November 3rd, 2007

happyfindus

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AWC!

The American Women's Club Malmö turns 10 years old this month. I'm pretty proud of that fact because though I wasn't the one who started the club, I HAVE been around since the very first meeting (at which there were 7 people, including Lizardmom, and of said 7 only 2 are still members: me and the founder) back in 1997 when I was gigantically pregnant with Martin. He was supposed to be due right then, practically the day we had the meeting but he chose to take his sweet time and in fact, had to be YANKED OUT 3 weeks afterwards.

AND I am still around 10 years later. I've been the newsletter and website editor of the club for 9 years with only a 1 year break 2 years ago. Under the tutelage of one of my best friends, who is also still a member and our webwoman though she has long since left Sweden, I learned HTML and helped build the website and online newsletter which I administer and the 2 of us are now building a new and beautiful interface for the club's website which keeps my to-do list full.

I've seen the club grow from those 7 members to over 140 at one point, averaging over the last few years around 125 members and their families. Being on the board all this time I have done lots of the other administrative jobs as well, helping out with membership, taking minutes, running meetings, organizing activities and events. I have compiled, laid out and had the Membership Directory printed every year. I have created templates for name tags, raffle tickets, sign in sheets and presentations for the annual business meetings.

It has almost always been fun, though not without its moments of aggravation, frustration and drama, and that is why I have continued. When I was first approached by the woman who started the club, I thought, "Why would I want to join a club to meet Americans? If I had wanted to meet Americans, I could have stayed in America."

Turns out that, first, I have met so many other global nomads and expats from all over the world, people I would never have met if I hadn't become a part of this organization, and second that I had completely underestimated the value and benefits of belonging to a group of people who are in the same situation (more or less) that I am: living in a foreign country, married to a foreign national, raising bilingual children in an unfamiliar system. Job hunting. Learning a new language. Negotiating the medical system. Learning the mores and nuances of a culture that on the surface may not seem much different from my own but holds many depths and potholes for the unwary. Figuring out ways to keep my traditions and culture alive in the passing of the seasons and the year. Integrating and assimilating without losing my identity.

Do you know, I had never met an Australian before I joined the AWC? (Now they're everywhere!) I had never met anyone from South Africa or Canada! Now I can count several in my circle of friends and acquaintances. That's pretty cool. I think it's even cooler to belong to a club that, despite its name, is open and welcoming to all: men and women alike, regardless of their country of origin.

Even in a country where English is prevalent, it's a joy to meet with a group of people who speak the same language, get the same jokes, have the same cultural references. I've made some of my best friends through the AWC and continue to meet interesting people who have the potential to become good friends at every event and meeting. I'm proud of the work I've done and continue to do. I'm proud of the other women (and now men!) in the club who add such value to the community, often without even realizing it, and who have helped make the club what it is today: a support, a network, a resource, and a haven for those far away from home.

Tonight we're going to the 10th Anniversary "Ball", which is being held at a castle here in Skåne. We're having a fancy dinner and wearing fancy dress (though there are no pumpkin coaches nor mice sewing madly on my gown in the attic) and I'm sure there will be some moving speeches and lots of laughter. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a bigger turnout for this party, and I wish that all of the people who mean so much to me here in Sweden and who have been along for this ride from the early days were coming tonight, but it won't affect my enjoyment of the evening. The pantyhose, however...THOSE might affect my enjoyment of the evening.

It will be fun to see what the next 10 years bring. :)