Watching my post count near the 2000 mark these last few weeks, I've debated about what to write for my milestone post. I wanted to do something unique, but everyone else has been so darn unique that I've really had to wrack my brain for some interesting idea. I finally decided that I would talk about my life during the year 2000, because it was a year that really defined me.
Most of the year was spent on my mission in Bulgaria. I had started my mission in June of 1999, right after graduating from ASU with a BA in Religious Studies in May. The year 2000 was rung in from one of the missionary apartments in Varna (on the Black Sea). There were lots of firecrackers and noise as everyone rang in the new year. The night was rainy and cold. I remember pepperuda and I getting drenched as we walked the five minutes back to our apartment. I remember waking in the morning to the gypsy kids ringing our doorbell to ask for candy (kids go around on New Year's ringing on doorbells and smacking you with decorated sticks). It was a strange beginning to one of the best years of my life. I lived in 3 different cities during that year (Varna, Plovdiv, and Sliven) with 10 different people. I met some of the people I now count as my best friends. I got my ears pierced. I tried to help a family deal with the loss of the husband's father. I even helped place him in the casket. I finally felt like I could speak Bulgarian. I was spit on, kicked, and had fruit thrown at me. I was able to practice some of my Aikido I had studied half a world away. I learned to be grateful for air conditioning. I watched people change their lives for the better. I learned to play soccer. I learned how to translate. I got better at playing pool. I spent the year without fighting with anyone, even people that fought with everyone. I remember all too many tears, but more laughs than I can count.
The year changed me more than I know how to describe. I learned to care more deeply than I ever had imagined. I learned to work harder than I thought possible. I had more fun than I had expected.
The end of the year was interesting. I turned 23 about a week before coming home. The other missionaries and I ate at the most expensive restaurant in town, and only spent about $10 each. I remember being very sad. I had come to feel that Bulgaria was my home and I didn’t want to leave my home. I was also frightened. I had always planned my life out. I would finish high school, go to college, and then I would go a mission. Now all of that was done, and I had absolutely no idea what the next year would hold. And that uncertainty terrified me. There were times that fear literally paralyzed me.
The day before I came home, I had my hair cut very short (no more than about an inch and a half at most). In a way, I was doing that to remember Bulgaria. Two of my best friends had very short hair. I had one of my English students, who was a hair stylist, cut it for me. I think it was a way of changing my appearance to reflect my changed self. The day of my flight back to the US, I was so sick that I didn't think I would be able to get on the plane to leave. I ended up not eating for 2 days. One of my best friends had come from Plovdiv to say goodbye to me. I remember giving her the last of my Bulgarian money, because I knew she could use it more than I could. Then it was time to board that plane and leave my home. I spent the night in Vienna, before continuing on the US. In Chicago, all the missionaries who were coming home at the same time I was parted ways. The last leg of my flight (to Phoenix), I spent fairly alone. I walked off that plane late at night, with my family waiting for me at the end of the concourse. My mother said she recognized me immediately, but my father and brother didn't until she pointed me out to them. They all said I looked distinctly Eastern European, and several people standing by them on the concourse seemed surprised when I spoke perfect English.
I spent the last couple weeks of the year trying to re-adjust to my life, or maybe I was trying to adjust myself to a new life.
Since that year, I've joined Hatrack (thanks to pepperuda), met and married my husband (slacker), buried my childhood pet, sent my brother off on his mission, got a new cat, learned to weld, got a new car, and started my own home.
Very cool. What langauge group is Bulgarian in? Slavic? Anyway, you're a great contributor to Hatrack and it's good to have your posts. I can't wait to go on my mission...
Posts: 1744 | Registered: Jul 2001
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Kama - Maybe you and I will end up taking vacations in Bulgaria at the same time. Hey, it could happen!
Thinking back over it now, I must've been quite the sight getting off that airplane in Phoenix. I almost wish they had taken a picture, but my mother decided against bringing the video camera. I had been wearing the same clothes for 3 days (I didn't want to have to worry about extra clothes in my carry-on because it was full of breakable things I was bringing home). I had probably been averaging 3 hours of sleep a night for the last week or two. I hadn't eaten in over 2 days. I had my very short hair, almost knee-high black lace-up boots, a long mauveish skirt, a white knit shirt and a leather jacket. Oh ya, and a funny black nametag written in gibberish no one could read.
I was just next door on a mission---8 years earlier. I try to explain Eastern Europe to people and they just don't get it. For them, Europe is some sophisticated playground with good food and old buildings and lots of art.
There's something about Eastern Europe--the grime and the salty-acrid cuisine and the shabbiness and the amazing endurance and the combination of grace/awkwardness and the pride and the heartbreak and the hidden beauty--that gets in your veins and into your heart.
I miss Romania very much.
aka: I hope you do to. You seem like you'd be a tough (i.e. can handle the physical and emotional rigors) yet loving and fair-minded missionary--perfect for serving in some place like Mongolia or the Philippines or Bulgaria (or Romania).
I love your twist on this wonderful tradition. Thanks for sharing your 2000.
Eastern Europe is a part of the world I'd very much like to visit. I know Bulgarians. Romanians, Czechs... The very blunt, almost confrontational communication style is so completely at odds with my soft-spoken over-concilliatory tone that communication becomes a fascinating endeavour.
Zal - You did a great job of describing Eastern Europe! I don't think I ever could have put it so well.
aka - I hope you get so serve a mission! It's a very rewarding experiene!
Maeth - I write it with a lower case l (ludosti) because the word is just a common noun, but one of my favorites in the whole language. ludost means craziness, and ludosti is crazinesses. I love that craziness can be plural. And all my friends always said I was wild and crazy, so I thought it would be a fun handle. It's pronounced like this: LOO-doh-stee (accent on the first syllable).
Tammy - LDS missions are assigned, taking into account such things as languages known by the missionary (or just their aptitude for learning languages), any health problems (necessitating service in an area with well-developed medical facilities), siblings also serving missions, etc. Once we are told our assignment, we can either accept of reject it. I don't know of anyone that hasn't accepted their assignment, but I suppose that since you can accept it, you can also reject it.
Sal - I did get to go lots of fun places with my friends, but there are so many other places I wanted to go that I didn't get to (like Rila, the river of rocks, sozopol, etc.) I spent almost no time in or around the capital, so I didn't really see any of the sights in that area of the country. Oh well, that's what vacations are for. As far as our missionary work was concerned, most of our time was spent doing one of three things: teaching free English classes, helping run/support the church congregations in the cities where we lived, and teaching people about our church.
Chuckles - I remember that it did take some time to get used to their communication style. We Americans are so used to almost scripted small talk ("Hi, how are you today?" "I'm fine, thank you, how are you?" etc.) that the upfront and blunt manner of the Bulgarians was startling. But, I liked it very much.
[This message has been edited by ludosti (edited September 26, 2002).]