Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cereal Killer

This is a post for my AUBG class!

Edit: For those of you who are confused by this post, I made this to demonstrate blog making to a group of international students at a summer camp. I apologize for the graphic content but it held their attention long enough, indeed.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sorry about my absence!

Zdraveytey everyone!

So this entry is about a year too late but I’m going to type it up anyway. This is, in no particular order, the list of things that I miss plus a little bit of an explanation. I blame you guys if I end up crying by the end of it.

1) Console gaming. Okay, this one is at the top because I really really miss it. I brought my game boy but that can only get so far.

2) Cable television. I could technically get this one but I would be required to buy a TV and the channels would mostly be in Bulgarian anyway.

3) Not being hot/cold when indoors. My apartment doesn’t have the best heating so in the winter I’ve got to line my windows with tape so my heat doesn’t leak out. There’s also a distinct lack of effective ceiling fans here so the summers can be a thing.

4) Friends and Family. Your spot at number 4 does not mean that I miss you less than my video games. It’s just that I thought of you fourth. Don’t give me that look. My feet are really cold right now and they’re in socks.

5) A bed where my head is against a wall/flat surface. This seems like a weird thing to miss, but you don’t quite understand how inconvenient not having that wall there actually is until you’ve lived like that for a year and a half.

6) A washing machine! Hand washing clothes is actually not bad during the summer. You’re working with cold water and it leaves you smelling like detergent which, on a hot summer day in which you’ve been sweating, isn’t all that bad a thing. The real problem is during the winter when you need to decide whether you’ll use your hot water (a limited quantity) or cold water (a painful quantity) to rinse your underwear. The answer isn’t always obvious.

7) Local nerds. My site has been pretty noticeably “Jock-y”. My kids love playing football (or soccer to you heathens) and there’s a table tennis club down the road from the school. What they DON’T do is read or enjoy fantasy games. Dungeons and Dragons was a bust this summer due to that. It was rather disappointing when I learned that a large fraction of my students haven’t watched, much less read, the Harry Potter series. They’re not the best movies (although the newest one on IMAX was fun to watch) but they definitely have their value.

8) Bookstores. Yeah there are bookstores here, but nothing along the lines of a Barnes and Noble where you can pick a book up from a shelf and hide in a corner till the restackers kick you out. Also, the books are 90% Bulgarian. It’s like looking at a man shouting at me from behind sound-proof glass. Mister, I know you’re trying to tell me something but there’s a barrier in between us that’s preventing me from caring.

Now I want to talk about FOODS that I miss. This part is actually really hard for me to type without being a little sad.

1) Delivery. Any kind of delivery. I’d take anything. Pizza, Chinese, Indian… Anything for cold days in which I don’t want to leave my living room.

2) Seafood. Recently I got some kind of stomach bug from what could’ve been an open can of tuna. I know what you’re thinking. “Zack, you fool! You’re not supposed to eat old tuna. That is what makes you a fool.” I reply, “No! What makes me a fool is my constant need to watch video game videos for games I won’t play for a year!” The tuna was in the fridge and frozen. I’ll admit that it was opened two days prior but it was most certainly in reason. That hasn’t stopped me from stopping my eating of Tuna.

3) Seafood again. I also miss shellfish. A story for you all, I received a package from home shortly after I arrived at site. It contained a poorly planned bag of half-stale Jamaican water crackers. For those of you not in the know, these things are big dry crackers that do nothing but strain your jaw and make a huge mess with all of the crumbs. I then found a can of mussels in my local store, since which I haven't been able to find them. I spent the afternoon combining the two in euphoric bliss. That being said, please don’t send me crackers. They won’t make it.

4) Beef. You’d think with all the damn cows I see on the road that beef would be an easily accessible thing. It is not. On my list of things to eat when I return home is as large a steak as possible cooked medium-rare. Any kind of potato on the side would be aces as well. For a vegetable side, I’d pick asparagus if available. Broccoli if not.

5) Milkshakes and smoothies. This one is mostly my fault. Blenders aren’t hard to come by here. I just can’t seem to ever get around to buying one because it never occurs to me. Also, one of the bigger ingredients to the latter drink is missing here which brings me to…

6) Ice. I miss getting ice with my drinks. It might be a European thing but ice isn’t a standard when you order a glass of water (which is never free, by the way) and it’s always a pleasant surprise to find it anywhere. Another story. I was having dinner with Anna and Carolyn over the summer at a restaurant in my town. I ordered rakia which, if you remember from a much earlier entry, is highly concentrated alcohol. The waitress brought it out with an accompanying glass of ice cubes. I was visibly happy and this made me want to order alcohol more often. After sharing a couple with the girls, I savored the coolness of the ice in my drink… until the waitress showed up again to take away the last four cubes. To that waitress: I’m sorry that I shouted at you. I might have overreacted, but, damn it, you were about to take my ice cubes.

7) Alfredo. When you order a pasta dish with shrimp and oysters, you’re not supposed to serve the damn thing with red sauce.

Again, I’d like to apologize for the incredibly late post. I’d also like to apologize for the lack of pictures but then again most of them would just be of me crying into my hands. Finally I’d like to say that even though I miss lots of stuff, this is not a list of things I want people to send me. That would be mostly impractical or impossible. It’s not like you can send someone a hiding place in a bookstore. Not unless you sent a large empty box. Next time, I’ll try to fill you all in on the goings on over here and what has transpired over the last few months. Don’t worry, that sentence was needlessly ominous. I just happened to take the GREs over the summer and I needed to find some use of the vocabulary we needed to study.

This is Bulgaria and, unsurprisingly, it lacks things.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


Zdraveytey everyone!

So it’s been almost 2 months since my last post and I think I know why. I wrote too much and got sick of writing when I was talking about Egypt, and that wasn’t even in Bulgaria. Lots of things have happened in the last two months as well. The new volunteers have arrived (87 of them!), I went to the Rose Festival in Karlovo, I went to Vratsa to help train new volunteers and I finally finished a project that I’d been working on for months with 2 other volunteers. I have also placed a ton of pictures onto my photo gallery about each of these so go take a look because I’m not going to be posting any pictures in this post. Let’s just say that I’m lazy. Well, today I want to talk about the project.

I might have mentioned this, but in my region there are only 4 volunteers. Including myself, there are 2 B24s and a B23. (On a side note, that means that all of these volunteers will be gone by the end of October.) (On another side note, I’ve confirmed that at least 3 more volunteers will be coming to my region at the end of next month.) (On a final side note, I presume that I’ll be promoted to primary Security Warden of my region.) (Or relieved of my position.) (I’m not sure which yet.) I’ve been working with the B24, Shannon, and the B23, Mary, on a football league involving our respective villages and one other.

The basic structure of the league was that each school would have two teams: a team for 3rd – 5th graders and a team for 6th – 8th graders. Each team would have or travel to matches over the course of a month and a half and at the end there would be a big tournament to determine the final placement. The main goal was to have them meet with other students and have a good time while bringing as many people together as possible.

This seems simple, but there were a bunch of problems behind the scenes. We needed to find transportation for the kids. We needed to get insurance for those rides. We needed to organize the kids for which we were buying the insurance for the transportation. We needed to arrange the venues to which the kids would go to with their insurance-enabled transportation. We needed to buy some of the equipment for the venues with which the insurance-enably-transported kids would play. We needed to acquire prizes for the final tournament in which the insurance-enably-transported kids would play at the now-properly-equipped venues. And we needed to gain the approval from the directors of the schools so that the insurance-enably-transported kids could play in the now-properly-equipped venues to win their shiny, new prizes.

I would to say that I was a huge part in all of this. I would love to say that I was able to pull the group together and help communicate with the Bulgarian whoevers that needed to be spoken to. Unfortunately, I cannot do any of that. Other than working on the problems that involved my town directly, I barely had anything to do with this project. All of the credit goes to Shannon and Mary. This was Shannon’s project and Mary was brought in towards the beginning. They had all of the logistics planned out; they spoke with all of the relevant people; they got schools where they needed to go. I was only here to be the volunteer to represent my town.

I know I said that I wouldn’t post any pictures but I’m giving credit where it’s due. None of this would’ve been possible without either of them.

These are the faces of winners!

All of their efforts make me feel a little bad about what I’m about to tell you: My teams took home the gold. Adding together both records, my town had a 7-1 run. Our older kids only lost their first game 0-1. After that they seemed to get angry and they won the next games 7-0, 5-3 and 3-0. Our little kids were the doubtless best of the four schools. They won all of theirs 5-0, 1-0, 6-1 and 2-0. Looking at them now, I suspect that some of those scores are wrong but the point is that they won and that is worth about one more picture.

These are also the faces of winners!

At the end of the day, though, it wasn’t about winning or losing. Everyone had a good time. Our closing ceremony was nothing but smiles as the kids all received their respective awards. It was also all smiles for the volunteers as this was a pretty difficult project to pull off. It was a huge relief for everyone involved.

You might ask, “So, Zack, do you plan on doing this again?” and I would answer, “it’s up in the air right now but all signs point to no.” It was a good experience and a good demonstration that inter-volunteer projects are very possible but at the same time I’m not sure if I could play lead on this project since I work in two different towns and my energy is divided as such.

This is the Peace Corps and it’s been over one year since I’ve been here!