Bulgaria April 23 2005
A church in Panagurishte. I think they are Orthodox. Which is kind of like Catholic except they wear bigger hats.
Yesterday I had coffee with the two translators on the mine site, both of them are girls. One is the PA to the mine manager and the other is a contractor that works with me every day and who is very difficult to hear because she speaks so softly. Also her tone of voice makes everything she says sound like a translation of a memorised text (a thick text too). For example at the coffee, the PA translator, who is more interesting and can hold normal conversations, made a remark about the history of the town of Panagurishte (where we are at) and asked the robot translator to tell me about it. So I got the translated text on how at one time Turkey occupied Bulgaria, and the people of this town were the first to organise a rebellion against the oppressors (I thought, cool, I've never actually heard a person use the word "oppressors" before! Perhaps she will say "throw off the yoke of our Turkish oppressors" next!! But she didn't. Sigh.). Anyways I forgot what I was gunna say. Oh yeah, she is a robot.
The hotel where I am staying is slowly losing interest in me because I am very cheap. I am having only orange juice with my dinner and my meals are coming to US$3. So they are going to some effort to serve me but not getting as good a return on their investment than if I were to drink heaps of booze and wine. So it is taking them longer and longer to get up to serve me. My room isn't being cleaned, they don't make the bed or clean the bathroom, the only thing they do is replace my towels. The CNN is off, and the heater doesn't work, it's been freezing at night, and there's been no hot water in the shower twice now. So, I am going to spend my dinner money elsewhere.
The cultural center in Panagurishte.
We had to work today, a Saturday, which didn't impress the students. But at least we got to a stage of the analysis where I can do a lot of work behind the scenes and keep myself busy in the evenings. I've got tomorrow off so I will have a snooze, read, have some lunch, catch up on mails and do some work and maybe write a few stories on the laptop.
A day later
I'm sick of the food here. Instead of eating at the hotel as usual, I went to a different restaurant for dinner last night at the place where I had coffee on Friday afternoon with two of the translators from work. It had EXACTLY the same menu as the hotel where I am staying. I guess the owner of my hotel swiped their menu. So, it's chicken or pork, done in either big pieces or small pieces. And all of it is raw so I can only have the chicken. If I survive salmonella here it will be a miracle. They do a lot of charcoal grill here and they have a special talent for getting black grill marks on the meat and cooking it, more like congealing the meat, until it is a hard translucent pink, with barely the formation of fibers in the meat when you pull it apart. It has the texture of warm silicone. So I will be ready to get out of here I think.
The hotel restaurant. A cosy place with hunting decor. They also get the French hunting channel on TV.
I wouldn't have chosen to come to Bulgaria on holidays so it is interesting enough to come here with work. It's a pleasant enough place, with nice green mountains and countryside, and a mixture of old brick country houses and abandoned ominous and blocky Soviet era buildings with broken glass panes that look like they used to be former nerve gas factories or something. I'm tired of Eastern Europe and how depressing it is, and the food situation. This country is better than the others but the young people here are still totally depressed about their situation in life and how difficult it will be to change the socialist attitudes. The young people have no hope, it will take another 3 generations or so at least till they get up to scratch. They are joining the EU so hopefully that will move them along quicker.
My hotel is getting worse and worse with steadily reducing levels of service, cleaning, etc. Plus no CNN (ie, TV in English) for the past several days, intermittent hot water, and it's freezing. Unfortunately I can't change my hotel since there are only two in town and the other one is completely booked out with about a thousand screaming kids on a school trip. Even if they had a spare room I wouldn't want to be there. I went there to have dinner once and was scared off even as I went through the lobby, the place was swarming with screaming kids. I finally got another blanket at my hotel and the owner fixed the heater, but they still turn off the hot water in the middle of my shower. I can't imagine that it runs out so suddenly, but who knows.
The view from my hotel window.
I have been doing some work and then working on writing up my Mali story and started this Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown today. After the type of books I normally read, his style of writing is comparable to eating at McDonalds after eating in fine restaurants. I like McDonald's, it's predictable, clean, well engineered, and you always get what you expect. Still it's a matter of quality. It will keep me busy for a while.
The bathroom in my room. The title of the photo is "bad, bad design.jpg". Note the fact that the shower is also in this room and please also note the position of the shower head relative to the toilet. Deary me.