Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Around the World on Mass Ave

Last Saturday was Embassy Open House Day in DC, a day when roughly 40 of the Embassies open their doors to the public to come in, learn about their culture and sample some of their country's specialties.

I went with one of my friends and our strategy involved wandering up Massachusetts Ave and going into the embassies that had no line or fast moving lines. That left us with a few so-so stops, one great one and one that was SO not worth the line. After the fact we wished there had been a blog we could have gone to to find out people's experiences from past years to get an idea of where to go and where to skip, so for my limited sample of five embassies, that's what I'm going to give you.

So Not Worth the Line
Japan wins the award for being such a crappy experience.

1. The line, it moved at a decent rate, but was pretty long
2. This was the only embassy with a security check and it was poorly run. We had to leave our bags and then walk about 50 feet ahead to be wanded, then go back for the bag.
3. Once inside we shuffled along, still in the crowd into a room that had some anime characters and plastic versions of Japanese food. Basically they raided some 3 year old Japanese kid's play kitchen so we could see what sushi looked like.
4. Then we got to the next room, oh... the next room. The next room transported us from the Embassy to the exhibit hall at an electronics conference. Yes, I'm serious. Cannon, Hitachi, ANA Airlines reps and more where standing there, shoving brochures and pamphlets at us. We got it Japan, you make electronics. It's a pretty well known fact and not exactly what I'd expect highlighted in an event like this.

We did get edamame and green tea samples outside and there were costumed gieshas and warriors you could pose for photos with, if you're into that sorta thing. Oh, and further reminder of Japan's production skills with a row of Honda's lined up for your pursuing pleasure. 

Not Bad, Not Great
Zambia - No line, friendly staff, free bottles of water. Interesting artifacts from the country on display, and they have a great yard.

Belize - This one didn't include a house tour, but was more of a walk through their garden, which was beautiful. They were grilling in the back yard so there was a long line, and after waiting in it for 10-15 minutes we realized we were basically in a line for food. We had plans to go to Founding Farmers after our touring so we didn't really want the chicken leg, rice and bread they were giving out. We stepped out of the food line and walked through the garden and back out to the street. If you are attending and want a meal, Belize is apparently the place to go.

Guatemala - As we approached the house we saw a sign saying to go to the tent to get our complimentary drink ticket. We followed instructions, and walked up where we were given the choice of beer, juice or rum. We got our ticket (we both chose rum) and then lined up to walk through the house, the line heading directly to the drinks and we got our half shot of rum and then followed the line right back out the door. Oh, we also were handed a small bird trinket on a ribbon. Someone asked what the birds symbolized/represented and the response was "um, I don't know, we're just handing them out."

The Weird
We didn't visit the Korean Embassy, but walked by it a few times. The first time they were blasting Gangnam  Style, which makes sense. When we walked by on our way back, there was a live band on the front steps. Of Korean girls. Singing Dancing Queen. By ABBA. Who are Swedish. When they finished that they moved on to the Titanic song (aka Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On). So, so weird.

The Best:
Haiti was the best of the Embassies we visited.

First of all, the line wasn't too long, and there was friendly embassy staff all around, greeting people and welcoming everyone to the house. In fact, when we arrived we were actually greeted at the door by the Ambassador, wearing a tshirt matching the rest of his staff and thanking us for coming. They had food samples of a traditional chicken dish downstairs and then upstairs featured coffee and rhum punch (their spelling) and live music.

It was festive and fun. You could tell they planned and put some effort into it, but it relaxed, not over the top or showy. All around, a great experience!

This weekend is the European Embassy Open House. I can't make it, but if anyone does I'd love to hear your reviews!

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