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Stafford Peace Corps volunteer grows accustomed to his new surroundings in Bulgaria
Date published: 11/10/2004
By KATHLEEN LEWIS
He misses the taste of Skippy smooth peanut butter, American-made ketchup and pancake syrup, but James Mayers enjoys slatko smeared on French toast.
The sweet spread made from figs is one of the foods for which the Stafford resident has acquired a taste during his assignment in Bulgaria with the Peace Corps.
But while his taste buds have adjusted, his skill with the language is jet-lagged.
"I need to hunker down on my language skills," he said in a November e-mail. "Passing a test doesn't mean anything to the Bulgarian on the street, in the store or in the office," said Mayers, who scored slightly higher than required on his language-proficiency interview.
On Oct. 22 he was officially sworn in as Peace Corps volunteer.
Mayers arrived in Bulgaria in August with a group of 59 Peace Corps trainees. After four days of training on safety, health and language, he and four others went to Bratsigovo, a town of about 5,000. Although Mayers missed American cuisine, he enjoyed the fresh fruit that came from his host family's garden. If he wanted a peach, he could just pluck one from a tree. Most of the families in the town utilize every inch of their small yards for growing vegetables and fruit trees.
"If it's not a patio, something grows there," said Mayers in an earlier e-mail.
Language training continued after arriving at Bratsigovo.
"It's tough not being able to have a simple conversation, but I'm getting there," said Mayers, in August.
As he struggled with the language, be began to acquire a taste for the foods.
"I've helped to make slatko, which is like jam," he said.
Along with language classes, the group's training included meetings with the community and businesses.
During one of the meetings, the trainees and community members conceived an idea to put Bratsigovo on the map, literally. They agreed to create a hiking trail.
They would mark the trail, post maps around town and host an opening day.
The tasks involved sounded simple, Mayers said in an e-mail.