Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


7 Comments

Home from Istanbul

Sultanahmet Square

Hello there!

I’m home from five lovely days and four hot nights (our hotel room was positively sweltering) in Istanbul. My friend and I took a night bus there and back from Bulgaria and it was interesting to say the least!
Whirling DervishView of the Blue Mosque from our hotelBasilica Cisterns

It was an incredible trip and I can’t wait to share more about it with you all.

For now, however, a few snapshots will have to do. My friend is only in Bulgaria for a few more days and we have a lot of ground to cover!

Gorgeous sunset over the Sea of MarmaraInterior of Hagia SophiaRays of Sun at Hagia Sophia

Hope you are having a fantastic weekend!

Talk to you soon!

W.

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | TwitterTumblr | Pinterest | Flickr | Goodreads


8 Comments

Home Sweet Home

Waiting for Vatican Scavi tour

Vince and I are back from a fabulous 2 weeks in the Mediterranean.

Sun (mostly). Sea. Incredible destinations. Cuddle time watching movies…It was magical.

While I needed (and enjoyed) an extended break from technology and the goings-on in the world, I am happy to have internet access back.

I have SO much to share with you all.

Final photo count between our 3 cameras is about 4000. Thank heavens for digital. **AmIright?!**

I have them all uploaded onto my hard drive but can’t even contemplate how long it will take to upload the best to Flickr and Facebook.

Colorful Santorini

BUT IT WILL GET DONE…Eventually. Never fear!

We arrived back in Sofia around 3pm this afternoon and after taking a taxi home to drop off our suitcases we headed back out to get groceries.

70 Leva later and our kitchen is stocked. I even found pistachio ice cream (more on my recent addiction to pistachio gelato to come).

Suitcases are unpacked. Laundry is done/drying.

Aw. It’s good to be home.

Crashing waves in Dubrovnik

Lots of posts to come!

(Hope you liked the photo sneak-peek!)

W.

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | TwitterTumblr | Pinterest | Flickr | Goodreads


1 Comment

Up, Up and Away!

 airplane shadow

By the time you read this I will be well on my way to Sofia, Bulgaria. EEK! HUBBY, HERE I COME!

I’m not at all comfortable with my flights this time around. I almost exclusively fly Delta when I go overseas, but their flights were outrageously expensive to Europe a few months ago when I booked. At the time I thought it would be fine to go with the flight that was the least expensive but didn’t have any massive layovers; I still spent over $1,000 for a round trip ticket. Boo.

I ended up booking an American Airlines flight that had some legs partnered with British Airways. Delta partners with Air France (which I despise), so I thought a change might be nice, even if I didn’t get to accrue any beloved Skymiles for the flights.

Oh, was I wrong–at least so far.

Trying to pick a seat on my transatlantic flight from Chicago to Heathrow has been nearly impossible. I might just come unglued if they stick me in a middle seat between: a) people with what I like to call “tree trunk legs,” who have no problem pressing themselves against perfect strangers for 8+ hours, b) screaming babies/unruly children (God bless parents who are brave enough to travel with kids, they truly are rock stars. I just like to sleep when I fly and noisy little ones make that nearly impossible.), or c) the person with the bladder the size of a squirrel’s who gets up every 5 minutes to pee.

Stick me in a window seat and I’m just dandy. I usually fall asleep before the plane has even taken off and I rarely get up to use the restroom. In all my many long haul flights, I think I have used an airplane bathroom maybe three times total. I make it a priority to drink lots of water when I fly, so I have no clue how that one works out.

One thing I am extremely grateful for is that I will be 30,000 feet in the air when the new President is elected (or re-elected, as the case may be–and I certainly hope and pray that it is). I’ve had about all the campaigning/debates/political smugness/Facebook insanity that I can handle. Coincidentally, I was in Bulgaria in January of ’09 when Obama took office. You’d think it was the 2nd coming based on how most Bulgarians I encountered reacted; they loved that man! I don’t know if that still holds true, but it will be interesting to see who won and what the reaction is when I land in Sofia on Wednesday.

While I am glad the election will soon be over, that certainly does not mean that I am not interested and deeply concerned. I don’t often discuss political views on my blog, but I will break that rule for such an important event. I wholeheartedly support President Obama and, while not all of his views/actions may be perfect (what President’s have been?), I believe he is by far the best person for the job. His repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, support for same-sex marriage, healthcare reform, and unwavering stance on women’s medical and workplace rights are just a few of the things I greatly admire and respect him for. Coming from Utah, I have to say that I am well in the minority on this opinion–too bad.

Well…I think that’s about all the rambling I have in me (how did I go from flights to politics?)! My next post will be coming to you live from our new apartment in Sofia!

I’m going to try Tweeting and/or posting updates on Facebook throughout my travels (gotta do something to maintain sanity!). So check those out if you care to follow along!

Talk to you soon,

W.

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | TwitterTumblr | Pinterest | Flickr

(photo credit: Kevin Dean)


13 Comments

Long-stay Bulgarian Visa: Success at Last!

I have been getting quite a few questions lately via my blog email about the {horrendous} Type D, Long-stay Bulgarian visa process.

(feel free to keep your questions/comments/advice/etc. coming, either here in the comments section or through my email: whitney@girlmeetsbugaria.com).

I thought now would be as good a time as any to update you all on my progress and to go over my experiences as a whole.

First off, I should announce that…

I GOT THE VISA!!!

finally!

Now that I am on the other side of this long and expensive ordeal (for that is what it was, a total ordeal), I can take a deep breath, evaluate how it went, and look back with some clarity.

(this is a reaaallly long post, so you may want to come back another day if all this doesn’t interest you)

Last time I wrote about the visa, I detailed my specifics situation as well as what documentation was required in order to apply.

 Back then I had planned on returning to the Bulgarian Consulate in Chicago (where I went in November to ask some questions on a visa trip turned birthday trip because I didn’t have all the necessary paperwork in order). I actually ended up applying at the consulate in Los Angeles at the end of last month after leaving Alaska.

I spent the entire summer gathering all of the documents, getting translations, and planning my brief stop in L.A.

I am not a fan of Los Angeles, so I wanted my stay there to be as brief as possible. And brief it certainly was!

I arrived at LAX on a direct flight from Anchorage at about 10am. I purposely booked a hotel close to the airport (the always classy Super 8) which offered a free shuttle. I arrived at the hotel (motel?) which was practically ON the runway–and immediately walked across the street to the Avis office to rent a car (again, I went the classy route and got a Hyundai Accent).

Because my appointment at the Consulate (yes appointments are required and I called to schedule mine early on in the summer) was the next morning, I had nothing to do for the rest of the day but watch TV and eat delicious Greek food, courtesy of the restaurant literally 10 steps from my hotel room door.

I got an early start the next morning because I was terrified of getting lost on L.A.’s crazy freeways. The consulate, which is located on Wilshire Blvd.-right off the interstate, was easy enough to find and I made it there well before my 9:30a appointment time. I found a meter, talked out some of my nerves over the phone with my lovely husband, and waited in the lobby of the building.

My meter only gave me a max of 2 hours, so I asked the security woman if I could possibly head up to the consulate a little early so I wouldn’t get a ticket. She not so nicely informed me that the building–which also houses the consulates for several other nations–is extremely secure and I would not be allowed entry onto the elevators until my scheduled time.

Humph.

I was a bundle of nerves, so waiting only made things worse.

Eventually 9:30a rolled around (security would not let me go up even 1 min. early!) and I was allowed onto the elevator (AKA, Fort Knox). The Bulgarian Consulate consisted of a simple waiting room with a glass window separating the offices from the customers. I walked up to the window and was immediately helped by two eager and somewhat brusque Bulgarian women. *Side note: they were by no means rude to me, rather they had the blunt personality that many Bulgarians do.

They asked (incredulously, as always) why I wanted to go to Bulgaria. I gave them the “My husband is Bulgarian and, like every normal couple, we want to be together speech.” They asked for my paperwork, which I gladly handed over in a meticulously organized envelope. They proceeded to randomly glance at each paper in no particular order whilst talking to each other in rapid-fire Bulgarian.

Turns out I was missing a few things that I did not know I needed (but which weren’t listed ANYWHERE on their websites OR told to me over the 4+ phone calls I made to THREE different consulates, as well as the embassy–TOTAL SHOCKER THERE…). They said I needed my marriage certificate/apostille/translation notarized as well as my FBI background check/apostille/translation notarized. My heart dropped and I thought I was going to be sick. My flight out of L.A. was later that night and I had no clue where or how to go get a bunch of documents notarized AND then those notarizations translated in Bulgarian. Luckily, they relieved me of another $60 and did it right there.

Thankfully, all my other paperwork seemed to be in order. They gave everything back to me besides Vince’s affidavit of support statement and the notarized copy of his passport.

At this point they started talking to each other again and seemed a little nervous. The younger woman finally told me that I would have to pay $150 to get the visa because I had not yet registered my marriage in Bulgaria. I know I had heard something about doing that but I never got around to it while I was there, so I came prepared to pay the fee. She seemed relieved that I knew I would have to pay and went about writing out all my receipts.

I paid the visa fee of $150 (plus another $25 for an express USPS envelope), handed over my beloved passport, and they said they would “be in touch.” I asked if they knew how long it might take as I had a flight to BG scheduled for early in November, and they just said I would have to wait and see, but that the average wait is 30 business days. My flight falsl on the 31st business day. CRAP.

I walked out extremely worried but just glad it was all over and out of my hands.

I got home to SLC and the waiting game began. I kicked myself for bot getting a tracking number for the envelope (and considered making Vince call the consulate to get it). After about a week I began looking into arrangements to change my flight. A few days after that, Vince called me and said that the local municipal government office in Smolyan had gone to our apartment to make sure it really existed. No one was there, of course, as Vince is living in Sofia and my in-laws live in Elhovets most of the year. A neighbor friend of ours saw the person knocking on the door and told them that no one was home. He gave them Vince’s cell phone number and they called him shortly thereafter. Basically all they wanted to do was confirm that we did indeed have someplace to live and that I hadn’t lied on any of my paperwork.

I really had no clue that anyone in locally would follow up on my visa application made in the states. It didn’t really matter as we did everything completely as we should have, but it was still a little surprising.

Then, about another week later, I got a call from the local FedEx office that an envelope was waiting for me. I knew it had to be my visa but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too soon as it had only been a little over 2 weeks since I had applied.

Well, I’m sure you have gathered by now that it was my passport WITH my shiny new Bulgarian visa taking up an entire page of much sought after real estate.

It was such a huge relief to finally be done with the process and know that I didn’t have to change my flight.

I am still in awe of all it took to get 6 MONTHS in Bulgaria. Wow. Craziness.

My biggest pieces of advice for those of you going through the visa process are:

•Start preparing all the paperwork WELL in advance. I’m talking at least 6 months. The FBI background check alone can take up to 12 weeks (mine took 9), not to mention all the time it takes to send away for apostillations and translations.

•Do your research on what the specific consulate you will be visiting requires. I got a slightly different answer from all the Bulgarian entities in America, so don’t talk to one and then think that everything they say will apply somewhere else. That being said, I found the consulate in L.A. to be the most helpful, which is contrary to what a lot of other people have reported.

•If you are married to a Bulgarian and can swing it, register your marriage in Bulgaria to save yourself $150 and a lot of hassle.

•Arrive to your appointment with plenty of cash. The L.A. consulate did not take credit or debit cards and I had to run downstairs to find an ATM to get extra cash because I was not expecting the additional $60 notarization fees.

•Just take everything one step at a time and try not to get too frustrated. Unfortunately, it seems like this is just the way things work in Bulgaria (and their respective counterparts in the U.S.), so going with the flow will help to prevent a lot of anxiety and major freak-outs. I learned this the hard way.

If you’ve read this post as well as my previous post and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I know I appreciated all the help and advice I could get from others when I was ass-deep in the tangled Bulgarian visa process, so I am more than happy to pass what I know and experienced along.

Best of luck!

W.

P.S. If you made it through this entire post (and all my misused commas) I commend you!

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | TwitterTumblr | Pinterest | Flickr


1 Comment

Little Luxembourg

Hello, friends!

Sorry the posts have been so few and far between the past few weeks.

I am so overwhelmed lately with all I have to get done before leaving for BG that most areas of my life are suffering a bit. I am so overwhelmed, in fact, that I usually just end up ignoring all the pressing issues and doing something else; like shopping at Target or watching far too much YouTube.

Blogging hasn’t even been a blip on my radar; BUT that will soon change as I get back into daily life in Bulgaria with my hubs. We have some amazing things planned, so expect lots of posts in the near future.

My YouTube obsession does have some perks; it enables me to find little gems like the one I want to share with you today…

Another interesting tilt shift photography time-lapse video. This time on Luxembourg.

You might remember a similar video that I shared on Kiev, Ukraine awhile back.

I am completely enamored with these miniaturized views of such quaint and bustling cities.

I think someone should do one on Sofia!

(I know I certainly would if I had the time, expensive camera equipment, patience, and bird’s-eye view shooting locations).

Anywho, please enjoy this unique look at Luxembourg by Joerg Daiber (or LittleBigWorld, on YouTube).

LittleBigWorld has many other cool tilt shift videos posted on their YouTube channel.

My favorites include Thailand, Brooklyn, Spain, and Ardennes.

Check ’em out and let me know what you think!

W.

: : :

RSS feed | Facebook | TwitterTumblr | Pinterest | Flickr

 


4 Comments

300

(resisting urge to insert ab-tastic photo of Gerard Butler here from a certain movie…)

There didn’t seem to be a post worthy enough of being of my 300th.

So instead, I decided I simply wanted to send you, my readers,  a HUGE, GIGANTIC, MONSTROUS thank you.

After 300 posts (mostly filled with random drivel), I am still delighted that a) I have kept up with it, and b) that people give one crap about what I have to say.

Weirder things happen everyday, right?! 😉

But yeah. You rock.

Here’s to 300 posts over almost 2 years and to another 300+ in the future.

W.

 


4 Comments

Updates and First Images of Healy/Denali-2012

As most of my readers already know (because I whined about it in no less than 3 posts), my Nikon DSLR had an unfortunate accident and is currently in the camera hospital.

So I have been forced to pull my Canon point-and-shoot out of retirement for the time being.

It sucks. Plain and simple.

But I am photo crazy, so it will have to do for now.

Here are a few snap shot from the past few days.

View of Mt. Healy from my home…in Healy!

Nenana River

 

There’s still plenty of snow covering the nearby mountains, but the weather is warming up with each passing day. The days are getting longer as well. I heard someone say that we gain 7 minutes of daylight everyday. As it stands, it does not get dark until well after midnight. I have heavy curtains on the window in my room, but soon I will have to tape up black garbage bags as well. I can’t sleep with any light in my room.

The employees arrive in a few days and I am so excited to meet my Front Desk team for the 2012 season. I have a feeling it’s going to be the best one yet.

I’m really missing my hubby and it doesn’t help that he’s loved around these parts. Everyone has been asking about him and why he’s not coming back this season. It’s awesome how much people care about him, but it makes me sad to explain that he wasn’t able to come back because we got married (couldn’t get a work visa).

As much as I love Denali and working here, I hope the next 5 months fly by.

We’ll see.

W.