Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A few unanswered questions

Andrea asked me some questions, so here they are!

Do your colleagues much speak English, if any?
This is an excellent question! not really!! Occasionally, I hear an array of English vocab such as "pig" (when describing what I was about to order at a restaurant) "when is your 'happy birthday'" (in reference to my birthday, obviously) to "ok," to "how are you." These are pretty basic phrases that most any bulgarian can utter. Yesterday I was lucky enough to hear "I'm going to go smoke some pot!" which I am pretty sure was gleaned from the TV, given the high influx of American programming. On the other hand, there is a woman who works in the local government who speaks perfect British English. Basically, it depends.

How many people do you work with?
Again, this depends! I was told that I would be working alongside 15 volunteers. My first week, I was accompanied everywhere, from the pizza stand to the post office to the bus stop, with a hand-ful of Roma youth. As time has past, however, I find myself working with only one woman. All volunteers have a "counterpart" in their organization who is Bulgarian. Mine studies at a university in another town, and I've only met her once. The boys that I used to work with have secured jobs. So while I'd like to say that I work with more people, the number of people I work with is typically indicative of the local unemployment rate.

Do you have your own office, or will you? If not, do you have your own desk?
I do have my own office, but I don't work there because its in an isolated building. Rightfully so, the director of my NGO thought it would be best if I worked in his wife's office, so that I don't suffer from complete human withdrawal. She (Valia) is the regional expert on minority questions, and she works for the local government. Its actually really good that I work in her office (sit in a chair in her office) because I get to see everyday Roma people that I will eventually be working with, and because she and I work hard together to create new ideas and plans of action.

Do you work in a big building with lots of other people?
I work in the administrative side of the municipal government building, so there are always loads of people about, since my town is about 85,ooo people. There are security guards at the front door, secretaries, and then our office. I used to be really scared of the security guards given that my bulgarian was pretty pathetic in the beginning, but after a month here and a batch of cookies, I have more friends at the office! There is also an kitchen/restaurant thing here too- so each day we receive a menu and choose what we want (reasonably priced!) for soup, main course, and dessert. how cool is that!?!?!? one meal that I don't have to cook for myself! I usually go for the rice with peppers and either pork or chicken. trust me, this stuff is good!

How far is work from your apartment?
As best I can figure, its about 7 or 8 km from where I live, to where I work. Everyday I take a bus (they come about every 12 minutes, depending on if its the top of the hour or not) for the equivalent of $0.35, and the trip is about 13 minutes long. and yes, i really did time it. I also work in the center of town, so on the weekends that I don't go to sofia, I'll come into the center to browse or eat in a restaurant.

What are your work hours going to be?
again, this depends! some volunteers (like the english teachers) only work about 15 hours a week, while there are others (like the community development volunteers) who work closer to 40. I usually come in around 9:30am and leave at 5:30, but as of late, Valia realizes that there isn't much to do at the moment, so she sometimes encourages me to leave around 5pm. And anytime another volunteer comes into town, i get to take a coffee break! this means I get to be AWOL for as long as I want! well, i guess AWOL isnt correct, but i get to wonder around without leaving a detailed itinerary- so that rocks.

Is there stuff you will have to take home to work on, or can you leave work at work?
my first week- I wrote a grant. I took it home with me over the weekend because I was so excited about the work. Now that we are waiting to hear about the financing of the project, I have less to do. Most of my work is on the internet, so I can't take that home with me.

Who are you working with to write the grant?
Three people at work collaborated to write our project, which we are proposing to the Dem. Commission through the US Embassy and USAID. I went to a consultation session about 10 days ago. It went pretty well, but right now I have to convey the meaning of "sustainable" and a few things like that to my Bulgarian coworkers. this idea is pretty foreign (thank you, communism), and most NGOs just want a sponsor to give them money for a year-round project. then, when the project is up, they want to find a new sponsor to give them the same money again. I think my biggest goal will be to get my coworkers thinking in the mentality of "how will the program replicate at the end of the year?" instead of "okay, so who's next in line to dabat pari (give us money)."

do you enjoy metric conversions?
I do! its kind of disgusting. BUT as it was one of the few things my public education afforded me well, I run with it. I even use my ability to do conversions in my head as a party trick. okay, that's not true- but I do have to convert everything! ewww. thank goodness I brought american measuring spoons!

stay tuned for more adventures in my refridgerator-less and limited-income life!!!!


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