International Coffee Hour

by Weam Namou

Coffee Hour

My husband normally drops off the kids at school in the morning. Once they’re out of the house, I usually start the day with writing, cleaning the house, cooking, and then it’s 3pm and I have to pick up the kids. Yesterday morning was different. I volunteered to drop off the kids because I wanted to join a new coffee hour event at 8:30am.

Over coffee and donuts, I sat with the principal of the school, Mr. Slancik, and the community’s favorite priest, Father Matthew, along with several teachers and parents. We discussed politics, religion, and community news. I noticed for the first time the flags that hung on the walls of the cafeteria. I counted forty-one flags, each from a different country around the world.

I asked the principal what these flags represent. The principal said that according to what he was told, since Schcuchard Elementary was built, students from that many nationalities had at one point or another attended this school. I was happy to know the school had such rich diversity. The more diverse a place is, the more opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn new things. This is precisely what I loved about traveling overseas. I always attained a new perspective and returned home with greater and deeper knowledge and appreciation of the world, as well as my home.

I carefully observed the flags, each distinct in its symbolism. One in particular caught my attention and I asked, “Does anyone know what country that red flag belongs to?”

The English teacher beside me said, “That’s an Albanian flag. It’s from my birth country. The symbol is a double-headed eagle.”

The eagle was used for heraldic purposes in the late middle ages by a number of noble families in Albania. The Kastrioti’s coat of arms, depicting a black double-headed eagle on a red field, became famous when he led a revolt against the Ottoman Empire that resulted with the independence of Albania from 1443 to 1479. This was the flag of the League of Lezhe, which was the first unified Albanian state in the middle ages.

I did not know that like Iraq, Albania was once occupied by the Ottoman Empire. People are always focusing on our differences, allowing our similarities to go by the wayside. More coffee hours would help cure that.