While our July 4th Independence Day celebration has come and gone, the celebrations around Prague for every other nation continue — equating to about 100 receptions a year.
AND, while it is always courteous to attend and represent the U.S.A. at the National Days of others, I was just not feeling up to it this afternoon. It was easier back in July when the sun was shining, and I wasn’t just recovering from a prolonged virus.
Cold. Wet. Windy. All descriptors of the weather today in Prague. Diplo-dog nor this Diplo-wife wanted to leave the confines of the house. It was so disagreeable, that Lexi refused to go out at all. Winter is coming and she is not amused. Hunkering down with a shivering dog (shivering because she had to pee while I was giving her the “evil eye” daring her not to relieve herself on the Oriental rug), I decided to study Czech. Uncharacteristically engaged in my studies, I realized just before 5 PM, that not only did I barely have time to get ready for a 6 PM diplomatic reception, but that Lexi really needed to go out like it or not. So I dragged her off the bed and out the door, hoping to distract her long enough to sneak back inside and deal with my now frizzed hair. I miraculously managed to get from this state…….
To something akin to this in T minus 30…….
That 30 minutes of ready time included cleaning a wet, muddy dog whom I failed to intercept as she ran up the steps and soiled everything in her path. Nothing like giving your pet a “Spanish shower”, in a dress suit, while being licked on a freshly applied made-up face with “Eau de Rodent” on her breath. Of course I was wearing black, and without time to change was heading out the door semi-covered in wet dog fur. Note to self: Buy clothes that are medium brown, dog color. Having an aversion to being late, I was grateful that we made it to the reception just in time for the anthem and speeches, despite the wet dog incident and traffic gridlock (and my inability to tell time while studying a foreign language).
Now about this specific National Day reception — same as the rest of them. Well that is not entirely true, because saying so would be cultural insensitive, which I am not. However, there is quasi formula that most follow, and this one wasn’t an exception.
The venue can be anything from an Ambassador’s garden to a hotel ballroom to a palace. This particular one took place at the Boscolo Hotel. It is good to pay attention to the particulars of an invitation so that you show up with appropriate footwear. Heels and garden parties do not mix unless sinking in the grass is your thing. I am guilty of neglecting this detail twice. People arrive promptly (not just to receptions, but to all events in the Czech Republic), so there is often a line to get in, followed by a cocktail half hour featuring wine and/or liquor from the host country — unless it is a culture where alcohol is NOT served, or a country like Ireland where ONLY very strong alcohol (with the lack of food to absorb it) IS served. Immediately following is the host country’s national anthem and speeches delivered by their Ambassador, as well as that of a Czech Minister or other senior government official. Speeches often in the native tongue of the speaker, are then translated in both Czech and English. It takes a while. My feet begin to ache. People get fidgety towards the end and start conspicuously veering towards the buffet tables if they haven’t already positioned themselves there preemptively.
Today was no exception. As usual, the room was filled with Ambassadors, Diplomats, Foreign Ministers, Military elite, etc. lining up for food en masse. All I wanted to do was to find the WC! In my earlier haste to escape my dog salon duties, I neglected to follow rule #1 — pee before leaving the house. So in a hot, overcrowded room of VIPs balancing plates, drinks (and purses), I tried desperately to gently elbow my way towards the restrooms. Unfortunately, as I now have gotten to know some of the Diplomatic community, I was stopped a dozen or so times for greetings and inquiries about our recent trip to Italy. Sigh. I should have gone out with the dog! When I finally reconnected with Steve, I had already received one too many dual-cheek kisses, handshakes and close breathing encounters for my comfort level. It was at that point in which a bath in Purell seemed more inciting than the dessert table.
Many people perceive diplomatic receptions as nothing but a series of fancy cocktail parties. I suppose on the surface they appear that way, they are really more akin to business networking on steroids. Important people, talking about important things (including where to ski in the Italian Alps) — making nice to each other even if their respective countries are not. There is an art to that which I find inspiring, especially with the state of current world tensions. In addition, it is nice to celebrate good things such as a nation’s independence when there are many that are still oppressed. Admittedly, some celebrations are a bit fancier than others…
Nevertheless, I am happy to be snuggled back in bed where my day began with my warm (abet wet) dog. I think we are both hoping to wake up tomorrow to sunshine. After all, I have another reception to attend. Different Nation. Different Venue. Different Food. Just another (National) day.