Thursday, October 27, 2005


I'm am writting this as an OFFICIAL PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!!!!

after a grueling 11 weeks of language training, cultural training, technical (ie-job know-how) training and all the other "wonders" that are pre-service training...I have made it! Now there are just 2 more years, right??!?!?!?!?

our swearing-in ceremony was lovely. Every year, one of the volunteers gives a speech in Bulgarian, and my site mate Anna was chosen to do the job! her speech was fantastic in english and in bulgarian, earning her many accolades from fellow volunteers, bulgarian speakers, and the Honorable John Beyrly himself! (our ambassador) the speech was so good, actaully, that the Ambassador is planning to post it either on the Embassy's webpage, or on the state departments- wow, good job anna!!!

again, i know i always promise picutures, but I defiantely want to send y'all pictures of my friends here and to see how different we all look after 11 weeks!!

keep in touch, and keep those text messages coming- i love them!!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

last night in our little town of ceptemvri- there were a lot of reasons to celebrate!

On wednesday, our community project, planting trees near the obshtina (local gov. building...think: the mayor works here), was a huge success! we had a lot of area youth present and they were laughing and joking around, so we're sort of assuming they had a good time!

Friday marked the first of the last for Pre-Service training for myself and my fellow volunteers. By 2pm on friday (while most of you were still fast asleep) we had to take our LPI, or, language proficiency interview! thankfully, we all made it out alive! it was quite a bit tougher than what we thought it was be. For example, I was asked to explain living on a cattle ranch in some other capacity than "working, eating and sleeping." Peace corps just doesn't understand that there's really nothing more to it than that... ;) but I guess I got easy because one of my sitemates had to talk about the conflict in northern ireland after she innocently mentioned that she had traveled to Ireland while she attended college. whoops!:) I think Peace corps definately had different agendas for this language test and the "optional" one we took during the midpoint of our training. After the first test, some of us walked away smiling, congratulating ourselves for our mastery of the language at the novice level. This time, however, the goal was apparently "scare" us into learning more langauge. At this point, most of us have sufficient "survival skills" in bulgarian, meaning that we can pay bills, eat at restaurants, buy food and stamps, find out when there are trains, talk about our families, why we joined peace corps, what kind of jobs we've had, and what kind of food we like! so espeically for those of us who live in bigger cities, its believable that someone, somewhere would decide that they speak the langauge pretty well, and they would decide to stop learning bulgarian. Thus, peace corps instills fear in the hearts of we "almost- volunteers-but- not- quite -yet!" so that we continue to study bulgarian. charming, isn't it?? but yeah, its safe to say that I passed the language exam, and even though I didn't pre-plan and memorize the kinds of conversations i wanted to have (like some trainees...), I think I scored pretty well!!

Also, this thursday was our teacher's husband's birthday! as per the tradition in BG, the person with birthday treats their friends to dinner and candy, and this was certainly no exception!! we had a wonderful dinner of lamb with rice and tomato salad- not to mention plenty of wine, champagne, and even a cigars ( i mean...of course I didn't have one...). all in all, we had a HUGE week and we're all SO glad that its over with! hooray!

Monday, October 17, 2005

bulgarian politics and reasons to hold the mail

Don't mail me anything!!!!!

this is an advance warning that someone, somewhere in BG knows what my permenant address will be, but that that person is not yours truely. I'm trying to work on that right now, but for the mean time, just log on to the MTEL webpage and send me SMSes. If you don't know what MTEL is or what an SMS is, check the schneider family group on yahoo, email one of my parents, my sister, david sims, jraz (jess rass.), meredith, cindy or keith. probably others, but i'm lazy and don't want to list them! i'll keep you posted on the addy.

today in class, we took a little break from formal learning and tried to write down the lyrics to an old bulgarian song. as we tried to translate the unfamiliar words, we came across a few from communist times. I think i've already mentioned that bulgaria was one of the most loyal countries towards russia during communisim and those sentiments remain visible in bulgaria today. Anyway, this particular word drewgareo is the word for "commrade," and our teacher told us that even students were required to address their teachers with drewgareo istead of Mr. or Miss. I am completely blown away by this! I always had this impression that communisim was exactly like the book Animal Farm, where words like "commrade" were used in secret meetings or with people who were part of the movement. I didn't even think about how the usage would differ in full-fledged communist states, so I was both bemused and startled that students used the word this way. Each day I continue to be amazed by what communism is and was.

In other news for Bulgaria, I have heard that the accession into the EU on the 1st of January 2007 is looking a little bleak. I've heard talk amongst the USAID circles that Bulgaria and Romania (who are set to join the EU together) are ne gotove (not ready) to make the transition into the EU. I think later next week, the official state of the accession will be announed, and most Bulgarian officials and Bulgarians who watch the news closely, belive that the accession into the EU will be delayed by atleast a year, if not more. So definately look out for that announcement- Oct. 25th comes to my mind as the date the report is set to come out, but I could be wrong.

In other BG news, the Bulgarian President, Gerorgi Povolnof (not sure how its spelled in english- that was my best attempt at phonetics!), is in the US today meeting with George Bush! Is exciting only because I now live here (and oddly almost think of myself as bulgarian...) and so pay attention to these things. I'm sure the meeting with be all fun and joy, as the US and BG almost as tight as Bush and Cheney. The BG gov't loves George Bush, but its unclear if the citizens feel the same way.

I'll be honest when I tell you that the last post was made after very little sleep and directly after I got off of the bus from the hike. I'm going to go ahead and expand on the hike right now. Our tour guide was actaully crazy. he got us lost several times (scary!) and often enjoyed breaking out into song. okay, okay, i actaully liked the spontanious song-age part, but all in all, this guys was a bit loopy. I would have to say that one of the things that made me happiest was my drinking water. as we hiked for hour upon hour, we stoped for a pochefka, or break, to have water, rest, etc. well, it was SO COLD that our water stayed ice cold the entire time! so when we were hot and exhausted, we had a prefect beverage to sip on! simple things make me happy. I had a ton of fun because I got to hang out with a group of volunteers that I don't normally spend time with, but with whom I thought had a lot of similar interests. turns out that 9 hours of hiking provides ample opportunities to meet up with people and not only exchange quips about our varying degree of exhaustion, but also getting a feel for what we did back in the states, why we chose to do Peace Corps, what we'll be doing in our town, and how we think we'll survive the winter! On the second day, we went hiking to see the "7 lakes," and even though most of the hike was covered in thick fog, we finally managed to see one of the lakes. Since I rarely saw mountains in the States, I am still spellbound by not only mountains themselves, but also the fact that thousands of feet up the moutains, there are lakes. even though so many people see these lakes each year, in the early morning fog I couldn't help but think that there are still somethings in nature "untouched" by the exploitation of capitalism.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

where have I been?

Sorry y'all...but between writting a mini-grant for peace corps, visiting current volunteers, meeting up with the nashville volunteers, and saving the world (okay, that's just a joke), things in the last three weeks have been insane.

also, sorry if anyone called this weekend (though I doubt that...) because i was 6000 ft above sea level in the beautiful Rila Mountains!!!! we left early early saturday moring, packed down with food for 2 days, several layers of toasty clothing, water to last a lifetime, and excitment to make the 10 hours of hiking our trip called for!!! we forded streams, trudged through mud, sleet, snow, incredible inclines (okay, to me the novice hiker they were "incredible" but to others, maybe they were simply uphill!) and in general, got an amazing workout! we hiked almost 4 hours to our "hija," which is the Bulgarian version of a chalet (note the emphasis of "bulgarian version) on the first day, and then on sunday, we hiked to the "7 lakes" and climed an additional 1000ft. The hija was one of the biggest in the Rila mountain chain, and it had a main floor with a lounge and a cafe, a downstairs with a "bar" and two upper floors containing rooms for 7 people, 2 people, or 11 people. We had about 30 people on the hike, and most of us stayed in 11 person rooms. Surprisinly, even though it was snowing up in the mountains, the hija was actaully warmer than most houses in bulgaria! we were pretty excited to take off wet shoes, socks, and clothing, sip hot chocolate, and bask in the warmth of the hija. when the hiking was all said and done, our crazy guide (who must have been about 60 years old) only got us lost a few times on the way up, and despite the periodically heavy fog, we saw a lot of beautiful landscape and made new friends with volunteers on the hike. all and all...a pretty darn good weekend!

this week, my training site is implementing our community project. We are working with the obshtina, the local government, and youth in the community to plant trees near the center of town. we plan to have members of both ethnic groups in our town (Bulgarians and Roma) participating in the event, and we're very lucky that our Obshtina is so excited to work with us!

Other than that, our site has our final lanuage exam (called the LPI, for language proficiencies interview) on friday morning. my teacher is pushing myself and Anna, one of the other trainees, to pass with "intermediate-mid" which is a full two levels higher than is required by peace corps. I think we should be able to do it, it just means I have to study a bit this week!!

well, i hope that all is well with y'all!!!

Friday, October 07, 2005

here's a picture of our town! hope you like it!