Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bulgaria

In 1996, after having lived in Poland for five years, I moved to Bulgaria and lived and worked there for more than half a year. I knew very little about Bulgaria but I wanted to see another post-communist country for purposes of comparison. There were also women involved in the decision.

At the time Bulgaria was in the middle of an inflation that (judging by the dollar exchange rates) ran at least 10% per day. I was getting paid in Bulgarian leva that amounted, at my last pay period to $40 for the month (10% less by that evening). They wanted $25 - American, for my room and government offices would not accept leva for fees!

I actually lived off my savings until they ran out. Food was expensive and bread almost nonexistent, though liquor (white and red wine, vodka and rakia) was good, cheap and plentiful, sold out of street kiosks from wooden barrels and decanted into your old pop bottles.

Nonetheless, though I ultimately had to leave when my money ran out*, I loved it. The country is beautiful - not to mention the women! My students were a joy to teach and it was always surprising how many people you met on the street, including little kids, who could speak excellent English. In Bulgaria they like Americans and mostly wish they could be Americans.

I lived in a student dormitory with Bulgarians and many Christian Sudanese trying to make ends meet and keep from being deported to Sudan - where they'd be drafted on arrival to kill and enslave their fellow-tribesmen.

My last day in Bulgaria, I marched with the demonstrators down the Yellow Brick Road (no fooling) past the presidential palace, cheered on by the newly-elected president to demand the expulsion of the communists from the last coalition government. Within 24 hours I was in the middle of the demonstrations in Belgrade. A colleague remarked, "You ought to head for Albania, you're on a roll."

All of this came back to me when I read that five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian have been sentenced to death by firing squad in Libya for deliberately spreading AIDS. The charge is bogus of course. Experts, including Nobel Prize winners, testified that the virus was present long before the nurses arrived. Apparantly someone has to be blamed - and they can't very well blame the filthy hospitals, incompetent staff and complete lack of accountability in the system can they? (http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson110706.html)

No good deed goes unpunished.

Is the US going to do anything? Probably a pro forma protest at best. Massive demonstrations a la the kind usually staged for cop killers? Doubt it. Is it even going to register with the pro-Palesinian lobby that an innocent Palestinian is about to be murdered? It's not Israel or America doing the murdering so in a word, no.

Hey, what about NATO and the EU flexing their muscles and showing some solidarity with one of their newest members?

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Pardon me, I had to collect myself for a moment, stop laughing hysterically and wipe the tears from my eyes.

Of the countries of Eastern Europe that suffered most during WWII and the communist aftermath, Bulgaria always struck me as the one that least deserved it. Now, after they've regained their independence and a little prosperity, they're being reminded of what it's like being citizens of a small country that cannot project power very far beyond it's borders and doesn't have friends that will stick up for them.


*And because a dissident friend in Serbia was being leaned on by the secret police. I moved to Belgrade on the theory that if I basically lived in his lap they wouldn't want to murder him in front of a foreign witness. But that's another story.

1 Comments:

  • At 10:51 PM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    A government office refusing to take its own currency... if that doesn't speak volumes, I don't know what will.

     

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