We’ve been traveling a lot over the past couple weeks and we’re glad to be home this weekend. It actually felt like we were . . .busy! Imagine that! Kate and I are working on a project right now that will hopefully happen this summer. We are applying for a grant for an environmental-arts camp. If we get the money, it should be a good time. About four local artists and environmentalists will be organizing and running the week-long camp for about thirty students. It will be at a “hizha”, or a “hut”, which is the direct translation, but it’s closer to something like a lodge. After the week of camp, we’ll be having an exhibition at the gallery in the center of Silistra to display the artwork and the environmental lessons learned. After the summer exhibition, another exhibition will travel around the local high schools, with pictures, comments, and artwork by the students from the camp during next school year. So last weekend we were in Sofia, talking with some people from PC about our summer project, trying to get our grant fine-tuned for the reviewing committee. Every PC teacher has to do a summer project of some type. Other PCV’s are doing camps, others are teaching English to adults, and others are trying to locate computers and such for their schools.
School is wrapping up for us – my 11th class students are ready to graduate in two weeks, my 8th class students take their big entrance test, which, if they pass, will allow them to study English for another four years. They have to take a written and oral test, which is quite nerve-wracking for them. I’ll be listening to them all day during their oral exams in a few weeks, so I’m drilling them on speaking quickly, from the top of their heads. That’s probably the area they need the most help, since most of their English education is learned from dictations, essays, and written tests. Besides, it’s my strength here – where else are you considered an expert at something simply because you were born into it? Sometimes, no most of the time, when a student asks me if you can say such-and-such in English I can easily answer yes or no, but I can’t always give a very good explanation for why. Many times, students know the grammar better than I do. I just know what sounds right and what doesn’t! Kate will be finishing up her school year in mid-June and I’ll be plugging away with my 10th class students until June 30th. But I think we’ll all be checked-out long before then.
It feels really good to nearly have one year of school under our belts. We’ve been here for eleven months now . . . it’s amazing to think that we’ve been living in Eastern Europe for that long. At this point, it doesn’t even feel like we’re living in a place far away. America seems far away to us, not the other way around. For a long time, we felt far away from America. It’s taken about a year, but I think our lives have somewhat settled here. It’s not that our whole lives have landed here, but it’s more of a feeling that life here is becoming normal for us. This is where we are living and that’s just life for us at this point. The things that seemed so foreign to us when we first arrived now seem commonplace. It’s not that we don’t miss home at all – I just had a huge craving for a thick, greasy pizza this morning, with real mozzarella cheese and not this Bulgarian wannabe-mozzarella, “kashkaval.” During the first six months, I think, our lives were dangling somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean – our thoughts, our daily activities, and so on. We were here, but we weren’t quite here, if you know what I mean. Over the past six months, all those things have eventually caught up to our physical location and they’re mostly all here. I think that whenever I felt one of those things catch up with me, it was like a boost of energy. There’s still a life waiting for us when we return, and we’ll never really live in Bulgaria like a Bulgarian, but I think this is what’s supposed to happen in PC.
The PCV from the B-6 group, five years ago, came back this week to visit her students, now my students, because she promised them that she would visit them when they became seniors. She came during my 11th class, when I was trying to have a discussion with them about their future. We were expecting her and as soon as she came in, the students clammed up and they were like little shy boys and girls – just moments before they were yakking away!! They were both a little surprised to see each other, even thought they were both expecting to see each other. It took a while for the students to warm up, but they eventually opened up and then headed out to a café. It must have been amazing for her to come back to Bulgaria, after spending so much time here and being such a big part of who she is now. We talked briefly after the students left and agreed to meet her at a café later on. She mentioned how she thinks about her experience here in Bulgaria every day, even three years after returning to the States. I can imagine how this experience can do that. It’s such a big part of your life – it IS your life for two years and it’s such a mind-bending experience.
Copyright 2000/01/02, Josh and Kate Miller.