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.
Learning the Lingo
A few months ago I wrote a piece for my blog about learning
Mandarin, Character Building. Now I
am going to write something about learning Bulgarian. I remember that I had a
CD and a little book called Easy Peasy
Mandarin. It probably is part of a series: Easy Peasy Brain Surgery, Easy
Peasy Rocket Science and Easy Peasy
Quantum Mechanics. Well, compared to learning Mandarin, learning Bulgarian really is easy, but then again learning
just about any language would be easy, compared to Mandarin. So what makes
Bulgarian (relatively) easy?
Well, first of all, there is an alphabet. Yes, okay, some
of the letters are not the same because an H in Bulgarian is X, whereas an N is
an H! The “ya” sound is made by a letter that looks like an R but it is the
wrong way round, while the Bulgarian “S” sound is written like a C. While the
Bulgarian alphabet is supposed to be based on the Greek letters, some things
have been changed a bit over the years. So, yes, the alphabet is a bit of a problem,
but it is not a very big problem and a molehill compared to the linguistic
Mount Everest of learning all of those different characters in Mandarin.
Secondly, my dear Irisha is Russian and so she already
understands a lot of Bulgarian. The two languages are fairly similar and Irena
also has quite a good understanding of Ukrainian, which is even closer to
Bulgarian. In some cases, the words are more or less the same and it is just
one letter extra. Malako is milk in
Russian and it is mlako in Bulgarian.
Thirdly, a few years ago I bought two very helpful CDs,
produced by a company called Eurotalk. These CDs were a really good way to get
me started, with a lot of helpful Bulgarian vocabulary and phrases. Today I
also received a helpful and generous e-mail from the company that produced the
CDs. They are now Internet-based and have made an app that is even better than
the learning programs and language games on the CDs. What is more, the kind
customer support lady has given me credit for purchasing the CDs, so now I can
use the Bulgarian app for free! Anyway, have a look at the uTalk website: it
really is impressive and you will find it at www.utalk.com. Maybe I would even have made some real progress with my
Mandarin if I had used this app.
Now you are probably wondering why I have included this
photo of me wearing an apron and doing some cooking. I don’t know why, except
that, for some strange reason, ladies love to see silly photos of men in the
kitchen, wearing an apron. So here it is for just you, ladies. I hope you like
it and no, I am not going to include some photos of me doing flower arranging. (Oh, the things we bloggers have to do, in order to keep our readers happy!)
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…