I have found something worse than Bulgarian customer service

It’s called Skype “customer service.”

I’m too mad still to even bother giving context for this; anyway, all the exposition you need is basically in the chat already. I think the transcript speaks for itself, so I’ll just paste it below.

Warning: this is extremely long.

NB: Pay attention also to the time stamps in the chat. When there’s long pauses or I don’t respond, it’s usually because I did compose a response but decided it was too rude to actually send.

NB: I changed my own name in this transcript but left the CS reps’, so that if you ever have the misfortune to be on Skype Live Support with any of these idiots, you’ll know to run far away.

NB: I’m posting this from home because my interwebz is fixed! Bulgarian internet servicemen who don’t speak any English are, as it turns out, MUCH more helpful and articulate than Skype representatives.

Without further ado… Continue reading

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I can has interwebz nao plz?

I’m back in Sofia for Year 3 after a smooth 13 hours of traveling. Once again, I was basically unable to sleep on the transatlantic flight, and so subjected myself to bad movie selection (The Avengers, which I wasn’t crazy about, and Mirror Mirror, which was truly awful) and the noxious fumes being emitted from my seat partner, who passed out with an eye mask and ear plugs virtually upon takeoff and spent the entire 7-hour flight sleeping with her face turned toward me and her mouth hanging open. I forgave her, though, since I’m an open-mouthed sleeper myself, so I’m sure I’ve done the same to others. Oddly, I didn’t have to go through passport and security check in Munich, which you usually have to do when transferring from the States to intra-European travel, especially considering Bulgaria isn’t Schengen (much to their chagrin, and despite the anticipatory signs you will see at the airport for Schengen vs. Non-Schengen Arrivals). My passport was also stamped in Boston this year, whereas it wasn’t when I flew into Newark last year. Differing airport policies, or security consistency fails? Hmm.

I was able to doze fitfully on the 90-minute Munich-Sofia flight, despite being quite constricted in space due to the quite large man (not fat, just LARGE) who was wedged into the seat next to me. I felt exhausted in the taxi home (the cabbie mournfully delivered me to my apartment and pocketed my paltry 5-leva fare; apparently the cabbies are all struggling right now because no one’s in Sofia, so the taxis are waiting hours for passengers, and everyone coming in from the airport is going only short distances), but was ultimately unable to nap at home, between my cat’s earnest “You’re home! I wuv you soooooooo much!” kneadings with her unclipped-for-two-months claws and just the adrenaline I guess I’d managed to work up in order to get myself through the sleepless traveling. I’ve always found it’s best, anyway, to stay awake for normal hours in your arrival city, and it basically worked this time too, though I’ll admit it was pretty rough waking up at 8 am (1 am Boston time) and then going to school, like the crazy person I am.

However, I did encounter one snafu upon returning to Sofia: my internet stopped working the last day or two that I was in Sofia in July, but I didn’t have time to deal with it before leaving, and then I forgot about it (not that I could’ve really done much about it from the States, anyway). I guess I was hoping that the problem would magically disappear over the summer, but unfortunately, it persists. Continue reading

Show me the money

I knew something was up with the American coins when I mentioned them a few days ago as part of the process of re-adjusting to being in the U.S. again. Don’t laugh at me for taking so long to realize this, but I only just recently took the time to look more closely at the coins to try to figure out why it was so difficult for me to identify them.

170px-2010_cent_reverse

What gives, U.S. Mint? I move out of the country in 2010 and you have to release a new reverse design for the penny so that I’m utterly confused when I get back? What happened to the Lincoln Memorial?? And did they change the composition of the coins again? Pennies seem so shiny now – maybe because they’re new (duh), but maybe also because not as much grime is getting caught in between the carvings of the Lincoln Memorial. It makes it hard for me to recognize them in a change purse, though.  Continue reading

I am not a Kansan

Because I am not nearly nice enough or patient enough to make it through this week without quite a bit of teeth-grinding.

As I mentioned yesterday, the reason why I’m in Kansas is to attend a professional development workshop that relates to a new position I’ll be filling next year. This is actually the first PD that I’ve done since leaving Boston two years ago (as you can imagine, there aren’t lots of PD opportunities in Bulgaria; plus I was adjusting to, you know, being in Bulgaria). I was pretty excited about it, especially because I figured it would be really helpful and relevant, since I’m pretty much looking for anything and everything that can help me figure out how to do this new job.

But I’d forgotten something about PD in the two years that I haven’t attended any PD. And that is that PD is almost always awful.

My major issue is this: In my mind, an in-person in-service or PD ought to consist of knowledge that you cannot get simply from reading a book. Otherwise, my time is better spent actually reading the damn book. PD should be experiential. Today, the leader of this workshop actually made a point to highlight that experience is the major factor that actually changes beliefs, and everyone nodded at this sage wisdom and wrote it down, but this workshop itself is not embodying that philosophy. The irony: someone standing up in front of a ballroom and telling us, “Talk doesn’t work. Experience is what changes belief.” You wonder if these people can hear themselves sometimes.

This is day 2 of the first of two 3-day workshops. We meet for approximately 6 hours a day: 3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon after lunch. Do you know how much material I could read in 6 hours? A lot more than gets covered when someone just gives you an overview of the ideas and structures and talks with only slight variations of the prompt, “What do you think about this idea? Does this resonate with you?” I can do that on my own, too – it’s called annotating the book. I would LOVE to talk more with the people here and actually learn about their experiences, but the ratio of our talk time to the leader’s talk time is way below what they’re advocating we look for in classrooms.

Here’s what I would do if I were in charge: Continue reading

Look Toto, we’re in Kansas!

So I’ve been getting some gentle prodding lately from a friend who wants more blog posts. I know I’ve fallen sadly off my Year 1 pace, and I’ve resolved to try to be better next year. Maybe I’ll even do some flashback posts to cover the trips and events that I didn’t write about last year.

In the meantime, I’m midway through my summer and currently in Lawrence, Kansas for a workshop/conference related to the work that I’ll be doing at my school next year. It’s my first time in Kansas and my first time even remotely in this area of the country (the closest I’ve ever come is Michigan). It might not be as exciting a location as others I’ve been to this year, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how many Americans only visit a fraction of the 50 states, so there’s something to be said for knowing your own country along with visiting others.

Impressions of Kansas so far: hot, but bearable so far; and people are really, really nice. The airport shuttle driver mentioned to me that it’s much more humid here in eastern Kansas vs. western Kansas, likely due to the proximity of the river, but I have to say, if this is what Kansans consider to be humid, they should consider themselves lucky. The bank display in downtown Lawrence was displaying 99 degrees today at 6:45 pm, and it may have been a couple degrees cooler than that in reality, but typically when Boston hits 90+ degrees you’re just about ready to kill yourself.

Also, everyone I’ve encountered is super friendly. Even the college-aged kids at the sandwich shop or the man in the qwik-e-mart just seem genuinely happy to help you, ask how you’re doing, wish you a nice day, etc. I’m luckily a little more primed for this than I would ordinarily be because I was in Scandinavia last month, where people are also really nice, but it’s quite an adjustment coming from Bulgaria, where the notion of customer service doesn’t really exist. Bulgarians, especially Sofians, make Bostonians look like Kansans (Kansans would just be beyond the comprehension of most Bulgarians, an alien species). The thing is, most Bulgarians are actually really sweet, generous, lovely people…but only when they know you. If they don’t, they’re standoffish and unwilling to extend themselves on your behalf until they’ve ascertained whether it’s worth it. So needless to say, I have a hard time not reacting with instant suspicion when these Kansans are just so gosh-darn happy to see you.

I also can’t handle American money at all, apparently. The bills feel too long and the paper feels wrong, plus they’re all the same color so you have to actually look at each one to figure out what denomination they are. The coins feel weird, too – quarters are too thin, and the sizes of pennies and nickels feel different than they used to. Compounding my problem is the fact that I still have stotinki and euro cents mixed in my change purse, so all these nice Kansans think I’m a nutcase as I have to dump out all my change into my hand and peer really closely at all the coins to determine which ones to use. I guess the whole, hold-your-handful-of-change-out-and-let-the-local-pick-out-what’s-needed strategy is a lot less excusable in your home country. Also, the contents of my wallet right now would baffle anyone: the qwik-e-mart guy tried to be helpful by pointing out a penny in my hand, but it was actually a 2-cent euro piece (which then prompted him to ask where I was coming from and whether I had just moved to Kansas, which in turn forced me to tamp down my instant stalker suspicions and just answer the nice Kansan man).

This was not a very exciting blog post, but I just have to get myself back in the habit of writing, so consider it a warm-up. There’s also not a whole lot to do here after my workshop wraps up at 4 pm each day, so I expect I’ll be back. Right now I’m off to use the hotel gym. There’s really nothing like working out while watching the Olympics; it both motivates you and shames you at the same time. Last night I was running on the treadmill while all the track events were being aired but I gave up doing the math on how much slower I was than Olympic athletes, for one thing because I’m still no good at metric conversions even after two years abroad, and for a second thing because it was depressing.