Showing posts from June, 2018

Lunch on the Balcony, Part 1

Lunch on the balcony of our villa in Kalotina is a multi-sensory experience. You can only have lunch out on the balcony when the weather is good. Well, we have had more than a week of rain and grey skies, so yesterday it was such a pleasure to have our lunch on the balcony, as we usually do in the summer.

Firstly, my dear Irisha's Clavinova will be playing some piano music. It is not quite the same as having a live pianist playing a selection of different tunes, but it is almost as good. It is nice to listen to the Clavinova tinkling away, while sipping a glass of wine.

Then, of course, there is the food, as well as the wine! My Chinese friends will want to know all about the food, of course. We hardly eat any rice when we are in Bulgaria, but we do scoff our way through mountains of new potatoes and yummy Bulgarian bread. And the salads! The onions are big and sweet, the tomatoes are cheap (the other day Irena bought three kilos for one lev - or 4RMB, is you are in China!) and the …

On the Cards, Part 1

Rejoice! Let's celebrate. Hallelujah! At long last, the Microwave Woman has given us our new Bulgarian residency cards (BRCs). As a special treat, just in case you do not know what a BRC looks like, here is my old one. 
My dear wife suggested that I should "black out" certain bits, as there are lots of evil people out there on the Internet, all gathering my personal and financial details in order to swindle me or involve me in some dreadful scandal or some such nonsense. Of course, no one who reads my blog could ever do such a nasty thing!  

Getting our new BRCs means that we can go ahead with our applications for our Russian visas. Then, maybe two or three weeks later, our passports will be returned to us, with new Russian visas stuck into them.

The other good news is that the insurance agent in Dragoman did not lose my car registration document. When she had finished giving me my new car insurance, together with the the little green sticker for the car windscreen, she sho…

On Track

This blog has become rather negative. After two “Bad BG” posts, it is time for something positive.

Yes, it is true that life here in Bulgaria has been very busy and rather stressful since we came back from China, just over a week ago. There has been a great deal of fuss about documents, copies and translations, plus lots of visits to the office of the notarius (the Bulgarian equivalent of a solicitor) and various dingy and run-down government offices. We need to do all of this in order to get our Bulgarian Residency Cards (BRCs) and we need these silly cards because we have to apply for Russian visas. Yes, I know it all sounds a bit crazy and this Kafkaesque nonsense seems to have been going on for ages.
You cannot do much about official documents in Kalotina, so we have been traipsing into Sofia I do not know how many times. Usually we drive to Dragoman and then get the train into the city. Well, that is a round trip of about three hours! Yesterday, I finally took my old Nissan X Trai…

Bad BG, Part 2

Now it is time for some good news. Or maybe not.
On Monday morning, we woke up early once again and we took the train from Dragoman. Then we arrived in Sofia and went back to the notarius. First, we had to wait in the glass waiting room and then - guess what? Yes, we had to wait some more. It rather reminded me of my experiences in a Chinese bank. Then, eventually, we were told that we could come out of the greenhouse and go into the Inner Sanctum. There the assistant gave us the stamped and signed document for our Bulgarian residency cards, but he said that he could not do this for the other two documents, the ones for our freight company, AGS, because they did not have parallel English translations. (Oh, the joys of Google Translate!)

AGS should really be called a "fright company" because it was such a shock when they told us how expensive it would be and giving them all of the documents is a nightmare as well! When we went to the notarius, we had another fright: both of th…

Bad BG, Part 1

The honeymoon is over and so we have to get on with the trials and tribulations of married life. No, I am not talking about Irisha and me. Bulgaria is my subject, especially what is so blooming awful about this country.
First moan: graffiti. Young Bulgarians feel an irresistible urge to spray paint both the new and the old. The Bulgarian state railways bought some smart and modern trains, so let's spray paint them with stupid slogans and rubbishy "street art". There are heaps of crummy crumbling Commie concrete buildings around Sofia, so let's spray paint them and make them look even worse.

Next whinge: alcoholism. BG has a serious booze problem. At Dragoman station today, I noticed vodka and beer being bought before 8am. Not surprisingly, the faces of many people in Bulgaria are unpleasant, frowning, miserable and darkened by alcohol. Hard booze makes people's facial expressions horrible, like the faces of zombies or trolls.

Moan number 3: derelict buildings. The …

The Leaving of Liverpool, Part 4

After church on Sunday, we had yet another wonderful meal with our dear Chinese friends, Bill and Julia. I love Turkish food!
Tomorrow (yes, tomorrow!) are getting on the plane tonight and it takes off from HK at about eleven. We get to Istanbul about six in the morning, hang around the airport for a while, change planes and finally arrive in Sofia at about nine in the morning. This means that we should finally get home to Kalotina at about eleven or twelve o'clock in the morning, all being well.

I am writing this in our very, very empty apartment. We threw out loads of junk and of course we spent a fortune on the freight. 17,000RMB is about two thousand pounds. Ouch! Well, the alternative was just to throw it all away. We also gave lots of bits and pieces to our friends Bill and Julia. It is surprising how much clutter and how many possessions you can acquire in five years, but of course we cannot take it all with us on the plane tonight.
Yes, I am still keen on getting an Itiwit Ka…

The Leaving of Liverpool, Part 3

I have been counting down the days (Irena said it was a waste of red and black ink) and now it has finally arrived. Yes, I am now retired and I am at last on my way to becoming senile, geriatric and an OAP. (My Alzheimer’s means that I cannot remember where I left my Zimmer frame.) Actually, one of my reasons for retiring early is my health. I want to have less stress, more exercise and be able to get a decent night’s sleep. This should mean that, for the first few years at least, my retirement should mean that I have a lot more energy and feel much better.
On Thursday, the students had a sort of picnic or potluck lunch out in the corridor. The usual healthy and nutritious food! 
I shall miss working with the lovely Miss Yanee, my excellent (and amazingly patient) Teaching Partner. The children love her because she really cares about them. Sometimes the boys in the class have been a bit rude to her and that has made me very angry. When the students are upset or worried about something,…

The Leaving of Liverpool, Part 2

"The Leaving of Liverpool"is an old song (and a sad song) by The Dubliners and it has the lines: It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me But my darling when I think of thee.
For the last twenty years, I have been leaving different places: the UK, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, the UAE, Qatar and now China. Sometime leaving is easy because we never put down any roots and we did not like the place that much anyway! When we left Qatar, it was that much harder because we were there for five years and we really got to know people in our church, Doha Fellowship.
China, however, is a bit different because we have enjoyed it so much more than Qatar. Green Oasis has probably been the best international school I have worked at and for the last two years I have been one of the elders of Shenzhen International Fellowship, so we have been very much involved in the life of the church, in lots of different ways. It started when the church was at Jingtian Villas, in Shekou. (Th…

The Leaving of Liverpool, Part 1

Our apartment is full of bags and suitcases. The wardrobes, walls and the bookcase are looking decidedly bare. AGS are supposed to be coming on Thursday afternoon, to take all of our stuff to Bulgaria. 14,000RMB! Well, we thought that it might be a lot less than that. Oh well!
The other day our landlady asked us to take some photos of the apartment, as she wants to find a new tenant asap. I am including the photos as part of this post. So do you know anyone who wants to rent a two-bedroomed flat in the centre of Shenzhen?
The good news is that it is central, right in the heart of Shenzhen. We love living right next to the park. Lianhuacun MTR station is a few hundred metres away and the Children’s Palace MTR is only a bit further away. It takes me about twenty-five minutes to walk to school in the morning.
The bad news? The smells are dreadful. Sometimes there are ghastly sewage smells coming from the drains and sometimes horrible cooking odours come under the door. As for the windows, w…