This is the second year I spent the holidays in Karachi, Pakistan. Celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s require a bit of creativity under these circumstances. Perhaps the biggest issue is that most of my American colleagues go home to be with their families and friends, so those left behind have to fill the void. This year our American presence is about one-third of the normal.
There is a young woman among us, however, who is particularly resourceful at creating social opportunities. She set up a Thanksgiving potluck dinner in the lobby of the consulate residence and provided all the usual comfort foods of turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, as well as a kickin’ carrot-pumpkin soup that we’ve asked the cafeteria to offer through the cooler months, so we can enjoy it again.
Christmas included eggnog tasting, recipe competition and a white-elephant gift exchange. New Year’s Eve featured a progressive-dinner apartment party. We had decorations and a very large tree in the lobby. It looked like Christmas inside the consulate compound, even though there was little sign of it outside the compound.
Imagine my surprise when, on Christmas Eve, there was a knock on my apartment door. Outside stood two of our local Islamic guards, one dressed in a Santa suit! Though they did not speak English, they alternated between “Ho, Ho, Ho” and “Merry Christmas” as “Santa” handed me a chocolate. It caused me to reflect on what a strange and wonderful life the U.S. Foreign Service has given me.
After that experience, I wondered, “Will Father Time be delivering chocolates on January 1?” Well, New Years’ Day has come and gone and, so far, no chocolates.