Host Family!!

Trip Start Apr 14, 2006
Trip End Jul 2008

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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Friday, April 21, 2006

Today, for about 5 minutes, I was nervous for the very first time in this whole experience. This morning our language trainer gave us some info on our host families. The paper said their names, there were 3 generations including grandparents in their 50s, a son and his wife, and a 4 year old granddaughter. Also that they have a dog, speak a little English, and smoke. The bus ride from the hotel in Panechishte to the peace corps office in Dupnitsa, the HUB site, took about an hour. We all got off the bus and went to meet our families. Right away I got a huge hug from Dessi, the mom in her late 20s, and I knew this was going to work out :) Her husband's name is Giorgi (with hard g sounds.) She's the only one who speaks a bit of English.

The 3 of us drove in their old car about 20 minutes to Kocherinovo, their village. Driving anywhere in Bulgaria takes at least twice as long as in the United States. No matter where you are all the streets are what we would think of as back roads. Anyway, when we got to the house we met Giorgi's mom. She lives on the ground floor, and my room is on the 2nd floor with the young family. They have their own kitchen upstairs but everyone shares one bathroom. I met Beti, their teeny dog. Then upstairs we met Kami, their daughter. When I first got there she played shy, but after I took a nap and was starting to unpack my stuff she got very friendly. Turns out she is a huge chatterbox. She would alternate between hiding in the living room and coming in and posing these long winded questions and wait with her hands on her hips for an answer. The only word I recognized was 'li,' which in bulgarian denotes a question. Soon after I woke up we had a delicious dinner, with terator, cold cucumber soup, and musaka. During dinner Kami and I communicated more, I know how to say 'I like' and 'do you like' so we went back and forth about who likes terator, musaka, dogs, cats, rabbits, candy, and cake. She was even kind enough to offer me a beer, which made her parents laugh.

Kami kept asking her mother to tell me things or ask me things, and Dessi could usually get the point across. She kept saying 'Kaka Meri,' and I figured that meant 'ask mary' or something similar. After a while I asked Dessi and she said kaka means big sister, so it turns out they all refer to me as big sister mary. How cute is that. Kami also made me laugh when a couple times she whispered secrets to her parents, looking at me to make sure I wasn't listening.

After dinner Kami asked if I have a dog, which I took as my cue to get out my pictures of my dog (kuche,) grandma (baba,) parents, brother (brat) and friends (priyateli.) I also brought as presents a picture book of philadelphia, which went over well, and maple sugar candies from vermont, which they didn't really like as it's sweeter than what they're used to. Hey it's sweeter than most american candy too.

After dinner we drove about 5 minutes away to visit with Dessi's mom. Another granddaughter lives there, she's 2 and is named Viki. Her parents live there too but they were out. I obviously wasn't much part of the conversation, but I spent the time laughing at the 2 girls, playing with Beti who came too, and tickling Kami. Dessi's mom was very impressed with me when near the end of our visit the 2 girls were hiding under the table, and I said what I'm pretty sure was 'Where Kami and Viki?' and when they popped out I said 'Kami is here! And Viki also!' For about 10 minutes or so another family friend popped over with her young daughter. The only problem with the evening was how all the adults were smoking. I'm sure peace corps has explained that american's don't smoke so much and it could be a problem, because they kept asking me if it was ok to smoke in front of me. It doesn't bother me that much personally, it just was crazy to see all the parents and grandmother smoking in front of such young kids. It's something that I'm going to have to get over, if the education isn't there like it is in the states it's not fair for me to judge them and think they are bad parents. I'm not even a medical volunteer, so it's definitely not my place to lecture them on the hazards of smoking.

I think I'm off to a good start, my family is obviously amazing. I got good use out of the dictionary peace corps gave me tonite and I practiced the dialogues that we got on a CD during orientation. I have lots to learn so we will see how it goes.
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