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.
I promised you a big piece of news and here it is: I
have a new teaching job in Sofia, starting in January. Yes, yes, I do know that
I am supposed to be retired and in many ways I was looking forward to being
retired. Now, however, I miss the buzz of school life and there is not much for
us to do in Kalotina in the winter. On Monday I went for what was supposed to be an “informal
chat” with the headmaster of St. George’s School in Sofia. The photos on the
school website make the new school building look quite posh (and huge) and the
head also has quite a posh name, Justin Kilcullen-Nichols. The salary is not quite so impressive, alas, but the important thing is that we are going to get an apartment in
Sofia as part of the deal. There is no way that I can commute from Kalotina
each day. (It is at least an hour and a half’s drive from our house to the far
side of Sofia.)
St. George’s School is an amazing place. I have seen
quite a few schools over the last thirty-something years and I ha…
I seem to be getting more and more teachers contacting me through the TES.
. I messaged you recently on the TES forum
regarding moving to Shenzhen and you were kind enough to give me your email
address. I am Charlyrainbow23 I am trying to apply for the visa and I am
finding it difficult to get clarification on a few points and wondered if you
could help. Firstly, I have to obtaining a non-criminal record certificate
for the last 12 months, would a basic DBS suffice? We've only been in Tanzania
since last August and HR say I have to get one from the UK.
Thanks, Charlotte Here is my reply. Dear
am always glad to be of help. Please remember that my advice is just that:
advice. I am by no means infallible and sometimes I am not 100%
yes, I would try to get something from Tanzania. Go along to your local copshop
in Dar or Arusha or wherever you are and get an official-looking document from
the police. It should not cost much. It is just a sort of…
Even though we left Qatar more than five years ago, many teachers still contact me through the TES and ask me what it is like to teach there. Hi Hippo
I hope you don't mind me pre-emptively sending you a conversation about my job
GEMS Wellington Qatar have offered 13.5k which I think is reasonable for three
years' experience qualified (five including unqualified experience).
However, they are not offering medical insurance for my family nor are they
covering flights for them. At the interview, the Director intimated that my
family might even have to stay here in the UK while stuff like permits got
sorted out. My gut instinct tells me not to accept the offer as a result.
Also, I've heard Qataris can be quite racist towards non-white people. How true
is this? I've always fought against this sort of thing in the UK as an Asian
man and don't want any trouble when I go out to work.
Is the cost of living higher than Dubai or London? Obviously, I'd not have to