Monday, March 19, 2007

who needs novocaine?

Yes, I full-heartedly ask you..."who needs novocaine?" NOT ME!!!! is the resounding answer in Bulgaria tonight. Today I had to get three cavities filled in Sofia, and our dentist is notorious for doing one and sending you out the door. However, today, he and i struck a little bargain. If I agreed to abstain from novocaine, he would do all three in one sitting!!! its like, the JACKPOT...until of course, you realize this actually means no novocaine. "Dr. Dean" also told me that if at any point I felt I was in too much pain, I could just squeak and he'd stop drilling in order to dope me up with some drugage. That seemed fair enough to me, so I was like "Let's do it Dr. Dean!" Anyone have an idea where this is going? Well, things went pretty good and I was feeling like a rock star until....oowwwwww!!! nerve, nerve, nerve!! When I made my pathetic attempt to alert our darling doctor, he simply replied "Well, I'm almost done now, so just hang in there. you're so brave." hahaha. I'm so brave? what am I, a 4 year-old? Anyway, some people learn from history, but I am apparently not one of them! this process happened again with the next tooth- wincing, squeaking and commentary on my bravery... BUT, when it was all over, I got to return to work and proudly proclaim that I, like every other Bulgarian, was able to handle a visit the the dentist without novocaine!

So while I continue journaling my "painful" experiences in Bulgarian, let me bring you to the next installment...teaching English!! a few months ago, I made contact with one of the local private language schools. These private schools are, on some level, a form of tutoring. You go to normal school, and in your free time, you attend these classes a la "extra-curricular activities." This typically means that the students are highly motivated because they have selected this activity and its FAR from free. The teachers at this school approached me to see if I'd be interested in teaching a few of their classes. This was not a long term commitment, but something I could do when I had free time, when the teachers were overloaded, etc. The first weekend in March, I decided to attempt this "teaching English thing" with high level speakers. I. was. petrified.

I was panicked about WHAT on EARTH I would do with them. Make word lists? play games? read outloud from newsweek?? This may seem strange (if not irrational) to all of you!! After all, wasn't this an ENGLISH class that I was about to lead? I prepared a topic on the American educational system (compare and contrast with the Bulgarian model), and a short debate on the meaning of the word "freedom." The day that I taught class marked the official Independence from the Turks day in Bulgaria, so I thought it would be a nice effort on my part. The beginning was a bit like pulling teeth, but by the end the kids were talking and even doing some of the things I'd asked! Then the teachers asked me to use the same lesson the next day with a new group of students, and I agreed. The second day went much better and was borderline fun! For me, the real highlight came during the "questions and comments" section of the lesson. One of the girls asked me if high school students segregate themselves in America, if sororities were real, was it advisable to join one, had i joined one, etc. As it turned out, she had a favorite film, "Mean Girls!!!!" I also love this movie, so if this student wasn't 14 years old, we would probably be best friends...

okay, that was just a quick update! My friend Cindy from Vandy is coming this weekend! she is a PCV in macedonia and only live about 8 hours (max, with layovers) away! If we were in America, we'd certainly live further apart, so what are they odds that we'd live close together as PCVs?????

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Empowering or Embarrassing? Int’l Women’s day ...

Tomorrow on March 8th, I will be celebrating not the fact that I am a woman, but that I am a smart, capable human being who is committed to efforts to empower women around the globe.

But my plate will be a bit full, as I’ll also be fighting indifference and a bit of ignorance. This “holiday” is a chance for all of humanity to celebrate the accomplishments of women throughout history, to be thankful for their accomplishments, and to empower a new generation of “world citizens” to believe in a society where “all (wo)men are equal.”

And even though I am thankful, I’m not satisfied. As long as I live in a country where I at times feel like a second-class citizen, I am not satisfied. As long as I know that I live in a country where equal work doesn’t mean equal pay, I am not satisfied. As long as I know there are women in the world who are denied education, who are denied reproductive education and choices, who live in abject poverty- as long as I know that women subsist in these conditions, I am not satisfied.

I am not satisfied because the fight is not over. While we Americans fuss about our busy schedules and homes with two working parents, we forget that not every woman has the luxury to jet away to her executive job, dropping the kids off at day-care (2 year waiting list!) on the way. Somewhere along the way, I think the idea of equality was replaced with the idea of “good enough.” So what if my university degree yields a lower salary than the exact degree held by a male peer, I can still get an education, can’t I? Or, True, very few women hold political office, but we get to vote, don’t we? It seems to me that we’ve become so accustomed to “good enough” that we’ve forgotten the passion with which many good men and women fought for our rights, freedom, and so-called equality today. But I digress…

The history of this holiday is amazing. It’s truly a story of women rising up together to change public policy- to show their strength and prove to labor organizations that they no longer would accept being underpaid and overworked!! (grrrrr!) I am, however, saddened that this holiday instead is used as an excuse for presents, flowers and time off of work to drink and party. This is the indifference and ignorance that I was speaking of earlier. If we believe in the power of people working together for social change, if we believe that women around the world have yet to achieve equality (but that they deserve it), if we believe that everyone’s quality of life will be raised once women receive education and are able to freely make their own reproductive choices, then I believe we own it to ourselves to CELEBRATE in the name of the accomplishments which we’ve attained thus far, and in the name of those which we *will* achieve.

Every day is a day in which we should strive towards equality. Every day is an opportunity to empower a child or make a difference in someone’s life. Every day is International Women’s Day.

Tomorrow on March 8th, I will be celebrating not the fact that I am a woman, but that I am a smart, capable human being who is committed to efforts to empower women around the globe. Yes, tomorrow I’ll celebrate humanity, its fighters, its successes- and I’ll also celebrate that I’m in this fight to the finish.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

assorted pieces of news

I think my favorite Bulgarian holiday is March 1st, "Baba Marta." There are about a zillion variations on the fable behind the story, but the important thing to know is; it involves spring, storks, and the colors of red and white. I'm sure some clever volunteer will blog about this holiday, and I'll post a link to it later on.

so why do I like it?

because Baba Marta is the ultimate gift-giver's paradise!!!! the week following March 1st, the streets and main shopping areas are lined, and I mean LINED, with individuals selling "martinitzi." Martinitzis take the form for bracelets, cloth broaches for your jacket, necklaces, and rings/trinkets- the important part is the red/white combination of yarn. Some bracelets have colorful stones or beads (the turkish eye or a heart are popular) or are embroidered with your name, zodiac sign, or favorite football team. These martinitzi are exchanged between friends, family, peers, and coworkers in preparation for the welcoming on spring, so the more people you know, the more martinitzi you get and receive!!!! and at the low low price of 30 stotinki (about $0.20), you can buy to your heart's desire! They are so cool because individuals create the designs and think up new ideas and you can truly find a unique bracelet. Okay, I will try and take some pictures so that this makes more sense...but seriously, I love this holiday!

Right now at work we are collecting offers for our tech equipment that we'll buy for our USAID grant. It has been a bit frustrating because we have very specific price ranges for each item we buy, and not all the companies we are working with understand that! For example, we say "okay 1500 BGN for a laptop is our max" and we get offered one for 1900. hahahah. we are getting excited about designing our website, and we're planning our first power-point presentation led activity. On March 8th, the world apparently celebrates "International Women's Day" (minus America! I'd never heard of this before last year), so we are creating a presentation on women in Bulgarian history. Our presentation won't be until the end of the month, but it will be really cool because someone from the embassy will be here and will present a similar powerpoint on women in American history! I hope it turns out cool.

Speaking of women in American history, Ann Coulter continues to pollute every accomplishment ever achieved by women. This woman says the most extraordinary things I've ever heard and is perhaps one of the most intolerance people I have ever interacted with. She recently hinted that John Edwards was a "faggot" at the Conservative Policitical Action Conference. And okay, I agree that everyone has a right to their opinion, but what is that about? If John Edwards is in fact a "faggot," does this somehow affect his ability to be President? Last time I checked, that's a big resounding NO! So then what's the point of mentioning it? I know that sometimes it seems like we "liberals" are pushing society into a highly "PC-ed" language, but I'm forever in favor of decreasing the amount of hate speech in public, in private, and in the media. Anyone with me on that?