Gladys Abankwa-Meier-Klodt grew up in North America and Ghana as the child of two career diplomats. A graduate with two degrees in microbiology and immunology from McGill University, she nominally defected from the natural sciences some 20 years ago and has been writing, designing, and training others to communicate across cultures ever since. Her work includes the first architectural history of New Delhi’s purpose-built diplomatic enclave, and initiation of a series of workshops to prepare Federal Foreign Office (Berlin) families for ex- and repatriation. Mother of 2 adult children and spouse of a German career diplomat, with the experience of life-enriching stays in Russia, the US, the UK and India, she arrived in Bucharest with her husband, now Germany’s ambassador to Romania, in January, 2017.
By Fulvia Meirosu
OZB Magazine talked to Gladys Abankwa-Meier-Klodt about the annual IWA Charity Christmas Bazaar, that will take place on Sunday 10th of December at Romexpo, but also about life as an expat. Founded in 1978, the International Women’s Association (IWA) is an independent charitable organization.
– How is different this Christmas Bazaar from the last ones ?
For one thing, we have attained the highest number of participating countries in recent years, and quite possibly the highest ever rate of participation. This is, of course, something to celebrate! There will be several countries taking part for the first time, and visitors will have the opportunity to pay a virtual visit to countries to which they may never otherwise travel. Otherwise, as in previous years, one can expect a wide range of merchandise, appetizing international cuisine and a vibrant cultural program – it will be a bold and beautiful multicultural extravaganza!
– How important is for you the charity activity ?
Charity really did begin at home, as the adage goes. My grandmother took in and raised other people’s children, despite having 11 of her own, and my parents have both contributed generously to educational charity work; my mother went as far as building a secondary school for disadvantaged girls, so I suppose you could say I imbibed it with my mother’s milk. Away from home, I was first introduced to fund-raising and charity activity during my primary school days, when money was raised to fund the building of an extension to our school library or to renovate our church. I came to realize with time, that the effort that was put into raising money for one’s own benefit could also be used to improve the lives of others who lacked the same opportunities. We live in an equal world, of that there is no doubt, but each individual has it in his or her power to effect a change, however small, in the life of another, with what some might call a “sacrifice” of time and disposable resources. I am not actively involved in any organized charity work at the moment, but I support a few individuals with regular stipends.
– How easy/difficult it is to raise funds here ?
I have been pleasantly surprised at the generosity and spontaneous magnanimity of many of the corporate sponsors that I have approached in the run up to the IWA Bazaar. I have no inhibitions about asking, because the worst that can happen is getting ‘no’ for an answer. I generally find that once one has made the effort to ask, the person on the other end will reciprocate with an attempt to be helpful.
– What is your impression about Romania ? Which are the best & worst things about Romania ?
Romania is culturally diverse, blessed with natural beauty and bounty, and wonderfully welcoming people. I have come up with a slogan for my friends who live outside of the country: Romania – NOT WHAT YOU THINK!
There is not much I can think of that I don’t like, but I would welcome very much the introduction of a few highways to get one to some of the marvellous places in this country faster.
– In how many countries did you live ? How does it feel to move from one country to another ?
At last count, the number was 10. Mine has been a peripatetic lifestyle since infancy, for me, it is normalcy. I have never lived for more than 6 years at once in a single place, and it is only recently that I have begun to feel the need to have a place for my things to call home. It is the moving around of things that takes more of a toll on me than personal relocation, but I now have a home for some of my things that they will never have to leave. Moving every 3-4 years has given me the opportunity to reinvent myself – I have never tired of that – to discover new cultures; often, to learn a new language, and in general, to engage in a calibre of contact with people in a manner that might not be possible for someone rooted in a single place. It doesn’t mean I live episodically; I have made an effort to keep in touch with people I have met over the years. This spring, I reunited with five of my high school classmates after over 3 decades, and I still maintain meaningful contact with some of my kindergarten and primary school mates. I have often been asked what or where my home is. In the end, home is not just a place, it is a feeling, of being able to commune with people, regardless of nationality, people who speak the language of shared or similar experiences and who require no interpreter. An open heart and mind go a long way.
– What do you do for Christmas ? What is your favorite Christmas tradition ?
Living in a bi-cultural household, we alternated our Christmas celebration traditions from year to year when our children were younger, so they could enjoy the best of both worlds. Christmas, for me, is celebrated on December 25th; for my husband, the evening of December 24th is most important. I have managed to prevail in recent years.
I love a white Christmas, with lots of atmospheric candle light, carols, a real evergreen tree lit by candles, sumptuously decked halls, festive meals featuring turkey, goose, and game, and gatherings with friends and family. Listening to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker – or going to see a performance of the ballet makes the celebration complete.