Monday, September 28, 2009

How to become Ambassador

The advantage of living in 'the smallest capital in the world' is that we quickly got to know people connected to the inner circles of Belmopan. Sometimes we receive an official envelope with a pretty golden seal: an invitation to a diplomatic party. We are not diplomats (never aspired to be) but we do kind of represent the European Union. That is how we got invited to a reception to welcome the new American ambassador to Belize: Mr Thummalapally. Surprising name? Not an Anglophone name in any case. Indeed, he is not like the usual Ambassador-type: white, Anglo-Saxon, middle-aged. The new US Ambassador in Belize is the first Indian-American ambassador ever! How did that happen? Vinai Thummalapally is a university friend and former room-mate of President Obama. He and his wife were major fund-raisers in Obama's campaign. And good friends get to be rewarded; with a nice job in a cute country like Belize. Although he has no diplomatic experience, which he graciously acknowledged during his speech at the reception, he promised to learn quickly. Frankly, I don't think it is that difficult!

We spoke for a while to Barbara Thummalapally at the reception, and found her extremely friendly and engaging. She told us she could hardly believe her ears when they received a phone call from the president in April this year. After a long process of vetting and checking whether there were perhaps any secret stock accounts or arrests warrants in India (or whatever the secret service is checking when you become ambassador) they were appointed. Mum and Dad flew to Belmopan from Hyderabad, they're very proud of course. Not everyone in India feels the same as some of the internet fora show, but that is mostly jealousy and tribal pettiness.

Personally, it got me things can happen. Perhaps one of my former school friends will one day be Prime Minister. Not likely but not impossible...who knows? Would I accept a nomination as Dutch ambassador to some country? Why not?
What about you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parade Party Time

On this blog I already commented on the similarities and the differences between Belgium and Belize. The two countries do not have much in common, yet they are virtual neighbors in any country drop-down list. What does Belize have in common with Holland? They share their colors: - red, white and blue, as well a tradition of carnival and parades.

Yesterday during independence day in Belmopan we went to see the parade. The parade was nice enough, with about 30 floats and lots of happy people. For an hour or so I felt as if I were in Dongen, my home town. Only the sun reminded me of the fact that I was actually standing on the other side of the globe.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tossed Salad

September is a festive month for Belize. It is hot as hell, but that does not seem to keep most Belizeans from parties and parades. This year, Belize celebrates 28 years of independence. That is not that long (or well, it reminds me how old I am). In the sixties, when colonialism was on the retreat throughout the world, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago became the first Caribbean countries to gain independence. Actually, Belize had gained self-government from the British government in '61, but still had to wait 20 years because of a land claim from neighboring Guatemala. It threatened to use force against Belize if it did not settle the claim first. What this claim was exactly about and how it was solved is a too long story for this blog, but anyone who has a look at the long, straight border between Guatemala and Belize will understand that this is not a natural border.
What I like a lot about Belize is its motto, which is celebrated everywhere in September: "Diverse Origins, Common Aspirations". And it is true, Belize's population is as diverse as the fish in its ocean, with many colours, languages and cultures represented. In Soleine's class the kids are making a collage...they're cutting pictures of men, women, and children of all colours: African origin Garifuna, Maya and Hispanics, Chinese and Taiwanese, the Mennonites and other whites, the Indians and settlers from the Middle-East. When I was studying anthropology in the early nineties this was referred to as a melting pot, as if all these cultures and traditions were melted into one big pot. Now we know better...the cultures live side by side, but are definitely not mixed into one dish. Rather, they co-exist while keeping their own culture, values, and traditions. Someone had therefore invented the term 'tossed salad' rather than melting pot. Imagine leaves of Iceberg, Lolla rossa, Rocket, Romaine and Butterhead mixed in one bowl but without losing their colour and distinct taste. However, one quick look on Wikepedia also taught me that tossed salad is now slang for some kind of gay sex. Hmmm I guess someone will have to invent a new term to replace melting pot. Mixed salad maybe? Any takers?