Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


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Putting It All Behind Us

Immigration...DONE!Vince started work today and it went much better than I expected. I thought our HR manager would have some questions about his immigrant visa or ask for something we don’t have yet (his new Social Security card, for example). As usual, I worried for nothing. He was in and out of her office and starting his first day of work for the 2013 season in just a few minutes.

Today, I was finally able to really breathe, relax, and let go of all the worries and stress that come along with the immigration process. It was exactly this time last year that I was gathering paperwork, filling out countless forms, and beginning our journey to making Vince a permanent U.S. resident.

Oh, the stress that 12 months of bureaucratic red tape and rules can cause!

In a few months time we will have to adjust his status, but other than that, we are done!

We can now focus on building our lives together in Alaska and, eventually, even starting a family.

But first things first…we have to make it through this summer in one piece!

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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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Super Duper HUGE Announcement Time!

Hmm. Where do I even start?! (and NO…I am NOT pregnant!)

First off, I want to thank all of you, both regular and new readers alike, for supporting this blog endeavor of mine. Girl Meets Bulgaria has been  a way to keep family and friends updated with my life; my inspiration in down times; a place to share my adventures, dreams, and struggles; and a creative avenue where I can explore my passion for photography and writing.

When I started GMB over two years ago, I never could have imagined that it would have grown to where it is today. I have readers in over 100 countries, a growing Facebook page, and connections with some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

Even though the next few months hold a lot of changes for this blog, I sincerely hope you stick around with me through the journeys that lie ahead.

With that, I’d like to let everyone know that Vince and I are moving back to the the U.S.!

His immigration has been in the works for awhile now and barring any hiccups, should be finalized by the end of the month. Returning to the states was a hard decision for us to make. We’ve been together nearly 5 years now (holy cow! where does the time go?!) and throughout much of our relationship we’ve talked about settling in Bulgaria and making it our home. I knew it would be hard once we had kids to be away from my family and friends in the states, but I thought we would cross that bridge when we came to it.

After my stay here last winter and another summer in Alaska, we began to see that living in Bulgaria posed a lot of challenges to building our life together and starting meaningful careers. Sure, there are TONS of perks and advantages to living in Bulgaria (ahem, can you say TRAVEL!)  and many people are very successful here; however, it just didn’t feel as “right” for us as it once did. Vince is, of course, very sad to leave his parents and friends, but he is excited for the opportunities available to us in the U.S. and we hope to visit Bulgaria often. This country will always hold a very big part of our hearts and be a significant part of our life together.

OK. So are you ready for ANOTHER big announcement?

We’re moving to Alaska permanently! 

I was recently hired in a year round management position with Princess Cruises in Alaska and could not be more excited! Vince and I had already planned on returning to Denali this summer for what was likely to be our last time, when a full time, year round position opened up I knew I had to apply. Princess is an incredible company to work for and after 3 summer seasons, I am thrilled to be starting a career with them (looks like I’ll be using my tourism degree after all!).

Alaska has become a second home to us during our many summers spent working in Denali. Moving there permanently is a bit of a daunting prospect, but with so much to do and see, we are very excited to be making such a big change. Frigid (and dark) winters at-40 below should be interesting!

We will be living and working outside the tiny town of Trapper Creek (pop. 423) at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (about 2 hours north of Anchorage). The lodge is very remote (i.e. completely by itself with nothing around for miles) and sits a mere 40 miles from the base of majestic Mt. McKinley. All 20,320 snow-covered feet are visible from the lodge on clear days; it’s a breathtaking sight!

I’m about to become a mountain woman, ya’ll! 😉

Things are happening very quickly and I will be leaving Bulgaria next week with Vince to follow early next month. My first stop is Utah for a visit with family and friends as well as life maintenance things (moving to another state requires some logistical shuffling) and major shopping trips–no more company-provided uniforms for me! I have to buy a completely new professional wardrobe. After that I am Alaska bound!

I don’t know exactly where I am going to take this blog. I am thinking a new name is inevitable–I figure it’s about time for some major changes anyway. I do know that I will keep it up and post as often as I can! Going from unemployed with endless amounts of free time to working full time will obviously affect my blogging habits, but I fully plan on blogging well into the future.

Whew! What a post, right?

Here’s to moving forward and new adventures!

W.

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Decisions, Decisions

It’s 5:20 7:20 am I haven’t been to bed.

Vince and I have been on Gmail video for hours discussing visas, immigration, timelines, life plans, etc.

Until a few days ago, our plans for the next year were this: following my 3-month stay in BG this January-March, I would head home to Utah and Vince would stay in Bulgaria working on getting another J1 visa so we could work in Alaska again in the summer. After Alaska, we’d head to the Bulgarian Consulate in Los Angeles and apply for my long-stay visa. Vince would fly home and I would join him once my visa came through around early to mid November. From there we’d look for jobs and settle in.

Well, after some online searching, an email to the U.S. Embassy in Sofia and talking with the agency Vince uses for his J1, we sadly realized that, while not necessarily impossible, getting a J1 now that we are married is going to be tough. REALLY tough.

Because he is married to a U.S. citizen (moi), Vince is now seen as a “potential immigrant” and all attempts to get a student visa would be highly scrutinized. They pretty much assume people are going to commit visa fraud and stay in the U.S. Yeah. Lame.

To their credit, the U.S. Embassy did say that nothing is out of the question and that each visa applicant is handled on a case-by-case basis. Vince would have the opportunity to explain our situation in person during his interview. But still, it seems like a long shot.

I cried. Like I do.

(I’m a sensitive, easily stressed soul)

Tonight/this morning, we ran through about 1,000 scenarios: Roll the dice and apply for the J1 (and lose all the money paid out for school tuition, agency fess, etc)? Me work in Alaska alone (with a big hit to our plans for saving as much money as possible–two paychecks are much better than one, obviously)? Bag the living-in-Bulgaria scenario and just start the immigration process now? Jump off a bridge (thus avoiding any cross-cultural marriage challenges)?

*That last one is a joke. I think.

What did we decide?

Something entirely different and absolutely crazy/exciting/adventurous…

And something we’re not yet ready to share. It’s not official (and may not be for months to come).

We do know this:

  • Our ultimate goal is to settle in Bulgaria for as long as it makes sense. Financially and otherwise.
  • I want to make it a top priority to learn as much Bulgarian as possible. Being able to speak with Vince’s parents and raising our kids bilingually is not something I am willing to give up on.
  • We want to start a family in the next few years, and the decisions we make now need to support that goal.
  • We’re young and now is the time to live life to its fullest.

I will be sure to update as our plans become more concrete.

Now I am off to bed!

W.