“Яж! Яж!” (Eat! Eat!) 20-July 2010

We are nearing the end of this Pre-Service Training (PST) thing. We’ve got a week to go before we swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and officially become Peace Corps Volunteers.

This will mark the end of the 11th week living with a Bulgarian family for all of us trainees, a time which has brought with it a diversity of experiences as well as some common themes, and common frustrations.

Largely these frustrations are kind of petty, but because we cannot escape them and because they comprise a lot of our experience here, they seem significant.

Our host pretty much constantly demand that we eat more, even after we have a second, third, fourth helping. We joking refer to this as the “Babatocracy” because the Baba’s in our communities pretty much run things. People literally try to dress us, insisting that it’s too cold out and we’ll get sick (even when it’s around 80+ outside), and generally crowd our personal space far more than would be acceptable in the states. It’s basically just that we’re in a situation where we aren’t sure about the boundaries between being offensive and simply saying “no,” in an acceptable way.

Imagine being told to eat more by someone and then being made to feel guilty for not doing so all while they themselves, skip dinner. It’s jarring, but again, to complain about it is petty. And funny, it’s actually quite hilarious.

If someone insists that you close your window on a hot day, you’d be annoyed. But then imagine that person thinks the breeze it’s letting in is going to make you sick? What is that?

Our hosts open their homes and hearts to us and we haven’t the language skills or cultural context to fully appreciate and understand them or their hospitality. Likewise Bulgarians do not understand our cultural background regarding the same issues.

Most importantly, when we leave we’ll lose close friends, but they will lose sons, daughters, brothers, sisters – we are used to people coming in and out of our lives in the States. Here, people don’t move around as much.

Life’s not fair, in this way but I’m grateful and I’ll make sure to tell my host family as much before I depart.

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