As I hugged everyone from the group goodbye this morning (I’m staying for a couple of extra weeks), it hit me – our trip is actually over. This has been an absolutely fantastic experience in which I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people on a very important project with the Bulgarian Food Bank and to learn more about food banking, volunteering, and my culture.
At the beginning of this journey, we were all a little unsure of what exactly to expect and were still a bit awkward with one another, but day after day, we gained more confidence in what we were doing and bonded over lot numbers and expiration dates In the warehouse (so much pasta!!), and yummy food all around Sofia (white cheese everywhere!). Working with Teddy, Plam, Maria, Tsani, and the rest of the BFB staff was incredible, and I’m so grateful for the holistic view they provided us of food insecurity, food banking, and volunteerism in Bulgaria through the warehouse activities, visits to their partner organizations like the soup kitchen and day care center for young adults with disabilities, and interactions with their sponsors. This experience inspires me to continue volunteering and researching the issues of food insecurity and food waste, as well as applying for future international service projects, maybe one back to Bulgaria as a site leader (Ben, Bridget, I want your jobs!). I also enjoyed talking with some locals like Maria’s friends, Denitsa and Kamelia, and the Time Heroes photographer Iliyan and his friend Peter. They gave us a different prospective on the people and culture of Bulgaria that we would not have had otherwise.
Although at times translating for a group of nine became a bit stressful, I loved how excited and open everyone was to learn the language, and by the end of this trip, I think everyone has gained the skills to have a semi-fluent conversation in Bulgarian. It makes me so happy that everyone enjoyed themselves and that I now have more people at Rice with whom I can share my obsession with Bulgaria! I’ll miss you guys and can’t wait to see you all in the spring!