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!!