Monday, September 12, 2011

Celebrating Two Years In Bulgaria

I celebrated my two year anniversary in Bulgaria with the people who first welcomed me here: my language trainer and her family and my host family from Boychinovtsi. Two years earlier I had sat in the same room with the same group of people feeling like a complete outsider, an intruder in a place I didn’t belong. But two years down the road I sat there and felt completely at home. Everything and everyone there was familiar and comfortable, and it was a typical Bulgarian get-together of family and friends of which I was a part. The table overflowed with food, drink, and laughter, and I soaked it all in as long as I could.

Eventually, I pulled myself away from the table and crawled into bed wondering if the day was as meaningful and special for them as it had been for me. It didn’t take long before I was fast asleep.

Then, a little more than an hour after I’d gone to bed, I was awakened by some strange sounds. Was I dreaming or was someone actually calling my name? Someone was definitely calling my name. But who was it and what did they want? Dazed and confused, I sat up on the side of the bed and listened intently. The sound seemed to be coming from the street, not the house. I fumbled around for my glasses and went to the window.

Standing in the street were the principal of the school where we had done our training and his daughter’s boyfriend. They had learned I was in town, and they wanted to grab a beer. Still half asleep and feeling plenty good from the earlier rakia, wine, and beer, I politely declined. Everyone else was sound asleep, everything was locked up, and I didn’t want disturb them. “Just one,” they pleaded and pleaded. Having played the “just one” game plenty of times and knowing how it usually ends (at least for me), I stood my ground and agreed we’d hang out and have a few beers on my next visit to Boychinovtsi. And we will. Because sometimes the Peace Corps is about grand projects and helping those who are less fortunate, and sometimes it’s about having a beer with new friends.

Two of the three wonderful Bulgarian families who have adopted me.

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