Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Bought This Chai, or Illiterate

I bought this chai. At least, I bought the water that I put my chai in. And by chai, I mean tea. And by bought, I mean I asked in Bulgarian, which was its own payment. "Goreshta chai molya. Kolko?" Or something like that. They gave it to me free.

Sunday evening (which feels like a week ago), I saw my name for the first time in Bulgarian cyrillic alphabet. The kids were excited about this. I was dumfounded, as if I had been renamed. деика.

Tomorrow, I will be one week in Bulgaria. Spent a few days in Sofia, walking off the jet lag under the kind supervision of Ralph and Bonnie (Navigators). Sunday afternoon, I rode with four others to Elena, a small town 36km from Veleko Turnavo (the largest town nearby). Camp started the moment we got there and it's been a sprint since then. Next week, I'll be teaching the lessons at the camp, not just having my own small group.

The thing is this: I'm totally illiterate. Bulgaria does use the latin alphabet on most of its town signs and street signs (in the center of towns). But that doesn't help me order or get around or anything. I'm working on sounding out the alphabet as best I can. The kids help teaching a phrase or two each day and even in three days,  I'm hearing my own mind hold onto the phrases just a few minutes longer than I could last Thursday. Exciting, yes. Dear heavens, so far to go. When I compare what I know of Bulgarian to what they know of English, I'm quite humbled.

The picture to the right is of a sign in Elena where we took a walk today. I may have inwardly squealed when I subconsciously read the top word in my head. I didn't realize for a few moments that I knew the word. It was like a game of balderdash when you keep saying the right word but can't hear the sounds in your own mouth. Can you guess what it was?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Walking It Off

I've done a lot of walking the last day. Ralph said tonight that it is the best medicine for jet lag that he knows of. Sleep a little. Walk a lot. Repeat until your body rights itself to the new sun patterns and eating schedules.

Travel does funny things to you. You get into this place where things blur together and stand out and speed up and slow down. You throw a mini celebration when you poop for the first time since you started traveling. And sleep. It grips you mercilessly when its so not time and it runs away.

I woke up today with my hand on the cover of a book I was lifting to start reading. It didn't get read.

I took a walk with Bonnie to the "ministry of culture". And then to a mall that had a mini wegman's like grocery in the basement. I took a walk to a park near the national theatre. I read a book on Orthodoxy and listened to the fountain and listened to a small brass band play swing. I made awkward eye contact with strangers that I didn't mean to make and was told I could pass as Bulgarian... until I open my mouth, that is. I tried to pay for bug spray with a euro. It didn't work.

The evening walk after dinner was the best. Sunset into dusk. The cathedral getting direct sunlight down a long boulevard. The police had the parliament building blocked off from protesters. They stood on the monuments blowing whistles or riding their bikes up and down pedestrian roads waving flags. It was very quiet.

There was a tea shop with herbal teas and a hipster menu open till 11. In Sofia, Bulgaria. Who knew?

This is probably the sleepiest I will get while posting. Time to take that next sleep before the next walk towards being on a new time.

Packing, Philosophy of

You find out pretty fast what you actually value, what you've told yourself you cannot live without. And some things hit the trash pile that don't make obvious sense to you. Wait, I'm really saying I can live without the off the shoulder black sweater I always wear? Peanut butter? 10 books of poetry?

And the things I've brought. You'll need help to really make these decisions. RF sat in my bedroom floor and conducted a series of cuts. I put out everything I wanted to bring for summer, then winter, then my apartment. With each, he gave me a list: "Only 2 skirts, 4 dresses, and at least 4 of those 6 items has to work in winter." Okay. Anything that didn't fit had to go. My favorite black dress that looks great with pearls. Any heels. Snow boots. All old journals. At the end of it, even cut some of the empty journals I had packed.

Things I can't do without. Computer. Iphone. Journal. Pens. Soularium cards. Hand mixer. Immersion blender. Pink blanket with silk edges. Everyone needs a few things to make an apartment a home. Some of that. Some of this. A few dresses that work with leggings. Only one winter coat.

It shows how much of a consumer I am. You know: consumer that we all rail against. It was emotionally difficult to leave things out. I want to bring everything. If I could, I would.

But I couldn't. So I didn't. And it hurt. I cried a bit. Maybe packing is this declaration of don't belong here, get going kind of thoughts.

How do you shape a philosophy of packing? Know when the crunch happens what objects have the come? The aesthetic, the utilitarian, the whimsical? All three in some form?

What does it even mean to have a healthy relationship with having stuff?

And why am I chronically embarrassed about packing too much even when, in this case, I totally didn't?

Perhaps this would be clearer if I could compare with other packing jobs. See what they would have taken in my place with a 50lb weight limit on the large suitcase I was trying to meet.

12 Months: 1 large, 1 small, 1 day pack.

What would you not do without? But you can't really know until you do it. There were things I thought I'd have with me that didn't make it when the weight issue came into play!

This internet gem made it possible:
What's in My Suitecase by Mr.&Mrs.Globetrot

Monday, July 15, 2013

i almost made it out of state college...

I packed yesterday. Mostly. There were boxes and there was stuff and with Fraleigh's help, the mission was accomplished before I was hijacked by a nap.

My car wouldn't start. It went into the shop.

Today, there was church and my dad came with his truck and my brother. We pulled boxes onto the street corner and furniture I've lugged around for years that I'm leaving to the State College street corner free long. Melanie came to say goodbye. Robbie Fraleigh did most of the heavy lifting.

Then the truck was loaded and the car and my room was empty and swept.

I loitered. In the living room. Then back at Fraleigh's apartment with Hannah. There was Parenthood (our recent netflix favorite). There were strawberry smoothies. And a nap.

The sun was full into setting so I pulled myself into the car to head to Hershey. My last hours. As I pulled out, the sun was setting behind me. A reverse "driving into the sunset". I said a prayer for this valley, for the green hills, for the water, for the people who come here, that they would know beauty and good things as I knew them here. I said goodbye.

Then. Oh then. I hit stand-still arts fest traffic. Stand-still.

Turned around. Came back. Here for another night.

I was so close. Is this a conspiracy?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Today, I flushed pills down the toilet.

I'm cleaning out. Trying to pack. Bulgaria is in seven days.

Wednesday July 17th.

7 bottles worth of left overs. I can't remember being sick 7 times. Perhaps several bottles went with one illness or severe pain episode. Kidney stone. Wisdom Teeth. Bladder. 7 for 3 then. Oxycodone most of it. I hated that pain killer. Couldn't think on it and it made me angry and pissy. I wasn't sure what the responsible way to get rid of addictive substances would be. Hannah said that she heard a nurse tell her son to flush it down the toilet after his wisdom teeth incisions healed up. Said she watched him herself.

So I flushed them. They were all expired anyway, dissolved into little yellow and white powders before they even hit the porcelain. Just another small piece of the packing settled and concluded.

I have 6 different body washes. 2 shampoos. Why?

And WHAT am I supposed to do with all of those paper clips? Why was there a paper clip in the body wash drawer?

The kitchen is mostly done, dishes wrapped in newspaper and tucked into boxes. I even labelled the boxes to help myself 1+ years from now when its time to put them in cabinets again.

I've read several pages of internet advice on how to pack for long journeys but still uphold that hipster value of minimalistic and stylish. The fact that I've never been stylish is beside the point. I want to know how to pack light and stylish.

I hate packing. It's like taking home and declaring it not home.

I rebel. I avoid. I complain. I evade.

Part of the process. Part of the letting go.