Pravets, Bulgaria. RUI Resort.
I've been here since Sunday evening. 50 people packed into a bus outside of Sofia Airport and made enthusiastic introductions as we drove through the countryside to Pravets. It's a quiet spot just an hour outside of Sofia. The days are hot and dry. The evenings are cool. The stars, hazy behind light polution from the resort. The hotel is fancier than it has any right to be, especially for this girl, unused to hotels of this scale and elegance. All of the desserts are appropriately fancy and fluffy. I cannot eat fluffy desserts. I realize I am one of the few people in the world who objects to fluffy creams the way I do.
In many ways, I feel like I stepped out of Bulgaria for the week. Maybe this feeling will continue till the end of the conference, August 24th. After 3 weeks of staying in a rural hotel and then being part of family life in Plovdiv (thank you Iliana, Vlady, Alex, and Abi!)... this is something else. I will confess that my energy and emotions immediately spiked when I got around so many Americans at once. There is an enthusiasm to the most distant American acquaintanceship that lends spirit and vigor to my days here. A relief, in a way. I didn't know we could all carry that personality inside of us.
The days are full of lessons. How to teach. I could rant forever about how much I hate learning about teaching. I much prefer the culture discussions and Bulgarian lessons.
I'll leave the rant to this: learning to teach is like learning to play a board game without the board or pieces in front of you. Just instructions. I'm bad at learning new games anyway.
Strange opportunities present themselves. Today, Sam and I got to read a poem for the audio pieces that go with the official, Government issued textbook for 11th grade English! For the next decade, Bulgarian high schoolers will be burdened with my voice attempting to express the line breaks and breaths in a Dickenson poem! Tonight, there is a live performance of Aida on a stage by the lake. My first opera. Free, open air, mountains, lake, distant thunder.
The Fulbrighters are a dynamic crew. Interesting. Enthusiastic. Quick learners. Diverse interests. Heavy readers. Committed travelers. Just put a few of us in a circle and all sorts of nerdiness will ensue. I'm impressed by them. Today, on a walk to the center of sleepy, ghost like Pravets, I cornered one fellow Fulbrighter and asked at length about what she studied in college. I know next to nothing about “statehood” and “political identities” and how nation-states interact with culture and art distrubiton. But it was fascinating! I made the mistake of asking some very probing questions in rapid fire. She said she felt like she was in an interview. Woops. I gotta work on that middle ground of conversation, between surface details and the intimate thoughts and processes of our lives.
I’m also grateful for the friendships I see them offering to me. It isn’t easy for me to feel part of a large group dynamic unless I feel like I have intimate knowledge of the people in that large group. I have a large capacity for relationships… but I am so an introvert when it comes to large group dynamics with strangers. I’ve been learning that I can distance myself early on in groups and that’s a hard defense mechanism to reverse later (ex. SuperGroup as an RA at PSU). I’ve tried this week, to some success and some interntal failures. Last night after a difficult few hours, I made myself stop in at a spirited gathering of Fulbrighters before bed. I was weepy and tired. They sat me down, gave me hugs, offered solutions to some of my problems, told me I’d be feeling better in the morning, that we’d all face such nights. I was grateful. Grateful I stopped in even though I wanted to hide. Grateful that they welcomed me even if I couldn’t stay long.
Our first week ends tonight. A free weekend then another week of language lessons, light training, and resting.