Passing between the raindrops – part 2

So there I was at the Sofia airport with two enormous suitcases, a carry-on backpack mostly filled with cat-related things, my cat, her EU pet passport, and definitely no additional documentation. Here is what happened throughout the rest of the day.

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Passing between the raindrops – part 1

I’m definitely not done documenting the Balkan road trip, so I will get back to that at some point, but we just were always on the go and got increasingly tired at night as the trip wore on (almost never staying in the same place for two nights in a row will do that to you), and then I got back to Sofia and was just crazy busy with packing and leaving, so it’s fallen by the wayside. But I do mean to get back to it at some point.

However, right now I am actually back in Boston, having left Bulgaria for good, and so today what I want to do is document my experience taking my Bulgarian cat home with me. Prior to making my arrangements and flying, I did a lot of research on traveling with pets and often what was most helpful were people’s personal stories (both random people from the internet and people I know), so I’m hoping that maybe this post will be helpful to someone in my position, trying to parse the crazy bureaucracy and inconsistency of international pet travel.

The bottom line of my experience is that there are the official requirements, some of which contradict each other, and then there’s the actual practical experience, which are usually dramatically different (as in, way more lenient). Nobody from my school (this now includes me) has actually completed ALL of the dictated steps to transport their cat home, and nobody has had any issues with it. It’s like the yellow fever vaccination entry “requirement” for Tanzania. Likewise, I think if I were to have the option to do it over again, I would just go ahead and do all the official steps, because the anxiety just wasn’t worth it. If you’re a less anxious person than I am, though (which you probably are), the practical reality could help you avoid having to do a lot of pointless extra work, particularly in Bulgaria.

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Kitty kindergarten

I love her dearly, but my Bulgarian cat is not very socially well-adjusted.

It doesn’t look this way on first glance. She is a very sweet and very friendly cat; after a little bit of initial shyness, she likes new people. She remembers frequent visitors and will come say hello and wind around your ankles. She purrs a lot.

However, she is like a four-year-old only child who needs to be sent off to kindergarten to play with other similar creatures and learn that she is not the center of the universe.

I guess it’s partly my fault, but I don’t know what else there is to be done. If there were a kitty kindergarten, I would send her to it. If I were not living in Bulgaria, I would get another cat purely to help socialize her. A Pumpkin to her Seabiscuit, if you will. But alas, neither of these seem to be viable options.

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First international adventure!

From Bulgaria, anyway. Exciting to get those first few passport stamps! (I just had it renewed a couple years ago; the only previous stamp was from the UK last summer).

This is me, a little over 48 hours ago, at the meeting of the Danube and Sava Rivers in Belgrade, Serbia:


I’ll write about the trip in more detail later (many little stories and mundane details that I’m probably overly proud of myself for), but for right now this is the situation I’m dealing with…


A reproachful kitty and lots of work!


Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized

Time for the cat story.

Saturday, October 2 was our open house. On Friday night, the apartment-dwelling teachers had dinner together (we do this occasionally) and a couple of the teachers mentioned that they had seen a small white kitten near the front gate of the school that afternoon. One of the apartment teachers is an avid cat lover and has two cats of his own here – his sympathies were immediately engaged. We joked that somebody was going to have to adopt this cat or it would break his heart.

Ha, ha, ha, we all laughed.

Cut to Saturday morning. One of the gym teachers pulls over next to me walking outside the front gate and offers me a ride in (it’s actually a fair distance to walk from the gate to the school buildings). On our way in, we pass the cat-loving teacher playing with a small kitten on the side of the road. 

About an hour later, once open house has officially begun (but no parents have arrived), the teacher comes into my classroom. 

“You have to look out the window,” he tells me and my Bulgarian translator (an alum of the school).

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Minor miracles

It’s past midnight, but I made the mistake of drinking two cups of coffee at about 9 pm when I felt my eyelids drooping over my tenth post-colonialist lens paper, so now I can’t sleep. Bulgarian coffee is either terrible (they are fond of the watery, sugary Nescafe stuff) or like total crack – I’m already addicted to the espresso at school. Plus Romeo is in full on Danger Kitty Mode on my bed, or as I like to call it, her Talking Heads Mode (“Psycho kitty! Qu’est-ce que c’est?”), and it’s hard enough to sleep with caffeine coursing through your veins, much less with a tiny kitten stalking and hunting every extremity of your body. 

Yes, I have a kitten now. I still need to post that full story, which explains why my girl cat has a boy name…along with several Bulgarian variations thereof. 

But I’ve had a blog post percolating in my head for a while and I figured this particular burst of insomnia would be a good time to deal with it. I haven’t written much about my school, mostly because this is a public blog and I’m aware of my role as a professional within the school. While I don’t exactly need to conceal the school’s identity, it’s also not my objective here to write directly about it frequently and open up that can of worms – there’s been enough documentation in the States about teachers posting stuff about their schools and getting in trouble for it. But I figured some general comments would be interesting for folks at home.

Mostly, although I’m really busy because I’m writing brand-new curriculum every day for books that I’ve never taught before and the grading keeps piling up inexorably on my desk, I am still in shock sometimes over these students. After growing accustomed to a fair amount of dysfunction and craziness at my old school in the States (I say this with all the affection in the world), I have at least one moment here every day where I think, “Seriously? How is this possible?” To me, every day brings some kind of minor miracle.

Such as…