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Before Monday...

Posted on 2007.09.14 at 18:45
Current Location: k-to-the-haskovo
...I would like to know as many ways that young, hip people greet each other. As I have never been either of these things, all I can think of are the following:

Hey.
Howdy
What's up? (The sky.)
How's it hanging?
What's crackin' homey?

Clearly, I am in need of help. Post your ways to say hello, please.

Thank You,
Benjamin

A new sheriff in Peace-Corps town says blog entries are to be pre-viewed before posting. It's not that I disagree with this decree -- a lot of bad press can be generated when you give 150 diverse people free reign to go 'willy nilly all over the internet' and I do believe a person gives up some of his first amendment rights when the government pays for his training in a foreign language and culture and supports his life for two years there -- it's just that I cannot comply. So, I have made my posts friends-only. I don't know what the punishment would be if one of my posts were deemed inappropriate -- a slap on the wrist or early termination -- and I don't intend to be the first martyr. There are some things for which I have decided I am willing to be kicked out of the Peace Corps (e.g. riding a donkey cart without a helmet) and there are some things for which it is better just to take the hit, say that's a bunch of shit, and get on with the thing.

I don't feel like my blogs are incendiary. Mainly Peace Corps doesn't want people going around writing things like "Man, isn't it terrible/weird how all Bulgarians are ____." I don't want to be going around saying these things either. If I came here to show Bulgarians one (strange) American, I am not here to find out about one singular Bulgaria. But who can say if describing the rhinestone "SEX" beltbuckle worn by one of my students will be taken as an implication of the overt sexuality of all Bulgarian women? 

Today I went to take Black Guy and The Other One (my cats) to get neutered. The doctor told me to come back at 4:30. It turns out that Black Guy, as well as The Other One, is a girl, so the operation took a little longer and was not finished when I came back, took one look in the window, and saw Black Guy (Black Girl?) splayed unconscious on the table in the first room -- the only room! -- sliced open from groin to chest, bleeding, and being knifed at by the veterinarian's assistant. You don't see this in America. In America, we hide our cat guts. But I'm not trying to say that medicine in Bulgaria is barbaric. The veterinarian and his assistant could not have been more gentle and proficient -- they explained to me how to take care of the cats for the next couple of weeks in the simplest of Bulgarian and provided me with an antiseptic spray for the wounds and special food for recently neutered female cats. Black Guy/Girl and The Other One are doing fine back at home, though they have a funny walk and can't jump on top of things (such as me) as of yet.

...

Okay, fine, so I sometimes write less than kind things about other volunteers. I really didn't envision such a situation when I started Peace Corps and this journal. So many volunteers come here to live their lives, work hard for something they care about (instead of whatever it was that they weren't caring about at home), and in doing so show the people around them a non-caricatured picture of an American. Then there are a very few who choose to become such coruscating examples of laziness and self-aggrandizement, when they know that this is the easier approach, the American from the movies, to be emulated by members of a developing foreign country. Maybe they aren't caricatures of an American, they are themselves, Americans also. Why did they join the Peace Corps, though, these unquiet Americans? I have yet to discover whether they are solely a Peace Corps Europe phenomenon.

But who am I to criticize? For one, grandmother always says, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." For another, Dostoevsky says, "It is a great deal and very well for you that you dream of that in your mind and not of something else. Once in a while, by chance, you may really do some good deed." Okay, so I feel differently than the unquiet Americans, I have yet to be able to do anything differently, though, and if I do succeed in not becoming them, a great deal of it will be due to chance. 

Despite grandmother and beloved novelist's advice, I will continue to write what I see. Maybe in writing I will discover more about the phenomenon. Nine-five percent of the writing, though, is just mundane stuff.

Anyhow, you will find it all still right here, provided you become my Livejournal friend. I am sorry very much for the inconvenience of setting up a fake Livejournal account (though both grandmothers proved capable of doing so) and the ignominy of revealing your readership to me. I do hope that you will agree to be my friend, though, because it is nice to write to a diverse audience (and because I like/love (whichever seems appropriate) you).

Look forward to hearing from you,
Benjamin


The basics

Posted on 2007.04.09 at 15:18

Ben, twenty-three, off to teach English as a Foreign Language in Bulgaria, from Berkeley but really Texas and also sometimes Washington D.C. or Chicago (hardly ever Cincinnati).

Here I will post short thoughts and pictures; sometimes I am a better writer than today (in fact, I might win the Pulitzer Prize, so that is reason enough for you to give this journal another chance).

Today is four days until I leave for Peace Corps staging and it is also the first day of packing/considering that I will soon be leaving Berkeley, California. Here is a picture which presents a skewed perspective of what life in Berkeley has been like (I am the one with the large mouth):



And, because I have often been reading Bulgarian Peace Corps Volunteers' blogs instead of studying the language itself, I am well versed in how these things begin. Here is an abbreviated list of things I packed:

(1) zero-degree farenheit sleeping bag (yellow)
(2) heavy coat with built-in handkerchief
(3) 10 or so novels
(4) several English style guides
(5) "business casual" clothing, plus clothes that I didn't just buy all at once in a trip to San Francisco
(6) digital camera
(7) laptop computer
(8) (redundant) Smith-Corona 'Corsair Deluxe' mechanical typwriter 
(9) harmonica with neck brace
(10) too many pairs of shoes

Saying goodbye is the hardest thing. The best way, I have found, is to do the things you normally do. So, I will go do that for now. More to come... 

--Benjamin