I also attended my Close of Service conference in Tryavna, a 3 day affair that begins our transition back into life in the States, and to wrap up the last 2 years we've spent in this country we've come to call home. By the end of the conference, there wasn't one dry eye in the house, including mine, as our work here has become such a defining factor in how we view ourselves. Some of us will stay on for another year, and some will remain on this side of the pond for other reasons (like marriage). Most of us will be coming home to a place we haven't stepped foot upon for over 2 years, but all of us will be moving forward in some way.
When I arrived back to what has become my own home here in Preslav, I was greeted with a brand new refrigerator. The older one, a small space not much better than an icebox, failed in the oppressive summer heat. The new one is much nicer, pretty much the quality of a standard fridge in the States, holds more, chills more effectively, and has a separate freezer.
After moving this new machine into the apartment, I marveled for a moment at how far things have progressed since I've been here, and yet couldn't help but feel a bit bitter that this stuff wasn't around when I arrived. Around town, a brand new store has opened just down the street with goodies like Oreos and other things I haven't been able to find for 2 years.
In Varna, about an hour away, A huge new Carrefour store opened just next to the bus station, offering many more imports from home. The place dominates the surrounding area and acts largely as the European version of Wal-Mart. In the same complex, a sports store opened that sells, among other things, baseball equipment. I had been hoping for such a place for the majority of my time here, and now that it has arrived, at the tail end of my service with just a couple months left to go, I can't help but wonder at how much easier things could have been if it had come just a short time before.
In 2 months I will be coming back "home" to a country in which all of these things are just a given - services that are considered basic to even the smallest communities in America and many other places in the world. It would be an understatement that I have gained a new appreciation for these basic things that we as Americans usually take for granted. This was an expected result of my time here.
What wasn't expected was the realization that many of these things that we consider basic aren't really needed at all. They are luxuries that much of the world cannot even fathom. Why do you need one big store that sells everything when there are several small stores that sell all of the same things independently within a distance shorter than a standard aisle in a place like
Bulgaria may need much more time to progress to where we are in the States and catch up to the rest of the civilized world, but we also perhaps may need to slow down and view progress differently. Having a nice big fridge is a great luxury, and the Carrefour is short trip away, but I don't feel like I need any of it.
Will Rogers once said sarcastically that "We had begun to believe that the height of civilization is an automobile, a radio, and a bathtub. 'Course we're smarter now." He was talking about his own period, but it seems we haven't become much smarter today. We've begun to believe that the height of civilization is a hybrid car, an
And today, I consider myself one of the richest people in the world.