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.
Heaven and Einhell
I have written
quite a few “Bad BG” posts and so it is time to look at some of the GOOD things
about retiring in Bulgaria. Why should anyone choose SE Europe? Why not retire
in the UK or France or Spain?
Note the large jar of very good Bulgarian honey!
First of all,
retirement means less time in school, not taking piles of papers and exercise
books home to be marked over the weekend and no end-of-semester reports to be written in the educational gobbledygook and jargon that most parents will never understand. In a
nutshell, retirement means less work and more time for me to spend with Irisha, doing the things that we want to do.
In her blog, Auntie Bulgaria, Claire Ruston points
out that Bulgaria has to be one of the cheapest places in Europe because
property here is so inexpensive, yet it is only a three-hour flight from the
UK. Because Bulgaria is in the EU but it is not in the euro, prices are lower.
(Quite a lot of Bulgarians I have spoken to recently seem to be convinced that
prices are going to shoot up when BG really does adopt the euro.) Claire is
also enthusiastic about Bulgaria’s closeness to Greece and Turkey, two
countries I have long wanted to visit and, like me, Claire is also a fan of
Bulgarian wine. As added bonuses, Bulgaria has lovely hot summers and proper
white Christmases. While I want to act out some of my Good Life fantasies in our garden, Irena is a lot less enthusiastic
about gardening, especially vegetables.
I have already
written about some of the negative aspects of BG life, but there is one thing
that has been on my mind a lot recently and I am not quite sure whether this
really is a negative thing or maybe it could be a blessing in disguise: learning
Bulgarian. So far I have got by with the aid of Google Translate, comic
gestures that would not be out of place on Give Us A Clue and my dear wife’s
Russian. Sooner or later, however, yours truly has to master this language.
Yes, it is not Mandarin. I have a feeling that Bulgarian is not so hard, not a
Herculean labour, but something that is inherently do-able.
I am including
something wonderful: the other day Irena cooked for our breakfast some absolutely yummy pancakes stuffed with
cottage cheese (these are called palachinki,
if there are any Bulgarians reading this) with real Bulgarian honey and walnuts
(orechi). I had a savoury one, with
some ham and olives, then a sweet one with the amazing sour cherry jam. (A very
kind neighbour from across the road gave us two jars of this darkly fruity jam.
It is so good!)
The Einhell arrived
a few days ago. It is a bench saw, made in Germany, that comes with
instructions in lots of European languages – but not English. Was this some
sort of Brexit sour grapes? Teutonic revenge for Noel Coward’s Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans? Germanic
bad feeling because they got knocked out of the World Cup so early on?
Eventually I managed to put it all together and used it to cut up a lot of the
old logs that have been stored under the steps that lead down to the garden.
Some of the wood has been there for so long that it has gone rotten, so those
logs are going to be thrown out and burned in the Secret Garden.
It's all in the magic box
Bosch is my favourite German make for any sort of DIY equipment, but alas the huge Praktiker store in Sofia did not sell any Bosch bench saws, so it had to be an Einhell instead. The quality was disappointing (too much cheapie plastic and not enough good German steel) and several things have already gone wrong with it. But no, I did not lose
any fingers or chop off anything else. It was, however, quite a scary thing to be using a saw that is so powerful and efficient. With saws, kick back is more or less
inevitable, at some point, and with the Einhell that means a fairly hefty piece
of wood flying back at you at a frightening speed. The solution is to stand at
the side, out of the danger zone, and to be very, very careful. Yes, there have been one or two logs with rusty old nails banged into them. I do not want to think about what might happen if the Einhell's blade were to hit a nail.
Einhell bits and pieces.
As for Downton Abbey, Mrs O'Brian has gone to India, Bates has found out what happened to Anna and Alfred the footman wants to become a chef.
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…