Monday, July 18, 2011

6 Months and a Visit

They say the first six months in a new country are the hardest.  There is a lot of adjustment and disorientation as you settle in to your new surroundings.  If you have not gone through it, it is difficult to understand.  Being our second adjustment as a family we had a better understanding of the process.  As we are all different people, each of us responded differently.

For Sasha, it was nice to be back in her home country.  She appreciated being able to converse in her native language again.  For her, the big adjustment was to the differences.  Things have changed since she last lived here a decade ago, and they continue to change.  Just today she was noticing that there hardly seems to be a view anywhere in Sofia that does not have a construction crane in it.

The girls have each adjusted in their own ways.  One of our daughters has jumped in and tried to learn Bulgarian and the Bulgarian culture as much as possible.  Another one has been a little more withdrawn and absorbed the changes internally.  The third one seems to have made the change almost automatically and is using Bulgarian phrases in daily conversation.

For me the big changes were in several areas.  Obviously the language has been a challenge, though my Polish background gave me a nice jump start.  There has also been the social adjustment.  I'm a naturally outgoing person, and I'm energized by social situations (especially where competition is involved).  I am the kind of guy who tends to look for friends, yet it remains a struggle to build close friendships like the ones I left behind in Poland and the U.S.  These things take time, and this is not my first cross-cultural adjustment, so I had a pretty good idea what was coming before I got here.

The nice thing is that as we celebrate 6 months in Bulgaria, we await a visit from some good friends from Poland.  My best Polish friend along with his wife and daughter are on their way to Sofia as we speak to visit us for a few days.  These are friends who helped us adjust to Poland when we lived there, and were always available and willing to help in whatever ways we needed.  It seems fitting that as we finish up our first 6 months in our new home that they are once again here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fourth of July

Though we are not in the U.S. we celebrated Independence Day on Monday.  We had some guests over for a backyard meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, and watermelon.  Sasha did most of the cooking, and I did the grilling.

Our neighbors came over.  They have two girls who played with our girls.  They had a fun time, and Sophie practiced her Bulgarian by continually asking the neighbors a Bulgarian question she knows quite well.  "What is this?"

We also had some Americans over.  Our evening was a mix of English, Bulgarian, and even some Polish thrown in as our neighbor once played volleyball for a Polish team.  It was lots of fun sharing our American heritage in our new Bulgarian home.

Our celebration also cleared up some misconceptions about us.  One of our neighbors saw the U.S. flag flying off of our house and confessed that he thought we were British.  The guards who protect a large house a few doors down started asking around about us as they had previously thought we were Polish.  (When we moved in our license plate was Polish, so they assumed that we must be too.  The U.S. flag caused them to doubt their previous conclusion.)  The great thing though is that more people know us now, and barriers were broken down by our little get together.  Now we pray that we can have a stronger influence on our neighbors lives and shine the light of Jesus among them.