May 25, 2007

Notes from Bulgaria

Eternal Remont is on the road, offering a few thoughts on Cultural Learnings of Bulgaria...

The city of Sofia is draped in European Union flags. Even taxi drivers have affixed the little blue and yellow flags to their dash boards. In the morning, we drank freeze-dried coffee and watched the BBC on satellite television. It seems over 8,000 Bulgarians have registered to work in the UK since January 1. Yet, the bureaucratic wheels have yet to fully turn, and so they stand on street corners in North London, along side veteran Poles and Slovaks. "They're taking our jobs!" complained a Polish day-worker with a law degree. "Thee don't even speak English." Welcome to the future, pal.

In Bulgaria, prom is a national event. And this is the height of prom season. Even desperately poor families will bankrupt themselves to pay for a fantastic dress and a classic car. Entire convoys of these vehicles roll the streets of Sofia, honking horns and otherwise making a wild racket. When you come of age in Bulgaria, it requires that you make lots of noise. A family friend was celebrating her own prom, and we gathered for usual feast of cooked meats, fluffy breads, peanuts, and the ubiquitous "moonshine" which the Bulgarians drink by the gallon. Ten years ago, the girl's father was fingered for assassinating the country's first post-communist prime minister. The father lingered in the Bulgarian judicial system until, wonder of wonders, he was not guilty of the charge. It turns out, the real killers were a team of Russian specialists -- imported for the job. And while the papers indulged in the ghastly details of the crime, they made little mention when the father was cleared and charges were dropped. Ten years had vanished. His daughter had grown up. She will go to university in Scottland, free of charge, now that Bulgaria is part of the EU.

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