Pre-Service Training

I am now two weeks into my home-stay placement. Things are quite good. I am located in a very small town in the area of Bulgaria outside of враца, pronounced “Vratsa.” The town has less than 700 people and is not unlike downtown Cotati in size and number of buildings. In the US people “live” in a town, but often live on acreage outside of town and so the downtown is incredibly sparse by these standards. Now that I am in a place I will be in for some time I’ll give an internet-access related update: I do not have internet in my home, but one of the guys in my group (there’s five of us living in my town) has it in his house, in his host brother’s room. It’s on a very old computer, that we don’t have a lot of access to. Also, it freezes sometimes and the net itself isn’t that fast. I do have “access” on the Kindle I bought before leaving. It’s very slow, and I can only type with my thumbs, which is like walking with only your toes. It’s a great travel companion in a pinch but it takes to long to do anything of significance. My Host Family consists of my “баба” (Bulgarian for Grandmother) and her son. They are great people. The PC mentioned that a large part of their screening process for homestay families, beyond logistical things like people with deadly allergies to cigarettes or cats not living with them, was families with a lot of heart. In this goal I give them credit for success. Life: I have my own room. The other volunteers bought me a watch for my birthday (so my inner control freak is fully appeased and soothed when I have it on). The food is good. My group, on average, is solid if not a little more zealous than disciplined – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The parts of Bulgaria that I have seen, which are very few, are not the terror-torn hell-scape I was shooting for. I don’t wish that upon anyone or any country of course. But I think you all know me well enough to either already know or to understand me when I say that a large part of what I was looking for in doing this was a march in and out of hell. Perhaps I should have waited for a different more clearly distressed country for placement, but this is life and decisions that are made are past. A wise person told me once to not be concerned with sunk costs and I view this situation with that and one other thought in mind: commitment is not a continuum, it is either had or it is not and there’s no Goddamn way I’m turning back now. That of course isn’t to say that my time so far has been without challenge. Nothing could be further form the truth. Starting a language from scratch, while an adult, is tremendously awkward. Being surrounded by caring people helps tremendously – the language classes do to – but we’ve only been studying the language for something like two weeks. Not even. I’ll put it this way: we’re spending a lot of this week’s time learning how to conjugate nouns and numbers appropriately when you change from a singular, “masculine” noun to its plural version and we still haven’t learned how to say “the” because it’s not represented by a stand-alone word, it’s done with a change to the end of the word it applies to. Bla, bla bla, the point is – in български (“Bulgarski”-Bulgarian) I have the linguistic aptitude of a two-year-old. I can make some sentences in the present tense though, and using that and a trick from D Schrupp, I can “convey” future or past tense, by saying, “you go yesterday/tomorrow,” etc. What can I say – I need scissors but all I’ve got is an axe. I miss you all, but thankfully I’ve been too busy to think much about what I’m missing. That’ll just have to keep being the case. Oh and the outhouses are “Turkish-Style” here. Look it up if you’re interested in culture shock. It’s not bad really, it’s just not for people who keep books or potpourri in bathrooms. Lastly, a strange side note: it’s somewhat common among the people I’ve met to spend some time working in Spain or in other parts of Europe. Because of this, on one of my first nights here I was greatly aided by the ability to speak with someone in Spanish. It’s a crutch I won’t cling to, but in a pinch it’s a much appreciated easy-street. Woohoo serendipity. I haven’t had a chance to get through all of the email I’ve got, and I’ve certainly not had a chance to check Facebook – but I will get to all of that as soon as I can. I love you guys and hope you’re all doing well and not taking any shit from anyone. Oh and thanks so much for all the Birthday wishes, it was great to hear from you. -C

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