Tuesday, October 29, 2013

13 Suggestions for Homesickness/ Culture Shock

Since I posted about culture shock, I've been paying more attention to what alleviates the pain or makes days easier to navigate. Then, a friend asked for some suggestions on dealing with homesickness. Threw some things down on paper and thought I'd share them here as well:

Nota Bene: Every person is different. The suggestions I found on websites for dealing with cultural shock were only marginally helpful. Make your own lists. The key is to pay attention to your insides: what helps? What doesn't?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Love in Excess (Dance)

 The original draft of this was buried in Blogger drafts from 2012. I updated it, tweaked it, and now share it with you.

One of my students back at PSU loves to dance. She's an architectural engineer. As most architectural engineers I've met (I even roomed with one), she is over committed and over-worked. She recently wrote a post about how she knows that dance isn't her calling in life. It isn't what she's skilled at. For her, it doesn't make sense that she loves it and wants to invest time in it. One time she posted on my wall, "I gave up my dance dreams a long time ago. I try not to think about it too often."

 I ask these questions too, especially since I know that the more I invest in dance, the more I want to do it. And yet my time is limited. I can't put everything in that I want. We're in the same boat: as far as I can tell, dance isn't going to be my life.

 However, since coming to Bulgaria, I've come to the opposite sense: maybe dance is going to be my life. Or, at least, in my life. Can anything truly be said to be our whole lives?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Balchik / балчик

I got the itch to go a'wandering on Saturday. The weather was perfect. Warm in the sun. Fall crisp and crunch in the shade. A few wandering clouds. A breeze.

Took a bus to Balchik, a coastal town. Fell quite in love with its hilly streets, stone steps leading to more streets and back alleys, rocky lined shore, the sea.

It felt good to see a bit of independence. The nagging sense of "I am a child" dwindled in the audacity to pick up and leave town for the afternoon. Confidence in my ability to get there, find something wonderful to do, and get back the same day. I even packed myself a lunch.

The time away gave me a chance to re-start my insides. The water and sun rested me. I even wrote two "shitty first drafts" of poems when I got home.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dance in Bulgaria

Salsa Party, Dobrich
I seriously might just write pages and pages about dance in Bulgaria. I have no idea where to begin with this. Any moment of any dance experience I've had so far could turn into a mini essay, a blog post, etc. I'd like to turn studying dance in Bulgaria into a kind of writing project but I don't know what the goals of it would be or where I should start... other than dancing as much as possible. That I can try arrange.

The signs were all over town. I couldn't read most of the words but "SALSA" was very readable. Salsa. I like salsa. I love salsa. The first week in Dobrich, I asked the student showing me around to translate the sign. We ended up going to the grocery store where the club met and got the times and prices. Friday. I'd be going dancing in my new town just less than a week after I first arrived.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I kind of love my 11th classes.

No offense to anyone else. I just don’t see them as much. The 11th Classes I get with Lucy on Tuesdays and some extras on other days AND my Thursdays. Thursdays. The. Best. I’m up super early, almost done teaching by 9am. They are tired, dragging. But I try to rush in with “guns blazing” as it were.
My second week, I led us straight into a class long look at that most pernicious of writing class issues: plagiarism.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Culture Shock

Shock. Adjustment. W Curve. Stress.

I knew this phrase before. But I hadn't read much about it.

Okay, anything about it.

The word shock connotates a kind of violence. A jolt that stops the heart before it can catch its step and keep beating. The sudden chance of everything. Explosive. Traumatic. It happens all at once and it hurts and rings in your now deaf ears.

Moving to Bulgaria wasn't like that. Moving here felt like normal life. I didn't notice anything that looked or felt like shock or a shut down. It just felt like normally hard weeks or normally good weeks.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Year of Long Books

I just didn't have time. That's what it felt like and was true in many ways. With multiple books for multiple classes, tackling the immense library of the world with 600+ page books felt seemingly impossible. With campus ministry, I read lighter books that would fit in my bag during the day.

There were a few exceptions.
  • I read "The Brothers Karamazov" while traveling in India.
  • I read "Lord of the Rings" for the who-knows-how-many time. Probably shouldn't count.
  • I read "Trilby" for a class. Kind of. More like skimmed for the parts that would help my essay.
  • I read...

That might have been it when it comes to super long books.

Here were various attempts:
  • "Middlemarch" on audio book
  • "Crime and Punishment"
  • "Anna Karenina"
  • "As I Lay Dying"
  • "The Sound and the Fury"
  • "Bonhoeffer: A Biography" by Eric Metaxas
  • Others
I just couldn't stay interested long enough to finish.

But here. Time is slower. The chance to focus and push through is different.  The Kindle also changes it because I don't see the huge chunk of book that I haven't finished yet. I spend more time on buses between cities or waiting to teach a class.

Since arriving, I've knocked off 4 hefty books. From beginning to end. I wasn't rushing it either. I took several weeks on each, thinking, mulling, etc. I wrote a mini essay after Anna Karenina and have tried to look up things on the local epics "The Bridge on the Drina" (Serbian) and "Under the Yoke" (Bulgarian).

I've declared this to be the Year of Long Books. I like this idea. I like knowing I have a year where I can actually expect to finish "Les Mis" if I start it or pick up a biography on Einstein and engage with it. This is new. This is different.

Any recommendations? So far I have "Les Mis", "Crime and Punishment", something by James Joyce, and the Bible (yes, the whole thing) on my To Read list.

This will be interspersed with lighter fare. So pass those suggestions along too!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Weather Changes

It's cold. I refuse to turn the heat on yet.

So. I wear all of my clothes. All the time. I'm wearing somewhere around 5 various types of layers in this picture.

Now where are my gloves...?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Weddings in Bulgaria

The other day, I was working on decorating my hallway. I heard horns blaring. I thought, "Oh, someone's getting married!" Here, the wedding party drives from the legal office where they sign the wedding papers to the church in a line (kind of like a funeral back in the states?). Everyone BLASTS music and their horns. The bride and groom are in the first car. I heard the horns getting nearer. Then they stopped and live music started. Since I'm on the top floor, I knew I could see them from the roof. I ran up the stairs to the roof, looked down, and watched this dancing scene unfold. The wedding party danced to the live music (musicians are the far left, holding a white set of bag pipes and a black accordian). The wedding vehicle had white material tied to it. I watched from my bird's perch and cheered when they finished.

Congrats, neighbor!

Without Internet, Teaching Continues

True to the pattern so far, my biggest emotional crises come when the internet goes.

Am I addicted? That's a question for another post.

Mostly, I think its a control issue. I'm struggling to structure my life, to feel like I have things ready when they need to be... and yet I have huge swaths of empty time. Structuring that empty time is stressful. I have several "side projects" that I'm working on personally. Large novels I've never read (another post for another time), GRE studying, essay projects, trying to find people to invest in...

All that to say, it brings into question each small function of my insides. Why is THAT there? When did I start doing ()? How come I can't ___?

Today, however, such questions are laid to rest for a few minutes as I teach my kids something from American culture:

The Cupid Shuffle.

I came all this way to teach the Cupid Shuffle? Yes. Yes I did.


And for my Elements crew: #YOLF