Archive for October, 2008

So far, so good

29 October, 2008

Today has been a good day so far. First, I got a new shower head. I’ve been having problems with itrecently. The top of it has been cracked and very time I use it, I’ve been losing water pressure as the water squirts through the cracks at the top all over my ceiling. Lo and behold this morning the municipality sent two repairmen and replaced it! It was so nice to take a hot shower with full water pressure. While drying off I received a phone call from my counterpart. She wanted to know what I’ll be doing tomorrow evening. I told her that I didn’t have any plans. Great news! she said. She wanted to let me know that the mayor had invited me to a concert in Sofia. Apparently, the mayor is good friends with a famous folksinger who gave him tickets to her show tomorrow evening in the national concert hall. And HE invited ME to go with him! I’ll be going with a few other people from the office. I can’t wait!

And lastly, the Office of External Resources in the Municipality of Chirpan now has AC/Heat. You never appreciate air conditioning until you’ve gone without it for such a long time.

And it’s not even 14:00!

How to charm me

29 October, 2008

Sit next to me and smell like smoked sausage.

How to annoy me

29 October, 2008

Be the slowest bus driver on the Balkan peninsula.

Deep Thought

27 October, 2008

There’s nothing like ending the day with free tomatoes, onions, chocolate cake and rakia. My baba rocks!

A year in

24 October, 2008

I’m a bit late with this. Actually, I’m pretty late. On the 18th of October last year, I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and moved to Chirpan, Bulgaria.

Time has flown by so fast. I can’t believe that I now have less than a year in my service. As I look back on the last year, I can see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. Looking forward, I see how far I have to go and how much I will still change. As far as changes go, I’ve noticed that I am more comfortable with ambiguity, carry myself more confidently and look at the world in a far more “human” perspective. A more human perspective? you say. Well, living and working in the poorest country in Europe where the hope that a single person can make a difference is like a candle in the rain, you see who people truly are, not masked by “stuff”. This isn’t to say that there aren’t materialistic people, just a lot less.

What I’ve learned (in easy to read list form):

  • Being poor is only an economic condition. Having had the incredible fortune of growing up in middle class America (an upbringing I appreciate more and more every day), I’ve had very little daily contact with people struggling to survive. In my experiences here, these seem to be the happiest and most content people I’ve come across.

More after the jump–

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What I’m Reading

16 October, 2008

From The New York Times: “Mob Muscles Its Way Into Politics in Bulgaria

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Politics is played to the death in Bulgaria, where the lives of politicians can be as cheap as spent bullets and murky business groups wage a murderous struggle for their cut of everything from real estate deals to millions in European aid.

[…]

“Other countries have the mafia,” said Atanas Atanasov, a member of Parliament and a former counterintelligence chief who is a magnet for leaked documents exposing corruption. “In Bulgaria, the mafia has the country.”

By almost any measure, Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the 27-member European Union. Since it joined last year, it has emerged as a cautionary tale for Western nations confronting the stark reality and heavy costs of drawing fragile post-Communist nations into their orbit, away from Russia’s influence.

It is important to remember that corruption isn’t isolated to any one country or region. Every country deals with corruption at some level or another. That being said, having an (more) honest judicial system and bureaucracy is something we Americans and other Westerner take for granted. True, the US has be rocked by several scandals over the recent years (no-bid contracts, signing statements, political intimidation, etc), the average citizen is rarely involved. In the cases I cited above, those all have occurred in the halls of power. I would be very hard pressed to find one of friends who was forced to bride doctors to get a blood transfusion or a prosecutor to take legal action. In Bulgaria, this is a daily occurrence.

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What I’m Reading

13 October, 2008

Great Moments in Right-Wing Punditry (via Powerline, 8 Aug 2005):

It must be depressing to be Paul Krugman. No matter how well the economy performs, Krugman’s bitter vendetta against the Bush administration requires him to hunt for the black lining in a sky full of silvery clouds. With the economy now booming, what can Krugman possibly have to complain about? In today’s column, titled That Hissing Sound, Krugman says there is a housing bubble, and it’s about to burst…

There are, of course, obvious differences between houses and stocks. Most people own only one house at a time, and transaction costs make it impractical to buy and sell houses the way you buy and sell stocks. Krugman thinks the fact that James Glassman doesn’t buy the bubble theory is evidence in its favor, but if you read Glassman’s article on the subject, you’ll see that he actually makes some of the same points that Krugman does. But he argues, persuasively in my view, that there is little reason to fear a catastrophic collapse in home prices.

Krugman will have to come up with something much better, I think, to cause many others to share his pessimism.

Ha ha! This makes it that much funnier.

Deep Thought

9 October, 2008

Should it be cause for concern that the entire fourth grade wants to dress up as a baby in a diaper for Halloween?

Deep Thought

8 October, 2008

I can see the end of Sarah Palin’s political career from my apartment!

This is Bulgaria…

8 October, 2008

This is a reponse I get a lot to a lot of things. It’s mostly used as answer to something I question something about this country. This ranging from talking about corruption to why water leaks from my kitchen ceicling when it rains. “Jimmy…this is Bulgaria and we think it’s normal…”. They may not agree with it but they have lived with these situations for most of thier life and usually can’t imgaine it any different. For the most part (with the exception of my kitchen) these have been pretty abstract. That is, until yesterday afternoon and the inspiration for this entry.

Regular readers know my backpack was lost/stolen in June. The bus company and driver were clearly at fault but couldn’t afford to replace my things. It wasn’t a problem since most of them were insured and the insurance company paid for them. I decided not to take the company to court since they couldn’t repay me and I felt fortunate enough to have been able to have owned them in the first place. The bus company was told I wouldn’t be filing a claim against them and were grateful. I considered the incident over, and moved on. But this being Bulgaria, the strangest things can happen.

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