Monday, August 6, 2012

“And Please, Do Not Panic!”

I know it has been over 2 weeks since my last post. Blame the slow, humorless life we live and the summer dearth of parties. On the other hand, we have now entered Ramadan and in the next two weeks I am not sure we need to cook anything because every single night is taken by one Iftar party or another, some formal and some by friends. Iftar, if you will recall, is the cornucopia dinner following a day of fasting started at dawn by faithful Muslims. The problem is that none of us Americans are fasting and yet we eat just as much as our fellow Muslim fasting guests, as a result of which they get energized and talkative and we – sluggish and entering slow, undiplomatic stupor while trying to maintain clever, engaging conversation. Perhaps I should be skipping lunch this week? I am sure my thighs will have something to say about that.

Now I will share with you my experience at one of the most wonderful albeit somewhat phantasmagorical event commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence two weeks ago - I was handed an invitation to the fest by our protocol office. The event was organized by the Bangladesh American Society, which clearly knows how to throw a good party. I want their event planner for Son’s birthday! It had more than 500 guests, among which ladies with resplendent sarees and gentlemen with tight suits and most baffling ties. My driver dropped me off at the entrance of a huge convention hall, where I was met and greeted by a somewhat startling gaggle of youngsters dressed in suits, who yelled at me in one voice, “Welcome and happy anniversary!!!” Still dazed from their enthusiasm and smiles that could put the Cheshire cat to shame, I went inside in the cavernous hall where I was immediately handed a bunch of flowers by no less enthusiastic young ladies dressed in sarees in the colors and shapes of the American flag – a most daring combination if I should say so. I was then led by a few excited young men to a large table right at the front of the stage where I was asked politely but firmly to please, sit down. Every time I got up and tried to move around someone would come and practically push me back into my chair. It was at that point that I realized that I was the sole American in the entire humongous hall filled with people. To make things worse, I was also wearing a blinding white dress and mile high white heels. Never have I felt more like the white elephant in the room than at that moment.
Mercifully, soon a couple of colleagues joined in and soon the lengthy programming began – according to the leaflet in front of me, we were scheduled to go from 4.30 pm until 8, when dinner would be served. The planning was elaborate – there were supposed to be a bunch of speeches by a number of incredibly distinguished speakers, mixed artfully with a myriad of cultural programming, acknowledgments and what have you event stuff. After our Ambassador arrived, and the few initial speeches were out of the way, the MC suddenly appeared and announced the beginning of the cultural program. And then he cryptically added, “and please, do NOT panic!” at which point he swiftly disappeared. I must admit, I did somewhat panic. Soon, 6 semi-naked men appeared on the stage and began an elaborate dance with a bunch of lit torches. The dance included robot-man motions and climbing on top of each other as a form of a ladder. And then suddenly, from several pipes right at the front of the stage, huge flames began erupting and stopping, erupting and stopping, for at least a minute or so. Once that stopped, the pipes emitted massive amounts of glitter in the air followed promptly by the good old smoke machine. The dancers continued their dancing unfazed. I liked the fire – the A/C in the hall was monstrous and I was freezing – since I was so close to the stage, the eruptions helped warm me up a bit. I think the show was a massive success. I would go again and try not to panic this time.
This past week, my Mom took Son to Bulgaria to indoctrinate him in Bulgarian, take him to the mountains to spend his seemingly inexhaustible energy, enjoy his antics and spoil him rotten for a month. After they left on Friday, I did not know what to do with myself – after dropping them off at the airport, I did not feel like sleeping, so I played computer games for 3 hours, watched inane TV, got a hot oil hair massage, played tennis, slept in the afternoon, did my hair and attended a rowdy jam session party at a friends’ house. My God, whatever do people without children do with all this free time?!
On Sunday, we hosted a welcome party for a newly arrived family participating in a wonderful tradition of engaging current officers at post to “sponsor” new arrivals. So, if you are old guns at post and CLO asks you to volunteer to sponsor newcomers – please, do! It is so nice to have someone buy some groceries for you before you come, walk through your apartment to make sure everything is OK, pick up your cell phone (and even program some numbers in it!), meet you at the airport and show you the ropes the next day at work. And then throw a gathering of some sorts to introduce them to the rest of the community. I’d like to think we made our sponsorees’ transition here just a tad easier.


  1. i thought u forgot about ur blog. a good account on iftar. but they observe fast for the whole day time and break it , but you people eat the regular B/F and lunch and still feel like partaking the iftar dishes! amazing appetite! in my younger days while at Hyderabad I used to attend such iftar breaks, and the food used to be delicious! enjoy as long as it lasts! Being american in a non american country has its own benefits and being specially attended in any congregation is one such privilege!

  2. So cool you get to send your son to BG with your mom for a month. I spent my summers with my grandparents in BG as a child and was fully expecting my kids would be doing that but my husband is ahem, less than trilled by the prospect. He never even spent the night at his grandparents, so the idea is absolutely foreign to him and he does not want them going anywhere without one of us. I would miss them terribly, of course but knowing how much fun I had with my grandparents makes me kinda sad that my little ones won't get to experience that (and yes, there's a lot of spoiling too). But, I guess that kinda stuff sometimes happens when you marry someone from another culture. Oh, well...

  3. Dani, well, the Diplomat was not exactly excited about it either and it took some, well, diplomacy and good arguments put forward to convince him. Son is having a blast with Grandma, and we get to sleep in sinfully, do waht we want and still see Son daily on the itnernet. So, we are good :).