Monday, July 27, 2009

OK my avid readers I am about to give you a two month debrief to get you up to date with what I have been doing over here in this great country. Obviously this will not be a day by day commentary but I will try my very best not to leave any exciting events out of this training blog tribute.

I was placed in an extremely small and relaxed village ( malko spakoino cello) in the North West part of Bulgaria, the name I sadly cannot relate to you due to strict governmental policies. I resided in a beautiful hand crafted Bulgarian home. I lived with a Baba (that is a grandmother) and her son, who is a retired police officer. I was lucky enough to have my own section of the house just for me, which is a luxury not all trainees are afforded. My room looked out onto the large family garden which grew the majority of the food that we ate on a daily basis. I think that some of my fondest memories of Baba Rositsa are of the two of use working side by side in the garden; picking strawberries, hoeing the soil around the peppers or just sitting out in the field together in silence watching the sun go down. With the help of my host family I have been able to kill and prepare a chicken on my own; which by the way was awesome, harvest honey from a bee farm and in the process I ate a few live and extremely salty bees. I managed to converse with my family everyday through my broken, barely existent Bulgarian and many, many games of charades. I just want to give an enormous thank you to these people for taking in a strange American and making him part of their family. I owe so much of my joy and happiness through PST to my host family, so many thanks to them.

But what really got me through this rigorous 10 week training process were my language trainer Tonya and the three other American trainees who were right there by my side everyday. Three to four hours of language training a day plus lesson planning and teaching together and the fact that in our free time, which by the way was very sparse, we all just hung out together at the cafĂ©, talking or playing speed scrabble. These four people shaped my training and first two months in Bulgaria into a beautiful memory that I will never forget. Much love and thanks to Tonya because she was not just a language trainer she was a life trainer and I don’t think I could have done as well without her.

I feel like this process allows people to form special bonds between one another in a very short period of time and I am very lucky to have been placed with Corey, Kari and Sarah because each one of them has helped me grow into a more positive and understanding person and volunteer.

Now my village was superb and the very best things about it were the kids. I mean everyday I would walk the half mile to the training center from my house and I would be joined by at least two kids who just wanted to talk or skip or draw on the street, which of course I did and these little interactions that I had with the kids would just brighten up the rest of my day.

I brought two fun things with me from America to play with the kids with, a Frisbee and some hackie-sacks (courtesy of the Amico family). Now these kids were drawn to that Frisbee like moths to a light and everyday we would play. First just throwing but soon they became quite skilled and I taught them how to play ultimate. And we played, we played everyday at six o’clock. Some days it was 20 kids and some days only ten but for the first month we played Frisbee everyday. This was such a great bonding opportunity between the local kids and the American volunteers that after Frisbee, I knew and was known by every single kid in that village. It is a wonderful feeling to walk down the street have kids call out you name and just get excited because you are around.

The hackie-sacks actually helped me meet my best Bulgarian friend so far. I gave him one and then from that day on he always had his hackie-sack with him and we would play in the streets during class break and it was just a wonderful tool for me to meet and communicate with the kids.

OK, now for two stories. The first takes place on the very first night and the second takes place a week ago.

1) It’s the first night in my village and we are taking a tour of all of our host family’s houses. After the last house we all go our separate ways, back to our own homes or at least that was the plan. The sun was going down as I tried to recall what tree I was supposed to take a left at, or was it a right after the donkey. I still can’t remember. Needless to say I am becoming what some expert hunters might call lost. As I try to compose myself and evaluate the situation, the odds of me sleeping outside on the ground were growing considerably high. The sun at this point has completely set and I am, like my Jewish predecessors following the pull of the North Star. It guides me to a dead end with nothing but brush and brier for a manger. And then my avid readers I hear the laughter of a young child behind me. I turn around to face my soon to be rescuer and begin to tell her where I live when I realize I cannot do this, I have been in Bulgaria for one day and cannot communicate to this little savior where I lived. Without saying a word she takes my hand and leads me back to my house. Upon departing she whispers “vseeshko who-bav-o” which means all the best and good luck.

2) This story takes place in my training village the week before I swear in. Rain, thunder, lightning. A terrible storm has made its way into my village and awoke me from my slumber with a torrential down pour of rain into my room and onto my bed. The mighty wind is blowing with all of its gusto buckets of rain into my room. I jump from my bed to turn on the lights but alas, the power has been defeated and not a spark would ignite inside the bulbs above my bed. So through lightning illuminated glimpses I venture towards the window and proceed to shut and latch the first of two windows. The second I am sorry to say was old and battered and with the force of the wind and my attempt to close it, it shattered. Shards of glass plummeted to the rain soaked carpet but before making contact with the floor a very large jagged shard of glass struck my right hand severing the tendon of my index finger in half. I can see only a strobe light glimpse of the situation as lightning illuminates my room, blood and water cover my floor and all the random papers on it. Strangely I am not worried or in any pain at all. I calmly call my language trainer and explain the situation to her. I awake my host father who immediately grabs a bottle of alcohol and begins to empty its contents all over my open wound. What a fantastic idea! I then proceed to wait for Peace Corps to relay to me the next plan of action. Needless to say, 3 doctors, 2 cities and 10 stitches later I am presented with a beautiful 1/3 arm length cast. Which I am obliged to model for at least one month around my new village, making all of those cast-less able arm bodies extremely jealous. And that is the story of the curious incident at night time with a window.


  1. I am so glad you updated! I love reading your stories, it all sounds so incredible. I am so proud of you, I love you!

  2. Amazing! Incredible! I really love the story of your little rescuer! I can't wait to let Dom and Mia read this!!

  3. ahh, i love your stories and i love YOU!

  4. I love your stories! The pictures are great, too! Bulgaria looks like a beautiful country!

  5. I have a world map in the hallway to keep up with our correspondence with you, my friend. The children will be writing you by the end of next week.

  6. Hello Matt. This site is obviously a bit dated but I don't know of any other way to contact you. This is JP Grillet from Pre-2 at NSS. I'm writing because, as you hopefully know, tonight is "The End." LOST will finally be concluded. I can't contain my excitement and I couldn't help but think of you in these final hours before its broadcasting. I read that it will premiere at the same time around the world to evade piracy, so I hope you will be watching.

    I don't know if you remember, but I was going to give you a gift before you left for Bulgaria, and that gift was a Dharma Initiative t-shirt. I hope you don't mind, but I'll be wearing it tonight.

    Yes, tonight all life's questions will be answered. It would have been wrong of me not to leave this comment since you were for a long time my LOST buddy. Enjoy.