Closing thoughts (amber)

Day 16. As cliché as this may sound, I can’t believe this trip is coming to an end. Goodbyes are always awkward, but hopefully the memories will last. At the America for Bulgaria Foundation yesterday, we were asked to conclude the ways in which Bulgaria has surprised us in one word. I’m going to take this a level higher and summarize different aspects of our trip in one phrase each. While this simplicity will definitely not do justice to everything that I have experienced and learnt, it will  at least capture the essence and should suffice for the moment (especially considering we have a 5:45am wake-up time tomorrow).

On the partnership with Bulgarian Food Bank: INITIATIVE. This comes from both sides. On one hand, I was pleasantly surprised by the agency and autonomy that we had in bringing our own ideas to BFB work. Tedi, Tsani and Dani really respected our feedback, and a lot of times we were able to make the effort to experiment with something – whether in registration of food, or interaction with donors. On the other hand, the BFB team has been more than willing to walk the extra miles to take care of our needs, spoken or unspoken. They never ceased to surprise us with their ultra prepared-ness (honestly, how did they ever find time to do those extra things?).

On Sofia – ABUNDANCE. Of great food, cool people, history, culture, and even natural landscape. The foresty hike up the other side of Vitosha Mountain today again reminded me of how awesome it is to have a mountain that’s only an hour away from the city center. In addition to physical exercise, it also gave us time for team bonding and meditation. What have we gained from this beautiful city under the blue sky? How have we contributed, if at all?

On everyone I have met – DRIVE. This is not limited to the “planned” encounters with people in the food bank. In fact, the unexpected conversations I had with local volunteers have inspired me a lot, if not the most. Volunteering is not just an act. It can be an attitude. If I care about something, I ‘d better make it part of my life, rather than just something I’d go out of my way to do. This experience has definitely motivated me to engage in the community more when I get back to Houston or Hong Kong.

On the team – I have no word. It has been such a unique privilege to live and work with these eight people. We all came in with different expectations and I’m sure we are all leaving with different thoughts. But I think that’s exactly what makes it beautiful. Carrie’s mom once said the best diet is a bit for everything. I think that is true for societies, too. To be completely honest we have definitely had our annoyed and frustrated moments with each other, but I was really grateful we ended on a warm note. The pseudo-reflection-actually-writing-positive-remarks-for-each-other session that Bridget led really brought us together and visualized the appreciation that might have been buried a little too deep. We then proceeded to dessert and drink at SunMoon, a local organic bakery. And with a satisfied body in clean clothes, here I am typing up this blog post.

It’s technically Day 17 now. Thank you everyone for this amazing journey. And what’s more cliché than starting with something cliché? To end with something cliché: what seems to be an end may just be another beginning. I sincerely hope so.

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