Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coffee Talk - Interfaith Friendships

Mix 6 ladies, who have just met, yet know that they have at least a whole school year to look forward to together. Add coffee, milk, tea and a homemade Pumpkin cake. Start a neutral conversation about kids, school life and adapting to a new home and BAM! You’ve just planted the seeds of at least a couple of budding friendships, the kind that lasts a life time despite cultural, geographical and sometimes language cleavages.

That’s how we survive as expat wives with school age children!
We look for companionship everywhere we go: at the Gym, with other spouses of our partners’ colleagues, wives from our native countries. And we’re often told to find the most meaningful interactions in the most unexpected places.

I didn’t!

I mean, I do go to the Gym, I hang out with Egyptian ladies and I occasionally socialize with my husband’s peers. But it’s in the kids’ school parking lot where I found myself as a mother, a woman and an expat wife.
I was taken in by a warm group of friends, all expats from different origins and all united for one simple goal… ROCK NY while we’re at it :)

And we do.

In a few months we had conquered the streets of Manhattan… on bikes. We have danced the night away and went home in style in a stretch limo and champagne. We got dressed in the wildest 70s fashion and danced silly to a full house of school families and teachers. We received standing ovation, not just for our choreography, but for our spirit and positive vibe.

This was last year. It was my first year in Westchester.

Last Monday we gathered around my dining room table, 8 ladies whose children frequent the same school. The same girls who rocked the city last year minus those who have left but plus more who have just landed in Westchester.

We sipped our coffee and had our cake. We talked about school and the activities that await our lot this coming year. It was sweet, formal and easy conversation….. For about an hour!

But then we found ourselves unraveling our most inner thoughts about faith, religions and coping with our own hypocrisies. As layers of our values were peeled one after the other, our true characters suddenly came to light. None ashamed of her belief or the lack of it! None really caring if the others agreed or thought her weird! Because as expat wives we can afford the luxury of honesty. We appreciate the true values of kinship, acceptance and respect. We know that in a matter of 1, 2, or 3 years, we will be hugging each other good bye probably to never meet again. And that is the core of what we have together, a true and honest appreciation of each other and of the challenge we face to be happy, content and fulfilled no matter where we live.

Last Monday my friend Alex concluded as she was standing at my door: “I’m glad we can talk so freely about ourselves and know that we will be respected for the difference and diversity that we bring to the table!”

It’s funny, because a year into this great friendship and after a series of deep conversations, and even after last Monday’s coffee talk about faith, I don’t think I know which sect of Christianity she belongs to, or where exactly I can find any differences between Muslim me and Christian her. I never asked. It never seemed to matter. Somehow, our core values are more similar than the published gaps between our religions. And that’s what matters!

It seems to me that every new post is also a new chance to reinvent myself and explore the world beyond the realms I grew up within. So far, I like most of what I see. And I find it quite comforting that a bunch of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Non-Believers ( I didn’t know that people in Japan don’t generally follow a dominant religion) and maybe others can gather around my coffee table on a Monday morning and enjoy a cup of coffee together.


  1. Laila - you are an inspiration... Your writing has an amazing ability to connect with your audience and as someone who lives far from friends and family, your words have touched and motivated me. Thank you.

  2. Beautiful ...keep going we need a Sahel Talk ?? and it better be exciting and with no reference to kids ..well maybe a little ))