Friday, August 12, 2011


One of the highlights in my week that has become a fixture in my routine is my Thursday afternoon "Coffee and Chat" with the ladies of the North American Women's Association or NAWA.

I came across this group rather serendipitously through a local publication called Funzine, which is published by and for the expat community and highlights activities, groups and programs of every kind. Included are everything from babysitters to Cinqo de Mayo celebration information and tucked into a corner was the meeting announcement for NAWA.

Jason refers to the group as the BHG ( Bored Housewives Group) but I have found these terrific women to be anything but bored and mostly not housewives.

My first meeting was on a drizzly Thursday afternoon at Angelika Kavehaz. It was my second week in town and feeling unsteady about jumping feet first into a new group of unknown women I decided not to go. I told Jason it was because I didn't know the metro system so he insisted on driving me.
So here I was, dropped off at the door precisely at the listed time of 1:30 and there was no one there but me. At least no one who could have been remotely identified as A North American Woman, bored or otherwise.

The cafe itself was charming so I decided to stay for lunch under the "what have you got to lose" premise and then thought I'd go home. Well a funny thing happened. As I was sitting there first one, then another woman came in as tentatively as I had felt. " Hi Are you NAWA?".I guess I was and so were they. We began to warm up the drizzly day with our enthusiasm for each other and the natural warmth that emanates from good fellowship. So we sat that first day, maybe 7 or 8 of us and started to learn about each other, why we were here in this place and what path had led us to be together now.

The leader came and told us about the charity work the group does for old age homes and an orphanage. As important as that work is, I think it's simply another good reason  for seeking out like minded companions. I think the best reason that NAWA exists is to give birds of a feather an opportunity to flock together and to see how we are more alike than different, in the ways of women and wisdom, despite the great variation in our exterior packaging.

I wouldn't have believed how much I have in common with a new ager who has spent the last 5 years in Croatia. But she is a widow and so we speak the same language of pain and loss. Her journey is only a year old so we speak of time and decision making. Doing so in our native tongue and common frame of reference, builds a bridge and a bond in this quiet coffee house so far away from home.

There is J,married to a Hungarian, who earned her Ph.D in History and knows more about Jewish History in Hungary than I could even believe existed and is working to save the European  Jewish remnant by twinning synagogues in North America with those in Central Europe.

Then there is D from California, who has no links to this country at all, but doesn't like the way she sees things going at home. She lived here for 2 or 3 years in the 90's and loved the energy of renewal and positive change, so pulled up stakes at great sacrifice, to give her family a better life here, as she perceives it, than she thinks was possible there.

Recently joining us is A. She's a little older than I am.  A tells her story of being a political refugee in 1970. Born and raised outside of Budapest, married with a family, she just decided one day that she had had enough of someone telling her where she had to live and what job she had to do and so she emigrated to Canada. She became an international vice president of the bank where she got her first job and tears fill her eyes even now as she talks about how people there gave her a chance to work and that's all she asked for.

We plan outtings or just sit and enjoy the afternoon. We meet again during the week or not. We speak of children and home and womens experiences of expat life. We advise each other where to find peanut butter or an English speaking doctor or lettuce. We are not yet friends but we are good company for each other and for today thats enough.




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