I’ve been trying to write this post for, like, ever, and it’s not truly complete – I’m sure I’ll circle back to this again – but this is part of the friends puzzle that I’ve been pondering in my peripatetic life.
I’ll start with the confession that sometimes it’s hard for me to stay motivated to make friends in Albania, knowing that we’re here for a relatively short time – but at the same time, two years is far too long NOT to make friends. I do have one good friend – our nanny, who is a lovely woman a few years older than me, with two teenaged sons. She has worked for missionaries for years and years (that’s how I found her – recommendation from another American woman she works for part-time) and so although she doesn’t speak English, she’s adept at speaking very simple Albanian and at deciphering what I’m trying to say in my broken attempts at her language. She is generous, compassionate, kind, caring, and funny. I love her, and I already know it’s going to be really, really hard to say goodbye to her when we leave. She loves my children without reservation and they love her.
But it is kind of weird that the best friend I have here is someone I pay to come to my house. Occasionally money has become a source of friction, but not very often – it’s just really, really awkward when it does.
So far, the other friend options I’ve found have been either through Gimli’s work, or through the church we attend (and there’s some overlap between the two, since one of his co-workers introduced us to the church to begin with). There are three American women in particular who have little children who have been friendly towards me. One lives very close, less than a block away (she just had a baby). My main reservation in building these friendships has to do with the persistent feeling of hypocrisy that haunts me – not theirs, mine! All mine. I feel like I’m living a lie in letting them think I believe the same things they do. I was raised in this tradition, but I no longer believe a lot of it – although I do consider myself a Christian, I don’t believe that Jesus is the only path to God, or that homosexuality is a sin, or that God answers prayer. And I vote Democrat. So I know that all those things would be points of contention – and I don’t know if they’d still want to be my friends if they knew that. (Ummm… I’m not assuming all my readers here agree with me on these points either, so I’m hesitant even here to disclose these facts about myself, but I probably won’t feel as rejected if some of you stop reading/commenting than if some of the women here started to give me the cold shoulder – not that they would, but that’s what I’m afraid of, I guess.) There’s really only one woman I feel enough affinity for here that I’d risk being open with her about these things anyway, I just haven’t pursued it, because, also, isn’t it kind of lame to only make friends with other expats??? I haven’t made overtures towards the Albanian women I’ve met at church because they all work outside the home, so our schedules don’t really mesh, and they’re even more conservative even than the Americans. Like I’ve been shocked and repulsed by some of the things I’ve heard them say.
I’ve been hesitant to make overtures towards any of my husband’s more liberal, intellectual Albanian coworkers in part due to shyness, and in part because of the same working-mom/SAHM dilemma (language is not an issue since they speak English quite well). But I did bite the bullet this week and e-mail two of them about getting together for coffee and now I have a “friend date” at 6 p.m. tonight, which is not typically what I’d be doing at 6 p.m. but heck, it’s Friday, and the kids will survive supper with the nanny for once in their lives. So… hopefully I’ll be able to develop some kind of a social life here before we leave… just in time to cut ties and move again. But we’ll process that later, I guess.