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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Saying Goodbye & Moving On

goodbyeBG(did I just call myself a cow with that photo? Meh. It’s a cute cow. I’ll take it!)

Thanks to the magic of post scheduling, as you read this I am on a plane bound for America. My first stop before touching down on U.S. soil–at the ever-lovely and non bird-infested (*note the sarcasm) JFK–is Warsaw, Poland. Oh how I wish I had a loooong layover there so I could go out and explore!

While leaving Bulgaria is hard and a big part of me regrets making the decision, I know that there are so many more adventures ahead for Vince and I. Alaska is amazing and we can’t wait to start our lives there.

I’m not generally a sappy person, so I won’t go on and on. Suffice it to say that this is a difficult thing for us to do but we are happy to be moving forward. We’ll be visiting Bulgaria whenever we get the chance, so BG posts will continue–never fear!

I may no longer be an “official” expat, but I think I’ll always be one at heart!

(If you have no idea what I am talking about, click here)

Thanks for following along with us on this crazy journey of ours! Stick around. There is a lot more to come!

W.

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Tough Times in Bulgaria

I’m not sure how much attention Bulgaria’s current political climate is receiving overseas, but here in the country it’s {obviously} the most important topic of the day.

About a week and a half ago, as protests were raging over rising electricity costs, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, resigned. With him went his entire cabinet, which left Bulgaria without a functioning government. A caretaker government is in the works, but so far, nothing (and no one) has been officially announced.

Since that day–February 20th–things have only gotten more heated. Protests continue across the country and many parts of downtown Sofia are affected daily as crowds gather and march on government offices and buildings.

Yesterday, March 3rd (Bulgaria’s Liberation Day), only saw more public protests and heated debates amidst shows of national pride and remembrance of Bulgarian national hero, Vasil Levski. The majority of Sofia’s downtown was blocked by thousands of protesters shouting through megaphones, marching with banners, and waving the Bulgarian flag. In addition to rising electricity costs, the most pressing issues include austerity measures, government corruption, poverty, and a lack of civilians in governmental positions.

While there have been little reports of damage or violence, it’s still a bit of a scary situation for a foreigner (such as myself) to find themselves in. Being married to a Bulgarian and learning more each day about the true nature of how things work here and what the current political policies are like, I cannot blame the citizens of this country for finally thinking that enough is enough. Everyone has a breaking point and it seems as if that point has come for this nation. With Bulgaria listed as the poorest country in the European Union, it is clear that there are major issues that need to be dealt with.

I am by no means an expert on this topic. I am an outsider looking in. I’m just watching and reading English-language news reports as things develop. However, I do feel invested in the outcome of this tumultuous time in Bulgaria as I am connected now, not only through marriage but through a deep love for the country and its people. My heart breaks for the citizens of Bulgaria who are so greatly affected by a cost of living that in no way lines up with average salaries and pensions. Change is inevitable because the country simply cannot carry on as it has been.

For those wondering, I do not feel unsafe or unwelcome in Bulgaria, quite the contrary. People are still as gracious and welcoming as ever, even in these shaky times. Everyone is just trying to live their lives, love their families, and get through each day as best they can.

Hope. I see a lot of hope for Bulgaria’s future. If there is any silver lining to these tough times, it’s that.

I’d love to start a dialogue on this topic and see what others think–both Bulgarians and expats–so please comment below. 

W.

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Iced Tea and Kidney Stones

Iced tea for me

You know that feeling when something you thought was good for you actually turns out to be the opposite?

Yeah, that’s what happened to me recently when I read some articles that were published late last summer detailing the links between drinking iced tea and developing kidney stones (oh, the joys of browsing Reddit!). Contrary to what many of the articles say, there was no study done on the issue. Rather, a Urologist at Loyola University hypothesized that because iced tea (all tea, really) is high in oxalate (what the majority of kidney stones are made of), it can increase development of stones.

I LOVE tea and iced tea especially. In fact, I rarely drink soda and over the summer I drank iced tea all day every day. I practically mainlined the stuff. Employee dining at the lodge where I work in Alaska has a soda machine that has tea and rather than drink soda or the odd-tasting tap water, I drank the unsweetened iced tea. I thought I was being all healthy and whatnot.

Ice Tea at Borough Market

So how does all this apply to me?

You see, I suffer from kidney stones. Err, stone. Luckily, I’ve only had one so far and I try to do all that I can to prevent more. They are horrid little beasts!

Now I am heartbroken that I can’t drink my weight in iced deliciousness everyday like I once did.

#firstworldproblems

Do any of you suffer from devil kidney stones? Are you as devastated by this news as I am? Discuss! 

W.

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2012: A Year in Review

2012_blog

It’s hard to believe that 2012 is coming to a close. This year has been very eventful indeed and saw me moving from America to Bulgaria, confronting life (and a fair amount of culture shock) as a new expat, exploring my new home, venturing back to Denali, Alaska for a third summer working for Princess Cruises; time spent at home in Utah with friends and family, another leap across the pond to Bulgaria, and reveling in a ridiculous amount of incredible travels.

While part of me is sad to see such a jam-packed year pass, the rest of me is looking forward to the BIG changes and adventures that 2013 holds. There is already a lot in the works and Vince and I are excited for everything to come.

As I reflect back on 2012 and all that I have experienced, I wanted to share some of the highlights from this year that made their way into blog posts.

(It’s a long one guys!)

January:

February:

March:

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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

(Another LONG AS HELL post in which I ramble about flights and why I now hate flying so much!)

Yesterday will long reign as one of the most awful and trying days of my life.

I’ve often counted myself lucky that I have never had any major catastrophes while traveling. Rarely a delayed flight let alone missing one.

Well, that all ended yesterday.

Things started off swimmingly in Salt Lake City. I got through security in record time, caught my flight, slept the whole way. I had just enough time to walk through O’Hare to catch my flight to London. Luckily, we got out before flights started to be delayed due to the weather.

Again, this flight went fine. I got a window seat (which I was worried about) and the leap over the pond went really quickly. As much as I loved the sweet British flight crew there were a few things that I did not like about British Airways: they did not offer in-flight entertainment like Delta–touch screen TV monitor with movie/TV/ game choices), rather they had channels each showing a movie with no way to start over; and they served curry for dinner (ick). All in all, though, everything went great.

Until we landed at Heathrow, that is.

I know I’ve been to Heathrow before (on my way to India), but I must have forgotten what a madhouse it is. After landing we sat on the runway for over an hour and a half. We weren’t even at a gate, instead we were out in the middle of nowhere and we had to walk down a flight of steps to catch buses to the terminal. After sitting for so long, I knew making my connection to Sofia was unlikely.

We finally got back to the terminal and I got into line for security. My two carry-ons (which went through with NO troubles in SLC) were flagged and had to be hand inspected by the less than time conscious security staff. The worker took every.single.thing out of both of my bags and meticulously swabbed his bomb-detecting wipes over every square inch. Now, if you know me (and I think you do by now) you know that I do not pack light. Not even close. I had those bags packed like a puzzle. Everything was snug and, dare I say, perfect. Not so much after someone carelessly takes everything out and goes through ever nook and cranny.

Still hoping to make my connection, I hurriedly threw everything back into the bags after being ruled out as a terrorist hell bent on destroying the world. Frantically scanning the departures screen, I knew I was in trouble. Sofia was nowhere to be seen. I asked an employee and she said if it was off the board the plane was gone. I tried to keep it together while I wandered around the 8 million duty free shops looking for British Airways customer service.

I finally found it and tried to be civil to the guy helping me. I’ve worked in hard customer service jobs; it’s not easy being yelled at all day. He said I had two options: 1) wait for about 6 hours in Heathrow and take the next direct flight to Sofia which would get me into the city around 10pm, or 2) catch a connecting flight to Bucharest then a flight to Sofia from there, which would get me into the city at 6:30p. I have zero patience so I rashly went with option 2.

BIG MISTAKE as it turns out.

The customer service agent assured me that I would not have to go back through security to catch the flight to Bucharest and that I had plenty of time to make the flight. I quickly shot off an email to Vince telling him that I missed my original flight and not to go to the airport to pick me up until later.

A train ride and lots of walking later, I made it to the terminal for the flight to Bucharest; a huge security line staring me in the face. I tried to talk to the employee standing at the front of the line to explain that I had just gone through security and had both my bags hand searched, but he said I had to do it again (curse the BA agent that said I didn’t have to!). With no other choice I got into line and prayed that I would get through with no problems.

I must have been asking for far too much.

Both bags were hand searched AGAIN. I lost it this time (as boarding for my flight to Bucharest was already closing) and burst into tears. The older British woman going through my bags immediately turned into the grandmotherly type and tried to calm me down. She went through everything pretty quickly and after telling me that candles will alert security staff every time (I brough quite a few for our apt. as well as for gifts) she said that  if I hurried I might catch my connection.

I ran as fast as 70. lbs of luggage would allow me and barely squeaked onto the bus out to the plane with seconds to spare. I have a sneaking hunch the nice lady in security called ahead to tell them I was coming, but who knows.

3 hours later we were touching down in Romania. Right when I got off the plane I asked the BA gate agent where I should go and where my luggage was. She said that my bags would meet me in Sofia and directed me to the correct gate.

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Can I Just Forget Today Ever Happened?

Just wanted to let everyone know that I made it to Sofia {barely}.

Whether my sanity is intact is yet to be determined.

I am giving today a big ol’ F-U and trying to forget it ever happened. It sure would be easier to do that if the airlines hadn’t lost my luggage and I didn’t have to wear my husbands underwear to bed… Yeah. Baby Gap sized (hubs is quite thin) boxer briefs on a chubby gal are quite the site to behold.

All the gory details tomorrow.

Night ya’ll.

W.

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