My Peace Corps Adventures in Bulgaria!

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Chantel's Peace Corps Adventures in Bulgaria!

Chantel's Peace Corps Adventures in Bulgaria!

My Peace Corps Adventures in Bulgaria!

Zdravey...My name is Chantel. This website features my adventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bulgaria. I arrived in beautiful Bulgaria on June 20, 2001. On August 30, 2001, I was officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I will now be teaching English in a primary school in Samokov for two years. Enjoy my site and sign my Guestbook while you're here! I'll also look forward to receiving an e-mail from you!

Following training in Panagyurishte, I am now in the city of Samokov (South of Sofia) where I will begin teaching English for the next two years! My address, until further notice, is: Chantel Sloan Peace Corps P.O. Box 259 Sofia 1000, Bulgaria (Be sure to send letters and packages Air Mail!!!)

Dear Family and Friends,

I am officially halfway though Pre-Service Training! Only 5 weeks to go!
This is cause for celebration! Break out the rakiya! :-) And things have
been great here in beautiful Bulgaria . . .

We finished one week of Model School and then we will have one more week of
this teaching experience. And who would have thought that the 7th graders
would be my favorite class? ME, who DREADED working with kids this age and
ME who would never set FOOT in a 7th grade classroom in America! But,
there's just something about a 7TH GRADER, a 13 or 14 year old kid, seeing
you on the street, waving frantically, and yelling, "Miss Sloan!" or "Hello
Missus!" because they are actually excited to see you. I even chose this
class to do a presentation with at our closing program next Friday! Now,
it's time for you to say, "I told you so!" I loved the 5th grade class also
and my skit until with both of these grades turned out to work wonderfully,
which was apparent in the skits they proudly presented today. The 3rd grade
class, on the other hand, turned out to be my biggest challenge, but I was
able to teach them SOMETHING, which was a HUGE accomplishment in my book!
Discipline is NOT going to be easy in Bulgaria, but I know I can face the
challenge. Sometimes our biggest challenges end up being our greatest

I will find out my site placement in about a week, on August 6. I am
anticipating this so much! Especially when descriptions of the sites are
posted and stare us in the face everyday! My site placement interview is on
Tuesday, so please pray that I am placed where I can best serve and give
glory to God. I know that He already has my site picked out, so keep this
in your prayers!

And now, I am off to go to a birthday "Na Gosti" with my host family. I'm
sure it will probably last several hours! Bulgarians really know how to
party, that's for sure! I love and miss you all and have a great weekend.
Do me a favor this weekend, spend a few hours shopping at Target for me,
just gawking at the millions of aisles of cool things, then go have a greasy
burger at Wendy's with either some Chinese or Mexican food to wash it down,
and then go sit in a plush air conditioned movie theater for a while
thinking of your long lost friend in the Peace Corps . . . the things you
miss when you are in Bulgaria!!!

Love Always,

Dear Family and Friends,

Every child stares at me as if I am a flea under a microscope, My 6th
graders are all taller than I am, I don't understand my colleagues, the
student's books are old and the teacher's books are all in Bulgarian, I
don't have any resources, I teach in whichever classrooms are free during my
class periods, kids run and scream WILDLY through the hallways unsupervised,
teachers are continually atleast 5 minutes or more late for their classes
while students go crazy in the classrooms, sometimes it seems that the
teachers would rather talk to one another than teach their classes, the
schedule changes everyday and nobody has a clue what is going on or where
they should be, Bulgarian students love to chatter when the teacher is
talking, discipline in Bulgarian schools is practically unheard of, The
desks are splintering and falling apart, it is hard to figure out where I am
going and what I should be doing . . . but, you know what?!!? I LOVE IT. I
LOVE IT with everything that is within me because I am finally doing what I
came here to do, I LOVE IT because I am a teacher and teaching is my
passion, I LOVE IT because I have never been content with normality and
hum-drum living, I LOVE IT.

Yesterday was my first real day on the job. I must admit, I was so nervous
at first and I approached my school with unrelenting caution! Each of my
steps were timid as my hands shook violently and I repeatedly reminded
myself in my active mind, "They can smell fear . . . they can smell fear . .
. they can smell fear . . ." I usually don't have such anxiety when I enter
a classroom, but this is Bulgaria we're talking about, a totally different
ballgame! So, I took a deep breath, plastered an oh-to-cheerful smile on my
quivering lips, and entered my school wondering if I would come back out

As soon as I entered, every eye was immediately adverted to the frail form
hovering in the doorway. I grinned like a disgruntled puppy and quickened
my pace to the teacher's lounge. Once inside those safe chambers, I waited
for my counterpart, who, once she came, greeted me, rattled off something in
Bulgarian to another teacher, and left. So, I though, "What now?!!?" The
bell was ringing and I had no idea if she would come back for me since we
were supposed to teach the first class together. Some of what I am doing is
comprised of team teaching because we are not only here to teach English, we
are also here to transfer skills. So, I set off to find my counterpart so
that we could teach the fifth grade class. Students and teachers shoved
past, heading in different directions as they conversed in loud Bulgarian,
and my eyes grew wide as I searched for the one woman who keeps me a little
bit sane in all the chaos.

Finally, I found her, and we set off to teach. Today, two classes were
taught together, and I managed to survive two sixth grade classes on my own.
I spent much of my classes answering questions, as the students wanted to
know everything they possibly could about me and about America. And, of
course, one of the questions just so happened to be, "Are you from New
York?!!?" I spent my classes on introductions and we played a simple game,
so I'll actually get into the meat of my teaching tomorrow. And already, as
happened during Model School, I am finding that I am speaking slowly and
enunciating every English word even outside of the classroom just because it
becomes habit! God help me! :-)

I can already determine what a grand adventure this is going to be! You
know, my adventures just keep getting grander and more adventurous every
day. After all, as I said before, I could never be content with a life of
normality and sanity right now! If I wanted "normal" I never would not have
joined the Peace Corps! And so I'm off . . . off to have the adventure of a

Love and God Bless,

Dear Family and Friends,

You know, God never ceases to amaze me. I am thousands of miles away, in a foreign land with foreign concepts and ideas surrounding me, but it seems like every time I turn around I am able to see God in something else . . . even all the way out here in a little country called Bulgaria. Wow. And, even through those times in which I feel so far from Him--so far from EVERYONE and EVERYTHING I know--He is suddenly right there in front of me, blessing me, seeing the desires of my heart, and answering my prayers . . . it blows me away.

So, what is my news, you ask?! Well, first of all, let me describe the situation of my town. Samokov is okay some of the time, it's not THAT bad, but it still is a lot worse than many towns in this country. First of all, it is an incredibly littered and filthy place, but, also, Samokov permeates this incredible negativity and unfriendly attitude uncommon to any of the other towns I have had the pleasure of visiting since I have been in Bulgaria. It's not just me who feels this way either, my sitemate will tell you the exact same thing as well as practically any other volunteer who has set foot here. So, I HAVE had some rough times here (especially lately) and I am guilty of jealousy caused by nearly every other town I've visited since I've been here. Well, I heard recently that Panagyurishte, the little town in which we trained last summer, was looking for a teacher volunteer and, though I didn't see my reasons as being good enough to request a site change, I immediately began to pray concerning this matter.

Well, God works in mysterious ways. On Friday, our Country Director called me out of the blue (I never said a WORD to him about it!) saying that he doesn't feel that Samokov has been very supportive of volunteers (which they haven't!) and he was wondering if I'd want to move to Panagyurishte to teach English as soon as this school term is over! My immediate reaction was YES, YES, YES!!! I LOVE PANAGYURISHTE! I LOVE MY HOST FAMILY! I WANT TO MOVE MORE THAN ANYTHING! So, it suddenly looks like, in 9 weeks when we finish this school term, I will be moving for the THIRD time this year to finish out the rest of my service in Panagyurishte, the adorable town that I spoke of so fondly in my first e-mails! I can't wait! AND, I'll even be teaching upper-elementary (again) at the school that we trained at last summer, which also happens to be my host brother's school! How cool is that?! I feel so much happier already and I know that this is the right move. Iva will probably drive me crazy everyday, but I don't even care! Plus, training will be in the town again this summer . . . in my new town! I am so excited and I feel so positive about this move. THANK GOD.


Love Always and God Bless,

What have you missed most from home?
*Definitely my FAMILY!!! They say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and being in Bulgaria really makes me appreciate my family much more.

What will you miss most from Bulgaria?
*Again, I'd have to say my FAMILY!!! My host family here has been a Godsend and I don't know what I'd do without them sometimes! Especially my little host sister, who has always known just how to "pick me up" and make me smile and giggle like an 8-year-old, in the good times and in the bad.

What won't you miss from Bulgaria?
*I know without a doubt that I won't miss Bulgarian students and teaching in Bulgaria one little bit! Teaching here has definitely been a challenge and I hope returning home to teach will remind me about what it means to be a teacher and about all of the JOYS of teaching . . . I've forgotten how enjoyable teaching CAN be!!!

What was your biggest challenge?
*Again, I'd have to say teaching Bulgarian kids has been a HUGE challenge, but another big challenge for a warm-weather Arizona girl has been the dull, gray Bulgarian winters. Surviving two of them (by the skin of my teeth!) has probably been my biggest accomplishment, though I STILL haven't mastered the art of walking on the ice and snow quite yet!

What was your proudest accomplishment?
*Surviving two disgusting winters . . . Arizona sunshine, here I come!!! But, winters aside, I would have to say my biggest accomplishment is seeing even the SLIGHTEST difference I have made in some of my students' lives . . . that's what makes it all worthwhile!

1. Cirene or Kashkaval?
*Do I HAVE to choose?!!? I guess Kashkaval definitely beats salty Cirene! YUCK!!!

2. First Bulgarian word you learned outside of the classroom?
*"Dovizhdane" was my first word before coming to Bulgaria!

3. Have you been given a nickname during your time here (by Bulgarians or by PCVs)?
*No nicknames by Bulgarians, but Marisa and Chris call me "Tell" most of the time!

4. Have you broken a law while in Bulgaria?
*Not a law, persay, but I DID run from a tram guy once. My tram tickets were wet, so the holes didn't punch real well and he decided to be a jerk about it. He dragged me off of the tram, demanding that I pay him 8 leva! So, I argued with him a little until as he jerked me around and held on to my bag to keep me there. Well, as soon as I got the slightest chance and his back was turned, I ran like a bat out of hell all the way to the Peace Corps office!

5. Your best food or drink discovery in Bulgaria?
*I consider myself an "expert" in the art of making yummy Moussaka! ;-)

6. Chalga – yes or no?
*Only when my 8-year-old host sister is jamming out to it!

7. Favorite Bulgarian word?
*Definitely "Zapovyadiate"! I love the way it rolls of the tongue and how much of a headache it gave all of us during training!

8. Your biggest purchase in BG?
*I haven't really had any BIG purchases . . . most of my money has been spent on my phone bills! But, I guess my "biggest" purchase would probably be the printer I bought from a COSing volunteer last year.

9. Thing you’re glad you brought with you?
*My laptop has been an incredible lifesaver!!! I have also cherished my wonderful snow boots!

10. Thing you brought with you but never used?
*I guess my Leatherman . . . I brought a pocket knife also and I have just used that!

11. Most ridiculous thing sent from home?
*Last Christmas when my parents came, they brought with them gifts from various family members. Well, one of my uncles was convinced I wasn't eating enough meat here, so he sent everything from lots of beef jerky and large sausages to canned roast beef! Needless to say, by the time I was finished with all of that meat, I had enough protein in me to last me the rest of my service!

12. Most ridiculous thing given to you by a Bulgarian?
*My host sis gives me all sorts of interesting gifts, the most recent being a small, fake plant. I guess she must of seen how I don't do a very good job of taking care of the live plants in my apartment!

13. Biggest way you’ve changed over the past 2 years?
*I feel that Bulgaria has changed me more than I've changed Bulgaria. Serving here has definitely caused me to become much more independent and cautious/aware of my surroundings, while also causing me to become more humble and appreciative of all of those little things I took for granted before.

14. Most unexpected thing about your experience?
*As with most PCVs, I came to Bulgaria with the attitude of "I'm going to change the world!", without ever realizing just how much "the world" would end up changing me.

15. Do you think BG have changed in the past 2 years? If yes, how? Have you seen the results of your work here?
*Maybe in little ways that I haven't noticed, but I still think that most Bulgarians are scared of change and are unwilling to put forth much effort to bring about positive changes. Others might disagree, but I think Bulgaria still has a LONG way to go! I haven't seen many results with my work, as is usually the case with teaching. The results are more long term and, if anything, I've seen a few small, subtle changes.

16. If you knew then what you know now, would you still have come to BG?
*Yes, some days I think differently and question why I ever came to Bulgaria in the first place, but I think Bulgaria has really been an awesome, life-changing, and humbling experience for me!

17. Your average job satisfaction here is BG from 1 –10 (“1” being least satisfied)
*There have been good days and bad, but overall I guess I'd rate my job satisfaction either a 3 or 4.

18. Any interesting stories from family or friends who came to visit?
*When my parents came to visit my first Christmas here, we spent New Years with my host family and we all had a great time. My parents experienced the joys of constant servings of wine and rakiya and, by the end of the night, my Dad was calling my host dad (Georgi) "Orgy"! On this night, I also had booked my parents a hotel room at the Pana-G hotel before arriving at the family's house because I knew that the family would be lacking sleeping room with all of the family members they had staying there who were visiting from out of town. But, of course, my host family was still upset that we had booked a hotel room and they never let me hear the end of it all night! So, as the night (and the rakiya!) progressed, my Dad thought he'd try his hand at Bulgarian and he figured he no longer needed my assistance, and, thinking he'd offer my host mom and dad the hotel room instead, he said, "Orgy . . . You . . . Katya . . . hotelo!" Well, my host family about died laughing and they spoke rapidly in Bulgarian and my host aunt about fell out of her chair with laughter, as I turned to my Dad and laughed, "They think you want to switch partners for the night, you staying here with Katya and Mom going to the hotel with Georgi!" We got it cleared up, but it was funny nevertheless!

19. What is the first thing you’ll do when you touch American soil?
*Probably kiss it! And then I'll commence to do insane cartwheels through the streets of Phoenix and ballerina-style leaps over every cactus in sight.

20. What are your plans after COS?
*Right now, I plan on moving back to Arizona and finding an elementary school teaching job close to home . . . at least until I figure out where my next adventure will take me!

21. Favorite place you visited while on holiday?
*I went to many AMAZING places, but Italy was wonderful and Prague was a beautiful city.

22. Favorite “Peace Corps moment”?
*This would have to be after one CRAZY night at the Pana-G disco during training. A group of us got the "brilliant" idea to do "human knots" and "trust falls" in the center of town at about 2:00 a.m.! What were we thinking?!!? ;-)
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