21 June, 2010
I came to my permanent site yesterday, on the 20th, which is the day after a dear friends’ birthday. It took us about 8 hours of travel, by car with some breaks, to get here from the regional sub-capita, Vratsa, that the conference was in. More or less, our travel time was 9-5. It makes me realize two things quickly, how big the US is, and how small ubiquitous car ownership and use makes it feel. People don’t realize how far they are traveling – it’s not a cry for the opposite, just a note. Today is my second day visiting the place I will live in for two years. It’s an incredibly small town, only 350 people (“trista ee pet-de-set Hora”). The towns and villages here are different in countless ways, however one way is at least easily conveyable. This is that, here, people do not live “within city limits” they live “in town.” My training site is Pudria, which is a town of about 500-750 people. The rate of buildings, that is to say the number and general feel of their density is similar to Cotati, which has 6,000 people living in it. People here don’t have cars so they have to walk everywhere, and also they are all friends with their neighbors, so they don’t want to have to walk far to visit or see them. It’s categorically dense, living outside of town here is just a dumb idea because it means you’ll have to walk for no good reason. Anyway, I am so far quite proud of my town, and incredibly enthusiastic about the placement. People here work a lot, but not in the frantic and stressed American way. They never procrastinate, that’s the difference – so far. There’s working and then there is everything else, and no BS’ing in between. It’s good, even though, in this context I don’t have a definition for “BS.” Everything is categorically foreign, and it feels that way. I understand only 5.00% of what people say at regular-talking speed here, and maybe 1/4 of what they say at a charitable speed, which is enough-ish to piece together what they are talking about and give an answer. Such is life. “Remember who you are and keep working,” I say to my self. They sell “Milka” brand chocolate here, at the corner-stores. This is nice because it’s an ironic taste of home. A taste from home because my grandmother on my mom’s side always gets and then divy’s-out Milka chocolate bars after Christmans, and then ironic because that foreign/from-the-old-country-chocolate is now owned by Kraft, which makes the whole scenario your garden-variety buy-out story, rather than a specialized/unique family experience. Anyway it’s delicious and I love both America and Germany so who cares. Lastly, I learned, while sharing beers with the mayor and his “sekretar,” that there are particular songs/hymns that come out of the Rhodope Mountains. Some of these were included on the gold-disk that was sent out on the voyager spaceship. Basically Carl Sagan and a bunch of other awesome-class people put together a cd with music and noise and information on it that included a LOT of things from Earth, even whales calling each other, and all of this was on a gold CD. Since gold has something like a billion year half-life, there’s a small chance that extra-terrestrials might find it and be able to analyze it. Imagine a letter in a bottle, only it’s a letter that includes token amount of information from all of mankind and the sea is eternity and the largest void ever imagined. For someone who is agnostic/atheistic, or perhaps just someone who likes stars, it is incredibly moving to think even of the possibility of contact like this. Maybe God will find it and write back – this is how I feel about it. 🙂 Thank you life and fortune for all that you have brought. -Cameron Ottens A quick extra note, I just woke up from a dream that was in Bulgarian. Hilariously/predictably, I did not understand the conversation being had.