7-9 Officer’s Mess

I think I can check something off my bucket list.  It seems like everyone should have a goal, military or not, of being invited to dine in the officers’ mess.  I can mark that goal as complete.

We went to church.  After church we were just bumming around and chatting with our English neighbors when the head of the French army encampment came wandering over.  We got to chatting, and by ‘we,’ I mean him and Hannah because he spoke very little English and I speak no French.  After an hour, he offered us some of their combat rations.  Then he invited us to dinner. 
The Mess Tent is the one in the middle

He said to come around 7:30 for apperetif.  What?  There are many confusing things about that statement these days.  The first one is being told a specific time.  My time works along the lines of “morning,” “lunch time” and “evening.”  Then of course, there is the part where 7:30 is about an hour before bed.  Seriously, I get ready for bed around 8:30 and read for a bit then fall asleep.  7:30 is late.  Then of course, the word apperetif.  It took me about fifteen minutes to remember that in French, that means alcohol.  What?

We showed up at 7:30.  We even put on real clothes, like you know, a long sleeve shirt and a clean skirt.  Jason showered for the occasion.
We did in fact stand around and have a cocktail hour.  Of course, the cocktails were VB, twisties and peanuts, and we were standing on uneven grass that was edging towards ankle deep mud, but whatever.  Still a cocktail hour.
The guy on the right is the head honcho

Then we sat down to a three course meal.  Again, What?  I live on a piece of tropical rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  My variety of food more or less consists of taro, yam and cabbage.  We had cucumber salad with a really nice dressing as a first course, mashed potatoes and duck as a second course (I didn’t have the duck) and beneits with nutella for dessert.  That is more variety of food than I have had in months.  And again, it was a surreal combination of three course French meal under a tent, sitting on folding camp chairs, at a folding camp table on a slope that if I picked my foot up off the edge of my chair it tipped back in a rather alarming way. 

To top off an excellent evening, I had a really fun conversation with the woman who I think is the sergeant in charge of their logistics.  She spoke a little English, not a lot but I think it was an issue of being out of practice rather than not speaking it.  I thought she did great.  Jason told me later that one of the other officers referred to her as crazy.  I agree, but she’s totally my kind of crazy.  We had a conversation that had a lot to do with hand gestures and curious looks and occasionally asking the doctor to translate for us.  I felt bad for Alexandra who was stuck dealing with both of us being all riled up and crazy like. 
We managed to talk about nakol, which involved me running down to the school office to grab my laptop and show videos, AIDS and the work that Alexandra and I are doing, her background as a Cameroonian who immigrated at 16 to France, and several other topics.  I was eating slow due to the number of hand gestures I needed to make.  I mean, I talk with my hands anyway but let’s say that it was good there was plenty of space between me and the guy on my right, otherwise I might have accidentally stabbed him with my fork.  (ps-There were real forks and plates.  Not leaves with my hands…)
Jason was sitting by the main English speaking officer.  They had a lively conversation going, though the only thing I caught of it all evening was the word “tipskin.”  I guess they were talking about nakol and the circumcision rituals.  Or something.
I had a great evening.  My life is truly bizarre.

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