The road outside of the public hospital in the capital of Bulgaria is covered in cobblestones. For young kids, the crazy bumps that leave them bouncing on their seats are thrilling and an exciting change to the calamity of smooth roads. For me, traveling over the cobblestones caused shooting pains up my right side and left me doubling over in pain as my father, who had flown from London when he learned I was in severe pain, squeezed my hand. Later, as I was brought to countless doctors and nurses and machines I clutched my stomach to stop my hands from shaking. They all came to the same conclusion: appendicitis.
I was on a service trip in Pernik, Bulgaria volunteering at local schools when my side began to bother me. After my appendectomy, I spent my days talking with my father, who had been living in London for the past two years, and struggling to learn the Bulgarian the nurses patiently tried to teach me. I was a lost cause in the sea of intricate words that made up the language. My father, on the other hand, was a strong swimmer, easily picking up the accent and even delighting the nurses by asking for extra pillows. I learned about my father’s childhood in Brugge, Belgium, where he rode his bike down cobblestone streets to get to school and would ride to his aunt’s house for a delicious lunches of meat and cheese. He told me how he struggled to get to university, yet eventually won a coveted scholarship to go to study in America. Stuck in a hospital bed, I talked more with my father than I have in the past four years, discovering an entire history that I knew nothing about.
My trip to Bulgaria resulted in the loss of my appendix but I gained understanding and respect for my father and his culture. The basis of humanity is the interactions we have with other people. We seek comfort and refuge among others, bringing our cultures and history with us whoever we go, even to Bulgaria. It took a case of appendicitis for me to reconnect with my father but I wouldn’t trade my experience. As we drove away from the hospital and traveled over the cobblestones, this time they did not faze me; instead I felt stronger than ever, ready for the next bump on the road.
– by Katherine V.