Surprising Similarities: Making Friends Despite Language Barriers

Blog entry created by: Meagan

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I wasn’t too sure what to expect when we first arrived at Maria Theresa Orphanage.  I had mixed feelings.  On one hand, I was thrilled to finally be getting to the volunteering part of the trip.  But I was also nervous.  I was uncertain about what the next two weeks had in store for us, and despite my excitement, that made me slightly uneasy.  After all is said and done though, I can easily say it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.  I will never forget the short time we spent there or the friends I made.

The two weeks we spent at the orphanage flew by much faster than I had expected.  I still can’t believe our time there went by so quickly, and I’m sad that it’s over.  Even though our time there seemed to fly by, the days actually seemed longer than usual.  Well, maybe fuller is a better way to put it.  From first thing in the morning until we were told to go to bed, there was always something going on.  Whether it was giving piggy back rides to whoever jumped on your back or touring the local schools, there was never a shortage of activities to do or people to do them with!

Despite the language barrier, I made friends that I will never forget at Maria Theresa.  It’s amazing how much you can communicate just using gestures and body language!  Still, it might seem strange to have bonded so closely with people I can’t talk to.  After all, how can you really get to know each other without being able to talk to them?  How do you understand each other?  But friendship developed despite the obstacle! These kids are just like any other kids I’ve ever met.  I can tell that without understanding everything they say!

One of the things we bonded through was music!  I enjoyed pulling out the laptop and asking them if they had heard of any of the music that was on our iTunes.  I was surprised (and a little concerned) that they all know and LOVE Justin Bieber.  I would have never guessed that kids in an orphanage in Bulgaria were listening and singing along to Baby by Justin Bieber.  Another frequently requested artist was Michael Jackson (not as surprised with this one).  I was amazed to discover that we listened to a lot of the same music!  They like hip hop and pop, just like the majority of people I know!

Another thing we connected through was soccer (called football in Bulgaria and the rest of the world).  Despite my complete lack of coordination and grace, I can kick a ball fairly well.  Playing soccer on a recreational soccer team for a few years in my childhood had granted me that much.  Unfortunately for me, any skill I did have looked like nothing next to the boys at Maria Theresa.  They are all AMAZING soccer players!  They have coordination that I could never even dream of having, and they can control the ball effortlessly.  I was dumfounded by their skills.

That didn’t stop me from playing with them though!  They tried to teach me their ways, and I tried (feebly) to do the things they were showing me.  And I actually was able to do some of their tricks!  It wasn’t really because I was skilled though.  I just seemed to be lucky whenever the soccer ball was involved.  My clumsy feet seemed to magically hit the ball just right, and it ended up going where I wanted! Amazing!  Unfortunately, they now all mistakenly think I’m a good soccer player.  I feel like they’ve got me all wrong, but on the other hand I’m glad they don’t think of me as a complete klutz.  All in all I had a great time playing with them!  Kicking the ball (topka in Bulgarian) around led to hours of entertainment!

Our time at the orphanage was far too short and went by far too quickly.  However, the time we did spend there was wonderful and I loved every minute of it!  I met people I’ll never forget.  I would like to go back to Bulgaria someday to see how they’re all doing. I also learned that there are many similarities between myself and the kids I met!  And it’s small things we have in common (music, sports, games) that bring people together! :)

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Posted on: October 13, 2010 | Categories: Bulgaria, Computer Lab - Bulgaria, Games Kids Play, Sports


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