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.
Okay, so it is 5.30am on a Monday morning. It is time to get up. Showering, getting dressed and having breakfast are usually slow-motion action replays, only not so fast. Then, after a twenty-five minute walk along the street and through the park, I arrive at Green Oasis School, also known as GOS. It's a good school in the centre of Futian, the posh central district of Shenzhen. I am now in my fifth and final year as a Year 5 teacher. Of course I cannot speak much Mandarin and I cannot read any at all, but fortunately I have the wonderful services of my assistant or "teaching partner", Miss Yanee.
Friday, 15th of June, 2018, will be my last day in the teaching profession and then my wife and I will be returning to Bulgaria for our retirement. We will be leaving just after my 59th birthday, so I will still be a whisker away from being an OAP.
Teaching Chinese students is a delight. The nine- and ten-year-olds in my class have Mandarin as their first language and that is …
You will, I am sure, be glad to know that I am
not an estate agent. Yes, I have done some silly things in my life, but I have
never worked for a real estate company and no, I am not sponsored by the
Veliko Tarnovo is more or less in the
centre of Bulgaria and it was the old capital, before Sofia became the capital.
Greece is just around the corner and there are overnight trains to Romania and to Turkey, so you can go to bed in Sofia and wake up in Bucharest or in Istanbul. In Bulgaria, the main language that
most people speak is – surprise, surprise – Bulgarian. This is a Slavic
language and there are many similarities between Bulgarian and Russian. Bulgarian
is also quite similar to Czech, Ukrainian and Serbo-Croat. The Cyrillic
alphabet is used throughout Bulgaria
and, for some people, this can be a bit strange and confusing at first.
Actually, learning Bulgarian is not quite as difficult as it looks, once you
get over the shock of learning a different alphabet…
Yesterday Irisha and I went to Lianhuacun Park, just opposite our apartment
in the Bank of China Towers. There are supposed to be 16 or maybe 18 million
people here in Shenzhen and most of them seemed to think that going to the park
would be a good idea. The temperature must have been in the high 20s and it was a pleasantly sunny day, maybe the
last day of the summer. Well, that was how it felt, even though it was
the middle of November. (Why do boring Brits always go on about the weather so much?)
After a walk up to the pagoda, we looked at some
special flower displays and then, like everyone else, we took lots of photos.
Irena was singing in the worship team on Sunday morning, so we had to get to church a bit earlier than usual. Our friends Bill and Julia arrived later. After church, we went back to Futian by bus (I hate the buses in Shenzhen, as all the drivers think they are at Silverstone) and then lunch, followed by writing this blog. Why is it so hard to add photos to a blog? I s…