Sunday, July 15, 2012


Happy 4th of July, Everybody!

Yes, I know, I'm a little late wishing the good ole U.S. of A. a happy birthday. And I sincerely apologize. I hope Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam and the whole crew forgive me. 

I've always enjoyed the 4th, mainly because I enjoy fireworks, hot dogs, parades, and people sitting around in circles of lawn chairs drinking beer and reminiscing about some iteration of "the good old days." For me, this usually occurs in Wakefield, Michigan (the Upper Peninsula, or "North Wisconsin" as it should rightfully be called.) But due to circumstances beyond my control, I am in India without lawn chairs to circle and without Miller Lite to drink.  

Still, the US Embassy, as all embassies are wont to do, put together a shindig to celebrate our "National Day" (we don't really call it Independence Day over here, for whatever reason.)  Also, fun fact, usually the "official" National Day celebration (you know, the one with important people and dignitaries and stuff) is in February on President's Day because it's insanely hot in July and/or there are torrential downpours every day (we call those "monsoons.") I suspect this is partly why we call the celebration "National Day" instead of Independence Day, because usually it's not on Independence Day. Mr. ATK was the emcee at the "official" National Day event. Because he is awesome.

So, unlike other embassies*, our embassy put on two (TWO!) National Day shindigs--official and unofficial. On June 30th (Saturday evening) they had the unofficial celebration on the baseball field. This was your standard festival--or attempt at a standard 4th of July festival. There was food and booze, which you could buy with tickets that you had to buy first. There were eating contests and tug-o-war and bouncy castles for the kids all set to the sweet music of a live band covering American hits ranging from ABBA to Billy Ray Cyrus. And, apparently similar to your Fourth this year in the US, it was 110 degrees the whole time. 

Yet, despite having everything a Fourth of July celebration could want, save a parade and Miller Lite, there were some peculiarities that made me either chuckle or yell at a throng of competitive eaters. First, the chuckle worthy things--also known as "food." There was quite a spread at this event. They had various booths with Asian, Mexican, Southwestern, and Midwest food. Now usually Midwestern cuisine is not a cuisine that is typically celebrated. So naturally as a diehard Midwesterner I was pleased to see that our too often overlooked food finally made it to the big time--a fair! What delicious Midwestern food will I find here to remind me of home? I wondered. Tater tot casserole? Beer brats? Fried cheese? Regular cheese? Some other dish smothered in Cream of Mushroom soup?

Well, Reader, you can imagine my surprise when none of those things were on the menu. Instead, the Midwestern food offered was chicken pineapple pizza, margherita pizza, pepperoni pizza, buttered corn, and corn on the cob. Unless by Midwest, they were referring to Midwest Italy, the only thing on that list that resembled food in the Midwest was corn on the cob. And then they didn't even have mayonnaise or Parmesan cheese. 

Entertainment-wise, in addition to the band, they have competitive eating. Pies and watermelon. They were full sized pies, too. For some reason seeing the pies lined up on a table made me think of the hilarity and third degree burns that would ensue if the pies were fresh out of the oven. I don't know if I saw that in a movie or a sitcom or something, but I could picture it very clearly. Anyways, for both eating contests they let people use their hands. Now, in my limited experience with eating contests (Fish Day Ice Cream Eating Contest Participant '86-'89) you are not allowed to use your hands. That's what makes it a jolly good time. Especially for the pie! Think of the humor of somebody trying to devour a blueberry pie without using their hands! Hilarious, I say! I kept shouting, "Don't use your hands!" and "You can't use your hands!" while simultaneously complaining to those around us about the flagrant use of hands in the eating contests. I believe Mr. ATK was sufficiently embarrassed. He also had never heard of hand-less competitive eating. He's clearly led a sheltered life on those army bases. 

Eventually, after the eating was done and winners were declared, the fireworks started. This was really the first time I had seen fireworks that weren't over a body of water. Well, except for those few times we went to the fireworks in Bessemer, Michigan. There you sat on the football field of a stadium while hell fire rained down upon you because the fireworks weren't shot high enough in the air. We stopped going there after a couple years. 

Still, the fireworks display was very nice. Of course during the whole show, they played Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." (Fire in the sky! Get it!? Do you get it?! It's FIRE in the SKY!! Like the fireworks!) At first I thought it was clever, but then the song just did. not. end. I had never heard a 20 minute version of "Smoke on the Water" before and, quite frankly, I don't ever need to hear it again. But the fireworks themselves were very nice. I do so love fireworks.

And now I leave you with Senor Coconut's delightful version of "Smoke on the Water." 


(No, I don't know who the little girl is in the video.)

*I assume other embassies don't have two celebrations for their National Day because not many embassies have as many people here as we do. But I could totally be wrong. Maybe they all have a separate "fun" party. Also, Mr. ATK and I went to Norway's Constitution Day celebration back in May and it was awesome.  


  1. This is a particularly great blog. I love the description of Midwestern foods you were hoping to find. As for what other embassies do, they all seem to have the casual "family" celebration and a second "diplomatic" formal thing. The casual celebration here in Niamey had much less food and fun options than yours and it got cut short by a sandstorm. :/

  2. But I mean other countries' embassies... like I went to Norway's formal party, but did they have a special non-formal Norwegians only party? I wonder...