Friday, July 27, 2007

Adventure in Embassyland

Martha (pronounced Marta) and I decided to go to an Egyptian National Day reception at the Egyptian Embassy. The AIIA gets invited to lots of different events, lectures, and receptions, and it’s considered one of the perks of the internship to be able to go to them.

We took the bus as close as we could get, and then we had to walk the rest of the way. We’ve been on outings before, notably to a couple of lectures at Parliament House, and we should have known that if we made wrong turns with a map (as we did walking home from Parliament House) that we shouldn’t go anywhere without a map. Unfortunately, we forgot!

Luckily it was a beautiful, sunny day, probably the warmest it’s been since I’ve been to Canberra (it got up to 15 degrees Celsius!) We walked past lots of embassies, which was interesting. They are all in the same suburb of Canberra. After realizing we were not heading the right place, we ended up at the Lodge, the Prime Minister’s residence (the Aussie equivalent to the White House.) There was a number on our invitation, and we thought the Lodge would be a good landmark to start from to get directions. While I was calling the Egyptian Embassy though, a security guard from the Lodge came out, and while I was afraid we were going to be told off for loitering, he was very friendly, and when he heard we were lost he promptly disappeared back inside to get a map to show us the route.

He gave very good directions, and we ended up at the Embassy only about 40 minutes late. On our way, we also saw the American Embassy. Martha saw it first, pointing ahead, “I think that’s the American Embassy.” I looked, and replied, “Oh, the one with all the cars?”

Yes, it was the one with all the cars.

It was an absolute compound actually! Most embassies are just one building, but the US Embassy had enormous grounds with multiple buildings, all in red brick colonial style (they would have been at home on the Chapel Hill campus.)

The reception itself was fine, if a bit dull. Martha and I were mostly just curious about as it would be like and hoping for a free lunch. We didn’t get lunch, but we did get to try lots of little bites of Egyptian food. A lovely little pastry that tasted like baklava, falafel, and mahshi - grapevine leaves stuffed with a rice mixture.

Next week we’re going to an event at the US Embassy. Perhaps we’ll remember to bring a map this time!

Below are a few of the embassies that we saw. I would put up a picture of the Lodge, but it was surrounded by a wall, so we didn't get to see what it looks like.

The Turkish Embassy

This is the French Embassy; I was surprised by how unattractive it was. I believe Martha described it as an "ugly bunker." Maybe they were going for a bastille theme. ;)

Here is the Indonesian Embassy, which I enjoyed seeing, as I met the Indonesian ambassador at the conference in Brisbane.

Here is the American Embassy. This picture doesn't nearly capture the scope of it. There were lots of parking lots out front, with a ton of buildings surrounded by the fence.

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