This blog is supposed to be all about Bulgaria, but for five years we were in Shenzhen, in southern China. That is the reason for the weird title, "Bulgaria with Noodles". In June of 2018, Irena and I left China and retired to Bulgaria, to our villa 60km north of Sofia and to our apartment in Veliko Tarnovo. This blog is really all about some comparisons and contrasts between China and Bulgaria, two very different countries.
Another Life in the Day
it’s the alarm. After my usual slow-motion ablutions, dressing and breakfast, I
walk through the park. It takes me about twenty-five minutes. Sometimes I am
feeling lazy or else I am in a hurry, so I hire an orange and silver Mobike.
You scan the bike’s code into your smartphone and the five-minute cycle ride
costs 1RMB. Actually, I have to type the number of the bike, as the scanning does not work
on my stupidphone.
After a few
skyscrapers glanced through the palm trees, I arrive at my school. Green Oasis
School, aka GOS. My school does not seem to be too interested in the Chinese government’s
plans to abolish Christmas. (As students of English History will know well, scrapping the festive season has been tried
before, of course, after King Charles lost his head, the UK had a Republican
government and Christmas was abolished by Act of Parliament.)
Not the Yellow Brick Road
morning, “signing in” takes the form of standing in front of a video camera
that eventually recognizes me and says my name. Up the stairs, open the
classroom door, switch on the computer, read e-mails and messages. Yes, auto
pilot is switched on at this stage, but eventually I wake up when Miss Yanee
arrives and I have to start thinking about my lessons for the day.
Christmas in the Middle Kingdom
The students in my class, 5G, start to arrive at
about 8.10. There are 23 of them and they are adorable. Chinese children are
sweet, polite and hard-working – most of the time. Well, they are not angels
and it just before the Christmas holiday, so yes, they do get a bit excited and
silly. Fortunately, today is Friday, so that means assembly for the first
lesson, followed by Mandarin and then break-time. After break, there are no
serious lessons, as we break up for the holiday this afternoon, so we watch the
classic Christmassy BBC series, The Box of Delights. But after school I have something less delightful - a trip to the bank, to pay the rent for our apartment. It only takes an hour, for once, but hey, the holidays have started!
really enjoy going back to England any more. Last year it was RTD’s memorial
service and last month I went back to try to sort out what to do with my lump
sum from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
Well, why don’t I enjoy going back to my
own country? First of all, I think that it is because I just do not belong
there. Bulgaria is my home and therefore, more and more, I feel that my roots
are in my adopted country. Bulgaria is “home” now. Secondly, there are the
practical issues of going back, as I have no place of my own in the UK, no car,
no nothing. My old friend Peter Adams was very hospitable, as usual, and we
certainly enjoyed some splendid scoffing: lots of roast beef, roast potatoes,
Yorkshire pud and all the trimmings! This was then followed up with the
inevitable crumble and custard. Then we also had a good lunch with Peter’s mum
(fish and chips), followed by a delicious Chinese meal. But food leads on to my
next anti-British moan: the outrageous cost of just about every…
Even though we left Qatar more than five years ago, many teachers still contact me through the TES and ask me what it is like to teach there. Hi Hippo
I hope you don't mind me pre-emptively sending you a conversation about my job
GEMS Wellington Qatar have offered 13.5k which I think is reasonable for three
years' experience qualified (five including unqualified experience).
However, they are not offering medical insurance for my family nor are they
covering flights for them. At the interview, the Director intimated that my
family might even have to stay here in the UK while stuff like permits got
sorted out. My gut instinct tells me not to accept the offer as a result.
Also, I've heard Qataris can be quite racist towards non-white people. How true
is this? I've always fought against this sort of thing in the UK as an Asian
man and don't want any trouble when I go out to work.
Is the cost of living higher than Dubai or London? Obviously, I'd not have to
In many ways Veliko Tarnovo, also known as V.T., is a much nicer city than Sofia. It is smaller, less polluted and the traffic is nowhere near as bad as it is in the capital. Every year, we go and spend a week or so in our apartment in Veliko Tarnovo. For I don't know how long, Irena and I have been saying, "When you retire, we will move in V.T. and that is where we will spend the winter, as it won't be much fun spending the winter in Kalotina." The main problem with this plan is that we have not retired yet. Well, I was retired for six months, but then I started working again and now we have started to put down roots in Sofia, not in V.T. This trip to V.T. was rather different, as it was dominated by the presence of Tina. Yes, it was a lot of fun to have her delightful company, but she was also seriously ill. Several trips to the Vet were needed, along with quite a few injections and a course of antibiotics. First she was vomiting and had bad diarroheia, followed by …