Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Junior Achievement

The most frequently asked question I hear from my friends and family from home is, "So, What are you doing over there?" Well, the initial response "Just playing with my dingy!" doesn't really register in the head of my grandparents, so I have to switch it up a little bit. This post is about a current program that we are working on called, Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement is an organization that is geared towards teaching and promoting business concepts across the world. The organization is an American firm that was first introduced to Bulgaria by a Peace Corps volunteer way back in the day. Here in Belene, we introduced the concept to the local high school here and, with the help of one brave teacher, we were able to start a program here.

Junior Achievement has many different programs that will cater to your schools needs. The programs vary in difficulty and age range. We decided to choose the Company Program. For those who don't know what the Company Program is...

The Company Program, in essence, is a real company that is created and run by students in which they produce a good/service for payment. The Company Program runs from the beginning of the school year (September) and runs until the late spring (April). The program allows the students to get the feel for a real company, pros and cons. They have the opportunity to raise capital, draft a business charter/plan, elect a board of directors, create services or products, maintain financial integrity, etc... The program also allows the students to hire and fire personnel (students) as they see fit.

The school in which our program takes place is called, "Maria Skodvska Curie". This is a technical high school that was originally created as a high school with a focus on nuclear engineering (Due to the construction of the Nuclear Plant, which has been in process since the late 80's). The high school now serves as a general studies school, but also has an economic focus in some of its classes. With the help of Anelia, a teacher, we introduce the materials to the 11th grade class.

The reception of the program was meek at first, but when the students found out that there was a chance to make money, let’s just say, "Shit hit the fan". Since this program is based on the most simplistic capitalist ideas, the students were motivated by money at first. Ironically now, the students are trying to cut down on labor costs (their salaries) in order to make the company more profitable (what a concept, maybe US companies should take note).

The name of the company is, Оптимизъм за Белене, or Optimizium for Belene. The main focus of the company is advertising. Advertising in itself is a very broad field, but this also enabled them to participate in a wide variety of activities. Activities include, building an advertising website, creation of calendars and Christmas cards, and currently, mass production of Martanintsi (red and white bracelets).

So now you ask yourselves, where do I fit in? Well, during the week, the class meets for 1 hour specifically for Junior Achievement. You could call this a weekly staff meeting. At the meetings, the President attends to matters pertaining to the company’s’ problems and any issues or ideas they have for new ventures. I attend these meetings as an advisor to the company (without commission). We try not to tell them what to do, but just guide them on their way. The program is designed to lead them to mistakes, but it is up to them to fix. Every now and then, I will go in and teach them something relating to a problem they are having or just general business knowledge. For example, one class was about the different types of financial institutions and another was about the Cost-Benefit Analysis. Now, these sessions are usually, in itself, a source of comedy due to my patchwork Bulgarian on financial topics, but are taken and applied direct to there work. This is probably the first time I feel that I have actually transferred tangible skills to a group of people that will actually use them. I can see this first hand in the running of the company. Yes, I have participated in over a dozen "training sessions" with other organizations, done Power Points, and attend countless conferences but the transfer is not seen. Yeah, I am sure they may have learnt a thing or two about how to gain more funds from the EU, but have they really LEARNT anything? Maybe they have, and that is good, but with this program, they would not be able to continue or be success in the program without the knowledge taught by the teacher and I.

For any volunteer reading, I would recommend this program to you (COD,TeFL,or YD) as a good secondary project or just a project to do because you have an interest in teaching Business concepts to Bulgarians.

Ok, so everything is good here. I am taking everyday as it comes. I hope to post about my travels to other countries soon.

Stay Classy,


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This one is for you Rod (this post is kind of a stretch)

"To promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served.” This statement can be found on page 14 in our Peace Corps hand book. I trust that many of my fellow volunteers, as well as myself, have tried to exude this all-American image were our sweat smells like freedom and our can-do attitude resembles Chris Farley on speed. We are immune to depression, lack certain tear ducts to express any type of negative emotion, impervious to anger, and can never have a bad day. We do everything correct, if we fail, we don’t fail due to effort, we fail because of bad planning. We don’t take bribes, because we are democratic and believe in justice and equity. We don’t take kick back or “pay-to-play” because Americans don’t do that. It is important that we don’t do these things because we may be the only American that a Bulgarian meets. Their opinion will form from the way we present our values. Generalizing is not only allowed, but encouraged. “Oh look, Chase wears short sleeves during the winter, he must be crazy, All Americans must be crazy.” “There is Chase again, running around like someone is chasing after him, All Americans must just run for no reason. “ “Why does Chase always smile when I see him, All Americans must always smile, weird.” “Oh listen, 50 Cent is rappin a song on TV, Chase, he is American, has to know the words.” “Oh geez, another Illinois politician falls victim to corruption and greed, Chase must be corrupt and greedy, All Americans must be corrupt and greedy.” “God, that Justin Timberlake is one good looking guy, Chase is American, why doesn’t he look like Justin Timberlake, damn, we got ripped off.”

Conversely, my image of Bulgarians is drawn from the people I have come in contact with throughout my stay here in Bulgaria. My opinion of a people can never be drawn from just one person, but rather many. People are people, and a single bad person can not be representative of the entire population. Whether it is the local grocer or my counterparts, I derive my opinion of Bulgarians from the Bulgarians. Let it be known, that all my opinions of Bulgarians are positive. There is nothing bad I can say about Bulgarians in “general”. I have the opportunity to meet and talk to a lot of Bulgarians which other Americans probably have not. Many countries in the European Union often judge and categorize Bulgaria and its citizens as people who are unsavory and corrupt due to its few political leaders whom have stuck to their old ways of doing business, payoffs and “hidden funds”, which leads the EU to cut funding on several programs that would benefit some of the impoverished groups of people in Bulgaria. Instead, these people drive their new BMWs through villages in which the roads have more potholes then the village has people. Should we judge the whole of Bulgaria on a few corrupt politicians with mafia ties? My advice would be to judge Bulgaria on people you meet and experiences you have had with them. Not just one person.

Now for some fun stuff. I am sure all of you back at home and even some people here in Bulgaria have learned about the continued success of Illinois corrupt leaders in government. It is said that 4 out of the last 8 governors of Illinois have been arrested or charge with federal corruption charges (other illegal matters). That means that if you become a governor of Illinois, you have a 50% chance of getting thrown in to the Joilet state penitentiary. And no, this does not mean you get your chance at TV stardom, the Prison Break season is over. So set your goals high kids, if you are not sure of what you want to be when you grow up, either a criminal or a governor of Illinois, just know, your chances of being both are very high. The newest person to fall victim to the “Windy City” politics is Richard Daley, scratch that, I mean Rod Blagojevich. I am sure you all know of the “alleged” accusations that Mr. Governor is being charge with. Here are a few just to get a general idea of this guy’s scumbaggery:

1) “Allegedly” tried to sell the US Senate seat which was previously held by President elect Barack Obama. He compared his position in regards to the Senate seat to a sports agent shopping a player around to “the highest bidder.” (well, I guess with the economy the way it is, someone had to cash in the last remaining Blue chip stock.)
2) “Allegedly” threatened the Chicago Tribune to fire some of the editors who were written bad things about him. (Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, for that, I will have you fired)
3) “Allegedly” The governor allotted $8 million in funds to Children’s Memorial Hospital, believing he would get $50,000 back from the hospital’s CEO. When the money never came, he checked with staff to see if he could pull back the funding. (Making money off a hospital that focuses on helping and aiding the youth of Illinois is one thing, but taking back the money because you didn’t get your cut is pretty low)

These are just a couple of the alleged actions that Rod sought to realize during his term as Governor of Illinois. This is America right, and every man, women and child is born (or granted) the right to a fair and just trial in the court of law amongst a jury of YOUR peers. I capitalize YOUR because in this case it is the People of Illinois. Since he is elected official of the people of Illinois, elected at the service of the people of Illinois, it should be the people of Illinois that decides his fate, correct? On a recent interview with Larry King, King noted that the comments on the federal wiretaps sounded “Bad”. Rod responded by saying, “Oh, of course it sounds bad. But think about some of the private conversations you might have on the telephone….. You can take all kinds of things out of context.” How right you are. Let me give you a few excerpts from a recent conversation I had with a friend from home, I hope there were no Feds listening:

Me: Hey man, what sup?
Friend: Not much man, just thinking about that car that you have at home. Are you going to give it a way?
Me: Hell no!? “It’s a f-ing valuable thing.” “You just don’t give it away for nothing…. I’ve got this thing, and it’s f-ing golden.”
Friend: Are you sure, I mean, my parents are looking for a good used car and they thought that maybe you could give it to them. They would really appreciate it.
Me: “They’re not willing to give me anything but appreciation. F— them.”
Friend: Hey man, easy, those are my parents you are talking about. Let’s get off that subject. I got your package in the mail and read the article in the paper about you and your mission there in Bulgaria. I was pretty taken back; they appear to thing that you are lazy and worthless at your site. Is that true?
Me: Yeah the editors don’t like me that much, as far as I am concerned, “Fire all those f—ing people. Get them the f— out of there. And get us some editorial support”

The recent impeachment by the Illinois state government has given Rod the chance to stand up and, “Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight until my last breath” right? You would think that you would do everything in your power to clear your name, in his case, bribe the person holding the incriminating tapes, use the newest intimidation techniques and try to pay off as many people as possible, right? You would defend yourself in front of your peers from the very beginning to the very end of your trial. On the night of your trial, you dream of the images in which Tom Cruise interrogates Jack Nickalus. Jack (you) stands defiant in his defense and offers the famous words, “You can’t handle to truth!” You can’t wait to get into the court room and stand your ground, or not.

Well, not this man. Instead of coming to the opening trial remarks you head to the wonderful place that we call TV land. You decide to plead your case on shows like The View and Larry King Live. Barbara and Larry are great people, but really? Do you think that the mothers of Massachusetts have any say or play any part in the outcome of your fate? Do you think Larry and his national coverage will allow you to convince a man in Texas that you are innocent? Maybe yes, maybe no, but let me inform you of something. Your fate is decided by the people of Illinois, not Bubba Bill in Tennessee.

You leave Springfield and the people of Illinois in the most peculiar position. The man, in which the House just impeach 117-1, does not show up to prove his innocence, or should I say disprove his guilt, leaves us wondering why? With the amount of evidence piling up against you and the people of Illinois searching for answers, you give us Star Jones. Thank you Rod, you are one classy man. If you don’t believe you can get in a fair trial in the state that you represent, where can you go? You think the people of Wisconsin give two shits about your predicament? Your alleged crimes took place in Illinois, while you were Governor of Illinois. Your trial and jury will be held and found in Illinois. Sorry Rod, looks like your chances of avoiding impeachment are none. So, in closing, I urge everyone not to judge a people by a single person, but rather a sampling of individuals. Don’t fault us for the actions of one person and also remember not to credit us with the accomplishments of one person.

Oh, one last thing. Congrats to Obama!!!

Stay Classy Chicago (Rod)
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bring it back old School

Here is something that I previously posted on our joint Blog page. Though there has been little activity on this site, there are still some interesting articles on it.

The gist of this post was an interview with a Baba (grandma).

Baba of the Week: Baba "Janet"

There are so many great babas to choose from here in my town. They range in all different shapes and sizes, some more spherical then others. The one that I chose for baba of the week this week is the one that makes me the most happy in the morning. I always have a groggy start to every morning, either from the previous night’s rakia fest or the “special” channels after dark. Either way, I always dread waking up in the morning. The one thing that does get me out of bed though is the local magazine baba, which for this blog’s purposes, will go by the name of Janet.

Janet is a jovial character whom never seizes to amaze me with her 8 in the morning “spunk”. Her magazine stand is on the way to the municipality and I see her everyday. The magazine is simple and is pentagonal in shape. She does not sell coffee or banitsa like other “sell out” magazine stands. She is 100% original, cut and dry, straight to the point. The selection ranges from Atlas in 4 different languages, National Geographic and Playboy. What makes this stand and the educator of the community any different? It is the sales techniques of the salesbaba. Janet, through her realization of her predecessors’ failures, does not sit in her stand hiding from her clients. She does not moan at the fact that you give her a 10 leva bill for a 50 stotinki paper. She addresses her cliental face to face, outside of the stand. Every morning she says hello and good morning to her passing community members in hopes that they may need the latest addition of Cosmopolitan. Not a fan of Cosmo, for you manly men, she will gladly point out the inappropriately dressed female on this months issue of FHM.

When I sat down with Baba “Janet” for an interview, I asked her a few questions:

Me: Baba “Janet”, you joined some pretty elite company when you decided to start selling newspapers. Is this what you saw yourself doing 60 years ago.

Baba “Janet”: Well, I wanted to be a pet store owner. Gosh, those little puppies really stole my heart when I was little. But over time, I realized that these cute little sweethearts eventually turned into street roving maniacs. How could I have a business selling puppies when I knew someday, they would be the ones keeping up at night with there barking. Besides, there was barely a market for puppies in my village.

Me: Where did you acquire your sales skills that have made you one of the most successful business entrepreneurs in the community?

Baba “Janet”: Probably not from my father. He was the quite, agricultural type. He spent most of his days in the field tending the crops. My mother was the outgoing one of the family. When we were younger, my brothers and sisters would make crafts in our free time. We gave them to our mother, thinking they were the best creations on the planet (Sticks tied together with string makes wonderful creations), and she would try to sell them to the others in the community. Her contagious personality and charisma allowed her to sell these with ease. So, I would have to say that I learned my business skills from her.

Me: So is there a Man in your life
Baba “Janet”: Who, “Hank”? I left that drunkard many years ago. It’s just me now and I am better for it.

Me: In closing, Could you tell me some of your favorite magazines that you read.

Baba “Janet”: Man, there is just so many. I would have to say Garden Monthly is a must read for me. But I am also guilty of taking a peek at the new Barbie magazine every now and then.

At 74, Baba “Janet” stands as a pillar of the community by bridging generations with her personality. She wakes up everyday with energy and excitement that will ingnite the community with a reason to walk to work. At least that’s the way I see it.
For your achievements, Mrs. Baba “Janet”, we salute you.

Signing off, your field reporter

Brian Fantana
You Stay Classy Bulgaria

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes We Did

It is a great time to be an American, citizen of the world, or a guy that is living in Belene. Congratulations to Mr. President-Elect, his family, staff, volunteers and the vast majority that decided change was needed in America.

I celebrated the win here in Bulgaria like any other American in a foreign country would: loudly, proudly and with copious quantities of adult beverages.

Here is a picture of me handing out candy to my colleagues.

Yes, that is the Man himself.

Чао за сега,


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Exit Stage Left

Summer is a great time of year no matter where you are, unless you are in Australia. The morning opens with a cool crisp breeze which quickly retreats and reveals a heat so thick, you could cut it with a knife. I always get lost in my summers. Whether it is on North Ave. beach with the skyline at your back, or the rocky shores of the great Danube, you get lost in time. The last few months here have flown by just as fast as the first 10. This would explain my neglect to this blog. I will try to write a quick update for all of you.

-First trip to the sea coast. Bulgaria has a lot of nature beauty that it can call its own. From the mountains to the sea, Bulgaria really does have rich bio-diversity. I took about a week off to travel up and down the Black Sea coast. Started off in Varna, headed down to Obzor and then finished at Sunny Beach.

Quick run down.

1)Speedos aren’t a suggestion, they are a requirement.

2)If you feel like you are too manly to wax, do it anyway. Odd glances, stares and little kids impersonating Chewbacca aren’t the best way to have a good time.

3)Salt water burns in the most unexpected places.

4)I can’t believe PCVs actually get to live on the sea coast, but then again, I bet people wonder how they let people live in such a beautiful city such as Belene.

5)British tourist, especially Sunny Beach tourist, will give my fellow countrymen from south of the Mason-Dixon line a run for their money when it comes to “rednecks”

6)5 Leva beer will NEVER be a justifiable price for Bulgarian beer, EVER!

7)The idea of being topless on a beach is a right of passage for women and should never be looked down upon.

8)Swedish people don’t all have blond hair.

-Metallica came and when. I rocked and rolled. I got in my first verbal argument with a Bulgarian. I tried to use my most colorful Bulgarian language while also maintain my cultural sensitivity. HAHAHA

-Team Belene basketball is still going strong. We held an official opening for the gym for our town holiday. The kids invited their parents and grandparents to the event where the mayor blessed us with his presence and participated in the opening. We had a small exhibition with the kids (dribbling, passing, shooting) and then the kids showed off their baller skills in a little 3 on 3 contest. The kids were very nervous, but everything turned out well. We are still a long way away from a contest with a formidable opponent.

-Received funding for the organization and implementation of a Scouting program for the youth of Belene. Yes, that’s right. I will take my Cub scout skills and put them to the test as our town tries make some Scouts out of the youth. I know there are some Eagle scouts out there, but honestly now, who would win in a fight, an Eagle or a Cub? Think about it.

-Snoop-a-Loop Tomorrow

Grab your green Hat!!!

-Mid-Service Conference is in a week. It has been 14 months already? Damn.

-Home visitation rights. The month of October will see the return of Chase Morgan to the US of A. Tons of Polish Sausage, Bratwurst, Italian Beef, Pizza, Fajitas and Old Style beer will be consumed. Hugs and kisses handed out, along with a typed one page summary about my time here that will be handed out when someone asks, “So, what are you doing over there?” Mixed emotions about going home. On one hand, I am excited to see everyone, on the other, I am nervous. I guess we will see.

-And last but not least, the shameless promotion of our newest endeavor…

I really don’t like asking people for money or even putting someone in a position were they my feel obligated to give money. Despite this, after consulting people from home, I decided to bring this project to the forefront of friends and family at home. Here is a summary of the project that we are trying to realize in Belene:

Community Youth Center

“A community youth center is a way for the youth to learn new, valuable skills that will enable them to succeed in the ever changing world. A community youth center will teach youth leadership and provide civic education. Our town currently has a building that is used for youth and sporting activities. The building has three rooms, which are empty, that need to be remodeled in order to provide adequate facilities to the children. This project aims to remodel a room in the youth center and create an activities room in which children can come and spend their free time.

Programs held here will allow for vocational, life skills, job preparation and technology skills training. The center will also be a place where the youth can learn about nutrition and health, arts and crafts and recreational athletics and games. We will use computers and audio/visual equipment, such as a white board, dvd player and TV, to enhance the effectiveness of the trainings.

As stated before, the town has a room that can be used for the creation of a youth center, but it lacks the proper equipment and materials to furnish the room. The funds will go towards creating a community-centered youth institution that is both appealing and inspirational to the youth. The room will be under the supervision of Municipal center’s employees. The Municipal center will also work to design and create programs to aid the development of the youth in the community.”

The directions are pretty straight forward. I really suggest you check out and read some of the other volunteers’ projects that are being realized across the world.

Now, I know that most of you pay taxes and also that some of you donate some of your money to local charities, Red Cross, and other Non-Profit orgs. These donations, as you well know, fall under the tax deductions part of your tax filing. This means that instead of paying your required amount to Uncle Sam, you can distribute it as you see fit (qualified orgs only). I recommend that if you haven’t taking advantage of this already, do it in the future. Not just to this program, but others that you see worthy.

Why donate to this Community Youth Center halfway across the world? A palace you will probably never see, kids that you will never meet? Well, I really don’t have an answer for you. The only thing that I can say is that this center (total of $5,000) will be applied to just that, a youth center. Nothing else. No one is getting paid, there are no “administrative costs” or “utility costs”. The funds are applied to the youth center which will directly affect the youth of this town.

Every bit helps, and we thank you in advance for your support.

Ok, enough from me. Again, my advance apologies for the halftime philanthropic drive. I hope it wasn’t as bad as those TV commercials you see on public television or the door to door salesperson.

Take care, I will talk to you (or see you) soon, Stay Classy Chicago


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Belene Basketball Baby

I've try to stray away from work related blog posts, though I have written about work experiences in the past. I don't really know if there is a reason for this, but I think I might try throwing in a post or two about work. I guess I have been trying to keep everything that I do here secret and hidden from the PC. I want them to think that I do as little as possible and I am just a Voluntourist. Who knows, but here goes nothing.

My counterpart came across an article in the paper a few months ago, around April. It was in the Peace Corps monthly newsletter that goes out to all volunteers' counterparts. He spotted a interesting article about an organization that was looking to fund basketball programs in Bulgaria. Wow, I thought, this is a project that is right up my alley. Balls and Baskets, what a combo. The foundation was called the Silver Lining Foundation. The foundation was undertaken by a gentleman by the name of Terry Sivesind. I grabbed the article and quickly skedaddled to the computer. I typed up a inquiry email to see if this was just some bogus article or if this guy was really going to fund such a project.

A couple of weeks later, to my surprise, Terry had responded. Not only was a surprised that he responded, but also with the speed in which he did. Since being here, I have learned that patience truly is a virtue. Communications back and forth then ensued. The idea was developed, with the help of a group of school teachers and a couple of local basketball players, to provide new equipment (hoops, basketballs, jerseys, etc.) in order to start a basketball team in Belene. They felt that it was imperative to the community to create and maintain youth programs in order to develop the children into productive members of the community. Sports teams, along with organized activities, were a means to achieve youth development in the community. Build team unity, sportsmanship, confidence, blah, blah, blah. Though there wasn't a "Formal" report made, documentation and writing was still involved. Going the "Non-Formal" way enabled us the ability to receive funds within 2 weeks. Even better, we were able to completely implement and care out all of our goals for the project within 2 months. Total funds, about $5,000.

Below are a picture journal of the process and the actual goals of the project.

Part One of the project: The Build

Here is the actual sports hall. If it looks new, it is. A Bulgarian ministry funded for the remodeling of the gym, but did not want to provide money to actually equip the hall. What a concept! Here is an awesome gym, with nothing in it, Now go develop so kids. Това е България!

Here are some picture of the actual instillation of the hoops and volleyball nets:

What a mess. This whole process took 6 Bulgarian construction workers 2 days. I wonder if they were Union?

OSHA who?

That's right, In ground Volleyball poles. You have to love Дупки.

Firefighters scaling the wall to attach bolts for the hoops, about 20 meters high.

These hoops are from Italy (DLO) and I was told the first in Bulgaria. Be jealous.

So that was the first part of the project, the build. We installed two basketball hoops with plexiglass backboards and professional rims. We also put in two volleyball poles and two handball post. It turned out really good.

Part two of the Project: Start a freakin team!!

So, as a "facilitator" of this project, I was not alone in this process. Of course, my counterpart from the Municipality (Yuilyan) helped with the idea building and writing of the project and my other counterpart from ADO (Peter) became a coach. Peter was to be the coach of the girls team and I was to coach the guys. We also had an another coach, Beev, who helped on both teams. We got together, went to the local schools, discos, bars, drunk tanks and strip clubs to recruit any 8-14 year olds we could find. We were pretty nervous for the first month because we weren't going to have any basketball hoops or equipment. Just two used basketballs, Peter manly appearance, and duct tape. After intense recruiting, the first practice drew about 25 kids. Not bad for the first time.

You have to realize that basketball is not a "household" sport in Bulgaria. Though a few people do play, Bulgaria is like the rest of the world. Soccer is the sport of choice. The first practice was, entertaining to say the least. The kids really didn't know what they were doing, but really tried hard. After a few practices, they actually started to look a little bit better. Now, time for the hoops.

First Practice with Hoops:

This kid's first shot, no rim, no backboard, nothing but air. Peter is there with his cutoff.

Beev teaching the girls how to pass. They are actually pretty fashionable when it comes to Basketball attire.

Not bad, He almost got rim.

Part Three of the Project: I guess we should dress the part.

With a group of willing subjects, it was time to get some proper attire for the team. These pictures below bring us to the close of this chapter in the basketball project.

I think this kid is throwing up the shocker?

Blue and White it is.

the 8-10 year olds. Bad Ass. Oh, if you look at the jerseys, they are about 4 sizes to big for the young guys. Don't worry, they will grow into them.

And now, your starting squad for the Belene Mosquitoes. Photos are available in Wallet size and 8 by 10.

The next step is to line up some games. Right now, we practice twice a week for one hour. The kids still come, and we get about one or two new people every week. I am now fielding any challenges from other Volunteers. If you want to run your squad against the fierce mosquitoes, just let me know.

So that it. A short and simple way of explaining how projects are written and actually carried out. I tried not to put in bullshit about difficulties (communication, community involvement, selling the idea to the mayor, etc.) because I really don't think that is important for you guys to read. All the volunteers go through some difficulties with projects like this. As it goes in all aspects of life, no matter how difficult or impossible an idea looks, its always achievable. I came here as a Business Advising volunteer, but now, I am starting to feel like a Youth Development volunteer. Not so bad in my book. That is it for this post, hopefully I will have one soon about the 4th of July weekend.

The kids of Belene want to say Thank You to Mr. Terry Sivesind and the Silver Lining Foundation.

Stay classy Chicago!! and Go CUBS!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

I wanna be like Mike

Yes, I received the coolest gift ever. Before I explain my perfect gift, let me give you a little background information.

When people ask me where I am from I say Chicago. Was I born in Chicago? No. Was I raised in Chicago? No. So why do I say Chicago? This is a good question and hopefully I can offer some sort of explanation on this matter. Sometime during the summer of 83’, a small baby named Chasey was born in Houston, Texas. Yes, Chasey. You know, the place where drinking a six pack to and from work was considered normal. A place where the Bushs’ ruled and longhorns roamed. Well, Houston is the place I call my “birthplace”. I lived there until I was three and then moved to the great state of Illinois. My parents moved to the far north side of Chicago, not considered a suburb of Chicago, but rather an outlining city. The town was called Winthrop Harbor and it was located on the border of Lake Michigan and Wisconsin. This is the place I was raised. After college, I moved into an apartment in Chicago. The neighborhood of Chicago I lived in was called Wrigleyville and was literally 1 block away from a Taco Bell, MacDonalds and Wrigley Field. There, I fully embraced and participated in all aspects of urban living. No car, only public transportation; No dollar beer nights, only 5 dollar bottle nights; No yard sales; only thrift stores; No house parties, only bashes; No more decorative art on the fridge, only the Field museum and Art institute; No more running in to an ex-ex-ex girlfriend at the local tavern, but now the surprise of running into the girl you hooked up with two weeks ago, conservatively dressed, on the L. I only lived in the city for 2 years, but the city made a big impression on my life. 2 years out of 24 is not much, only about 8% of my life, but the effects were much greater then 3 years in Houston where I was trying to learn how to walk without shitting myself. So, moral of the story, I consider myself a Chicagoan now.

Now, with that out of the way, onto the Bulgarians. If I tell a Bulgarian I am “From Winthrop Harbor”, they will look back at me with a blank stare and say, “Where?” If I say Chicago, then they tell me about one of their brother’s neighbor’s wife’s cousin once knew a girl that gave a HJ to a guy that had a sister who visited Chicago for two days. Everyone in Bulgaria knows someone from Chicago. So, as you can tell, it is easier to say Chicago then Winthrop Harbor.

Ok, now for the superest, coolest, bestest gift ever. One Friday night, in the great town of Belene, I was talking to some of the guys I hang out with here about Chicago. I have kept a tally of the two most common statements that a Bulgarian says about Chicago and they are: “Al Capone BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM” and “Michael Jordan, SWISH SWISH”. I am not lying about the sound effects. I think they feel like I don’t understand them so they use sweet audible cues to help me. Anyway, one of the guys there, which also has one of the sweetest nicknames, the “General” talked about how much he loved the Chicago Bulls when he was growing up. How he would wake up really early to watch the Michael Jordan and the Bulls play throughout the 90’s. The “General” told me that he was going to bring me a gift the next night. So I am thinking gift, hmmm. The last time I saw a Bulgarian give an American a gift in Bulgaria it was a statue of a baldheaded eagle (Which I ended up breaking later that night, sorry Kellen). So needless to say, I was a bit nervous about the prospect of a gift. Little did I know that this gift was going to be bad ass.

Yes, that’s right. A replica Chicago Bulls, number 23, Michael jersey. I am sure most of you out there have owned this exact jersey before, but for some reason, coming from a Bulgarian was freakin awesome. The size 40 Champion jersey was in fairly mint condition. It was a little tight, but still, it’s a Jordan jersey. I proceeded to put it on and wear it for the rest of the night, even to the disco. You better tell all the moms and dads to lock up their daughters and cattle, because this guy was going out. With Jordan written across my back, there was no stopping me that night.

Greatest gift so far in Bulgaria, thanks to the “General”.

That’s all for now, Stay Classy and talk to you all later. Read more!

Chasing Bulgaria © 2008. Chaotic Soul :: Converted by Randomness