Today was the first day of school. In Bulgaria that means something very different than what it means back home. At our school, here’s what happened on the first day. At nine this morning, all the students and teachers gathered in front of the school. The Bulgarian flag was then raised while the national anthem blared. Then the school principal and deputy mayor gave short speeches, after which the principal rang a large bell. The students entered the school for a few minutes and then dispersed and either hung around school listening to Bulgarian music or went home (or went to the café or various and sundry other places). The teachers left school shortly thereafter before reconvening at a local restaurant for lunch. And that was it. So went my first official day as a teacher.
It’s sometimes difficult trying to explain differences between how Bulgarians think and how Americans think, but yesterday I heard a joke that sums up at least some of them. In preparation for the first day of school and the upcoming school year, all of the teachers met. At times, the discussion got rather heated. On one such occasion, after restoring some calm, the principal told the following joke: “Three men – an American, a Frenchman, and Bulgarian – came upon a bridge. The American marveled at the bridge’s technological design and wondered how long it had taken to design and build the bridge, what it cost, and how much manpower it required. The Frenchman then admired the bridge for its artistic qualities. After listening to the other two, the Bulgarian said, ‘It would only take five sticks of dynamite to blow up this bridge.’” Three months ago, I would have politely smiled and perhaps chuckled upon hearing this joke. But when I heard it yesterday, I heartily laughed.
The opening ceremony marking the first day of school.
The back side of the school.
A couple pictures of the schoolyard and the school.
One of the school's mascots. This pair of storks nests annually on the school roof. They, and their offspring, have departed for their wintering grounds leaving the other unofficial mascot by himself (look closely two photos back...).