Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's not the 4th, and it's not even July

Unlike my fellow AU travelers, I only arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the 23rd of June, after a 31 hour trip that left me ragged. Before the jet lag even had a chance to wear off, we were getting dressed in our fancy clothes, and speeding off to the annual Independence Day celebration put on by the U.S. Embassy in KL. Originally, the event was meant to be held on July 4th, but in an effort not to conflict with Ramadan this year, the embassy decided to move the event up. This turned out to be a great start to the trip for me! 24 hours earlier I was lost in a taxi smelling like a dead fish - now I was dressed in my best DC uniform heading to one of the most exclusive events in KL.

We all packed into a van driven by Uber Uncle, the affectionately named taxi driver who always seemed to be nearby when you needed him, and proceeded to pump ourselves up to meet the who's who of Malaysia at an event that I'm not even sure we should have gotten tickets for. Professor Heng really knows how to hook you up.

We arrived at the JW Marriott like we were rolling up to the oscars, red carpet and all. Once we got down to the reception we were greeted by embassy staff who insisted we rush to go take a picture with Obama! Alas, our dreams were crushed by the heartbreaking cardboard reality. We all live within 30 minutes of the President's house, so I don't know why we are so selfish to think he would follow us to Malaysia.

We really celebrated our 238th birthday in style. There was cake, ice sculptures, and tons of food from around the country! From quesadillas to New England clam chowder, hot dogs to cheesesteaks, and lots of yummy desserts as well. The best part was probably seeing people dressed in suits and colorful batiks devour plates and plates of food while they enjoyed the only beer allowed at the event - Budweiser. That's a fairly accurate portrayal of American 4th of July, minus the batiks perhaps.

We enjoyed speeches from Ambassador Joseph Yun and a member of the Malaysian parliament, as well as an honor guard performance and a great rendition of both the U.S. and Malaysian national anthems (sung by the same brother and sister duo). It was really one of those events that make you want to go home and take the foreign service exam.

Throughout the night and between cramming our faces full of American finger food, we shmoozed and mingled with embassy staff, the ambassador (Thanks to Prof. Heng), Malaysian journalists, representatives from Malaysian think tanks and NGOs, and even a few senior Malaysian and U.S. military officials who were probably enjoying themselves as much as we were. And that's just the people I know of.

And now that you already have the group photo, I will simply share one of me, courtesy of Cathryn. Everyone should post their best pictures from that night so we can share in the red, white, and blue jubilee that our forefathers intended for us to have.

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