13 September 2007

September 8th 2007

Where I’m calling from.

Sometimes I feel so completely suffocated here. I can feel so diminished by the care that is offered by those around me. Life is laughing and I will be celebrating my 23rd birthday in two weeks.

I received a letter from my family this week and it really was wonderful. They all wrote something to me. I have kept it on me ever since I received it, and I immediately wrote them all back. If anyone wants my address, just drop me an email. For security reasons, I can’t really post it here. And I still have yet to speak with anyone back home on the telephone………

This week marks one month that I have lived in my training village. My Bulgarian is to the point where in present simple tense I can ask simple questions, answer with simple answers, and express basic preferences and feelings. When an old grandma stops me on the street to tell me about her tomatoes, the weather, and her granddaughter’s school work in Tampa Bay Florida I can generally understand. The real test comes next week.

On Monday, September 10th, I leave here for a week. I will go by bus to the HUB training site and find a big map of Bulgaria painted on the floor. It is there that I will finally learn where I will be placed for the next two years. During Monday and Tuesday I will meet my counter-part, learn about my future work place, and finally depart for a three-day visit. I am running with the assumption that most of the people I will encounter will know Bulgarian, Roma, or Turkish. Lets see how my language stacks up against that!

This week my host mom called a meeting with my language trainer. I was under the assumption that I had committed some huge offence. Maybe I did, and I still don’t understand, but as far as I can tell the most significant issue was that my hair is routinely wet in the morning after my shower. Mom is worried about me. And I feel like an ass for being frustrated, but there are some things that I feel like I know. I know that I can close my window at night, I know when I like to shower and I know how to live like an autonomous human being. But in this culture, mom is the purveyor of all ideas and materials domestic. She has made it clear that in our interactions I am her American son, she says the same things to me that she says to her son Georgie.

This is not to say that I am all glum, rather I try to walk around with smiles and I make a point to thank my parents for everything they do for me. But I try to assert my independence in small ways. Like last night I decided to make a dish for dinner. I made lentil soup, except it bubbled way over and made a big mess. And they would not let me even try to clean it up. So there I am, featuring my incompetence front and center.

And it continues: mama insists on scooping my ice cream because she says its too hard for me. Looking over my shoulder when I boil my coffee.

I can recognize in my actions and their consequences a desire to control conditions. The lesson, I think, is to let life happen and let in the love that others are willing to give. Who would have thought that it could be this hard?

PS. My mom just walked into the room with a little Bulgarian pastry and some knitted slippers she made for me. J
PSS. This week I started and finished The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (thanks Christopher!) My favorite part, probably because I am so far away, was when the protagonist was crossing the Puget Sound by ferry and found Seattle for the first time. “In the deepened dusk fog ahead the big read neons saying: Port of Seattle. And suddenly everything Japhy had told me about Seattle began to seep into me like cold rain, I could feel it and see it now, and not just think it. It was exactly like he’d said: wet immense, timbered, mountainous, cold, exhilarating, challenging.”

PSSS. I started Beloved by Toni Morrison last night. Amazing!

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