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.
now 45 days to go, to the end of my teaching career. Well, it has been quite
interesting: the UK for about twenty years, followed by my misadventures in
foreign parts: Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, Qatar, the UAE and now
China. On Thursday, 14th June, 2018, I shall be teaching my
last-ever lessons at Green Oasis School and then on Monday, 18th, we will be
flying to Bulgaria. As you may
have noticed, this blog is called “Bulgaria with Noodles” because Irena and I
are still in China, but in many ways our hearts are already in BG. But what
will we do, once we have settled down in Bulgaria? A lot of travelling is
fairly high on the list of priorities.
The truth is, we really do not know most of Bulgaria. Sofia, Kalotina and a Veliko Tarnovo: that is about all we are
familiar with. Whenever we come to Bulgaria for the summer, there is a long
list of things that need to be sorted out: the grass in the back garden is
about two metres high, the car will not start, the fridge i…
readers of my online ramblings will know that our apartment in Shenzhen is in
fact in Futian, opposite the huge and splendid Lianhuacun park. Another
advantage is that our apartment is located half-way between two MTR stations on
different lines, Children’s Palace and Lianhuacun. However, in this posting I
am going to take your, dear reader, into our apartment and show you round a
bit. This may perhaps be of some interest to anyone who is thinking of living
and working in China (and Shenzhen in particular). The
good news about our apartment is that it is cheap. All of the Bank of China
Towers blocks are clad in ghost-busting reddish-dark pinkish tiles. This is in
order to keep away the evil spirits of those who were executed nearby. (It
seems to work, as so far no spirits have appeared, although I do sometimes have
a glass or two of vodka when Irena makes some Russian-themed soup.) As a
result, a lot of Chinese people do not want to live in these blocks and so our
apartment is …
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 a b…