It takes time to get used to NE Miss.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

If you live in Northeast Mississippi and don't speak English very well, dealing with other people can be difficult at times.

"Some people not everybody think people like me are stupid. We're not stupid. We only speak no perfect English," said Teodora Arsova, a native of Bulgaria now living in Tupelo.

Lydia Alejandre of Mexico quickly added most people understand that it's hard to adjust to a new language and culture.

Alejandre and Arsova are among several newcomers to the U.S. taking the English as a second language course at Itawamba Community College.

Atanas Arsov, Arsova's husband, hopes the course will further his career. He's having a hard time finding a job that will allow him to use his college degree in physical education.

"I'm learning this program (at ICC) to find a job with my college degree," Arsov said.

Arsov came to Tupelo to coach and play for the Tupelo Hound Dogs. He already has a contract to play next year, but he would like to find a job in the interim.

"Right now, all positions are filled," he said.

Arsov and Arsova's daughter, Elena, has also had to make sacrifices to live in the U.S., even if she doesn't know it.

"In Bulgaria, she would be ready for first grade," Arsova said.

Elena recently started kindergarten at Church Street Elementary School and has made great strides learning the language.

While the whole family has a vested interested in improving their English skills, it's important for them to remember the language of their homeland, Arsova said.

"It's important to teach Bulgarian good, especially for daughter," Arsova said.

In addition to the language barrier, both Arsova and Alejandre have had to adjust to the food in the U.S.

Even though there are plenty of Mexican restaurants in the area, Alejandre still misses the tastes of home.

"In Mexico, we use spice. Mexican food is different in America. If Americans ate real Mexican food, I think most of them don't like it," Alejandre said.

Alejandre said the locally-prepared Mexican food certainly has its merits, especially since her husband works for a local restaurant.

Arsova said people in Bulgaria aren't used to the wide variety of produce available all year like we have in the U.S.

"In Bulgaria, we eat what's in season," she said.

The vegetables also taste different over here because of the farming methods, Arsova said. She said that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"We love to eat hamburgers and American food," she said, "but I usually cook Bulgarian foods at home."

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