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.
In the Wet
On Sunday 6th
of May we had a short service of baptism after the main service at our church,
Shenzhen International Fellowship (SIF). We had five candidates of different
nationalities and yours truly was “doing the honours”. The other elder who was
helping me was Adam and he did the prayers and the Bible reading. I was the one
who actually got into the water (a large inflatable paddling pool) and put them
under the water. I first asked each one, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your
Lord and Saviour?” and then I said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
SIF is a
non-denominational church. Yes, we do believe that the Bible is God’s word, but
apart from that we try not to tie our fellowship to any particular
denomination. (Part of the reason for this might be that the authorities in
China get particularly nervous about Chinese churches that are linked to
foreign organizations.) About six weeks earlier, we had arrived for the Sunday
morning service to find about twenty security guards outside the theatre. The
good news was that they were not the official Police, just security guards, and
so they did not come in and interrupt the service. Then there was a big
thunderstorm. By the time the service ended, the storm was over and there was
no sign of the security guards. I was more than relieved, as I was the elder
who was leading the Holy Communion for that Sunday.
service on Sunday nearly did not happen. I went back just before the end
of the service, to find that one of the bungs on the inflatable paddling pool
was not closed properly, so the thing had partially deflated and the floor of
the whole room was decidedly wet. Not exactly Noah’s Flood, but a bit awkward.
Some quick action with mops and the worst of the water was cleared up, but the
water level in the paddling pool was now rather low.
The good news was that when two people got into
the pool, the water level was just high enough for a full submersion. Baptisms
are happy occasions for the church family. After the candidates had got changed
into some dry clothes, we gathered round them and prayed for them, read Bible
verses and encouraged them in different ways. It was a happy and, in some ways,
symbolic way to say “goodbye” to our old location, which has been SIF’s “home”
for the last two years. Just as we were moved on from SIS in Shekou, so this
time we were told that we had to leave once more.
And then, of course, we had lunch with our dear friends, Bill and Julia, at the cheapie noodle place, just round the corner from the Bank of China towers.
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…