© 2011 Daniel 002

Българско Време

Dear friends…

My computer is solar powered and the sky was cloudy all month, and that’s why I’m sitting here on November 30 without even so much as a first draft of my month’s blog update written. Wait, no, correction! Maybe I did write it – and terrorists stole it! Yes, yes, that seems quite reasonable. I fought back, of course (gallantly), and nearly had it back in my grasp. But then a cat ate it. And a dog ate the cat. It really was an unfortunate chain of events that ended with an old lady and the draft, I’m sorry to say, is quite unrecoverable.

So, procastination? Me? Don’t be silly.

Because of the time crunch, this will be the first blog post I submit without any revision. In anticipation of your groans of disappointment and knashing of teeth as your miserably trudge through my paragraphs laden with errors, I offer you these honeyed words to brighten your journey: You, friend, are kind, brave, merciful, not-judgemental, and rather good-looking. And thanks for taking an interest in what’s going in my life. Tu lege ergo sum.

Last month’s post left off right before Halloween and I’m happy to report that the festivities all went well. I was especially proud that I didn’t have much credit to take; The kids made everything come together by participating with costumes. As Halloween isn’t a Bulgarian holiday, it probably took a lot of faith for them to dress up in costumes. I also told them to stick their heads in bowls of water to pick up apples. I know I would have been highly reluctant as a kid to do someting like that on the word of a stranger, so I’m glad my students trusted me.

About two weeks after the Halloween celebrations came my budget crisis. Traveling back and forth between my village and the town was expensive and reimbursible by the Peace Corps, but we usually don’t see the money until the end of the third week of the month, paid in a lump sum with our stipends. This meant that, despite having a huge reimbursement awaiting me, I was broke. And, because I hadn’t used my credit card for ages, I forgot my PIN and couldn’t get a cash advance. I was tapped out, without even the money to buy a train ticket into the town to accept a Western Union wire transfer.

Those were long days. The Peace Corps staff was on vacation and couldn’t help me. I resigned myself to bunkering down in my apartment and digging into my pantry. I called it “The Neverending Pasta Bowl” because that’s exactly all I had to eat. It wasn’t bad at first because I still had some ingredients and cream for making alfredo sauce and other things, but I eventually transitioned into eating plain pasta with salt. And every morning, I would go to the ATM to see if our stipend had arrived. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t have any money accessible at all. As an accountant, I already had a deep appreciation of money, but I never really had a firsthand perspective of precisely how powerless one can feel without buying power. My purchasing decisions usually involve weighing whether or not to splurge on small luxuries: bread, or ciabatta; plain oats, or fruit muesli; frozen chicken, or ground beef. My final purchase with my October stipend involved two Bulgarian levs (~$1.35 USD) and figuring out whether eggs or cream would give me more calories for the money.

Fortunately, I’m fine now. The November stipend came in just as I was winding down to my last two boxes of pasta, a jar of mustard, and my leather shoes. I treated myself to a good meal, bought a train ticket into town, and got back to work – and pasta week became just another week in Bulgaria. It also won’t happen again. Last week marked my final days in Samuil as I packed up and moved to the nearby town of Razgrad. I have new assignments and a new apartment. I feel vulnerable again, a green outsider once more, but my command of the language is far better this time around and I’m wielding my “Asian-guy-in-Bulgaria” star power heavily to get things done.

I have mixed feelings about my new apartment. On one hand, it is definitely an upgrade. I have a separate living room, two heaters, a washing machine, and four beds. There are five good restaurants nearby and the library is only a few minutes away. The catch is that it was filthy when I moved in. The previous tenants were bachelors, smokers, and bastards who didn’t bother to clean up anything when they left. I spent hours throwing out trash strewn across the floor and scrubbing down every surface in the kitchen with bleach. There were grimy ashtrays and empty beer bottles everywhere, lying under beds, left to rot in the sink, and stuffed in the closet. I think I need to put in another four or five hours to finish the job. I’d rather waste my time doing something else barely less idiotic, such as writing a screenplay sequel to “Titanic”. The silver lining is that I like cleaning to the sound of music and there’s little I like more than Christmas music. I could probably merrily decontaminate a meth lab to the tune of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”.

If I can make my apartment shipshapen by Sunday, I will be ecstatic. It’ll probably be my last warm day of the year here because I’m going to Sofia on Monday for more medical work. This time around, we’re doing a MRI. To be entirely honest, I’m actually a bit excited. Magnetic resonance imaging is a wonder of modern medical technology and I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to be run through one of those machines. I just hope that everything will come up normal and that it’s “not a too-mah”. And assuming the news is good, I’ll be traveling to Bucharest directly afterwards for a few days to see the sights and sit for the GMAT.

Yes, you read that right. I’m taking the GMAT. I’m going to (apply to) grad school.

Besides the CPA exam now requiring 150 credit hours, a re-entry into academia would give me a good foot in the door with recruiters at public accounting firms. And, failing that, a masters degree in accountancy would let me start at the GS-9 level instead of the GS-7 level if I wanted to work with the government. One extra year to ride out the poor economy also wouldn’t hurt. Still, the decision is still in the works. Who knows what I’ll want to do a year from now? Will I even be an accountant? Astronaut, house-husband, male model of the year, beanie baby auctioneer: the possibilities are endless. It’s just good to have options, even if I need to travel to Romania to open them.

By the time I get back from Romania, it’ll be mid-December and attention will be turning towards Christmas celebrations. I even caved in to buy a Christmas tree. Life’s too short to save twenty bucks forgoing a Christmas tree for the year. I’ll probably spend some good evenings on my bed, bottle of hard apple cider in hand, reading books as the Christmas lights dance in the background. Add in some Skyping to my creature comforts and the distance won’t be all too bad. I miss you all and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Daniel

5 Comments

  1. Posted December 1, 2011 at 5:32 am | #

    Best entry YET! When are you trimming this alleged tree? The weekend of the 10th perchance? If not, don’t worry. You can just take all the ornaments off and we can put them back on again when I get there. Also, I feel like a terrible friend because I had no idea times were so lean for you last month! I think you mentioned something to me about it but I was too preoccupied and self-centered to really get it. I’ve been there too, and I want you to know you can always hit me up for some veggies or something to go with your pasta. Of course, you’ll have to boil enough pasta for the both of us, but the I’ll take care of the rest.

  2. VHS
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm | #

    “Life’s too short to save twenty bucks forgoing a Christmas tree for the year.” Well put, Mr. Wan!

  3. Daniel
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:52 pm | #

    Huelo – I have been slowly picking up decorations as I see things I like. In shop windows. I could use your artistic direction, though. As for food, it’s now aplenty and I’m slowly morphing into a ball of lard to fight the winter chill and to save on my commute down the hill via rolling.

    Vaune – Will you be installing a tree this year? There’s a place in Razgrad selling small fake ones (desk-sized) for like 6 legs each.

  4. Posted December 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm | #

    How big of a Christmas tree to you plan on buying? I found a nice fake one for 4 leva last year. Anyway this is a brilliant blog post and sorry about your apartment being so dirty. Weekends are awsome for cleaning

  5. hc
    Posted December 3, 2011 at 10:22 am | #

    Sent you a card from Pittsburgh, pA. Let us know how long it took! Sent it to the new address you gave Dave. Take care.

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