Friday, December 09, 2005

Excerpts from my written journal

Since I don't have stead access to a computer, I often use "low-traffic" work times to jot down notes, sentiments, or just plain ol' feelings in my trusty little notebook (which goes EVERYWHERE with me). here are a few excerpts taken from different days, varying from days of a "can do" attitude, to days when I wish I were back in the states.

"...I've starting to envision my role now. Basically, requested an "upstart" organization, and now I"m trying to find my way and define who I am, what I can do, and how we can work together. Some days I find myself so frustrated because I have nothing- no computer, no financier/sponsor, no youth group, no real place- but I also see all the opportunity and resources that COULD BE. I see what my organization could achieve, and its these moments that get me through the periods of over-whelming helplessness and nothingness. Then, other days, I realize that no matter how empowered I feel, my language is a limiting factor. Some days I believe that fluency in the language would make my job too easy. Of course, this is nothing more than a 'grass is greener' type dream- they're are still people to convince and there is trust to gain. Even if I know how, sometimes I am met by completely disbelief of possibility- people believe that if it hasn't happened before, they shouldn't try it. I see my role as developing into a cheerleader and personal coach of development and know-how. People here can do it, someone just needs to convince them that they can. I don't have all the answers, and I refuse to pretend that I do, but if I believe that with a little trust, a little facilitation, and a dash of cheerleading, my time in bulgaria will be a success."

"...Right now, people assume I"m here to help- and will help- because I can speak english and I"m American. Don't underestimate the power of persuation I exude (in their minds) with the simple aura of my American-ness. Sometimes I think people believe that my mere presence will solve everything- that I have fail-proof ideas, and guaranteed sponsors. Sooner of later (def. sooner), I will fail them as their American hero. And I'll become just like them- another powerless "chobek" (person)- unable to help them escape from the trap of discrimination and crippling illiteracy. SO this is why I must earn their trust- because someday, we will all wake up and my celebrity status will fade. Without their trust, what will I become? Just another chovek. But with their trust- this fateful day will come and pass. and the next day, we'll start again, not as the heroic American and her marginally functioning NGO- but a a team- dedicated to the same goal, and unafraid of failure."

I mentioned before that I see my language barrier as the real hindrance of my work here. However, this is a deceptive and, thankfully fleeting, belief. It is foolish to believe that speaking their language is synonymous with the acquisition of the ability to communicate.


I'm SO conflicted in my mind about- well- Communism

People were happy. They had food, jobs, vacations. Buildings had heat, electricity. Kids had clubs and activities and avenues through which to shape interests into abilities. But they couldn't speak.

Welcome to free enterprise. You might get fired, but even if you aren't, you still can't feed your family. You have to buy your son a 2nd hand, women's coat for the impending winter. You hope that you can stay warm in the house, but you're not sure if you'll be able to pay for the electricity. And your kids. There's nothing for them to do- except to go to cafes and watch the WWF on TV. Vacation is a dream for you. But you can speak.

Which is a better life to lead-
*One under silence, but within a system that guarantees survival
* One where you can talk and talk, but at the end of the day, your stomach is grumbling.

Do we choose hunger and freedom? Oppression and plenty? The question becomes- which is more important to the human existence. Piece of mind, or a piece of the pie?

And then ask yourself- what if they old system did something good. What if the old system did something good, but with subversive intentions? What if the outcome was only consequential to the goal? What if they educated you, not for your own good, but so that you would become assimilated? What if you were raised in place where assimilation was the end result, and your entire culture was stolen away from you? What if today's regime refuses to help those in desperate poverty? At what point does idealism faulter? At what poin do you remember the rosy, and never the rough?

most of the Roma remember the times under communism as good times. People could be educated, but this was because the state wanted Roma to abandon their culture and "become bulgarian." somehow, racism seemed like less of a problem then. now it appears to be escalted, people poorer, and with less education. less than 1/2 percent of Roma in Bulgaria have a college education. Can you imagine??????

lots of people have fond rememberances of communism.



At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toni hang in there you are doing great things for mankind!



At 5:56 PM, Blogger vassi said...

Hey Toni,
I second what your Uncle Jim said! It's natural to feel helpless and hopeless when looking at the magnitude of problems people deal with on a daily basis. It's important to realize that you are not there as a 'fix-all' to everybody's problem. The very fact of your being there already does something may be an accepting look, a kind greeting, a sign that someone cares, that someone outside of the Roma community has the desire to help, to support them in some capacity. There was a bumper sticker that said something along these lines: You may not be anybody in the eyes of everybody in the world, but in somebody's eyes, you may *be* the world. Live for the people in whose lives you can make a difference, even if it's just with a hug or a smile. It can mean the world to someone. I can vouch for your ability to shake the world of the people around you in a very positive way.
Keep being you,


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