Ex-Pat Living: We’ll Take A Cup o’ Kindness Yet

Ex-Pat Living: Holiday Memories... 5 Countries

Holiday Memories… 5 Countries

Life is good… that’s the way this time of year makes me feel.

Perhaps it’s all the holiday energy, the New Year drawing near or just being glad to have the winter wonderland upon us again. Whatever it is, I find myself being happier around the holidays.

To be honest, this is my very favorite time of the year. I love everything about it!

Growing up on Navy bases in California, Hawaii and other tropical places, you would think cold weather would be a problem for me. Houston, Texas is certainly not known for snowy holiday seasons… uh no, not in 85ºF (30ºC) weather, where decorating for the holidays means putting on a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, and still breaking a pretty good sweat!

But in Baku, Azerbaijan, where we often got some snow, this time of year marked the beginning of the active social festivities. The end of the year meant the Caledonian Society would once again be hosting the St. Andrews Ball (recently they expanded into an entire weekend of activities!).

Being of Scots heritage, this was a special event for me. For any of you who aren’t familiar, the Caledonian Society is one of the popular ways for Scots abroad to keep in touch. It’s an honor really and membership in the Society is a long-term, some would say life-time, commitment. The men promise to support the Society’s charitable efforts, cultural activities, tradition, and fellowship with “gentlemen” of Scottish birth or lineage. And committed they are, donating labor and funds to make life better for the children of Azerbaijan, in this case, through their many projects. It made celebrating with them all the more festive.

Leading up to the events each year, members would also host “dance lessons” for any and all who wanted to learn or brush up their skills for the traditional ceilidh reels. The would often start with the Dashing White Sergeant, or Strip the Willow. This video clip below shows the ceilidh with Strip the Willow, a tradition reel with partners facing each other for the dance.

The British Business Group (BBG) and AmCham each hosted a similarly elegant charity ball as well. We worked all year to encourage sponsors to donate prizes and funds to make these events really imaginative and fun.

I loved the fact that we could have a good time (ok, a very good time!) and still raise thousands of dollars in goods and services for the orphanages.

Ex-Pat Living: Supporting Charities Through Holiday Giving

Ex-Pats Support Charities, With Pleasure

At the British Business Group Ball one year, a good friend of mine laid a crisp new US$100 bill on the and challenged me to a bet.

David said would donate an extra $100 to the orphanage fund for charity… if I accepted his challenge.

Intrigued, I thought “What could he possibly ask for?”  A kiss perhaps? Ooh no, maybe he’s thinking something embarrassing like dancing on a table… Just how much could I trust David?

I held my breath and, in the spirit of the night, I said I was game. What would his challenge be for the donation?

Everyone at our table laughed out loud when he challenged me to drink 7 glasses of champagne between then and midnight… Me? I was actually relieved! Can you think of a more fun challenge? I mean, it was for charity, after all. I could certainly “sacrifice” for the good of the children… wouldn’t you?

The only catch, however, is that he knew I was not a big drinker. I do enjoy good wine but to drink (more than) a full bottle of champagne– by myself? Hmmm, not something I’d ever been known to do. But what the hey, I could give it a shot. (Or a flute?)

I reasoned that I had 5 hours to spread the drinks out so I tried to pace myself (much to his dismay!). But as the hours got later, I heard people were placing side bets on A) whether I could do it, B) whether I would fall over before I succeeded, or C) whether I would do something ridiculous in the process. David was doing a brisk book there for a while- but no one could tell me if he was betting for me or against me! Personally, I think he was playing both sides, hoping to break even actually.

By 10:00pm I was over half way and feeling fine… maybe that means I was feeling no pain? Either way I was confident that I was going to get that bill that he had run a fork through into the table to keep it safe.

At 11:30pm I ‘happily’ made my way across the Ballroom to see David at his betting stand. I assured him I had indeed had the required 7 glasses of champagne and had come to collect my winnings (of course I was happy after 7 glasses of champagne?!).

Ah, not so fast said he. The waiter says it was only 6… no dice. “What? Wait a minute…”

I may not have been thinking too quickly at that point because I clearly didn’t snap to the fact that he and the waiter were playing a joke. They handed me yet another flute of champagne! Gamely I stood there in front of him, chatting away (um, lots of chatter, from what I recall) and finished the 8th, or” 2nd 7th” glass of champagne.

Aha! 3 minutes to midnight! I had beaten all David’s tricks and bets. “My money please, kind sir!” He escorted me to the forked table and freed the bill, which I promptly folded and stuck in the cleavage of my dress where it would be “safe.”

Ex-Pat Living: Firends Forever, Happy Holidays To You, Wherever You May Be!

Happy Holidays To You, Wherever You May Be!

At the stroke of midnight it was time for the balloon burst. I had been selling “prize balloons” all night- 3 for $20 and had set my own aside. Totally pleased with myself, and enjoying the evening, I collected my balloons from the stage.

My pleasure was short-lived however, when I turned around to leave and promptly missed the top step, falling off the stage on my return. Everyone gasped, then laughed as I popped back up as if nothing had happened. I was clearly feeling no pain. (The next morning I would have two purple knees, but nothing else besides my pride was harmed.)

I cheerfully donated the $100 to the charity box (in David’s name) and found my way back to our table just in time to see David with a wonderful smile, so pleased was he with his winnings for the evening. We all had a wonderful time and, yes, we remain friends to this day… I just don’t drink champagne with him anymore!

The kids won, I won, and David apparently recouped his money and then some.

(I just hope he declared that income on his tax report…  Hello, Inland Revenue?)

Auld Lang Syne (Old Scots version, R. Burns adaptation, sung by Jim Malcolm

(first verse and chorus performed by Scottish singer Jim Malcolm on his album Acquaintance)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

   Chorus:
   For auld lang syne, my dear,
   For auld lang syne.
   We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
   For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pou’d the gowans fine.
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae sported i’ the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
We’ll tak’ a right good willie-waught,,
For auld lang syne.

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