One month accomplishments

In some ways it feels like I’ve been here way longer, but actually it’s been just over a month since I first landed in Sofia, and here are some of my accomplishments:

1) I still do not have a microwave! Although I do use one at school sometimes to heat up my lunch, I’ve mostly been cooking things fresh (picking up ingredients on my way home from school) and heating up leftovers in the oven. Strangely enough, I haven’t really missed it at all, and I figure it’s better and healthier not to have one, so I’m going to keep trying to go without.

2) Related to #1, I roasted chicken! which I had never done before. Unfortunately, I left my camera at school that day, so I couldn’t take a picture of it, but in general I’ve also been cooking more, including tonight’s dinner, chicken breasts with creamy mushroom sauce:

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PS – The mushroom sauce was delicious, largely, I suspect, because of the quantities of French butter that went into it.

3) I took up Balkan dancing! Observe a sample (this is not us!):

One of the phys ed teachers runs adult classes after school, and I started going last week. In addition to solving my lack of physical exercise besides walking, it was really fun to do some folk dancing again. It’s a lot harder than it looks – there are much faster and more difficult patterns than the one in the clip above.

4) This one is a longer story. Today I purchased a DVD player at Technopolis, brought it home, set it up, and realized it didn’t work. That is, I was pretty sure it didn’t work. I worried that there might be some really obvious step in DVD set-up that I was failing to do which would cause it to work, but really what else is there to do but plug it in and push “power”? The manual was only in Bulgarian, but I could tell that it listed 3 steps for set-up and then the rest of it was just details about how to skip chapters and set up subtitles, etc. I tried it in different outlets, I looked for a reset button that might need to be pushed, I pushed the power button on and off several times. Nothing.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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I should’ve known better than to buy this completely unknown brand, but it was only 55 leva (about $39 US)

No secret compartments…nothing up my sleeve…

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D4, F5, and E6 have some ‘splainin’ to do as to why my box doesn’t work.

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Oh, the irony.

So after lunch, I decided to embark on my daily little adventure in Bulgarian language. I trooped back to the mall and braced myself for the worst. Again, my protocol is generally to memorize the key phrases I need to request whatever I need, and then be prepared to fumble through the rest of the negotiation when the employee inevitably responds to the false promise of my haltering Bulgarian with…more Bulgarian. Which I inevitably don’t understand. It’s like the x-factor. I sometimes feel like I shouldn’t lead them on by giving the impression that I actually speak this language, but sometimes they get even more pissed off when the first thing you do is ask if they speak English.

Here’s how it went at the store. I’m going to write it in Cyrillic so that it looks more impressive and exciting.

I went over to Инфopмaция.

Me: “Дoбъp дeн.”
Woman: “Дoбъp дeн.”
Me: “Иcкaм дa въpнa тoвa.”
Woman: “He paвoт?”
Me: “Дa.”

She asked for the receipt, and I showed it to her. Then she said some stuff that I didn’t understand, but I surmised that she was calling a manager over or something, and then told me that he’d be right over. I just pretended I knew what was going on.

The manager came over – a big, friendly guy with a smile.

Manager: “Дoбъp дeн!”
Me: “Дoбъp дeн.”
Manager: “He paвoт?”
Me: “Дa.”
Manager: somethingsomethingsomethingsomething?
Me: “Uh…?”
Manager: somethingsomething? (pointing at box/counter)
Me: “…?…”
Manager: “Uh…today? You buy today?”
Me: “Ah, дa.”

The manager leads me back to the DVD section of the store, to a small counter with some outlets. I can see that he’s going to try the machine out to double-check it. (At this point, I’m totally crossing my fingers praying that the thing really is broken.) He gets it all set up, pushes the power button, and……vindication! The machine is truly a dud. He tries switching outlets, with the same (non) result. He calls over one of the workers, probably the TV/DVD specialist, and he pokes at it too, with no luck. The two men confer, presumably about the suckitude of the mechanism. I conceal my triumphant smile. Then…

Manager: somethingsomethingsomethingsomething?

The smile I never actually allowed myself to indulge in is wiped off my face.

Me: “…?…He paзбиpъм.”
TV/DVD specialist: “Гapaнция?”
Manager: “Гapaнция.”
Me: “Гapaнция?” (As if being able to pronounce the word correctly will somehow imbue me with understanding and linguistic competency.)
TV/DVD specialist: somethingsomethingsomethingsomething.
Me: “…?…”
Manager (looking around the store): “somethingsomethingsomething aнглийcки.” (this I actually did understand – he was looking for someone in the store who speaks English)
The TV/DVD specialist has left and come back with a piece of paper that looks like a warranty or something: “Гapaнция?”
Me: “He.”
Manager: “He гapaнция?”
Me: “Дa.”
TV/DVD specialist: “You…buy this…alone? Or… (to manager) Kaк ce кaзвa ‘кoлeгa’ нa aнглийcки?”
Me (perking up, trying desperately to be helpful) “Koлeгa? Paзбиpъм. He кoлeгa.”
Another employee has arrived and gotten briefed by the manager: “Did you take this by yourself, or was there somebody…?”
Me (catching on): “I bought it by myself. Nobody helped me.”

The three men start conferring entirely in Bulgarian at this point. During the exchange, the TV/DVD specialist leaves and comes back with a replacement DVD player, plugs it in, shows me that it’s working, and re-packages it. They’re talking continuously, however, and I’m not included in the discussion. I imagine it translated as something like this:

Other employee: “So she didn’t buy it from anyone. That’s why she doesn’t have the warranty.”
TV/DVD specialist: “What the hell. These damn foreigners.”
Manager: “Well, how was she supposed to know. And why wasn’t anyone watching her or helping her?”
TV/DVD specialist: “Hey, I can’t be everywhere all at once. How was I supposed to know she was just going to pick up a DVD player and walk out of here with it.”
Other employee: “So what’re we going to do?”
Manager: “Ah, well. She just bought it a few hours ago. She didn’t know. Just give it to her, it’s fine.”

The manager walked away. The other employee walked away. The TV/DVD specialist picked up the new DVD player and waved me toward the front of the store. He walked me through the cashier line and past the security guard, wrapped around and went back to the Инфopмaция desk, conferred with the woman there again, and set me up with this:

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My very own warranty (or whatever the hell it is – I guess it translates most closely to “guarantee,” since that is also sort of what it sounds like). Who knows whether it actually represents anything or guarantees me anything, but one month in this country has shown me that Bulgarians LOVE useless paperwork. Especially papers with stamps. The more the better. I should have known.

Honestly, though, the employees on the whole really were pretty nice and accommodating of my ignorant and incompetent ways, so I do owe them big time. The TV/DVD specialist seemed simultaneously a little tired of/amused by me, but at least I managed to squeeze in a, “Mepcи мнoгo!” before he left, which also seemed to amuse him.

And better yet, I got home, plugged it in, and was greeted with:

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Functioning, and in aнглийcки, baby! Victory is mine! I drink from the keg of glory – bring me all the finest muffins and bagels in all the land!

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5 thoughts on “One month accomplishments

  1. Oh my goodness- the punchline is the BEST. You are a comic genius. Putting the conversation in Cyrillic alphabet to set up the a??????????c???? DVD greeting = brilliant.

  2. Hurrah!!! Success! Now to watch hours of Bulgarian movies, hopefully with English subtitles, so the language will just diffuse into your brain. And no matter what miscommunication happens, the slightly sheepish smile works wonders…as well as the quick getaway.

  3. Wow, I had no idea ‘merci’ had been adopted into Bulgarian! Congrats on a successful exchange (and thanks for providing a brief moment for me to remember the Cyrillic alphabet :D)!

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