March 1, 2002
All over Bulgaria, on the lampposts, trees, doors, sides of buildings, and in windows, are notices about death.† Let me explain.† Iím sure that I wrote about this in earlier entries but to explain again, families post multiple notices with pictures of their deceased family members around their neighborhood with a personal message to the one who died.† Itís quite unnerving when you first arrive here.† After a while, they begin to fade into the background of life here, but I still catch myself glancing at them and looking right into the eyes of the pictures.† I didnít know any of the people in those pictures before yesterday.
Iím not really sure how to write about this and it feels a little strange writing on this keyboard about it.† I found out yesterday that one of my students jumped out of her seventh-story apartment.† As I entered school on Tuesday, students were huddled in quiet groups.† Many of them were crying and staring out the glass entrance way.† The whole school seemed quiet.† I soon found out what happened from some other students.†
She was sixteen years old and my student of almost two years.† I saw her learn English almost from scratch.† I walked upstairs, through the hallways and to the teacherís room.† Teachers were in there, solemn and knowing.† I asked another English teacher if she had heard and she barely responded to me.† I walked up to my classroom and I had no energy to teach.† This class, which was a different class from the girlís class, was waiting for me.† We were going to read a chapter from the Red Badge of Courage and that certainly didnít seem appropriate at the time.† I didnít know what to say and I had very little to say to them.† I was sad and shocked, and so were they.† My students didnít have much to say either, though I know that speaking about such things, even in your native language, is difficult Ė let alone trying to speak about it in another.† I suggested that we go somewhere, maybe down to the park.† They agreed, though only eight of the twenty students there ended up making it down to the park with me.† I didnít mind.† Some went home, others went to a cafť.† We sat and talked.† We talked about what we think happens after we die and we talked about more mundane things too.†
I know that she was sad. †She hadnít come to class this week and the previous week she told me just to give her a poor mark on her oral test because she didnít study.† She wrote an essay last semester that was scribbled and messy, though it was very good.† I told her that she did a good job, but I had to give her one grade lower because it was late.† I remember that she was sad, even last year.†††
When I came back for the rest of my classes, a little less shocked, but no less sad, I spoke to my 8th graders about it.† Most of them, because theyíre in the youngest classes in the school, didnít know her.† I taught the classes and after, on my way out of the building, there was her face on a notice in the entranceway of the school.† I was taken aback again and I followed her face as I walked out the one door that services the whole school.† I couldnít believe that she was staring back at me.† I also couldnít believe that it was posted already Ė barely 24 hours after her death.† The notice says, ďOur last goodbye.Ē† In her picture, she isnít smiling, though thatís a typical picture for Bulgaria.† She looks a little defiant.†
I keep imagining her last moments, the grief of her parents and family, and just how sad she must have been at that moment to do such a thing.† I wish she hadnít forgotten how precious she was to so many people.†† It seems unreal that she wonít be in English class on Monday afternoon.†
Her funeral was this morning.† In one month to the day of her death another notice will be posted, then another in six months, and then another at a year, and so on.†
Copyright 2000/01/02, Josh and Kate Miller.