Sunday marked one week since my arrival in Bulgaria. It has been a very full, stimulating, exhausting, awesome, and wonderful week. Most of my time has been spent in ETA training, Bulgarian language class, and various panels about Bulgarian culture. There have also been many wonderful experiences of community among the ETAs and other Fulbright International Summer Institute participants. On Friday night, there was an end of FISI celebratory dinner at the golf resort across the lake from our hotel. My favorite part of the night was learning a few Bulgarian folk dances. To return the favor, the ETAs taught everyone dances to "the Wobble" and "YMCA." It was a night of good company, food, and dancing.
On Saturday we went on a field trip to Saeva Cave and Troyan monastery. It was a relief to escape from "the compound," (which is the nickname I have somewhat affectionately given to our luxurious hotel) and to interact with Bulgarians in a more authentic setting.
Another highlight from my week was meeting my mentor teacher and learning more about what my life in Ruse will be like. I will be teaching 16 half classes (a half class has 13 students instead of 26), 8 groups of 8th graders and 8 groups of 9th graders. It sounds like I will have plenty of room for creativity during lesson planning as long as each week's lesson is relevant to the unit they are studying in their regular English class. Meeting my mentor teacher and participating in teacher training all week made me very excited to settle into the city that will be my home for the next 10 months.
I have been pleasantly surprised by how much being in Bulgaria feels like returning to one of my homes. I definitely left part of my heart here when I left Blagoevgrad in December of 2011. Even though I am in a town I have never seen before, it feels comfortable and familiar. It makes me smile to hear some of the same songs being played on the bus now that were also popular while I was in Blagoevgrad. I am looking forward to the new challenges, opportunities, and memories this year will hold.