blue, almost as blue as it is in Duluth…almost. There were some big caves we got to poke around but didn’t want to go to in-depth on account of the 500 kilogram bear that lives up there.

With sunburned faces, we went and had a picnic and ate some animal fat.


Q. What is a witch’s’ favorite subject?


Monday, January 18, 2010

music from you tube

Winter Life

Sometimes it snows, sometimes that snow melts, and sometimes it snows again. But on the whole, my village hasn't seen any snow or arctic days like Minnesota. Yesterday, there was a ski swap in Sofia. From the looks of it, a decent snowboard, boots, and bindings would have gone for less than 300 lev ($220.47 USD as of today). This would have been a pretty good deal, but with such a mild winter who knows if I could have used it by February?!

It hasn't been too difficult to stay busy though. I brought some books back from home, a new hard drive loaded with movies and TV shows, some charcoal pencils and a sketch pad, a few new records to listen to, and since it has been so cold hiking the mountains is still an option (and as outrageous as it may sound, indeed apart of my work!).

Before the holidays, my Peace Corps boss and my village bosses and myself had a meeting to discuss the next 6 months of my service. The result was to focus more on tourism development and less on teaching English to the kids. I'm not complaining about that. My English club once a week and occasionally guess teaching the English class is plenty.

Here are some photographs: Take note of the traditional Rhodope garments and artifacts. Kind of neat.

{winter life}-> This one is for you Tony. Thanks for getting me back on the Horse. or perhaps in my case, the donkey.)