Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Iftars, Lebanese Tzatziki in Australia and Naked Catholics

The childless madness continues – while Son gallivants in Europe with Grandma, the Diplomat and I overdose on Iftars, tennis and sunlight. Last 10 days saw us attend 8 Iftar parties, whether for work or pleasure. While I certainly appreciate the cuisine and the concept of the Iftar party, I have to admit it took a toll on me. As faithful diplomats, we Americans host and attend a slew of formal representational Iftar dinners. In and of itself, that is all very nice. But often the dinner unfolds something like this:
Me: So, you are from the Bangladeshi foreign ministry, in the consular section, how exciting!
(Very serious) BGD diplomat: Yes. (Pregnant silence)
Me: (beginning to eat) That must be very interesting.
BGD diplomat (gently drinking a glass of lemonade, frowning): Yes.
Me (filling mouth hastily with tasty breads): So, do you have kids?
BGD diplomat (suddenly and intensely): How do you think the U.S. recent policy change in Iran will affect the status quo in the region???? What are the real issues for the presidential elections?? Who will be the running mate for the Republicans?? WHO WILL WIN THE ELECTIONS??
Me (mouth full of bread and goat biryani, rather startled, stupefied): Wha’? (muffled by the bread)
So, yeah, while the food is great and company highly engaging, it is not all that easy to be the consummate diplomat that I fancy I am during an Iftar dinner.
The night Ramadan ended, on the eve of Eid-Ul-Fitr, the Diplomat and I, and what seemed like ¾ of the American Embassy and the remaining expat community in Dhaka, climbed a Bangkok Air flight and ran to Phuket. For us, it marked the beginning of our annual R&R vacation. Now, this is how great of an employer the State Department is. Depending on where you serve in the world, it understands the need for some well-deserved R&R by its weary employees and so it generously provides them with a free ticket to a chosen destination (that depends on where you serve) to relax and forget about visas and demarches. Thank you, State Department, thank you very much!
We spent 5 blissful, tennis and sun-drenched days in Phuket where we slept until 10.30 am, ate, jumped like maniacal mongooses in the silky ocean, slept some more on the beach, ate late lunches, read deep literature, played tennis for hours and then gazed intently into each other’s eyes every night over copious and unhealthy dinners.  
Among all of these delights, however, our favorite remains the Thai massages – whether it is just a humble foot massage, a protracted aromatherapy something or a traditional Thai (something of a gymnastics fete), every time we are in Thailand, the Diplomat and I make sure to overindulge. Unfortunately, when you go to traditional tourist destinations like Phuket, you are more than certain to get more than you have bargained for. For me, getting a massage is an entire experience – from the smell of oils, to the darkened lights, to the fragrant towels, to the quiet lull of the parlous to the ultimate excellence of the massage itself. In most massage places on the main streets, people tend to get foot massages. To serve that need, parlors are in essence long wide corridors with many large comfy lazy-boy chairs lined next to each other. Maintaining silence is common sense and courtesy provided by most sensible clients. So, you can imagine my chagrin when, after a day of intense eating and ocean jumping, the Diplomat and I sat down in a nice looking, fragrant massage place, and within seconds of having my feet washed and expertly mauled by a freakishly strong woman, I realized that I was sitting to a massage aficionado’s worst fear – a rather gregarious lady. In the next ten minutes, I learned all about her tzatziki business in Sydney (third largest in Australia, mind you!) and the large amounts of Lebanese in Australia, info which she shared eagerly and rather loudly in the most uncanny New Jersey accent with the hapless Greek gentleman who had the misfortune to be sitting next to her. When I could not take it anymore, I turned politely to her and in most sugary annoyed voice asked her to perhaps, please, tone it down a bit, she turned to me and in the utmost earnest manner passionately said to me, “I don’t blame ya!” and did not utter a single word for the remainder of the massage. It was indeed, one of the best I have had so far.
I am happy to say that among the other useless activities, the Diplomat and I also went to a dance club! Yeah, we are WAY cool. We even remained there for like 30 minutes. Cool. COOL!!
Yesterday, we packed our bags and rushed back to Dhaka where we spent the day laundering and repacking, and ready to fly to Paris tomorrow morning. YEAAAAAAAAAAAH! See you in Europe, everyone!
PS - As I am typing this, I am also watching National Geographic’s Taboo show, featuring Catholic churches in which everyone is butt naked. A-hum. Naked. Not, like, attractive naked. More like rather large, all-in-your face kind of naked. One with God. Amen! 

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.