Back to the Gallery, and other updates

Abby and I have just come back from Hamburg, Germany, where we attended the wedding of Abby’s childhood friend Swantje. The wedding was beautiful, and it was nice to be in a city where people obey traffic signals and there isn’t dust everywhere. I’ll describe the trip in a subsequent blog entry after I sort through the photos.

In the meantime, right before we left, I attended a meeting of the Special Friends of the National Gallery. The Special Friends group is a support group for the National Gallery, an institution which I described in an August 26th blog entry. The meeting began at 6:30 PM with some wine and crackers, which were followed almost immediately by one of the museum staff having what she thought was a heart attack. Mild panic ensued as we realized that none of us had the proper telephone number for the ambulance and, when we found the emergency number, it was busy. In the end, however, someone reached the ambulance, and shortly thereafter the attack – which may or may not have been heart-related – subsided, the woman’s husband came, and she left (rather than go to the hospital, as we urged).

Everything seemed to turn out okay, so once we let out a collective sigh of relief, we started the meeting. The Special Friends group is dedicated to advancing the interests of the National Gallery and creating more interest in the arts within Tirana, especially among young professionals who are most likely to support the arts. It is not yet a membership organization, rather more of a collection of interested individuals – Americans, Albanians, Italians, as well as some of the museum staff themselves, and while there were 11 of us at the meeting, the number of people on the mailing list is closer to 30. As a loose group, they haven’t formed an actual board. All this is a long way of saying that there is precious little organization in the group. One Albanian is chairwoman, and another is in charge of graphics, and an American woman seems to drive the organization forward on all the other agenda items, but – for those of you who’ll understand the reference – imagine a Hexagon Board meeting with a fair amount of mutual respect but without the titles, delineations of responsibility, experience, or agenda, and you’ll have a good idea of what the meeting was like. Still, the group has a program of six evening events planned for the year – wine tastings, lectures, etc. – and they should be pleasant.

I haven’t found work yet, so I offered to do a lot of organizational work for the group. (With my Hexagon Board experience, I hopefully will know what to avoid.) However, I’ve also started interviewing international organizations in town to learn the lay of the land. So far, I’ve met with the U.N. Development Program and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and from these I have developed a few more leads to pursue. By November, I may have something to do besides watching the dog ignore me when I try to teach him to “heel” and “stay”.