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Whenever I hear Bulgarian speech in the street, I stop to meet the person. This is how I met a Bulgarian hotel receptionist in the Bahamas, an illegal immigrant pizza deliveryman in Boston, and a manager at CityCo, whose accent I recognized on the phone, while calling about a product in his store.
My German friend Lena once asked me why I always introduce myself to Bulgarian strangers. She heard German speech in Boston all the time, but she never stopped to say hello to her fellow countrymen.
I responded that Bulgarians in Boston are not strangers to me. My country is so small and I’m so far away, that I consider it good luck to meet another Bulgarian. I don’t want to walk past my luck, so I say hi. I feel that simply being in the same place, an ocean away from home, is already something in common and is a great reason to strike up a conversation.
That’s why I buy everything labeled “Made in Bulgaria”: yogurt with Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Bulgarian red wine Tcherga (ordered online by Lena’s wonderful mother), Lalo Jewelry made by an Israeli artist living near Sofia. If I can’t find genuine Bulgarian products, I replace them with our neighbor’s equivalents like Greek feta cheese instead of our white cheese and Serbian Ajvar instead of our Lutenitza.
My culture is so small compared to the American and international surroundings that I feel the need to acknowledge my nationality whenever I encounter a piece of Bulgaria in Boston. I think this is my way of preserving my identity in the foreign environment.