Dinner with Leila and friends

The other day, my lovely landlord, Leila, texted me inviting me to an “early” dinner on Tuesday night.  I put early in quotes because the time was 7:30.  That isn’t an “early” dinner to me but from my travel experiences, I realize that the rest of the world eats much later than us North Americans.  For example, it is norm in Chile to go out to eat around 10:00 PM or later.

It sounded very casual and I was under the impression it would be the two of us.  When I arrived, she started telling me of all the people who were coming…their names, where they were from, etc.  I have since decided that Leila is a “people” collector.  She knows people from around the world.

Leila is originally from Lebanon and studied archeology in college. She met her husband on a dig in Mexico, I believe.  They married and lived in Mexico for 28 years.  She has lived in NYC and now, London.  She has been in London for at least 22 years.  She is extremely well traveled and connected.  One of her lady friends is the widow of the creator of the game Trivia.  She knows ambassadors and on and on….

Dinner was a delightful event.  There were people from Pakistan, Lebanon, France, Brazil and Russia.  Seven of the nine now call London home.  It was wonderful to sit and hear the stories of their travel experiences, their political thoughts….everyone loves Obama! and life in their country.  The lady from Russia said that for 5% of the population, life is better now that they have independence.  For the other 95%, life was better under communism.  It has become a country of the “have” and “have nots”.  It is interesting that living in a free world doesn’t work the best for everyone.  I wonder why that is so?  Is it because they were so engrained in the communist doctrine that they don’t understand entrepreneurship?  Or, were they so poor when Russia became a free country and depended on the government for so long that they can’t start anew?  I don’t know but are good questions to ask when and if I get an opportunity.

Speaking of opportunity…I received an invitation to the Russian Embassy for an art exhibit tonight. Olga, the guest from Russia.  She has a non-profit, Russian Arts Help, to help new artist, musicians, actors and other gifted people to participate in exhibitions, concerts and festivals in Russia and abroad. Each year, she holds a competition across Russia for amateur artist.  The prize is recognition and a trip for two of the artist to London. Olga took everyone’s email at the dinner and invited us.

I did go to the art exhibit last night.  It was in three rooms on one side of the Russian embassy building.  The first room had a bar with wine, juices and water.  This room opened into the second and third rooms.  The walls were a pale yellow and had a wainscoting along the bottom half.  These two rooms were lined with chairs.  There was also a small baby grand piano in the second room.  I imagine that these rooms are used for small concerts for guest at dinner parties maybe?  Each room was lit with a beautiful crystal chandelier.   Hor d’oeuvres were place throughout the rooms. I didn’t have any but some appeared to be small rolls, others were canapes on a small slice of bread, topped with a beet and something else.

The walls were lined with paintings from the Russian artist.  Many of them were beautiful.  The theme this year was “My Beloved Russia”.  There were landscapes, glimpses of life in Russia…a family opening a gift around a table, children dressed in traditional costumes for “pancake week” in Solntsevo, girls by the ocean and some of cities in Russia.

I was able to speak to Olga briefly but as expected, she was very much in demand last night.  I am glad that I did get to say hello and thank her for the invitation.  She asked me to stay and she would speak with me in 10 minutes but honestly, she was very busy and I really didn’t want or need to take more of her time.

Attending gatherings like that alone is sometimes a tad difficult.  This was the case last night. People had arrived together or knew people there.  It wasn’t easy to mingle, so I quietly left after being there for about 20 minutes.  I am glad that I went. It was a new experience and probably an opportunity that I won’t have again in my lifetime.  At least I can say, I attended an event at the Russian Embassy in London!

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