”Bulgaria is in my heart on my own geographic map”, Izabela Shopova
Izabela Shopova was born in the city of Varna. She graduated the Mathematic Secondary School and the Technical University in her home city. In 2002 she immigrated to New Zealand with her husband and her daughter. At present she lives in Brisbane, Australia. For herself she says that she is an engineer by education, a trader by profession and a traveler by heart; that she has two passports and addresses in three countries. After seven years Izabela is in Sofia to present her book “To the East – in Heaven”, in which she tells about the daily round and the unusual, the adventurous and the trivial faced by her during the six years spent in New Zealand.
Why do You call New Zealand ”the last paradise on Earth”?
This is not my discovery. New Zealand is a self-advertising country and is known all over the world as the last earthly paradise. The island has virgin nature and is that piece of land that was inhabited last – only a few centuries ago – and in that sense we may say that it has preserved the virginity of heaven.
I personally have always wanted to know how the “Kiwis” have manage to preserve the humanity inside them, to protect themselves from profanity sweeping over the world. I strongly hope that I’ve manage to take at least some of their generosity and goodness and, if I can,- to pass a part of it to someone else. Hence, I do believe that the world will become a better place.
In Your book You talk about their taste of adrenaline. And it is no coincidence that they have sports connected precisely with the adrenaline raising. The fact that they live so orderly, even boring from our point of view, makes me wonder whether this is the way of seeking adrenaline after all?
The „Kiwis” do not focus over the material side of life. This is of no matter to them. They don’t invest their life in the building of a house, a chalet, and the purchase of a car. Emotions and experiences are much more important to these people. They are fond of the adrenaline sports and of everything that brings energy, an emotion and a memory. This is their nature.
And You call them „Kiwis”, don’t You?
They call themselves this way. This is the commonly accepted name of New Zealand’s inhabitants. They call themselves this way with a sense for pride and with a slight touch of self-irony.
Do they feel isolated from the “civilized” world?
Every New Zealander, who finds out that You are from Europe, will very quickly add somehow to the conversation that they are far away from the rest of the world, that they are isolated. This is a sort of a national complex but they skillfully get over it. They all travel a lot since being at a very young age. They have been in Europe, have travelled through all around the world, but eventually have come to the philosophic conclusion that there is no country more beautiful than New Zealand, and that they want to live this way and in this country. They believe that the civilization, even though refine, is too noisy, dirty and stressful.
Do our criteria – of the Europeans, for beauty cover those of the “Kiwis”?
No, they don’t. The aesthetic criteria, especially those of human appearance, are quite different. In New Zealand the way one looks doesn’t mean a thing. People walk barefooted and wearing T-shirts with sleeves torn-up, they don’t keep their hairs and teeth fit. And a person with such appearance can be a university lecturer, as well as a world champion in some kind of sport. New Zealanders don’t pay attention to their appearance; they don’t label people but accept them according to their deeds.
When did You feel really affiliated with this country?
I realized that I belonged to this country when I left it. This is a universal peculiarity. The moment when I took the New Zealand citizenship was very important for me. The fact that there was a document that made me equal to the others gave me self-confidence of equity, although New Zealanders had never put me into a position of feeling a foreigner or not at home, for all of them being extremely generous and open-minded people. I had another very emotional moment when I lost a close Bulgarian friend there. When we left the funeral the thought of the piece of land with a Bulgarian gravestone, of the tears and the pain, which we left there, gave me a kind of righteousness to call this land my own. I buried something of myself there.
Now You live in Australia. Why did You leave the heavenly corner described by You?
Australia is much different than New Zealand. After so much rain now we live in the country of the sun. We just want to try something different. We seek emotions and experience.
Why do You call New Zealand the reversed country?
Everything is upside-down there. The country is located in the reversed side of the world; You drive on the other side of the road. Even the seasons are upside-down. Once I used to explain to one of my relatives living in the USA, that the school year in New Zealand starts in February and ends in December, and the winter holiday is in July and when here is morning there is evening, etc. After listening to me for a long time and trying to calculate something, my relative finally asks me: “And what is the month there now?”
Where is Bulgaria on Your own geographic map?
Bulgaria is right on my heart. I am Bulgaria. I will never be anything more different than a Bulgarian woman. Everything that has any meaning to me, which plays a role in my plans, is from Bulgaria. Bulgaria is the most significant thing in my life. New Zealand is an additional layer, the decoration of the big cake of life initially made in Bulgaria.
How do You find our country today?
After seven years I’ve come back with a mixture of feelings. I used to feel horrified by my meeting with Bulgaria. I used to fear that I will find it dirty, gray, dull and unfriendly. During all these years I have tried to recollect only the bad things of the country on purpose, in order to avoid the nostalgia. Sofia has welcomed me with sunshine, greenery, and with smiley and kind people. Today a young man gave me a ticket e because the driver didn’t have any change. Now, after 24-hours of stay in Bulgaria, I have an idealized idea of our country. And Sofia seems to me very changed and very beautiful. I say this with the clear awareness that I am a true citizen of Varna who thinks that our sea capital is the most beautiful city in the world.