August 13, 2009

Bulgaria leaves lasting impression on Utecht family

By Brenda L. Shelkey

When Beth and Gene Utecht sent their sons Kellen and Casey off to college and into the real world, they knew the two boys would work to find their own niche. They were right. But that didn’t mean that the two parents didn’t register a modem of surprise two years ago when Kellen decided to go into the Peace Corps. His decision not only took him half way around the world to Sandanski, Bulgaria, but it provided an opportunity for his parents and brother to join him and see a part of the world they may not have considered seeing otherwise. K. Utecht works in the area of economic development, mainly with the Romas, a group of people also known as Gypsies, who have very little in life and who live in ghetto type areas in Bulgaria. In December of 2008, Beth Utecht and good friend Doreen Schaaf, both Underwood, made plans to visit Kellen in Bulgaria. They were interested in seeing the way the people lived on a daily basis, and they wanted to do some sightseeing at the same time. Utecht said, "We were interested in seeing the real side of Bulgaria." The two women ate more in family-type situations and experienced the often vegetarian meals that included salads made of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and cheese. "They didn’t use lettuce in their salads like we do," said B. Utecht. "We also ate a lot of grape leaves wrapped around rice." The Christmas meal that the three ate with the Romas at the Mother’s Center, one of the places where Kellen works in his role in economic development, was completely vegetarian.

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