Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Went to Bulgaria--WHAT?!?

So, yes, I had the opportunity to go to Bulgaria last week. I couldn't believe it! Montessori For All was invited to present at the Teach For All international conference entitled, "Reimagining Learning." It's embarrassing to admit that I had to look up where Bulgaria was (it's near Greece). 

We flew from Austin to Toronto to Munich to Sofia and then took a shuttle another two hours to Blagoevgrad. On the way back, we left Blagoevgrad at 2:15am and flew from Sofia to Frankfurt to Houston to Austin. Something I unintentionally realized about international travel: it helps so much to plan your flights to arrive in the evening so you can arrive, get settled, and go to bed around 8pm. I accidentally scheduled my flights that way in both directions, and I experienced zero jet lag! 

The only issue we ran into was that one of our suitcases didn't make it to Bulgaria with us. It had 25% of the Montessori materials we brought for our session (we were supposed to create a hands-on learning experience for the participants), so we had to hurry and improvise at the last-minute. It seemed to work out okay, though. 

On one of the days, we connected with a friend of a friend who was born in Blagoevgrad and volunteered to give us a tour of her city. It was a delightful experience to drink freshly-squeezed fruit juice at one of the highest points in the city, shop for souvenirs at a little place off the beaten path along the river, stumble upon a prolific artist in the historic district who wanted to show us all her paintings, trek around the lake to see reindeers, rabbits, and deer, walk into a hand-built church from the 1800s, and hear stories about the rise and fall of communism in Bulgaria. Our tour guide's family had to be evacuated out of Bulgaria in the middle of the night in the late eighties to seek political asylum in the United States. 

I had never been to Eastern Europe before. Observing the remnants of communism was fascinating. And of course international travel is such a profound way to step out of one's daily experience and widen our sense of the world. 

I'm so grateful to be part of the Montessori movement, which is truly "education for peace." We need better educational opportunities for our children all across the world. As Maria Montessori says, "If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men [and women]."

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