A very specific event that is usually unknown outside the diplomatic circle is the ‘diplomatic fair’ – although most of them are open to the public but generally poorly advertised outside this circle. Before joining the Foreign Service I had never heard of this type of event.
A Diplomatic Fair, as I had the pleasure to witness it four times already, is a fun giant bazaar recreating a mini world in one given place. It can take place in a big field in Africa or Mexico or a large venue in an international hotel. Imagine your school fair at the end of the year and multiply by 50 or 80 nationalities!
The association of the diplomatic spouses is the organizer of this event which is a fund raising event supporting one or several vetted charities among the ones that have more needs in a given country: children’s education, women shelters, orphanage or even a training center for dogs which will be placed with blind people.
These fairs have at least two components: national booths selling specialties from a given country and a food corner either common or again divided by countries. The Diplomatic Fair organized by the Diplomatic Spouses of Budapest is by far the most complete of the fairs I have witnessed so far since it adds many more components to please and entertain longer a more diverse public:
- All-day performances. Today it started by dances from India with four gracious ladies in colorful outfits; then there was a children’s choir; a folk dance from Europe; an energetic flamenco dance performed by mother and daughter; three muscular dancers from Nigeria who fired up the dance floor inviting people to dance with them at the tune of the drums; a folk dance from the Middle East which got everybody clapping; rock and roll and caroling from the United States (yes this was our team!) and many others that I missed because the place was extremely crowded
- There was an instant raffle where you knew immediately if you had won a small prize from about $5 to $30 and then at the end of the day there were the results for the big tombola with dozens of big prizes which value was considerably above $200 sometimes even $1,000.
- Second-hand corner. Used clothes, jewelry, DVDs, books, stuffed animals…
- Kid corner. This is a great idea both for the child and the parent. Kid doesn’t like to be dragged, parent likes to shop in peace – perfect win-win situation.
It was interesting to discover the empty room this morning at 7:00 AM. Some booths were entirely set up and decorated (which had to have occurred between 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM yesterday) and some were bare and some remained bare until 15 minutes prior to the grand opening. Different nationalities, different habits. Where it is truly a diplomatic event is that all countries exist, whether they have been recognized officially or not yet.
Soon the diplomatic spouses will gather and see who made the largest contribution. It is a matter of national pride to be among the top donors. I have a rather competitive spirit but for this occasion I would say: we all won because everyone who participated in this great even is already a winner, no need to count anything when it comes from the heart!