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.
A close shave?
This year at Green Oasis we did not
have any fancy dress for Book Week. Instead we had “bonkers hats”, door
decorating (with a literary theme), Sarah Brennan and the “extreme reading”
photos. I thought that the idea of a very silly selfie, taken while you were
reading a book, was an amusing idea and hence the ghastly picture of yours truly
reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
while shaving. I am not sure that Amy Chua would have approved. In fact, I am
pretty certain that she would never have allowed Lulu and Sophia, her
pressure-cooked daughters, to do anything as self-indulgent or as time-wasting
as reading a book for fun.
Sarah Brennan also gave a talk (yes,
well, it was more like a lecture) to the students in Years 5 and 7. It was
supposed to be about how to become a great writer; in reality, it was a bit of
a tirade against computer games, social media and mobile phones. Although I
found what she had to say quite interesting - and certainly she does seem to
know quite a lot about this subject – most of what Sarah Brennan said went way
over the heads of most (maybe all) of the Year 5 students. Her main argument
was that although these electronic gizmos might be okay for grown-ups, constant
exposure to screens of different sizes will turn your child’s brain to jelly. Steve
Jobs never allowed his children near a computer and Sarah Brennan quoted one
study after another by paediatricians or by child psychologists to prove that an
iPad will destroy your little darling’s ability to think, rot their powers of expression
and extinguish all social skills.
In some ways, her harangue rather
reminded me of Roald Dahl’s acerbic verses about the impact of television on
The most important thing we’ve learned
As far as children are concerned
Is never, never, never let
Them near your television set.
In fact, what’s better: do not install
The idiotic thing at all.
Has the advent of television led to
the demise of the written word? Are all children watching TV all day, instead
of reading books? Well, maybe some of them are. So is Sarah Brennan right to
suggest that mobile phones and Facebook are even more addictive and therefore
more harmful? Perhaps. Mobile phones are not allowed in the primary school at
Green Oasis, but the secondary students wander about like zombies with their
mobiles at break-times or else they are to be found in odd corners, hunched
over their little screens. An iPhone is the opium of the teenager.
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 …