Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Week of Work - - It’s The Little Things!!!!

Well I finished my first week of work. It was definitely the most different first week I believe I have ever experienced. But what surprised me were all the little things that we/I take for granted in the US. Following are a few examples.

1. Environmental controls - (this means heat and air conditioning). Our office is on the top (fifth) floor of a government type of building. All of the offices on the floor are empty except for my NGO and one other office. There are no environmental controls anywhere in the building. If you are in the lower floors, the stone of the building help keep it cool (or warm). On the top floor, you have the sun hitting the roof, and the heat coming at you. This week was VERY WARM. Monday and Tuesday were 100+. The little digital thermometer in our office was reading 34-35C (95F). The temperature dropped slightly Wednesday thru Friday, and it was only 92F in our office on those days. I had worked outside in that kind of heat. But I had never worked (or tried to work) at a computer at that temperature. It was a little difficult. I found the sweat from my hands and arms made “mousing and typing” very hard. Also, I got tired much quicker.

2. Ergonomics – I am used to desks, and chairs that can be adjusted to proper heights, and keyboards at correct levels. All of our chairs are adjustable in five different directions in the US. You become so used to all this, that you forget about it, and take it for granted. A folding chair or “kitchen type” chair can get slightly uncomfortable pretty quickly. We have two old office chairs, but they were being used by “salaried” employees – not the volunteer. One of them went on holiday for the rest of August, and I immediately took her chair.

3. Stairs and no elevators - I mentioned that we are on the fifth floor. But I did not say that there are no elevators in the building. The stairs are pretty wide nice marble steps. There are some wide cracks in them, and there are a couple of three inch wedges chipped from them. I actually like the stairs. I take them two at a time, and get a small bit of exercise. However, I noticed that anyone else visiting us comes into the office “huffing and puffing” and out of breath.

4. Building Maintenance - It rained hard Thursday night (we needed the rain here). Friday morning going up the stairs, I noticed a large (10 ft by 3 ft) puddle of water on the fourth floor near the turn around on the stairs going to the fifth floor. There was a similar puddle on our floor (fifth). I was told that one of drain pipes backs up every so often during heavy rain. When we left for the day Friday afternoon, the puddles were still there.

5. Traveling to the villages - We support minority farmers in the villages 30-60Km outside of Plovdiv. This week, we had some important visitors from the US who wanted to see what we were doing, and how we did it. They had driver and a new VW Passat. It was nice and it had air conditioning. Our “much older” VW does not have air conditioning, and the window next to me is “stuck” in the up position. Tuesday was another one of those 100+ degree days. It was a great day for me, and our visitors. However, I found myself remembering that both of our cars at home have great air conditioning. Just another one of those small things we take for granted.

6. Getting to work - This turned out to much more of a challenge than I expected. It is about 4 miles for me to walk to work, and that is what I did on my first day. I had walked back home from the office last week, and had the route all worked out. Well - - I thought I did. The office is just on the other side of the very old part of the city. Lots of very small, narrow curving cobblestone streets. It is very quaint! It is also very easy to get turned around, disoriented, and lost! I was 5 minutes from the office. I went left when I should have gone right. I quickly knew I was in trouble, but there are lots of trees in Plovdiv, and I could not find my bearings. I just kept getting further away. When I got to the river, I made another incorrect turn – and it got worse. Of course we do have great city maps. But…. I had already checked this all out, and left the map at home! Finally, I had to call the office, and try to tell them where I was. It was kind of like “at the corner of “walk and don’t walk!” By the time I finally found my way back, I was almost an hour later than I had planned to be. This was one time when I was glad I was just a volunteer, and they are not paying me! I started taking the bus after Monday.

So… that was part of my first week at work here in Bulgaria. It probably sounds much worse than it really was. The people I work with are GREAT. They are caring, hard working, and want to help others. They are also very understanding of “the crazy American”. In this blog, I just wanted to focus on some of the things that I found myself missing. These are the little things which we in America often take for granted. I know that I did - - and I found that I missed those little things more than I ever imagined.



Scott Lynch said...

They are already calling you the crazy american! I guess that shouldn't suprise me. Have you began trying to completly reinvent they way your group does business yet?

Anonymous said...


Sounds like there are better places to work than 3M!!! I bet you will figure some way to keep cool. You are, after all, a very inventive person.

Jim Betz

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


Sounds like you didn't do your homework yet and learn the Bulgarian for left and right. You should also remember (if you can) that as a fellow "old guy" remembering the full details of directions doesn't work so well anymore.


Livi said...

I only have one question....... does the window by your desk OPEN??????