Saturday, December 17, 2011

Marine Ball

Saturday, 12 November 2011

(Photos: Not us, just a bunch of people posing for a photo. And the Staff Sergeant Marine serving a piece of cake to the oldest Marine.)

The annual Marine Ball, I have learned, is a big event, and happens in nearly every city where there are Marines. It is a celebration of the birthday of the Marines, which is around 10 November.

Tickets were $100, and the ball fell on Sophia's birthday, but I have never been to a ball before, and I had a dress, so I was determined to go.

I found another single co-worker who was willing to go with me, and last minute the principal and her husband as well as the vice-principal and his wife decided to come too. They were all busy, so they each gave me a $100 bill, and Sophia and I went across town to purchase the tickets. On the bus with $600 in cash. Such is life in Kazakhstan.

As soon as Sophia's party ended, I hurried to clean the house and waited for A., one of my teaching assistants, to come over. She's very artistic and had asked me earlier if she could do my hair and make-up. Of course! I answered since I am pretty clueless in those areas.

She Skyped with her friend in Japan, who knows a lot about these matters, and after a few hours I was beautiful.

I don't have curlers, and my hair resists any attempt to change it from its usual straightness, so A. used a curling iron to curl small pieces of my hair, spray them, and then pin them in tight circles. She burned my ear a couple of times in the process.

As she was doing my make-up, Sophia complained that she had a headache, and soon she was throwing up and begging me not to go. A mom's dilemma -- I spent $100 on these tickets! I've been waiting a year for this event! How sick is my child?

My friend R. had volunteered to watch Sophia and her child, Sophia's best friend. She assured me that Sophia would be okay, and I gave Sophia her phone so she could call me anytime.

With the hair and make-up taking so long, and the long stop to calm Sophia, I was over an hour late to the ball. I missed the cocktail hour and came in during a speech.

There were several speeches by Marines and a retired Navy officer. Then the cake was ceremoniously brought in, and a slice offered to the ambassador, the oldest Marine, and the youngest Marine. Then, finally, dinner was served. My appetizer was a cold salmon salad; my dinner was a rack of lack with dijon-mustard sauce on tomato-zucchini gratin and semolina filo. (Yes, I still have the booklet which listed the menu, there's no way I would have remembered all that.)

We had wine and the kind of waiters who are intent on making sure that the amount of liquid in your glass never changes, so they were constantly refilling.

Then the music played and I realized what a ball in the 21st century is like--just like a dance club, except everybody is dressed super-formally and most people are relatively important people. The music was not very good, and ranged from Elvis to Lady Gaga.

Sadly, it was not very interesting, and it was too loud to do much conversing, but we got some good pictures with the Marines. There are only 5 stationed in Astana, since all they have to do is protect the embassy. The youngest Marine was 23 years old; the second oldest was 30; and the oldest was 43. So a small, young crowd.

We left at midnight; Sophia had just fallen asleep when I walked in the door.

An okay evening, in the end, a good event for photos and talking about later, but nothing too extremely special.

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