We had a little fete last night for my 46th birthday. We met with both Albanian friends and Fulbright fellows at the New Berlin restaurant.
Our plan was a simple pizza and beer sort of gathering but the head waiter there sprung into action and brought out green and antipasto salads, sparkling and nonsparkling water and three sorts of pasta for the fifteen or so of us there. Shawna brought a cheesecake from Acropol Pastisserie which was graced with some dark chocolate on top (I didn’t get to taste the chocolate). The cheesecake itself was light and not overly sweet. While we didn’thave candles, the staff at New Berlin decorated the top of the cheesecake with American flags and other things. I had a big beer. I mean a liter of German dark beer. The restaurant also bought us a bottle of Albanian champagne served in long, straight flutes. It tasted different than any champagne I’ve had and had a hint of raki, I thought, though no one else seemed to notice any of that.
Our Albanian and American contacts from the embassy came, as did some of the other Fulbrighters here: Symeon, the international relations scholar, and Kimberly, the comparative lit specialist, and her Albanian husband Dorian. I was especially touched that my program director, Lida Tabaku and her colleague Shpresa came. Even moreso that Carly’s cello teacher, Teuta (“tay-ew-ta,” same name as an Illyrian queen), her 18-year-old daughter Jona (say “yona”) came along.
Part of the reason Teuta and Jona were there has to do with the present I asked for from Carly. She made me a great birthday card with an owl on it and I’m sure she would have been happy to get me a tie or something, but I asked that she play “Happy Birthday” for me on her cello at the restaurant. This is becoming somewhat of a tradition. Last year, as we celebrated my 45th at our house, she was showing some of what she had learned to do on her cello to her grandparents. On a lark, I pulled the cello music for “Happy Birthday” off the internet and she sight-read it pretty much accurately right there. She’s usually nervous about playing in front of people, so I was surprised she was willing to play in a restaurant, but she did so, right next to her teacher, the notes ringing clearly and smoothly with a happy vibrato that was more than accompanyment for the singing of the song. In addition to the whole gathering with good cheer and vibrant conversation, Carly’s playing was my favorite present.
There are no pictures here because I charged the battery for my camera, put in the memory card and then prompty left it on the desk next to my computer.