Sofia through other people's eyes: Alfredo Ruescas and Tarun Nagwal

19 November 2020 text Dani Nikolova
Born in a quiet Spanish town, Alfredo Galbis has moved many times. In Valencia – so he can be close to the sea. In Salamanca - to study criminology. In Oxford - to improve his English. In Sofia – to turn his love of poker into a professional career. Today, Alfredo is a team leader in the Customer Support teams at PokerStars, Bulgaria.

I remember my first day in Sofia as if it were yesterday. I arrived in January in the city, which turned out to be beautiful, affordable, and much colder than my hometown. As soon as I got off the plane, I was surprised at how cheap the taxi from the airport to the center is. I felt weird when the driver asked me why I was wearing a seat belt. Later on, I found out that people smoke in some bars in Sofia. And I realized that in Bulgaria a lot of things are allowed, which sometimes is a positive thing, but at times - not good at all.

I used to play poker for fun in the past, so I said to myself, "Why don't I try to redirect my professional career and work for one of the biggest companies in this industry?”. From the first day in the office I was impressed by how well everything in the company was organized. I met great people, who are my friends now. We share ideas, listen to each other, participate in important and interesting projects.

I know that I can always get support both professionally and personally. Not to mention the efforts that the company has made, so that we can all now work safely from home under the best possible conditions.

I know very well that Bulgarians are shaking their heads from left to right for consent, but I can't get used to it. Once I was in a bakery and asked for a croissant. The lady shook her head (for agreement), and I replied, "Really?! I can see the croissants from here!”

I keep laughing every time I remember how I tried to buy cider in Bulgarian. I was in line at the store. I kept saying to myself, "Two apple ciders, please." When it was my turn, and I was already confident enough that I could say the words, an elderly lady jumped the queue. "This poor boy wants two apple ciders; he keeps repeating it to himself in terrible Bulgarian." My friend translated for me and we all started laughing.

My hometown of Albacete is quiet, people know each other, and the food is amazing. Everything is great, except when it gets over 40 degrees in the summer. That's why my family and I used to spend every summer in Valencia, near the sea. If you go to Albacete, don't miss Calle Concepción. This is the street of bars where you can sit for tapas and a drink. The party starts at 1 am after midnight and lasts until 6 am in the morning (if you are alive). In Valencia, you should eat at La Riua. This is the place where you can find the best paella and sangria in Spain.

Thanks to PokerStars I participate in many charitable activities. I have helped in the cooking and distribution of food to people in need. I have visited a dog shelter and took part in many other social initiatives.

Tarun Nagwal has travelled exactly 6375 kilometers to arrive in Sofia from Delhi. Once a year he travels back, but not to return permanently to his home country. That's because (at least at this point) he likes being a product manager at PokerStars and a part of the life of Sofia.

My perception of Bulgaria shifted from the first day when I arrived. I thought it would be difficult for me to work with Bulgarians because of the language barrier, but I was proven wrong. I got so much support and positive attitude. Everybody welcomed me with open arms.

The main similarity between our two nations is that we have a strong focus on the family. Indians and Bulgarians both respect their families, strive to create their own ones and not to sever the ties with relatives. We have similar ways of celebrating festivals and big holidays. In India, we love celebrations too. Well, we don’t drink as much. The difference here is the freedom and independence. We have some issues in that aspect. Young people in India are financially supported by their parents longer, while the young people here are more independent.

The bravest thing I did since I arrived in Sofia was marrying a Bulgarian girl. Some Bulgarian girls get angry very often!

Indian food at home is cooked by me. We eat something spicy at least once or twice a month. I like the Bulgarian cuisine – meatballs, "kebabche", "shopska salad", beans with rice…; however, I would prefer them to be spicier.

My worldview expanded due to my work in PokerStars. Before starting in the company, I worked in a bank but my expertise was much more limited. In the PokerStars team, I managed to not only apply what I have learned but also upgrade my skills and knowledge.

My home is a small town near the holy river of Ganga. To everybody, who would like to visit India I would recommend seeing Taj Mahal. My advice is however to not limit yourself to it. Go south where you’ll find food and architecture that is not comparable to any other in the world. In the north high up in the mountains is where Dalai Lama lives, in exile for 60 years now.

The most embarrassing moment in Sofia for me was on a crowded bus. A pretty little girl was returning home from school and an elderly woman made a scene stating that there was not a place for her to sit. The girl, completely undisturbed looked at her and told her "So, where do you think I am supposed to move?" which made me laugh. Everyone stared at me in dismay. I got embarrassed and got down from the bus 3 stops before mine.

A full house of emotion for me means to be with my family and friends, to watch sports, joke with one another and laugh.


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