Like yelling "fire!" in a BG building

Here’s another fun fact about my school, my apartment, and it seems many buildings in Bulgaria: There are no smoke detectors or fire alarms.

A few weeks ago, the electrical wiring around one of my colleague’s computers spontaneously burst into flame about ten minutes before first period started. Either the electrical surge that caused the fire or the fire itself then killed all of the electricity in the building – this was how I even knew anything was going on, even though it was only two doors down from me: my computer suddenly turned off (this in itself, though, is not actually that unusual an occurrence) and my phone shut down. About ten seconds after this happened, one of the other teachers ran into my room and said, “Does your phone work? Can you call the main office? There’s a fire!” But since none of our phone works, and there was no automated or pull-activated alarm system in the building, she had to just continue running out of the building and all the way to the administrative offices in another building to get someone to make the call to come deal with the electrical fire, which luckily sort of fizzled itself out before anyone actually got there.

But because we didn’t have a protocol or alarm system in place, the building – full of students because the coffee shop and library are in the same building – never evacuated. Because how were we supposed to evacuate? Walk up to each student and engage in a lengthy conversation about what had just happened? Run around the building yelling, “FIRE!!!!”? We had practiced fire drill procedure earlier in the year, but the notification was an administrator coming to the classroom door and saying, “OK, evacuate now.” There’s just no automated alarm system in place. The teacher whose wiring had caught on fire held her first period in the empty classroom next door while maintenance came and took away the charred remnants of her computer wiring.

This was a serious WTF Bulgaria?! moment. Elevating it to epic WTF-ness is the fact that the school’s electrical systems and wiring had just been inspected over spring break and given the thumbs-up.

Let’s be clear: I don’t know that ANY building in Bulgaria ever actually deserves to get a thumbs-up on their electrical system. Even my apartment block, which is quite new, has frequent fuse problems, and I’ve had ongoing issues with exploding light bulbs and bathroom light bulbs that seem to wiggle themselves out of their sockets every couple of weeks. Couple this with the really charming fact that Bulgaria doesn’t seem to have smoke detectors. Like, any. Apparently, the school looked into installing smoke detectors in all the rooms last year (because, you know, it’s a school full of children and is composed of really old wooden buildings that go up like a tinder box and oh yeah, there’s ALREADY been a major fire in a classroom here a couple years ago) but surmised that the best/only way to actually do this was if all the American teachers brought back several smoke detectors with them after going home to the States for the summer, because they just aren’t to be had in Bulgaria.

Good job, Bulgaria. For a country that’s full of hypochondriacs, you sure are remarkably blase about death by fricassee and/or aspyhyxiation.



I’ve been keeping a running list of topics I want to blog about during this whole span of time where I haven’t been writing anything, and the list has been reaching epic proportions, so I thought I should just do some housecleaning and write about one of them at random. Some of them are sorely outdated, but this one at least seems to be sort of universal and fitting as an end-of-year reflection.

The kids finished exams yesterday, and teachers are in school until this Friday. Overall I had a really wonderful year and loved my kids (especially my 10th graders) dearly. One of my former colleagues in the States saw a video of some of my students (boys specifically) and said, “Ah! They’re SO European! They’ve got the European male walk/strut down.” Which got me thinking about some of the other differences between my Bulgarian students and my American students. I mean, my kids here speak English, they watch American TV shows and movies, they have fancy cell phones, they want to learn to drive and go to prom, they drink and smoke and have sex when they probably really shouldn’t…so what are some of the differences? How could you tell that my kids are native Bulgarians and not just an immigrant American kid with an accent? 

I thought of three… Continue reading

How To Clean a Bathroom (BG Style)

I know that I haven’t posted much lately, and I realize it’s a bit uncouth to have the first post after a long absence be potty humor, but I have a random 25 minutes to kill at the end of the school day (not enough time to get through another essay, but too long to just sit around and do nothing), and because I’ve been drinking tons of water lately, the issue of bathroom maintenance at my school has once again come squarely to my attention. Also, my students are working on satire projects, so I’m in an ironic mindset. Of course I realize that not EVERYONE in BG cleans a public bathroom like this, but I’ve certainly never seen anyone in the U.S. use these particular “techniques,” so I’m going to go ahead and call it BG Style. And with that said, I bring you this How To:

How To Clean a Bathroom (BG Style)

1. Fill bucket with water from sink.

2. Flush toilet. Bonus points if you catch some of the swishing, swirling toilet water in your bucket. 

3. Use water in bucket and cleaning rag to scrub interior of toilet. Rinse rag frequently in bucket while doing this. 

4. Without changing water, upend bucket over toilet to douse the entire toilet with water. IMPORTANT! Do not wipe water off!!

5. Flush toilet. 

6. Close toilet lid. IMPORTANT! Still do not wipe any water off, particularly off toilet seat, which will now remain soaking wet under the toilet lid.

7. Water that flowed over toilet will now be pooling around your feet on the floor. Use mop (and maybe occasionally cleaning rag, for hard-to-reach places) to swirl water around floor. Make sure floor is good and soaked. There should be a physical film of water with serious hydroplaning possibilities remaining on top of the tiles at all times if at all possible. Under NO circumstances should you attempt to dry the floor in any way. 

8. Put mop in empty bucket in corner of bathroom. 

9. Use still-damp cleaning rag to wipe down all desks in classrooms, then store rag on external window sill, to allow it to dry in the sun and pigeons to roost in it.

10. Lastly and VERY important! Remove any rolls of toilet paper from bathroom premises and lock them away where they can never be found.