Подарък means gift

“Подарък?”

Most donors hesitated confusedly when Amber said this and offered them a brown paper grocery bag emblazoned with the food drive logo and slogan. Reviewing the trip, I feel the same way.

Our trip felt like a series of gifts received confusedly, and we received so many. The astounding hospitality of the BFB staff (Tedi, Tsani, Maria, Dani, Ilian, and Pepe), the Sofian’s amicable dispositions, opportunities to serve in a soup kitchen and a day care for young adults with disabilities, Sofia and Vitosha. Tea and coffee at BFB HQ and the warehouse during breaks, eight incredible team members and companions (Amber, Angie, Ben, Bridget, Carrie, Minoti, Peter, and Scarlet), white cheese, yellow cheese (and of course banitsa), and more.

Подарък? As they happened, I accepted the gifts unthinkingly, but during nightly reflections and now, I realized the unnecessary (and usually unexpected) good of gifts like the side trips BFB planned for us. I say unnecessary because we did not have to do them, but each visit to the Druzhba soup kitchen, the day care, AUBG, the American embassy, the America for Bulgaria Foundation, and the American College of Sofia added another piece to a holistic view of service in Bulgaria and how we, as Americans serving in Bulgaria, fit into that framework.

In the BFB and their partner organizations, our presence felt needed and utilized for every task. The soup kitchen let us dice vegetables both for the soup cooked that morning and for next Sunday’s soup. As well as helping the young adults in the day care make crafts for fundraising, a few of us mowed their unkempt lawn. One day after sorting the in the warehouse, we spent a few hours cleaning it.

This trip exceeded any expectations I could have imagined, and now we are home. Walking the streets around my house the first day back, I wondered if I had dreamed the whole trip. Yet as I ate dinner on the deck in the evening light, I felt like I was in Sofia, weirdly. The outside has changed, but what I remember and feel inside remains. Let’s hope it stays.

~mitch

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