Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Settling In

I'm sitting in my Dobrich apartment. 7th floor. There is an impressive sunset happening on the other side of my window, the one I moved my desk to face. I have to admit: I wasn't counting on the sunsets the night I moved in.

That was Saturday. It took 8 hours to get from Sofia to Dobrich by bus. Buses are slow. Timely, but slow. This one was particularly large, lumbering along and stopping at various large towns along the high way between Sofia and Varna. Then on to Dobrich. The bus driver would occassionaly turn around in his seat to smile at me or offer a small wave when the bus would take breaks. It was his encouragement to the strange idea that an American would suffer the 8 hours to a town like Dobrich with more bags than made sense for a weekend jaunt. Certainly not a tourist visit.

Tourists don't visit Dobrich.

As far as towns go, it's key characteristic seems to be its average status. At least, that's what my students tell me as they guide me around the city center in pairs on different days this week. They like to announce in the first few minutes that, "I hate Dobrich. There is nothing to do here. It is dirty." It is there way of saying, "I'm cultured. I know that there is a big world. I don't love here too much. Don't think less of me."

But I think I'll like it here, their protests to the contrary. I like that I now know where to get the best pizza slices and doner. I like that there is a wine store a few blocks from me and that the sommelier knows my face at this point and offered to let me pay for a wine bottle opener "later" if I didn't have enough leve on me at the time.

My apartment has taken some work. Will take some work.

The night I arrived, it loomed rusty and ill lit. Soviet era structure. If I could go back in time, I would change soviet era architecture. I wonder what kinds of beauty would have happened in the world if these infernal apartment structures hadn't ever happened to humanity in Eastern Europe. Lucy and I took the tiny "lift" to the seventh floor, the top. I wondered if the lift would actually make it that far. My windows and door were bared with black bars. I have to unlock a black bar door to get to my front door. The apartment lights wouldn't turn on right away. The water came out of the pipes brown and choking. The toilet didn't respond to any pleas. The floor came up on my feet in black sticky messes. A limescale covered dish rack stank beside the kitchen sink. Dead cockroaches on the floor. Bare lightbulbs hung on a wire from the ceiling. The bed things smelled mildewy after being in a cupboard the whole summer.

I wanted to go home.

When Lucy left, I thought, "What?! You're leaving me here?!" It was so quiet. I wasn't even sure if people lived on the same floor as me. What was I doing here? I slept in my new sleeping bag, body tense, talking myself into calm and into sleep.

I did sleep. Then I faced Day 1.

Lucy is the hero of this story. She and her partner, a British man who settled in this town five years ago, picked me up and took me with them on their Sunday routine. We bought cleaning supplies and cooking oil and food. Then after she fed me lunch, she helped drag cleaning equipment from her place to mine and worked with me for four hours. The apartment changed. The light switches, black from skin oil and grime, were visible again. While the toilet still didn't work, it was clean. She showed me which sheets to use to make the bed. We cleaned the floors two different ways.

It's coming together. Today, I bought covers to go over the "light bulb on wire" look. Yesterday, I bought glass jars at a market and put tea and breakfast granola in them and lined them up with my tea mugs on the most convenient shelf. My finger nails still smell of onion and garlic from my first so-so attempt at cooking.

Before you know it, this place will even have name!

Beauty is creeping its way in. I feel like I'm mounting a domestic fight for Redemption to make its mark.

School starts Monday. Then my energies will shift to figuring out what on earth I'm going to teach them. They get grammar and vocab from one teacher. Literature from another. So that leaves me... all my favorite things?

To be continued...


Jade P. said...

Dana!! Thanks for posting this! It's crazy how similar our journeys are. A similar type of thing happened to me. And people say the same things about the town I'm in. I don't know if I'll love it yet, because I just haven't been here long enough. Let's keep each other posted on progress. It might be a stretch, but we might be able to skype. School starts on Monday for me too. Lots to teach. And I'm SURE...lots to learn. Love to you! Keep writing!

Kaitlin Sickle said...

More pictures please!!

Anonymous said...

Great piece of writing, and I'm happy to hear that things are slowly coming together :)

Take care & have lots of fun these first days of school and after.