Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Diplomatic Ladies Lunch

The Defense Attache Corps here in Tirana is small; whereas some countries have numerous embassies with large, multi-staffed offices, the one here in Tirana is as small as the country itself.  Throw in the fact that half of the Attaches are either single or do not have spouses who accompanied them to Tirana and we end up with a small, yet eclectic group of women.  (Yes, we are all women; I'm not sure how a high ranking female foreign military officer would be received in Albania).

Periodically we spouses will get together without our husbands.  Our get togethers inevitably involve food, lots of coffee, and even more laughing.  I am fortunate that English is the "common" language amongst the group.  That said, there are spouses who speak very little or no English at all.  Others have a solid and ever improving comprehension of the language and a few of us are truly fluent. A few of us speak some Albanian. Hence, if nothing else our get togethers are always amusing.  We represent a diversity of countries, cultures, and ages.  Some of us are raising children, others are now grandmothers, and there are spouses with no children at all.  Despite our language barriers we have a lot in common.  After all, every one of us is a military spouse who has first hand experience with the hardships, responsibilities, and long separations that are a part of being a military family.  Currently we are all foreigners living in a strange. We share a love of our individual countries (who might not always get along) but these fundamental differences don't prevent our friendships.  We are all strong and independent women.

Our most recent social event involved coffee at two separate cafes--this is Albania after all-- with a lunch at a traditional Kosovarian restaurant squeezed in between.  Whereas some of our get togethers have been more formal, think coffee sipped from china cups--this one was anything but.  We sat in a small dark restaurant with old men and the City's sanitation works eating platters of qofta, pickled cabbage, and drank Peja beer directly from the bottle.  I'm sure the sight of us with our designer handbags and bottles of hand sanitizer gave the regulars plenty to look at and talk about.  The food was surprisingly good but the best part of the meal was the company.  We shared pictures of our children and discussed the cultural differences of baptisms in our different countries. (Somehow when together, we always have at least one completely random discussion).  We compared notes on whose husband had told them what, what the Attache social schedule looked like for the next month, and because this was right after our presidential elections, President Obama. (I am continually impressed by how well versed foreigners are in both current American politics and American history). When we reached a language stumbling block miming and acting out what we were trying to say became a perfectly acceptable way to communicate.  (The word "rooster" might be different in each language but the sound the bird makes is always the same!).  Somehow it all makes sense in the end. 

By the end of lunch my stomach hurt from not only eating too much but laughing too hard.  As is the case whenever I get together with any of my female friends- regardless of their nationality, political affiliation, or familial status, I am always grateful for their friendship.  I have come to count on this small group of friends for laughter and support.  It reiterates to me that through the thick and thin, good times and bad, it is friends that get us through.  So thank you, TMAA ladies.

TMAA ladies lunching

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