June 6, 2003: Headlines: COS - Bulgaria: Internet: Blogs - Bulgaria: Personal Web Site: THE ALASKAN BULGARIAN ARCHIVES

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bulgaria: Peace Corps Bulgaria: The Peace Corps in Bulgaria: June 6, 2003: Headlines: COS - Bulgaria: Internet: Blogs - Bulgaria: Personal Web Site: THE ALASKAN BULGARIAN ARCHIVES

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-43-253.balt.east.verizon.net - on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit Post




Friday, June 06, 2003
Well, I don't really know where to begin. The last time I was able to sleep in was about three weeks ago, the alarm has become my mortal enemy. Yada yada. It's just been one of those weeks where I didn't see where things were stacked against me and I didn't notice openings when they were given. I was tired all week, and when I get tired I tend to bulldoze through life, and sometimes that means rolling over a few landmines. But here we are, Friday, and tomorrow morning I'll get to sleep as late as I want to. I'll finally get a chance to reset. I'll get to go around obstacles again instead of through them.

Last night I played ball with the usual group, but my usual play wasn't working. They were actually playing well, and I lost the first game--a two on one with the local tall guy and a halfway decent player against me--21-19. This wasn't a tragedy, but a bit of a mystique shatterer. They smelled blood, and in the second game--a three on three with the former team plus one and me with two eleven-year-olds--I had to use every remaining bit of energy to scrape by 22-20. I also hit about 5 straight long shots at one point and that saved me a little. I should have seen what was happening in the first game and ended it midway through, but I kept trying for the flashy and they were consistent. The second game just became work.

Today, I taught a class where the kids (and they had shown me evidence of this in the past) knew nothing. This was, again, one of the absentee teacher's classes and it was pretty obvious that she made little difference when she was around. We were reviewing the conditional, all three forms: If I go to the store I will buy apples. If I went to the store, I would buy apples. If I had gone to the store, I would have bought apples. I thought this was a stretch going in, but I figured I could be flexible and adjust to their needs, and get the lesson done as well. The bulldozer would continue. As it was, it took us about twenty minutes, half the class, to get through the first form conditional. The second was a total wash. The best students understood, more or less, from the start. But even though I explained it over and over, in several different ways, parts in Bulgarian, there was nothing to be done about the mediocre students, much less the ones sitting in the back.

Honestly, I should never have moved on to the second in the first place. I probably should have stuck with the first form through the whole class, made sure every one of the kids understood it, and saved the second for another day. But a few things stood against me. Only four of the thirteen students present (8 or 9 were absent) had brought their textbook. As useless as the Venture 4 textbook is (this will be an entry of its own, probably this weekend), it has a few activities that can pass the time and at least teach students proper form, if not conversational skills. I had to scratch part of my lesson plan right there, and I could not let this class leave twenty minutes early for behaving badly. What's more, it's pretty hard to come up with new things to do with the first conditional on the spot. I know a few games that could use it, but these kids just didn't want to understand English today. There was no way they were picking up and understanding a new game.

It was a rough class, but I taught something and I think the kids understood a little. But, you know, teachers really aren't paid enough for this, for what they do. I'm not, American teachers aren't, and Bulgarian teachers make next to nothing. It's brutal in a classroom when you're trying to help people who have no desire to be helped and are only present because they're forced into it. If there's no desire in the students, all the desire has to come from the teacher, and no work-out can prepare you for the amount of energy it takes to push that much.

6/6/2003 06:34:09 PM | PERMALINK

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
I came to Bulgaria to teach English. I know the language, and figured it wouldn't be all that difficult. The students and I would talk, we'd run through a couple of exercises, have a few laughs, and at the end of an hour, call a day a day. Believe it or not, these were my expectations going in. My hopes had turned into a particular want, maybe even a need. That's why the first class I taught was so disappointing. The students mostly stared at me, and when they answered my questions they would do so in words, not sentences. I thought I was doomed, and until today had mostly resigned my two weeks teaching in Septemvri to recitation, reading passages, and doing the meager exercises offered by Bulgarian textbooks. The students seemed to know English as long as it was in the context of a sentence with a blank in the middle or some kind of pattern.

Today though, we had a volunteer extra-curricular activity organized by the local teachers, and all the "good" kids cropped up out of nowhere. There seem to be, pretty consistently, one or two kids in every class that really seem to know their stuff, but en masse, they were pretty impressive. Actual conversations were created, in English. We all went in thinking that an hour and a half of talking to Bulgarian students would be hell consisting mostly of blank stares. Turns out a lot of these kids actually do want to learn English. Made me happy.

Other teachers though, aren't as happy. Denitsa, the teacher who would be sitting in on all of my classes, because they are--well--her classes, has gone to Italy indefinitely. Apparently, the school director found out today and told the rest of the teaching staff. I'll be teaching several of her classes, but when I asked about the rest of them, I ound out that those students are pretty much done for the year. The rest would be review and finals, and apparently the finals these kids would take aren't very important so no teacher will replace Denitsa. I'll get to teach most of the remaining classes by my lonesome, with no Bulgarian help. Should be fun.

But what I'm really looking forward to is Silistra. The language school there trains their students 20 hours a week in English during eighth grade, and the twelfth graders might as well be fluent. I'll get to do the things I wanted to do, and do them with kids who really want to know the language. Can't wait.

6/4/2003 06:51:49 PM | PERMALINK

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
MEMORIAM and photos
The Greatest Cat...Ever. Surfy 198?-2003

She probably lived over 17 years, competed for affection with over seven different dogs, maintained the pinnacle of dignity until the very last, and went above and beyond the call of duty for any cat. I have few, only spotty, memories of a life without her, and still remember the night she first came home. It was raining, she was soaked. We had canvassed all of Southern California, looking for the perfect cat, and had come home with this rat-like spitfire out of a wet, leaky pound. We wanted to name her something that would remind us of the beach. My sister and I decided, oddly enough, on "Surfy."

She died in her sleep last week in Alaska, her home for most of her life. She took with her a life lived well, and left the best memories an animal can create.

Today, I bring you, the good-natured reader, more photos. Two of these from the trip to Silistra, and one from a trip up to the evil lair of group Velingrad...Velingrad.

Danube Park. One of Two Clean Parks in Bulgaria.

This is Danube Park. The fountains actually work here, a rarity in Bulgaria, and you can see the Danube through the cleaing. The park runs about 8 or 9 blocks along the river, and really is the highlight of the city. The town square and Turkish fortress are both very nice, but seeing a park like this was something else. Along the way there are a few cafes, multiple statues, and near the very end, a restaurant. In the middle are Roman ruins, and the paths take you everywhere. Unlike most parks in Bulgaria, the ground is very clean, and garbage cans are strategically placed around the park. I'd feel okay sitting under a tree in this park. There may be ants, but you take what you can get.

That's Romania Folks. There Might Be More To It. Who Knows.

This is Romania, from across the river. There are spots of clearcutting all along the shore, but where there are trees it's very natural-looking. In the evening, you can usually see large billows of smoke coming from within the forest. Apparently, there's some chemical plant in there. Nice touch. You may also notice that there aren't any boats in the Danube. I found this very odd. I was expecting massive river traffic: passenger, freight, everything. The most I saw was a couple of fishing boats. I think most of the boats within Bulgaria stop at a port just outside of the center of town, and I don't think many at all come from or go to Romania. It seems to be a very dark place.

Sorry. No Guns Allowed Here.

And this, as promised, comes from Velingrad. The window to the right of the ATM has a little sticker showing a pistol with a big red X through it. Sorry boys, you'll have to check your iron at the door, we don't want any firefights in this here bank. Velingrad is a terrific city, complete with paddleboats and a water park. I can't see why five volunteers need to be there during training, but such are the mysteries of the Peace Corps.

And finally, Owen Paun, a feeble yet solid island of republicanism in the rough, liberal waters of UCLA and a good friend, now has a website. He just keeps getting more right-wing, but he writes well, finds good sites, and produces. So he has that going for him, which is nice. Give it a check, there's some good, non-partisan stuff there.
6/3/2003 06:09:13 PM | PERMALINK

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.
Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes
Take our new poll. NPCA members begin voting this week on bylaw changes to streamline NPCA's Board of Directors. NPCA Chair Ken Hill, the President's Forum and other RPCVs endorse the changes. Mail in your ballot or vote online (after Dec 1), then see on how RPCVs are voting.
Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
Your vote makes a difference Your vote makes a difference
Make a difference on November 2 - Vote. Then take our RPCV exit poll. See how RPCV's are voting and take a look at the RPCV voter demographic. Finally leave a message on why you voted for John Kerry or for George Bush. Previous poll results here.
Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers
The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.
Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

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