Gene had been living, (Existing) in Bulgaria off and on since Oct. 5, 1993. And full time since Aug. 1, 1994. Gene has seen several governments come and go over the years. Bulgaria is trying to get to democracy, but the communist type of government still has a pull for the older people of Bulgaria, and it is the old people who are the ones who always show up to vote. Almost all the young people want a democratic form of government, but are not sure just what that means!!! Just like so many other countries, the young people see that even when they do vote for a party that says they are a democratic form of government, what they vote for, is not what they get, and so give up on voting. The Communist political parties says that they are really Social Democrats now, but if you believe that, Gene has A bridge that he would like to sell to you!!
When Gene first came to Bulgaria, the country said that they were a democracy, but in reality it was about only a forth there. In 1995, the Social Democrats (Communist) won, and proceeded to mismanage the country so bad, that by January-February 1997, the country was going downhill very fast. In just one day the money dropped from 350 to 500 LEVS to the dollar and later it dropped to 1000 and then to 1500 and in a few days time it was 2800 to the dollar. Gene had to start to take a plastic bag, for taking home the money, when he changed, dollars to local money. Gene felt a little scared, as he was the only American in Vratza and everyone knew who he was and that he had American dollars.
The people in Sofia started to riot and this started riots around the rest of the country. Geneís wife Yura was the leader of the local democratic party in Vratza and she was helping to organize barricades on the local roads to force the Communists out of power. The people of Sofia in their riot, broke in to Parliament. It was at this point that the Communist gave up power. This was now March 1997 and in short order, the country settled down, the local currency went back down to about 1500 LEVS to the dollar and more people started back to work. Gene wishes he would have had about $5000 dollars extra, to change when the dollar was so high back in February of 1997. That's life!!!!
Since May 1997, Bulgaria has been pretty stable, even though the unemployment remains high at about 15%. In reality the unemployment is about 25%, and the peoples pay is really, really low. The average pay for a worker is about $100 dollars per month and even worst a retired person gets about $20-30 dollars a month. Gene canít understand how to hell anyone can live on this kind of money. Almost 95% of the people of Bulgaria own their own apartments and most people have a little bit of land and a so-called house out in the country. Other wise most people would be starving.
The biggest problems for the country is the fact that over 30% of the people of Bulgaria live or work on the land and another, about 30% either own or work in one of their small, small Magazines, (Retail store.) and really donít help the country at all. Then the people who do work in industry, work in factories that use old, old technology, that should have been gotten rid of years ago. The average factory has two and three times as many workers than they need. Also the government is still in the business of steel, telephone service, radio stations and many, many other things. It is always true that when government is in business, everything is more expensive, made bad and there is a lot of corruption. Never should government be in business!!!!
Gene sees Bulgaria bouncing back and forth between Communism and Democracy, for some years to come.
In Bulgaria there are no gas pipes in the ground, so there is a city wide (Almost.) system of central heating!!! This is a failed policy from the communism era. Some districts do not have this central heating.
Almost every apartment building has a sub station where the hot water for heating is heated again, before it is sent to the individual apartments. If there is a small house near the apartment building, the sub station also includes the small house. Sometimes it works well and sometimes not very well at all.
Every apartment and house that is attached to a individual sub station (Apartment owners or house owner.) must agree to have the heating turned on in the late fall.), (About the first of November.), or the heating canít be turned on for that sub station. Really stupid policy.
Almost every time, there are some people who will not agree, to have the heating turned on, because they donít have enough money or in some cases, they are just bloody minded, (A lot of times they are died in the wool communist.) and so there is always problems with getting the heat turned on when the weather turns cold. And I do mean it gets really cold in the apartments, even down to 60 degrees. Each apartment building has a apartment owner who is in charge of that building, in exchange for reduced heating bills. It is this owner who is responsible to see that everything runs smooth in that building. This could be a good person or not so good a person. So a person hopes that the boss man is not a communist. This man must go to the city offices to sort out getting the heat turned on, and it takes time!!!
Yes, a person can turn on a electric heater, if they can afford to buy one, and after that if they can afford the huge electric bill. Now this is not, very good for babies and old folk. But thatís, the way it is!
It is a real surprise, but the Bulgarian Education System does work, for now. The buildings are falling apart, the teachers are paid next to nothing, yet the system does work. The children up to age 18 years old, get better test scores then most other children around the world.
Most of the Bulgarian children spend three to four times as much time studying at home as the average American children do. Because the average Bulgarian child does not have much money to spend, they are not lured into all the activities that children in other countries are. Also because grandmother lives with the family, there is someone at home to see that the children do their homework, instead of hanging out at the fast food place or watching T.V. all the time.
The teachers in the most part are very good, as they must really, really want to be teachers. As I said before they donít get much pay. The teachers could earn more money driving a taxi cab.
The Bulgarian government does not have much money and so canít repair their school buildings or build new ones, so children have to go to school in shifts. Half of the children start school before the sun shines, and the other half are not getting out of school until after dark. Again, it is really, really surprising that the Bulgarian school system, works so well.
Now we come to the university part of the school system!!! Again, the buildings are bad, the teachers donít get paid much and it is possible to get a university diploma without really going to the classes. All a student has to do is have a friend take notes and then a person, just goes and take the tests.
Is there a real answer to all the problems, No!!!
It will be years and years before Bulgaria will have any money to correct all the different problems. This is the fault of Bulgaria being a communist state, for over 50 years. Yet it is possible that Bulgaria will be communist again?
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