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Heaven and Einhell

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I have written quite a few “Bad BG” posts and so it is time to look at some of the GOOD things about retiring in Bulgaria. Why should anyone choose SE Europe? Why not retire in the UK or France or Spain?


First of all, retirement means less time in school, not taking piles of papers and exercise books home to be marked over the weekend and no end-of-semester reports to be written in the educational gobbledygook and jargon that most parents will never understand. In a nutshell, retirement means less work and more time for me to spend with Irisha, doing the things that we want to do.
In her blog, Auntie Bulgaria, Claire Ruston points out that Bulgaria has to be one of the cheapest places in Europe because property here is so inexpensive, yet it is only a three-hour flight from the UK. Because Bulgaria is in the EU but it is not in the euro, prices are lower. (Quite a lot of Bulgarians I have spoken to recently seem to be convinced that prices are going to shoot up when BG really does adop…

A Letter from Ladygirl

I seem to be spending a lot of time writing to other teachers who have contacted me through the TES. Well, it is good to be able to help. I am going to include this message from “Ladygirl” because it might be helpful for other teachers who are thinking of making the move into international schools. Hi, 

Congratulations on your retirement! 

I'm sorry I am just replying. I am still learning how the details of the forum, etc. 

Yes, I have seen many of your posts in fact! I have been doing a lot of research on teaching abroad. 

In talking to my husband, we are probably going to wait 5 years to teach abroad. The reason being the county we teach in will pay for 60% of our health insurance if we wait 5 years to retire with 20 years in Virginia. One has to have their health insurance! We are thinking of teaching for 10 years and then returning to the states as we own a farm here. 

I have noticed that some prefer the International American Schools over the British schools. Why is this? Does one …

E-mails from Emily

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As regular readers of my blog will already know, I also write (under my nom de plume, "the hippo") a few bits and pieces for The Times Educational Supplement. This means that sometimes one or two TES readers write to me for advice. Emily was rather worried about her work visa for her new school in the UK.


Hello,
I was hoping you could advise me about what to expect or request in an unexpected situation.  I am freaking out over this, and am in an Eastern European country where I taught for the past 5 years: my colleagues all went home for the summer, and I stayed in a school apartment I have to leave at the end of July.  I thought I had a job lined up, but it looks like I don't.  I don't know who to talk to about this, and I'm sick with worry.  
This is complicated, so I'll number the events to make it easier to follow.
1.  I went to the Search fair in January.  I was thrilled to get an offer from a school in the UK.  It is an American international school, and I …

Bad BG, Part 3

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If you have read the book, then you will know that Holes is really a lot of metaphors. Yes, there are the literal holes that are dug by the not-so-happy campers at Camp Green Lake, but just about all of the characters in the story have holes, flaws or gaps or something missing from their characters. The palindromic hero of the book, Stanley Yelnats, is missing a lot of things: luck, friends and then his family, after he is sent to Camp Green Lake. Zero has a huge emotional hole: his mother has disappeared from his life. Even the evil Warden, a sort of latter-day American Cruella de Vil, has an emotional hole, the desire for the outlaw Kissing Kate Barlow’s missing loot. (KB also had a hole in her heart, after her black boyfriend was murdered by the lynch mob.) 
But the biggest hole in the whole story (no pun intended!) is one that the novel touches on again and again, but does not really fill in properly: what do you do with “bad” adolescent boys? If they have broken the law, will a ha…

Let the Train take the Strain, Part 2

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What has been happening in Downton Abbey? Well, the youngest of the Crawley girls, the one who married the Irish chauffeur, has just died.

Now on to more serious matters. I forgot to mention one of the weirdest things about the main station on the Sofia MTR. It is called "Serdica" and there are archaeological exhibits on the MTR platforms. In large class cases, there are bits of Roman architecture, statues and so on. Rather strange. Most of these Roman artifacts were found when the new MTR stations were being built.


Just in case you were wondering, the Serdii was the local tribe who were living in the area when the Romans came along. In fact, in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, the city of Serdica became one of the largest and most prosperous in all of the Roman Empire.


You are also wondering what an MTR ticket looks like. Well, here we have a genuine MTR ticket from the Sofia Metro. 

Note the price: 1.60 leva. It is standard price, no matter how long or short your journey. Usually…

Let the Train take the Strain, Part 1

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It was my hero Michael Palin, in his classic BBC series Around the World in Eighty Days, who said that railway stations do not intimidate and dehumanize people in the way that airports do. Well, we have been making so many train trips into Sofia over the last two weeks. The time-consuming visits to the notarius and the Microwave Woman are now over, but our dealings with the Russian visa office and the Nissan dealer are continuing.
That means catching the train from Dragoman just after seven and arriving in Sofia's central railway station after eight. The main station has been transformed from the gloomy, pigeon-and-pickpocket hole that it was when we first started travelling in BG. With two years of teaching in Bucharest and a house in Bulgaria, Irena and I got to know this dark and dingy transport centre rather well. Nowadays it is a very different place, no doubt thanks to a generous dollop of EU money. It is much brighter and cleaner, almost user-friendly, although the system (…

Lunch on the balcony

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Lunch on the balcony of our villa in Kalotina is a multi-sensory experience. You can only have lunch out on the balcony when the weather is good. Well, we have had more than a week of rain and grey skies, so yesterday it was such a pleasure to have our lunch on the balcony, as we usually do in the summer.

Firstly, my dear Irisha's Clavinova will be playing some piano music. It is not quite the same as having a live pianist playing a selection of different tunes, but it is almost as good. It is nice to listen to the Clavinova tinkling away, while sipping a glass of wine.

Then, of course, there is the food, as well as the wine! My Chinese friends will want to know all about the food, of course. We hardly eat any rice when we are in Bulgaria, but we do scoff our way through mountains of new potatoes and yummy Bulgarian bread. And the salads! The onions are big and sweet, the tomatoes are cheap (the other day Irena bought three kilos for one lev - or 4RMB, is you are in China!) and the …