I have been the A/Chief of Protocol for a week. I only made 2 mortifying mistakes (instead of sending one invitation, I emailed a 75+ distribution list ... turning red at the thought of myself ... I quickly learned how to recall a message, so probably only 60 or so saw my mistake. Oh, well, the more the merrier at a party right?)

Here a a few highlights from last week.

I got fresh cut flowers!
The Czech’s brought 2 huge bouquets for my boss and I to thank us for our all our work with a project I just finished up. It was the most wonderful treat! There really are NO flowers here, so this is the most precious commodity I have received. Apparently the Czech Ambassador’s wife has a garden. My bouquet is green and purple with white lilies. The other bouquet was yellow carnations and red flowers (I don’t’ know what they are) .

Also, I bought 2 plants in my apartment. They are asparagus ferns, they’re staying alive OK … I’m saying “God bless you little plant, grow and prosper” when I mist them, so hopefully they will live! They also only cost $3 total, so they're like a goldfish. Their names are Fern and Spear. Spear is living ... Fern fading fast.

Plants, like flowers and grass, are not easy to come by here, but since I am the Chief of Protocol and it is a priority for the CMR to look well kept, for representational purposes we get plants through Iraqis in the red zone.

Last week, I took my first mission to the RZ. It was exhilarating. I was one of three principals in a 5 car envoy with tanks at the front and back maneuvering to the German Embassy for a reception welcoming the new Ambassador. Pretty Cool.

This is me returning safe and sound in my PPE.

The afternoon reception was followed by an intimate dinner at the Italian Embassy. Oh! Man! The Italians know how to live --and eat --and drink! This is the most normal atmosphere in the IZ that I have experienced. First of all, they have grass! The Embassy is smaller and there are patios and it just looks and feels like an oasis from the surrounding desert.

The evening started with wine and cheese in the back yard. Delicious cheese that came from Italy! I took off my shoes and stood around in the grass and just let my senses take it all in. Two Ambassadors at our Embassy are from Mercersberg! (No joke!) They love H-town Sun's games! We had quite a bit to laugh and talk about. Plus they are UVA grads, WA HOO WA!

I was seated at the head of the table. (So cool foreshadowing on my life! 'In sha allah, God Willing) We started with a palate cleansing salad meat and cheese plate, followed by the best spaghetti of my life, not to saucy, not to dry. Then mashed potatoes and some kind of meat ... all I remember were the real, home made mashed potatoes. Then dessert: dum da da duuummm Chocolate mouse. Let me just say, I have had this thing the US calls "chocolate mouse" and what the Italians made was something totally different. It was like a rich, smooth, full chocolate blend of ice cream, gelatto and clouds. Heavenly. (PORK, I wish I could've snapped a photo!)

Each course of the meal was served with a different glass of wine and then dessert liquor to really bring out the flavor of the foods. So 6 slowly consumed glasses of wine later, I know why they call it spirits. We were all in good ones!

Then they brought out chocolate truffles that have fortunes written on the inside. I had the only set of eyes that could decipher the small writing, so I was passed each Ambassadors fortune and too the liberty of adding 'in bed' to the end of each fortune. Everyone loved it and laughed and laughed ... !
If you gave me all the kisses in the world, they would still be too few in bed.

On Friday I slipped out to the pool for 45 minutes and it was my first time to lay out. I wish I had more time to relax like this, it was great. Felt like vacation for a moment.

I took a late lunch to do a little shopping at the Bazaar (mostly rugs and jewelry) and stopped by the Crossed Swords Memorial to take some pix.

These "speed bumps" are helmets of fallen soldiers Saddam killed. Gross. It felt very weird.

Thank you for all the post cards and care packages! It is so wonderful to get mail here, I feel so special. And, if there's anything you need from Iraq, don't hesitate to let me know!