For this week’s post I interviewed Toma Tetimov, an employee of the American University in Bulgaria. Toma had an adventurous life so far and agreed to share it with me. He’s also one of the people that I regularly saw on campus and felt like learning more about.
Toma was born and raised in Bulgaria. When he was much younger, he applied for a Green Card Lottery, a program by the United States allowing people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to legally move and work in America. In Eastern European countries back then the program was extremely popular with thousands of people trying their luck each year. It was 2001 when Toma decided to participate. As he told me, there was no clear plan in his head about the future. I was told that Bulgaria was in a poor economic condition and young people did not hesitate about going somewhere else when they had a chance. In addition to that, Bulgarians needed visas for almost every country.
“So a green card was actually the cleanest option that one can get.”
Toma described the process of getting results as quite time-consuming, no wonder he completely forgot about it. Results were mailed back then, not e-mailed as it is today. Once he was at home, one letter got his attention – these were the results of a random selection. Toma thought : “My life just probably changed… a lot.” He was selected as the one to have an opportunity to explore a new country and make his living there. No doubt that he went for it.
After his arrival to the US, he got his education first and started the process of looking for a job. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. Due to limited options Toma had to take a regular office job related to financial affairs. He ended up living there for 12 years. There was a moment when Toma decided to temporarily return to his home country and the job at the American University in Bulgaria came along.
“I decided to stay for a few months. Actually a year.”
There are multiple reasons why people seek for a better life abroad. In my conversation with Toma, he told me that his reason might sound stupid for some people, and he admits that it actually was. As a young kid he cared about music a lot, he even played some. America seemed like a whole new world of opportunities to see the artists and musicians since not that many of them had Bulgaria on their tour maps.
So back then it was my main joy factor, if I can call it this way, to go to concerts. During first years after I came to the States, I’ve probably gone to 10-15 concerts a year.
I was curious if he wanted to return back after all these years that he spent there. The answer made it all clear since he was nostalgic about the streets, bars and restaurants he used to go or see. One could sense it in his voice. As he described, third of his life was in America and if you look deeper, half of his conscious life belongs to the other side of the ocean. He felt a little homesick there, but now he has to deal with the new homesickness, this time towards his new American home.
At the end I went for my main question about the definition of home and again I heard that the home is where your heart is. As Toma said: “I don’t quite believe in that relationship between the place that you were born at. I don’t believe in that at all because you don’t have any choice”