Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Fourth of July, Ash Wednesday, and Chinese New Year!

When I heard that the Foreign Service required flexibility, I never thought that it would also include rescheduling the premiere date on the American diplomatic calendar. I think it's safe to say that there are few things more American than celebrating American Independence Day on the Fourth of July. If you didn't know, the Fourth of July is the big event at American Embassies and Consulates. Sure, there might be some wiggle room to move the festivities to the nearest weekend, but that's just a couple of days. But would you ever think about holding it in February? I wouldn't. That's literally moving the big show up five months!
I think the rugs were a nice touch.
Tonight, the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia celebrated the Fourth of July in the Middle of February! At first, I thought that this was done because Ramadan 2015 will run from June 17th to July 17th, and it's kind of hard to throw a Fourth of July kind of event when everyone is fasting or has skipped town because the heat is unbearable. As it turns out, the Independence Day celebration this year was held in February because it's the 70th anniversary of FDR's meeting with King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. That was the first time a U.S. president met with a Saudi king. It was such a big deal that there's even a picture from that meeting hanging in the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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With any luck, there will be some pictures of the event posted to the US Consulate Jeddah's Instagram page before too long. Who knows, since I was in the role of "dynamic greeter", I might even be in one of them. In the background...behind several other people...trying not to be in the photo. Or you might see me in the background in more of a "dynamic eater" role, since we had all sorts of American companies with franchises in Jeddah providing free samples.
Cornhole? Seriously?
Although, I don't think that I've ever seen anyone but Americans play it.
Now, one of my hobbies is to look for incongruities, juxtapositions, and ironies. So, of course I found it interesting that February 18 also happens to be Ash Wednesday for Catholics. But it would be a seriously bad idea (point #4) to walk around Saudi Arabia with an ashen cross on your forehead. Now, we're not Catholic, but we still try to maintain some of the traditions from back home along the Gulf, and Mardi Gras is one of those. So we had pancakes for Shrove Tuesday last night to celebrate the season.

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Completely switching gears: I've notice that I'm getting more search hits from the Chinese search engine Baidu. As you may be aware, February 19th begins the Chinese New Year... the lucky Chinese WoodChinese Sheep (Year of Wooden Sheep/Goat)! So to any of my Chinese readers out there, 新年快乐! I don't think we'll end up getting assigned to China any time soon, but I'm sure we'll visit there at some point in the future if we get posted nearby.

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