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Mayers settles in at post page 2
Stafford Peace Corps volunteer grows accustomed to his new surroundings in Bulgaria


Date published: 11/10/2004

By KATHLEEN LEWIS

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But creating a map proved to be difficult. Maps detailing the smaller communities were scarce. When they finally found one and had it scanned and the image modified to include the trail, they couldn't find a printer capable of making a copy of the large-format map.

Traveling by bus, they searched nearby in Peshtera, a larger town, and Pazardjik, a city. Their quest was unsuccessful.

Children who lived in an orphanage and people from the community helped with cleaning and marking the trail. A trainee designed signs announcing opening day, and another trainee solicited sponsors who donated drinks and bread, traditionally served at celebrations.

The opening event was held the following day. After the ribbon cutting and a ceremony that involved pouring water mixed with flowers at the entrance of the trail, the jaunt began.

Even though Mayers has moved out of town, he isn't giving up on the map. He was told that he can get one printed in Plovdiv, a 30-minute drive away.

"I want Bratsigovo to know that if Americans say something will get done, it will, even though it would have been better on time, but that's the nature of business sometimes."

In addition to the community project, Mayers said, the group visited with children from an orphanage and helped with a fund-raising campaign for the home. Some of the children live there because their parents or relatives can't afford to keep them, he said.

"The reality of being in the Peace Corps is really starting to sink in," he said in an e-mail. "I'm in my office and am surrounded by Bulgarian speakers only. Even as I type, I am being addressed--talk about multitasking! I understand about 30-50 percent."

Mayers' apartment is a five-minute walk from work. Although he doesn't miss the traffic in Virginia, he does miss his friends and family. And conversations in English.

The Bulgarians who know English seek him out to practice their language skills, he said. "And, fortunately for me, they are determined to help me speak Bulgarian, correctly."

Nonverbal language can be a problem too until the cultural differences are mastered, said Mayers. Bulgarians nod their heads up and down to indicate "no" and wag it side to side for "yes."

To reach KATHLEEN LEWIS: 540/374-5000 ext. 5749 klewis@freelancestar.com


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