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.
A Winter's Tale, Part 2
started about two years ago, when we had insulation stuck onto the outside of
the house. Tako and his team came to our villa in Kalotina and they started
sticking large polystyrene blocks onto all of the exterior walls. Then they put
a plastic mesh on top of the blocks and covered that with the yellow-coloured plaster. It looked so much
better, as the old white paint was decidedly shabby and, much more importantly, it made the house wonderfully cool in the
summer and, we hope, warm in the winter too. The insulation also made the house much quieter inside, as external noises were muffled.
of the house could be bitterly cold in the winter, as heat escaped under or
round the front door. The solution to that problem was to fit another external
door. As well as keeping in the warmth, the second front door makes us feel
much more secure and it is a deterrent to anyone who is thinking of breaking
important step when preparing for winter’s icy blast is for your dear wife to
go to the numerous second-hand shops in Sofia, where she can buy for you an
amazingly warm “lumberjack” shirt. It is a bit like wearing a duvet. However, there is one more thing that is
going to keep the whole house warm and toasty when the temperature outside is
below zero: fuel.
A warm blogger wearing his special winter shirt
Sacks of pellets, ready for the boiler
We have two
main types of fuel for heating, wood pellets and firewood (logs). The good news
about the wood pellets is that they are very dry, with almost no water content,
and it is easier to buy them and transport them because they come in 15 kg
plastic sacks. The bad news is that a sack costs about 9 leva (and that is about
4.5 euros) and one sack will not last you very long. If you are heating a whole
house, then perhaps you might get through one sack every day or maybe two, if
the weather is really cold.
Firewood, on the hand, is messy and it takes up a
lot of space. We had three or four cubic metres of firewood that was left over
when the fruit trees were cut down. This was done about fourteen years ago,
when we first bought the house. This wood was not cut into manageable pieces,
so I need to buy the Einhell bench saw and finish the job myself. Since then,
we have also bought another five cubic metres of firewood from a builder
supplies merchant in Slivnitsa, at 90 leva a cubic metre.
So why have
two different methods of heating the house? Well, the firewood will heat the
sitting room, where we have a wood burning stove, and we also have another wood
burner in the kitchen that we can use for cooking. These two stoves, however,
are not really going to heat the whole house. On the other hand, the central
heating system is based on the pellet burning boiler in the kitchen. This is a
very effective system for heating every room, but it relies on electricity for
the fan and for the electric pump to push the hot water around the pipes to the
radiators. In other words, the central heating system will not work if there is
a power cut and there is no electricity. Power cuts can be quite frequent (and
long) during the winter months in Bulgaria.
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