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26 June 2006

I up with the Texas group on Sunday evening after their trip to Greece and my week-end of rest.  We continued the English classes throughout the mornings from Monday to Friday.  During the afternoons, we attempted to see more of the region.  We even took some time to rest, for we got a bit tired as we continued.  Along with seeing some sights, we met with some people and the Texas team (as well as myself) got a different view of Kochan and the area.
During one of the afternoons, we traveled to visit a couple of old villages.  At one of the villages, the older women gathered together to show their hand-made products and to sell them to us.  Things were a bit more expensive than they wanted to pay, so we didn't buy more than a few things.  From their, we traveled through the ghetto (where Gypsies live-a place I had no idea about!) and wound up into the mountain.  At last, we arrived in a village recognized for it's old style homes.  It was my first trip there.  I tell you, there's so much I have yet to learn!
The director did a very nice job of arranging meals and meetings with different leaders in the community.  We met with a couple of factory owners, Kochan's mayor, and the regional mayor.  The group got a better idea of the region and the business side of it.  They are looking at continuing to help with this region and these meetings helped the Texans to understand more of the "need".  It ended up being a very beneficial trip for both the Americans and the Bulgarians.
On Saturday, I sent the team off to Plovdiv where they had another meeting and took some time to see the sights.  Then on Monday, I met up with them again in Sofia.  While in Sofia, I passed by the Peace Corps. office where I finished up the last of my paperwork.  Around noon, I was officially titled a "RPCV" (Returned Peace Corps. Volunteer), even though I haven't yet returned.  It wasn't sad for me.  It was more as if this was just the next step to take in my life.  Now I'm waiting to know where my next adventure is.  While waiting, I'm going to fly to Germany and Italy for a family vacation.  I'll even show them around Bulgaria. :)  More later.

Posted jasmineinbulgaria at 5:48 PM EEST
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19 June 2006

What a joy it has been hosting this Texas team!  It has been organized "Bulgarian style", which is to say that almost everything is known on a day by day, moment by moment basis.  Itineraries are unheard of here, as is planning ahead.  But the group is patient with me and the Bulgarians, which is a good thing.  My visitor and I traveled to Sofia on Tuesday to pick the other four group members up before returning rather late to Kochan for a good night's sleep.  (The director had found a house for them to rent for their time here, which allows them the freedom that living with host families doesn't quite allow.)   Wednesday was a day left for resting and adjusting to the culture and to jet lag.
Thursday was the first day of their English classes.  They had organized themselves and their lessons into songs, stories, and games/crafts.  The first day they were all together.  By Friday we had too many kids (almost 25) for one group (aside from song time), and they were divided into two groups.  The older kids could figure out most everything that was said and/or read to them.  The younger kids needed a translator to help them out (all of them except for one little boy who spent a year and a half in America).  But the two days gave everyone time to get acquainted and to tweak a few things along the way.
Saturday and Sunday, the group took a trip to Greece while I saw some friends and cleaned a bit.  I'm glad that I took last Monday to go to Bansko for a quick trip.  My guest went with and we shopped a bit, saw some friends, and visited the salon.  It was a great girl's day and ended all too quickly.  If I would have waited, I wouldn't have been able to go "one last time".  Recently, my dad reminded me to "sieze the day", which I'm trying to apply to my life. :)

Posted jasmineinbulgaria at 5:47 PM EEST
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12 June 2006

Students always love to pick on the substitute teacher.  When I was asked to be the substitute teacher for seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth grades, I was a little worried.  Not just for a day, but for a whole week, I was to take on these classes.  This filled my schedule, though afternoons were still free (as villagers were in the fields working).  From Monday to Friday, my days were filled with teaching and finishing up some knitting projects.  I also made it a priority to visit some friends, as I knew it would be my last week in Bulgaria alone.  (Other weeks will be hosting family and friends.)  The week passed, and other than a few problems with the students, it went well.  (I had six students skip on Thursday to go to the market, so I had them copy the text book dictionary.  Sounds like fun, huh?)
Saturday I had reserved for scrapbooking.  I got quite a bit done.  When I get pictures, I often give copies away to those interested.  This leaves me short on pictures (since there are no specials for free doubles).  I figured out which pictures I still needed (which I got developed on Sunday) and organized those I had.  I had an organized mess by the end of the day, and left a lot of captions to write for "another day".  We'll see how far I can get on that before I go home.  (Though mom says I need to have it all done!)
Sunday I went on a picnic to Gotze Delchev with a good friend from the village and her almost three year old son.  We started out at a playground area (his first visit to such a thing) and just let him play.  He was ecstatic!  It was great fun to watch him.  He would go up the stairs, down the slides, run around (the long way) to the stairs, climb up, down the slide, run around, etc., etc., etc.  Then after lunch, we went to another play area and yet another playground.  The poor little boy didn't have any energy to walk by late afternoon!  He was so tired and fell asleep on the bus ride home.  But the pictures we made will be great memories for him and his family.
It was on Sunday that I also met and brought home the first of the Texas team.  She had been traveling around with another group that came earlier and needed a place to stay for a couple of days between the groups.  More in the next entry...

Posted jasmineinbulgaria at 5:46 PM EEST
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5 June 2006

May 31st marked the end of elementary school. My students celebrated by going to the village's disco. It was a good end of the year. And after changing a few grades, the other teachers were pleased. too. I was more lienent with some students and the class teachers didn't agree with my grades, so we "tweaked" a bit.

My days have been filled with a lot more free time with friends out in the fields planting tobacco. That, and only two classes (with my 8th graders) on Thursday and Friday. I filled my time by finishing up projects and books. I have a tendency to start something and then not quite finish it. Usuually this is because I'm so excited to start the next thing and haven't quite learned the art of self-discipline. Someone said it's typical of "gemini" people, but I think that horoscopes are vaque enough to fit any person type. Regardless of any excuse, I still have projects to finish!

Saturday, I took a trip to the town museum of Koprivshtitza. This town has maintained an appearance that resembles that of the late nineteenth century. The houses have beautiful eaves coming off the second stories (a sign of prosperity for merchants back in the day) and are painted in brillant colors. The town was founded in the 14th centruy when Bulgarians came to create a haven from the intruding Ottomon Empire. It's name has three possible translations, depending on the root word. It can come from the translations of: nettle (a plant), dung hill (from the many pastured sheep), or three streams flowing into one river (which runs through the town). I was told to take my pick and now I give you the same offer. Koprivshtitza also has historical roots dating back to the national revival in 1876. On April 20th, the first (premature) shot was heard from the Koprivshtitza bridge (now known as "First Shot Bridge") that started the revolution.

My reason for finally visiting this town at this time was because of a PCV's invite. She was gathering quite a few Americans and Bulgarians together for a BBQ (mixed with Asian salads). It was a wonderful treat! But it was a quick trip, as I returned to my site the next day after a seventeen hour visit.

And now, I prepare to substitute teach for a colleague with some 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th graders. Scary!

Posted jasmineinbulgaria at 12:01 AM EEST
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29 May 2006

I made it to my golden birthday! Friday I celebrated my birthday with my Bulgarian friends. I invited them to a restaurant decorated with balloons and flowers for a typical Bulgarian dinner. We even danced the horo, though not as much as I would have liked. This five day week-end marked the beginning of tobacco planting, which meant many of my guests were tired!

May 24th is Bulgaria's alphabet day. I missed the holiday celebration at the school on account of a dental appointment in Sofia. When I returned, I went to the teacher's banquet (making for a very long day!). May 25th is a school holiday (no school). May 26th (my birthday) fell between these holiday days and the week-end, so we didn't have school. This left a plethera of time that the hard working villagers of Kochan couldn't pass up. The fields were already plowed (the old-fashioned way, with a horse and plow). So, they got busy planting in the fields (by hand!) their small tobacco plants. They tote buckets of water out to the rows of newly planted tobacco. Later, they'll hoe out the weeds. It's a lot fo work all year round for so little money. They're aren't as many contracters as before, so there aren't too many more years of this kind of work in Kochan.

Those that weren't in the fields around the village had already left for Greece for this season's work. Most will also be working tobacco, though a handful go to work as builders.

This leaves for an empty village. I'll be busy getting ready with final preparations for the Texas group and leaving Bulgaria. There's so much to do. We'll see if there's time to finish it all!

Posted jasmineinbulgaria at 7:12 PM EEST
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