Life in the Foreign Service brings many unexpected moments and crazy memories and this is the way I like it.
Nobody told me I would …
- Pilot a Cessna over the Sine Saloum Delta in Senegal – I don’t even have a pilot’s license!
- Glide from baobab to baobab like Tarzan near the reserve of Bandia.
- Eat ‘yassa’ chicken with my hands, sitting on the floor in a tiny village near Joal.
- Take West African businessmen and women to a trade show in Las Vegas and be their nanny 24/7.
- Drive from Dakar to Bamako on the side of the road, in the sand, because it was safer than dealing with the potholes on the road.
- Meet Madeleine Albright at breakfast during an American Chamber of Commerce event in Mexico City.
- Take the kids to Acapulco and learn that, just near us, the narco-traffickers had chopped a dozen heads.
- Meet and kiss Margarita Zavala, a federal deputy, wife of then president of Mexico Felipe Calderón.
- Welcome musician and singer Seal at the consulate, chitchat and take photos.
- Enjoy a lucha libre show with its masked warriors. Lucha libre is a very well-choreographed wrestling competition with heroes and villains. The fun was also among the spectators, for example grandmothers gesturing and yelling chinga tu madre and all other kind of nondescript foul language.
- Meet and kiss vice-president Biden after his speech at the Embassy in Mexico City, and later receive a letter of appreciation in Pakistan, letter forwarded from Mexico even though it had a wrong address for the Embassy in Mexico.
- Be car-chased by a crazy man in Chiapas where hubby had to remember and apply all his classes of Crash & Bang defensive driving.
- Eat powdered ants in a wonderful Mexican dish.
- Participate and rank top 2 in the first ever triathlon of my life in Islamabad at an age when some of us are grandmothers.
- Climb the full size brass antelope in the Karachi airport on a dare given by my female boss – who did it too!
- Be called daughter by a toothless Pakistani villager, thankful that via USAID we brought her electricity.
- Hike the Margalla hills every week and befriend Pakistani girls in the mountains.
- Become a designer and invent many unique dresses and shirts thanks to the sewing skills of my Pakistani tailor.
- Plant my own tree to celebrate the end of a successful project. I was a drop in the ocean of that project but as a representative of USAID, I was treated like royalty.
- Feeling like a rock star or the Queen of England when I entered a classroom and was “showered” in rose petals Pakistani hosts had laid on the blades of the fan.
- Sleep on the floor of the hut of unknown Thai mountain villagers.
- Buy a beautiful and unique piece of embroidery in Thailand that the embroiderer consented to sell only because I was married.
- Eat in bamboo plates from bamboo dishes with bamboo chopsticks that had all been carved in front of my eyes a few minutes before the meal.
- Taste savory dishes of the curly-haired Mangalica pig during the Mangalica festival in Budapest.
- Celebrate Valentine’s day in Bosnia (usually more synonym of war than love, unfortunately).
- Visit an exhibition in total darkness, led by a blind guide and experience like a blind person what life is like, dinner included.
- Hike to the top of Mount Triglav, the highest mountain of Slovenia at 2864 meters (9,400 feet).
- Eat foie gras in a special ‘Magyar’ McDonald burger, the libamajjal, where liba means goose, maj liver and the –al suffix with.
- Climb a Via Ferrata for the first time in my life: the steep via Ferrata Hans-von-Haid-Steig trail to reach Mount Rax in Styria, Austria at 2 000 meters.
- Learn a few words of Chinese because I am working as a TDYer in Beijing, China, in the middle of the summer – yet the weather is not as hot as in Budapest or Paris.
- Three years after doing a TDY in Beijing, being assigned to Beijing and invited to model a qipao dress (also called cheongsam) at a fashion and culture show in the Silk Market.
Some friends tell me ‘I didn’t know you were doing these kinds of thing’ and I answer ‘me neither’!