Friday, June 26, 2009

Quick update with an important announcement

Hey everyone.

So I want to post more pictures of what I've been doing and I want to comment on as many of them as possible. The problem is that it is probably a security risk if I do that. So I've decided to create a sort of hybrid blog. Essentially a public blog with private pictures. I'm creating a brand new google account and I'll be using it mainly for posting my pictures. Email me your name (so I know who you are) and I can send you the account name and password so you can access it. The public one I put up earlier will always be up. Think of it as an appetizer. You can find the link to it several entries back. It's a short one I believe but don't take my word for it.

This is the Peace Corps and I was almost a security risk.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Hey everyone,

Today I wish I to touch on the subject of the PC training. I realized that I havent explained to you all how exactly I got to where I am. It's a pretty long process spanning 9 1/2 weeks so I better get to it.

THings start almost immediately when you get to your staging hotel in a selected city. I've heard stories that DC isn't the only place but I'm not sure. Once you get there you have one or two days where the American staff walks you through the in and outs of the PC protocol. Essentially, it's a huge security lecture where you are told you can be separated from the PC if you do anything stupid.

The next step is to get on a 12 hour plane ride to Sofia then get on a 2ish hour bus ride to the first training site: A hotel in the mountains. There you get acclimitized to the weather and you work off the jet lag. I've found that jet lag is most easily taken care of by making yourself so tired that you might actually collapse in the spot you're standing. The next morning you're still tired. But in a I-came-back-from-work-really-late-and-now-I-need-to-go-back-like-right-now kind of tired.

At this point, you get more security lectures as well as medical and cultural stuff. It's not as interesting as it sounds, however. What IS interesting is that we started learning the language not 4 hours after waking up on the second day. We learned about fruits and vegetables. In Bulgaria, fruits and vegetables are so important that they are lesson one. Not verb conjugation. Not sentence structure. Not even the fact that there is gender. Nope. You learn about fruits and vegetables. And I guess saying hello and nice to meet you. But that's irrelevant. I like saying Apple. Yabulka! Yabulka!

After 3-4 days of language and lectures, we learn where we get placed for our Pre Service Training. I was placed in Alt... Amsterdam. I'll tell you the real name after I swear in. We spend the rest of the 9 weeks there training with our Language Trainers and going to Hubs/clusters where larger groups of trainees meet.

What's happening right now is that I'm visiting my permanent site where I'll be working for the next 2 years after I swear in. I'll live here, go to work here and call this my headquarters. After this, I will return to Amsterdam where I will complete my training.

One thing to note, is that I've been signed on for Septemvri AND Varvara. The two towns are about 4-5 km apart and are divided by a short road. It's a quick bus ride from either town to the other. What is interesting is that I'm the only person in my Bulgaria group, that is of all 61 of us, that was assigned to two different towns. There about 5 or 6 of us assigned to 2 different schools but my situation requires I travel.

Septemvri is the larger town, about 10k people, and that is where I'm living. It's very comfortable there and I have an apartment with a really nice living room and a kitchen. I sleep in the kitchen. That might take some explaining but I have photos to show that off. I have access to everything I might need in Septemvri. There are a lot of stores and I'm in the middle of town so I have access to most things.

Varvara, on the other hand, is a much smaller town on the bottom of the Rhodope mountain range. It's a very beautiful place and it boasts spas and hot springs. It's consistently about 4 degrees F cooler than Septemvri thanks to the mountain breeze.

I'll be teaching grades 5-10 for the first year in the area. This was a surprise to me since I was nominated to the PC as a Secondary School teacher. My assignment, however, has me teaching mainly primary school students with a single grade 10 class. I hope I can handle it.

That'll be all for now. Leave questions if you got 'em. I have pictures that I'll be uploading once I return home. I'm currently working from a computer in a lab at the school in Varvara. Also, I've begun leaving comments on the photos so you'll get to see how I summarize 1000 words every time.

This is the Peace Corps and I love it in my towns.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Small, Tiny Update

Zdraveytey everyone,

Just a quick update. I've arrived in Septemvri for my 3 day visit and I'm having lunch with my counterpart. I'll tell you folks more about the situation when I get some time.

This is the Peace Corps and it's no longer Easy Mode.



I'll be talking about here later. Right now I'm using my counterpart's computer and I have no internet at my apartment. Spokoino, folks. Relax. :D

Friday, June 19, 2009

Permanent Site!

So I found out where we will be spending my next 2 years!

I figure I won't need to hide this from you guys.

I am working in the towns of Septemvri and Varvara.

I'll tell you all more when I have more time.

This is the Peace Corps and they think I'm competent. Joke might be on them


EDIT 6/20: I've got about 400-500 pictures ready to release to you guys slowly. I'll let you guys see them once I get to each point. I'm publicizing the first picture of my satellite site Not-Amsterdam now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Deliciousness Follows!

Zdraveytey once again, everyone!

By popular demand, the topic for today will be FOOD. One quick linguistic digression before I begin: my greeting ‘zdraveytey’ is a common formal/plural greeting and the pronunciation (if you can do the IPA) is [zdravete]. In other words, it’s pronounced essentially just as I typed it. Of course it looks completely different in cyrilic: ЗДРАВЕЙТЕ. If the spelling is wrong, please correct me, my Bulgarian friends.

Onto the food. Deliciousness follows:

The first piece of food I wish to share with you is called Banitsa. This dessert is a traditional Bulgarian recipe (at least that’s what the Peace Corps wants us to believe) and every household tends to have a different recipe much like rakia. (If rakia sounds unfamiliar to you, look back a couple entries where I tell you how drunk it gets you. And by you I mean me.) It’s essentially a rolled pastry that contains fruit or cheese inside. You start by getting some very thin, read paper thin, bread. These are pretty similar to the kind you could get in an Ethiopian restaurant, I believe. Next, cover one sheet with a small layer of oil. In the household I learned this, we then placed another layer of bread on top and used a little more oil. Next we added the fruit (apple or pumpkin in this case) and spooned some crushed nuts mixed with cinnamon on top. Then we added two spoons of sugar for flavor enhancement. Finally we rolled it up and placed it into a baking pan. After about 8-10 rolls, the pan was filled and we tossed it into the oven for a while. It came out crispy and delicious. Imagine the thinnest and crispiest soft taco shell wrapped around fruit, nuts and cinnamon and when you bite into it, the damn thing feels like it melts in your mouth because it’s so fragile feeling. It’s pretty damn great.

The next one is another wrapped treat. This one is a lunch entrée that I’ve only found in the nearby city of… Budapest… This food is called a Diuner (or Dyuner depending on how you want to phoneticize it. Yeah. I verbed phonetics.) Start with a pita, preferably on the thick side. Fry one side of it to heat it up. Next add cucumbers, shredded lettuce or cabbage, and some kind of yogurt based sauce. This next part blows my mind. You place French fries and grilled chicken on top of all that. Add mayonnaise, ketchup, more yogurt sauce or chili powder as preferred, roll and serve wrapped in a napkin. I’m feeling pretty hungry just thinking about it. Best part: the small (yet very filling) size at the café I eat at sells them fresh for only 2 leva (the Bulgarian Currency). According to my ipod, in America-world that’s only $1.40. And the larger, much more luxurious and delicious size is still less than 2 bucks. I love Bulgaria.

One last thing to note, by request from someone who I believe to be Al Brown, I have begun brainstorming the story for Peace Corpse. It will be a romantic comedy set in the African wilderness. Once again, if you have anything else you wish to hear about, leave requests. Next week I’ll be finding out my permanent site and I think I’ll have more frequent updates.

This is the Peace Corps and I think I’m gaining weight.


Friday, June 5, 2009

The Town!

Zdraveytey again, folks!

I’m assuming from the lack of responses to my last post that my poo was not as interesting as I thought it was so let’s move on to a different topic. So last time I basically spoke about my home. I’ll also make this post a little shorter so it’s easier to digest. Now let’s talk about Amsterdam and what’s in it.

First, I’d like to say that have photos that prove that I’m actually in the Peace Corps rather than just chilling out at home or something faking it. I do. I just need to upload them to the internetz. That may take some time if the internet trips out like it’s doing right now. Not a big deal.

Well it’s certainly beautiful. I’m currently writing from outside the town center where there is a decent wifi connection. It trips out more than occasionally but it’s reasonably fast. I’m writing from under a tree on the grounds and it is wonderful. To the right of me there are 2 large columns dedicated to the heroes of the town. Across from me is the town municipality containing the mayor’s office, the post office and a couple mini-markets. If you go down either main road, you’ll find farms and animals. Off of these roads you’ll find other not so main roads probably made of either cobblestone remains or dirt. Sometimes the roads are just paths that have two small trenches that the carts will just roll through. Along these paths are more farms and animals. Amsterdam is a town with nothing. No banks, atms or movie theaters, either. It’s a very old fashioned town. The best way to picture this town is to imagine the opening to Beauty and The Beast. The little French town is very similar. I see the same people every morning and they all poke their heads over their fence to say Bonjour. Well Dobro Ootro, anyway. I like it here. I like it and its bazillion tiny farms.

Eventually I plan on making a photo album using one of those online programs so you can see my pictures. I’ll do so once I get an internet connection that I can rely on.

One last thing before I go, I’m going to be touching on a lot of subjects but I want to know what you guys want to read. If you care to, leave a comment with a request and I’ll try to comply.

This is the Peace Corps. It’s like I’m in a Disney musical… or a horror movie.