Today’s “lesson” was in the Bulgarian social system. There are “have’s” and “have nots” and no middle class to speak of. According to Martin, our host, most of the “have’s” are part of the previous Communist regime, who successfully sent their money to Austria and Switzerland prior to the demise of Communism, and are now able to retrieve it. They own high-end stores like Versace, Tag Heuer, Rolex, which are juxtaposed on the same block by abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. There are also several abandoned dogs who roam the streets and survive off the kindness of others. Martin noted that these dogs are often abandoned because individuals and families cannot afford to care for them.
We also observed several instances of “dumpster diving” and begging on the street. Yesterday we saw several very young girls on the side of the road “soliciting their services.” While prostitution is not officially legal, it is also not really illegal, and seems to be quite common.
The country appears to be caught in the middle of growth and reform. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and is introducing the use of the Euro as currency, and other relevant laws to ensure compliance. However, it is clear that the country is still evolving with some vendors only accepting the Lev (Bulgarian money). Martin and Svet are certain the country is ready for the European Union, and will have no issue with compliance within the necessary timeframe. The relationship with the EU and its rules and guidelines should strive to only strengthen the adoption process.
The average annual salary in Bulgaria is the equivalent of $5,000 USD a year, Some cars cost as much as $80,000 to $150,000 a year. Because cars can be so so costly, there is plenty of public transportation. There is a subway system, a bus system, taxi service and a tram that runs through the center city. It does not appear to be difficult to use, and runs until late into the evening.
The diversity of “style” is also reflected in the architecture around the city. There are many really old buildings; significant new construction occurring and a significant number of buildings in the style that Martin calls “Stalin Baroque” – a real euphemism for drab, concrete Communist-era construction.
Enjoy these photos from Bulgarian life. “Mouse over” each photo for the caption.
Note: LSS is one of the largest and oldest adoption agencies in the state of Texas. Sonya Thompson, vice president of Foster Care and Adoption, and Konnie Gregg, director of Social Work Services for the LSS International Adoption Program, are on an exploratory trip to Bulgaria learning about the plight of children living in that country’s orphanages and the possibilities of establishing a connection to find these children adoptive homes in Texas.
Sonya Thompson contributed to this story.