Wednesday we left Albania however I accidentally brought a souvenir with me. We left the hotel at 4 AM for our 6AM flight and in my sleepy haste I took the key with me. The giant paper weight attached to the key to prevent such incidents nearly caused an international security breach as we passed through customs in both Albania, and Germany. Fortunately we were able to get it through to Bulgaria and returned via mail to the hotel. Needless to say Bob and Joe did not let me hear the end of this one.
We arrived in Sophia, Bulgaria mid day on Wednesday. It was immediately clear that Sophia was the largest and most developed city we had been in. The city of 2 million looked very Westernized with tall buildings, malls, and American fast food chains. However we were quickly reminded that the world wide recession had not spared Bulgaria. Our cab driver, a college educated economist, had been laid off three months prior leaving him unemployed with a wife of six months, and a baby on the way. As he drove us into town, we could see upwards of 50 cabs parked on the shoulder of the highway as there were too many drivers and not enough passengers.
When we arrived at our hotel, we had a few hours to rest up from our early flight, and then we met peter who drove us to our first meeting. The first order of business in Bulgaria was with Orion Medical Clinic. Orion is one of Integra’s initial investments with the new equity model. The Clinic is the first Christian medical clinic in Bulgaria and offers free care to orphans, discounts to the elderly, and takes a stand by refusing to perform abortions. Our meeting with Orion partners went very well. For the most part we brainstormed ways to increase traffic, and incentivize doctors to commit more of their time to the clinic. One of the ways Orion plans to do this is by increasing office space, to make room for more advanced equipment, and a more specialized, and diversified collection of doctors. The clinic plans to move the reception area out side under an enclosed awning to provide extra space inside the building. They are also entertaining the idea of building a pharmacy across the street where they could possible employ a current pharmacy student who is a part of the Bulgarian Orphans program. Orion looks to be a promising project with a lot of room for growth.
Thursday marked the last full day of the trip and was filled with mixed results. We spent the morning meeting with RPI and the afternoon with Correct-L. RPI is an attorney group led by Peter and Bulgarian Presidential Candidate Ivan. While talks with RPI were productive, discrepancies in the estimated worth of the company, as well as ownership structure for new partners, bogged down the discussion. RPI will need to clear up their financial statements, and sure up their business plan in order to move forward as partners with Integra. The meeting with Correct-L, a construction company, produced similar results. It can be difficult for businesses that are already off the ground to fit into the Integra equity model, because they don’t want to give up any control of their business. This was a hurdle that we recognized and learned from in our meetings with Correct-L and RPI.
Thursday evening, Peter had his niece show me around Sofia. It was great to spend some time with someone my age. I had dinner with her and some of her friends and it was eye opening to talk about some of the cultural differences between America, and Bulgaria. I was also able to experience the night life of Sofia, and I got a better idea of what it would be like to live in Sofia. Having the freedom to explore a new city in my final night in Europe really enhanced my experience, and I am thankful for such a great opportunity.

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