Day to day events mostly cataloguing my complete lack of understanding and common sense!

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Tagged with "language"
Monday 21st August, 2017
Category: 2017/08
Tags: lichna card permanent residency registering car language wood

It's been a busy old couple of weeks for me, but now I can relax a bit as several major things which were looming over me have been dealt with.

A lot of my stress comes with trying to juggle the timing of things; not easy in Bulgaria where things happen when they happen, and that's about as precise as it gets. Take online ordering for example. I'm off camping next week for a couple of days so ordered myself a nice little dome tent from one of the DIY stores. I'm also having some work done in the living room and so ordered a new pechka (woodburner) to go in there. At least the great thing about Bulgaria is that you can opt for cash on delivery, so if your order goes totally pear shaped you haven't lost financially.

Anyway, having made the orders online I then had to face two phone calls from the companies informing me that my orders had been processed and to expect delivery... well, for the stove it was Thursday or Friday, and for the tent it was 'in a few days'. See what I mean? Not so bad if you're living with someone and can take turns staying home, but a bit awkward for a singleton.

Alongside awaiting deliveries I also had an imminent MOT and the renewal of my ID card and car registration documents to fit in, hence the tension.

In some ways I like the challenge, especially with the language, and it's a big buzz to come off the phone and know that you managed to both understand and be understood - a big improvement last year when the guy phoned about my bubblewrap order and I didn't have a clue who was calling or why and had to resort to English!

Added to this my wood delivery arrived and they guys who cut and split it could show up at any time.

Miraculously everything pretty much slotted into place. I'd just arrived back from Gabrovo one day when the tent guy phoned to ask where the house was. I described the location at which point he said good, because I'm outside right now. The pechka guy actually gave 15 minutes notice of delivery, although he came alone and there was no chance of me helping him heft a 77kg fire down off the lorry. He was content to wait though whilst I phoned around and found someone to come down and give him a hand.

The MOT was quite quick this year as there was no one waiting when I arrived and I got straight in. Similarly the application for a new lichna card (I'm now officially a permanent resident, yayyyy) and re-registering the car documents all went smoothly, and thrillingly it was all conducted in Bulgarian. Kudos to my language tutor as I'd never have got this far without him!

The guy came to chainsaw up the logs one morning just as the men from the electricity board arrived to prune back the trees from the electric cables.

There was some juggling of vehicles so they could manoeuvre round each other, which culminated in a downing of tools as one of the electricity guys showed interest in purchasing the wood cutting guy's car and they all gathered round like men at a barbecue to study the engine and point out its merits and failings (one failing being they all had to push it down my track to jump start the engine):

I'm not sure if the sale went through or not but it was an interesting distraction.

The wood has been a bit of a saga all round this year. I ordered 8 cubic metres which is roughly what I use in a year, at 70 levs per cube. My neighbour, rather smugly I thought, told me I should have ordered from her supplier for 65 levs a cube. I just shrugged as I'm always just happy when the wood arrives and it's all over with for another year. Well, lo and behold, shortly after my wood arrived, she approached me.

You've got lots of wood already, she says, and who knows when Nasko (or Vasko) will be free to bring mine. So, you can let me have two cubes of yours (note, not 'could I have') and I'll give you the money. I was so annoyed! Yes I've got enough wood but I like to order a year in advance so it gets a full year to dry out. I told her if she wanted to order some wood from my guys then I'd sort that for her but no, she was adamant she could just have mine. What can you do? So when the bloke came to chainsaw the logs he first had to separate off 2 cubic metres for the neighbour. He asked me if I was okay with the amount sectioned off but I haven't a clue how to judge volumes of wood, so hopefully he got it right, or at least erred in my favour!

I may have a cunning plan to replenish my stocks. The delivery lorry holds 10 cubes and I think next door but one want to order 8 cubes which will very conveniently leave 2 extra on the load for me, taking me back up to 8. Maybe Bulgaria has some kind of magic in the air where everything works out in the end and I should just sit back and let the chips fall where they may.

Thursday 12th February, 2015
Category: 2015/02
Tags: phone language

I don't know why I have such a terror of speaking on the telephone, though it's something which has always plagued me, and I'm not just talking about in Bulgaria. If ever I had to phone a company in the UK about something I'd literally have to sit and think about what I wanted to say before dialling, and even then I'd often start with an incomprehensible stuttery bundle of nonsense. So, imagine this with the added stress of a foreign language!

Yesterday's task was to contact a dance instructor who gives folk dancing lessons in Dryanovo, to see about the possiblity of her coming through to the village to give lessons. The catch? She apparently doesn't speak much English.

I spent ten minutes or so jotting down my conversation plan - who I was, why I'm calling, a list of things I want to find out etc - plus some odd words in Bulgarian in case my mind went completely and utterly blank. Then taking a deep breath I dialled the number. Some, if not all, of you are probably thinking crazy woman! How can a simple phone call be so taxing? But that's just me. Conversation is wayyyy up at the top of my list of non-skills.

A woman answered with a simple 'hello' (in Bulgarian of course) and I asked if I could speak to Marusia at which point she confirmed it was she. I introduced myself and apologised for the language skills, requesting that she speak very very slowly for me which made her chuckle. After that I relaxed a bit and over the next few minutes managed to get all the info I needed.

She holds beginners' classes on Monday and Thursday evening in Dryanovo in an old school building opposite the Energo-Pro office in Dryanovo. The charge is 2 levs for the hour. Unfortunately she has quite a full schedule, and also has no transport of her own though I did say that it would be no problem to pick her up and take her back to Dryanovo if she did decide to give us lessons. She said she'd think about it and I passed on my email address to her. I think now some of us will pop down to one of her lessons just to see what goes on anyway, and maybe see if we can persuade her to start a session in Gostilitsa. If not, and if her current class isn't too far advanced, then I might join one of her Dryanovo groups anyway.

Friday 28th March, 2014
Category: 2014/03
Tags: language

When I first came to visit Bulgaria I bought a little holiday phrase book to use (in emergencies).  Like all phrase books it covered useful things such as explaining to a doctor you have appendicitis with possible liver failure, or asking the shop assistant if they sell that particular style of blouse in red silk for your planned evening at a jazz concert.  From this I compiled my own little list of words I wanted to learn first: yes, no, please, thank you, I want, the numbers 1-10, a few colours and some basic food items.  There was no concept of grammar - definite/indefinite articles, perfect/imperfect verbs, gender agreement... these simply didn't exist for me.  I learned the words and began making up my own sentence combinations from them, something along the lines of 'I want 3 yellow banana.'  Nine years on things have thankfully progressed somewhat.


On Thursday I went with a couple of Brits to the mayor's office to request a dustbin for them.  This fairly simple task turned into an hour long interpreting session as the mayor wanted to tell them all sorts of things about the wonders of living here, as well as finding out about their background.  The next time you have a conversation with someone in your native tongue, make a note of how often your thoughts slip elsewhere even though you're following what's being said and are able to converse perfectly well.  Did you briefly mentally remind yourself of something you need to buy from the shop?  Did something in the conversation trigger a quick trip down memory lane? That's how it is for me, but when you're trying to translate a conversation to convey the gist to someone else, such lapses of attention result in loss of the thread entirely. Remaining focused for an hour was mind boggling!


Today things began in a much more relaxed manner with my weekly language lesson on Skype.  My tutor and I know each other well enough to be able to converse about the things in our daily lives and we usually follow part of a structured text book so the content of our discussions is very focused.  Imagine my horror this morning though when partway through the lesson my mobile phone rang.  Usually I would ignore it but for some reason this morning I went into auto pilot and excused myself while I answered it.  It was only as I hit the receive button that it occurred to me that this was an unknown Bulgarian number calling.  As I answered with a very cautious 'Ало?' I was SO conscious of my tutor sitting quietly next to me via the internet listening to every word.  It turned out to be someone from the community centre wanting to pop round to ask me something so I arranged for him to call round after my lesson was over.  Phone call completed I returned to the lesson where my extremely kind tutor was very complimentary and didn't mention any of the errors I'm sure my words were full of.  Still, what a tremendous confidence booster to suddenly be aware that I am handling myself in these situations with increasing frequency and managing to understand and be understood.


From 'I want 3 yellow banana' to 'Is it possible to come later, maybe around 9.30,  because at the moment I'm having a lesson on Skype'  after a mere 9 years of learning.  Just imagine my skills after the next 9 ;)

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