Bulgaria. Eastern Europe. Can you find it on a map? Easy, right there above Greece. But what’s it like there? That’s more complex.
Bulgaria is a country with beautiful mountains, fertile fields, dusty roads and old Soviet-era apartment bloks. Ancient ruins, tired cities, grand traditions, intricate music and folk dances. Scattered remnants of the old industry struggle for survival, glimmers of hope among rusty abandoned factories.
No, that’s not it! More like awakening. Exciting. Big changes going on. Stirring, sweeping changes. New ways of thinking, new opportunities. School hallways ring with the laughter of bright-eyed, eager children, and young people go to discos and wear fashionable clothes, drinking coffee in sidewalk cafés for hours, exploring ideas. All around them, politically and economically there is tumult and change. Everywhere there are entrepreneurs in a newly free society with apples and cabbages for sale from a cart or a table by the sidewalk. Democracy too, with whatever that will bring. Determination and hard work define what is needed in everyday life.
“So, what’s in the book?”
It’s a Peace Corps memoir and it’s about people. People with fascinating customs and traditions, unfamiliar assumptions and ways of thinking, austerity and living close to the earth. Friends and neighbors who loved their country and its proud heritage, and were sometimes a little sensitive about its place in the world. Warm-hearted, generous, curious, practical people.
Hardy and resilient, the Bulgarians trace their history back to the fair Thracians, then through the Roman and Byzantine empires, and the powerful Slavs. Then the Ottoman Empire, “five hundred years under the Turkish yoke,” finally ended by Heroes of the Revolution, reverently remembered.
And it’s a love story. The volunteers’ own story had a dramatic turn of events, one that took determination and hard work to overcome. The heroes of this story are many, and courage is proved in adversity.
About the Author: Bruce McDonald was an Air Force pilot, then an international subcontract negotiator for an aircraft manufacturer. After his years in industry he asked the question, “What next?” The answer, for him and his wife together, was the Peace Corps. As it always does, the Peace Corps enriched their lives beyond measure.