Saturday, August 6, 2011

You can't just meow at people, thats not a proper hello.

As I write this, I have no internet, on a bunk bed in the same pajama pants i've worn for 3 months (not consecutively, hahah), in the middle of a gorgeously peaceful  monastery in Croatia... Its starting to sink in exactly how much I've been through this summer.

BUT I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT OUR LAST WEEK IN STUBEL - easily the most chaotic week of the summer, yet strangely comfortable & confirming too? Weird how that happens.

So, Stubel has been a favorite of mine ever since the first weekend I was in Bulgaria. There is something about the place... it feels like you've stepped back in time a little bit? But there is also a darkness you can feel in every direction. I can't really explain it... but there is a lot of hurt & depression there. Its not all bad of course, don't worry :)

A W&W team from Salem, Oregon came to Sofia the day before we left, they've been sending money to the church in Stubel all year for the 'winterizing' of the building, and this week 9 people came to paint/clean up the yard/ help us with VBS. It was really nice to hear English all week :) And one of the older men is the grandfather of a girl I know at school! Ah, small Nazarene worlds. We all rode the bus to Stubel together that Sunday, (I was sick all morning for no apparent reason, kinda frustrating but it went away quickly) & and the next morning we began our VBS. Once again, I was in charge of crafts, so we came with piles of supplies. 

VBS was total madness. These kids - I'm telling you - I've never seen such chaos. They are all very sweet, and I completely fell in love with them, but put them all together in one place, and every attention span dwindles to 3 second maximum. (I can't exactly go into detail of their home lives, for fear that I could victimize them for you, and thats never the point of these blogs, I don't want to make you think 'oh, pitiful Bulgarian kids, don't we all wish we could American-ize them, but a lot of these kids have been physically or mentally abused... and thats almost the norm in this village. I can think of 5 that i've seen actual evidence of it. If they are lucky enough to have a healthy home life, the Bulgarian culture is still very much 'everyone is out for themselves' so a lot of these kids have grown up constantly having to fight for any attention at all, good or bad. I saw each one of them have moments of total frustration, and they end up taking it out on each other because thats the only way they've ever seen it handled. A generational cycle of violence and abuse is so clearly evident)

We tried to keep them occupied minute by minute, but with only 1 translator, we lost their listening ears pretty quickly - and oh man... they were lively. I'm saying all this with a smile of course now, because after Monday they began to listen to us a bit more, but somehow, I let a bunch of kids hurt my feelings. They pulled my hair, yelled at me, stole markers from me... they did it to all of us. I've nannyed & taken care of kids on & off since I was 14, and i've never had a kid totally disregard every word I said like these did. It was crazy. I sound mad, but really I was just impressed!! Hahah. The main thing that I kept thinking was - 'They have never been taught respect, how in the world can I demand it from them'? It was a hard to place to be in, because as much as I wanted to let them do whatever they wanted, a dose of tough love could do so much for these kids. But you also want to hug them for hours and do nothing but tell them how valuable they are...? A balance was terribly hard to find.

Monday evening, we ended up making 35 kids go home early, simply because we could. not. regain. control. Geroika (the most wonderful Bulgarian lady in the world, she's the pastor of the church, I've talked about her a lot) gave them a very stern talking to, and they were a bit better the rest of the week. I think through all the bible stories & crafts & music time we had, the only thing they learned was that we loved them. BUT in the end, thats all I wanted them to know anyway :)

Unrelated Sidenote - Monday night, we found out that a part of our team (that has been living in Razgrad), was involved in a car accident. 2 of the boys and 3 church members were in the car, 1 church member had a pretty serious head injury, the other 2 were unhurt, while 1 member of the Immerse team dislocated his hip, & the other fractured his hand. The driver of the other car was killed, & the passenger was in critical care. So, needless to say, Monday was a very emotional day. But God brought peace that night. :) We were all very thankful for our safety, I can't believe how little I think of something like a car crash as a possibility. I know it can happen anywhere... just a scary thought.

We spent the rest of the week VBSing like crazy, and had some really good moments. Lots of the kids memorized bible verses, we sang Bulgarian childrens' songs and made friendship bracelets & bean bag balls & had our lunch together. Each day was full of yelling over each other, but I totally fell for some of those kids. They were hard to handle, but you can see the innocence in their eyes still? I memorized names & had silly little conversations in Bulgarian & they laughed at me and I petted stray dogs & told bible stories and drank a lot of coffee & found an accordion & talked with the American team about how stupid it is that flies & mosquitos even exist, and didn't shower or look in a mirror for 4 days straight... good times :)

I really can't sum that week up into words - I'm trying, but I'm totally failing. Some of the most memorable moments were making friends with some of the older kids that were clearly 'too cool' to be my friend, our water balloon fight, where a whole bucket of water got dumped on my head, watching Lauren ride a horse bareback, finding out that one of the kids had been beaten by his father the night before, teaching little girls 3 different braiding techniques for their bracelets, none of which they could successfully do, learning about the home lives about some of the kids, and feeling total disbelief at how someone could think that what Geroika does for those kids is wrong,  sleeping in a moldy basement, using the bathroom outside, 100% under the stars - thats an interesting experience -, cooking dinner for the village, taking a donkey ride through the village with a crazy old man.... Stubel represents lots and lots of different emotions for me. I could both cry & laugh about our last week there. All I know is I have to go back eventually.

Now - I'm in Croatia. And I could write a whole other book about how much we went through to get here, (Short version, we took a train at 12:30 from Sofia to Belgrad, Serbia, to catch the 11:30pm train to Zagreb.... NO SUCH THING. We spent the night on the ground in the outdoor train station, complete with a stray dog as our guard. It was hilarious, but also pretty sketchy, & I'm glad there was no way for my mom to know where I was in those 8 hours. Our train for Zagreb left at 5:15 - We got here safe!) Now we're having our debriefing time here in a monastery. I think we're all ready to come home, but so much has to be processed & talked about & prepared for... I think we're all coming home changed for the better. We're headed to the coast tomorrow for 4 days of total rest & beach time - then we catch our flight for America on THURSDAY. woah.

I can't believe how much I've learned in these 4 months.
America better get ready for me... I'm not the same person I was in May.
^^^ that was cheesy, but man... its true.

(I'll tell you more about how i'm feeling about my future later, now I'm gonna read Tina Fey's new book & soak in the quiet of this place)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Did anyone know that sign language is different in every country? That is just stupid.

Hello everyone :)

So this last week, we spent some time in a city called Montana (Монтана), which is about 2 hours from Sofia. We lead worship with the people of the church our first Sunday morning there, and met some really great people :) Bulgarians don't know how friendly they are. We've experienced SO much warmth here, I love it.

Each day we had a place to visit.

Monday morning, we visited a kindergarden. We spent some time with the kids & played games, (the language barrier with 3 year olds is even worse, 'Simon Says' was a trainwreck, hahahaha) and then met with the principal of the school & learned about the Bulgarian school process and had a little question & answer time - complete with bonitsa, coffee & chocolate, 3 things a good Bulgarian would NEVER go without. (aka, we keep eating, & they keep offering, and we keep eating, and by the end we don't even want lunch.)

Tuesday morning, we went to a nursing home way out in the country. We gave our testimonies & sang some songs for them & just spent some time talking (attempting to talk) with them. They sang for us too, some told us about their grandkids, but most just wanted to know about America and were so impressed with us for coming to Bulgaria. Everyone is so curious about why we would ever come to a country like theirs... and I never know what to say. I just tell them I really like it here, cause I do! Of course we ended the morning with a meeting with the director & coffee & chocolate & bonitsa, surprise surprise ;) - SIDE NOTE -This took me back to when I was a kid, and my Grandmommy would take me to nursing homes to sing for all the grandmas & grandpas :) And the time I sang for some of her friends from a truck bed in the middle of a Cracker Barrel parking lot in some random interstate town on the way to Texas... THATS RIGHT GRANDMOMMY, don't think I forgot ;) And all that experience really paid off in Bulgaria!! Who woulda thought! Hahaha. Anyway, being there also brought back all my 'I think I want to go into Music Therapy' feelings even stronger. I've been looking at schools again. Maybe in a perfect world, I could practice in other countries? Is that a thing? I don't know. Maybe I'll just make it a thing :)

Wednesday morning we visiting a similar nursing home, but it was for the blind. It was a little harder to swallow, and we didn't get to spend as much time with them. But I met a man who spoke German! So we counted on our fingers in Bulgarian, German, Spanish & English. He kept asking me for whiskey. I told him I'd sneak it for him if I had any... hahaha the nurses didn't really like that, oh well. And then we were wisked away for coffee & chocolate. Some times people took pictures of us? Which was odd. Its so clear how few & far between Americans are in this country.

Luckily our afternoons were wonderfully relaxing, we spent some time at the pool with some of the teens from the Montana church, and a few evenings we spent with members who offered to make dinner for us. After dinner, we hung out at a pool hall with some of the girls from the church, and turns out, I'm pretty good at darts!! I had no idea. But my air-hockey skills are lacking. Oh well.

Friday afternoon we headed back to Sofia, which was a really nice change from the 2 weeks of chaos :) Sofia feels like home at this point. Its getting so close to time to leave... its really crazy. We said goodbye to our high school friends & our middle school friends, which was really sad, but also really weird. I didn't cry, but i felt unsettled. Sometimes if I think about how sad it is that there are people in this world that I may never ever see again? Ever? I get all bent out of shape & depressed. So we are just going to try our best to keep in touch over FB. I loved these kids. Oh, wait - these 'young adults' :)

Since Monday, we've been getting ready for our kids camp coming up this Monday-Friday (July 25-29). Its been wonderfully relaxed, so I got to sleep late, buy some souvenirs, got some 'me' time, and I explored Sofia even more. I really love parts of this city. I found a really great artsy area that I fell in love with - but OF COURSE I find it 3 days before its time to leave. :( Otherwise I've been planning craft time, each of us are teaching a bible study, we're singing songs & making lunch, and we're gonna be sweating to death. A W&W team is coming from Salem, Washington to be with us all week, so it should be so great!! We're picking them up from the airport in the AM to give them a short tour of Sofia, then we're headed to Стубел (the village we've been to 3 times now, right outside of Montana) tomorrow afternoon after church.

Then when we get back from Stubel (Стубел)  next Monday, we have one day - ONE DAY- left in Sofia.
On Aug 3 we're catching the night train to Croatia.
America, I'll see you soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Hello everyone! Sorry its been so long, we've been busy - and we have a terrible internet connection...

Okay, so here are some background details, before I can tell you how I really feel ;)

This last week, we left Sofia & took the bus to (Разград) Razgrad (a town about 5 hours away), where another Trevecca team of 5 is living. Another team of 5 (from Видраре, or Vidrare) met us there too, so we became one big American family :) Tim Green, a professor from Trevecca, was also in town, he was teaching a Herminutics class for many Bulgarian pastors & laypeople at the Razgrad church. SO - needless to say, there was a lot going on! Us Americans took over the nearby hostel, and we stuck out like sore thumbs, as usual hahah.

The Immerse teams were in charge of a boys camp at a juvenile detention center in Завет (Zavet) for Monday-Friday. These boys were slightly well behaved, but most were pretty rough around the edges. The majority of the boys were in trouble for theft, but a few others were at the home for more serious matters like assault, being accused of rape, etc. We planned our days with the theme of 'friendship', and included bible stories, crafts, games, snacks and a mural project.

WELLLLLLLLL, ya know???? Things change. Enter more 'flexibility' lessons for Kathleen :)

Our first morning at the center, the director (Mrs. Caroline) found out that I'm an art minor. (She didn't really understand that its technically an art THERAPY minor... totally different ball game - oh, language barriers.) So in her mind, I'm a painting EXPERT**. I mean, I'm flattered and all, and I have taken classes but.... yikes. And after 20 minutes or so, she has laid out the plans for our group to paint 6 murals**. And a poster**. Ummmm, did I mention we had ONE planned? I panicked a little, but I figured we could attempt, and on Thursday when it was clear to Mrs. Caroline that she'd asked too much of us, everything would be fine. Hahahah, THATS FUNNY.

**denotes things that are crazy nerve wracking & incredibly stressful to think about, until you have had a successful lunch and 2 hour nap... or attempt at one.

See, I had planned most of our crafts for the week, because I do really enjoy crafty things. I'm always looking for a reason to make something, so when our team took charge of the painting & crafts, I naturally went into overload :) Our ideas included (very manly) friendship bracelets with hemp, a 'found objects' box with spray paint & super glue, clay work & mosaics made out of plates the boys smashed themselves. (Smashing the plates became a huge event... it turned out really well but we were all a little scared a riot could break out hahah) My team & I knew we really wanted to get to know these boys, so we kept our ideas simple, so we could still have conversations while working on the projects. Our mural idea had the 'friendship' feel, but it was simple enough for all the boys to help. We came totally prepared, (with what felt like 2424535 lbs of craft supplies) but the director kinda de-railed our plans.

She meant well, and she wasn't rude about any of it... It was just a little frustrating to be surprised like that. But I knew we were here to do what they needed from us :) So I told her (through the lovely Jessica) that we would try our best. Somehow, by Monday afternoon, I was a painting expert, and I was basically running the show until Friday... or at least thats how it felt. I was excited, but also worried about getting it all done & I'm not used to telling people what to do & I know I'm a perfectionist so I was worried about the boys helping when the murals the director wanted were NOT easy & she wanted a poster too so I knew I'd have to work on it in the afternoons and thats when we had free time usually before cooking dinner & we didn't have paint yet & we need a certain computer for the projector to work and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I obviously hadn't learned a thing yet. :)

So, for the rest of the week (till Thursday night) - it was splicing & tracing from the projector, mixing paint, outlining, art supplies stores & delegating. Jessica (our team 'leader', she's lived here in Bulgaria for 2 years, working with the Church of the Nazarene... I'm not sure if I've mentioned that before??) taught me all about delegation. Which I quickly learned, I'm terrible at. I tend to want to try to do EVERY job possible all by myself... aka perfectionism... which is impossible when you're 'in charge' & 36 people are trying to talk to you at once. So I made rounds :) I taught some boys about mixing primary colors to make other colors, obsessively put tops on paint canisters (oops), asked for paper towels a million times, talked about what brushes are best for what texture, went up and down the stairs, approved wall placements and all sorts of other 'Person In Charge' jobs. It was weird. I've never done ANYTHING like that before. Everyone said I did a good job... but I really was worried about being bossy and annoying the whole time. Being in charge is hard!! And I don't really know if I was always clear about what my plans were. But I really am so thankful for the opportunity - because now I know that if I can just keep myself from feeling overwhelmed, I am able to lead a group enough to get the job done. Thats exciting. I learned a lot.

I was pretty disappointed that my week wasn't all about the boys (for me)... but turns out, it might have been better that way. Mrs. Caroline was constantly asking me if I could ever come back and help her fix up the school even more. She kept saying "oh, Katy. (She consistantly yelled my name, hahah. like KEH-TEE') Just join the peace corps - I can pull some strings, and you could come here for a year!!" I'll be honest - the peace corps really has began to feel like an option - i've been researching like crazy. She gave me a necklace & bracelet at the end of the week. She was precious. And I was tired.

All in all - we finished all 6. Everyone on our Immerse team was involved, and they took up most of our time, but we somehow got everything accomplished!? The first was in the main hallway, a globe with multi-colored 'stick figure' men surrounding it, which represented unity. The second was 4 puzzle pieces next to the first floor of bedrooms, each piece was connected, and had a word inside - friendship, trust, love & unity - in Bulgarian. The 3rd, 4th & 5th were all in the kitchens. The 1st floor was 3 cartoon figures in Bulgarian-flag color clothing, dancing over a globe. The 2nd floor was a more abstract picture of 4 friends holding hands in a circle. The 3rd floor was 7 kids of all different nationalities holding hands in a circle - each mural went along with the 'togetherness and love' theme, a lesson a lot of these boys need to learn. The 6th one was in the gym, of a kid playing different sports... that one was mostly for appearances' sake. The poster was a smaller replica of the 3rd kitchen mural that Lauren & I worked on every afternoon. And - lots of the boys got to help paint, which I was excited about. (I'll post pictures on Facebook soon, once we have a more reliable internet connection)

So - it was a good week. But it was also the first time I felt stressed & truly frustrated with the Bulgarian way of thinking. Deep down, I really try to appreciate the differences in every person I meet. I want to, anyway... though I might not always do it very quickly. We all problem solve SO differently, and flexibility is the only option... I've learned that 236836 times in this one week, I think. :) I know I'm not always right, but sometimes its REALLY hard to let go of perfectionism... especially with artwork. But we did, as a team. And all the murals turned out GREAT!!! Then we had a picnic out in the woods friday afternoon to end our time together. And we drove through miles of sunflower fields every afternoon on our way back to our hostel. And I had 4 diet Dr. Peppers in 1 week. And I got to have deep conversations with Tim Green over the best pizza of my life. I couldn't complain if I tried :)

Saturday morning, we left (Разград) Razgrad for Montana, a city about 2.5 hours from Sofia. We're here for a week, so I'll update you on what we're doing here soon - I promise!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

YAYAY PARTYYY! wait, don't call it a party... they might bring beer...

All my Bulgarian high school friends 
are coming over in an hour!!! 
I'm so excited!!

We need balloons. 

And plates.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thanks, Frank.

This song has been on repeat in my heart all week. I know its not a 'Christian' song, but in so many ways, it is how [the very middle of] my heart has felt this summer. Happy, hopeful, and excited for the future, whatever that is!! I don't usually like the sentence "In the center of God's will" because most days I just want to scream - UHHHH WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN... I feel its sometimes overused, or even used out of context just so we can justify our plans... but I think this is a little taste of what that 'real thing' feels like :)

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you... if you’re young at heart.
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind if you’re young at heart.

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes,
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
And life gets more exciting with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart or on it’s way.
Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth, to be young at heart.
For as rich as you are it’s much better by far to be young at heart.

And if you should survive to 105, 
look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
Then here is the best part - You have a head start,
If you are among the very young at heart.

Hey look, I'm in July, while America is still in June. I'm in the future.

Hello everyone! Sorry its been so long. 10 days to be exact... my bad... Bulgaria is busy, especially when you throw in overnight bus trips to even more foreign countries.

Since my last post, I went to Turkey!! Istanbul was BEAUTIFUL. And so interesting! And I ate some great food, bought too many scarves, about half a million Turkish men hit on me (they think that will get the money out of my pockets, pshhh.), I slept next to THE WORST SNORER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at our hostel, went to museums, fell in love with a kitten, and now I have a new fascination with Muslim culture. I learned so much in 3 short days. And It only cost me $250, round trip with food and a bed and handfuls of Turkish delight! I took 330 pictures. I think I liked Istanbul a little :)

This week in Sofia, our leader Jessica has been in Romania with her brother, so the days have been a little slower than most. BUT I think all 5 of us are thankful :) We've been getting much more rest and we're all catching up on our Harry Potter reading. (we're going to see the last movie with some Bulgarian friends, I CAN'T WAIT. I'm 22 but I'll never grow up.) We've spent our free time planning arts & crafts, and also working on plans for a mural we'll be painting with the boys from the camp we're leading next Monday-Friday in Razgrad.

These boys are all living at a juvenile delinquent center in Zavet, and we obviously don't know all the details - but the camp director has suggested we cover topics like forgiveness and acceptance in our daily lessons. I'm really excited, but we're all a little nervous about how the boys will respond to us. They are from 11-18 years old, so planning arts & crafts for them has been a little challenging. But - I LOVE ART SUPPLIES and I like to consider myself crafty :) So I've had a really great time trying to put things together, and we've searched all over Sofia for our supplies. We're smashing plates for mosaics. And making manly friendship bracelets & playing with clay... its gonna be so much fun. I'm really excited to meet them. And we will be with 2 other teams from Trevecca too, so there will be 17 of us that can speak English!!!! hahaha it will probably be music to our little tired ears :) [sidenote, I've heard rumors of us possibly getting to visit an orphanage. And while no one should really be excited to visit a sad place like this, I'm really hoping I'll get a chance to go. Learning about the needs of kids in Bulgaria was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Bulgaria this summer. It weighed on my heart for weeks, and I feel pulled in that direction for some reason... so I'm hoping I can go visit for an afternoon.]

Here is a preview of what we're hoping the mural will end up looking like. If not... its okay :) FLEX.UH.BILL.UH.TEE. I'm learning it over & over this summer. - - -

Our schedule for July - We'll be in Razgrad (6 hours away from Sofia by bus) for 5 days, then onto Montana (2 hours from Sofia) for 6 more days, where we'll be meeting & getting to know the youth group from the Nazarene church there. Then back to Sofia for 6 days, we'll get a little rest hopefully, and some last chances to spend time with the kids we've met here. Then we leave the 21st for Stubel (a village 2.5 hours from Sofia) for the last 10 days, where we'll be putting on a camp for the village kids, & painting/winterizing the church we've been working on since the beginning of June. A W&W team from Washington state will be there to help us as well, so we'll be meeting even more people!! Then on Aug 2nd, we leave for Zagreb, Croatia for our Immerse de-briefing. We're there for 7 days, and then we fly back to America. - WOAH. whirlwind.

Its all so exciting, but its A LOT - I'm scared the month of July is going to go too quickly. And I'm already positive I'm going to miss all of this so so so much.

So, our planning for the boys camp is ALMOST done, and we leave Sofia after church on Sunday. (We're leading worship. In Bulgarian. hahah hopefully the members have some mercy on us!) BUT - on Saturday we're having some of our friends from the high school across the street come over to play cards & watch youtube videos & maybe teach us some more Bulgarian folk dances. We. Love. These. Teenagers. They have been the highlight of our trip so far. If i'm honest... I'm really sad to leave Sofia. Zavet & Montana & Stubel are going to be fun, but I'm always wishing we had more time. Relationships need so much time. Its a real frustration for me at this point. SO I GUESS I'LL JUST HAVE TO COME BACK ;)

BUTTTT anyway. Pray for us through July - its going to be crazy, and I can't wait!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

but then

And then I skyped with my bestfriend/lifepartner for 2.26 hours about our lives and beach trips and Ikea trips and Nashville trips and Germany trips and I was happy, but also awake at 3:42AM Bulgarian time.