17 December 2010

koleda nablizhava

i am nine time zones away from my sister, three from my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, and only 933 miles from my mom. my christmas tree is fake and only 12 inches tall; i've got two stockings hung without assignment or fillings.
BUT, i do have lights up in my window, and every night i've got a fire going in the fireplace.
christmas is where your heart is, so i guess folks, we are having an international christmas this year.


24 November 2010


One of my favorite things to stumble upon in my time at school is who are brothers and sisters.
This might not seem like an extraordinary task, considering last names usually give it away from the get go, but keep in mind that in the Bulgarian and Turkish tradition, the first last name (which really ends up being the middle name, but for all intents and purposes is the last name) is taken from the father's name. So, I have students named, for instance, Sibel Gunay, Nerjan Gunay, and maybe a Fatme Gunay, and none of them are from the SAME Gunay. Don't even get me started on the last name "Ahmed". Furthermore, these names are sometimes Bulgarianized which consists of adding an "-ov" for boys and "-ova" for girls. Instead of say, Ayshe Sali you get Ayshe Salieva. Confusing.
They are even more confused/not cofused enough as to why my father's name is "Kathleen".

Today I found out that one of my best, cutest, sweetest little boys in fifth grade is the brother of one a clever, beautiful and mischievous little boy in third grade. It was almost as good as the day that I realized Ibryam from sixth (a very sweet child, but fairly slow), Onur from fifth (straight up looks like Howdy Doody!) and Suleyman from first (still does not speak Bulgarian to anyone and generally yells "ANNA! ANNA!" when he sees me) ARE ALL BROTHERS!
I need to start reading the school rosters a little better.

13 November 2010

i just called my mom's cell phone and got an answer in Arabic!

28 October 2010


Hey guys and gouls! HEL-O-VEEN, (here more popularly known as Jadilar Bayram) is in FULL SWING! Here's everyone carving pumpkins yesterday. I suspect the adults had even more fun than the kids!

check out this photobomb! Ibo makes me laugh so much!

26 October 2010

one of the family

for all who may be wondering, my mom arrived in Amman, Jordan yesterday to start her life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. after several (too many) hours of travel, a beer and a sausage in Frankfurt (two things she won't be seeing for a while) she finally arrived around 2:30 am and got to bed around the first call to prayer.
she sounds very pleased with her group and staff. orientation and training are very rigorous but if anyone can do it, it's my moms. adjusting to long sleeves in the heat, starting to learn arabic and acclimate herself to the culture, as well as make new friends will make her a very busy lady, but you can follow all of her adventures here and send your encouragement!

14 October 2010

playing red light, green light

10 October 2010

the key to fire is air

folks, it's october. i woke up this morning (no. afternoon.) to sunlight, which i hadn't seen in about three days. i'm talking about direct sunlight, cloudless and glorious. it roused me from my sunday sloth and lasted long enough make me feel cheated when it hid back behind some overcast clouds.
-where are you going? i ask him. sunny, sluntse in bulgarian or for the overachievers, gunesh in turkish.
-oh, you know, i'm kindof tired.
-you haven't been out in like a week, hang out for a bit!
-nahh, it's nice behind these clouds. i'll come back soon, when i'm ready. i just need some time away from you all right now.
and so i lit my stove, scraped together enough small branches and bits to coax them into igniting, threw a big log on top and opened the bottom tray, ensuring the airflow was strong enough to feed the fire, get it hot, get the log to catch. it's all about the air, i thought to myself.

this autumn, although severely colder than necessary, is still devastatingly romantic. my ipod can't seem to play anything but leonard cohen, and i just finished the novel prague by arthur phillips. the characters are all expat westerners living in a former communist central european country, a la boheme of recent generations. we are living this too, to whatever extent we allow ourselves.
last night as i found myself on the dance floor of the cafe, i couldn't shake a vision of an ocean liner cutting through the atlantic, headed west. my body was still dancing to foreign sounds, through slitted eyes everything turned sepia and glowed warm as if already a memory; a mental postcard filed into some "old world" folder in my brain, available to take out at will in years to come and wax nostalgic of those days, or these days. i'm not quite sure how to frame the occurrence of missing something while it is still happening.

01 October 2010

just riding the waves as they come.

27 September 2010

i am just ignorant or maybe i am a genius.

case and point. a few weeks ago in Ruse with my american friends, we were sitting in a confectionery and i was blowing bubbles in my blueberry milkshake, amazed that the surface wasn't breaking. the bubbles kept building and building. meanwhile my friends were trying to decipher the coasters, which had little aphorisms in bulgarian printed on them. "ask anna, she's a genius" one of them said, they all three looked over to me, and i looked up from a glass full of blue milk bubbles. "a real genius" someone added, sarcastically.

**disclaimer: i am not a genius. i am pretty good at bulgarian, though. i could speak in full sentences before i was 2, so goes the story. i just like talking. a lot.

am i just really dumb, or are people just really hard pressed to give me any credit? i definitely don't think like a bulgarian, i definitely have a lot more life to experience before i can say i know a little about anything. but the things i do know, i've learned well and have thought about at great length. unlike a good majority of the people in this village, i have a college degree. i have a piece of paper that says that i'm smart, or at least that i convinced someone that i knew what i was talking about. i recognize the complete exuberance and luxury that it is to have one of these degrees, but to tell the truth, i usually forget that i have one. my neighbors, my friends here, i've done a lot of different things with them. i've worked in fields with them, i've cooked with them, i've cleaned with them, i've prayed with them. i would never, have never assumed or asserted that they know less than me. i do not separate myself from them or divide us into levels of education, money, or status.
but they have not forgotten that i am a foreigner, they have not forsaken the fact that i don't know everyone's history, i don't know everything about the village inside out like they do. i hear it too often, that i just plain cannot know what i am talking about. maybe they are right. maybe it's just pride to think that i have a good grip on reality. maybe it's just naivete that i don't have personal and very deep vendettas against people here. maybe, it's just ignorance that i am open to everyone, to what they have to say, to what they have to share with me.
but of course, i don't think so. i am happy being how i am. if in the end it proves that i am in fact living in a great state of ignorance, i guess i'll have to admit that i am in fact living in one great state of bliss.

14 September 2010

the sight of bridges and balloons makes calm canaries irritable
they caw and claw all afternoon
catenaries and dirigibles

10 September 2010

when you're a joke. i'm a joke.

i'm 23. people make fun of me on a very consistent basis. sometimes it's for things that i do that they think are funny, like the way i can't quite pronounce the vowels in turkish names correctly or the way i dress or ... i dunno. it seems like most of the time i get made fun of for doing absolutely nothing, just being present. i get mocked a lot. people say things either to me or about me in turkish, and i can only understand from the tone of their voices how absolutely flippant these things are. people constantly want my attention, just to engage me in exchanges where i am the butt of the joke, where everyone else at the table ends up laughing and i end up smiling dumbly because, you know, getting upset or offended just acknowledges that you know they are making fun of you.
after one particular exchange i was told to "disappear".
i don't remember getting bullied a lot in school, and i don't remember bullying anyone. i'm sure that within the dynamic of all of us growing up, there were times that we made fun of someone, got made fun of. we learned how it feels and how it makes others feel, we learned to guard our words, we learned to not associate with those people who were still meanly teasing everyone around them. we learned to respect each other.

what adds the insult to the injury here is that someone last night leaned over and asked me, "how do you deal with people always messing with you?" even outsiders can see it; i'm not a person here, or at least to my peers i'm not really a person. i'm something they pick up when they are bored, toss around, then leave somewhere forgotten until the next time they cross my path. even this kid understood that. how utterly embarrassing.
i told him that i just wanted to have friends, so i guessed that getting razzed was an okay exchange to at least have some company, and that i have found one very true and sweet friend amongst these other not so worthy people. i said i prefer it to staying home alone.
but really, it just makes me feel like the biggest piece of shit sometimes.

09 September 2010

happy september. happy ramazan bayram.

25 August 2010

Have you ever met anyone this cool?

The newest and proudest invitee to Peace Corps Jordan, to depart at the end of October:

She taught middle school special ed for twenty years, then went on to get certified to work with visually impaired students. Now she's off to learn Arabic and teach special needs children (and probably adults) motor skills like hand-eye coordination and coloring, and basic life skills like getting dressed in the morning. Did I mention that she's going to learn Arabic?
I am not aware of anyone cooler than this.
In case you need a visual:
I'm in the top lefthand corner. Mom is northwest of Saudi Arabia. LOOK HOW CLOSE THAT IS!!!

Congratulations, Mom. This is a new chapter in your life.

18 August 2010

in America

the obvious things are not the things that shock me so much. when i landed in london on the way out, the airport looked nice. big. clean. but that could be anywhere. bulgaria is still the dumps in a lot of places, but find the right restaurant in varna and you're straight back into 21st century. find the wrong gas station on Delmarva and you're somewhere around 1985. it's all perspective.
i was at one such gas station, the closest one to my american house, right on racetrack road, and i was dying to get to the beach. mom was letting me drive her car. all the pumps were full, and there was one car waiting. i saw a pump open up on the other end and i immediately started to jockey to get there fast, lest a new car enter the station and think it was theirs for the taking. in bulgaria i am so used to having to fight for everything. if you don't hold your place in line, be sure someone will step directly in front of you. i have spent extra 10s and 15 minutes in the grocery store because i was too timid to assert that i was in fact next to be served.
i pulled up next to the other car and rolled the window down. "do you want that pump?" i asked.
the man was white, middle aged, affluent looking. he smiled and said, "no problem. i'll wait for this one."
"i just didn't want to jump in front of you" i said. i always feel the need to give an explanation.
"it's no problem" he said again, as i wheeled over to the pump which was somehow, magically still unoccupied.
"you're so polite" my mom remarked.
i'm so american, i thought. "i've been getting cut in front of for 14 months." i replied. we both stepped out of the car; i ran inside to pay and she pumped. we were out of there and on to the beach in no time at all.

10 August 2010


the bike wheels jumped with uncertainty across the cobblestones that made up something resembling a road. i had seen it many times before turned into a lake, a mudslide of animal feces and dirt and fresh rain, but today is was dry and the sun was beating down hard. i turned when i saw the mosque and parked the bike next to a field of 8 women, dressed from head to toe in the scorching heat.
"is Gülten here?" i asked and i trudged forth between the high stalks. she turned around, familiar face with hair all hidden under a cotton kerchief. to her left one of my colleagues, Seyarey, smiled widely and said that she would hug me if she wasn't so dirty.
they showed me how to pick the leaves, starting at about eye level and working down; sticky things really. we stacked them in our hands and periodically handed them off to another woman, who slid the piles down large metal tongs which she would later thread to make bundles. i was going slower than everyone else, but everyone refrained how much they appreciated the help.

when we finished only about an hour later (i had come around 10:30 but they had been at is since 7) and we took a lunch break. i rode home to wash the dirt off my hands, which proved to be a trickier task than i expected. in a little while i returned, then my hair all wrapped in kerchief, and we started the next step of the day-- gathering the bundles, moving them from the field to the woman's garden. a donkey cart was soon enlisted to help, but there being no donkey, the woman (Ayshe), Gulten and I pushed the cart back and forth between destinations. other women were at work unstringing the bundles and hanging them out in small greenhouses to dry. everywhere you looked tobacco, in all varying stages; green, sticky, heavy, wet. hundreds of leaves on a line. another greenhouse down, more yellowed, dry but not ready, withered under the august sun. we spent the afternoon that way- my first day of true manual labor.

"15 days, again" Ayshe said. somehow throughout the day she had become one of my new favorite people in the world. this was her tobacco, this was her labor and her livelihood. such a sizable group of us had worked all day, and in fifteen days we would go back and do it again, gathering the higher leaves that today we left behind. at the end of the season she might collect 500 leva for the lot of it. that comes to around $260.

"say it in Turkish" someone suggested to me, and my mind searched for a moment.
"On-besh gün. Geljem." i said. "Fifteen days, I will come."
the ladies all laughed.

13 July 2010

midservice elation; the coming months; anticipation

you may laugh when you hear jesse ruffes declare "i'm bringing the pool to midservice", but know one thing: if there's anything that jr is going to joke about, it's NOT bringing an inflatable pool halfway across bulgaria to be filled in a hotel bathroom and enjoyed by 6 or more of his closest friends.

yes folks, the 25th group of volunteers serving in bulgaria has completed its midservice training, administered in vratsa, our original home away from home. we were asked to examine ourselves and our service and what the potential is for the coming year, and while putting on very professional and optimistic faces, i would venture to guess that most of us were churning inside. be it because we are americans or for some other facet of our personalities, we went through those two days trying to show our best and not really addressing the things that continue to challenge us every day. this is what is still challenging me:

flippant kids, friends, acquaintances
what to eat for dinner tonight
leaving the village for a time and then adjusting when coming back
a serious lack of bacon
caffeine intake and the serious deterioration of tooth enamel
feeling effective
communication with people my age, thus, the turkish language

17 June 2010

i sat at the table in the cafe listening to yet another conversation of which i understood three sentences. i tried to make my flight swiftly and painlessly but ended up having to talk to the same stupid boys who also ask stupid questions and make stupid statements implying that they're going to pay me a house visit later. i finally escaped my the clutches of my not so caring friend and made it to where the path to my house meets the road, and i promptly slipped on the wet grass and fell directly into the eight inch rut between the concrete and the end of the walkway. i managed a quick "fuck", then let a few tears out. just lay here, i thought. at least now you have a reason to cry.

as i finally made it to the safety of my house and turned the key in the darkness i thought, how long do i have to feel this utterly incompetent? and after two years of consistently feeling inadequate, will i be a better person for having survived?

05 June 2010

goodbyes, hellos

Back in the winter an essay contest was held amongst the PC Bulgaria volunteers. The topic was migration, which sent me reeling back to my days at American U, specifically sitting in the small Honors room of the International Studies building. I was enrolled in an undergrad/grad seminar on the same topic. The grad students each had really in-depth theories and concepts, and I was so intimidated that I felt as if most of it flew over the top of my head. One girl was obsessed with biogenics and the ability to quantify things like fingerprints and the configuration of irises. We spent a lot of time talking about remittances. We covered economic hardship, war and political exile, we talked a lot about Cuba. In January when I received that prompt-- Immigration as it relates to Bulgaria-- I flashed back to that class and thought, why didn't you listen better??

I could never get a good grip on International theory, because I was always looking for the human side of it. In college I had friends from Slovakia who worked in Ocean City in the summers; I had worked with a few Guatemalan men at a pizza shop in high school. They were my idea of immigration. So when it came time to formulate some thesis for this contest, I wrote about what I understood- the people who have come in and out of my life as a result of international migratory patterns.

The essay was written in February, and after a few cold nights of sitting at my computer and reading and re-reading, it was finished. I tried to tone down my personal, i.e. fraternizing experiences, but the truth was I was writing about the boys in my village, who have ebbed and flowed back and forth between here and Paris, leaving me in their wake. When I met each of them they had already worked in France for several years, making their personal context more French. When the days came for them to leave, I was sad, but I knew it had to be. It was normal for them; it made sense.

Recently there have been rumours of when they will be coming home, for the summer holiday, or for Ramazan Bayram (Eid el-Fitr) in August, and the village has been lowly buzzing in anticipation. But the other day I got news that I simply was not expecting. One of our recent high school graduates will be leaving any day now to go to Paris and start working.
When I heard I was surprised and immediately saddened. This kid is the one you see rolling around the streets, always in the cafe, always ready to dance or make you laugh. He is my village. Now his time has come, and he must leave us all behind and start a new life far away. His departure means much more to me than any of the other boys. He is a baby taking his first few steps out into this world, alone. He has no idea what awaits him, but he has no choice but to move forward, which inevitably means moving away.

In case you're interested, here is my essay. I won the contest, by the way.

24 May 2010

andy, are you going to clean that up?

THIS is what teaching feels like

what's in the sky?

Yesterday we were on a walk around the center, just me and two friends, and their little cousin who is only 6 and is learning Bulgarian. One of my friends points up to the sky and asks in Turkish,
"What's up there?"
"Allah." the little one answers, very sure of herself.
My friend more specifically points to the only thing in the sky, the moon, and says again,
"What is that?"
"Allah! Allah!" the little girl asserts, showing her persistence and conviction.
"Ay." says my friend, the Turkish word for moon.
"Ahhh." says the little one. "Ay."
"Ee kak e na Bulgarski?" she asks, what is it called in Bulgarian?
The little girl pauses for a second or two, thinks well and finally answers, "Bog"

Because she had continued to ask "What is that, in the sky?", the little girl had defaulted to what she knew was up there -- Allah, Bog -- God. Oh yeah, and also the moon.

11 May 2010

it's official -- it's summer. i know because today i saw a first for the season-the man's capri pant. it was my colleague, and he was standing in the center. as i walked by i surveyed his outfit, and my eyes got quite a pleasant shock when i saw the denim of his trousers stop precisely 4 inches above the ankle. and then there were the mandals, more commonly known as man sandals.

it seems it was only yesterday i was shoveling snow and crying as my able bodied young male friends drove their cars by me and smiled (or even dared to laugh; curse their laziness!) and now with one nice day and the unveiling of many a bare arm and ankle, i am all at once reminded of Bulgarian Summer. today i got out my own pairs of shorts from their hiding place under my bed, and may have danced around the room when i put on my hotpants at they actually fit! a year ago, i was dying of heat exhaustion on a daily basis, covered in fleas, and gaining kilos by the minute thanks to the consistent chorus of my host mother and baba. YASH! YASH! EAT! EAT!

so yeah, life really has come full circle. sometime in the next day or two a group of 80 million (but seriously, around 80) new volunteers will be landing in the Sofia airport just as scared and dumbfounded as i was a year ago. they will be transported to the same mountain resort to start their training, and by all the luck in the universe I will be there to regale them with stories of what to expect in training, in Bulgaria, and in their lives for the next two years. here's my first observation, piece of advice for them:

Bulgarian men seem to hate taking their shirts off. it gets HOT in BG, like clothes sticking to skin hot, but in general if a male here overheats he makes the effort to lift his shirt OVER his belly. just above the belly. sometimes if you are lucky, you make spot one who also lifts it over his chest, but not his head. SOMETIMES, if you have been extra good and the universe wants to reward you, you will see ONE ARM out of its sleeve while the shirt rests on the opposite shoulder. BUT VERY RARELY will you ever see a BG dude ACTUALLY TAKE THE ENTIRE SHIRT OFF.

Summer 2010.

29 April 2010

VOTE! 2.0

We've been busy here in the BG learning a little bit of American History whilst practicing our English, and in an effort to spice things up a bit, the kids from 8th grade have accepted a challenge:
Who can sing God Bless America better? I'm impartial, but luckily, you aren't! Watch both the classes, 8A and 8B, and leave a comment to vote for who you think gave the best performance! The winners have a prize in store for them!

Паралелите VIIIa и VIIIb са се съгласили да се състезават, за да види, които пяха по-добре американската песен God Bless America, която означава, Бог да благослови Америка. Виж видеото и пише коментар за да гласуваш за най-добрият клас.

*****If you've already voted, I've counted you! Thanks for you comments! If not, please write just your name and who you wish to vote for.

*****Ако вече гласувахте, благодаря. Преброих своя глас. Ако не сте гласували, моля пишете само името си и, за които желаете да гласувате .

27 April 2010

19 April 2010



I spent all of Saturday on an Eggs Benedict high, savored every bite, patted myself on the back, then laid down and day dreamed about HOW GOOD EB is.

How I poached the eggs:
I brought a big pot of water to boil, and added a few tablesoons of vinegar to help keep the egg together. Once it boiled, I turned the burner off and waited for it to slow to a simmer. I cracked an egg into a small teacup being sure not to break the yolk, and then slowly dipped the lip of the cup into the water and let the egg slide out. I took a spoon and gently gathered the egg together, and then put the lid on the pot and waited about 3 minutes. the yolk of the first egg was medium and the second was easy.

The Hollandaise:
Scaled down for one person, this sauce came together really quickly. Whisk one egg yolk with 1/3 Tbs lemon juice, and a pinch of salt pepper and cayenne if you have it. Put over medium heat and add about 30g of butter cut into chunks. Whisk constantly while butter melts, then cook to desired thickness and serve immediately. My version used less butter than the original recipe called for, but it was still the perfect consistency and really let the lemon flavor shine through.

I'm not going to lie -- it was super tricky to time everything right. I toasted the bread and fried the ham while waiting for the water to boil, then stuck them in the oven to stay warm while I moved onto the real cooking. I made sure the yolk/lemon mixture was ready and whisked before I put in the eggs to poach, and then after the lid was on them I put the sauce on. It came together more deliciously than I could have imagined!

13 April 2010

i miss my mom, always

before you hit the highway, you better stop for gas
there's a 50 in the ashtray in case you run short on cash
here's a map and here's a bible, if you ever lose your way
just one more thing before you leave--

don't forget to remember me.

yeah, i still feel like i'm where i'm supposed to be
but don't forget to remember me.

10 April 2010


our spring break had been pretty sedate and calm, so when in bucharest we decided to try and liven things up. we picked a standard touristy irish pub, decided on having one drink and moving on if nothing developed.

flashforward an hour when we are surrounded by a british men's rugby team, their chaperones, and a long line of drinking songs. god bless europe.

30 March 2010


this is me wanting to give MAD PROPS to my school principal, who also happens to be my peace corps counterpart.

compared to most bulgarian schools ours is very, very tame. there are no problems with drugs, only 2 students smoke cigarettes, and the fights seem to dissipate as quickly as they form. but this doesn't mean that the kids don't need a little reminder of who's the boss every now and then. a select handful of students, mostly from higher grades, need a serious lesson in respect and responsibility, and today they got it.
my second period was with seventh grade, in which i have a terrible student who acts out at any chance he gets. this kid is my height, skinny but strong, and has a temper to rival any i've seen. today he just wouldn't sit down, wouldn't stop talking, wouldn't stop bothering other kids and bossing them around. i got more and more angry and frustrated, feeling that my options for punishment were very limited, because no matter what, i refuse to hit these children. as he walked behind me i asked for the umpteenth time "please, sit down", and i tried to catch him around the waist so as to direct him back towards his seat. it turns out my balance was off, and since he didn't go back to his seat but continued on his own path he ended up almost pulling me out of the chair, completely by accident, but also because he just WOULDN'T LISTEN to me.
i tried not to get upset or show my embarrassment, but i decided it was the last straw. i opened the grade book and gave him the lowest grade i could for the month. i said nothing, but pretty soon someone told him and his fuse was lit. he stood up and kicked his desk, hard, recoiled as if he was thinking of hitting me, then sat down and proceeded to cuss me out in turkish. i ignored him.
i made it out of class slightly frazzled, but continued on with the day. at the end of the next period, the boy's homeroom teacher had heard from the students what had happened. he was called into the teacher's room, given a good lecture and made to apologize to me. but the best part is what happened next, after fourth period, during our "long break".

the director gathered all the students outside, and then one by one called up these select brats who day after day disrespect us all and act out. she didn't insult anyone or use unnecessarily harsh words, but reiterated the severity of their poor behavior and disobedience. standing in front of the whole student body, they all were suddenly quiet. a boy from eighth grade, who gives me the most grief simply because he is spoiled and can't stay quiet for three consecutive minutes, was suddenly muted in the face of humiliation. it turns out he and another boy had made a female classmate cry. one of my seventh grade girls, who had skipped english class to go have "a meeting" (with her boyfriend) started crying while she was being yelled at. and after all the reprimanding, my director commanded them to sweep the schoolyard and for all the other students to watch them.

YES! i couldn't have been happier or more proud of the discipline in our school. other volunteers talk about their colleagues' lack of interest, but today i saw the exact opposite in mine. it was time to put her foot down, and that's exactly what the director did. anyone can give up on these kids, let them grow up to be disrespectful and disobedient, but it takes a lot of strength to correct them and punish them so as to teach them appropriate behavior. bulgarians tend to have a lackadaisical attitude towards problems, and a lot of them wait for someone else to come along and fix them. i have to say Bravo to Aysel, who today took on the responsibility of cultivating a better generation of kids. may she continue to kick little snotty kids' butts whenever they are in need of kicking (figuratively).

28 March 2010

the forest and the trees

"before you know it it will be summer, and then it will be fall, and then it will be winter all over again."

without being terribly cliche, i'm finding it hard to describe exactly how wonderful it is to continue to turn and live in this circle of seasons. we had our first village wedding this weekend, a precursor of what is to be the primary diversion for summer weekends, what was my favorite activity last summer, and what will continue to happen every summer into infinity and so on and so on.
life is turning its wheel, and we are living. work, play, vacations, weddings, naps, laundry, grocery shopping. life.

I got all dressed up on Friday night!

"...and the seasons they go round and round..." -joni mitchell, the circle game

11 March 2010

it's a party in the U S A


Spring is SUCKING so far. But only in the most dramatic way possible. About 11 days ago a few boys from the village went back to work in Paris, and I've been using this as an excuse to be MOPEY. I've been trying to articulate whatever sort of weird emotional attachment/crush/common interest that has been deleted since their departure, but every time it just doesn't seem worth it. And as I sat down at the computer yesterday to write about how sad I was, this arrived at my window.

So check out my loot from my big sis-- American Candy. My favorite and most missed item. Super cute reusable sandwich bags, sure to boggle the minds of every Bulgarian they cross. A rad little make-up bag/clutch. Perfect for my birthday outfit. Very adorable button headband. AND a movie with John Krasinksi. It's like she knew that with the absence of these boys, I'd have nothing to do this weekend. SHE IS RIGHT. ALSO, SHE IS BOMB. These are the raddest bday presents ever.

So I've just been listening to a lot of Passion Pit and MGMT and Carly Simon and trying to pump myself up for my birthday party. Mostly, I want to listen to this all night:

I don't think my village friends or American friends will have that, at all.

01 March 2010

the Rites of Spring

March 1 is a day that I have always sortof awaited with baited breath-- being narcissistic and impatient, this date signals basically one thing - countdown to my BIRTHDAY. I love being a March baby, because a March baby is on the cusp of both seasons. As I am ever reminded by my village, I was born under the sign of Pisces, which makes me creative and sensitive. I have never been one to commit to liking spring and as much as I despise the winter I understand its value-- the time between these two seasons is a transition, representing both the cold and contemplative and the new and fresh. I guess I feel I can relate to this semi-Bi-polarism?

Today in Bulgarian culture is BABA MARTA, or Grandmother March's Day. Baba Marta is the personification of spring, a temperamental woman who sends rain showers as well as sunshine. For luck, everyone has been passing out little red and white bracelets, pins and decorations and wishing each other health, happiness, love and luck for the rest of the year. I have been wished "a very nice boyfriend" several times (of course). Let me just say that this holiday is bomb. I bought some cute little ties in Silistra over the weekend and have been given the opportunity to act like a middle schooler by giving everyone a kind of "Best Friends for Life" bracelet without seeming completely cheesy. The Bulgarians are also eating up the fact that I knew about this holiday and was prepared for it. Please, guys, would I pass up a day to get give and get presents? No.

So, we will wear our martinitsa s until we first see a stork, who is the harbinger of spring, or so they say. When he returns from his winter migration and settles into his giant nest, we will remove the pins and tie the bracelets to any fruit bearing tree for good luck until next year. Chestita Baba Marta!!

18 February 2010


fins to the left, fins to the right.
she's the only bait in town.

12 February 2010

post taina

a good friend of mine always posts her fave postsecrets on her blog. this always prompts me to read them, and then reflect on the ones that stick out to her the most and the ones that hit me. this one is dead on, on point, exactly what i mean right now:

08 February 2010

a response to snowpacolypse 2010

this snow started about a month ago and has never gone away. about once a week it dumps more, freezes. it's dumping right now.

have you ever had snow enter your house upon its own will? i have.

there's half my trashcan, half of my fence.

my heating unit.

bulgarian winter beats american winter.

01 February 2010


for many summers i was a waitress. my first summer at the restaurant, i worked behind the ice cream counter, made milkshakes, sundaes, cones, sprinkles, filled bins of strawberry topping, tubs of riece's pieces, wiped down the counter, refilled drinks, stocked glasses and cups, heated apple pie in the microwave-- basically ran my butt back and forth from one end to the other.
then the next year i graduated to full time waiting. my domain was larger, and i ran myself between a maze of tables, customers, crying children, orders sitting under heat lamps, more drink refills, doggie bags, check please and the ever important question -- did they leave me (a good, or any) tip??? the night never seemed to expand past that. some nights were crazy; i cried, i fought with coworkers, i yelled at busboys. other nights were awesome- my tables were nice, we chatted, i got my ego stroked when i told people where i went to school and they replied "oh, i hear that's very goooood." still, no matter how good or how bad any one night in particular seemed, the final summary of what it was worth it came down to one thing - cash money, in hand, how much did i have?
don't get me wrong - summers were a blast. in fact, i live for summer. but, year after year, the novelty started to fade. the moment i noticed that i was refilling an iced tea for the 10,000th time, or when i finally learned how to tell the difference between diet and regular just by looking at them, or the idea that someone was really spicing up my day by ordering a root beer with cherry syrup in it, i realized something - i felt like my job had no meaning. no ultimate impact in the world, in the scheme of things. i was the provider of burgers and fries, a few jokes, a smile, and within 15 minutes of a customer leaving the restaurant he or she would forget me for the rest of his or her life. my work was unimportant.

so about a year ago i found out i was going into the peace corps- i was going to bulgaria to teach english. the inertia of my life changed. i was going to be a world traveler, learn a new language, meet new people, teach them things, make a mark in their lives, be everything that i thought i ought to be. i was going to be important. the world would surely change because of me.

now, i am one semester down and 8 months into this experience. i left school today feeling about as defeated as i usually do after spending all morning with 15 year olds. what did they learn today? i asked myself. how to spell patrick swayze. nothing. who knows what they learned. as i was thinking i passed the cafe where my friend works, a young girl around my age who six days a week serves beer and soft drinks and probably makes about 250 coffees every day. i flashed back momentarily to my waiting days. i remembered how unfulfilled i felt.
now i have a job that i wanted for a very long time, and it is the most difficult thing i have ever done in my life. there is no cash in hand to quantify how successful i am at it, there is no immediate gratification. a bright moment in the day is marred by several frustrations and the precise feeling that i was hunting for - feeling like my work was going to change the world - that feeling is nowhere to be found.

waiting tables is about anticipating what needs to be done and meeting that need as quickly as possible. the faster you go the better you are. the work becomes a dance, picking up things, dropping them off, at the right place at the right time. this job is essentially the same, except it's like i'm partially deaf and sometimes blindfolded. i'm still stumbling around. the best i can hope is that after a few summers, a few years, i'll finally get it. all i can say for now is, i'm still waiting.

17 January 2010

high school flashbacks

some things just happen unexpectedly!

....cause there's no cute boys at decatur.....

09 January 2010

in which every flight you have ever considered is cancelled

Bonny at Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia

flashback to 2009 with me for a moment, folks.

It's December 19th and you're about to leave for a magical land called Bulgaria, but the most monsterous snowstorm of your LIFE hits the eastern seaboard of the United States and sends your travel plans into a tailspin including: cancelled flight. new flight from philadelphia instead of dc. missed connection in frankfort. all day in a german airport and then the realization that your NEW tickets are actually only for STAND-BY. a minor breakdown of nerves and faith in the world. a late night flight to sofia. a stay in a five star hotel with the most amazing breakfast buffet in all of Eastern Europe (the fact that there was bacon is something i'm not willing to let go) and then finally a flight to Varna, putting you exactly 3 days behind schedule. You have lost three days of your life to terminals and baggage claim and ticket counters and those stupid food carts they push through the aisle of the plane and always manage to ram into the arm of your seat just as you are falling asleep. All for a country the size of Pennsylvania, and a 22 year old named Anna O'Neill.

Once my mom and sister finally did arrive, our trip became sort of whirlwind and food centered, but not necessarily in a bad way. My family was able to meet all of my colleagues and experience a true Turkish/Bulgarian dinner party featuring lots of dancing. Needless to say my sister became the star of that night. Here she's having a dance off with one of the custodians, Nadie:
Christmas was a relaxed morning at home, lots of Nescafe 3for1 and Christmas morning food (read: bacon, cinnamon rolls). The O'Neill family collectively ate so much that day that at 2 am on December 26th all three of us woke up with sore stomachs. However- my mom had the audacity to go and LOSE 2lbs in spite of the constant eating that continued across the country.
Bons in my kitchen on Christmas, with cinnamon rolls.

Christmas dinner at my Directors house; "I didn't know what you liked so I made everything!"

We were able to see Veliko Tarnovo, Troyan and the monastery there, Teteven, the mountain between Troyan and Teteven (be warned), and Sofia. My mom, who is currently in the application process, got to see our Peace Corps office in Sofia and meet some of the staff.
Reguardless of losing three days to the inconvenience of modern travel, I'd say the trip was well worth it. My village family got to meet my real family, and both sides got a little glimpse of what my life is, now and before now. Bulgaria has taught me so much about the importance of family, and having them here made Christmas 2009 really special and really fun.
O'Neill ladies at the Tsaravets fortress in Veliko Tarnovo

Happy New Year (Честита Нова Година) to all of you and Желая ви успех, щастие, здраве и нови обувки!

Love in 2010,

Bonny and Gosho getting their dance on.

Christmas program: Esin, Damla, Nursel.

Toguy tells riddles and hands out presents.

And of course, a feeding frenzy ensued. Look at Nesrin!

Bonny's ultimate goal is to make a book of just cats from all over the world. She's well on her way to finishing it.

She can make people laugh anywhere she goes.