Thursday, May 28, 2009

What it looks like!

Zdraveytey, everybody!

It’s time for a proper update concerning Bulgaria. As I said last time, this has been the longest and hardest (laugh it up) week I’ve ever had. At the same time, I’ve never had such a fulfilling experience. I was going to talk about my four days in Paris but instead I want to tell you all about my training site, Amsterdam, first.

Amsterdam is a small village at the north end of the country. There are only about 1200 people here and most of them are on the older side of the spectrum. When I say most of them, one of the saddest things about Amsterdam is that the local school is closing after this summer because there are only about 17 or so registered school-age residents in the town. All of the young people leave the town when they get the chance so it would be safe to say that this is an aging and declining population. Regardless, this is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited. Almost everyone here has their own garden in which they grow their own fruits and vegetables. Everyone also has their own collection of farm animals. My host family, for instance, has a chicken pen with about 30-40 chickens of all ages. Also, Amsterdam is only one of two towns where the PC stationed 3 trainee volunteers.

Now I’m not sure if I can give names but I can tell you about the people I’m staying with. I live with a host mother and her son. Let’s call them Agnes and Seymour. Like the place names, these names are not descriptive of the people except perhaps the relationship. Seymour teaches priests in the city closest to here, our HUB city Venice. Agnes grows tomatoes, cucumbers, cherries and has her own vineyard from which she makes her own wine.

While I’m on the subject of alcohol, let me talk about the local moonshine. Each house that grows fruit will have their own version of the moonshine, Rakia. To quote one of the trainers back in Paris, “It’s about 75-80% alcohol and it goes down like firewater.” That sentence is 100% correct. Just smelling the Rakia will make you want to pass out. That being said, my meal a couple nights ago was a delicious salad made from cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions and radishes (I suspect that they were all grown right here) with a salt, apple vinegar and vegetable oil dressing, a chicken dish with chopped up potatoes and leg quarters. As for the alcohol I set up but forgot to mention, it was about half a shot of Rakia and a glass of red wine mixed with lemonade. I got a little drunk that night.

Concerning my actual living situation, it’s absolutely wonderful. Essentially, they have a guest house on the second floor (either that or I’m displacing Seymour from his normal quarters) and I have it all to myself. It consists of a living room, bedroom and dining room. The bedroom is larger than any other bedroom I have ever had to myself with an approach on the bedroom I shared with my sister many years ago. I have set up my office for studying and whatever in the dining room as well as making that my tech center, so to speak, with all the adapters and junk I use being put in that room.

And now to burst the beautiful bubble that you may be imagining, I have a squat toilet. I’ve done some pretty crazy things in context with myself over the last few days. I’ve joined hands and danced Horol with about 100 other people. I’ve learned how to hand wash my clothes. I’ve walked 30 minutes to a bus stop. I’ve helped create a trellis for cucumber plants to grow up when they come into season. I’ve taken a shower in near freezing temperature water. The most amazing part of them all, however, is the squat toilet. For a little background, Bulgaria has a different toilet system. To describe it from my experience, when we flush all the water that was in the toilet ideally leaves and is replaced with a new basin of water. In Bulgaria the toilets don’t really flush, as it’s more of a dilution. Water is added to the tank while the same amount is drained at the same time but the tank is never empty. So your urine would still be in smaller volumes at the end of a flush while the fecal matter gets whisked away. Because of this, the toilet paper is almost never flushed down but is instead discarded in a nearby trash bin. That’s something else you can add to that list of awesome things I’ve done (no seriously, it’s really hard to imagine this but it’s a very amazing thing to be okay with that). Now that I’ve given you the idea, let me reiterate for a third time: There is a squat toilet outhouse on my little farm. There are actually two toilets here, one in the shower area which is an actual toilet, and the outhouse. The former is for the liquid waste, the latter is for the solid. I would describe for you the reason why I know the differences in uses but it would be rather obscene because it was done via gesture. My family is awesome. I’ve needed to go to the outhouse twice and each time it’s a terrifying experience. I’d go into more reasons why but it would get gross and I’ve just realized I’ve spent more than double the time describing the Bulgarian waste management system than anything else I’ve written about so far.

I’ve more to say about Amsterdam but I’ll leave it be for now and let you all take in my vivid description of my method of pooping. The outhouse is in the chicken pen, by the way. At first I thought they were fucking with me.

This is the Peace Corps. I’m totally okay with this and I haven’t had this much fun almost ever.


Monday, May 25, 2009


So this is a quick update to tell you all that I'm alright and that I've settled in my host town of Amsterdam (remember no real place names). It's been the longest week of my life and you'll all be hearing more of it later. Even later than that if the nearest internet is this cafe in the city after a 20-30 min. bus ride.



Monday, May 18, 2009


A bunch of things but first a disclaimer:


Okay. With that out of the way, I can continue the blog.

I am currently writing from the bar at the Holiday Inn at Georgetown. Spent the weekend walking around the Mall and am exhausted as hell. I got to see Lydia, Flannery, Dawn and Donnie though. That was a whole lot of fun. We had dinner.

So today was the very long staging orientation. It was very long. The first two hours were about icebreaking and PC common knowledge. We went around answering questions about the PC: What are the three goals of the Peace Corps? When was the Peace Corps founded? Who is the current head? There were also questions about ourselves such as: What skills do you bring to the table? (Not in those words but close enough)

Then we made posters and did Public Service Announcements. All in all, a standard day in my life.

Tomorrow I head out into the world. It'll be fucking great. I've met a good chunk of the rest of the volunteers and they all seem really cool. I had dinner with a bunch of them at a Thai restaurant near the hotel. Decent enough end to my time here.

Now referring back to my heading, I have a bunch of things I should explain. Due to security reasons I cannot tell you that the 60ish of us are heading to small town called [redacted] for [undiscloseable] days. There we will be doing [stuff]. I can, however, give the names of the towns other things. For instance, I could tell you that we're all going to Paris. That is a bold-faced lie but I'm sticking to it. I'll also be attempting to keep the names of the other volunteers secret as well as the people in these towns.

One last thing: This may be the last time I'm updating the blog for at least a week. Please keep checking back just in case and leave a comment if you can. It lets me know people are reading my blog.

Maybe you guys can come visit me in a few months.



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Another quick update

Quick update for tonight. Just wanted to let you all know that I’m in DC right now and you can reach me at 305-987-2390.

Also, there may be word in the next few days about my apparent obsession with the concept of time. I’d just like to say that Lydia is a damn dirty liar and that Time is a wonderful thing that processes along with or without us and deserves our total and utter appreciation to the ravages it can wage upon any given place. In fact, I find myself looking at the clock sometimes just to see the seconds tick away while I helplessly watch. While I helplessly experience. While I helplessly ‘be’... In conclusion Lydia is an awful, terrible liar and she should never be trusted.

On Monday/Tuesday I'm going to make an attempt at updating to tell you all how the orientation went and, perhaps, showing off some of my other volunteers. It'll be fun.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last Day

A quick update. So Mother's Day is my last proper day in Jamaica. I've eaten lots of food that I won't be taking in for the next couple years, more than likely. As a result, I've gained more weight than I'd have liked. Buuuut I'm willing to say that it was worth it :D

I leave for Miami tomorrow morning on the first flight out then spend the night there to pick some stuff that I ordered. Then it's off to NC to do the last of the shopping. Then to finish it off, I head to DC Saturday afternoon. It'll be some fun stuff going on.

I think I still have my final freakout to go through and it'll probably be while I'm trying to fall asleep. Actually, it might be happening right now... Raised heart rate, shallow breathing, anxious feeling... I think a freakout is about right. Crap. This does not feel good at all.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Schedule for the first week

Hey everyone,

I just wanted you all to hear how the first week of my Peace Corps service will be. For the record, I can't give you exact locations. I'll probably be vaguer than I need to be because at this moment I'm not sure how much I can tell you.

5/18: We check in to the hotel in Georgetown at noon and the afternoon is 5 hours of pre-pre-training orientation. Turns out this is to prep us for the preparation for the preparation for our service. I wish that was being confused about that.

5/19: We leave for the airport where we board a plane to Frankfurt then to Sofia. From the estimations, it'll be around 12 hours on and off of the planes so I guess I'll be listening to a lot of:

I love those guys.

5/20?: At this point, I'll have no idea where I am both physically and mentally as 12 hours of plane travel is enough to make anyone assume that they've died and gone to a confined diseased, collicky baby hell. In fact, the more I think about it the more I believe that the previous video may be prophetic. But hey. It's a free flight. I can't ask for more than that.

5/20 pt2: So as we land, they take our most of our luggage from us to store somewhere someplace. We're not going to need it though because immediately after that we get trucked to a town called Pani- wait I don't know if I can tell you that. Instead, I'll just replace the name of the town with the name of another well known place with the same first letter. So we get bussed to Paris. There we have 4 days of pre-training orientation. I don't know what's going on there. All I know is that it's beautiful and there is no internet OR proper phones. It'll be fun?

5/twenty-whatever: This is where things get hazy. We get placed in groups and then the groups get sent to different stations where the groups get split up to house with host families. I said on my form that I would not be totally uncomfortable with a family that spoke no English. Half of me is excited about that possibility. The other half wants to kick me in the nuts. At that point, I'll be able to update the blog again with something. I have no idea.

This probably won't be the last update before I leave. The hotel in Georgetown has internetz. Also, I'll be arriving in DC 2 days early to hang with Lydia, Flannery, Dawn and possibly Donny and/or Mike depending on how things go.

It's going to be a fun weekend.