What a week! For those of you on Skype, you’ll have an idea what I’ve been through but here goes the summary!
Saturday – We got our washing machine so can now start to smell nice again. Everywhere is very smoky, dirty and dusty and there is not a ‘no smoking’ policy in the restaurants so you can’t even go out for a meal and smell nice so it’s nice to finally be able to wash our clothes! We met with Elijah and Petia (the Bulgarian couple we have become friends with) and went for a walk in the park and to a nice coffee shop. We have been trying to teach Elijah sarcasm as he is planning on coming to the UK in September to study so we felt he needed to fully understand the English language and mannerisms. We think he understood as he turned to me, took my ring off my finger, asked me to marry him, swiftly followed by ‘jokes!’. It was highly amusing! I have noticed however that in Bulgaria, the ring is worn on the right hand if they are married so, as I wear a ring all the time on my right hand,
I can pretend I am married here! Experienced Bulgarian ‘fast food’ also – known as a 'Junior', a chicken pitta with salad and chips inside the pitta. It was very nice and very cheap – much better than any Mc D’s or KFC! Lois and all the Fontline staff arrived safely at about 8pm but they went straight to their hotel.
Sunday – Went to Emilia’s church to experience a Bulgarian service. It was really nice – everyone was so welcoming and friendly. We were greeted into the church and asked to sit on the front row. The minister thanked us for our visit to Bulgaria and we had to stand up at the front! Scary! The service was all in Bulgarian but a young girl who spoke good English sat next to us to translate parts. We hope to go most weeks as it is a good way to get to know people and to get to know and understand the culture better. Lois and the Frontline staff were also at the church so we met with them and all ate lunch together to get to know one another better. We all sat down and planned the week
as it was very busy with visits to various schools (mainstream and special schools), as well as a mental health centre and a few other orphanages for abandoned children.
Monday – Spent the morning at the home with the children. We were in the main play room alone again with the children however they appeared to be more engaged in independent play and required less attention. I was bitten today by one of the children, not in an aggressive way, we just think she got over-excited by ‘Row row row your boat’ and that is one way she expresses herself! In the afternoon we met with Lois to help in her lecture about using the Canadian Model of Occupational Therapy (CMOP) and got to know some of the occupational therapy students which was good.
Tuesday – Did ten hours of work today! We were at university 9-12 in another lecture helping Lois teach about working with children with cerebral palsy to some 2nd year students. After the lecture we went to the Mental Health centre where we were able to look around and get a feel for the place. There were a number of buildings on the grounds
The equipment brought over by Frontline.
This will be used by lots of schools, homes, hospials.
– sheltered housing, a canteen, an arts room, an inpatient male and female ward (which we weren’t allowed to enter) and a room for sewing which we found hard to observe. Although the patents were engaged in an activity, they were treated like staff at work, making lovely linens, however they were not getting paid for it so was pretty much slave labour. We have decided there is the potential for an OT role at the mental health centre so spoke to the one English speaking doctor about setting up a group one morning a week, with a focus on life story work. We will each take one patient and explore their life through art, looking at their families, their childhood, their current situation and significant life events then in the last week explore their hopes for the future. We have observed that the majority of Bulgarians ‘live for the moment’, not making plans and just plodding along, being subjects of their own ‘laid back attitude’. We are hoping to encourage these patients to look to the future, giving them the motivation to progress not just accept their current situation.
Wednesday – Went to the childrens home with Lois
so she could meet the children and provide help and support with some issues we raised regarding postural management and manual handling. We have each selected 2 children to focus our time on, as well as incorporating a music group, a fine motor skills – art and crafts group, a gross motor skills – outdoor play group, and a social inclusion group where we hope to take some of the children out on a weekly basis into the community, to the park, supermarket or cafe. These aim to build attention and concentration for the children, allow them to learn and develop and hopefully engage themselves in one another. For the older children, these will provide a role in the house and also help prepare the children for if they move on to adult services at an older age.
Thursday – We went to help at the Open Day today at the university which aimed to promote occupational therapy and the course at the university. It was very well organised and was a big turn out with camera crews, and a lot of people from the community we had already met (doctor from mental health centre, carers at children’s home,
teachers at special schools, university staff, church members who help with raising money and supporting the abandoned children). It was fantastic to see. They were all exploring the room, playing games, asking how certain occupational therapy equipment worked. We also met the other international students – 5 girls in total, from The Netherlands, Portugal and Norway. We all exchanged numbers and plan to week at the weekend to socialise! (Yey, more friends!) Spoke with Liliya (the OT lecturer and our educator) and she has said we can get 60 hours free of a Bulgarian Language course which is awesome and very helpful for working with the patients and some of the children. Hope I’ll return fluent!
Friday – Went to the childrens home again in the morning and were able to observe some sensory techniques the frontline staff use to calm the children and get them engage in simple activities like brushing their hair (something they rarely do). It was interesting to see and I hope to incorporate some of their techniques in my practice with the children I work with over the next few weeks. I spent a large amount of my time engaging with an older boy
at the children’s home who has verbal communication. With my limited Bulgarian we were able to play with cars and toys, setting scenes on a board, and then taking pictures of his toys together. He loved it and was kept occupied for a long length of time. Later, we sat down and played with a jigsaw, both working together to complete it. In the afternoon I felt unwell with a bad headache – shattered and drained from my first week I think – so stayed home while Emily and Claire went to observe a drama group run by one of the frontline staff members.
Saturday – Chilling out today. Hoping to do some shopping on the main street and explore some of the shops. Going out tonight with the other international students to a ‘disco’! Think there are quite a lot of us going, Bulgarian students also. It should be good.
Sunday – Will be going to church again in the morning most probably then no doubt planning for my next busy week!
It's all very much go go go at the minute with very little time to ourselves to even just stop and think. Hoping once
we establish more of a routine it will all feel a little less stressful. Still enjoy it though - very much and am making the most of each opportunity and experience.
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