Sunday, October 2, 2011

Role playing in Sofia

Hey Everyone,
This month has been crazy busy moving to fourth grade, work, cooking, and dating. Yes, I said dating, lol. While I will always be on the Sofia D-list in the gay world here, dating someone does make life a lot more interesting, but does not change the opinion of all the insane gay men here in Sofia. So for the past two months, I have shunned most of the gay world of Sofia because I don't have the energy or time to deal with the craziness of these bumbling idiots, except for my two main gays, Alex and Rado. Living in straight A-list world with the boyfriend has been fabulous while life has been as hectic as a speeding Mafiaso in his Audi driving down Tsarigradsko Shosse.

In the next issue, I promise to return to D-list stories for those people craving those mad unbelievable stories because we have a good laugh about this constantly with friends. This issue of the blog will not disappoint you, trust me. There is LOTS of drama involving getting things done for the apartment, and what one must do sometimes to keep utility and internet/phone companies legit. There is a section for peanut butter chocolate chip brownies and pumpkin brownies, which are both given the stamp of approval from the fourth grade squirrels I teach. Let the good times begin! Enjoy reading this issue!

Hot Water Bill Refund:
Remember a few blogs ago when I said my landlady was super persistent and on the verge of being highly annoying, so people will do anything to get rid of her and she gets her own way. Well, this tactic worked finally. In August, I got a 180 leva refund on my 1,250 leva hot water bill from December because of her role of being a persistent pest, and refusing to accept corruption, beauracracy, or stupdity. She also got 250 leva back on her bill of 1,400 leva. In terms of miracles, what Nadia did is similar to Liverpool beating AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final after being down 3-0 at halftime. For American Football fans, what Nadia did was similar to the Bills comeback win against the Houston Oilers in 1993 when they were down 35-3 with Frank Reich as quarterback(I still remember driving with Zack and simply being dumbfounded as we drove back to the farm listening to the radio, because the game was blacked out). Simply, these things should not happen, and we celebrate these small moments in life as miracles.

After dealing with Nadia, I am sure the people at the hot water company felt much like the Italian commentator from AC Milan for the Liverpool/AC Milan match. No Italian is needed to understand, but you can hear his jubilation when AC Milan scores every single goal, going up 3-0 at halftime. This jubilation is what the Sofia Hot Water company felt without fully understanding who they were dealing with when they saw Nadia. Then, listen to the dejection in his voice as he saw Liverpool slowly come back and win on penalties.

Cable TV and Internet Drama:
When I returned home in August, my landlady and I decided it was time to get an upgrade on the internet and cable. After three years, I desperately wanted to watch hockey and football because it was one of the few things I really miss here in Bulgaria that I don't have. ESPN America is readily available throughout Bulgaria, and at first it seemed doing this would be really easy. My current telephone and internet company, Vivacom, had all these advertisements stating great optical internet, wireless modems, and cable promising fantastic cable. Niavely, Nadia and I believed these advertisements, and signed up for a year contract. What unfolded should not surprise anyone, because advertisements commonly lie to people in Bulgaria, in order to lure them in for offers. For 40 leva a month, we thought we were getting a great deal. Instead, here is what unfolded with the internet and cable:
1. Wireless modem: The wireless modem was essentially useless and a sloth could find faster internet than the Vivicom wireless modem. Claiming to have great coverage throughout Bulgaria, the experiment in Balchik with my host family proved the modem was embarassingly slow, and my smartphone worked 1,000,000 times faster than the modem.
2. Old Cable TV: Well, Vivacom told Nadia it would be super easy to install cable in the apartment. When they arrived in late August, they could not grab a signal anywhere in the apartment for the satellite, which was comically funny, yet inept at the same time because I saw all these other satellite dishes around me. Yet, they still wanted us to pay until Nadia called them up and raised holy hell. I so wish I could have overheard that conversation.
3. Optical TV/Internet: All throughout Sofia, you see large, gigantic, herculian ads stating how Vivicom has optical internet throughout Sofia. At this point in time, Vivacom's optical coverage consist of two apartment blocks in Mladost. So for all the money spent advertising their coverage, it is a big, fat, humongous lie to lure people into false contracts they cannot get out of. Such is life in Bulgaria. Beware of what the advertisement actually advertises.
4. Payback time late September: Two weeks ago, Nadia struck back at Vivacom for their stupidity, by playing our own trick. One rainy Wednesday evening, I went with Nadia to the Vivacom office, where she was my mom, and I was her Bulgarian son raised in America, and spoke Bulgarian with a huge American accent. My job with to lay on the American accent when speaking, flirt with the girls, and sell the fact I was going back to America in a week and didn't need the contract. For the rest, Nadia took care of it as I played the role of the disinterested son trying to escape Bulgaria. It worked like a charm, and Nadia got me out of a two year contract for cable and internet.
5. The Glory of Megalan: That Friday in late September, Nadia and I went to Megalan, where it came highly recommended by new assistant Julia, and her boyfriend Todor. She told me Todor was extremely pleased with this, which made me want to immediately go to Megalan and get cable and internet. The only side effect of Megalan is that I needed to get 15 porn channels in order to get ESPN America. Let me let that sink into your head for a minute. 15 porn channels. And no, there was no possible way not to get the porn channels in order to get ESPN. So, I now have 15 porn channels for my viewing pleasure, an amazing internet connection that works in the entire apartment, and football games on Sundays with replays of hockey games once the World Series is over. Life is good as my TV gets used for sports all the time.

Conclusion and Feeding Fourth Grade Squirrels for Good Behavior:
I have a confession: I am such an idiot for not thinking of this idea earlier to help deal with behavior management, and I give credit to Damon for helping me create this idea. We have been in school for two months, and I have not had to raise my voice once in anger with my fourth grade squirrels. But because of my loud voice echoing, people still hear me teaching and reading books aloud.
What is my secret? I will cook for them for five weeks of good behavior, and they have become lapdogs as a results. It definitely helped that Julia had a birthday in September and I made peanut butter chocolate chip brownies, which they claimed were like heaven as they devoured them in less than 20 seconds. They have ten points on the board starting on Monday morning, and only need one point on the board on Friday dismissal time to get about 10 minutes of playtime, and a tally mark towards food.

As a result, I almost always have a very focused classroom with students working extremely hard at all times. The fourth grade squirrels would like food every week, but I have told them people in the school are extremely jealous I cook for them and delectable food must be earned. If they misbehave the slightest bit, then I take points away until my students, aka squirrels, yell at the misbehaving student/s to get him or her inline, or I decide to eat something I cooked in front of them one day after their lunch and they call this an act of perfidy. That is mostly because I don't have time to eat my lunch with recess or lunch duty, but it is hysterical to see their reaction every time this happens. They were rewarded last week with apple pie, peach brownies, peach salsa, and other goodies, and by their reaction and the amount of food leftover(zero, and I had to fight to get myself a piece), I am certain they will strive to get as many food days as possible this school year.

Here are two recipes any member in your family will easily devour, as I have had made these many times, and they are gobbled up instantly everytime I make them.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

First, mix sugar, butter, peanut butter and vanilla together until blended. Add eggs and mix well. Then, add baking powder and salt. Finally, add dry ingredients and mix well. Add batter into a greased 9X13 pan. Cook at 400F or 200C for about 30 minutes or so.

Pumpkin Brownies
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

Mix these ingredients together, then divde the batter in half.
Pumpkin Half of Batter, you need to add:
3/4 cup pumpkin puree(I highly recommend baking pumpkin in your oven, and then puree it with a hand blender. The stuff from a can simply cannot compare to this and will change the taste of the recipe completely.)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix these ingredients into the pumpkin half of the batter.

Chocolate Half of the Batter:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix these ingredients well, then place chocolate batter into a greased 8X8 pan. Then, place pumpkin batter over brownies and use a knife to cut through and create a swirling motion.

Bake at 350 F, or 175C, for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy these recipes, and I hope you enjoyed this edition of the blog while devouring some pumpkin brownies.