Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Birthday Gift

This was the time of the day when the sun was getting ready to disappear below the horizon and below the imaginable line drawn by the dusty roofs of the neighborhood’s houses. It was the time of the year when the infinitesimal teardrops of the people would surely freeze once they touched the burning red skin. The sky was getting gloomier and the clouds had the color of a gravestone covered in desperation. The air was rich with the smell of the exhausted gases of the cars and buses driving through the wet boulevards and streets, but no one seemed to notice the strikingly sharp and disgusting odor. All that the little creatures out there thought about was getting back to the quiet, warm places they called homes. It was a few minutes past the end of the work day, but there was almost no one out there to distract the distant bark of the homeless dogs. Only three confused and lost souls were still lavishly meandering around the bus stop waiting for a way to escape from the depressing atmosphere of the winter.
One of them was an old tall fair skinned man in a brown suit wearing a black and torn cap which had quite a good semblance with a dead crow. Next to the man there was a little lady carrying a small transparent plastic bag with a piece of bread in it. Her hand was holding firmly the bag as it was the last thing she had and maybe it was…The third person waiting for the bus was a girl or maybe a young woman. She was staring at the puddle next to her trying to see her own reflection. There she was wearing her pretty blue jacket that her father bought her at the black market when he went to a military conference in Warsaw. No one had a jacket like hers because there were no jackets like hers. The “regime” wanted from all of them to be the same because supposedly they were “all equal”. She had problems with everyone when she wore that pretty blue jacket the first day of school.
“Where did you steal this from?” asked the teacher when he saw her entering the classroom. “Answer to me” he continued. That was how people reacted when they saw something new and nice. No one would complement, but everyone would suspect because this was how they were taught to respond to the things they were not familiar with. Suspicion was what ruled the world that Tsveta lived in. Yes, the name of the girl was Tsveta.
Tsveta was a fragile and gentle girl who was everything that the “regime” did not like. She was simply different. The look on her face did not show the usual dissatisfaction and tiredness of the people around; on the contrary she was always smiling and happy. However, this day her reflection was not cheerful, but rather worried. Seriousness covered her face and her posture reminded that of a tree snapped off by a fierce storm. It was interesting how many things could be told by simply looking at Tsveta. She was like an open book because her sincere look could never hide anything. Sadly, what was written now on her face was immense fear. She never thought that what started as buying a gift for her own birthday would end with her almost arrested… “Almost”, she quietly repeated in her head. Everything was over and she was completely safe there, at the bus stop standing next the old man and the little lady, but still she could not stop thinking about what could have happened.
It was just about half past four when she entered the “Korekom” with thirty dollars in her pocket. Although she had the feeling that something would go terribly wrong, she pressed the cold handle of the door and walked in the shop. Warm air blew in her face as she headed towards the Women’s department. Tsveta was supposed to meet Lina, a friend of her mother’s, who worked at the “Korekom” and would help her pick up a pair of jeans as a birthday gift. As Tsveta was approaching the counter, she heard a familiar voice and turned around. “Hello my girl!” said Lina with a welcoming tone, “Are you ready to try these on?”
Tsveta gave Lina a warm smile and took the three pairs of jeans that the woman had prepared for her. They headed towards the changing rooms and Tsveta walked in the first one when suddenly Lina shut the door and whispered quickly, “Don’t move!” As she spoke those words the lady walked away.
Tsveta did not hear anything for a few minutes, but then a loud cold voice broke the silence, "Is there anyone in the changing rooms?”
“No, there is no one Mr. Officer” was all Tsveta heard. She knew what was about to happen if the officer was to come and search the place. The girl knew she was not supposed to be at the “Korekom”, but she never thought of the consequences. The “regime” prohibited the normal people from entering fancy and nice shops like the “Korekom” because it was considered that no one would need the clothes sold in it. Everyone was supposed to be “equal” and right now Tsveta was an outlaw for wanting something more. The girl was holding on to the jeans and praying that she does not get caught. She did not even notice the little teardrops falling down her cheeks.
“You can come out now” said Lina in the very same calm tone that she had when talking to the officer, “they are gone.” The words thank you resonated within the head of Tsveta as she walked out of her hiding place. She handed back the jeans and gave Lina the thirty dollars.
“Which pair do you want to keep?” asked the shop assistant and looked at her with a comforting smile.
“The Levi’s” is all the girl could say.
“I will bring them to you tonight then and now off you go! Be careful and use the back door of the shop!”
Tsveta did not need another invitation to escape from that place and so she turned around and disappeared in between the numerous clothes and accessories. A few minutes after that she was at the bus stop breathing heavily and shivering. No one seemed to notice that something was wrong with her because no one cared.
Tsveta looked into the darkness of the winter night and choked in desperation. The old man and the little lady were now gone. The bus never came.

Word Count: 1110 words

The Inner Struggle for Progress as a Main Reason for the Economic Crisis

Every crisis and every success are caused by the very same thing: desire for progress. Progress is what pushes the world towards improvement; however, it is also what drags it backwards. The reason for that is simple: progress involves taking big risks. This fact is often forgotten by the zealous dreamers who look ahead of themselves instead of focusing on real situations. In this sense, I believe that the current economic crisis was caused by something very straightforward: an attempted effort to progress which failed in many ways. Furthermore, there is never only one factor which causes a crisis to appear that is why I think that the two main factors which led to the current economic hardship are people who took mortgages that they could not afford as well as the banks that gave easily too much money, now debt, to customers.
There is no doubt that one of the main reasons for the economic crisis is the unsuccessful attempt of many people wanting to live a better life; therefore, they took mortgages which they could not pay back. The time that we live in is very much influenced by the tendency to consume more, and it is logical for the individual in the 21st century to become a consumer. All of the advertisements on TV channels, on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines aim to trigger the consumer in us, make us want to have more and be successful. Gradually, the natural struggle of the human being towards progress and security led to a tendency of buying more and more real estate. The greater demand for real estate properties created a burst in the prices, a phenomenon referred to as the “house bubble”. On the other hand, the presence of the “house bubble” logically meant that people had to take bigger mortgages in order to purchase a new home. At this point, many failed to evaluate their own financial situation. Consequently, what seemed at first to be a success for the owners quickly turned into a nightmare because people could not pay back the money to the banks. This simply proves that the risk towards progress turned into bankruptcy for both the purchasers and the banks.
The banking system is also an important factor when analyzing the economic crisis because if mortgages were not given so easily, then probably there would not have been so many bank crashes. The main purpose of the bank is to earn income by lending and borrowing money. This automatically means that the bigger the credit that the bank gives, the bigger the interest that the bank will earn. In this sense, just like people want to progress and develop, the bank, being an institution which is run by people, also wants to progress and develop. Thus, many banks sought the opportunity to win more by lending more. As a result they started to give too much money to people who could not pay it back. The greed of the banking system did not only lead to bankruptcy of small financial institutions, but also to devastating consequences for banks with huge capital such as Lehman Brothers. The mortgage crisis that started when people stopped paying their mortgages resulted in bankruptcy for Lehman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy filing in the U.S. history. This example shows that the unjustified risks no matter if they concern a single individual or a huge financial institution lead to severe results.
There are, of course, many other causes of the economic crisis, but they are all united by the very same struggle for progress. The desire of human beings to develop and have a better future is something useful and beneficial, but only when people are able to balance between their inner ambitions and their actual abilities.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coffee or No Coffee at ACS

Every day people meander lavishly in a search of truth, of some general truth about today’s life and often they don’t realize how simple it is. The truth about life is not complicated, not obscure in any way, but plain and obvious: Our world runs on coffee and gasoline. Suddenly, a question arises: What if one of these two essential components is missing? You would say, “Deal with it, don’t be co-dependent”…Maybe this is true for the first day, the second day and the third day you don’t have coffee or gasoline, but then on the forth day there’s the drama, followed by a quiet protest, which is followed by the Armageddon! You, don’t believe it?! Then ask the students at the American College of Sofia who are currently forbidden to access any drinks containing caffeine just because someone decided that coffee is unhealthy and addictive. Is coffee unhealthy? If this was the case, why would 112 million people in the U.S. alone drink coffee everyday? No one has heard of 112 million people getting sick or dying because they drink coffee…Then why would some random people in the random small country of Bulgaria suddenly decide that coffee is so bad that they should banish people from drinking it?
The key word is that “someone decided” that coffee is not good for the students, but actually this is a rather erroneous conclusion. A recent article titled Coffee: The New Healthy Food? from the magazine WebMD shows that indeed “plenty of benefits are brewing in America’s beloved beverage”. It is also mentioned that coffee lowers the risk of diabetes, Parkonson’s disease, and colon cancer as well as treats headaches. Furthermore, according to the 1958 Food and Drug Administration’s list coffee is recognized as a safe drink. Interestingly enough, from the information given it can be inferred that coffee is neither a poison nor a drug. Coffee is just a delightful way to start another morning and meet some people: as an anonymous member of the class of 2010 at ACS likes to say, “A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.” Sadly, even though coffee is a beloved beverage which is good and healthy, the banish still remains and the cups of the students are only filled with milk or just hot water. The world in which the ACS students live does not run on coffee anymore.
At least there is still some gasoline left…

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hello =)

Hey, my name is Elena Dimitrova and I am a senior at the American College of Sofia. I am a very free spirited person and I love travelling to new, different, and exciting places. As I spent my junior year in the United States, I realized how important it is to communicate with people from other places of the world. In this sense, I am really happy that I will have the chance to virtually interact with students from the US. This blog will give me the chance to post my best writing and receive comments on it. I believe the blogging experience will prove to be really beneficial, and I am excited to see the final product of my work.