It has been just over three weeks since I moved into my apartment in Ruse. Due to a canceled ATM card, my apartment is not quite as homey or furnished as I would like it to be, but there is plenty of time to remedy that situation. Overall, the apartment is lovely and seems to be the perfect size for me. I have a dining room/kitchen, an enclosed balcony type room with a stove and a clothes line, a bathroom, and a large bedroom/living room! I was very surprised to see that my washing machine is in the kitchen, but the stove and oven are on the enclosed balcony. One of my favorite things about the apartment is the flooring. Some of the rooms have a beautiful stone floor and the others have hardwood flooring (this is especially helpful in minimizing my allergies.)
Although the adjustment to living alone, after being constantly surrounded by people for a month of training and traveling, was difficult, I have become rather fond of having some alone time to reflect on my day and strategize for future lesson plans. One of the best coping strategies I have employed for when the apartment seems too quiet is listening to podcasts. My favorites so far are from BBC World News and NPR. I also recently discovered a podcast called, "Stuff You Should Know," and have downloaded about 500 episodes full of interesting facts (watch out, I'm going to come back a trivia master!).
I have been teaching for almost four weeks and I am happy to report that I have had far more enjoyable days than frustrating ones. Generally, my students are interested in learning about my life and the United States, but it can sometimes be challenging to motivate them to put in the effort required to learn a foreign language (English). Two of my favorite lessons so far have been "designing a dream high school" with the 8th graders and discussing things that are "stereotypically American" with the 9th graders. One day, I showed a youtube clip of Americans being interviewed about "American culture." At the end of the video, I asked the class "did anything surprise you?" One student raised his hand and said "the Asian girl." "What about her surprised you?" "She is so skinny!" Turns out, what was surprising to the student was not that there are Asian-Americans, but rather that someone could be both American and very thin! This led to a rather amusing conversation about American food and the way Americans are stereotyped as overweight and junk-food obsessed. This interaction also allowed me to see something that I consider very hopeful- none of the students were surprised by the amount of ethnic diversity portrayed in the video. In fact, one of the Americans in the video said that when she thought of American culture she thought of "white families." Many of my students were quick to comment that they don't view America as predominantly white at all. In a globalized world with accessible media, the export of ideas about the prevalence of ethnic diversity in America seems like a very positive outcome to me.
I'd like to take a moment to explain the title of this post, "Autumn in Ruse (aka California's Winter)." Autumn officially began on September 22, and the weather in Ruse seems to have caught on to the change of season. For the last 3 days, it has been raining non-stop with temperatures in the 40s and 50s, and it's only the beginning of Fall! What Bulgarians call "fall weather," I call the deepest darkest part of California's winter. When I told my students that this weather was the type of weather I associated with winter, they laughed at me in disbelief and told me it was going to be a "very long, cold winter" for me. I will definitely have to invest in some boots and a winter jacket very soon.
|The city center.|
|I love fall!|
|This bear statue is in the park behind my school. Every time I see it, I am reminded of the California flag!|
|The theater, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.|
|"Freedom Monument" in the city center.|