After all the fun explorations in Plovdiv, it’s time to do some work! That is not to suggest that the latter is not enjoyable – in fact quite the opposite. Our day, which consisted of two visits and a briefing session, proved to be incredibly rewarding and lent itself to a fruitful group reflection at its end.
We woke up at 6:45am for our first stop, the US embassy in Bulgaria, situated in a quiet and almost secluded neighborhood. Our delight from successfully arriving at the embassy was doubled upon seeing Madalina. We were early by quite a bit, but luckily we didn’t wait too long until a lady recognized us as Rice students instead of sketchy strangers hanging around the embassy.
Impatient readers may have noticed that we don’t have photos today, but if you won’t quite forgive us I hope you at least credit us for observing the no-electronics rule to its strictest capacity. Some of us have had previous engagement with the American embassy (fortunately or unfortunately) elsewhere, but it’s the first time for anyone to meet with a representative. Ms Tammy Palchikov, cultural attaché of the embassy, generously introduced the mission and functions of the embassy and answered our questions.
Tedi came to pick us up and deliver another pleasant surprise: Anthony Kitchen from the Global Food Banking Network. We exchanged greetings and headed to a daycare center for youth with disabilities. The center is a partner of BFB and (as we were later told) benefits a lot from having extra money to organize field trips and even accommodate more people.
We were split into two teams: the lawn mowers and craftmakers. We were given essentially the same task of cutting vegetation, the only difference being the former meant physically removing grass from the front porch, the latter meant cutting out floral patterns from napkins and making souvenirs out of them. Initially, we were quite conscious of ourselves and worried about being an imposition. Yet gradually we realized how this experience helped us see the impact that BFB is making in the greater community. Seeing the big smiles on people’s faces in the daycare center and hearing from them, we also left with the knowledge that they were genuinely happy we were there and our presence was inherently meaningful to them.
The team replenished ourselves in neighborhood market, and then embarked on a journey back to the BFB headquarters to discuss logistics for the food drive. It’s happening in less than a week! We got all of our concerns addressed, except a few of us (read all but one) are still working to perfect our Bulgarian.
Simple dinner at the hostel was followed by a lengthy discussion in our room, which transformed into small conversations about our thoughts on various issues. I think that’s a great conclusion for the day; what are your views on that?