Jeffery Warner is from the United States and was born and raised in the city of Dearborn, part of Detroit metropolitan area. He is 32 years old. He lives in Bulgaria since 2003 or if we count the time for 6 years and a half. The first 3 years he spent in Kardzhali as a volunteer for the Peace Corp and has taught English in a professional gymnasium in the town. Since 2012 he lives in Sofia and works at foundation “Zaedno v chas” as a manager of teacher’s support program. Jeffery is married to Bulgarian women from Gabrovo since 2013, who met while working at “Zaedno v chas”.
- We are next to the St. George Rotunda Church. You choose this spot for the interview because you told me it is one of your favorite places in Sofia. Can you explain why?
J.W.: I am interested in the Bulgarian history and culture. I travel every day with the subway from Nadezhda to the city center and while you walk on the streets you can see things 2000 years old. There are so many layers of history and cultures, signature of different epochs in a tiny bit of space. I am particularly fascinated by this area with historical ruins which is part of the modern city center as well.
- How you find Sofia as a city to live in?
J.W.: To be honest the first time I came to Sofia I didn’t like the city much. I think Sofia is a city where you have to spend some time in order to love it. Once when you have walked through the old neighborhoods and get involved in the culture life which is really amazing here you will feel more at the right place. I find the city beautiful and green. It has 5 big parks and the best thing about Sofia is that Vitosha Mountain is only few minutes away. I love spending my free time in the nature.
- What did you know about Bulgaria before you came here?
J.W.: I was familiar with the history of the region because my major at the university was history. I had also Bulgarian professor and Bulgarian colleagues who told me a few stories about Bulgaria. I knew about the communist past in Bulgaria. I knew about the Bulgarian yogurt and folklore music. But honestly I had different perception before I came here as a country with unique nature but going through a difficult times at the moment. I thought it will be worse (he means “tough”) as it actually was.
- Why you decided to stay here?
J.W.: I loved the nature here and the food is excellent. But the reason why I choose to stay is because of the social life. The Bulgarians always find time to go out with friends and to travel. They are not only working even though they work hard. I feel very comfortable here. I always felt like home here and I understood that here people become friends more quickly. For me the state is interesting for its unique history and culture too. I found my social environment here. I have to say that I work in a society of friendly and motivated people to change the world for better. This makes me feel great.
- How you’ve learned Bulgarian?
J.W.: I didn’t have much choice and time instead of studying the language fast. When I arrived I stayed with Bulgarian family in Bobovdol where I had to communicate with them in Bulgarian. It’s funny that the first words I learned were “Gladen sym” (“I am hungry.”) and “Iskash li hrana?” (“Do you want something to eat?”). I think I adapted quickly and later in Kardzhali I had no problems. I am still learning of course but I use it every single day at work now.
- What is your favorite word in Bulgarian?
J.W.: I like the word “ailyak”, which I couldn’t understand at the beginning but now I know what it means and I can use it in a context. There are many interesting words like this one in your language that I am sure have no translation in English.
- Do you want to share something about the Bulgarian character as a nation which you have discovered as unique feature?
J.W.: The hospitality is the first thing I discovered as a main part of the Bulgarian character. Everybody was nice to me and the family that I lived with made me feel as part of them from the very beginning. The Bulgarians are so generous even in front of strangers.