Monday, September 7, 2009

Free Association

Zdraveytey everyone!

Today I wish to do something a little different. I usually take my time to write my blogs and I usually re-read them, and do a little spot editing along the way. This time, however, I want to do some Free Association. Essentially I'm going to just write and jump from topic to topic every once in a while. To help me do this, however, I've employed the use of a timer. Each paragraph you read is the product of 3 minutes of off the top of my head writing. At the end of the 3 minutes, I'll finish my sentence then change the topic based on something in that last sentence. The reason I'm doing this is because I know that there are things I haven't gotten around to talking about since I've started this blog. I wanted to see if this could help jog my memory around. So to start it off, I've decided to start by using the closing line of my last blog post:

"This is the Peace Corps and even though they prep you over and over about the fucking 4 leva/km taxis, you will always jump in one no matter what. *shakes fist*"

And here we go.


So I’m shaking my ambiguously aimed fist in the direction of the Taxi drivers not the Peace Corps. In fact, we had a 45 minutes session during training where the biggest message from them was “DON’T GET IN THE WRONG TAXI OR YOU’LL BE PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE!” Of course, as I said before, that was most certainly not on my mind when I went into the parking lot of the train station. I just jumped into a taxi and took off. During that session, we were shown pictures of the legit taxi companies and their logos. Then we were shown the logos of the terrible, wallet-pillaging taxis. To the untrained eye, they were more or less the same. You change a C to an O and you’ve got yourself a fake freaking taxi. Fortunately this was only the case in Sofia.

Sofia is a big city much like New York and another stereotypically big city that you would find in America. I’d like to use another good example but that’s really my problem: I’m a suburbs sort of guy. My house in Miami was in the suburbs. My house in Kingston was more or less in a suburbs-esque Jamaican environment. My university was it’s own corner of the city and might as well have been considered a suburban type of area considering that the community that a college provides. So when I got there I was more or less lost and overwhelmed by the amount of people and the hustle and/or bustle of the environment.

At my satellite site, Not-Amsterdam, the normal course of the day was get up, eat breakfast, go to school or Bulgarian lessons, hang out afterwards, go to the gas station bathroom 10-15 minutes away (depending on how fast I walked) then home again for dinner. It sounds rather relaxed but 4 hours of language lessons added on top of the 3-4 hours of English teaching came up to a pretty full day. And N-A was a town where nothing happened. I described it before but the area was mostly broken houses and farms. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it all as I arrived. I tried to figure out why they would put me here. My language trainer said something about us being survivors but the only survival experience I had was living behind a large automatic gate with spiked fencing on top.

My language trainer, Elitsa, was one of the most helpful people I had the pleasure of working with. She was well-versed in Bulgarian culture, her English was excellent, and she had been working with the Peace Corps for several years so she was able to impart wisdom onto us as in the form of stories a lot of the time. I am not sure if I’m at liberty to talk about these stories but I’ll just say that they were certainly pretty helpful. She was also a great counselor for our group as we had several in-house related problems concerning our living situations which I KNOW that if I mentioned those on the internet I’d be breaching some sort of code of trust with my other sitemates.

Here’s something I haven’t gotten around to talking about yet. The site mates that I had at the satellite site were certainly 2 of the best people I could have had to experience N-A with. They were incredibly intelligent and they were both very outgoing in their own ways. Especially in a group of 3, I think we had a pretty solid construction. Kay was the encouraging one. She was always there to push us on when we were had lower energy levels (which, if I may add, was a lot of the time). Tyler was the one with great vocabulary and creativity as he would always remember that one word you would forget and be able to use it in a context that would stick.

My training in Linguistics counted mostly for two things: Phonology (essentially the study of sounds we make) and Grammar. When it came to learning the language, I was confident at the pronunciation and the sentence structure. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken a single class in Morphology (the way phonology creates words) or Semantics. What these courses might’ve helped me in was the memorization of the words that we were learning during training. Even now, I feel like I can’t remember anywhere from 50-75% of the words we learned during training. I’m sure that this isn’t true but at times it seems like that I just can’t find the word that I need at the right moments.

With that being said, I can't seem to find another paragraph in that last line.


That was surprisingly taxing even though it took all of 20ish minutes to write. I promise to you that I didn't edit a single paragraph after the 3 minutes were up. I'm also glad with the results. The experiment got me talking about my Language Trainer and my site mates at Not-Amsterdam. I certainly had fun with it. If you guys liked it I can try it again in a few months to see what else surfaces to the top of my head.

This is the Peace Corps and so much crap happens that I can't document it all.


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