One of the great aspects of this deployment has been the opportunity to get "outside the gate" (we don't really have a "wire" here, in my estimation) to meet with local imams, Orthodox priests, and Roman Catholic priests. On average, SPC C and I were able to do this a couple of times per week, once we got started.
It's certainly been a very different experience from what I had in Iraq!
I've not been much of a coffee drinker over the past 30 years -- until I joined the Army. In Chaplain School, in order to stay awake during the unbelievably soporific "Death-by-PowerPoint" sessions, I began to drink caffeine again. Ugh. But I suppose it was preparing me for being here, ultimately.
Everybody here drinks coffee -- extremely thick (think the consistency of melted chocolate), and quite bitter. So most people here pour inordinate amounts of sucrose into this concoction, in order to make it more palatable. I guess the stimulative effects of the caffeine counteract the sugar-induced coma, or perhaps vice-versa.
I probably should have been keeping track of how many Euros I've spent on 'macchiatos' here -- although I'd probably be depressed if I knew the exact amount.
I figure that if I'm out visiting, then it's my job to pick up the tab for the coffee -- and the food, if we're eating a meal -- for all concerned. This is especially true if SPC C and I are out on our own; I've made it a point not to have *my* ministry cost my Chaplain Assistants money. This was true in Iraq, and it's true here.
Because of all the engagements with local religious leaders we've had, then, I've wound up dropping quite a bit of money on food and drinks!
And I've been drinking a LOT of very strong coffee, and enjoying the conversations, though speaking through an interpreter takes some getting used to. In these excursions outside the gate, I've been extremely blessed to have been able to work with Mr. A (Albanian-language interpreter) and Mr. Z (Serbian-language interpreter), who are very, very good at what they do.
Interesting that they're "A" and "Z", eh?
Anyway, a while ago I was told that as part of the change going on here, I'd have to stop meeting with these religious leaders, because others would be doing whatever talking needed doing.
Since then, I've had a lot less coffee!
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ