Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Having a Ball to Celebrate the Army’s 234th Birthday

cinderella
(Photo from PictureBook Directory of Children’s Illustrations)

As a child, I grew up with stories of dressing up in beautiful gowns and going to the ball – didn’t you see Cinderella when you were a child? My mother would dress in wonderful gowns to go out with my father to balls; I still remember her kissing me goodnight, dressed is midnight dark blue velvet with rhinestones scattered on the gown; it reminded me of a starry night in Alaska. She wore White Shoulders perfume.

We always thought they had so much fun when they went out – they would bring us small swords and umbrellas. We would ask “what did you do with these?” imagining sword fights or something equally interesting, but they would say they were just decorations for fancy drinks. We knew they were lying; we knew it must be some adult thing that they couldn’t tell us about.

This weekend AdventureMan and I went to the Army Birthday Ball, and realized it may be the last ball we go to. We were prepared, or mostly. Unlike Cinderella, I didn’t have my glamorous shoes with me. I remember taking them out of the closet, but somehow they got packed in my household goods. I did have a pair of sandals with me that matched my gown closely enough, but they were far from glam.

AdventureMan was dressing in his evening wear and discovered he had no black socks! Horrors! We found a pair of very dark green socks that he usually wears traveling in Africa, and his pants were long enough to cover them, both standing and sitting, as long as he didn’t cross his legs, LLOOLLL!

So, off we went to the ball, not in a glorious carriage but in air conditioned comfort, thank God. The air conditioning matters when you are all dressed up, made up, and want to be cool.

Cool we were. As we sat shivering in the giant decorated warehouse where the ball was held, I laughed at AdventureMan and said “I have NEVER been cold at a ball before!” Even at the winter balls we used to attend in Germany, the heat would be on, and with 300 – 400 people attending, all crowded in, things heated up in a hurry. The summer balls in Germany were often sweltering – there was never any air conditioning, and a big heat wave always seemed to hit around the time of the balls. There is nothing so unglamorous as sweating in a ball gown!

Here, in Doha, where the temperatures at night sometimes don’t even drop below 90°F, the air conditioning was working great.

The food was also surprisingly good. Most of the time at grand occasions the food can be rubbery, or blandly disappointing. The food was pretty good.

Best of all, this was a ball put on by soldiers, for soldiers. It was really fun seeing all the soldiers and civilians in their finery, all glammed up and having a great time. It was even more fun having some of the soldiers out of the war zones, on R&R, in their battle-dress-uniforms – after all, the ball was to celebrate the Army, the Army’s 234th birthday, and those who serve.

The program was excellent, and moving. Great honor was given to those who serve, who sacrifice, those who have been wounded, the families that support them, and to those who give their lives in service to our country. There were many solemn moments. It gave the occasion gravity. It was impossible not to be moved. They did a great job.

When I was younger, before marrying AdventureMan, my sister and I were in the right place at the right time. All the young officers needed respectable dates for the balls, and we attended a lot of balls. I guess we “cleaned up good.” 😉 Many of the balls were held in the Heidelberg Castle, or other castles, it was always a very fun time, lots of dancing.

After getting married, I realized that what I thought was just a great romantic evening out was really all about politicking. The wives were left stranded at their tables while the husbands were out renewing acquaintances, getting introductions to new potential bosses and angling for their next assignment. So much for an evening of dancing and romance! As the music blared, you couldn’t even have a good conversation, just sit at the table or walk around with a friend, wondering when your husband was coming back!

So, for me, this ball was the best. AdventureMan made his rounds during dinner, while I chatted with other wives whose husbands were also out making the rounds, but before the loud music had started. The program didn’t end until late, and after making our rounds of farewells, we made our escape, hoping we would not turn into pumpkins!

Here is a wonderful video, made by a 15 year old girl, to honor our Armed Forces:

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June 15, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cross Cultural, Doha, Entertainment, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions | , | 8 Comments