A Quarter of a Century Reflection.

I've matured 25 years today.

My roommate Therese and I are both scorpios, my birthday today, hers is Wed. We had the most memorable birthday party. Over 200 friends came out to celebrate by the Palace pool, dancing, toasting champagne and laughing. Under the disco lights of the Rotunda it didn't feel like Baghdad. The play list was party perfect! My friend Nadia had send a decadent chocolate cake and all my Tamimi catering friends personalized a sweet yellow cake and through out a hot spread of wings, egg rolls, and pita chips (which are my fav!)

Three girlfriends hopped behind the bar and served up Baghdad Breezes and a plethora of other spirits to keep the crowd smiling and shakin' it on the dance floor. Dave played the Happy Birthday tune on the Bagpipes which quieted the party for our champagne toast. To which T & I had tied and curled purple, black and ivory ribbon to each plastic cup--to give it a little something extra.

A few Ambassador's and Deputy Chief of Missions attended, and as I chatted with the Commanding General's secretary, I had to excuse myself "to schmooze an Ambassador" who had just walked in, she stopped me and said, "Working your own party, Beth--that says a lot about you and the job you're doing. It's very good." At that time, I said, did you see the Arab League Charge? And she said, "Oh, introduce me, the CG wants a meeting before he leaves town."

As I walked away from her approaching my friend, a foreign Ambassador, I realized that it did say a lot. My circle of friends has elevated. I remember staring out the window of the East Wing as my colleagues boarded Marine One thinking, how can they just get on a helo with the President?! I know he is just a man, but I could not imagine being so close and not being starstruck. I have learned that responsibility matures you.

Coming to Baghdad I knew I was climbing a few rungs on the ladder, but I did not dream I would be a GS-15 and Chief of Protocol at 24 years young. At a quarter of a century, looking back it all feels surreal.

I am trying to savor every minute because I literally do not know what to expect next, but time flies and if it just keeps getting better, than WATCH OUT WORLD because I'm only 25!!! People are going to start having to say, look at her now because I really can't imagine what's next--

Now, I've had 8 extra hours to think of what I've learned over this past year and I've postponed making phone calls to my family and best friends who I knew would request Words of Wisdom. I have learned so much this year and it truly has been a year of the Lord's favor in my life (Isaiah 61) it took me all day to articulate it in a simple quote.

My Words of Wisdom

I've learned to walk by faith and not by sight, not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of it's own. It's okay to ask questions, even ones you feel like you should know the answer to--most times the person using the term or acronym doesn't even know what it stands for, so you look like the smarter one requesting clarification. And, the best things happen when you have no expectations--including relationships--and those are the best kind!

Party preparations and making the playlist.

You Have to See it to Believe It

In case some of you are sitting on the edge of your seat to see what the NYT was raving about, hehe... here are some pictures!

State flags lined the staircase and wrapped around the 2nd and 3rd floor balconies in the order they were admitted as states and territories. The stage showcased an Iraqi and US flag on either side of the State Department seal. Red, Blue and starred gossamer bunted one side of the atrium and the opposite side projected a 15x17 CNN stream of election results. To the left of the screen was a map of the US colored in red and blue with an explanation of the electoral college in English and Arabic.

Renaissance catering prepared ornate fruit displays and edible arrangements along with an Iraqi and American buffet. The cake speaks for itself.

6 days 'til my birthday

11.5.08 Election Day Celebration went well. Actually it went supercalfragistigaspealidocious. Over 300 bodies fit into the venue that would supposedly mas at 300. So it was packed!

The NYT said:
U.S. Envoy Hosts First Event at New Embassy in Baghdad (NY Times, Nov. 6)

BAGHDAD - The vast, new American Embassy in Baghdad, which cost well over half a billion dollars, has not yet officially opened. But the ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, welcomed about 250 Iraqi officials, diplomats and dignitaries for a preliminary glimpse on Wednesday morning in what was described as a party to celebrate the 2008 American presidential election.

"I'm delighted you could join us for the first event we could have in our new embassy," Mr. Crocker said in a brief address. But he also sounded a note of caution to Iraqi officials who might have been hoping for rapid changes in American leadership at a time when Iraq's government is entangled in negotiating the details of the security pact that sets the conditions for a continued United States military presence in Iraq.

"Our president today is George Bush, and he will be our president for the next two and a half months," Mr. Crocker told guests gathered at the four-story atrium of the main embassy building, which is in the heavily guarded part of the capital known as the Green Zone.

If the security pact, known as the status of forces agreement, is not signed before Dec. 31, when the United Nations mandate allowing United States forces to remain in Iraq expires, American troops will have to halt operations in Iraq.

Yet the embassy, built like a fortress, suggested a degree of permanence to the American presence here that at least some of the Iraqi guests seemed to find comforting.

"The size of this embassy and the number of employees who will occupy it are a sign of the American government's commitment to democracy in Iraq," said Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister. He did not remember the details of the original lease agreement for the land, he said, "but it was a very long lease."

A few feet behind Mr. Zebari, a waiter served green-tinted fruit punch out of a silver fountain. A cake the size of a cafeteria table, with a State Department seal drawn in shiny black icing, anchored one end of the room. Scenes of President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech were projected on a wall and, on a buffet, an eagle had been carved meticulously into the side of an upended watermelon.
Since 2003, embassy officials have worked in offices housed in what had been the Republican Palace of Saddam Hussein, which is in another part of the Green Zone.

Some of the staff members have already moved into their offices in the new embassy compound, and the rest are expected to move by the end of December.

The Republican Palace, a symbol of Mr. Hussein's power for many Iraqis, will then be used as an Iraqi government building, said a Shiite member of Parliament, Hasan al-Shammari of the Fadhila Party.

The election reception was held on a relatively quiet day in Iraq.

However, a car bombing on Baghdad's airport road killed four people and wounded nine.

MY DECORATIONS MADE THE NEWS!!! Who would've ever thought such time and energy and planning could go into a blurb like this. Not me, but it did feel nice to get distant mention.

Yesterday in our staff meeting, the Ambassador praised the success of the event TWICE! Two times he said, Beth, Great Job. Thanks for the event. Yayayayayayaayy!!!!! It made it worth every ounce of energy. My friends were chiding me, the Ambassador praised you by name twice, write that down! So, of couse, I am!

If you care to read Crocker's remarks, you can find them here http://iraq.usembassy.gov/remarks11062008.html

I'm falling for Fall in the desert

So much to catch you up on.

First, I have not had time to write and remind you that November 1st means it is a mere 16 days until my birthday (Nov 16) and typically not much would keep me from a reminder as important as celebrating the day of my birth, but the 11.5 Celebration is back on.

Yes! It's true! And as much as I would like to say I am happy about this fact, morale is low. At every meeting post-cancellation there is a key player who just doesn't feel like participating. It's never the same person, but the bad attitude is contagious, so please say a prayer because the party is back on and I want it to be safe and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

One good thing about planning for an Extravaganza that reduces to a mere Election Day Celebration is that you've already planned on a HUGE scale and so a large scale celebration leaves breathing room. (If that is a blessing in disguise, I didn't appreciate the emotional roller coaster, but a few evenings off was nice--including Oct. 30)

Halloween was a very fun weekend. I was the Queen Bee.

(See the Birds and the Bee : )

Friends met at my apartment and we had a great driver esquire us about the IZ for the evening. Yousef was in my FACT driving class that I took where we were RAMMING cars. (There were 3 people plus and instructor to a car, and Yousef was in my car) In Baghdad, there is a service called motor pool, and it's like a taxi service, you call and they take you where you need to go.

(Ladies, "Dorothy" and Yousef)

So the Statue of Liberty, Amy Winehouse, Dorothy, the chicken, a Greek goddess, a cereal killer, a sexy Yale Revolutionist, Hillary, Bridget Jones, Marilyn Monroe and Bee keeper and a bumblebee went out in Baghdad. First a tent party and then to the British Embassy for a Black tie Masquerade Ball that we busted in "fancy dress". It was a blast. And my Ambassadorial photo count for the night was 3.

First, in the afternoon a group of high ranking Embassy staffers and Ashley and I went to the German Embassy for their Independence Day Celebration. This was my 3rd trip to the red zone. Ash and I had a beer with Christof, the German Ambassador, the Minster of Foreign Affairs Zebari, and Her Excellency, the Minister of Human Rights. It was that cool. I also ran into some friends I had met at my first mission to the red zone when I went to a party at the German Embassy in the summer.

Then I finished up my work for the day and got in my bumblebee gear. We ran into the Danish Ambassador at the first party and then I danced my feet off with the British Ambassador. Very Fun. See below for my Halloween Wall of Fame.

The next day I somehow was signed up to pass out candy to the soldiers in the DFAC. "A whole group of people were getting together to take pictures by the pool and pass out candy" When I showed up, per my colleague's prompting email to all parties involved, I was surprised to find I was only one of two. So Foxy Brown and I made out rounds boosting Morale and Welfare around the Embassy. And at least giving everyone a good laugh--including myself!

Per the Subject Line:
So it's November now and the temperature is beautiful. Not the weather per say, because it is still extremely dusty, and it's been raining--which although the fresh water from the sky is nice there are no drainage systems here. And the drainage systems that were in place have been cemented shut because terrorists planted bombs in them. So, when it rains, it is a mud pool.

Also when a cool breeze blows through, you can see it coming towards you. All you can really think is, "that sucks" watching the dust tornado whirl towards you and there is no where to escape it except for a shower at the end of the day. Since the temperature has dropped I don't get sweaty, but I still get dusty every day.

However, the dust is norm and you deal with it. The temperature is what is so enjoyable, it's the strangest fall I have ever felt, the air hits a high of 76 during the day, but the sun is still hot, so in the sun it feel glorious. I crave afternoon runs (hopefully after 11.5 I will get to take them again). Apparently it will be this pleasent until February- when it gets cold, to a high of 40 degrees.

My favorite is the fall moon. Last night I walked on a errand to an outside office as night was falling around 1745 and I caught sight of the moon, a perfect bright crescent that had just risen over the palm trees. It was so glorious, my soul wanted to explode. I wrapped up work and beelined home gazing out the shuttle window at the moon until I reached home. I had dinner outside with a friend in order to enjoy the night and before I knew it, I looked at the moon that had now turned red as it slipped out of the sky.

The moon disappeared! 1900 there is no moon in Baghdad!

I was totally paranoid after just watching the movie "The Objective" (horrible acting, but the Afghanistan setting drew me in) about UFO/ghost type war fare in the Middle East, when the moon disappeared I was telling myself not to overreact.

It turns out tonight, the crescent moon was back in the sky, even a little thicker than last night. Apparently the moon sets here.

Anyway, a fall moon in Baghdad under a cool sky is really amazing.