It has been abnormally long since my last post......due to personal and Peace Corps related trips and pure laziness. I am a bit older (maybe wiser) then my last post and I have recently acquired a very energetic kitten from a volunteer in the Radopi mountain region of Bulgaria. My recent activities include an exciting week long vacation in Austria and Slovenia with a side trip to see my Baba in Boboshevo . As far as work opportunities go, they seem to be increasing as the school year draws closer.
I have been living with a kitten since late July, who I lovingly call Lou Lou. He is about 3 months old and sometimes I think he is possibly the spawn of the devil...........young and curious is more like it. Sometimes I feel bad that such a little cat is living alone with me in a studio apartment. He keeps me entertained and I think just about everything I own has become his toy. I haven't decided what I will do with him when it comes time to leave Bulgaria, I have plenty of time to figure out some options but I think its best to leave him with a local youth that would have more time with him and not scar him forever by spending 15 hrs in the darkness of a airplane luggage compartment.
In August I spent a week in Vienna Austria and Ljubljana Slovenia. In Austria went to Palaces of the Hapsburg family, ate apple strudel and sausage and then lazed about on the rolling green lawns in front of art museums. Slovenia is a bit smaller but just as quaint. I enjoyed ancient castles refurbished into local art galleries, riding down the river in a tour boat and spending the day walking around the lake in Bled. The trip was great, full of new experiences and happy moments. I am happy to say I was able to find a perfect hole in the wall sushi restaurant that I ate at, TWICE! :)
When I came back to Bulgaria from my vacation, I had a side trip to my Peace Corps training town, Boboshevo. I spent an evening with my Baba, telling her about my trip, work and answering questions about why I have not found a husband and have not started to have kids yet. This is still baffling to her that I am 24, not married and without children. It was great being back in my old stomping grounds. I saw all my old neighbors and even went with my baba to get her goats with the rest of the neighborhood. Just like old times. Our closest neighbor and fellow goat owner, made me another pair of knitted booties and said if I come back for Christmas that I would get another pair. I have at least 8 pairs at this point. All different colors and patterns. All to keep me toasty warm this winter.
Work lately has been a mixture of local town initiatives and working with the newly arrived trainees. I have been selected to be a Resource Volunteer for the group of volunteers training in Ovchartsi. This is a small village close to Dupnitsa, similar to my village where I spent my training. I will be a resource for them not only for their small group project but also for guidance as they become accustomed to this new lifestyle and after training when they move to their permanent sites. Something like a mentor. I have a great group. Two boys and two girls from all regions of the United States. Currently they are working on a great project proposal to have a day for the local youth in their village where the kids will take part in a photography scavenger hunt (the kids take pictures of different objects / elements in town) and then the pictures will be installed in the town library. The idea is to promote youth action and increase youth interest in the local library. This can also increase tourism and other types of local involvement.
As far as work in my town, I have several initiatives that I am working on. After attending a seminar on how to implement HIV and AIDS educational activities and events in site, I am working with my site mate and two youth to create a program for our local High Schools, private English school and art galleries. Each of these organizations will play a different role in reaching out to the local youth and the community about the issues of HIV and AIDS and how knowledge can lead to prevention.
My main title as a volunteer is "Environmental Education." This is something that I feel is very important for youth. Not only is it important for them to have respect and a connection to the environment but also to be taught about it with active learning. They must be in nature interacting with it to learn about it. I have a connection to a local elementary school who helped to me to hold a meeting with the teachers of this school and discuss my ideas of how to incorporate EE into their programs. They applaud the idea and look forward to having me working with their students after the beginning of the the school year. Recently I organized a meeting with the director of the local orphanage. Many youth volunteers have already been working with this type of institution in their town, but for me I see that the majority of my efforts in the information center (my current host organization) can now be focused elsewhere till the next tourist season. I will be meeting with the director next Thursday in order to discuss what are the needs of the institution and how I can help meet those needs. Ideally I would like to go to the orphanage several times a week, playing with the children, working with them on English, Math, Arts and anything they would be excited to learn about. My Bulgarian tutor is currently writing a project to give these children some school supplies and provide them with an opportunity to interact with the students of the local English School........something like an exchange.
As far as me and how I'm doing. Everyday I feel a little more like I live here.......which is about time because I only have one more year :) I'm making more acquaintances in my apartment building and around town. My Bulgarian language is improving more and more, slowly! And gradually I feel as if my work here is having a greater purpose, which certainly helps me to feel more at peace here and connected to my town.