Saturday, March 20, 2010
Evenings with Ambassadors
The more interesting (blog worthy) stuff happens, the less I have time to write it up and post it. Such is the case these days.
The American Reception
About a week and a half ago I was invited to a reception at the US Ambassador's house. I hadn't met him yet though he arrived in country late last year. Other than being a US expatriate in Tanzania, my organization does have a considerable amount of US funding and it does make sense that our paths would cross before too long.
I have to say, I was pretty impressed with the man. It was a relatively short visit but I do have the impression that he's very articulate and he already seems to know more about the country than his predecessor. He's a retired Major General from the US Army and has held a number of other high level positions since. He committed himself to traveling to all the corners of the country starting with areas where the US is carrying out and/or funding activities. In fact he was headed out to see the refugee camps the following Monday. I had to apologize that I wouldn't be there due to my regional meetings in Mombasa, Kenya. In any case, I have to say, it's nice to have someone representing your country who is a class act. It's not always the case.
The Irish Ball
Last Saturday we attended the Irish Ball in Dar es Salaam. It's held every year, hosted by the Irish Embassy, but it's the first time that we've been. It's a rather pricey event but it's fun to do something like this once in a while.
The evening began with a large reception with the Irish Ambassador and a governor from Ireland who happened to be in the country. The Ambassador I'd met a year ago or so in a meeting with the Irish Minister of State when they were working together on the politically sensitive move to resettle 60 refugees to Ireland. The reception offered people an endless supply of champagne and Guinness prior to moving into the banquet room.
We were there thanks to the invitation of our Irish friend Elaine and her husband Tende (a couple whose wedding we attended last year, meriting a blog entry). The tackily (I know it's not a word) decorated ballroom actually added to the light-hearted nature of the evening. There was traditional Irish dancing, a whacky speech from the governor, a bottle of Irish whisky, Baileys and a couple of bottles of wine on every table and a wonderful selection of traditional Irish music. I have to say, Irish culture is so rich and attractive that, as an old Irish friend of mine in Switzerland used to say, "makes everyone wish they were Irish."
Throughout the evening I often thought back to my trip to Ireland in the summer of 1992. It consisted of a loop from Dublin, up to a recently-bombed and tense Belfast, across to the Aran Islands, down the western coast on bicycle to the Ring of Kerry and then to over to Cork. Unlike many travel destinations that don't quite match up to what you think they're going to be, for me, Ireland, with its charming pubs, welcoming people, old castles, etc. was better.