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.
Some like it hot, Part 5
Our apartment in Veliko Tarnovo has quite a few air
conditioning / heating units, installed by our friend Ivo, the Bulgarian engineer who lives along the street from us, but we also wanted
to have a woodburner in the sitting room. As well as giving us the usual warmth
and the pretty flames, we felt that a woodburning stove would be a good idea
because we would still be able to have some heating if there was a power cut.
(In Kalotina, power cuts happen quite often and the electricity sometimes does
not come on again for an hour or so.) This is why we went to the Prity factory
a few years ago and bought our rather smart Prity woodburning stove.
There are, however, one or two little problems with
woodburners. First of all, you need to connect the stove with the chimney flue.
This meant a trip to Praktiker, to buy the metal tubes that go from the back of
the stove to the round hole in the wall. I also bought a heat exchanger, as I
thought that this might perhaps cool down the temperature of the smoke, so that
there is less risk of a chimney fire. The real problem came with trying to put
all the tubes together. This was a nightmare and I only managed to “persuade”
the various bits of metal to fit together after cutting some of them with a
hacksaw and bending the ends with a hammer. That all sounds quite barbaric, but
it looked quite good when we finally put it together.
The second problem is that woodburners need lots of
firewood. In theory, this should be an easy matter, as there are plenty of
forests in Bulgaria and so no shortage of wood. Unfortunately, the cellar in
the basement is just too damp for storing firewood, so yours truly had a great
idea: store the firewood in the attic. With our new loft hatch and ladder, this
was quite feasible, although it was hard work to carrying two cubic metres of
firewood from the street to the loft.
No bank robbers, just a hole in the wall
Yesterday was supposed to be the great moment when we lit
the stove for the first time and settled down to a warm evening by the stove,
watching Julie and Julia for the
fifth or sixth time. It was a disaster! The stove refused to light properly and
then the room filled up with horrible smoke. As for the stove, smoke was coming
out of the pipes in all the wrong places. Eventually we had to throw cupfulls
of water into the stove to put it out. Our apartment now smells like we have
been cooking kippers for a week. We opened the little door in the wall, next to
the stove, and this was full of black muck that had obviously fallen down the
chimney. It looks as though the flue is blocked and that was probably why the
stove did not light properly. Ivo has given us the phone number of someone who
can put the pipes together properly (Ivo was too polite to say that I had done
it all the wrong way round) and clean the whole chimney.
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…