November 23, 2006 - Today is Thanksgiving Day in Baghdad (well, everywhere). The Protocol Office arranged a bazaar where people could go and see/buy some local handicrafts. There were silver boxes and bracelets and jewelry, rugs (LOTS of rugs!), some electronic equipment, DVDs, shirts with logos (from Embassy offices), and other items. A military brass quintet played Christmas songs to give some atmosphere and then later the Fiji choir sang a capella for us too! It was a really, really pleasant time. And I managed not to spend much money!
For dinner, the DFAC went all out. They had decorated the "BabyFAC" a few days earlier (see photos on next page) and had a nice centerpiece made of fruits and veggies and a horn of plenty. The main DFAC was gorgeous - a tableau of Pilgrims (pig and all!) a replica of one of Columbus' boats, carved gourds, bread baked in the letters spelling out "THANKSGIVING" etc. The tables were lined up, family-style and the tableclothes had a design that looked like wood grain (covered by clear plastic, sigh). The lights were dimmed a bit and candles were lit on the table. All in all, it was a very nice atmosphere.
For dinner, there was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, shrimp cocktail, salad, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, sweet potato and pecan pie, lobster, and oh my gosh! They also served sparkling grape juice (red and white) as a little something extra. We had a lovely time, although the DFAC was packed to the gills. It wasn't quite the same as being home with my family, but it was still nice to be with the close friends I've made here in Baghdad.
December 9, 2006 - Last night the Ambassador hosted a Diplomatic Reception for the holiday season. People dressed up (cocktail dresses/slacks for the women and suits for the men), ate some delicious typical Iraqi food, had some wine and beer. There was a wonderful band to play Christmas carols and even a young lady sang a few songs for us. It was so nice to see everyone dressed up. The "Green Bean" area was decorated (as are both the main DFAC and BabyFAC). It was very festive.
So, in case you missed this tip before, go ahead and pack a nice outfit (or two, if you plan on attending the Marine Birthday celebration in November). You will have a chance to "strut your stuff" even though you are in a war zone. Which was, now that I think of it, fairly bizarre! But nice. The truth is we try to be as "normal" as possible, given the circumstances and celebrate holidays and make the best of things.
There was a door decorating contest organized by KBR, so after the holiday party we stopped by to vote for our favorite. Needless to say, I voted for the Protocol door, since it was made up of lots and lots of photos - including some of me. I'm such a shameless ham!
Afterwards, some of us went to "The Hump" which is an ad-hoc bar run by one of the Personal Security Detail contractors. We were all joking that it looked like the scene of the bar from "Star Wars." Only no one was really, really an alien. . . But it was a nice, relaxing time and one way to spend the evening, when you're far from home.
There are some nice pictures from the holiday party which I am adding to the website - "Photos - Holiday Celebrations." Enjoy!
March 17, 2007 - Thursday night we christened our new office. We moved from the middle part of the Palace to the South Wing, near the Health Unit and the BabyFAC (how convenient is that???!!) We had wine and "margaritas in a bag" (who says you can't find a good frozen margarita in Baghdad?!!), sodas, chips and some fantastic Iraqi food made/purchased by our intrepid Locally Engaged Staff. One of your staff members made some tabouli and her mother made some stuffed potato patties. We also had some typical Iraqi bread, hummus and kebobs. It was a great way to start up our new offices and celebrate "Thank God It's Thursday" (TGITh).
Last night I went to two - count 'em two - St. Patrick's Day parties. First, I tagged along with Vickie to a party given by some people from the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO). They had headbands with shamrocks on a spring ("deeliboppers"), baloons, green cups with "Happy St. Patrick's Day" written on them, green beads and shamrock necklaces, St. Patrick's Day napkins and plates, you name it! It was held on the balcony overlooking the "back" side of the Embassy and was quite festive. The weather was cool and there were fireworks in the Red Zone to celebrate Kurdish New Year. It was definitely a unique Baghdad experience.
Later, we went to the "private" party held by the RSOs - formerly known as the "Lock 'n' Load." Music, drinks, darts, a fire where you could put your feet and and chat with friends. Very relaxing. I dedicate this blog entry to Mike O - you know who you are - who had never heard of my website; and to Matt, who had; and to Vickie, who got me out of my hootch and into the party scene.
July 4, 2007 - When I was in A-100 (the training class that all newly-hired Foreign Service Officers go through - kind of like a boot camp for diplomats), one of the instructors said that you've never heard the "Star Spangled Banner" until you've heard it overseas. And he was right. Every year that I have been overseas, attending the annual 4th of July reception is always a moving affair. Inevitably the Marine Security Guard Detachment puts on a color guard, marching in their dress blues with the Marine flag and the US flag, moving in formation. Then the National Anthem is played - either live or a recorded version. And to be honest, it always brings tears to my eyes. Hearing our National Anthem on foreign soil is not like listening to it before a ball game. (Some people think the last two words to the National Anthem are "play ball!")
Anyhow, we had a reception today and it was very nice. KBR outdid themselves with the decorations; Mr. Lee outdid himself with the food (both at the reception and for dinner!) Then later in the afternoon, there was a "county fair" with a dunking booth, bean bag toss, groups selling candied apples, t-shirts, etc. and a rock band played. And luckily we had no "rocket's red glare" for fireworks. Only one duck and cover all day long. Next year, I want to go and see REAL fireworks!