Reviewed by Ken Hill (Turkey 1965-67)
THEY HAD PLANNED THEIR RETIREMENT and a move from California to Colorado to be closer to family. But Bruce and Stormy McDonald happened to glance at a Peace Corps recruitment ad in the summer of 2001 that changed their plans — and their lives. Within a year they were in Bulgaria, their great new adventure had begun. In ended too soon! Not long after the beginning of their second year of service a frightening event intervened.
Theirs was an extraordinary experience, shared masterfully in A Breeze in Bulgaria. They were highly experienced, strongly motivated, “older” Volunteers. Bruce had completed career #1 as an Air Force aviator, and #2 in the defense industry before he and Stormy were infected by the Peace Corps bug. Stormy had worked in business and as a teacher. She accompanied Bruce on his overseas assignments. Along the way, they raised two sons, each of whom had their own families.
Intense relationships and cultural discoveries abound in this well told story. Their PCV narrative transcends the predictable, including a medevac ending their formal Peace Corps service. But Bruce and Stormy returned to Pazardjak, Bulgaria for the Graduation Ball of the class of 2004! A Breeze in Bulgaria plumbs the Bulgarian culture, finding its richness and beauty plus a dark corner or two. A lovely bonus of the book is the adoring relationship between Bruce and Stormy: “Sometimes we dance!”
Crafting an interesting book around very personal experiences is no easy task! RPCV attempts often fail to achieve an interesting and evocative narrative. Not so here. A Breeze in Bulgaria is a page-turner, navigating twists and turns, capturing characters and challenges. Its style is personal, but engaging. Not only Peace Corps people will love this book, its that good.
Just so you’ll know, six years in advance of Bruce and Stormy, my wife Winnie and I arrived in Bulgaria from the Russian Far East to begin my next Peace Corps/Country Director assignment. Bulgaria would wind its sweet web over us as well. Like Bruce and Stormy, we love Bulgaria. And, “sometimes we dance,” as well.
Ken Hill (Turkey 1965–67) later joining Peace Corps/Washington staff. Returning to Peace Corps in 1994, he was Country Director in the Russian Far East, Bulgaria & Macedonia. In 1999 he was appointed Chief of Operations for Europe and Asia, and then Chief of Staff of Peace Corps in 2001. He was Chairman of the Board of the National Peace Corps Association for three years, and an adviser to the Obama Peace Corps Transition Team. Recently, he was a principal of the MorePeaceCorps and Push4PeaceCorps campaigns. Ken organized the PC 50th Anniversary Staff Reunion which brought 1,300 PC alums to the National Building Museum in Washington along with all 13 of the living Peace Corps Directors. Currently, he is on the boards of the Bulgarian-American Society, and Friends of Turkey (Arkadaşlar). He observes elections for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (5 countries) and has interviewed candidates for Muskie Fellowships in four.