Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WTF are you doing?

Last night, I got the chills. The kind of chill you might get after watching a high school football game in November, or spending a day in a deer stand, or going ice-fishing. But there was no roaring fire or cozy bar to warm me up. No warm body by my side. So there I lay cocooned under a pair of wool blankets in my long underwear and insulated socks shivering like an aspen in the wind. When I finally emerged from my cocoon, the chill intensified. And as I hastily piled on extra clothes, all I could do was think to myself, “WTF are you doing?”

Almost six years ago, I asked myself the same question. Unable to find a satisfactory answer, I broke off an engagement and walked away from a promising legal career. After a couple years of backpacking around the world, I asked myself the question again. As had previously been the case, there was no satisfactory answer, and I applied to join the Peace Corps.

And now here I am, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria, once again asking myself, “WTF are you doing?” This morning isn’t the first time in Bulgaria I’ve asked myself this question. In fact, it’s a question I ask myself fairly regularly.

It’s a question I asked myself after missing the hole of a Turkish toilet.

It’s a question I asked myself after the undersides of my legs were splattered with all kinds of human filth after one of the kids I dropped off at the pool (Turkish variety) did a cannonball.

It’s a question I asked myself after waking to a new batch of flea bites every morning my first few months here.

It’s a question I asked myself when I heard of a fifteen-year-old student being dumped by her twenty-something boyfriend for a twelve-year-old because the twelve-year-old puts out.

It’s a question I ask myself every time people stare at me like I’m a circus freak.

It’s a question I ask myself every time I’m forced to scramble to avoid being hit by a Mercedes or BMW driving more than 100 miles per hour down a busy city street.

It’s a question I ask myself every time I’m confronted and threatened by steroid-infused meathead for merely talking to a girl at a bar.

It’s a question I ask myself every time I plop my half-frozen ass down on my completely frozen toilet seat.

It’s a question I ask myself every time I try to break through to apathetic, disinterested, and underachieving students.

It’s a question I ask myself a lot: WTF are you doing?

The answer is in the absurd situations giving rise to the question. It's in seeing progress from at least some of the students. It's in lessons learned from the баби who have welcomed me into their homes. And it's in the smiles, laughter, and tears shared with new friends.


  1. I think it's definitely a question ALL of us ask ourselves on a regular basis. And with good reason. I'm glad we've stayed though! But I have to say... I haven't had ANY of those toilet issues you're having. I'm kinda grossed out by it! :)

  2. I think I've been a bit unlucky with the toilet issues, but they did all make me laugh. What else can you do?