Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


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Welcome Home, Vince!

He's home!Today was a great day.

Today my husband, Ventsislav, entered the U.S. and became a permanent resident (Green Card holder).

Today a journey nearly 5 years in the making came to an end.

. . .

We could not be more thrilled to be starting the next phase of our life together.

After spending a few days in Utah with my family, Vince will be joining me here in our new home in Alaska.

Today… I am one happy lady!

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Approved!

Vince went to his visa interview at the U.S. Embassy today and was approved! He said it only took about an hour total and they’ll be sending his visa to him in a few days. I didn’t mind him waking me up from a dead sleep at 6am this morning to tell me because I had been stressing about it a little bit even though I knew he would do fine.

He didn’t get the Bulgarian & American flag combo that some applicants get. Bummer!

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that we are done with his immigration. It’s been a long 10 months full of paperwork, fees, and stress; but we are thrilled to have come through it all relatively unscathed and are really looking forward to starting our life together in the U.S.

The only hurdles left are adjusting his status in a few months (90 days before our second wedding anniversary) and then his citizenship in a few years. After going through the Bulgarian D-visa process and then the Green Card process…I am pretty sure we can handle anything!

I contemplated writing up a wiki or post on our experiences and how we did his CR1 visa for those also going through it, but now that we are done I just want to put it behind us. If you happen upon this post and have any questions, I will do my best to help you out. Just email me at whitney @ girlmeetsbulgaria.com

A Very Happy Wife,

W.

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Lovey Dovey Day

To the BEST husband a girl could ever ask for…

My Hunky Bear,

(AKA The Bulgarian Stud Muffin)

Happy Valentine's Day!

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P.S. Happy V-Day to my readers as well. It may just be a greeting card holiday, but it’s darn fun! I hope you are celebrating with the one(s) you love most.

P.P.S. Happy Birthday to my Aunt S. Love you, Sher!

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Visiting Our Village House

Our village houseVince (and me by default, I suppose) owns a small house and quite a bit of land in the Bulgarian village of Elhovets. The house originally belonged to his dad and uncles, but he saved up some of his Alaska money and bought it from them before we met. His parents still live in the house in the summer months because they farm the land and do a lot of canning and bottling there. In fact, there is a HUGE underground cellar where we store all manner of food stuffs. It’s slightly creepy, but oh-so-efficient.Road towards Greece

It’s the most adorable cottage-y type house ever. We are really proud of it and have spent quite a lot of money over the past few years building additions and doing renovations. When all is said and done–in addition to the already-finished bathroom, kitchen, and living room–it will have 4 bedrooms and an outdoor kitchen/entertaining area. We still have a long way to go, but it’s coming along very nicely.

While my mom was visiting in December we went down to introduce her to my in-laws and spend a few nights in Smolyan. Of course we had to take a little day trip and show her our future retirement digs.

It was snowy but still accessible. I haven’t been to the house since last winter and the changes in that time are nothing short of amazing. We’ve now got a fully functioning indoor bathroom, kitchen addition, new doors, and a new staircase leading to the 2nd floor. There was a toilet before, but it was located in a building outside. No bueno.Bathroom renovation--DONE!Kitchen addition--cabinets ready to hangNew staircaseRaising the roof is a must!Mom and V.Our land

Our future plans include finishing up the kitchen, raising the height of the 2nd floor, finishing off the 3 bedrooms on that floor, redoing the balconies, replacing the exterior materials, and building an epic outdoor patio area that includes a built-in fireplace, benches, lighting…the works. The house is situated just feet from a beautiful river (with fish in it!), so this outdoor area is going to be amazing! I’m thinking a wall with cut-out candle niches and lots of fairy lights will make their way into the design somehow!

I’ve never been able to visit the house in the summer and it totally bums me out. I can only imagine how charming and pretty it is when all the flowers, trees, and grape vines are out and in bloom. I am sure the forested hillside behind the house is gorgeous as well.

One day…

Our village house

Owning property and a village/country house is common for Bulgarians. As jobs became more and more scarce in the smaller towns and villages after the fall of Communism, many people left to find work in the big cities. Now most people use their country properties as weekend and summer retreats. Between our apartment in Smolyan and house in Elhovets, Vince and I are set when it comes time to retire. That’s a pretty darn good feeling these days.

For all my Bulgarian readers, do you or your family have a village house? How often are you able to enjoy it?

I love hearing about other people’s relaxation getaways!

W.

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Utah Winters

If you are new around these parts you may not know that I am from Utah, which boasts “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” The winters in the Beehive state range from “Snow-pocalypse” type affairs with so much snow (I remember a storm where when I was in Elementary where we got close to 5 feet in a day) that schools and businesses shut down and there are mass power outages, to more mild winters that result in drought conditions in the spring and summer (like what happened last year).

But in winters like the one the state is experiencing this year, it’s sometimes hard to believe that Utah is a desert. It makes for great skiing at the many ski resorts but not-so-great times for commuters.

My cousin just posted on her blog about the recent freezing rain that Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas have been experiencing. Here’s a video that was taken on the BYU campus yesterday morning:

That’s just crazy right there. I am extremely uncoordinated, so I KNOW I would be the girl face planting into the asphalt and being taken away by paramedics. I am not steady on slick surfaces whatsoever!

It’s in times like these – where I am hearing crazy stories from family and friends back home about Utah’s winter conditions – that I am so thankful to be here in overcast and chilly (but not snowy) Sofia. Winter here in the capital hasn’t packed much of a punch; at least so far. We’ve had a few snow flurries, but they seem to melt pretty quickly. It has rained a bit the past few days, but Tuesday was downright balmy and people were out in the city in full force enjoying the sunshine and warmer temps. Here’s a video I shot that day during the Free Sofia Tour (post to come) that shows how lovely the weather was:

I absolutely hate driving in snowy and icy conditions, so I am really glad to be here in Bulgaria (w/ my husband as chauffeur) rather than driving up icy hills everyday like I would be if I were still in SLC and working at the University of Utah. I think those years of my life have shortened my overall lifespan. *shudder*

So, to all my friends and family back in Utah…keep your head up! Spring will be here soon enough!

W.

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Vienna Christmas Markets: Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz

We ventured out to Vienna’s city hall, Rathaus, after it got dark one evening to check out the largest Christmas Market in the city. The Wiener Christkindlmarkt was beyond packed but it was very festive and I am glad we got to see and experience it.

The market sits between the city hall building and the theater. The city hall is a beautiful building and setting and there are thousands of Christmas lights surrounding it and a huge illuminated tree in front, making it even more romantic.Wiener ChristkindlmarktVienna's Rathaus (city hall)Angel Christmas lightsRathaus Christmas Market

We decided to give the beer punsch a try this time around. It had whole berries in it and I liked it a lot more than the gluhwein we had at Schonbrunn palace. The mug was much more fun and Christmas-y as well. All in all, though, it’s just not my thing! Give me a mug of hot chocolate, and I’m good!

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Scenes from Vienna’s Naschmarkt

Whew! Another holiday season has come and gone. I’m happy to be home in Sofia and back to day-to-day life; which includes sharing my adventures and experiences with you all!

I hope your holidays were wonderful and you were able to celebrate with those you love most.

Vince and I were so happy to have my mom come from Utah to visit us here in Bulgaria. She is officially our first visitor from the states and definitely not our last (a friend is actually coming in just a few weeks!). We kicked off her visit by spending 3 jam-packed days in Vienna to get into the Christmas spirit. It’s a lovely city and we had a great time wandering the Christmas Markets, window shopping, eating good food, and exploring such an iconic European destination so rich in history and culture.

And Christmas is definitely the perfect time to visit. The city practically oozes festive charm.

Right across from our hostel in the 6th District was an open-air market called the Naschmarkt.

Naschmarkt, ViennaVintage glass ornaments and drawer pullsChristmas centerpieces

The large market was filled to the brim with food and drink carts, tables of antiques, gifts, flowers, clothing, and Christmas goodies. We had to wander through multiple times as it was set up right next to the metro station closest to where we were staying. It was all I could do to not go home with dozens of vintage trinkets and Christmas decorations. Alas, we were on a budget and I was too overwhelmed by the vast selection anyway.

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