Finding beauty beyond America's borders

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Foreign investment pulled the country out of the fiscal quagmire it faced in 1991, when I first arrived in the country. Back then, people stood in line for two hours to buy a loaf of bread. Now life is easier, but hardly easy.

According to the U.S. State Department, foreign investment in Bulgaria totaled $34.4 million in 1991. By 2005, it reached $11.7 billion. In 2010 it was down to roughly $1 billion. Many protesters attributed the drop to corruption fears.

It’s a terrible situation. I have always found Bulgarians to be hardworking, honest people. On our vacation, we had to register with the local police station. My wife offered the courteous clerk behind the counter 2 leva (about $1.50) for coffee to thank her for her helpfulness. The woman refused. No thanks were necessary, she said.

Another time, my daughter broke one of her braces. We hurried to a modern dental clinic near my mother-in-law’s apartment for help. The dentist, a woman in her late 20s or early 30s who spoke perfect English, could see that my wife and I were worried. She could have asked for any fee she liked. She charged us 10 leva — $7.50 — to see Alexandra.

Yes, life outside the U.S. can be harsh, but also beautiful.

Scott Brinton is senior editor of the Bellmore and Merrick Heralds and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Graduate Journalism Program. Comments? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 203. Brinton’s profile and posts can be found at

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