22 November 2009

there's no place like home for the holidays: an homage to the Evans Family

(A young Erin, flanked by little Anna and little Kyler, Evans Thanksgiving circa 1992. Photo courtesy of not pictured Tierney)
Home is where the heart is, is it not?

In four days it will be Thanksgiving, a wonderful and most importantly American holiday, and for the first time in my life, I will be without a single family member. I've been trying to explain the significance of this holiday to my community, and the best that I've gotten out is
"We eat, a lot. We get together with our families, think about what we are thankful for, and we eat turkey. We eat a lot of turkey, watch football, and then everyone falls asleep."

But, that's nowhere near the true meaning of Thanksgiving for me. Perhaps trying to pinpoint the emotional significance is about as trite as the ritual that comes about this time of year: droning off what we are Thankful for; things that have been said so many times that they lose their specialness, their value is depleted by their popularity, the words fall into a chasm of holidays past and of things that we so often take for granted.

The Evans do not sit in a circle and rattle off their Thanksgivings, maybe because we realize that often they are better left unsaid. Instead, we simply enjoy each other's company, we eat, we talk. A Thanksgiving comes to mind when we were blessed by the presence of my late Uncle Aug, my grandmother's brother, who regaled us with stories of our great-grandfather, growing up in Baltimore, feigned connections to the mafia, and even had the audacity to call my grandmother, the matriarch of the gathering, a spoiled brat, to her face.

Evans family holidays are when we all gather around many tables, because we are too big to fit at one, and everyone prays the Catholic grace before we eat, and we think about those members of the family who are no longer with us, and we make small talk and eat too much, we try to decide who will host Christmas, we sing Happy Birthday to my cousin Ryan, we take turns listening to Mom-mom while simultaneously trying to get attention from any family member under the age of 7-- currently, Reagan, Paige, and the newest addition, Francesco.

Evans family holidays are small opportunities to make up for all the time I haven't spent with my cousins that year: upon seeing Amy, only 9 months older than me, the goofy switch turns on and we are back to being 7 and 8 years old again, dressing up dogs in her basement. Erin, my Godmother, always finds the perfect balance between serious conversation and fart jokes. Kyler and Tierney are always up for some antics, including but not limited to last Christmas, when I made all of the cousins watch YouTube videos in Kyler's room and then formed the Great Alliance with Tierney. Thanksgiving is when it takes an hour to walk around the house and say hello everyone, and then another hour when it's time to leave, trying to say goodbye and give hugs and kisses and say, "Wull seeya at Christmas!"

To all the Evans-es who may read this, I love you all so much and will be so terribly sad to miss the chance to be with you this week. You have all been so supportive of me and your love has carried me through the past six months. My heart is full of memories like these, and for that I am as thankful as one person can be.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and have a warm and blessed holiday!

10 November 2009

2nd graders

As a young, first year teacher keeping things under control in the classroom has been challenging, at best. I seem to have the most trouble with 2nd grade, who I see twice a week. I've tried songs, exercises, threats, stickers, candy, pretty much everything you can think of in order to get them to chill out, but still every day I leave the class feeling, well, defeated. That was, until I received these two letters, penned by two students in that class. They read (in BG but translated for your enjoyment):
"Gospozho (Mrs., with a masculine and/or diminutive ending), I love you very much and wish you health and happiness. From, Berko."

here's number two, from a little girl in the class.
When I opened it I honestly thought that she had just scribbled words and somehow written my name at the top, but after close inspection I was able to discern a few phrases:
"Mila Anna (Sweetie Anna), ...obicha mnogo ti krasivo... (someone) loves your beauty (?)...mnogo hubava kosa... very beautiful hair....nai-krasivo osho.... most beautiful eyes(?).... ti si mnogo krasiva... you are very beautiful. From Nevin"


04 November 2009

in general

oh baby. last week the aunties from school installed my brand new stove, and since then we have been building a truly affectionate relationship. luckily i was quick on the learning curve and usually have no problem getting a fire started, so i have moved on to a more important lesson: how to never let the fire go out. it's warm and cozy in this one room, and so i, like most of the other people in the village, are settling in for the long winter with cords of stacked wood and a lot of television watching.
swine flu has reached us, finally, throwing the country into a weird psuedo-epidemic. regions are being shut down, meaning schools are closed for several days on end. every morning our director carefully counts the absences, and everyone seems to be bracing for it to hit our area next. some of the smarter kids are already picking up on this panic, feigning illness in order to get out of school and do, i don't know, what they please, i guess. is it really any fun to be free when everyone else is busy? anyway, here's a map of where svinski grip (H1N1) has hit so far:
we are in the northeastern quadrant and while our area is not highlighted, we are surrounded on THREE SIDES (Силистра, Шумен and Търговищe) with the dreaded sneezes. today a teacher remarked, "why do we have to be so healthy?" indeed. anyway, i broke open a care package this morning and offered the hand sanitizer my mom had sent me, explaining that every teacher in America has a legitimate supply of it anyway. THANKS MOM!

in other, less topical news, our chitalishte Ivan Vasov is submitting its proposal for 2010 and a budget request. as a paid member of the chitalishte, i attended the meeting, and it's a good thing i did since only 5 other people bothered to show. anyway, the plan includes more piano lessons, enlgish classes, movie nights and halloween/other holiday discotechs for the kiddies. they are once again asking for money for a very desperately needed renovation, but as we discussed the other night, chances of getting funding are slim to none.

happy november everyone! i hope that halloween was swell for all of you and that you are now preparing your bellies for the feast that is thanksgiving. keep the swine flu in check and talk to you soon!