wo Men: Contrast in Hope
May 24-25, 2002
The two men could hardly be more different: one filled with entreprenuship and presumably hope; the other seeking an escape and clearly with little hope. They did have one similarity, and that is how we met them: they came to us; they sought something from us. Perhaps this similarity makes the first assertion wrong, because to go out and seek must mean there is some hope, some entrepreurship left.
Dimitar's goal in seeking us out was to persuade us to rent a room in his apartment. He had bought a three-room apartment in a walk-up very close to the center of Sofia. He had to first persuade us that he was genuine and then to convince us to withhold judgement on the apartment until we were beyond the rather grungy staircase we had to climb to reach it. He succeeded on both counts as we agreed to rent his room.
Luck might have had something to do with it. First, we didn't have a guidebook and so were rather at a loss as to how to find somewhere decent. Second, we had lots of bags and he had a car which made the entire transaction much easier for us. And last but not least, we had had positive experience of renting private apartments in Kiev and so were well-disposed towards his offer. Except for the small problem of some kind of biting insect in the room, the offer was as advertised. The apartment was cheaply but nicely furnished and we had access to TV, cooking facilities, a washing machine and a clothes line. All for $25.00.
Cyril's goal was quite a bit different. He claimed to be very disillusioned with his native country having spent many years under the Communists as a political prisoner. He spent about an hour with us telling us about himself and pressing an invitation to eat dinner at his home on us. We said no and instead invited him to have an ice-cream with us at a very nice open-air cafe on a lovely downtown square. We knew that he wanted something from us very early in our conversation, but what exactly that was didn't become apparent until almost the end of our time together. What he wanted from us was a letter saying that we knew him and would vouch for him in his application for a visa to go to Britain as a tourist. He openly admitted that he planned to stay in Britain illegally and find a job. When Jan, the Brit in the family, turned him down he was very unhappy. We asked why he couldn't just wait for entry into the EU and he said that he was afraid there would be no jobs left if he went with the crowd.
And there you have it. Dimitar was working hard to build some capital by renting out rooms. Cyril was hoping to find a backdoor way into Britain presumably also to build a better life for himself. Perhaps they both skirted the law. But both certainly worked hard. Both undoubtedly got many nos for each yes. We guess that Dimitar visits the bus station every chance he gets looking for a customer and Cyril walks the downtown streets many nights hoping against hope to find a foreigner who will give him that precious letter.