August 21, 2007
Today was a special day. Our class took a field trip to Kustindel, the largest city in the area with over 50,000 people. That’s a shocker when I live in a village only 16 square kilometers. Kustindel is known from many things, but the two most important are its natural hot springs and ancient Roman ruins. The hot springs feed into numerous public baths throughout the city and the Roman ruins are perfect for picnics. Aside from a quick climb on a 2,000-year-old wall, none of that was on my agenda. Instead, today was the day that I got to see two examples of the types of work sites I get to pick from for my permanent which I will move to in ten weeks and live in for two to three years
The first stop was an orphanage (dom) for children aged 3-7 years. (note: In Bulgaria there is not a foster care system. Here, when children are removed from the families they are sent to the ‘dom.’ Also, many children in this system have been given up by their parents because the family can not afford to properly care for their child. It is for these reasons that what Americans think of as a orphanage cannot adequately describe this institution. We call it a dom.) There were ten of us trainees visiting today. As we walked down the driveway to the gates of the dom the 29 children saw us and ran to the gate screaming. When we walked through the gates they were so excited that they started jumping all over us. We have a good 20 minutes of play with the kids before we went inside for a tour. The kids were so precious. Many were very engaging, wanting us to dance with them or push them in little cars or bikes. One little boy walked up to me when I was kneeling down on the ground. In Bulgarian I said hi and asked his name. He did not respond, so I pointed to my self saying “Az sum Shaun, a via?” (my name is Shaun, what’s yours?). He still said nothing, rather he looked up at me and put his arms around my neck and buried his head in my shoulder. Another child attempted to take my glasses, and when he failed at that he tried to take my wristwatch off of me. I can most certainly see myself working at this type of place.
Next we stopped at a local NGO (non governmental organization) that focused on the problem of human trafficking in Bulgaria. Peace Corps Volunteers (PVCs) seem to fill many different roles working in NGO’s across Bulgaria. Many use experiences from the States in direct care to offer different perspectives on programs, help with English grant writing, or simply help with organization and management. I am interested in this type of work for several reasons. First, In addition to my direct care experience, I have a background in fundraising, office management, and community and volunteer organizing from working on campaigns. Second, I would absolutely love the experience of learning to work within the frameworks of the European Union in such a new member state. And finally, I think that this type of position and experience could help me professionally once I leave the Peace Corps. I know that this type of placement will also be challenging for me in particular. First, I worry about my own competence. Do I have the experience necessary to bring something productive to the table? Second I worry about the idleness of this type of office job. Will the slow pace of doing business in Bulgaria bum me out?