What follows are letters that I mailed to Shirley, a friend and cyclist, that was with me on the Cross Country and the Western Tours. I had a computer available but internet service was so poor that email could not be sent so all of them were mailed. She then made a few copies and mailed them to others in our bicycling group who then passed them on to others. A ‘chain’ letter of sorts.
When I returned from Japan in 2001 Shirley picked me up at the airport in San Francisco and I spent a couple days at her place in Lake Tahoe. It was there that she said that she had most of the letters that I had sent and asked if I wanted them. Sadly, Shirley died soon after she had given me these letters. She fought her cancer for over 5 years and remained the same positive, cheerful person during that time as the one that I first meet on the x-country ride in 1990.
A few years later I retyped them (including all the misspellings and poor grammar) as web pages in a newly developed website. There were no pictures mailed with the letters but I added them when creating the web pages.
I am now moving them from that website to this WordPress site as Pages. The Pages continue to have the appearance of letters but I am hoping that they will flow more like a book rather than a blog. Note: Nothing on this page was included in any of the letters sent to Shirley.
The Peace Corps experience all began while I was working in Reno and had become bored with what I was doing. So I was casually looking at the Help Wanted notices in the news paper and saw one that was looking for ‘Ex-bankers’. I read the expected duties and experience required and thought that I was qualified and only then at the bottom of the notice saw that it was an ad posted by the Peace Corps. I contacted them which started a 13 month bureaucratic process to be accepted.
After receipt of the Acceptance Letter shown on the right there were a couple of telephone calls. In the first one the Peace Corps asked me if I would be open to accepting a Volunteer Position in a “former Soviet Union country”; I told them yes. For a couple of weeks I thought it would be one of ‘stan’ countries in Asia. Later, in the second call they asked me if I would accept Bulgaria; I told them yes. I had the opportunity to decline Bulgaria and they would have offered me a second country but it is VERY doubtful that a third country would be offered (you would be considered not serious and dropped). I was told by someone in the Peace Corps that for 1996 they needed to fill 10,000 positions. There were something like 500,000 inquiries and 100,000 completed Applications were received to get those 10,000.
I received the letter on the right from The White House soon after the Acceptance Letter. At that time I made a 5×8 framed copy of it and had it hanging on my wall at work until I left for Washington D.C. in June of 1996.
I don’t have any of the paperwork that got me to Washington but I was sent instructions and a plane ticket. All the Volunteers in my Group met there for three days for orientation and then flew as a Group to Bulgaria and bus to Kyustendil where we had 3 months training.
In one of the 2 or 3 missing Letters written from Kuystendil I may have told about how some of the Training was individualized and the placement of Volunteers certainly was. The Pre-Training Questionnaire shown below helped the Peace Corps Staff in this regard.
However, I think the placements were driven more by the volunteers personality, character, language skills and how they might fit in with the community where they were to be placed.
Two pictures of Kyustendil from the hills that border it to the east. My “host family” (The Miladinvi’s – Ivo, Silvia & Svetly) at the Peace Corps swearing-in and party (I think I’m about half in the bag). There was a younger daughter (Adi) that did not come not did the Grandparents or the brothers family (we all lived in a three story family house). My study desk in the children’s room; they were moved out so the family could get the money for my staying there. Everything I had with me was in the large bag on the floor to the left rear.
There is at least one letter missing between 26 Jun 1996 and this letter, probably 2 or 3. The OFC is a group of “older” bicyclists that rode the x-country and or the Western Tour. I was assigned to serve my two years as a Volunteer in Zlatograd, a town in the south central part of Bulgaria on the border with Greece. I worked for the Zlatograd Community Development Center “CDC” a Bulgarian non-governmental organization. The Executive director, his assistant Milka, who was my counterpart/translator, and myself staffed the Center. In one of the missing letters I probably explained that I had to go to Peace Corps headquarters in Sofia each month to receive my living allowance.
The picture on the top left is the “Main Street” on the right bank of the Verbitsa River that I walk every day from home to my office.
The next picture shows the Municipal Building, with it’s “square” just over the tree limbs. I lived in one of the shorter “blocks” that are below the tall ones at about the center of that picture. The Verbitsa River flows out of the canyon to the upper right and you can see the Alamotsi joining it to the left of the Municipal Building.
The third picture shows the town on both banks of the Alamotsi to the left of the Municipal Building.
The fourth picture is the town on the left bank of the Verbitsa or to the right of the Municipal Building.
The two pictures of the Municipal Building: In the first my office is up the steps and on the left. The second picture, bottom left, is the Municipal Building right side ‘wing’ .
We went on a “field trip” to Rila Monastery which is a must see in Bulgaria. I took more pictures than these four but the developing in Zlatograd was so bad that the prints are almost worthless (this is the best Photoshop job that I can do on them).
The group picture was taken on another Peace Corps “field trip” to Samokov that was intended to teach us how to travel in Bulgaria. That is Kristina (Bulgarian Language Teacher) in the center with Elisabeth to her right and Vangie to her right rear. I’m behind Kristina with Bob on my right and Bret to my left. The other boy and girl were our servers for this evening meal.