November 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bulgaria: USAID: Sofia Echo: RPCV John Tennant was USAID Director in Bulgaria

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bulgaria: Peace Corps Bulgaria: The Peace Corps in Bulgaria: November 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bulgaria: USAID: Sofia Echo: RPCV John Tennant was USAID Director in Bulgaria

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RPCV John Tennant was USAID Director in Bulgaria

RPCV  John Tennant was USAID Director in Bulgaria

"I decided that fate was leading me elsewhere. And I joined the Peace Corps," he said.

This was in the late 1960s, "when Vietnam was hot," said Tennant, "and I was getting these letters that when I got out of the Peace Corps, Iíd be drafted. So I got a job with the government instead, out in California, near my parents".

RPCV John Tennant was USAID Director in Bulgaria

EXPAT OF THE WEEK: Making dreams happen

Magdalena Rahn

John Tennant, from: the US

THOREAU once said: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life youíve imagined!". With his life here in Sofia, John Tennant exemplifies this theory.

Although born in Maryland, John said he "didnít really have any roots anywhere," due to his fatherís job in the armed forces. And for a time when young, he thought it his path also to join the armed forces, and applied to the Naval Academy. But, said John, in those days, one had to have perfect vision to be accepted: his wasnít up to par.

"I decided that fate was leading me elsewhere. And I joined the Peace Corps," he said.

This was in the late 1960s, "when Vietnam was hot," said Tennant, "and I was getting these letters that when I got out of the Peace Corps, Iíd be drafted. So I got a job with the government instead, out in California, near my parents".

While working out West, awaiting the draft letter, the US state department contacted John and said that it was looking for people to work in the development sector of Vietnam.

He determined that it was better to go there as a civilian than as military personnel.

"So I ran off to Vietnam and escaped the draft," said John, "and thatís what started me on an international career".

There, he worked with USAID. Enjoying the grass roots aspect, he applied to its internship programme, and got accepted. This was in 1974, six months before Vietnam fell.

He went to Washington, DC., and for the next 30 years, worked with USAID in locations around the world Ė including in Jamaica, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and at the US headquarters in DC.

"I really liked USAID. The trouble is that you get hooked on it," he said.

His last assignment overseas was here in Bulgaria, from 1994 to 1998, when he worked as the USAID mission director. After that, he returned to DC and retired in 2000.

"Then I had to decide what to do with the rest of my life," said Tennant. Luckily for him, the government is "very generous" with its retirements, and his pension allowed him many freedoms.

"You canít just do nothing," he said. "So I decided to follow my dream. I had the luxury of being able to do it. My dream is overseas, not in the US. Itís too structured, predictable, not very challenging there."

At this time, a friend from his time in Bulgaria invited him to come and experience Italy, which he did for a couple of years. When the friend returned to her homeland, Johnís love for Bulgaria incited him to move, also.

He came back in autumn 2003.

"Most of the phrases [to describe what I love about Bulgaria] are trite," he said, "and I donít know what I could say that is different Ė but the country is a gem. It has a different rhythm that we lack in the States. Here, there is an appreciation of life. In the States, you donít drive time; it drives you. Here, life is more in harmony with the spirit of people than with a clock".

He finds life to be much more human here.

John will not forego his American roots completely, however. He carved a pumpkin for Halloween, and is searching for a pleasantly-edible turkey and cranberries for a Thanksgiving celebration with Bulgarian friends.

Another aspect of Bulgaria he lauds is its great location in Europe, citing Rome, Istanbul, Greece and Madrid as being only a few hours away.

He also relishes the countryís history.

"Iím an amateur archaeologist," he said. "My house looks like a Roman ruin: itís decorated with items from all the places Iíve been."

Tennant does regret, however, that Bulgaria does not seem to care about remnants of its past.

"There is such a great historical and archaeological wealth, and they donít exploit it at all," he said.

He also loves the people, and the chance to continue his consulting work.

When he returned to the country in 2003, he founded his own consulting firm, Dreamco Ltd. Its name appropriately describes exactly what John feels is most important in life: following oneís dreams.

As its president, he develops, puts together, manages and helps finance projects for both Bulgarian and American companies.

"Itís fun," he said. "Iím a facilitator of projects. Basically, I do anything that looks interesting. Iíve more freedom in my life now than ever."

While the bureaucracy here is "generally terrible," he said, the things that he counts as most important he doesnít have trouble with: the cultural life, the ambiance and being with people he really likes.

He also likes the traditional springtime dish of Saint Georgeís lamb, and the said-hangover cure, shkembe chorba (made from cowís instentines).

He advises other non-native Bulgarians to not loose the opportunity to get thoroughly involved in the country.

"Get out and appreciate Bulgaria and make Bulgarian friends," Tennant said. "Get out of the expat community. Donít miss the opportunity to really experience, appreciate the culture."

When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Sofia Echo

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