One of the perks of my job is that I'm able to go outside the gate with SPC C and a translator (in this case, Mr. A) to meet with local religious leaders. One of the drawbacks of my job is that many of these visits take place in local coffeehouses, in which almost everyone else is smoking.
I've gotten really spoiled living in California where it's now illegal to smoke indoors in just about every imaginable setting. I often find myself surprised -- indeed, a bit shocked -- to enter a restaurant in some other part of the U.S. and be asked, "Smoking, or Non?"
I'm pretty certain that has never once happened to me in California since I moved out there almost twenty years ago to begin my doctoral studies in molecular neurobiology.
Here in Kosovo, it's an entirely different story altogether.
I'm in the minority in my Battalion, it seems, however. When the Staff Officers and NCOs have gone out en masse, a gaggle of Soldiers (I won't reveal names, ranks, or positions!) light up their cigars eagerly, indoors.
It may be a great "bonding" ritual for them, but the health and welfare of my alveoli and bronchioles are much too important to me to be sacrificed in the name of "fitting in" or being "one of the guys."
I say again: Yecch!
Bad move on my part!
My room stank for a couple of days.
I've left those meetings, as rewarding as they are in other ways, with my eyes bloodshot and watering, and my bronchi constricted almost to the point of asthma.
I can't wait until the warmer weather again, when they'll have doors (and, one hopes, windows!) open in those establishments!
After meeting with one of those religious leaders, I asked SPC C to snap a photo of Mr. A, our guest, and myself. We were in a "Titanic"-themed coffeehouse, and I believe just off to my right on the wall behind me was a rather large photo of Leonardo DiCaprio. You might see the nautical images in the frame on the wall behind us.
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ