Monday, 12 March 2012

Information Exchange

Some people might be wondering about how an ExPat can manage to stay in touch with current events, whilst living in the wilds of rural Bulgaria. Besides the obvious, such as the UK newspapers on line, or a massive dish to receive Sky, there are several other ways. If you are considering streaming UK radio through your computer, there are a couple of things that you need to consider, such as how good is your internet connection going to be in your area, will your internet package allow for unlimited downloads or will it reduce your bandwidth once you get to a certain level. Even should you have met all of these criteria, you might still not be able to stream as the IP address will come up as being outside of the UK. To get round that a lot of people use an IP masker, just as Expatshield. Our internet, out here in the back of beyond, is nowhere near good enough to enable us to do this, so we do have some other options.

When we first arrived here trying to find a radio station, that was 'listenable', proved to be quite a challenge. The music seemed to be either local 'twiddly' music, Chalga or very dated, and it never seemed to be presented in a professional manner. How things change, based in Bulgaria we now have Trust Global Radio, run by the lovely Rosie and Bobby Martin. So now we can get English style radio over here, not just oldies but recent releases too. As Bobby used to be with the Beeb, he still gets the radio play lists from there, so as Bobby stays current we also get to stay current too. Combined with Anglo Info any breaking news is often brought to us first hand, with the added benefit that it is brought to us by people actually on the ground there as it all unfolds. We have also met both Bobby and Rosie in real life and they are a smashing couple, and just before Christmas Bobby won the crown for the best ExPat breakfast radio show. It is aired over the internet, so sometimes there are Gremlins at work at one end or the other, but we also have a dongle which plugs into the computer. This enables me to tune all of the radios in the house to my designated wavelength, so I can have the same radio station playing throughout the house, and I do like my music. So for anyone interested here are a couple of bookmarks for you, first we have the TGR Facebook page and also if you wish to listen then this is the actual site . Rosie has very kindly given me permission to post these links.

Another recent addition to our ExPat information flow is the VT Times. This is the brainchild of Joe and Rachel Pritchard, and covers, as the name suggests, the Veliko Tarnovo area. That is not to say that there is no information pertinent to other areas or regions. In a very handy A5 size it is convenient to take out and about with you, whether in a bag or a pocket. It is the kind of information booklet that we wish had been available when we first moved over here, and contains such things as emergency numbers, how to get in touch with the Embassy, location of doctors, dentists and vets, train and bus times. In short an invaluable publication, and it is free!!! Rachel and Joe spend an awful lot of time doing this, for the benefit of all, and by and large it is very well thought of and each edition has been eagerly awaited. Joe and Rachel haven't even been here a year yet, and along with their children have thrown themselves whole-heartedly into things, and for this we give them all a very big thank you. The second edition has been printed and distributed around various outlets in the region, they have even thought about those outside of the area and have provided a downloadable version.

For those interested, whether they be in the VT region or not, here are a couple of links for you. Firstly we have the VT Times Facebook page and secondly there is the VT Times archive where back issues can be read . I am pleased to say that Rachel has very kindly given me permission to show the front covers of the 2 editions, and to post the above links. I have also obtained permission from Cliff Norton, whose photos are included on the covers. To see more of his work please visit but remember to respect his work and not reproduce anything without his permission.

Finally that brings us to various Forums and Facebook groups, and I will leave that for the individual to decide which suits them best. The main one that I use being the facebook group . These are a good way of finding out information, and during the winter months can provide a support structure, particularly for those who live out here on their own or with no close ExPat neighbours. So if you are thinking about making the move over, don't worry there is always someone willing to share their experiences and advice.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ding, Ding!! Round Two!!

Well today brought about the next visit to the KAT Office. The day started off nice and sunny with just a hint of breeze, in the sunshine it actually felt quite warm, but the same couldn't be said about in the shade. It is also our 19th wedding anniversary, and how were we going to be spending it but at the KAT Office for the next round of red tape and frustration.

We had arranged to meet Nick in town at 1pm, but as we had a couple of bits and pieces to do we left early and had a leisurely lunch and wander round. During our wanderings we had a phone call from Stuart, he had only just got back online and found our message saying that today was the day for round two. As we were already in town he decided to give today a miss, but I have passed on Nick's details to him so he can arrange a convenient time for them both. At the appointed time we were waiting for Nick to arrive, and once he got there we set off on the next round of our 'adventure'.

After last time's abortive attempt, we thought that we were going to be fully prepared and take as much information as possible for the visit today. Our first port of call was the notaries office where we had a couple of declarations drawn up. The first was one for me to sign stating that I would support Net during her time in Bulgaria, and the second was for Net to sign stating that she owned property in Bulgaria and wouldn't claim off of the Bulgarian Social Security. These documents are exactly the same as those that they hold on record at the moment, the only things that have been changed are the dates. The Notary did point out that the spelling of Net's name on the company document is different to that on her Lichna Carta, so he advised me that it would save confusion if just I signed for anything to do with the company. Each declaration cost 20 Leva, but the advise was free. Nick also got some advise about my pension declaration that he had translated for us, but the Notary couldn't foresee there being any problems with either the English original or the Bulgarian translation. So quite relieved we left his office and continued towards the KAT office, I don't know if it was just me but it seemed as though there were more clouds about.

Prior to going into the KAT Office I went into a copy place and had copies made of everything, then hoping that it was a different woman working we entered the dreaded place. We compiled all of the information as per her list and Nick took it over to the window, with a sinking feeling we noticed that it was the same woman. She wasn't happy with the copies of the declarations that we had done at the Notary, she wanted the originals. So we swapped those over, then she wanted to see Net's passport so that was handed over, then she wanted to see our marriage licence. The licence she wasn't happy with as it is in English, what did she expect from an English marriage licence? She wanted it translated, which wasn't what we were told last week or any of the previous visits. Nick must have learnt from the previous visit as he enquired if the supervisor was available. That seemed to do the trick, maybe it could be translated at a later date. So before she changed her mind it was off to the small bank windows to pay the administration charges and get the important little receipt which was then submitted with all of the paperwork.

We were then informed to come back on Thursday and pick up Net's new Lichna Carta. Have we finished? Only Thursday will tell, but from start to finish today only took two hours, and that included picking Nick up and driving from here to there, and then dropping him off. Maybe she actually noticed that today is our anniversary, but one thing is certain, her attitude today was more helpful and less belligerent. So for anyone trying to use the VT KAT office in the next couple of days, sooner might be better than later. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Didn't We Have A Lovely Time At The KAT Office..........Nope

To set the scene, we have to renew Net's Lichna Carta and because the car is registered in Net's name we also have to renew that as well. Judging by last time, which was much easier than when we originally did them, we didn't really foresee any major problems. It wasn't as though we were doing it for the first time, and how difficult can it be to renew these items, particularly as they hold all of this information on file already. I spent last night scanning and printing copies of documents, trying to remember exactly what we needed last time round.

Stuart and his boys, who are new in the village, also wanted to get started on their Lichna Cartas so asked if they could follow us to the KAT office and also get introduced to Nick who we use for translation. We had arranged to pick Nick up at Kaufland in Gorna at lunchtime as he had been teaching this morning, so arranged to meet up with Stuart on one of the roads out of the village. When I went round to the Post Office and magazin this morning last night's snow was showing no sign of shifting, so thought it probably wise to leave a wee bit earlier than planned. Net and I sorted out the dogs and cats and set off, and arrived at where I said to meet in plenty of time. At half eleven there was still no sign of Stuart, so we had a wee drive round the village to see if we could spot him, not a sausage! We tried various places that could have loosely been taken for the meeting place, and Sod's Law it was the last one that we tried. He had also been early and had been patiently waiting for us. So off we set, the road was still a bit icy under a loose coating of snow, but being the only vehicles on the road we were able to avoid the worst areas. On getting to the main road I had to call a halt and remind Stuart that at this time of year he was meant to be driving with his lights on, which was quite fortunate as we passed two Police cars on the way into Gorna. We arrived at Kaufland without any mishaps, but once there encountered our first problem, the loos were locked. Luckily it was only for cleaning, so Net didn't have too long to wait with legs crossed. Whilst waiting I was able to stock back up on my baccy, filters and papers and Net bumped into Barb and Dave so she was able to have a bit of a natter. Also Suzy and David turned up, so even though the Food Fare was cancelled at the camp site yesterday it was good to catch up with people. Talking over the internet is all well and good, but is no substitute for meeting up face to face. Once Nick had turned up we set off for the KAT office in VT.

We arrived and there were no queues, which was a pleasant surprise, so I had hoped that at least our bits and pieces would get done and inroads made into Stuart's. There was only one woman sat in the immigration bit and we had to wait for her to slide her window open. Nick explained what we wanted to do, and was given a  load of official papers to start filling in. The previous time we were given documents that had been printed out from their computers and had to state that nothing had changed, or if it had provide up dated copies of whatever had changed for their records. This time it was as though we were back to square one, and they wanted proof of this and proof of that. I did query are they sure that all of this is needed for a 'straightforward' renewal. So Nick goes back to the window and gets another list given to him, with the explanation that Net might have got divorced in the last 10 months since we last did her Lichna Carta, so all of the information was required. Things like Passport and EHIC I can understand, but proof that she owns property? Is that not why we had to set up a company? So Nick goes back to the window and checks whether a copy of the company document and proof that the company owns the property would be sufficient, the answer was yes but it would also have to be accompanied by a solicitor's letter. The next thing we were informed about was that we had to prove, with a letter from the bank, that Net had 3000 Leva in a Bulgarian account in her name. I did point out that last time I had to sign a statement, from a solicitor, that I would support Net and that they should have a copy of it on their files. Nick duly reported that to the woman behind the window, the next thing that was asked for was a bank statement stating that I have 3000 Leva in a Bulgarian bank account. I was starting to get a wee bit annoyed at the constantly moving goal posts.

I pointed out that I was in receipt of a military pension, and as it is a 'Crown' pension it has to be paid into a UK bank account and is subject to UK taxation, which was deemed to be acceptable last time. I was asked if I could prove that I am in receipt of a pension? Just by luck, yes I could, and produced my pension statement, according to the woman behind the window this wasn't acceptable as it was in English and not Bulgarian. When she said that we had chosen to live in Bulgaria, and had to abide by Bulgarian rules and regulations that was the final straw. I asked Nick to tell her that I wanted to see her supervisor or someone who spoke English. Now I am normally quite mild mannered but I had got really fed up with this woman being unhelpful, rude and downright bone idle, everything just seemed to be too much trouble and effort for her. Heaven forbid, she might actually have to do something.

Eventually a man turned up, supposedly a supervisor but could have been the window cleaner for all that I knew. He went into the windowed room with the woman and asked her several things, and then came out with a sheet of paper with a bit underlined. He informed me, via Nick, that it is a legal requirement that we have to have Bulgarian bank accounts with 3000 Leva in each. To which I enquired why, as my Lichna Carta is still valid, and that last time I had signed a statement saying that I financially supported Net and that all of this was on their files. I showed him my pension statement and asked why was this acceptable last time but not this, the answer because it is in English and might have changed. Fair enough it is dated 2007, but I pointed out that it states that I will receive no further notification unless my tax liabilities or conditions change. I was then informed that because I had questioned things that maybe this pension statement would not be acceptable. I asked what do they want exactly, 3000 Leva in Net's account, my account, both accounts, as at different times that is what the woman behind the window was demanding? I also explained that this pension had to be paid into a UK bank account, and that I used a card at an ATM to withdraw money. He then decided that the pension statement would be acceptable, as it clearly indicated what I receive each month, but that it would need to be translated and for me to make a new statement at a solicitor's certifying that I will support Net. So now they want more copies of paperwork that they already have on file. He also wants a photocopy of my ATM card, I don't think he will be getting that unless I get a written statement from the KAT office stating that they will be liable for any funds going missing. He assured me that couldn't happen, I did remind him that a couple of years ago everyone's company details were available for all to see on the internet which could have led to Identity theft. So unless I get that letter they don't get a copy of my card, which seems fair to me.

What a complete, and utter waste of an afternoon. We just have to hope that the same woman is not behind the window when we return for round two next week. Poor Stuart was looking rather bewildered, and I could see him thinking "I've got to go through all of this". I can see why some people say that they can't be bothered jumping through hoops at the KAT office. So since our first visit to the KAT office all of those year's ago there has been no progress, if anything it has gone backwards.